Researchers at the University of Washington and University of California, San Diego have released a free and open source software called Adeona. It tracks your stolen or lost laptop without relying on proprietary or centralized software or databases. And unlike commercial services, it preserves the privacy of the user- it uses cryptography mechanisms so that only the user has access to the laptop location information.
Adeona is designed to use the Open Source OpenDHT distributed storage service to store location updates sent by a small software client installed on an owner’s laptop. The client continually monitors the current location of the laptop, gathering information (such as IP addresses and local network topology) that can be used to identify its current location. The client then uses strong cryptographic mechanisms to not only encrypt the location data, but also ensure that the ciphertexts stored within OpenDHT are anonymous and unlinkable. At the same time, it is easy for an owner to retrieve location information.
It is licensed under GPLv2, and is available for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. Like Lojack for cars, simply the prevalence of such software can serve as a deterrent for casual theft. A determined thief can replace the operating system before using (or selling) it, but a lot of consumer electronics theft is casual and opportunistic.