How do we spy on my wife?
May 8, 2009 4:39 AM   Subscribe

Suggest a program (or programs) that can help me track what is happening on a PC

A couple of times now my wife has 'faded out' while in front of the PC. The last time it happened she swore that she had spent 3 hours reading the BBC website, but her browser history said she'd never been there - instead she'd been off wandering the internet looking at Star Trek sites.

It's not the first time it's happened, and it's got us both worried.

Can anyone out there suggest a program that we can install on her PC that will keep a log of what programs she has running? Ideally it would be good if it could also keep track of which program has focus and what web pages have been visited.

She's been aware of it when it has happened, so the program only needs to keep logs for 24 hours or so.

[I know this sounds creepy, but I promise you that this question is being asked with my wife's permission and logs will only be accessed with her permission.]
posted by twine42 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You should probably clarify by noting what OS (Windows?) and version she's running, what web browser, etc. Any suggestions will depend on that.

Also, perhaps seeing a doctor is a good idea.
posted by silentbicycle at 4:46 AM on May 8, 2009

Response by poster: Good point...

She's running Win XP SP1 and browses on Firefox 3

The first time she did it (when she thought she'd just spaced out) she did mention it to her psych, who said not to worry about it. Since then we've realised she's not just staring at the screen, and collecting evidence before we go back to him...
posted by twine42 at 4:51 AM on May 8, 2009

As far as what web sites she visits that's already being recorded in the browser history. Firefox 3 Extractor is a program that can dump the history to a spreadsheet.
posted by XMLicious at 5:13 AM on May 8, 2009

This epileptic thinks she ought to see a neurologist.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:56 AM on May 8, 2009

Oh, wait, you already looked in the browser history.

Well, if nobody comes up with an easy-to-use download, you can try this. If you open up Start > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt and type in the command
You'll get a list of everything that is running on the computer. Then
tasklist /v /fo csv > %TIME:~0,2%_%TIME:~3,2%_%TIME:~6,2%.csv
will dump an even more detailed list into a spreadsheet.

If you see how that works, you would then use the Scheduled Tasks (Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Scheduled Tasks) to set the latter command to run every five minutes or so and you'll end up with a folder full of spreadsheets showing the list of running programs from each time it ran.
posted by XMLicious at 5:57 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about installing RescueTime.

RescueTime logs both program and website usage. It may feel somewhat invasive, as all the tracking stats are sent back to their server.
posted by stungeye at 6:02 AM on May 8, 2009

I've never used it but Time Snapper looks interesting -- it automatically takes screen shots every few seconds and stitches them into a movie. There is a free version and a free trial of the professional version which is aimed at time-tracking for people who bill by the hour.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:09 AM on May 8, 2009

Dittoing RescueTime
posted by idb at 6:10 AM on May 8, 2009

WebMynd or ThumbStrips might help with visualising the browsing history (but not the other programs running).
posted by BrokenEnglish at 8:58 AM on May 8, 2009

If you want to accomplish your desired task AND have some great software to manage a home network, I suggest Network Magic. It'll send daily screenshots of program use (and time for each program) and websites visited. The software isn't free, though.
posted by teg4rvn at 7:20 AM on May 9, 2009

Manictime is similar to Rescuetime, but runs as a local application only, it logs the active application's titlebar text and displays it graphically.
posted by Boobus Tuber at 8:30 AM on May 10, 2009

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