School Worker Fired For Using District PC To Chase Down Aliens

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 whoever 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.