Electronic Grief 97

My laptop was stolen from me on the Vienna to Frankfurt train on Saturday.

I had been working on a blog article on the train. Approaching Frankfurt I packed up ready to get off, and went to the loo. When I returned the laptop had vanished from the laptop bag. The charger was still there and so was about 500 euros in cash.

I am on a speaking tour around Germany for the campaign to free Julian Assange. Yes, I am thinking the same as you about who would want a battered and dirty six year old laptop with a cracked case and very little retail value, and not the money.

That laptop had literally been all round the world with me and I think for six years had never left my side except when I was in jail.

My life was on it. Have spent 24 hours cancelling everything and now have to spend a week recovering anything.

It was a monster 17 inch screen because of my awful eyesight and a replacement of the same capacity will probably weigh about a quarter of the kilos. But I feel the absence of the weight on my shoulder like the loss of a limb.

For a while look out for fake communications of any kind from me. This is not one!

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97 thoughts on “Electronic Grief

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  • Mr V

    My condolences, Craig. As you say, new laptop will be much quieter, faster, lighter, and have a better screen (just test the screen before you buy, because they are different from these made a decade ago and changes might make you uncomfortable) but as you say, nothing can replace stuff that was on it.

    On a side note, I like how Mac/Google/Nix cults already raced to tell Craig to buy their useless junk from the get go. I am IT professional and I despise Apple/Chrome/Linux with a passion, massive privacy issues, nothing besides tiny fraction of popular stuff works (and even the stuff that worked required massive amounts of bashing and time wasting to get it to work, and I am not a 70+ who uses computers sporadically, but someone who spent 8-10 hours daily my whole life tinkering with them, seriously people, think before you tell Craig to completely kill his productivity for the rest of his life), and their operating systems know better than the user how they want to work and force you to adapt to them, because there are no settings allowing you to change the dumbest aspects of that garbage.

    I am not in position to offer any advice, but if CM is looking for new laptop, I’d grab something with Windows 7/10, asked someone trusted to look over specs if the shop isn’t price gouging, then once bought, asked to have relevant privacy settings set to maximum. There, done, no need to reinvent the wheel and push your useless pseudocomputers with less than 1% of market share just because you belong to X cult…

    • Dr

      > I am IT professional and I despise Apple/Chrome/Linux with a passion, massive privacy issues, nothing besides tiny fraction of popular stuff works

      You view is a little dated,

      Apple and Linux are much better on privacy than Windows and Chrome. Sure Windows has the widest support, however Apple is pretty much on par and in some areas better. Linux of course suffers heavily in terms of support – however even there with also everything being accessed through browsers these days – it’s surprising how much works.

      The new ARM based Macs blow away anything I’ve seen on the PC side in terms of price/performance.

      So while I’d probably agree with your advice – he should stick with what he knows – there is no reason to hate the other platforms with a passion – that diversity keeps MS honest.

      For example, they almost killed the web progress with IE 6 – only competition drove it forward.
      Without Google Docs, we’d still be stuck with an awful mix of increasingly buggy desktop apps and Sharepoint – with no good way to effectively collaborate. Without Linux, the internet ( which is driven by servers and devices pretty much 99% running Linux ) would be a shadow of itself.

      So less hate please.

  • Dave Reckonin

    “My life was on it.”
    Yet you left it unattended?
    Pete’s sake, Craig. You didn’t have to take your suitcases into the bog, just your ‘pooter.

  • Enness Hay

    Pity it’s not ”Sherlocked,” as in ‘A Scandal in Belgravia.’ ie. tiny acid bombs that destroy the info if incorrect password is used !!

  • Gorse

    For poorer folk who hoof it all the time the bag with wallet/phone/laptop preferably on a shoulder strap always goes to the toilet and never out of your sight. In front of you with your arm over it in a crowd.
    You can ask a fellow traveller to watch the bag for a moment ..avoid going to the loo just before or just after a station..but when everybody is seated and not getting ready to get off or on.
    Years ago even sleeping on a rucksack whilst crossing Europe on a long distance trains was risky as at one time there were gangs who would slice the bags open even if you were lying on them. That was before laptops tho. And the trains had no food or even potable water even if the journey was 16 long hours and certainly no alcohol except what you brought along yourself.

  • Kaiama

    Given all the grief you have endured over the years, leaving your life on an unattended laptop whilst going to the loo… Julian himself would give you a few choice words, I’m sure.

  • Loftwork

    This is always a problem. I’ve come up with a simple solution for others who have highly confidential information they need to work on when travelling, by using an encrypted USB external drive. You can get small USB drives up to 1 or 2 terrabytes (e.g. Western Digital). Put all your confidential data on one, and when you work on your laptop just plug it in. Going to the bathroom, stick it in your pocket – it becomes encrypted when you unplug it. The laptop contains no confidential information so if stolen or damaged, you remain angst-free and your gadget insurance will cover the replacement. Gadget insurance is a no-cost optional extra with e.g. Cooperative Bank current accounts.

    This is a simple approach to reducing risk and cost. I’m sure there are other ways to do it, but this one has been tested by a barrister friend and others for some time now. On the other hand, it won’t get that favourite laptop back. Best wishes on that front. 😉

  • Terry

    Hi Craig, maybe nothing is lost except the machine and contents IF you had an insecure password like: 1234 or “password”. Hunter Biden would know all about that . . . Use at least a 16 character password. Longer is better.

    Anyway, IF the laptop was a Mac and you were using a backup drive with the built in Time Machine program you need only plug the backup drive into the replacement laptop and you can restore everything exactly the way it was when you did the last backup. I mean everything. I have done this many times for my clients as well as myself when internal drives occasionally fail or I buy a new computer.

    If you haven’t yet set up the new computer, plug the backup drive into the new laptop when you first start it up and after choosing a country, language, and keyboard layout the initial startup sequence will ask if you want to import your data from a Time Machine backup, or another drive you might have cloned to with a third party program like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper. Either way, say yes, select the backup drive in the source window, click “Import” and go do something else for a few hours (depending on the amount of data on your drive). When completed your new laptop will look identical to your stolen one, and will have ALL the data and programs exactly as they were when you last backed up to the backup drive. All your email, documents, photos, Internet bookmarks, organization structure – everything.

    If you have already set up a new identity on the new computer you can still import all your old user data and programs. Go to the Applications folder on your hard drive and locate the Utilities folder. In the Utilities folder locate the Migration Assistant app and double click to open it. Plug in your backup drive, select it as the source, and proceed as above. When completed restart the computer if it doesn’t do that on its own and in the startup sequence choose your old user icon in the available Users. Enter your password and everything should come up exactly as it was last time you did a backup.

    If it was a PC that was stolen there is no way I am aware of to restore everything exactly as it was from a backup drive, but you can still recover most of your personal data (not your programs) either by dragging and dropping folders from the backup drive or using various third party programs which you might have been backing up with.

  • SIS

    Either a sneak opportunist theft. Or, whoever knew your travel plans, could have sent someone to take the laptop.
    Who knew your travel itinerary? The other thing is, if you are traveling with a phone, then they can figure out where you are easily. So, that even rules out someone needing to know your actual itinerary. All they would need to know is what train you were on via the phone, and put someone on the train at say, a station an hour or so before. They would still have had to know you were going to go to the toilet.

    Surely you would have noticed if the laptop was missing from the laptop bag on the train, as you were putting it on to your trolley bag thing?

    Overall it begs the question – a sneak thief in first class? Was there much ticket inspection going on? The idiotic mask wearing in Germany would give good cover.

    Travel with a dumb phone with an new anonymous sim sometimes, if you think someone took the laptop deliberately and it was not an opportunist.

  • Terence Wallis

    I have a new 17″ laptop from PCSpecialist that I hate…….it has W11 so I stopped using it………………….
    I spent £850 & was thinking of selling…………………

  • Fazal Majid

    I can recommend the LG Gram 17 as an excellent 17-inch laptop that manages to be remarkably light as well, despite having a long-lasting battery (and the monster screen). Mine runs the secure Qubes OS quite well, albeit with reduced battery life. Someone in your position of having attracted the loving ministrations of the UK’s utterly wanton secret police certainly needs to stay away from standard and easily compromised operating systems like Windows or macOS.

  • Parky

    Consider buying a “Kensington Lock” and make sure the replacement laptop has the suitable receptacle. Nothing is foolproof but could deter an opportunistic thief or someone who can’t hang around for too long. If it has the latest windows enable BitLocker and use a long password that is unlikely to be guessed, although you should make sure no one is nearby looking when you enter it. If possible don’t carry your life around on a “device”. If lost or stolen there is risk and there is stress.

  • Jason Makeig

    Hi Craig ,
    In your story about Nord2 bombing and thus being a speaker at a certain forum you said you were different from the other speakers cozz you disagreed with Putin ‘invading’ Ukraine … What else could Putin do we humble readers ask given the threat of ‘The NATO’ expansion ??!! Note : Across the domain of all genuine investigative journalism it all agrees to the phenomenon that Putin really was continuing a war that had started even before the Maidan coup of 2014 .. ?! Thanks for your deep and honest insights in general btw ..

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