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IT worker faces jail for installing screensaver at work

On the subject of David McOwen, the IT worker threatened with 15 years behind bars for installing client software on computers at the college where he worked, many readers were sympathetic.

But not so John-Mark Gurney, who offered the following viewpoint:

He deserves everything he gets. You just can't go around and start consuming CPU cycles w/o getting permission from the management. Having those screen savers probably cost the college some money, though I doubt your cost of 59 cents per minute. That means that the screen saver ran for only 8 days TOTAL, I doubt that if it was on hundreds of computers he only got 8 days of cpu time.

(Actually, John-Mark, the article states 59 cents per second, but who are we to split hairs?)

Also, back around the same time, the computer department installed the rc5 program on the lab machines and it slowed the machine down to an absolute crawl (this was the unix version which runs all the time)..I immediately requested that the program be removed because it was preventing me from doing class work.

He should of simply asked permission from the department that manages the computers. If he had, he either would of be told he could, and not been in the trouble he is now, or otherwise he would of done it without their blessing and still been in the same boat.

And John-Mark's verdict on what should happen to the poor man?

I say fry him!

How reassuring it is to find the militant Right are still regular readers of The Reg. Other readers, such as Brian Hurley, were slightly less harsh.

I don't think this guy should be jailed, but his actions were clearly non-professional. He was probably billing by the hour, and if he installed them individually, that's a lot of time fradulently spent.

Now lets be kind and assume it was part of an image installation, in which case he may only have installed and configured it once. With hundreds of clients, they still might use a substantial amount of bandwidth. If there are any stability issues with the screensaver, it could also cause a lot of grief for the IT department. I'd mention the users, but who cares about them?

This guy is a professional, not some ignorant student or office worker casually installing something. Some punishment is definitely called for. Personally, I'd demand at least a partial refund of his original fee, and make him de-install each RC5 cracker by hand.

Finally, the same article prompted the following response from George M. Fryberger, who has handed over some of his own hard-earned cash to help out McOwen.

I have been a software developer for twenty years and am vice president of a business intelligence software development company in Ohio, USA. I participate proudly in DC projects with nearly every one of my company's computer systems. While I do not know Dave personally, I have contributed to his defense fund and have been following the case closely.

I truly believe in the power of distributed computing. As you know, the project which Dave was involved in is designed to improve computer and internet security and is for the benefit of everyone who uses a computer, directly or indirectly.

Not only do DC projects benefit the computing communities, but many are currently underway which benefit society and mankind. As you pointed out in your article, several DC projects are searching for cures for cancer and AIDS. This indictment the state of Georgia is persuing is not soley against Dave McOwen. It is an indictment against all distributed computing projects by people who have little knowledge of DC or, sadly, technology in general.

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