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Click and boom: Instant Prey activation with On-Demand mode

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Today is a good day for Prey users.

As you all know, one of the biggest differences between the PC and the Android version of Prey is about the way it’s activated. On PCs, Prey wakes up every X minutes and asks the server whether it should send a report or perform any actions. On Android phones, however, Prey doesn’t need to check as you can “push” that activation signal by sending an SMS message from another phone. In other words, while on phones you can locate your phone the very instant you want to, on PCs there’s always a lag that you need to wait for.

Turns out today we’re putting and end to that.

Prey 0.5 boasts a new “On Demand” mode which lets you request a report and trigger actions instantly from the Control Panel, even faster that you can say crack-a-lackin’. No kidding.

In brief

Prey Pro users can now switch between the current, default activation mode — which we call “On Interval” — to a shiny new “On Demand” mode. This allows you to send the activation signal instantly to desktops and laptops by pushing a button, without needing to wait for Prey to run on next interval.

On Demand works in Mac, Windows and Linux PCs and also Android phones, as it provides an alternative way to send the activation signal — one that doesn’t need sending an SMS (see below).

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How it works (Mac, Windows and Linux)

When choosing the On Demand option for your laptop or desktop, the Control Panel will request Prey to open a secure TCP connection to an On Demand Hub, which is hooked directly onto Prey’s Control Panel. When connected, your device’s status will be updated and you’ll be able to send the activation signal. Your PC will no longer send requests to the server on intervals, as it will wait for the signal to be pushed from the Control Panel.

If the connection is broken — either because you turned off On Demand mode or the PC lost connection to the Internet — Prey will fall back to its normal way of operation, asking the server for its set of instructions on intervals. If the PC simply lost connection and then is back online — meaning you didn’t switch off On Demand –, then Prey will reestablish the connection to the Hub and you’ll be ready to dispatch your orders once again.

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This also means that you’ll have immediate feedback on your device’s current network status. When connected, you’ll see a green light pop, which will show that your PC has established a connection and awaits your command. When not connected, you’ll see the regular “Last seen” info box from Active Mode. This way you’ll know exactly what’s going on with your PCs.

How it works on phones

Prey for Android version 0.5 supports Google’s Cloud To Device push messaging system, so Pro users can also send a one-time activation signal through the Control Panel, without needing to text the activation SMS from another phone. This also means that Prey 0.5 is ready to run on Android tablets that don’t have GSM/3G support (no cellular carrier but with Wifi support).

How to try On Demand

First of all, you’ll need to update to the latest version (currently 0.5.1). Secondly, you’ll need to show us your love and support by switching to a Pro account. :)

Now, when you enter your device’s administration page, you’ll now see a switch that will let you use On Demand activation. Toggle it and then click on the Save changes button. If the device you’re managing is a phone, you should immediately see a green button which will push the signal through Google’s Cloud To Device’s messaging system.

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Now, if it’s a laptop or desktop PC, you’ll see a message stating “Waiting for connection”, which means that the Control Panel will ask for your PC to establish a connection next time it requests its set of instructions. Once that happens, you should see something similar to the above. That means you’re ready to roll.

On Demand vs On Interval

We don’t think On Demand should replace On Interval mode. They’re made to be complementary. On Demand lets you run actions or get reports exactly when you want to, but only when you want to. If you want to get report on an automated fashion — i.e. because you’re not there, perhaps because it’s 2 AM and you want to get some sleep — then it’s time to switch back to On Interval.

In other words, neither activation mode is better than the other — they’re simply different. Along with Active Mode, they work together as a team, as they provide a better way not only to keep track but also lock or secure your your assets using Prey’s built-in actions.

Now, the good thing about On Demand is that we designed the system to be bidirectional, rather than simply one-way. So, although we’re now using the connection only for pushing the activation signal to your PC, there’s lots of other things we can use it for, and some of them are already on the way.

Which ones? Come on, we wouldn’t want to spoil the party, would we? :)