FAQ and comments about the Higley School District controversy


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Profile KWSN THE Holy Hand Grenade!
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Message 952814 - Posted: 6 Dec 2009, 19:15:35 UTC
Last modified: 6 Dec 2009, 19:16:19 UTC

Q. Did SETI@home slow down other software as was reported?

A. Probably not. If BOINC is configured not to run applications while the computer is in use, it should not cause a slowdown of other software. If there's one thing IT personnel like, it's blaming slow computers on viruses, spyware, or "too much stuff on the hard disk." That might be the case, but those are just a case of poor computer maintenance by the IT personnel which is the most common cause of slow school or work computers.


I know of one instance where full BOINC use slows down other software - under Windows XP, using BOINC in all cores will slow down the NERO CD/DVD authoring software suite. (The simple solution that I use - go into Windows Task Monitor and set the BOINC tasks to N-1 cores, [where N is the total cores in your machine] and the NERO suite to the left-over core... Surprisingly, using the cores during actual CD/DVD burning is possible, without slowing down the operation...)
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Message 952850 - Posted: 6 Dec 2009, 21:29:43 UTC

As I'm not an US citizen, I had not read anything about this whole story.
If the IT guy acted on his own, than the school administrator has a point.
On the other hand, she should have come down from her high horse to inform herself about computers, processors and the SETI project.
It would have saved a lot of people a lot of stress.
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Message 952859 - Posted: 6 Dec 2009, 22:56:46 UTC

Q. Does SETI@home really cost that much to run?

A. The cost of running SETI@home is not zero. When a computer performs calculations, it draws more power than it does when it is idle. A typical desktop machine might draw about 60 watts more when active than when idle which is about the same as an incandescent light bulb. If run 24/7, that machine will consume an additional 525 kilowatt hours (kW*h) in a year. At an average cost of $0.12 per kW*h, that's $63.11 per year. That's pretty small compared to the cost of your computer, and maybe about the same as your monthly cable bill, but it's pretty big compared to the cost of can of soup. At that rate, you could spend $1.6M on power by running 25,000 computers for a year, or 5000 computers for 5 years. This is in addition to the power usage of an idle machine, which can also exceed 60 watts. If a school district really wants to save power and money it should implement a policy to turn off computers at night. If SETI@home cost them $1.6M as they state, they would have saved $3.2M if such a policy had been implemented.


This is point where Nez could win his arguments and win the case for it's self. The company didn't apply the policy to turn off the computers running during night, so the IT-guy didn't ask the school for permission to run the application is in this case the problem. I'm not known of the problems that the use of hardware damaging bit of using BOINC/SETI, using it for years, no damaging here. But if he installed the application on the servers on that school, he will be in trouble, other policy is active for usage of servers (at least at my company). So the guy could be fined but not with amount mentioned in the article.

For the use of SETI as a project on computers, isn't SETI in common way a sience tool it's self? I say yes! Let Dr. Denise Birdwell do some real sience and look in the way the SETI works! If later on Project Planet Quest will be active, the data from SETI and other great space projects using BOINC will be put together to find space objects and collect data about exo-planets and stars and other great stuff, isn't this sience too? I rest my case.

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Message 952950 - Posted: 7 Dec 2009, 10:05:42 UTC

I suspect that our fine Doctor and the district in general would have taken a very different view if Nez (and by association the district) had been lucky enough to contribute towards the finding of ET. The PR would have gone along the line of the steadfast support the district and management had given Nez in his and Setis quest.

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Message 953024 - Posted: 7 Dec 2009, 17:52:50 UTC

That may be so, but it doesn't excuse the fact that applications where installed without permission. Doing that on one or two PCs probably won't get you a $1.6M lawsuit, but installing it on a whole school full might (unless of course you're the person in charge of IT policy in the first place).

It's worth pointing out that it's impossible to guarantee that BOINC won't interfere with normal use of some particular hardware/software combination. Indeed under certain circumstances, it does - for example, if a buggy graphics driver is used with the CUDA client, then the computer might crash. This is not BOINC's fault, but as Eric correctly says, BOINC is often the first thing that gets blamed purely because of hysteria of lack of knowledge. This might be the origin of the whiteboard claims.

BOINC can also shorten the life of hardware indirectly - for example by preventing hard disks from spinning down when not in use. It can also spell trouble for badly-designed hardware (this was quite common with old Pentium 4-based laptops that used desktop grade chips because it was cheaper - one sniff of full load and they promptly overheated). Again, these are not a BOINC-specific situation but it's an easy target for blame - just leaving the machine switched on and idle will eventually wear out spinning components like fans and hard disks.

The fact that some miscreants decided to create a virus that installed SETI@home won't have helped the cause. I think that may have been SETI Classic, but even so the distinction will be lost on the 'un-initiated'.

In short, if you don't have permission, don't install stuff - whether that is BOINC or any other software.
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Message 953030 - Posted: 7 Dec 2009, 18:32:50 UTC - in response to Message 953024.

Doing that on one or two PCs probably won't get you a $1.6M lawsuit


True, but it can get you fired. Back in 2001, seventeen Tennessee Valley Authority employees got fired (and threatened with criminal charges) for installing SETI@home on their office computers.

That may be so, but it doesn't excuse the fact that applications where installed without permission.


I'm guessing that that will be the thrust of the lawsuits or criminal cases. The question that the judge or jury will have to decide (if, in fact it is shown that SETI@home/BOINC was was installed without the knowledge or approval of the District Administrator) is whether a school district IT Director needs permission to install software, or whether determining what software to install is a part of an IT Director's normal job functions.

At what level does installing software require permission? If the IT Director needs permission from the District Administrator, would the District Administrator need to go to the School Board for permission? Would the District Administrator need to contact the state Department of Education? Would the School Board need to put a referendum on the ballot? Would the Department of Education need to call the governor?

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Message 953033 - Posted: 7 Dec 2009, 18:48:50 UTC - in response to Message 953030.

Or If one wanted to get Ridiculous, All the way to the President?
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Message 953037 - Posted: 7 Dec 2009, 19:25:31 UTC - in response to Message 952651.

It is me, or why do I think the next thing we are going to hear from the Higley Schools is that they are dropping the teaching of evolution in favor of creationism?

Nowadays it's called Intelligent Design. It's the followup class to Ebonics.

I highly doubt that any school that teaches Ebonics also teaches Intelligent Design. They're from opposite ends of the social spectrum.

It still blows me away that the school where I work requires its biology teachers to begin the evolution unit with a speech about how there are other theories, blah blah blah... But that takes under a minute and then they get on with educating.
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Message 953078 - Posted: 7 Dec 2009, 22:46:44 UTC - in response to Message 953037.

It is me, or why do I think the next thing we are going to hear from the Higley Schools is that they are dropping the teaching of evolution in favor of creationism?

Nowadays it's called Intelligent Design. It's the followup class to Ebonics.

I highly doubt that any school that teaches Ebonics also teaches Intelligent Design. They're from opposite ends of the social spectrum.

It still blows me away that the school where I work requires its biology teachers to begin the evolution unit with a speech about how there are other theories, blah blah blah... But that takes under a minute and then they get on with educating.


Yeah it's their "disclaimer" so as not to offend others who believe otherwise
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Message 953219 - Posted: 8 Dec 2009, 15:40:28 UTC - in response to Message 953078.

Eric Korpela:

An important item to take into consideration when calculating the cost of running SETI is the additional heat produced.

Assuming that the 60 watt additional power used per PC, in a 4-season climate:

* In the winter, that 60 watts of extra heat used by SETI@home will be basically re-used and reduce the heat that your furnace must create by 60 watts. Score :)

* In the summer, there will be an additional 60 watts of heat that must be pumped out of the building. Bummer :(

So a truly environmentally SETI member would figure out a way to turn on all the SETI processes when the main system is calling for heat, and turn off all the processes when the system is calling for cooling. (It would need some smart averaging and based on day / night, occupancy, etc.)

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Message 953280 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 1:23:56 UTC

The crux of the matter is Nez's wife was BOTD. Birdwell would not qualify nor be considered in any manner. It's my fault and I stand by my decision.
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Message 953303 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 3:41:51 UTC

Ok Misfit, we will all blame you as usual.

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Message 953351 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 11:46:25 UTC - in response to Message 953303.
Last modified: 9 Dec 2009, 11:49:52 UTC

Hi, what would have happened if, the computers NEZ used for SETI, really had found something or perhaps ET?
Afterall, his 'initiative' to run SETI, with out permission, still has contributed a lot of work!
Would he be fired, then?
And the comments from the Higley School District, sure would have been different ;) .
I was truly amazed, about the fuzz, it created, glad it's over.
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Message 953369 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 14:32:46 UTC - in response to Message 953024.
Last modified: 9 Dec 2009, 14:44:53 UTC

BOINC is often the first thing that gets blamed purely because of hysteria of lack of knowledge.


As Forrest Gump once said "Stupid is as stupid does."
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Message 953371 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 14:43:05 UTC

Nez's problems run a lot deeper that running BOINC without permission.

http://www.azcentral.com/community/gilbert/articles/2009/12/04/20091204gr-alien1205.html
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Message 953374 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 15:03:38 UTC - in response to Message 953371.

As the comments point out, that article doesn't add up.
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Message 953380 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 15:35:15 UTC - in response to Message 953374.

Did you read the ENTIRE article? The police confiscated computer equipment from his home that is alleged to be school property. There are at least 9 different allegations under investigation. Any one would be enough to get the guy fired. Installing BOINC is the least of them. One of the major allegations involves the misspending of $540,000. Do the math on the 90 servers. He is alleged to have spent $7,000 on each of 90 back-ups when he should have spent $1,000. That's a difference of $540,000! I just hope they do a complete and accurate investigation.
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Message 953397 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 17:10:44 UTC - in response to Message 953380.

It's clear that Mr. NEZ is in deep stew. I think if this goes to court the maintenence/wear/utility cost charges will be dropped but he'll get nailed on theft, misappropriation, and if Higley is a public school, then he could even face criminal charges if he in fact downloaded pornography to school property.

But it sounds like the School Admin is on a personal crusade against this guy. What kind of assets does an IT worker making $81K at a school district have to cover alleged $1.4M in damages?

Anyway, that's not why I'm posting. I'm posting to say that SETI@Home actually fixed my laptop, so my case may hopefully help him in his defense :)

Long story short: I have an HP TX1000 series laptop. These laptops were manufactured with a thermal defect where the GPU would get so hot it would literally unsolder itself (relatively speaking) from the motherboard and the laptop would either die or become very unreliable. So, I installed BOINC and ran SETI@Home on it for about half a week, leaving the laptop upside down. The heat generated by SETI@Home resoldered the GPU die to the motherboard, and now my laptop is in perfect working order again! :D

I run SETI@Home on a number of computers (for a while now), and the assertion that it causes damage to the computer is complete bunk. That is, unless the computer has some kind of defect that doesn't allow it to dissipate heat correctly (or it is in a dusty environment and the fan(s) fail).

My 2 cents.
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Message 953402 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 17:27:28 UTC - in response to Message 953303.

Ok Misfit, we will all blame you as usual.

So sez another BOTD. You gals are so competitive.
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Message 953403 - Posted: 9 Dec 2009, 17:28:10 UTC

I know this suggestion may be viewed redundant, but would it be wise for seti to send a note to any user who has an ungodly number of hosts, say more than 10, warning the person to comply with seti's 'authorized used' guideline? I know this suggestion may be viewed redundant, but would it be wise for seti to send a note to any user who has an ungodly number of hosts, say more than 10, warning the person to comply with seti's 'authorized used' guideline?

It might save some poor wayward sap out there, and save seti's reputation on occasion.

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