School Tech Guy Fired For Running SETI@Home?

from the not-quite dept

SETI@Home, one of the earlier and (still) largest distributed computing projects was launched more than 10 years ago, and it's still pretty common for lots of folks (geeks and non-geeks alike) to run the screensavers and work through the mounds of SETI data. That's why it's a bit surprising to find a writeup by Chris Matyszczyk, about a guy fired for running the software written up as if SETI@Home were some sort of wacky new project by UFO enthusiasts. Basically, it sounds like the guy installed the SETI@Home software on a bunch of computers at the school, and that upset school officials. This isn't the first time we've seen this sort of thing. Five years ago, we wrote about a similar firing of an employee by the state of Ohio.

Still, if you look at the details of this particular firing the situation seems a lot different than the report suggests (or than even the article from AZCentral suggests). There's actually a criminal investigation going on, but the bigger issue (even though it's downplayed in the article) is the fact that the school district claims the guy stole 18 computers from the district and had them in his home (turned up by a warrant). That seems a lot more understandable as an offense leading to termination. Separately, it appears he did not complete his job duties -- such as installing firewall software that never showed up (oddly, the article never actually defines the guy's job title, but it sounds like some sort of IT job). The whole SETI@Home stuff just seems exaggerated. This includes the claim, made in the article, that the guy's actions cost the school district between $1.2 million and $1.6 million. While some of this may be tied to the missing computers, the article implies that much of it is from running SETI@Home, which the school claims was a burden on the computer systems. While he probably shouldn't have been running the software on those machines without permission, that alone is hardly that big of a deal. It seems like most people at the school district and the writers of the articles linked above don't understand how SETI@Home works, which seems to create an awful lot of confusion.
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Filed Under: distributed computing, fired, seti@home

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  1. identicon
    asgorath72, 20 Dec 2009 @ 12:39am

    Re: Overkill, maybe not...

    i have been a pc tech for 13 years. i assure u not once have i ever had a machine give out for using up to max resources. i have run seti wide open on my many computers (both custom built and store bought models) for about 9 years and have noticed no wear on any hardware from it.

    additionally it is harder on newer hardware to turn it off on then to let it run 24/7. and sleep which windows has not fully perfected as any tech who has had to drain the residual charge on a machine to reboot when it would not wake can tell you. now assuming that, the small power usage increase the program would cause beyond the machines running full time is negligable.

    if he was fired for poor performanace or stealing great but the good doctor needs to unbunch her panties and leave a legitimate scientific project that is time tested alone

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