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Archive for August 31st, 2011


Many years ago the SETI@home project was born. I think the idea came from some earlier projects that harnessed people’s computers when they were idle to calculate Pi to a new record. SETI@home sifted through radio telescope data for signals from ET. The amount of data was huge, the calculations more so. The answer was to use distributed computing: you signed up and then when your computer was idle it worked on a small part of the problem, The SETI@home project then put the bits together and managed the entire dataset. The idea took off, lots of people joined and then some new projects arose, all needing vast amounts of computing power.

Then software changed and I lost track of this, until a week or so ago when SETI@home sent me an e-mail. Now they use the open source BOINC platform, which you download onto your computer. You then choose a project(s) you would like to contribute to and that is it.

So far I am very impressed by BOINC. Seamless and does not get in the way at all – in fact it is quite “retiring” in terms of using processor time.

So which problem(s)? A matter of taste, though SETI@home captures my imagination. Happily, one can contribute to more than one and with our computers doing virtually nothing most of the time (writing this consumes very little of the resource of my laptop).

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