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Worker Fired For Running SETI On State-Owned PCs 622

Formica writes "A programmer working for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services was fired for running SETI software on a state server. As quoted in this article, department head Tom Hayes says, 'I think that people can be comfortable that security has beamed this man out of our building.' More articles from Google."
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Worker Fired For Running SETI On State-Owned PCs

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  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:09PM (#10480444) Homepage Journal
    "I understand his desire to search for intelligent life in outer space, because obviously he doesn't find it in the mirror in the morning," Hayes said. "I think that people can be comfortable that security has beamed this man out of our building."

    What an ass Tom Hayes is! Come on now, there is no need for personal attacks, especially because this statement was publicly released in a news interview and they have already fired this guy. I am half tempted to find Tom's email address and tell him just that.

    So the issue is: Was there a policy that prohibited use of those systems for that purpose? Granted, since the machines were taxpayer funded, this should have raised some red-flags for Charles Smith (the fired employee), however...... immediate termination rather than a warning seems a bit harsh. Any time you are using publicly funded resources for personal use, there should be extreme caution, and my bias is to never, ever go there in the first place unless there is a prior agreement for reimbursement.

    Of course we do not know all the circumstances, but Tom Hayes is still an ass for publicly attempting to humiliate this guy. Tom, whats wrong with you? I suspect you are a former high school football player turned college frat boy who has to put people down to make yourself feel better. Ass!

    • by genixia ( 220387 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:11PM (#10480470)
      Maybe Tom won't be the only one 'beamed' out of the building.

      It's going to be amusing if he turns around and sues the state for slander. After all, it's been very publicly broadcast to millions of people that he's short of intelligence.
      • I think that wouldn't be a wise step to take, career-wise. Things being as they are now, he could still get job with some understanding employer. But if he sues over a comment from his ex-employer, there won't be nobody that would want him, evermore.

        Not only beceause he'll have the aura of a hostile, potentially dangerous employee, but also because his fame will be much greater, after the lawsuit.

        If I was him, I'd be low profile for awhile.
        • by genixia ( 220387 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:48PM (#10480759)
          Why? The guy is 63.

          Of course, one really has to wonder why he wasn't given a warning first. The offense for which he was fired sounds like an excuse to get rid of someone. Age discrimination anyone?

          This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. And against The Department of Job and Family Services too. That's going to make the primetime local news reports and leave the department with a lot of egg on their face.
          • by Fear the Clam ( 230933 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:10PM (#10480923)
            Not a chance. At least one person [bbc.co.uk] has already been charged with a crime for this sort of nonsense.

            This warning, combined with probable violations of Ohio computing policies by a programmer (who sure as hell ought to know better), would make calling the guy a dumbass entirely reasonable.
          • You people just don't get it. The guy was doing something he wasn't supposed to with his employer's PCs. Nobody would question his firing if he was using the state's computers to host a commercial website for his own profit. However, using the same server for SETI@home is somehow better, right?

            Really, would you think it would be discrimination if he decided to donate some of his employer's PCs to Goodwill and got fired? Or if he decided to help poor families by giving away office furniture? Basically,
            • by Garion Maki ( 791172 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @05:22PM (#10481367)
              I don't think they are talking about making the employee sue his employer for being fired, but for the insults that he recieved after he got fired, which would be out of line (they fired him already, no need to kick him when he's down already).
            • by Thomas Shaddack ( 709926 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:15PM (#10481629)
              Nobody would question his firing if he was using the state's computers to host a commercial website for his own profit.

              That has a negative impact on the machine performance, as the requests come regardless of its load. SETI@home uses the computer only when it doesn't work otherwise.

              However, using the same server for SETI@home is somehow better, right?

              Yes. What is the real damage done here? If we stretch things a bit, we could get a minor potential vulnerability of running a third-party app taking data from a remote machine, but MSIE - even when fully patched - is orders of magnitude worse in this regard. Other possible damage is a minutely higher power consumption of the CPU - worth perhaps couple cents.

              Really, would you think it would be discrimination if he decided to donate some of his employer's PCs to Goodwill and got fired?

              That would negatively affect the employer's ability to use the PCs - while SETI@home software doesn't use the CPU when other apps need it.

              More accurate comparison would be being fired for running a CPU-intensive screensaver.

              This smells more like a dumb manageroid hating a specific employee (which would also explain his later remarks), and using the first excuse to get rid of him.

              Basically, he was doing something that constitutes theft of service, with somebody else's computer.

              If it was theft, where's the stolen goods missing from?

              • by Vihai ( 668734 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @07:52PM (#10482388) Homepage

                Other possible damage is a minutely higher power consumption of the CPU - worth perhaps couple cents.

                Don't underestimate the power consumption of modern CPUs. Mine (an Athlon64 3400) consumes something like 50W between idle and 100%. Measure made with a vectorial wattmeter before the power supply.

                • Don't underestimate the power consumption of modern CPUs.

                  The modern CPUs are not that common in office environment, where Word/Excel/Powerpoint are the required applications and Doom 3 is unheard of. (The situation is likely to be different on servers, though.)

                  Personally, I am pondering trying to underclock some of our newer machines by 10%, in order to reduce the long-term impact of electromigration and heat-related failures (not sure it's worth the bother, though - did anybody actually performed any re

              • by phreakmonkey ( 548714 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @09:06PM (#10482825) Homepage
                hat has a negative impact on the machine performance, as the requests come regardless of its load. SETI@home uses the computer only when it doesn't work otherwise.

                I'll address this. I'm a senior security engineer for a major corporation. We, too, have a policy against running any unapproved software on workstations owned by the company.

                There are many, many reasons for this beyond just "negative impact." For instance:

                What if a security vulnerability was discovered in Seti@Home (or any other unauthorized software) and it resulted in a compromise of (in this case) private citizens' data?

                Who is liable if the software causes an outage on the workstation or the network?

                Who is liable if the software causes a breach of security or corrupts the integrity of the data being handled by the state?

                You see, in the case of corporate (or government) resources there is more at stake than just whether the software has a measurable impact on the performance of the machine. If the state wanted to run Seti@home on the machines, it would do the approriate dilligance to do so- including a risk evaluation and mitigation plans (like upgrades / patching / &etc) to do so. By running any unauthorized software, especially network software, without the knowledge of the owning party you are putting their property (and in this case the public's property) at an unneccessary risk.

                I'm sure this is stated in their computer use policy, as it is in ours. Firing the employee was probably the correct action.


            • Not PC (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Flower ( 31351 )
              Totally agree with you but I have to nitpick and say "Server." That bears repeating. A server.

              The guy installed an unapproved program onto to a production server without approval and bypassing change control. What happens if his little stunt had brought the server down or worse yet the network down and had cost people in Ohio tax dollars? What if the program had allowed a breach that let confidential information out?

              The retort that "It was just the SETI client" isn't the issue. Smith's complete violation

        • by saden1 ( 581102 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:50PM (#10480774)
          The guy is 63. I don't think he has much of a career ahead of him. Getting fired two years before the retirement age sucks. I say sue the state, take whatever money you can and retire to the Bahamas.
        • I personally just manifested my outrage about the lack of judgement of Tom Hayes for is public unacceptable comments. This is the address where I encourage you all to do the same at the http://jfs.ohio.gov/feedback/ [ohiodepart...lyservices]

          These are points that I believe and that I have expressed in my email:

          1-Publicly insulting someone without any reason was unacceptable.

          2-Tom Hayes is a public servant and it makes is act much more critical because he receive is pay from taxpayers.

          3-Charles E. Smith is 63 and I think that

      • It's going to be amusing if he turns around and sues the state for slander. After all, it's been very publicly broadcast to millions of people that he's short of intelligence.

        You don't seem to understand slander and libel laws. You can't sue a person just because they made a comment based on matters that are relative like intelligence, just like it's not slander if I say someone is ugly or boring. For there to be a case, it has to be an accusation of concrete fact, like saying someone has sex with a mar

    • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:13PM (#10480487) Journal
      The one thing to be noted is that running SETI on a server is unwise.
      While I have never seen a problem personally I enforce my company policy that it be kept off servers. Desktops/proto machines fine, just not production environment servers. We actually use it to increase load on pre-production servers though :-)
      • that it be kept off servers.

        On some level, every networked computer is a server. Just because the article says it's a server, it may not be a server like you think of a server. It could very well just be the person's personal desktop box. Remember, the article was probably written by journalists, not IT people.

        (Of course, it's also possible that he installed it on every computer in the building, even servers he shouldn't have access to ... you just don't know, so it's hard to make judgements.)

    • I get the feeling SETI was just an excuse. I've seen people fired for siller things.
    • As much as Slashdot readers name-call world leaders (and world-leader-wannabes) that they disagree with, there's outcry over an average joe getting insulted?
      • Present and potential world leaders routinely display their stupidity to the world. Everybody calls them names for it, not just the /. readership. All this guy did was run a technologically interesting piece of software on a computer he shouldn't have. To me, that hardly even warrants termination, let alone public humiliation.
      • by Halikar ( 820538 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:28PM (#10480599)
        There is a world of difference between being of the public and commenting, and commenting publicly about a professional decision. What one person says about another is simply that, one persons opinion. When a boss or ex-boss says it publicly about a persons professional life, it is flat out wrong unless you are intentionally trying to get someone black listed and ensure they will never be hired again.
    • by PrvtBurrito ( 557287 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:24PM (#10480578)
      Ask and you shall receive:

      His Phone # [ohio.gov]

      His bio [ohio.gov]

      His feedback form [ohio.gov]

    • It's pretty clear you've never worked in a corporate IT department. So the issue is: Was there a policy that prohibited use of those systems for that purpose?

      Any employer worth his or her salt has an item in the employee handbook that prohibits employees from installing stuff on systems without permission.

      Furthermore, and I have to point this out to users ALL the time- the computer they use is not theirs. It belongs to the company, as does the telephone, the power that PC uses, and its internet connec

      • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:33PM (#10481060) Homepage

        Not if the employee handbook says that's the consequence.

        That's just ridiculous. I've seen "employee handbooks" before and they're not the final word on anything. A book means nothing, it's all about what the people in charge are saying.

        Not if Smith was doing other things deserving of termination. Not if his actions endangered adherence to security protocols, placed sensitive data at risk of disclosure, or caused a department to loose certification.

        Sure, but we have no evidence of that whatsover. That only exists in your imagination to justify the harsh treatment of this guy. Please stick to the facts and not what you imagine to be the case.

        And yes, I _am_ a sysadmin. He shouldn't have been running the program, but based on what we know firing him and making assholish statements about him in print is going way to far.
      • by tsm_sf ( 545316 ) * on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:50PM (#10481930) Journal
        Furthermore, and I have to point this out to users ALL the time- the computer they use is not theirs. It belongs to the company, as does the telephone, the power that PC uses, and its internet connection.

        Bet you're a popular guy around the office
    • by Fortissimo ( 45876 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:30PM (#10480616)
      I agree that immediate termination seems harsh on the surface, but none of us know the back story on any of this. I've seen many times where an employee is perpetually abusive to the power they have and/or insubordinate or whatever, and management has been trying to nail them for a long time. Then, a dumb incident like this comes up and gives them the green light they'd been hoping for. Based on the situation and the harsh comments by Hayes, I think this smells suspiciously like one of those times. Seems highly doubtful that this was Smith's first offense.
  • by erick99 ( 743982 ) <homerun@gmail.com> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:09PM (#10480445)
    Gosh, I would have thought that a a department head for a social services agency such as the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services would have hard time getting away with such a nasty and unnecessary comment such as this:

    "I understand his desire to search for intelligent life in outer space, because obviously he doesn't find it in the mirror in the morning," Hayes said.

    However justified the firing of the employee, there was no reason to make such a denigrating comment about that employee. Smith should file a complaint and Hayes should publicly apologize. I hope that if Hayes ever makes a mistake he is treated a whole lot better than he chose to treat this man. I sent an email to them asking how this manager can behave in such an awful and slanderous manner. If you feel so inclined you can go here and do the same [ohio.gov].

  • *winces* context clash! Please, don't mix your metaphors. Star Trek!=SETI. At all.
    • I agree; that Spock and company never found any ET's, but a seemingly endless procession of humans who wore rubber masks and strange clothing... in fact now I think about it, that sounds like the average night out for a politician... Maybe Star Trek was a spoof...
  • call him (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:10PM (#10480454)
    T: 614/466-6282
  • by SpaceCadetTrav ( 641261 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:10PM (#10480455) Homepage
    This qualifies as "Useless waste of government resources", just like browsing Slashdot. See ya, buddy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:10PM (#10480460)
    maybe he was searching for illegal aliens stealing jobs in ohio
  • As a taxpayer... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Power Everywhere ( 778645 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:11PM (#10480463) Homepage
    I have to agree with Hayes' decision (though not his commentary).

    Wasting cycles looking for ET = wasting tax dollars.
    • Can you quantify that? Since the equipment was already paid for, the only marginal cost to run SETI-at-home was the electricity his CPU consumed over and above how much it would have used were SETI not running. How much did we pay for the power to fuel those extra cycles? Unless you can answer that, it's not obvious that he wasted a measurable number of tax dollars.

      Maybe he even felt happy and empowered by contributing to what he saw as a worthwhile cause, and the state got an extra hour's worth of wor

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:12PM (#10480472)
    Because SETI@Home is such a security risk.
    My mother works for the County Gov't, and I've seen some of the spyware infested cesspools that they call computers, and they fire this guy for doing what? Wasting clock cycles?
  • Why not? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Wouldn't it be useful if we could run these distributed programs on these fast servers when they're not in use?
    After all, they are public servers --- they should be serving the public at every moment.
    • Re:Why not? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Running SETI@home on a modern computer increases power consumption because these days CPUs use more power when they are not idle. Running SETI on a multi-use system also costs administrative resources (to set it up, to make sure it doesn't bog down the other tasks and if something goes wrong to find if it is the cause of the problem). The person whose account is used will be listed among the discoverers if an alien signal is found, so running SETI@home is not entirely altruistic.

      Yes, those are machines whi
    • You're assuming that actually finding aliens would be serving the public. Suppose SETI finds the kind of aliens that kick the crap out of a world as in the movie Independence Day?? Wouldn't do the public much good if we start beaming back "Hey, over here!!" messages...
  • by Uhlek ( 71945 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:14PM (#10480494)
    "Unauthorized software" means just that. Just because he was in the IT department doesn't give him free reign to do what he wants to with a production server.

    Remember: Those servers, routers, switches, and workstations aren't yours, they belong to your employer. You're paid to do what your employer wants to them, and not do what said employer doesn't want. Nothing more, nothing less.

    If you're stupid (yes, STUPID) enough to flaunt the rules because you think they don't apply to you, you deserve what you get.
    • by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:21PM (#10480542) Homepage Journal
      And if you're stupid enough to make publically humiliating statements about your (ex) employees, you deserve what you get too. I mean come on; how hard is it to behave like an adult professional and just say he violated policy and was terminated?
    • And of course, you also have to consider the departmental politics. A government agency never has any spare resources availble. If they had, then the funds of those resources would be redirected elsewhere. So, the sysadmin had to be fired. He was undermining the official line that the social services and benefits office was perpetually underfunded.

    • Does the situation merit such publicity? Is it standard policy to mock the people fired, in as public of a manner possible? IIRC, standard HR policy on fired people is to NOT COMMENT or stick to the facts. They do this to reduce their potential liability.

      Isn't a warning sufficient? It isn't as if SETI software damages things.

      I just think the entire situation was mismanaged, that said, there isn't enough information to go on.
    • First, IANAL,

      Second, on such a short article, there is a lot of missing information which a lot of presumptions are being based upon. Mr. Smith was not in the right for using state computers to do his research - that much is agreed upon. However, that does *not* give the state the right to make libelous comments against Mr. Smith's intelligence.

      That is just plain wrong.

      Was Mr. Smith a repeat offender? Was he given warning? Was there some beef that Mr. Hayes had with Mr. Smith before the firing that M
    • quite wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeif1k ( 809151 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:35PM (#10480652)
      There are, in fact, lots of different kinds of "unauthorized sofware".

      There is the kind that introduces viruses, the kind that is used for trading porn, the kind used for trading Windows source code, the kind for sharing MP3's with a million of your closest friends, and the kind that people use for running a side business.

      And then there is the kind that people use to contribute to a not-for-profit scientific effort at a public university for no financial gain, software that only uses idle cycles and is known not to interfere with anybody's applications.

      Unauthorized use of sofware of those different kinds demands different kinds of responses. The use of the latter kind of software use warrants at most a warning.
    • by severoon ( 536737 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:16PM (#10480954) Journal

      The real question is, how bad is the thing this guy did? Does it rise to the level of termination? How much taxpayer money did he waste? How much risk to security did he cause? Were there other mitigating circumstances, such as already being told not to do this once before, or did he have several other questionable items on file?

      I've run a few calculations of my own to determine how much taxpayer money he wasted, and I arrived at 35 cents/year electricity-wise. According to a careful analysis and security risk assessment, the mean cost per year of additional security problems due to SETI is roughly 3 cents/year (it would be much lower, but my complex analysis takes into account that this was a production server for the government of an entire state, and we all know that government production servers run calculations that are of great value and importance...this particular production server was most likely figuring out how to balance Ohio's budget heavily on the surplus side so that the state could afford to treat little old ladies compassionately when they cannot afford health care instead of leaving them to die in the street; or perhaps it was about to finish a calcuation that would allow Ohio to do away with gang violence and ensure that would-be gangsters grow up and get good jobs in marketing). This brings us to a grand total of 38 cents/year.

      Now we must also consider the intangibles. First, it is important that government organizations are ruled with an iron fist. Working for the state is not like having a normal job...at most workplaces, bosses are expected to treat their employees with great care and respect. But as we all know, in government organizations, it is far more important to ensure that the governmental workers are terrified at every moment they'll lose their jobs for any reason at all; otherwise, the system quickly degenerates into utter chaos. We must keep government workers in this constant state of fear in order to guarantee that they scurry around and look busy even when they have little to do. This is necessary because if they do not look busy at the foot soldier level, people may begin to realize that politicians have directed an undue amount of funds from the state and federal legislatures to the enterprise-in-question unnecessarily, and these extra millions of dollars are actually of little direct benefit to the people. Rather, it gives the government a place to put money for the current year's budget until the politicians find a way to redirect it to other important state affairs, such as assuaging special interest groups and paying lobbyists in order to get reelected. This is important because if our exalted leaders, who have the best interests of the people at heart and who shoulder an enormous responsibility to them while meeting the highest standard of ethics, cannot secure reelection, the government could fall to corruption and waste.

      There's another intangible here as well. We must ensure that, in order to keep turnover low in the more significant positions, we allow managers in governmental organizations to indulge in behaviors that suit their personalities so they will feel a high level of job satisfaction. In this case, Mr. Hayes' personality is obviously one of vindictiveness and unfairness. In order to keep him satisfied at his job, we should support his right to paint this employee as a man who believes in space aliens and was willing to sacrifice the safety and security of the resources of the state of Ohio and waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pursue his absurd search for little green men. We must, just for this moment, overlook the fact that this is serious research going on at several esteemed institutions around the country, many of which are public institutions supported by public funds. We should also probably forget about the scientific summits, attended by the likes of Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, that addressed such projects as SETI. In this case, it is much better for everyone involved to focus on the fact

  • Stupid, stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:15PM (#10480502)

    It's stupid to fire someone for running this on company/institutional computers (whatever happened to warnings?), but it's also stupid to just decide to run it on the assumption that your boss isn't stupid.

  • Conspiracy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zlib pt ( 820294 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:15PM (#10480504)
    Finally we have the proof. The state is covering up the existence of ET's I can see "they" now - "One computer less for them to know the truth MUAHAHAHAHA"
  • If I worked for the state and used say a government car for personal use they wouldn't just fire me. They would arrest me for misuse of public funds and materials. This theft just the same.

    Running SETI costs tax payers money if the form of the electric bill and ware and tear on the equipment. I am running on my personal system GRID.org to fight cancer and my electric bill went up $20 a month for just 3 computers. This shit adds up, fast!
    • by lottameez ( 816335 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:21PM (#10480545)
      dude, there is far more fraud, waste, and abuse in government then this piddling little thing. In the scheme of things, it probably cost more in administration costs to fire the poor bastard and hire a new guy than any expense brought on by the SETI program.

    • I am running on my personal system GRID.org to fight cancer and my electric bill went up $20 a month for just 3 computers.

      I don't really see it. One Google result [techreport.com] showed the difference in power consumption between an idle and loaded 3.4GHz P4 to be about 80W. I pay about $0.09 for a KWh of electricity. That works out to about $5.62 extra per month per computer - assuming that the CPU would otherwise be completely idle for the entire month. This is for a particularly power-hungry CPU, and most would be

      • That works out to about $5.62 extra per month per computer

        Ok ... now multiply that by 3. Awfully close to $20, wouldn't you say?

        Also note that some places may pay more for electricity than you do. Here in Austin, TX, the first 500 kW/month is relatively cheap, then the next 1000 kW/month is about twice as much, and the rest is even more. My average price per kWh works out to about $0.10, but using more power costs me more like $0.12 per kWh. (Also, the electric company shows a nice profit, which

  • Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FiReaNGeL ( 312636 ) <fireang3l@hot m a i l .com> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:17PM (#10480519) Homepage
    Not a simple computer, a server (as stated in the article). Furthermore, he ran a CPU (energy) intensive (and useless, in my opinion) program on a computer he didn't own, consuming power. Imagine all state employees start doing the same thing. A simple warning would have been enough; he served as an example. Sad in a way...
  • by LTSharpe ( 809868 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:19PM (#10480533)
    I had it running on 5 servers at one time at a gov agency I worked for. Soon it got around that SETI was running on 'production' servers and I was told politely to quit running it for all of the common reasons,, misuse of public funds etc. Keep in mind the servers were only using a fraction of their capability doing what they were doing in the first place,, and what they were doing was pretty useless and just bureacratic pork programs on a small scale.
  • Meanwhile (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:22PM (#10480556)
    The chick in HR who's downloaded the "kitty-cat screen saver" spam zombie is doing just fine.
    • Re:Meanwhile (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SCHecklerX ( 229973 )
      I'd mod you up if I had the points today and you weren't already at 5. You stated what I was thinking perfectly.
  • I think next they should fire anyone who installs Windows XP on a government owned computer because it would waste publicly-funded CPU cycles displaying all that hideous eye candy.

    Seriously- does SETI@home have such a huge impact on computer performance that it causes losses in productivity?
    Probably not- it just uses CPU cycles that are going to be wasted anyways. And as for bandwidth consumption, I think uploading/downloading a work unit isn't going to be significantly more of a load than doing a littl
    • Re:THE HORROR! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fubari ( 196373 )
      Once upon a time, somebody put the seti@home screensaver on a box that was being used as a server to host a little web app. The client started getting customer complaints about timeouts, so I made a trip to their site because nothing funky showed up on pc-anywhere.

      It turned out that when the seti screen server kicked in it starved out IIS. Maybe there are settings to say "run in nice mode" and so forth, but I was less than amused at the time.

      Personal hardware, fine - knock yourself out. Server hardwar
  • Beh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cookiepus ( 154655 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:23PM (#10480562) Homepage
    Well, mixed feelings...

    On one hand what this guy did is clearly wrong - even according to SETI rules - you're warned not to run this shit on computer on which you're not allowed to do so.

    SETI uses up a lot of CPU cycles and makes outgoing network connections on its own (well he could have set it up in different ways, I guess) so it's dumb to have it run on a government SERVER without getting explicit permission.

    On the other hand - this sort of shit shouldn't get someone fired* - maybe some embarasing talking to followed by an office-wide memo reminding everyone that "in light of recent transgressions, PLEASE BE ADVISED not to do this kind of shit"

    *The stories that I've seen do not indicate whether there's been any prior incidents. Perhaps in this workplace, the "don't install shit on the server" policy is so ingrained into the office culture that someone can't be unaware of the severity of the consequences, in which case the firing is in order.

    But actually I hink the comments by Tom Hayes are truthful (but unprofessional). Someone who values his SETI workunit count to such an extent as to fuck around at work, isn't brilliant.

  • What about... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hazzey ( 679052 )
    What about if someone only runs said program while they are logged on? This really then only affects their own computing, and they are technically using all the electricity anyway. I agree though, servers are a totally different thing.
  • hayes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmohlmaster ( 820537 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:24PM (#10480574)
    http://www.governor.ohio.gov/releases/080404hayes. htm/ [ohio.gov]

    Looks like he's done anyways. For shame!
  • Firing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orange_6 ( 320700 ) <jtgalt&gmail,com> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:31PM (#10480620) Homepage Journal
    We fired someone over the summer for running Folding@Home [stanford.edu] on multiple computers. It wasn't because of what he was doing, but because he had installed and run software that was not approved by the university, and therefore considered a security breach.

    I don't necessarily agree with the firing, but if the rules state explicitly that you can't do it, then don't.
  • Emailed him (Score:3, Funny)

    by TRIEventHorizon ( 744457 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <siraloSnaicuL>> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:34PM (#10480650) Journal
    I e-mailed the bastard!

    Here's the message:

    Good morning/afternoon/evening Mr. Hayes!

    You have just appeared on Slashdot as the asshole of the day today (09 October 2004), the largest geek news website. Expect many many more e-mails and possibly telephone calls and faxes from other geeks like me!

    Use of such software on production line equiptment isn't a good idea in the first place. SETI does not cause damage, but may slow things down. Warning, pay cut, write up, whatnot might have been a more suitable punishment, but fireing the dude and saying:

    "I understand his desire to search for intelligent life in outer space, because obviously he doesn't find it in the mirror in the morning," Hayes said. "I think that people can be comfortable that security has beamed this man out of our building."

    is just uncalled for. And because of your actions, this is now on slashdot and you have basically been deemed asshole of the day.

    Your personal info is in the comment tree of the article such as address, this e-mail address, fax, etc.

    Here is the link: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/10/09/174023 9&tid=126&tid=1

    Good luck!
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:35PM (#10480657)
    Dear Governor Taft,

    I am writing regarding the despicable conduct of one of your appointees, namely, Tom Hayes of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. He recently fired an employee, a computer programmer named Charles Smith, for running a program called SETI@Home on the department machines. The program uses spare computer time (when the computer isn't being used, like when a screensaver is running, for example) to do mathematical analysis on data received via radio telescopes by the SETI Program.

    The SETI@Home project is well-respected in the scientific and technology communities, and there was no need for Mr. Hayes to fire the programmer for installing the program on department computers. However, the issue goes much deeper than that.

    Mr. Hayes demonstrates not only a lack of knowledge on the subject, but also an unwillingness to learn about things he doesn't already know about. A very small amount of poking about on the Internet would have revealed a wealth of information on the SETI@Home project, including its endorsement by a variety of educational organizations and industries.


    Instead, Hayes indicates his assumption of intellectual superiority with such witty repartee as this quote from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

    "I understand his desire to search for intelligent life in outer space, because obviously he doesn't find it in the mirror in the morning," Hayes said. "I think that people can be comfortable that security has beamed this man out of our building."

    Hayes's complete lack of tact when dealing with the media over what is actually an unjust firing demonstrates that he is incapable of performing his duties in a way that reflects positively on the State of Ohio, and I hope you will take appropriate action in this situation.
    • You can find an online feedback form for Governor Taft here:

      http://governor.ohio.gov/contactinfopage.asp [ohio.gov]
  • Misuse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:48PM (#10480764) Homepage Journal
    To those of you who say "public funds were being misused because SETI@Home uses electricity": should we start firing those who leave lights on at night? What about those who don't turn off their monitors? How about those who have their own coffeemakers/(insert appliance here) ? How about those who open their office windows in the dead of winter because their office is too hot (instead of calling the HVAC people to fix it)? How about those who turn up the thermostat in winter above the regulated 68F? Or turn it below 72F in summer?

    Firing this guy is severe and unwarranted. A simple warning should have been enough.

    Since he's a state employee, I hope his union [ocsea.org] takes up the case and files a grievance.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:53PM (#10480794) Journal
    Interviewer: "So, why were you let go of your last position?"

    TheGuy: "Well, I was fired for using company equipment to find space aliens."

    Interviewer: "Space aliens?"

    TheGuy: "Yip!"

    Interviewer: "Um, okay, nice meeting you, we'll call you, don't call us."
  • by Cyno01 ( 573917 ) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @03:53PM (#10480796) Homepage
    Been running Folding@Home. Like to see them fire someone for that. "Oh yeah, we fired him because he was using spare governement computer resources to try to find cures and other medical breakthroughs."
  • Happens too often (Score:5, Informative)

    by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:03PM (#10480874) Homepage
    I got my share of calls at 5am from system admins freaking out back in the distributed.net days because I was the DNS contact. We've had people get fired for running Folding@home too. This is actually not as rare as you would think.

    We do everything we can to tell poeple NOT to do this, and they KNOW they are doing something wrong.

    I feel bad for the guy, but only as bad as I feel for people that choose to live in Florida and then bitch about hurricanes.
  • by Mal Reynolds ( 676267 ) <Michael_stev80.hotmail@com> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:07PM (#10480908)
    Most state government employees can easily file a grievance to challenge any termination. No lawyers or representation is usually necessary, but just to be safe he might want some.
    If this firing were challenged in my state, especially considering the derogatory and defamatory comments issued by this employees boss, a grievance committee would almost certainly give his job back.
    I suspect this employee was given no warnings about the conduct for which he was fired. In addition, he probably wasn't violating any direct orders or specific policies. Sure, he was in violation of general policies regarding personal use of computers. But when his boss publically accused him of being crazy, he almost certainly overrode any minor policy violations by the employee.
    In my state, the comments made by his boss would have violated any number of state regulations and policies regarding correct termination procedures. And considering that this employee could sue for defamation, I wouldn't be surprised to see his boss actually fired over this.
    One might ask why he would want his job back? Certainly he wouldn't want to work for this jerk again. Because state governments are large, and he could immediately apply for a transfer to another agency. One where he would no longer have to work for the ignorant fool that is Tom Hayes.
  • by Derling Whirvish ( 636322 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:20PM (#10480979) Journal
    Please read this [net-security.org].
  • by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:25PM (#10481006)
    Would the man have been fired had it been any distributed computing program other than SETI? Was the man already warned? Article doesn't say.

    Maybe the man was a border-line screw-up and this was the last straw. Or maybe he was too close to retirement, lost the political infighting, hit on the manager's wife, who knows.

    It does seem, however, that the manager's ignorant attitude towards the SETI project had a strong influence on his firing decision. To be expected from a PHB.

  • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:58PM (#10481222)
    Now, common sense tells me that there's a little more to this story than "dude was running SETI--fire him!".

    But every employer I've worked for has made it very clear that using their resources for non job-related business is a no-no.

    I suspect Buddy had already pissed off el jefe. After doing that, running SETI on el jefe's computer was just plain stupid. Buddy needed to be fired for stupidity.

  • by Ice Station Zebra ( 18124 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @05:43PM (#10481479) Homepage Journal
    On Saturday 09 October 2004 4:23 am, John Burrowy wrote:
    > http://www.newsnet5.com/news/3793629/detail.html

    Actually, he wasn't a programmer. He was a database application specialist
    (Oracle). And it wasn't just a server. It was a 4 processor LPAR running on
    an IBM p690, with 6GB of RAM assigned. I've known about the SETI project,
    but who would have guessed that they made an AIX version?

    And contrary to his claim about the system not being used on the weekend, he
    was discovered precisely because some of the other developers were
    complaining about the reduced performance on the system.

    colug1 mailing list colug1@colug.net
    http://www.colug.net/mailman/lis tinfo/colug1
  • by AWhistler ( 597388 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:12PM (#10481625)
    He left the department on 10/1:

    http://www.governor.ohio.gov/releases/080404hayes. htm [ohio.gov]

    But the artile listed above was printed 10/9. So this guy's dismissal had to have happened on or before 10/1. I suppose if this thing blows up, this quote "...what I am most looking forward to now is spending more time with my family" may not be as easy-going as he hopes.
  • by dcsmith ( 137996 ) * on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:02PM (#10482454) Homepage
    I sent the following messages to Ohio DJFS through their general feedback form form [ohio.gov] and to the Office of Governor of Ohio [ohio.gov]. Even though I am a resident of Virginia, the world has grown much too small for us (read: geeks, nerds, techies, etc) to ignore such blatant stupidity. Use those keybords, boys and girls! The more the merrier!

    To Ohio DJFS:
    If there is a more direct way for me to contact Mr. Hayes, I would be glad to use it, but I'm unable to locate it on your web site. With regards to the recent termination of Charles Smith, as publicized in several news articles (http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.s sf?/base/news/1097228025306530.xml) for one, I am more than a little shocked that a Department Head in the State of Ohio would slander an employee in such a manner. If the quote "I understand his desire to search for intelligent life in outer space, because obviously he doesn't find it in the mirror in the morning" is correct, it is my fondest wish that Mr. Hayes be publicly reprimanded by Governor Taft and removed from his position. Even assuming that Mr. Smith's termination was somehow justified (and unless there is a long history of similar offences, I suspect that it is not) there can be no justification for such remarks to be made, and most CERTAINLY not in public. Shame on you Mr. Hayes for the discredit you bring to yourself, the employees of DJFS and the office of the governor. Shame.

    Office of the Governor:
    Governor Taft,

    I am sure you are already aware - or soon will be - of the shameful actions of Tom Hayes, the director of ODJFS with regards to the termination of Charles Smith, a computer programmer on the DJFS staff as chronicled in several news articles (http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.s sf?/base/news/1097228025306530.xml), for one. Whether or not Mr. Smith's dismissal is justified (and on the surface it certainly does not appear to be so) the remark attributed to Mr. Hayes following Smith's termination leaves me shocked and aghast. If Mr. Hayes was correctly quoted "I understand his desire to search for intelligent life in outer space, because obviously he doesn't find it in the mirror in the morning" is correct, it is my fondest wish that Mr. Hayes be publicly reprimanded by your office and removed from his position. There can be no justification for such remarks to be made, and most CERTAINLY not in public. I believe - and certainly hope - that you will hear from the technical and scientific communities, both loudly and publicly, about Mr. Hayes' appalling action. I see no possible way for someone so callous, unthinking and uncaring as Mr. Hayes to serve successfully as the director of an agency like DJFS.

    And no, I am not related to Mr. Smith of Ohio...

Loose bits sink chips.