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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Feb > Feb 15

SETI Helps Recover Stolen Laptop

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 08:51:39 -0500
Fwd Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 08:51:39 -0500
Subject: SETI Helps Recover Stolen Laptop




Source: The Brainerd Daily Dispatch - Minnesota, USA

http://tinyurl.com/2wxjvk

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Project Recovers Stolen Laptop, Affirms Minn. Couple's Love

Rachel Konrad
AP Technology Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - Signals from aliens, an unskilled rapper and a
Swedish-American computer geek converged in an unusual, nerdy
ode to a couple's love for each other.

The story began with a project by the Space Sciences Laboratory
at the University of California, Berkeley, which has signed up
more than 1 million volunteers worldwide in a search for
extraterrestrial intelligence since 1999. The SETI(at)home
project uses volunteers' computers when they go into screen-
saver mode to crunch data in search of possible evidence of
radio transmissions from space using data from the Arecibo radio
telescope.

James Melin, a software programmer for a county government
agency in Minnesota, volunteers with the project and runs
SETI(at)home on his seven home computers, which periodically
communicate over the Internet with University of California
servers. Whenever communication takes place, servers record the
remote computer's Internet Protocol address and file it in a
database that people running the software can view.

An IP address - a set of numbers separated by periods -
functions like a street address or a phone number to provide an
identity for any computer connected to the Internet.

Several years ago, Melin installed SETI(at)home on his wife's
laptop, which was stolen from the couple's Minneapolis home on
Jan. 1.

Annoyed at the break-in - and alarmed that someone could delete
the screenplays and novels that his wife, Melinda Kimberly, was
writing - Melin monitored the SETI(at)home database to see if
the stolen laptop would 'talk' to the Berkeley servers. The
laptop checked in three times within a week, and Melin sent the
IP addresses to the Minneapolis Police Department.

Officers subpoenaed Quest Communications, Melin's Internet
service provider, to determine the address where the stolen
laptop logged onto the Internet. Within days, officers seized
the computer and returned it to the rightful owners.

The computer contained Kimberly's writings, and thieves didn't
appear to have broken into her e-mail or other personal folders
or programs.

But the returned computer contained 20 tracks of rap music with
unintelligible lyrics, possibly from the person who stole the
computer or bought it on the black market.

"It's really, really horrid rap," said Melin, 43. "It makes
Ludacris look like Pavarotti."

Kimberly, 31, said the incident reaffirmed her love for Melin.
They met when she was only 15 years old, while she was dressed
as a medieval wench and he was a Scots highlander at a
Renaissance Faire.

The native Minnesotans bonded over their Scandinavian roots and
remained friends for a couple years, interacting in their
medieval garb at summer festivals. They began dating when she
was 17 and got married just shy of her 20th birthday.

Since Kimberly got laid off last year, the couple has been
living apart. Kimberly moved to Oceanside to work on her
writing, and her husband plans to join her after he's vested in
his pension.

"I always knew that a geek would make a great husband," Kimberly
said Wednesday. "He always backed up all my data, but this
topped it all. It became like Mission Impossible for him,
looking for hard evidence for the cops to use... He's a genius
- my hero."

Dave Anderson, a research scientist at University of California,
Berkeley, and director of SETI(at)home, said the case appears to
be the first successful recovery of a stolen computer through
SETI(at)home, one of the world's best known distributed
computing projects.

Unless a computer-savvy thief uninstalls nearly every piece of
software before connecting to the Internet, he said,
SETI(at)home would track the machine - and the thief would
likely never know it.

"I have some advice for thieves: Don't connect to the network,"
Anderson said.


Copyright 2007 The Associated Press


[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead]




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