Are you a “cruncher”?

Are you a “cruncher”?

Just about the best thing that I have ever done with my computers is to join the several hundred thousand strong community of folks in what is called Public Distributed Computing.

The largest effort in this area was started up at UC Berkeley, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC). It originated in the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project. The project’s directors decided to try to harness the power millions- well, in actuality thousands- of home computers to help analyze the data collected at Arecibo in Puerto Rico. The project leader, Dave Anderson, thought to attract users by putting the process in a fansupertastic screen saver. Man, did he ever succeed with that screen saver.

Dave Anderson

Ultimately, the BOINC software was made available to all comers who thought that they had a worthwhile project. The project gets the use of the process software and a web site template.

The user downloads a small piece of software from BOINC or World Community Grid (described below). Then, the user can take a look at scientific projects going on at august scientific research institutions around the globe and “attach” to some number of projects.

If you do this, what you will be doing is lending or contributing your unused CPU cycles to basic scientific research aimed at improving and saving lives. The processes are safe and secure. We save laboratory scientists literally thousands of hours of time in their exploration. All of the knowledge gained by this work remains in the public domain, for use by all.

The cost to the user for leaving the computer on is about the same as a 150 watt light bulb. I am running two Intel Core-2-Duo, one Intel N270 Atom hyperthreaded, and one PIII on projects for BOINC and WCG.

My favorite project is lhc@home at CERN (The European Nuclear Energy Agency. This the LHC, or Large Hadron Collider, a humongus atom smasher. Better, a proton anti-proton smasher. What those of us attached to the project fo is allow the use of our home or work computers to run simulations of what will happen under specific conditions when protons and anti-protons are sent hurtling in opposite directions arond the 27km collider and then smashed into each other.


It is hoped that the last piece of the puzzle, the theorized Higgs bosun, for a single explanation of how the universe works will be found at CERN in the LHC.
BOINC logo

The other major center of this activity is World Community Grid “powered by” IBM Corporation. WCG uses the BOINC software. Where BOINC is open to all comers and has an almost uncountable number of projects, WCG vets every project and has stringent rules of eligibility. So, WCG has only about six or seven projects, depending if one counts betas or not. BOINC sees WCG as one project, even though WCG has the above noted multiplicity of projects.

If the user wants to “crunch” for both BOINC and WCG projects, then it is adviseable to “overweight” WCG in the BOINC manager.


With the arrival of the “Help Fight Childhood Cancer” project at WCG, I am now crunching on I think my fifth cancer project.


I am also crunching on projects in AIDS, Dengue Fever. MS, protein folding, cosmology, genetics, new strains of rice, pulsars, and malaria.

I urge you to visit BOINC and WCG and give them a look, check out some projects that might interest you, look at the web sites. We could use the help. There are about one billion personal computers in the world. So, at even 200,000, that would mean that we have tapped not even one percent of the available computing power.

Wouldn’t you like to help save a life?

BOINC bloc