Saturday, 26 March 2011 19:51

Mark Bao's dancing laptop thief: a hoax?


Although the story of Mark Bao's stolen MacBook Air being found after the owner 'remotely accessed' his computer, and downloading a video that the thief had recorded of himself dancing to 'Make It Rain', does Mr Bao's story add up?

Along with Rebecca Black's Friday, the latest viral video sensation comes from Mark Bao, an 18 year old university student, "CEO of several companies", and "non-profit company founder" whose MacBook Air was allegedly stolen.

Mr Bao said he was able to remotely access his Mac to identify the thief and used a service called BackBlaze to retrieve files that were being automatically backed up to BackBlaze's service, which sounds like it's trying to imitate Carbonite.

Mr Bao posted a YouTube video of the unnamed, alleged thief in action, dancing to Tyga's 'Make It Rain' video.

A reddit user called japenner posted the video to reddit to 'maximize the f###holes embarrassment', to which a user called markbao responded, posting a screenshot of a letter from the unnamed thief, which can be seen here.

The letter is an apology from the alleged thief, desperate to get the video of his dance off the Internet lest it cause him further embarrassment and trouble.

It's a great little story, but is it real? Does it all add up?

Given the fact that today's technology allows you to have remote access software loaded onto your computer, running permanently if desired with a pre-determined username and password, you can set something up so that if your computer is lost, you can log into it if it is on and online.

You can also use remote backup software like Carbonite, or BackBlaze, which I'd never heard of before, or some other automatic online backup software, so that it does indeed backup new files that have been created to your online backup service.

From that point of view, the story is plausible and believable, fun and sees justice served.

But who is Mark Bao? Who is the alleged thief? Have the police been called?

Some of these questions are answered by a blog called People Liking People.

They've started a series on Mark Bao, exploring his past and discovering who he is.

People liking People have blog posts starting from March 22, but a good one to start from is from March 24, with an excellent timeline of events that starts on February 6, 2011, when Mr Bao reports his MacBook Air stolen.

Weeks later on March 20 Mr Bao tweets he knows who stole his laptop, can execute remote code and asks fellow tweeters 'so do I.. A: recover ASAP, or B: fark with the guy? 20 March 2011 02:42:18 via Twitter for Mac'.

People liking People has several more articles covering Mr Bao's various failed Internet companies, and they allege that Mr Bao hasn't returned monies taken into companies that subsequently failed (warning, the story linked to is called 'Everything Mark Bao touches turns to '¦.', with a small picture of actual '¦. visible at that story).

There are several elements of the story that do not appear to add up, except this: perhaps Mark Bao has finally had the true success he was presumably looking for, becoming for the moment, the latest Internet celebrity with a hit YouTube video and global publicity.

If it's a hoax, and all based on a lie, does it matter if celebrity and infamy is instantly achieved?

Obviously, while basing things on a lie is never a good idea and usually portends doom, and is something your conscience and karma will have to deal with, much depends on what you do next if you find yourself in that position.

What will Mr Bao do next? Is he latest hitmaker a one-hit wonder only to become a footnote of viral video infamy, or will he parlay his success into becoming an ongoing Internet phenomenon?

Whatever the truth of Mark Bao's MacBook Air and the alleged and unnamed dancing thief, today's reality everything culture from the shores of Jersey and MTV to the immediacy and viral infectiousness of a clever YouTube video, social networking and social media is a potent mix that can easily be manipulated.

Anyone can learn to become a digital artist if they so desire, today's multitudinous variety of HD video recording devices and computers with sophisticated video editing software available to consumers is seeing a blossoming of clever art online.

Music videos, funny clips, cute babies/puppies/kittens, movies recorded on iPhone 4's and edited on iPad 2's and more are here and more are on the way.

We don't yet whether we'll hear from Mark Bao again, but viral sensations are only going to become more fantastic and sensational, as Rebecca Black's 52.5+ million views shows with her 'Friday' song.

It's sensational for being a very innocent song about very basic teenage stuff, like which seat to sit in and how Sunday comes after Saturday which comes after Friday and "fun fun fun", and is "so bad it's good with an unexpected rapper dude making an appearance 3/4 of the way through".

Nevertheless it is blowing with the force of several hurricanes past the 1.03 million views for Mr Bao's allegedly thieving dancer.

Whatever and whoever will go viral next?

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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