Kimberly Melin got her stolen laptop back after police traced the IP address her computer was using to send SETI@home data to the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
SETI@home is a program that analyzes deep space radio wave data collected by the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico. Kimberly's husband, James, installed the program on her computer. He's one of over a million people who have SETI@home running on their computers in the hopes of finding non-human intelligent life in the universe. SETI stands for "Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence."
Melin monitored the SETI(at)home database to see if the stolen laptop would "talk" to the Berkeley servers. Indeed, the laptop checked in three times within a week, and Melin sent the IP addresses to the Minneapolis Police Department.
After a subpoena to a local Internet provider, police determined the real-world address where the stolen laptop was logging on. Within days, officers seized the computer and returned it. No one had been arrested as of Wednesday and the case remains under investigation, said Lt. Amelia Huffman of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Kimberly's writings were safe, and the thieves didn't appear to have broken into her e-mail or other personal folders. But the returned computer contained 20 tracks of rap music with unintelligible lyrics, possibly from the person who stole the computer or bought it on the underground.
"It's really, really horrid rap," Melin said. "It makes Ludacris look like Pavarotti."