•  Shawn
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You can file this one in the drawer labeled "Weird, Weirder and Weirdest." In what's easily one of the strangest tales we're heard this year in the technology realm, a (former) Arizona school district employee has been shown his leaving papers after he tinkered with school computers. We know what you're thinking--some guy downloaded some not-so-nice material while on the clock, and now he's paying for it. What's the big deal, right? Not quite.

credit:  East Valley Tribune
The big deal is that this story goes far deeper than that. Brad Niesluchowski, who was Higley Unified School District's Information Technology Director, reportedly downloaded SETI@home software onto a slew of the district's computers way back in 2000, and according to Superintendent Denise Birdwell, that move ended up costing the district (and thus, taxpayers) "more than $1 million." Okay, let's stop and think about that. $1 million? Really? We're a bit rusty on math, but that certainly sounds inflated.

That said, the deal is that school-owned computers were used for who knows how long to "analyze radio telescope data in an experiment to find extraterrestrial intelligence," and obviously that's not so kosher with w[censored]ver is in charge here. Thinking rationally about this, we can understand that SETI@home (which is a completely legitimate program, by the way) would force school-owned PCs to run longer (instead of falling to sleep after classes end) and would definitely tax PC hardware more. It's hard to put a finger on how much extra energy this scheme would consume and how much faster it would accelerate HDD deterioration, but still, we can't help but think the $1 million figure was just thrown out there for shock value.

SETI @ Home PC Client

And shock it has. Birdwell stated that the $1 million included figures to remove the SETI software, and that while the fellow blamed won't be returning for work, police are still conducting a broader investigation as we speak. Something tells us this guy really did more than just help some scientists locate aliens, but those sins are probably too embarrassing to be made public.

Network Cabling, Higley School District
credit:  East Valley Tribune

One thing is for sure, Brad needs to work on his cable management strategy a bit.  His Cat5 routing here looks like he's been spending too much time with the ramen noodle bowl.

If they're paying a cool mil to run an uninstaller, I want that job.


Ha! You and me both Clem! We could unionize it bro. I'll drink coffee and watch, while you uninstall.


Nah, they probably just got an estimate from geek squad. :)


Dave_HH wrote:

Ha! You and me both Clem! We could unionize it bro. I'll drink coffee and watch, while you uninstall.


Dave and Clem will ya,ll hire me sounds like a good job if it helps I,ll make the coffee!!  But I definatly dont want that guy doing my cable managment! Dang[Y]


HA! No doubt.

  •  3vi1
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>> Something tells us this guy really did more than just help some scientists locate aliens, but those sins are probably too embarrassing to be made public.

The East Vally Tribune said he was downloading porn and taking computers home. All the news outlets are just sensationalizing the SETI aspect.


I think the porn claim is actually more supplemental to the SETI issue and enough to warrant a criminal investigation. Here's a quote from the Tribune: "However, Niesluchowski, who went by NEZ in the program, was considered a "world grid runner" for the SETI competition because of the many computers he was able to install the program on under his name, Birdwell said."

The school district needs to establish loss if they're considering a law suit. The SETI issue is significant loss... well, significant enough anyway.

  •  acarzt
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It's hard to beleive he racked up $1mil in Damages... even if he caused wear on all that hardware... I think they will have a hard time proving he actually caused $1,000,000.00 in Damages.

Joel H

Prove "wear." For that matter, prove significant electricity costs. There's no guarantee that the school systems were ever optimized for electrical efficiency, especially going back that far—letting your system fall asleep basically meant it wouldn't wake up.

From doing a little rough math, I bet you he's being billed for the power consumption. In 2004, electricity in Arizona was 7.45 cents per kW. (In KY, where I reside, it was 4.62) Prices have jumped a lot—current cost of power in KY is 8.57; in AZ it's 11.29 as of August 09. Back in 2000, the average US rate was below 8 cents per kW—the cost-per-hour to Arizona may have nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

Keep in mind, the guy was recognized as a major contributor to SETI based on how many computers he configured. If we're talking about 1000+ machines, including administrative personnel, at the current rate of 11.29 per kW/h. 1,0000 computers, running 24-hours a day at 150W maximum power draw is 40.6 cents per day per system, or $406 dollar a day, total.

That's $150,000 a year (with some rounding), or $1.5 million per decade.

Also, those of you snarking the removal fee aren't thinking straight. Installing SETI on one system takes minutes. De-installing it takes minutes. Now, imagine that you have to deinstall it (or at least check for it) on every system in a school district. School districts encompass multiple schools at each grade level and multiple buildings. Since you're dealing with someone who may have gone just about everywhere there is to go over a nearly 10-year period, you have to pay someone to physically drive out and check every single system, by hand.

Even if that person can reasonably automate the procedure, you're still looking at a job that would take days, possibly a week or more. Unless you hired someone specifically for this one task, meanwhile, he or she has other work to do at the same time, which means the removal is only being handled part of the day. Until the system is completely shut down, it's still crunching away, which means those systems are still racking up a charge of $0.406 per day, per computer.

No one said uninstalling SETI was difficult or time consuming--but just because uninstalling something *once* is fast doesn't mean uninstalling it 1000x is fast, particularly when there's real-world travel and investigation involved.