Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My readers write

From Dr. Max Alt...

In the late 1990's I worked for Ginormous Neurology, Inc.

GNI was a group of 30-40 neurologists carefully selected for significant personality pathology. In neurology this isn't hard to find* but the breadth and scale of it at GNI was truly awe-inspiring. I don't think I was as bad as most of them, but hey, they offered me a job and I needed one.


GNI spent a large amount of money to put together a computerized chart system. By the standards of the era it was reasonably good, and fairly quick. Come to think of it, it was better than most of the  crap out there today.

One Monday the system was really SLOW. Granted, these sorts of things happen, and so we all ignored it at first. But it continued the rest of the day, and the next, and the next... The IT guys found something was running in the background, but weren't sure what it was.

Checking the logs on the servers and individual machines, they eventually discovered that one of the partners, Dr. Kent, had spent several hours over the weekend logged into the system, working on most of the office desktops, one at a time.

Eventually it came out that Dr. Kent had secretly installed software on all the computers... to search for extra-terrestrial life.

"He did WHAT?"

I am not making this up. He'd quietly installed programming from SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) to allow them to use the GNI network to search through data picked up by radio telescopes in hopes of locating life out there.

Now, I have nothing against SETI. Or extra-terrestrials. Or science. But when they interfere with my ability to do my day job... that's another matter.

To Dr. Kent's indignation and horror (he thought this would get him a Nobel Prize) the IT guys spent the next weekend removing his software from the servers and roughly 150 computers scattered through the GNI network.

To this day, those of us who knew Dr. Kent think he was hoping to reconnect with his family.

Thank you, Dr. Max Alt!

*I'll vouch for him on that - Dr. Grumpy.


Don Parker said...

My systems, both at my then employer, and my home computer, were participating. My employer's system only searched during designated hours, when no one was supposed to be around, except for us poor peons working the 11 PM to 7 AM designer shift. It was not much of a resource hog, either at home or at work. Dr. Kent must not have not configured it properly.
At work, we were allowed to install games to play on our breaks. I installed an early 3D, and wonderful D&D game called Eye of the Beholder. That took more resources than the SETI search.

Packer said...

So did Dr. Kent (first name Clark) have rh negative blood type. To think that Earth was the galactic version of a sex tourism hot spot somewhere a long time ago in a far far....

Don said...

I used to use the SETI program as a screen saver on my computers.

I have to echo Don Parker

The Good Doctor didn't know what he was doing and set it up wrong.

Ivan Ilyich said...

The doctor not only didn't know what he was doing in setting up the program, he didn't know probability theory. The ods of success are many orders of magnitude worse than searching for a needle in a haystack.

Ms. Donna said...

As others said, the program was configured wrong. JUST because you are an MD and a neurologist does not mean you can configure a program. That is what 12 year old children are for. (My 12 YO son configured SETI for me) ;=)

Jennette Fulda said...

The SETI software was one of the first grid computing projects, but there are others like that do projects related to cancer, Zika, clean energy, AIDS, and other pretty worthwhile causes. That said, if you configure it incorrectly it can definitely cause the problems you ran into. You're supposed to be donating your spare computer power, not the power you actually need :)

Me said...

I remember being aware that SETI was asking folks if they could use their home computers in a "crowd sourcing" kind of way.

Candi Gomez said...

I remember my ex-brother-in-law running SETI's program as a screen saver -it was supposed to shut up when he was actually working. Agree that Kent really screwed up.

Click to cure (cancer) was one I fooled around with from time to time during its lifespan.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he figured that alien civilizations would have developed advanced cures for neurological ailments.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he and Dr. Tree were trying to download alien porn.

Moose said...

As someone else said, you were supposed to set up the SETI stuff to only run at certain areas. If you had Unix computers you could also set them to the lowest priority, which meant that any other program would kick it to sleep until quiet time.

IIRC we used to run it one of the DOOPercomputers at work, when nothing else was running on it.

Crazy RxMan said...

Save your efforts, SETI. We're all alone. See Fermi Paradox. :(

Library-Gryffon said...

Years ago I ran SETI in the background of my private work computer.

(We had the doberman type of IT "Are you sure you need to access this website for your job? Absolutely sure? [sigh] We'll try to get to it, maybe next month?" So because my boss made enough fuss about the stuff I needed to do and they wouldn't let me do, IT gave me a second computer which had it's own DSL line and wasn't attached to the hospital networks in any way shape or form. To quote said boss "You owe me big time. I had to sit through an hour of how IT was going to rule the world".)

I don't ever recall it having any issues, it always went to sleep when I was actually doing something, and it was extremely easy to set up since honestly, I have no idea how to specially configure stuff if it isn't part of the install wizard.

Anonymous said...

No Monday night football (or, all Sunday afternoon TV golf) for him, eh?

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