Having purchased a laptop last year, I’ve stumbled across a few services that will help you recover your prized possession should it fall prey to thieves. They all use a ‘phone home’ approach to recovering your laptop. When the thief connects his new laptop to the internet it will contact a server and the legal work to track down the thief based upon an IP address begins.
After having his laptop stolen from his home, Scott Steffens came up with a less costly alternative.
If I had set my browser to automatically load my homepage with a secret code, say, http://contactsheet.org/?k38sj2, every time it started up, I could trace my way back to the thiefï¿½s physical location. I could wait until that code appeared in my siteï¿½s logs, trace their IP address and get a subpoena for their ISP to provide the name and address of the user connecting via that IP address at that particular time. The computer would, in effect, send a beacon back to its owner after being stolen.
All you need is access to the logs of a server you administer and you’re all set. Another good option suggested in a comment would be a start up script that would run in the background and make the same type of http call without the thief firing up the browser.