Help without lifting a finger

Yesterday I talked about contributing to the web by writing what you know.  Today I’m talking about a way you can make the world a better place without actually doing anything.  There are hundreds of projects around the world, mostly in universities, that need your donations.  But they’re not looking for money. They need processing power.

Do you leave your computer on at night? If so, your PC is spending most of its life in the Idle Process loop.  Anything to do? No. How ’bout now? No. Now? No. Now? No…  Put that processing power to work!  There are applications you can run that take advantage of that down time by donating those processor cycles.  Hundreds of thousands of machines all join together to make something more powerful than the biggest supercomputers.  Each one focuses is on one particular problem or curiosity.  I guess the two most popular are SETI@Home and Folding@Home, but there are plenty more.

“SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data.”  This is the first one I ever heard of, and the first one I participated in.  It started back in 1999.  It’s based in Berkeley, where the BOINC software that powers most of these projects originates.

Folding@Home is a Stanford project studying protein folding, misfolding, and related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Cancer, and Parkinson’s Disease.  One of the cool things about Folding@Home is it runs on the PS3, taking advantage of its powerful GPU.  That’s right – my Playstation is trying to cure cancer.

The work being done at the SHA-1 Collision Search at the Graz University of Technology in Austria is critical to internet security.  I wouldn’t mind writing something up on what an SHA-1 collision is (oddly I didn’t see anything about it on their site) but it’s a little beyond the scope of this blog entry, and probably not of much interest to either of my regular readers.  For now lets just say it’s very important, and would be a good thing to contribute to.

MilkyWay@home – “The goal of Milkyway@Home is to use the BOINC platform to harness volunteered computing resources in creating a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This project enables research in both astroinformatics and computer science.” Neat!  Astroinformatics?

“LHC@home is a volunteer computing program which enables you to contribute idle time on your computer to help physicists develop and exploit particle accelerators, such as CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.”

Docking@Home is a project which uses Internet-connected computers to perform scientific calculations that aid in the creation of new and improved medicines. The project aims to help cure diseases such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Docking@Home is a collaboration between the University of Delaware, The Scripps Research Institute, and the University of California – Berkeley. It is part of the Dynamically Adaptive Protein-Ligand Docking System project and is supported by the National Science Foundation.”

Rosetta@home needs your help to determine the 3-dimensional shapes of proteins in research that may ultimately lead to finding cures for some major human diseases.”

And then there’s GIMPS, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search.  They’re looking for giant prime numbers.

And there are plent more

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