AT LARGE: It's a steal!

AT LARGE: It's a steal!

On Thursday, February 22, some time between 11.30am and 6.30pm, a person or persons unknown entered my home through a broken window in the kitchen. Barring any compelling evidence to the contrary, it is my belief that they were also responsible for breaking said window. I believe there were two of them, because the window was broken, but the back door was also open - one climbed in through the window, and opened the door for the other.

They took some stuff. As you can imagine, breaking into the home of a computer journalist yielded some pretty good stuff, too. I'm not all that fussed about it, actually - all they took were consumer electronics that can be replaced, nothing sentimental. Presuming it was someone worse off than myself, I hold no grudge. If I find out it was Christopher Skase or Alan Bond, there'll be trouble.

What's interesting, though, is the stuff they left behind. I often review new and exciting technology, and it's often hard to keep perspective on how good a product would seem if you had to pay for it. Something that seems great when you're loaned it for a month might not be so compelling to someone who has to shell out rec retail. A robbery, however, provides an insight into what is or is not worth having, even when you're not going to pay a cent.

The biggest prize of their haul was a collection of mobile telephones I was reviewing for a magazine. They'd just come back from the photographer, and were in a canvas bag together. Bit over five grand's worth, including a Motorola Accompli - half phone, half PDA, very cool. There were also a couple of Ericssons; couple of Nokias; couple of Panasonics; and my favourite, a Philips Xenium 9@9. Of course, nobody pays full retail for mobile phones - you always get them on a plan. The "grab it and go" plan seems quite economical, but I wonder how their customers are going to react when told that not a single one of the battery chargers was in the bag with the phones - they've all been left behind. Nyeah.

In the bag with the phones there were a number of other gadgets, including an Intel Voice Morpher toy - I presume one of the thieves has kids. Or perhaps, this was the reward for the smaller of the two, who climbed in the window.

Also in the bag was a device from Dick Smith that you hook up to your phone and your TV which makes the caller ID appear on the TV screen. I think it's a way nifty bit of kit, myself. Today's modern burglar cares not for such things, though - it was actually removed from the bag and left behind. Retail value about $150, but these guys didn't want one for free - that's got to say something.

There was also a Webcam in the bag - without its stand or USB cable, which is on the desk next to me now. Ha ha. I read recently about a family in Sydney that got robbed, and then set up just such a Webcam, along with motion control software, to catch the thieves should they return. My guess is that, since then, burglars are being sure to take any Webcams they spot.

I could, of course, set a similar trap for my own burglars, using my camcorder (Sony CCD-TR511E). Except, of course, that they took that too. Sigh. Come on guys, it's not even digital.

They also took my DVD player (Sony DVP-S725D). It's a bummer to lose it, because Sony doesn't make the 725 anymore, so I'll have to replace it with a 735, which for my money isn't as good (don't like the silver finish, prefer the black). What is interesting is that the thieves left behind two VHS machines. I thought VCRs were pretty much the standard thing that burglars took - could it be that DVD has already taken over this particular market niche?

My collection of DVDs was also untouched, which I find strange and, oddly, disappointing. Think about it: you're stealing a DVD player. You'll want to sell this, and quick. There is a ready supply of discs just sitting there. Do you not grab at least a few to sell with the player? What happened to good old-fashioned value-add, I ask you? These thieves could use some tips on good selling practice.

Several desktop computers were untouched, but this was understandable - they're big, they're bulky, they're beige. Clearly not this year's models. And they're networked, complete with hub, and it might just have seemed too confusing. However, a Dell notebook was left behind, sitting on the floor in plain view, complete with power supply. I can only imagine that they couldn't conscience the idea of dealing direct.

Matthew JC. Powell's home is now patrolled by armed guards three days a week. Guess which three on

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