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Hi, my name is Kevin from Kenya and this is the story of what drove me to create the Matrix Blackbox. The first commercially available tracker hardware chip for laptops and other stuff. It all started when I was in campus (Moi University). My best friend and I borrowed a laptop to do an assignment for a class we shared together. I was a second year student doing information science soon to major with IT. After class we decided to pass by the university library that had really ancient books and while we were there we decided to leave the laptop bag at the entrance with the guard for “safe keeping” as there was a NO bags allowed in Policy. Being a first year freshman, we were very naïve on how things go down around campus. We walked in, took the book that we needed and checked out. To our surprise when we got to the exit door, the laptop bag we had left with the security guy was missing. Nobody saw nothing or maybe nobody was snitching. The guard seemed to care very little on the whole ordeal and the university claimed it was our fault and reckless of us to have “followed their rules”. That’s how orientation went down for us there. We were forced to pay for the laptop we had ‘lost’. This meant I had to take side hassles rather attend class full time to do this. The whole ordeal got me thinking if only there was something I could do to track the perpetrators down. The year was 2008 computer software was in its infancy here in Kenya, and nobody gave a damn!
Fast forward 2 years in campus and few more of my friends have lost laptops. None was ever recovered. I sought to create a program of my own and have it relay its location via the IP it connects to via email. Tested it out a few times and realized IP addresses generalize a location. Which means it could be in a radius of 10 to even 100km radius from the ping location. This is bad. Its like looking for a needle in a haystack…on another pile of haystack. I sought more online help. At that time the coolest tracking software were Prey Project and Lojack for laptops. I got my hands on them and tried them out. I created variable controlled scenarios of losing a laptop to test them out. Turns out I found a major flaw in them and I got to know this the hard way. One time while I was at home working I decide to step out for a stroll. It was just a 10 minute stroll to the shop and back. By the time I got back home I found my place broken into and my laptop, external hard disk, money and a few other items missing. I tried the police as usual first and prayed hard the tracking softwares in the laptop did their thing. Two months passed, three…four eight nothing….nada..zilch. That’s when it dawned on me that probably the first thing the thieves did was probably wipe the laptop, reset the bios and probably resold it as new. My background in computer science helped me see this flaw and I know how easy it is to do all that. This was an eye opener for me to realize how software tracking is vulnerable. I realized that hardware chip was the way to go.
Fast forward, a year later am head deep buried in research on hardware trackers and Hardware is called ‘hard-ware’ for a reason…yeah because its hard! I tried afew shortucts of buying off the shelf hardware trackers. Nothing shows up for laptops. All there existed at the time was hardware trackers for cars and motorbikes which were too large to be fitted in a laptop. During that time I did a lot of reading into GSM technology and how its growing. I snuck into electrical engineering classes to understand more about electronics and how they intertwine with programming. I started collecting a lot of e-waste and started experimenting with different circuit boards and miniaturizing them. As I was just about to get some form of breakthrough, I got hit again. This time it was street thugs. As I was going home I got jacked and lost my third laptop. This I lost with a lot of research data as well as other vital important stuff.
I had It! It was personal now. My vendetta with laptop thieves was on a personal level now. My objective and mission in life was to make a hardware tracker for my laptop.Should any one steal it from I will find them and end them (kidding…or not). The design I had in mind was an almost impossible task. The criteria involved building a super small tracker hardware chip for laptops that would act as an advanced surveillance tool that I would use to get the perpetrators. I pictured a tracker hardware chip that would help me even without the help of law enforcement (don’t get me wrong but there is little or nothing they can do here on such cases) to get my laptop back with minimal expenses as possible. And thus begun my journey.
Six years later with the dedication of a bee, I finally did it. The microchip went through a lot of rigorous process. I got feedback from various people as I develop each prototype one microchip at a time. I at times got tired and bankrupt in developing it but the pain kept pushing me to finish the product. Family did come in once in a while and cheered me on giving me support and Ideas. For this I am grateful. This was the story of how the Blackbox was born for tracking laptops first. The rest of the evolution is in a history. I will some day share on the evolution of the Matrix Blackbox on how it ended up being the smallest and best IoT microchip ever realized.
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