How to keep Macs in the right hands?

Carl Howard, DesignWorks College
29 June, 2011
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Broken glass, overturned chairs and a mass of umbilical cables severed from two classrooms worth of missing iMacs. This is not exactly the first thing you want see when you open up for work on any day of the week, but it was the scene that greeted the teachers & students here at The DesignWorks on The Gold Coast for the third time in just over a year. Power cables were hanging from desks like a garland of flowerless vines. Our computers, our server & our student portfolios were all gone. Anger, disbelief, frustration, all present.

At 4am on the night of the break in, Alison Giles the owner and director of the school received a familiar phone call from the alarm company. She rushed to the school alone in the darkness and burst into tears. This small boutique design seminary is her life’s work, and it had been violated again by those too lazy arrogant and spiteful to put a days work into their own existence. I call them spiteful because it’s the same ‘crew’ that keep returning. Despite being caught by the police every single time, they never seem to learn. We know who they are as they have been arrested previously and each has wide open social media profiles. The morning after the latest break in we were able to observe a mobile upload declaring one of them had been on a visit to the Apple Store four days earlier. A few weeks later we we’re able to find out that another had been temporarily released following his arrest, because his Facebook status read “wassup bitches !!!im on the outz now !!free as a bird motherf***ers!”  Track back over a year of this kind of inarticulate gibberish to find an interesting wall conversation between the two of them morning after one of last years raids. These are not master criminals, in fact this time one of them left behind a tracksuit top featured prominently in his Facebook profile.

The great shame in all of this is the previous lack of sufficient punishment. Nobody is asking for crucifixion, but a solid boot in the crotch and two years in a real gaol rather than a soft scolding and one week at a youth camp (as happened last time) is pretty much where this story should see these clowns at some point along the road. We have managed to get a couple of our iMacs back, covered in dirt with hard drives wiped clean. The other 12 are in the process of being retrieved by the police. As you read this, the buyers are being sold out by sellers and the whole grubby gang are busy informing on each other.

As for our teachers and students, we are working together to move on swiftly. The students took two days off, quickly followed by some field trips and classes of spoken design theory with demonstrations on big screen TVs. Understandably Alison was left shaken for a few weeks but soldiered on remarkably to deal with the disaster and thanks to some Herculean efforts by Peter at they put Humpty Dumpty together again in no time at all.

For me personally this highlighted the startling lack of security available to lock onto the physical position of our Macs in the event of theft. I’m a new teacher here at the college and in the days following the break in I thought it would be a simple matter of jumping on the web to purchase some tiny inexpensive GPS device for secret placement within the machines. I thought to myself, “If nano technology to track cardboard boxes is being developed, surely I can surely find something for the Macs!” – but to my surprise there’s not much available that I can find. I’m seeking an affordable way to make our computers location ‘live and instantly trackable’ wherever they go. Ideally I’d like a system that comes with a wrecking ball attached to a heat seeking tank so next time we can call around to the good homes of these decent folk and knock on their doors for a chat. Until that’s available we just keep working passionately to help our students develop and seek out more ways to prepare them for rewarding careers.

DesignWorks students hard at work

I’d like to end this article with a very special thank you to Grace Robinson and the rest of the team at MacWorld Australia. In the immediate aftermath I placed a call to them enquiring of their knowledge in ways to prevent the theft of macs. After a quick chat I was invited to write this article and they generously provided us with a batch of magazines including touch – which if you haven’t read it yet, is yet another phenomenal publication that brought the buzz back to the The DesignWorks and helped relight the passion for all things magical and Mac.

A part of being a small boutique college with a very low ratio of students to teachers really enables us to channel an incredible amount of information and experience into each student in one intensive year of study. The guys who keep breaking in have refused hard work in favour of a life of crime. Our students, on the other hand, are putting in the work towards a life of creativity and design. As we provide apprenticeship training to the graphic arts and print industries we are developing relationships and achieving the goal of helping our students to find employment. This can be a fun process!

Each October we invite people from the graphic arts and print industries to an event we host called ‘Glimpse’ – it’s an auction of the students’ best works with proceeds donated to a local charity. If you are reading this and would like to meet some very talented young designers please do get in touch – we would all love to hear from you.

A huge thanks again go to MacWorld Australia for the encouragement and support – It is greatly appreciated!


2 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. John d says:

    Sorry to hear the bad news about the break in. Recently there were several articles about stolen laptops and other apple computers. A quick check revealed the following links:

    IMHO probably the best of the recent articles – refers to software called Hidden ( and another called LoJack

    Another article relates to more software

    And yet another article refers to PREY software

    FWIW, my own suggestion would be the first article and software – Hidden.

    Remember, in order to assist law enforcement as much as possible to track down and prosecute offenders, any tool that can provide law enforcement with PHOTOGRAPHS and the IP address of the alleged offender will strengthen the evidence that will be used at court.

    Just imagine an alleged defendant having to consider that the computer photographed them using the stolen equipment. PRICELESS!!

  2. David Laurie says:

    A few days or weeks in jail is pathetic for those slime balls…

    I’ve noticed with a lot of these petty crim’s (and some of those so-called “hackers” among them..), that not only are they basically waste-of-space “oxygen thieves” ~ but most of them have LESS-THAN-ZERO computer and internet knowledge !!!

    If I were the judge/magistrate sentencing them, I would be looking at 5-10 years jail for crimes of this magnitude..

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