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 News.com 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 News.com 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.