Submit your own Neatorama post and vote for others' posts to earn NeatoPoints that you can redeem for T-shirts, hoodies and more over at the NeatoShop!

Searching For Alien to Cost School System $1 Million

How clueless are bureaucrats of our nation's school system? They fired an IT worker for installing the popular freeware SETI@Home on school computers, claiming that it'll take more than $1 million to uninstall it!

The program, known as SETI @ home, uses Internet-connected computers worldwide to analyze radio telescope data in an experiment to find extraterrestrial intelligence.

But Superintendent Denise Birdwell told the East Valley Tribune that the program also bogged down the district's system and interfered with technology use in classrooms.

Birdwell said it will take more than $1 million to fix the problem, including removal of the SETI software. She says police are conducting a broader investigation.


It costs $1 million to uninstall some screensavers? That's some crazy inflation they have in East Valley.

I can't help but wonder if there isn't something else going on here.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Wait a minute, is she talking about getting a private company to do maintenance on 5,000 computers with a service fee of $200 each? Wow, I hope she doesn’t plan on buying any cheap plots of land in Florida anytime soon.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"Birdwell said it will take more than $1 million to fix the problem, including removal of the SETI software."

What problem did SETI cause that there is more to it then uninstalling it? I'm guessing it has more to do with the PCs that have not been replaced since 2000.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
That isn't the whole story, he also had thousands of dollars of school equipment at his home, downloaded pornography and failed to do most of his job as a sysadmin (did not install firewalls).

In addition, I think it's pretty obvious that SETI running on 5000 computers at 100% would cause quite a bit more cost in maintaining those 5,000 computers. Factor in fan wear, increased power output, hard drive failures and it's easy to see $200 per computer per year in extra costs.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I read on a local (and more reliable) news source that the $1 million dollar price tag comes from the fact that the computers were set to run the SETI software anytime they were idle causing wear and tear and increased electricity bills. When you take hudreds of computers over the course of several years, that's a lot of money spent on electricity and replaced computers that wore out before their expected life cycle.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Wear and tear? Using a computer once it's on makes very little difference to its life span. It's the switching it on and off in the first place that accounts for most of it.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I had my mother-in-law drop some cinder blocks on my head earlier to see what it felt like to be as stupid as old Birdwell. After ten blocks, my MIL was exhausted, and I still hadn't reached Birdy's level.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
There is a lot more to this story than the AP revealed. For example, check out:

Most likely it was an incompetent IT person fired by equally technologically incompetent administrators.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
i was pretty ticked about this until i read the whole story....

LOL this guy has some iron cajones...
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Thanks maddogyp, that article actually does shed alot more light onto the situation. But I'd still like to know where the hell they get this $1.6 million figure from. Even if you account for the extra "super computers" and electricity to run PCs 24/7, the figure seems way too high.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
There is some pull it out the rear type math that can cause you to reach $1,000,000 in damage.

$1,000,000 to uninstall is the result of incompetence and/or kickbacks.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Video Game Dork - Thermal expansion and contraction is the commonest cause of failure of most electronic equipment - turning it on and off is what makes it warm up and cool down. There are also very small scale effects within chips - I wish I could find the New Scientist article but I can't.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
A CPU on standyby does not use as much power as one running at 100%. A CPU running at 100% causes the fan to run almost constantly. Fan failure is a very common source of mechanical failure.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I work IT in a school system and I think I can provide a little perspective. If you read the expanded articles this guy did and did not do a lot of things he should have and should not have. That being said the $1 million figure, like others have said, is for the overall consumption of resources. Obviously, most people do not think of how much the cost to run 5000 computers would be when they should be off. That being said, since this guy was a sysadmin he could have easily set the systems to power on and run at times they shouldn't have been on.

Also, there are a lot of school systems who have to hire outside consultants to do IT work because they do not pay someone on staff. Considering this system just fired an IT admin they may have to hire someone to do this and if it's a consulting group then they are going to pay out the nose.

Some factors one must consider:

1. Heat-regardless of whether a PC is 'idle' or 'active' it's on and producing heat from the power supply, the processor, the hard drive etc. This can cause any number of failures if there are already faulty or failing parts in the PC. We have had faulty capacitors on certain models which fail faster if the computer is left on to get hot all the time.

2. General wear and tear-if it's on there are parts moving and moving parts only last so long.

3. Expected replacement time table-Schools often use their computers way longer then the average public consumer. They simply cannot afford to upgrade every three years. Sometimes PCs will be used upwards of nine years and then re-purposed for another task. If these machines were being used more/more intensely then the expected life span is diminished.

4. Replacement Cost-Even when schools can buy in bulk at a discount the cost buying a large number of computers is very expensive. Large scale replacement costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5. Stolen equipment and time-they have to replace that and they've paid him for not doing his job
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Agree with nihil, they aren't talking about uninstalling costs, but basically that this blubberbrain cost the school an extra $1 million dollars for being a dolt and a thief. Add up nihil's explanation and times it by 5000 computers and you can accept $1 million easily.

Unfortunately, this happens with all news, people focus on one aspect and fail to get the whole story. Like me, I volunteer at the local soup kitchen every weekend but am I Splint, the Soup Volunteer? No. I also play baseball or football with disadvantaged kids every other weekend but am I Splint, the Sports Guy? No. But screw one goat...
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.
Click here to access all of this post's 24 comments

Email This Post to a Friend
"Searching For Alien to Cost School System $1 Million"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More