Distributed Computing

Note: This was originally published on a page under the “Information” section in the sidebar, but because I realize that many people might miss it – including those reading through the RSS feed – I’ve decided to re-publish it as a post.


I’m a big fan of distributed computing. I think it’s a very elegant way to give scientists access to large quantities of computing power that would otherwise be wasted.

A good primer on the subject can be found here: How-To: Join Distributed Computing projects that benefit humanity

What if some of the world’s estimated 650 million PCs (and 250 million households with broadband Internet) could be linked to assist scientists in solving critical real world problems? This is exactly what humanitarian grid computing is about!

Donate your computer’s idle CPU time to humanitarian non-profit scientific research projects. Help find cures for diseases like cancer, AIDS, diabetes, MS, Alzheimer, or help predict the earth’s climate change, or advance science e.g. search for gravitational waves, help CERN build its latest particle accelerator or Berkeley search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Project I currently support

Other projects that I like

  • Orbit@Home (I can’t crunch data because it’s still in development — see this post for more info about Asteroids and Near Earth Objects)
  • ClimatePrediction.net (climate models – when I have a faster computer, I’ll definitely support it)
  • BOINC Simap (public database of pre-calculated protein similarities. I used to crunch for this project, but now that the bottleneck is the amount of data to process and not the amount of computing power available, there is little point in me donating CPU cycles.)
  • Einstein@Home (search for gravity waves from spinning neutron stars)
  • Predictor@Home (predict protein structure from protein sequence — took a long hiatus, but is coming back)
  • Folding@Home (understanding protein folding — I like it, but it is so popular that your CPU cycles probably make a bigger marginal difference elsewhere, like Rosetta@Home)

How to help

The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, better known as BOINC, is the platform used by most projects (including all of those I listed above).

To get started there are three steps:

  1. Choose projects
  2. Download and run BOINC software
  3. Enter the project URLs, your email address, and password.

If you need more details, see this BOINC help page.

Happy data crunching!


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