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Old 2009-12-02, 20:54   #1
em99010pepe's Avatar
Sep 2004

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Default NEZ - fired for running SETI@Home

The search for intelligent life apparently has stopped for Brad Niesluchowski, the network systems administrator who led Higley Unified School District's technology department.
Higley Unified School District records obtained by The Arizona Republic show that Niesluchowski, of Gilbert, resigned in October after an investigation into suspicious activity, including the use of a program that searches radio signals collected by a giant radio dish looking for extraterrestrial life.
According to the documents, district officials said they found Niesluchowski had abused his authority in purchasing and oversight of district technology and equipment, downloaded pornography, and added to every district computer a University of California-Berkeley program that searches high-frequency radio signals for signs of intelligent life in outer space.
Higley officials so far estimate the damages, energy usage and equipment losses linked to Niesluchowski at $1.2 million to $1.6 million.
Niesluchowski and his attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
District administrators hand-delivered a notice of termination of contract for cause to Niesluchowski on Oct. 7, which he refused to sign. He instead consulted an attorney, and then resigned at the attorney's advice.
According to the termination letter, Niesluchowski faces several allegations that he violated the terms and responsibilities of his contract and ethics policies - and is the focus of a criminal investigation. Documents show:
• During a warranted search of his home earlier this fall, Gilbert police found 18 computers and other equipment stolen from the district.
• District officials said they learned Niesluchowski never installed firewalls that would protect students' and staff members' personal information from hackers, exposing district computer and data to potential tampering or damage.
• District officials also say he failed to train and supervise other tech staff.
• Officials allege he downloaded to every district computer a University of California-Berkeley program known as "SETI@home." SETI is short for the "Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence."
According to the SETI Web site, the software SETI@home was released in 1999 by UC Berkeley space laboratory scientists so that individuals around the globe could volunteer their home computers to scan data collected by a telescope in Puerto Rico, effectively working like a super-computer. SETI software kicks on whenever a volunteer's computer is idle.
District officials said they never agreed to its use, and, according to documents, told police that they had asked Niesluchowski to remove the program.
SETI Web statistics show Niesluchowski became a participant in February 2000, a month after he was hired at Higley.
Higley officials said the SETI program requires wattage to run, and therefore was an extra burden on computer processors and power usage. They allege several computer processors would burn out sooner than expected, and the SETI program's operation raised utility costs.
HUSD officials also found the program interfered with classroom lessons.
Superintendent Denise Birdwell said teachers who use a SMART Board - a large electronic screen connected to the computer that acts as a wipe-off board or blackboard at the front of the classroom - would find that in a middle of a lesson, the SMART Board had turned off.
Birdwell declined to speak about several specifics about the case, including the ongoing criminal probe. Gilbert police have not responded to requests for information about their inquiry.
Web discussions between SETI participants show Niesluchowski made a name for himself among members of the alien-searching community.
He was known by the alias "NEZ" and was SETI's most active volunteer explorers for intelligent life, scoring more than 575 million "credits" - hours of data searching in nine years of participation.
Admirers often pondered in their Internet chats about SETI@home in 2007: "What is NEZ? Who is NEZ?" Some even offered the theory that he "is a god."
The criminal probe has led investigators to other school districts that have hired former Higley employees.
Nieschulowski once worked as a consultant for Globe Unified School District, where investigators have found hundreds of computers there equipped with SETI@home software.
Globe's superintendent was not immediately available to comment.
Higley records show Nieschulowski earned more than $81,000 a year, and had been warned in a 2005-2006 review by then-Superintendent Joyce Lutrey and then-Business Manager Fred Stone of shortcomings in his job performance. Among the comments were:
• "Purchasing decisions are made with no consultation or input from others."
• "Budget perimeters are not defined or scoped."
• "Decisions are made in isolation with no input or communication with stakeholders."
Niesluchowski signed the review, agreeing to make improvements.

Last fiddled with by em99010pepe on 2009-12-02 at 21:00
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