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Slashdot Asks: Do You Label Your Tech Gear, and If So, How? 250

At last month's CES, I mislaid a microphone that I'd just bought: too many items in little black pouches, and that one disappeared on a patch of dark carpet when I got something else out of my bag. A few minutes later, when I realized this, I walked back to find (no shocker) that it had walked away, and the lost mic somehow never made it to the Lost & Found office. Dumb as I felt for having let it get away, the real sting is knowing that I didn't so much as have my name on it, which I like to think might have nudged a morally ambivalent finder into returning it. My question is this: How do you personalize, label, or mark your expensive tech goodies, so it's harder for them to be innocently or less-innocently taken away? Even at a LAN party, it's easy for items to get swapped around and confused. I've sometimes put my name or initials (in permanent ink) on any flat surface I can find that will fit it, but even the "permanent" ink of Sharpies seems to fade on many surfaces. Stickers degrade with heat, time, and bag jostling, but they certainly help. Is engraving the best permanent option? Have you used one of the physical tag services, like Boomerang, and has that ever actually come in handy for you? There's theft-deterrent (or at least post-theft tracking) software, as we've mentioned a few times on Slashdot, but many things aren't suited to it, like my lost mic. What do you do to keep your stuff yours?
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Slashdot Asks: Do You Label Your Tech Gear, and If So, How?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2014 @01:41PM (#46316753)

    Really, guys...

  • non-issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @01:41PM (#46316757)

    some of us have grown up, and longer go to either trade shows or LAN parties 8D

    on a more serious note, get an engraver

    • A laser printer does a much nicer job. Look for Laser Engraving services in your area.

      Google link to some very nice jobs on laptops https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

      • by egcagrac0 ( 1410377 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @03:20PM (#46317467)

        The immediate problem I see is that a laser engraver is a cool tech toy, and a lot of geeks might actually want to buy one rather than hire the engraving done.

        Once you own one, you'll probably want to take it to a LAN party and show it off... which means it will need to be engraved.

        This basically means you need to buy two.

        • Once you own one, you'll probably want to take it to a LAN party and show it off... which means it will need to be engraved.

          This basically means you need to buy two.

          Who wants to come to my engraver party?

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Sunday February 23, 2014 @07:17PM (#46319043) Homepage Journal

          This basically means you need to buy two.

          Or a mirror.

        • One time, I found some cheap ass microphone at this thing, and it had a label on it. The label said "Stolen from this idiot at this thing" or so. So I tore off the label and engraved it "Property of my nutsack".

          If anyone steals it from me, no one can pretend to be me by name just by reading the label on it. Property of Jim Smith? Well I'm Jim Smith, yeah. I just have to admit that I'm stupid enough to engrave the fact that a microphone is property of my nutsack, and I get it back.

          The mic works real wel

  • Permnent Markers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @01:45PM (#46316789)

    Stickers can easily peel off. Engraving is easy to overlook unless the lighting is right. High-contrast "permanent" ink sticks around. Yes it fades over time, but it only takes a few seconds per year to freshen it up.

    For electronics I also try to put contact info somewhere obvious - My flash drives all have "IF YOU FIND THIS.txt" as one of the few files in the root folder, and my phones all have _Me as the very first entry on the contact list.

    • Also, write your phone number on the gadget, not just your name. Names are fine when you lose something at school or a friends house, but they don't allow a helpful stranger to tell you than found your stuff.

      • And, finally, especially on stuff you *really* don't want to lose, consider offering a reward for their return. That 16GB flash drive was only worth $10 new, a $20 reward offer that catches the eye of a "finders keepers" inclined individual before they reformat it may well get your data back to you safe and sound.

        Don't you hate when you keep thinking of another important point just as you hit the submit button?

        • And of course one more springs to mind. A self-portrait displayed prominently when someone first opens your gadget - be that as your account image on your laptop or the lock-screen background on your smartphone. Give a stranger in the crowd a chance to spot the person they should hand it back to.

    • The one or two things I really want labelled in a way that won't come off, I engraved my name on using a Dremel tool.

      There's an added benefit of making the thing you label less attractive to others (depending on where you put the engraving).

      • That would be a lot more visible than normal engraving, especially if you also traced the grooves with contrasting permanent ink - which could also make the grooves more attractive while simultaneously protecting the ink from wear.

        -- This idea has been approved by the Department of Redundancy Department.

        • by drkim ( 1559875 )

          Great idea, if you trace over with a rubberized paint marker, it won't wash/sweat/rub away.

          I do the same thing, but for equipment that will be exposed to contact and/or moisture I stick a piece of clear packing tape over it as well.

      • by jiriw ( 444695 )

        Actually... if the object was made by metal, that would be the 'only' way. The only objects I bothered to physically label are my laptops and they aren't of the 'ultra expensive' kind... so I use a soldering iron for that.

        For hand-held digital devices (a PDA in the not too distant past, now a smartphone), I've only put a message of ownership on the lock screen.

    • I would never stick a found flash drive into my computer :)
      Ah well, perhaps on a linux box where I was certain it does not accept keyboard input from THAT port.

      • How about into a computer at a library or internet cafe that is presumably already compromised six ways from Sunday? And if you have disabled autorun, what is the risk? Has someone actually managed to create a virus that spreads via reading an infected partition table or file system? That would actually be pretty impressive.

        What does keyboard input have to do with anything though? I haven't heard of that attack vector, and it would seem pretty paranoid to assume an apparent USB drive has a chance worthy

        • The risk is that there are USB sticks out, that identify themselves as "drive" and as keyboard.

          They type automaticaly windows-R or something to execute a file by mimicing user interaction.

          However, the idea to put it into a PC at a linrary or internet cafe is a good one.

          • That... actually sounds like it might be handy for a few legitimate uses. Can you buy the things on the white market?

            • Mot sure, I only know about such devices because they where mentioned in a german computer magazine (www.heise.de magacine is called c't )

      • by jiriw ( 444695 )

        Keyboard hijack should not be a problem. Remote login on the machine you intend to analyse the foreign hardware device on... Do not use a GUI that defaults keyboard input to itself, do not use one of the main TTYs , so a keyboard hack which cycles through the available '[ctrl]F1-7' targeting the default Linux virtual terminals available can't find any one logged on. Use an OS that doesn't auto-mount (which eliminates several Linux distro's, but at least you can make them behave, if you want to) or, even wor

        • What do you mean with direct memory access?
          That the USB device accesses the memory of the host?
          That is completely impossible. Except the USB hardware part of the host would allow that, by being comrimized due manufactoring.

    • Paint marker.

      Lasts much longer than permanent marker, is weather proof too. On my time-lapse camera, I also applied clear tape over it (years ago) and it's as fresh as day one, despite seeing handling rock climbing, rain, UV sun, etc.

      Depending on item size, I put "Reward, phone number" and if room, email.

      It leads to humor on my cellphone, as the background image (flip phone) is typically girlfriend's cleavage or topless shot, with "reward if found" displayed across...

      PS: In many states, if you can't find t

  • Lab Markers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2014 @01:49PM (#46316829)
    Sharpies are disallowed at my lab because the writing is so easily removed. They're expensive, but writing with a VWR lab marker [vwr.com] doesn't come off even when treated with most solvents.
    • That seems rather excessive unless you have a chronic problem. The primary purpose of a label in most situations is to give a helpful person the ability to return your stuff, a thief just won't show anyone the label (What, you don't make decorative drawings on your stuff?). Unless the thing in question has little use outside your lab that's pretty easy to do.

      Thanks for the link though, how does the ink compare to Sharpies when it comes to normal wear and fading?

    • by spasm ( 79260 )

      Good idea, but the product page you link to says "Note: Markers are not for use on smooth surfaces" which would limit usefulness for labeling a lot of electronics. Although since you actually use them, what's your real-life experience been?

  • WARNING Sticker: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by microcars ( 708223 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @01:52PM (#46316849) Homepage

    "Contains Contaminated Body Fluids" usually keeps people from touching my stuff.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Contains Contaminated Body Fluids" usually keeps people from touching my stuff.

      Sort of like setting down a tray of food in the highschool caf with a note stating that "I spit on this" (Only to return to find a 2nd note "I did too!")


    • by laejoh ( 648921 )
      Mine are labelled as "Contains Precious Bodily Fluids (and there's nothing wrong with them)".
    • by stjobe ( 78285 )

      Yep, just a plain old orange BIOHAZARD sticker works wonders.

  • How about these they have drawbacks but would have alerted you more quickly http://www.thetileapp.com/ [thetileapp.com]
  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @01:52PM (#46316859) Journal

    The first several replies here aren't too useful. If that continues, ask band roadies on an appropriate forum. The band I used to do lights for did up to three shows per weekend, so there was plenty of opportunity for an expensive cable to end up in the wrong person's case and that sort of thing.

    Something as simple as a stripe of blue paint on ALL of your gear will really help avoid accidents. For intentional theft, if you want the pawn shop to _maybe_ notice it, engraving is probably the only way to go.

    • by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:25PM (#46317105) Homepage Journal

      Seconded. We had spray painted stencils on anything larger than 12". For mics and cables we used colored duct tape and wrote on that with a Sharpie. Every gig ended with a "dummy check" at the end of the night: even if you think everything is in the truck, it never hurts to make one last check (onstage, backstage, etc.). You'd be surprised how many times something turned up in a dummy check.

      Designate one person as the gear wrangler. Teach him the Roadie's Creed:

      If it's wet, drink it.
      If it's dry, smoke it.
      If it moves, fuck it.
      If it doesn't move, PUT IT IN THE TRUCK.


      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:51PM (#46317319)

        I work for a small touring company, mainly ballet's and some Choirs we use a Hi- tech solution, RFID tags and a scanner on everything, when it goes into the truck or a bag gets loaded its scanned (only takes a second and you can scan packed bags and it pick up everything) end of the night/gig the generated list is checked for missing items. WE haven't lost a thing in 3 years (broke a few but thats to be expected)

  • by acidradio ( 659704 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @01:55PM (#46316875)

    I can't change others' morals and not make them thieves. But I do label stuff simply so it doesn't get confused. We all have so many big power transformers to power every device and, well, I end up moving every 2-3 yrs. How will I know what all they go to? Some look identical and even have the same plugs! But not the same wattage or amperage, which makes equipment go bananas. So... for at least THAT reason it's wise to label stuff.

    • But not the same wattage or amperage

      As long as they're sufficient it's not an issue; those are maximums that the PSU can supply.

      Applying an excessive voltage, however, is an entirely different thing.

      • I have a broadband router and a VoIP ATA both made by Linksys, both of which look identical and have "identical looking" AC adapters. I moved to a new apartment. All of a sudden my VoIP calls had a horrific buzz and would randomly drop. Upon further investigation the VoIP ATA needed the adapter that kicked out about 1000mA and the broadband router only needed about half that. Swapped. Problem solved. Now both adapters are labeled as to avoid future mishaps like this. That's the reason I mention this.

  • About all I do is mark my dead hard drives with a big D-E-A-D and an 'X' with a ballpoint pen before throwing them into my dead-hard-drive pile (I use them to test disk driver error handling code paths so they don't get thrown away). Actual hardware... no point labeling it, really, it's just a waste of time.

    Oh wait, I do use those cool Intel and AMD cpu stickers on the cases, helps me keep track of which cpu is in which computer :-)

    What I do find useful is collecting together all the extra tidbits that com

  • Product page says "BoomerangIt Packs and Subscriptions are no longer available for purchase." I can't find anything written about it in the last seven years, except this: http://boomerangit.wordpress.c... [wordpress.com]

    Even its offshoot the National Bike Registry seems a it moribund.

  • I use a dedicated label printer to print small tags that I attach to cables - it wraps around and sticks to itself. Most of the label printer labels are plastic and very hardy. The adhesive will stick to lots of other things really well.

    For larger items (like a monitor) I'll tape a business card to it.

    Labeling cables is a good idea anyway, especially for saying what device a power cord from a wall-wart goes to.

  • by Omega Hacker ( 6676 ) <omega@@@omegacs...net> on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:05PM (#46316945)
    I was actually intrigued by BoomerangIt, until I noticed that a) "BoomerangIt Packs and Subscriptions are no longer available for purchase." and b) the cart indeed does not exist.

    I'm a little fuzzy on how you a) start a business selling labels that promise long-term lookup&return, then b) stop selling new labels and thus getting new income, while c) still being required ("nominally") to provide the lookup&return service, without d) running out of money and imploding.

    Am I missing something with either their site or their apparent lack of business model???
    • I perceive two potential business models:

      1. The US Cemetery business model:
      "So, you're telling me I pay once and then you will tend my grave forever?"
      "Yes! Once we are full and are getting no further sales, we will pay for the upkeep through other people's donations (we're a church), or we have set up a trust fund that is absolutely secure (*cough*), or we're planning to pawn this off to the local taxpayers for maintenance once we go out of business (most likely)."

      Hm, well I don't think they are a church, and I doubt the government will bail them out. So, what's the other model?

      2. The DRM server model:
      "People paid us and trusted us to keep running our service, but we aren't making money anymore? Well, fuck it then... *yanks plug*"

    • A $10 / month Amerinoc hosting account for their web site will include MySQL. If that MySql allows finders to query just one item per second, that's tens of thousands of queries per day. Their PHP script then emails the registered owner. I don't see anything here that requires more than a few dollars per month, so leaving the service up until subscriptions run out shouldn't be a problem.

      I'm assuming they don't get a large volume of phone calls every day for some reason.

  • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:20PM (#46317045)

    If I get a device that uses a generic unlabeled power supply I'll mark it with a silver Sharpie to remind me what it goes to.

    • Me too!

    • I mark ethernet & USB with bands of colour. On white/light grey I just draw them on with a permanent marker. For darker cables I put primer on (the sort Games Workshop used to sell is good) first.

  • Superficial Damage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Demonantis ( 1340557 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:26PM (#46317111)
    Depends on the item, but stuff that looks like junk doesn't walk away. Don't break it just add a ding or two, use sand paper, or add duct tape make people less interested in grabbing stuff for some reason.
    • by drkim ( 1559875 )

      Depends on the item, but stuff that looks like junk doesn't walk away. Don't break it just add a ding or two, use sand paper, or add duct tape make people less interested in grabbing stuff for some reason.

      Great technique..!

      Another trick is: instead of using expensive looking cases for gear, buy crappy looking but tough suitcases at Goodwill. (Make sure they have working locks and keys).

      Line them with finger-foam (or cut your own foam) for the gear. Also much cheaper than high tech equipment cases.

      Nothing screams "steal me!" like a shiny new brushed-aluminum gear case, or camera case.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:27PM (#46317121)

    I'm a musician as well as a hacker. I adopted the rock climber's trick of two bands of coloured electrical tape wrapped beside each other on the cable like a little flag, done at both ends of the cable. Works like a charm for speedy tear downs without losing gear.

    - you can tell your cable at either end, greatly speeding up tear down
    - unlikely anyone else has your flag because you are say "yellow red yellow"
    - hard to peel off in a hurry (for theives)
    - easy to see in the dark if you use bright colours


  • by confused one ( 671304 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:27PM (#46317123)
    Laptop(s), tablets and phone I travel with have Lojack (or equivalent) service installed. Best case scenario is I can find it, worst case is I can reach out and turn it into a brick. I put laminated business cards in packages. Zip tie laminated business cards to some items and my bags. There's also a laminated business card or two tucked into my laptop behind covers so I can prove ownership, down the road, even if it gets wiped. Cables, etc. of any value get labels. Tools and small items get run through my employer's laser engraver. Still, small items occasionally go missing, either misplaced or stolen. Had a beard trimmer disappear out of my bag once, who'd want a used beard trimmer? It's not a perfect world, just do the best you can.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Do you really need to travel with all that stuff? I'd suggest the OP ask themselves the same question.

      I suffer from... well, a variety of things, but long story short I used to cart loads of crap to the other side of the world with me but now I have come to realize that most of it was not needed and I can actually get away with a lot less. One laptop, one phone, one set of very small/light headphones that block out aircraft/train noise well. One USB charger if I think I'll need to charge away from the lapto

  • Sharpie Industrial (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Did you know there are two kinds of Sharpie markers? Did you ever get the impression that Sharpie markers don't work as well as they used to?

    The real ones are now called Sharpie Industrial and they still work.

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:37PM (#46317225) Homepage
    Like my cat, I just pee on everything that's mine. Or that I want to be mine. Works like a charm.
    • Like my cat, I just pee on everything that's mine. Or that I want to be mine. Works like a charm.

      I imagine this makes dating and courtship more interesting.

      • Like my cat, I just pee on everything that's mine. Or that I want to be mine. Works like a charm.

        I imagine this makes dating and courtship more interesting.

        Like most tom cats, Chelloveck has a harem.

  • Someone obviously picked it up and decided NOT to bring it to the reception or Lost And Found. How would a label on the item matter? How were you thinking when you wrote this up, Tim?
  • I worked in a computer forensics lab and we had several road kits. I labeled all the power supplies, devices, etc with a P-Touch so they didn't get mixed up on someone else's kit. It at least cleared up confusion as to what belongs to who when we went on big collections. :)
  • At last month's CES, I mislaid a microphone that I'd just bought: too many items in little black pouches, and that one disappeared on a patch of dark carpet when I got something else out of my bag.

    As a photographer I routinely walk around with a couple of grands worth of camera gear.

    I don't label.

    Many years in the submarine service taught me to be organized and to pay the hell attention to what I was doing. Labels are like locks, while they're somewhat better than nothing, all they really d

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      At last month's CES, I mislaid a microphone that I'd just bought: too many items in little black pouches, and that one disappeared on a patch of dark carpet when I got something else out of my bag.

      As a photographer I routinely walk around with a couple of grands worth of camera gear.

      I don't label.

      For stuff like camera gear, no-one willing to steal it gives a crap if it's labelled. I've got the S/N of most electronics on the receipt (which if I haven't received via email I'll scan and email it to myself). The S/N is enough to ID the equipment if hell freezes over and the cops manage to recover it.

      But I agree with you, prevention is better than cure because label or no once you lose (to theft or carelessness) something you've got buckley's chance of getting it back.

  • Panasonic with Viera, Samsung with Anynet+ (monitor) -HDTV's, Denon Home Theater, and a PS3 that I watch NetFlix on. Four controllers I use all the time, and none of them talk to each other; the monitor mentions it's going to power down if there's no controller activity in 15 seconds; I have find that one fast.

    Colored duct tape is how I find them fast, well after I manage to get them all together and that can be a chore.

    The special Sony controller is suppose to control the PS3, Home Theater, HDTV, but ala

  • Pink zip ties. Works fine in small groups.

  • Give your gear a proper branding. Yeehaw!
    • by plover ( 150551 )

      Branding works great on wooden handles of shovels, rakes, etc. This is the kind of device my uncle's heating and plumbing shop used: http://brandingirons.com/propa... [brandingirons.com] But it's not so useful on computer gear or metal or plastic cases.

      Not recommended for use on co-workers.

  • How to I label maker? Really?
  • In the case cited, a business card slipped into the case/box/etc can be a quick identifier. Folded if necessary for a smaller item. For people who don't normally have business cards, then make some for such instances out of card stock or printer paper, and cut along the lines. Most office or publishing programs will help you design and print cards. A hand-written card is also okay, and might even be better in the instance mentioned.
  • Damn, you traded the Blues Mobile for a microphone, then you lost the microphone. Pure fail, all 'round.

  • Just buy another (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sk999 ( 846068 )

    We all lose stuff. The real question is what inconvenience was caused. If it is not very high, just buy another and move on. It might irk you if you think it's expensive, but after a while the cost will fade into the background. Not worth obsessing over.

  • I mostly label cables whenever there are a lot of them or it gets complicated.

    Every ethernet jack is labeled with a number. The same number is written on the cable at the switch.

    It lets me do things like disconnect a given jack by unplugging it from the switch. Or diagnose issues by substituting different appliances.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson