About a year a half a little GPL laptop tracker was born. It was called Prey and it didn’t even work in Windows. Six months later, the Control Panel was launched, and some weeks later the first mobile client appeared. During this time, more than 800 commits from around about 20 developers were made, and there’s already support for all major OS’s, while new ones are on their way.
We’ve received some good attention on the media and nearly two million reports have already been gathered and sent to the Control Panel. The number of registered devices nearly tripled in the last five months, passing the 100.000 mark, and we’ve already needed to upgrade our servers exactly seven times. It’s really been a hell-of-a-ride and we’re more than amazed with the way things have unfolded.
Today we’re giving a new step towards making Prey not only better but also bigger.
We’ve been thinking about this for a long, long time, and we finally realized that you guys were right. There should be an easy way to track more than three devices with Prey. Yes, it’s time to get serious and to do things right. We’re launching today Pro accounts for the Control Panel, not only to help us cover the server costs an to invest in more infrastructure, but to insure a continuous development flow in order to keep making Prey what we all want. That is:
An open, free, robust, featureful and easy to use tracking solution for everyone.
In a few words
If you want to track 10, 20 50 or even a hundred devices using the Control Panel you can now upgrade to a Pro account and do so, forgetting about the three device limit. You’ll also get access to some cool features that will help you keep better track on your stuff, such as the new Active Mode.
The pricing model
We thought about this for quite a while. Initially we planned to charge a fixed fee for each additional device, so that you we’re billed for the exact amount of devices you needed. But after doing some maths we realized that this would end up being much more expensive in the long run, specially for the ones in need to track, say, a hundred devices.
Secondly, we figured that this would mean you’d need to log in and confirm your order each very time you wanted to add a new device. Too much hassle for no good reason.
So, we finally realized that a subscription model was the best way to go. You choose the size that fits best and simply pay as you go, avoiding costly upfront fees and remaining free to go whenever you want. We built different plans according to different sizes, dropping the price-per-device ratio as the amounts increase. The figure is quite simple and it looks like this.
We also included a 10% discount for yearly payments and optional discount codes for non profits and educational institutions. If you feel you’re eligible for one of them feel free to contact us. You probably will.
And basically that’s it. Once you set up your subscription you can freely install Prey on more devices and they will magically pop up under your account.
Now let’s head for the good stuff!
Prey 0.4 bundles a new core module called System, which as of today lets you to fetch your Mac or PC’s hardware information remotely from the Control Panel. This is specially useful for those cases in which your PC is recovered by the police, as they usually request your device’s Serial Number in order to verify that it actually belongs to you.
But that’s not all.
It turns out that not every time a PC is stolen in its entirety. Sometimes only a part of it is — mainly RAM — and actually these kind of thefts seem to be quite common.
To address this, we designed the hardware scan feature in a way in which you can know whenever something is modified since the last scan was performed. It’s really quite simple and you’ll get the hang of it in a minute. You just need to click on “Request new hardware scan” and Prey will perform a new scan and update your device’s information accordingly, and let you know immediately if something’s changed.
Currently the system module works in all PC OS’s (Mac, Linux, Windows) and you can see, it gathers the PC’s Serial Number, UUID, BIOS vendor and version, CPU model and speed (in MHz), and finally, the number of installed RAM modules and their total amount (in MBs).
And by the way, this feature applies to all Control Panel users, not only to Pro accounts. The only difference is that Pro accounts let you make it play even better thanks to…
Prey Active Mode
As the name implies, Pro accounts allows managing Prey’s behaviour in a different way. Normally it’s up to you to mark your PC as missing or trigger actions on it. In other words, Prey behaves in a passive way as it sits silently awaiting your command.
Active mode means Prey will also keep you informed on what’s happening with your stuff, and there’s two main ways in which this works. The first one is that the Control Panel will display the last time each of your devices “checked in”, and thus, make you aware of which of them are powered up and connected to the net and which of them are not.
The second way is, yes, you guessed right: hardware scanning.
As Active mode keeps better control on what’s happening with your PC’s, by setting the hardware scan feature Prey will automatically perform a daily scan on the device to check if something’s changed. This means you don’t need to request a new hardware scan by hand: Active mode will automatically take care of this for you.
Sounds good, right?
If you want to try it just create a new subscription and you’ll be set, since by default all Pro account devices work in Active mode. That’s it!
Ultra-fast frequency for reports and actions
Normally you can set the interval for Prey executions up to five minutes (which is quite fast, actually), but you never know when the moment will come and the points is to respond as quick as you can. That’s why Pro accounts will get an option to increase the interval up to two minutes. Click and boom, Prey spreads its wings.
This is a really important issue, specially for the ones in need to track large amounts of PCs. We’ve been tweaking a lot the way Prey is set up, and we can now provide a way to deploy Prey automatically in multiple devices, without needing to mingle with the settings one by one.
In a few days we’ll be releasing a new set of installers (yes, we’re switching to PackageMaker in Mac) ready and tested for automated deployments, and we’ll put all the necessary documentation on the FAQ in order to get you going.
Revamped Control Panel
This is not really a feature and it applies to all users, not only the ones with Pro accounts. As you can see, the Prey website has been redesigned and so has the Control Panel. We made some major updates (and some small ones too) to make it even easier to track your devices with Prey. The changelog isn’t precisely “brief” so we decided to list what’s new on a separate post which you can read over here.
Hope you like it!
To be truthful, initially we (or I, should I say) never expected to get something in return for Prey (i.e. money), because the whole point was to have a free, open way to track your laptop. And though all the requests we received made us consider the Pro account option, it finally came down to what was necessary to keep the project moving forward, which is a) development hours, b) server resources and c) yes, bandwidth.
It took us a while, but we finally came to the conclusion that a stable income source would not only let us invest in better infrastructure, but also get more people involved in the project. And that means keeping in on track, and keep it growing steadily.
So, to put it in other words, Pro accounts are not only good news for you, but they’re also good news for us. Donations helped us a lot at the beginning, but nowadays we’re spending much more that what we’re getting out of them. We hope this will change things for good, so if you want to help us the best way is to upgrade to Pro account (and don’t forget to tell us how you like the new stuff we’ve been brewing!).
It’s been only a year a half but we’ve already made huge progress, and now I think the future looks brighter than ever. So thanks everyone for your support, for the constant feedback, for the bug reports, for everything.
Prey is more alive than ever and that’s only thanks to you. And I mean it.