12 Sly Web Tricks That Put You in Control

The effect: Under the right circumstances, these applications can be enough to deter a thief from running off with your laptop. Neither application is foolproof, however: Don't consider these apps as anything more than deterrents.

The problem: Before caller ID became standard on every phone, making an anonymous call meant little more than dialing the number. Today it's easy to screen calls and send unknown numbers to voicemail. If you're looking to make an old-fashioned prank call (heavy breathing optional) or simply surprise the person you're calling, the ubiquity of caller ID has ruined the fun.

The trick: Several caller ID spoofing services are available online that not only hide your number from the recipient's caller ID, they also make the call appear to be coming from another phone number altogether. Even better, you decide what number you want to show up when you call. I tested this trick at SpoofCard, one of many such services. Just give SpoofCard your number, the number you want to call, and the number you want to show up in the caller ID; SpoofCard takes care of rest.

The effect: SpoofCard was very easy to use, and it did exactly what it advertised. In my test, that meant spoofing with Tommy Tu-Tone's 867-5309 without a hitch. SpoofCard offers free trial calls, which is probably enough for most users.

Did They Read Your E-Mail? When?

The problem: You send out an important e-mail message reminding your coworker to bring copies of your PowerPoint presentation to the big meeting. You get there, and he doesn't have them. His excuse: He never got your e-mail. Possible, but questionable; anyway, you want to know for sure.

The trick: Send messages you want to monitor through DidTheyReadIt. The Web site embeds a tiny image in each e-mail it sends. When the e-mail is opened, the recipient's e-mail client, in many cases, will automatically send a request for the embedded image; when that request is made, DidTheyRead then knows that the e-mail was indeed opened, when it was opened, and for how long it was open.

The effect: If you really need to be sure that someone received a particular message, DidTheyReadIt works as advertised. The only catch: If the recipient's e-mail client doesn't automatically download embedded images, DidTheyReadIt's tracking mechanism may not work.

The problem: You want to keep a closer eye on your kids when you're away without having to buy a nanny cam.

The trick: The free application WebcamXP streams video from your Webcam over the Internet so you can keep an eye on your home from anywhere. If you have a Webcam with a tracking motor, WebcamXP can even control the pan and tilt of the camera over the Internet, giving you full control over what you're seeing.

The effect: The application works very well, though the free version supports just one video source. Upgrading to one of the shareware versions gives you motion detection, and the ability to hook up and view feeds from multiple Webcams.

Crack a Windows Password

The problem: You lost your Windows password (or you want to discover someone else's). Now you have no way to fully access your account without getting it back.

The trick: Download Ophcrack Live CD and burn it to a disc; then restart your computer and boot from the CD. Point Ophcrack at the hard drive where Windows is installed, and it'll start cracking your Windows password.

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