Out of the box, your Mac is a relatively secure piece of equipment. It comes with a firewall, is more-or-less immune to viruses, and can be locked in a number of different ways. Airlock is a new piece of software that aims to add an extra level of security, in conjunction with an iPhone or iPod touch.
Whenever your phone moves a certain distance away from your computer, Airlock can automatically lock the screen. When you return, your Mac unlocks automatically. It’s a very simple idea, but one that could prove useful in many different circumstances.
Setup and Connection
Setting up Airlock is relatively simple. After downloading and installing the System Preference pane, you’ll be presented with something that looks like the following:
After running the installer, you’ll then need to connect an iPhone or iPod touch. This requires that you enable bluetooth on your device, then run the “Select iPhone” wizard to set up the connection.
Be sure that whilst the setup process is running, you do not close the Bluetooth preferences on your iPhone. If you navigate away from this window, the software won’t be able to find your device.
Locking and Unlocking
The main process of locking and unlocking your computer works remarkably well. The first option to configure is the “Activation Range”:
The program will represent your iPhone’s current distance with a small blue dot, and you can adjust the sensitivity of the app with a simple slider. I’m thoroughly impressed with this piece of interface work – it’s a great way to visually represent how changing the setting will alter how the software works.
Now, when you move away from the computer (with your iPhone), the screen will “lock”, and adjust to something like the following:
From this point, there are two ways to bring back the desktop:
- Bring your iPhone/iPod touch back into range
- Enter your user password
The system is fairly secure, and comprehensively locks your Mac’s screen down. It’s wise to enable the “manual login” option, so that you can still access your computer if you’ve misplaced your iPhone or your battery dies.
Preferences & Actions
Various preferences are available to further customise how the software works. Two different lists allow you to specify certain applications to run when your iPhone either comes into, or goes out of, range. This may sound simple, but opens up interesting possibilities for your Mac to automatically perform certain operations when you come back from a stint away. It could open Mail and Twitter, for instance. Equally, you could use it to run a script that pauses iTunes when walking away, resuming again when you return.
Advanced preferences contain the option to adjust how often your Mac checks for an iPhone’s presence. The more responsive the setting, the more battery life the application will drain. It’s interesting to have this set high when testing the application out, but would be sensible to decrease it when using the software day-to-day.
Areas for Improvement
Airlock works with Bluetooth, as does my Apple keyboard, and I found a few problems with compatibility between the two devices. Occasionally, my keyboard would disconnect and reconnect when moving back and forth. In addition, the software seemed to turn bluetooth on and off automatically from time to time.
Other than this, I found the system to work well and reliably most of the time.
An Alternative for Non-iPhone Users
One alternative solution for those without an iPod touch/iPhone is Salling Clicker, which is capable of running scripts based on proximity to any Bluetooth mobile phone. I found this very useful before purchasing an iPhone, and it’s an application that I would certainly recommend taking a look at.
If you’re looking for a novel way to add proximity based actions and security to your Mac, Airlock is definitely the way to go. It’s easy to set up, works seamlessly with your iPod touch/iPhone, and feels like a reliable solution. You’ll love the “radar” interface for adjusting the sensitivity of the app.
There are a few teething problems – and you may find minor incompatibilities with other Bluetooth devices – but I would expect these to be ironed out in future releases. Airlock is still young!
Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments. Is this something that interests you, or are you happy with a time-based screensaver lock?