How to secure drawing tablets in a public computer lab?
July 9, 2007 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Any suggestions for securing drawing tablets from theft in a public, academic computing environment?

I will be starting a new job as an Art professor this Fall and I will be teaching an introductory Computers for Artists course. I'd like to get Wacom (or similar) drawing tablets for the students. I was asked by the department how to secure the tablets against theft as they will be in a public art department computer lab with lots of student access. I Googled many combinations of "drawing tablet theft academic" etc. and didn't see anything. Does anyone here have any experience with this or suggestions? Thanks!

(I was going to title this "I'm in ur labs, stealin' ur tabs" but I opted to be search engine friendly)
posted by Slothrop to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Can these be secured the same way mice and keyboards are? There are special little tabs that you can lock mice with- they basically encapsulate a bit of the cable between the device and the plug, and then can be attached to a security cable.
posted by :-) at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2007

Could the tablets be available for on-demand access only outside of class time? I'd put the stylus/pen/mice on sign-out, if it's an attended lab. It's kind of high-schoolish, but in my experience the littler things are more prone to being stolen. In my high school someone stole all of the mouse balls. pre-optical mouse era, but not the mice themselves, thus rendering them useless. We had to sign out a mouse ball to use the computer.
posted by rhoticity at 1:37 PM on July 9, 2007

Are you a professor at a college?

In my university, anything that couldn't be bolted down was locked in "The Cage" which was staffed to check things in and out like a library. Is there a similar infrastructure for AV equipment like cameras or sound gear there?

If the class is taught 100% in a mixed-use computer lab, the IT dept would have to marshall setup and breakdown. Many programs would require the purchase of a tablet along with required software, but not in an introductory course.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2007

I would suggest a combination of STOP plates and a cable and adhesive plate system.

The STOP plates should be attached to the backs of the tablets or, preferably, the front (but only if there's an appropriate non-drawing area on your particular tablets). My Graphire4 6x8 looks like it could take a plate in the upper corners, for instance.

The plates are extremely hard to remove without permanently damaging the casing, and they have some additional features. The cable and plate will prevent casual theft or loss due to forgetfulness while still allowing users to position the tablets comfortably.

You may also consider taking some sort of permanent marker to the casing to further decrease the tablets' street value.
posted by jedicus at 1:55 PM on July 9, 2007

Most laptops have a lock port - a specifically designed hole to accommodate a laptop lock. I'll bet the tablets have the same port. The cable is lightweight, so it's only a deterrent. The adhesive plate & cable is better. You have to cable it to something immovable.

In our computer labs, all the cables - monitor, keyboard, mouse, power, are run through a smallish padlock. It's sized so that no cable can be removed, because the plug end is too large. That ended the mouse & keyboard theft. Talk to your IT Dept. If nothing else, they get all the marketing mail from anti-theft vendors.
posted by theora55 at 3:08 PM on July 9, 2007

Unless the tablets are very expensive, marking (best done with a diamond inscriber or a heat-melt with the college's name) combined with the method described in theora55's second paragraph is what I'd recommend. With ordinary keyboards and mice in reasonably secure locations it's usually good enough to secure them in a way that would require a thief to cut the cable. If the tablets are very expensive (say, more than a couple hundred each) then the adhesive plates that jedicus linked, combined with steel cables and padlocks, are the way to go.
posted by RogerB at 4:16 PM on July 9, 2007

At my school the tables themselves were secured with the aforementioned adhesive plate + metal cable method. Students would then check out styli with their photo ID.
posted by hobbes at 5:51 PM on July 9, 2007

I suspect a bigger problem than theft of the tablets is going to be people unwittingly walking off with the pens - when someone's attention is on something else, and they have what feels like a biro in their hand they'll often put it in a pocket without even thinking about it, and completely forget about it until it goes through the wash.

When they discover it later, there will need to be a low threshold of effort to return the pen, or it often won't get returned. Making an appointment, or needing to find a particular person with the keys, or doing it at a specific time when the art gear is unlocked... these sorts of things will all make it easier to just not return the pen.

Is it possible to install a library security system in the lab? (The panels net to the doors) Many of those are triggered by tiny little wires that could be attached to pens (and tablets) without being obstructive.

Does the library already have a security system? If so, a relationship with the vendor for additional parts for it will already be established.

I hate the idea of tethering the pens to the tablets, but without a wireless system like the library-book wire detector, either that might be needed, or a system where the class doesn't end until all the pens have been found and checked back in.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:05 PM on July 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers - for those of you who write about particular procedures at your schools could you post your school or EMail me the school you are referring to (EMail addy is in my profile)..? That might help when I take my proposal to my department. Thanks!
posted by Slothrop at 6:07 PM on July 9, 2007

I'd also suggest bright fluorescent tape on the pens - making them both:
1. too ugly to want to own/use.
2. harder to mistake for a pen, or lose track off.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:08 PM on July 9, 2007

1. too ugly to want to own/use.

It occurred to me this might need clarification - the tablets are probably going to be Wacom, because these are the not-toy ones that all the standard graphics software supports. Wacom tablets are pretty common, people are often losing their pens, and the wacom pens are interchangeable from one tablet to the next, and even between most of their different lines of tablet. In other words, a stolen pen is not useless without a stolen tablet.

posted by -harlequin- at 6:14 PM on July 9, 2007

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