An Idle Computer

What Good is an Idle Computer?

With the recent green push, some people feel you should shut your computer down when you aren’t using it. Or you can put it in hibernation or sleep (For more information about hibernation and sleep, see our recent newsletter article on our website). Although it’s a good thing to try and save electricity, you also have to be smart about it.

When  you are using your computer, you want it to be at its best so you can do what you need to do efficiently. You don’t want your computer doing maintenance tasks while you are trying to use it because it slows you down. You want your computer to do it’s maintenance tasks when you aren’t using it. That’s why you should not shut your computer down, put it into hibernation, or put it to sleep when you aren’t using it.

You can have windows turn off your monitor after a certain amount of time to try and save electricity. If you have Vista or Windows 7,  you can have them shut down other components of the computer to save electricity. Setting these settings will allow your computer to do the maintenance it needs to do when you aren’t using it, but will still save some electricity.

Typical maintenance tasks that your computer might do when  you aren’t using it include, but are not limited to, update security software, scan computer for infections, backup, defrag, and more. There are, however, other additional tasks you can have your computer perform. How would you like to have your computer fight cancer and other diseases like AIDS, MD, and more? Or perhaps you would like your computer to look for E.T.? You can have your computer do all of these things and more through the use of distributed computing.

The idea behind distributed computing is instead of using one big expensive computer to process data, why not break the data up into little pieces and have a lot of less expensive computers each process a small piece of the data. Your computer can be one of these computers and it’s free and easy to do.

It all started with the SETI@Home project at Berkeley. Back in 1999, they created a screen saver that would kick in when you weren’t using your computer. This screen saver would process data for the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute. Since then, the software used for this has evolved way past a simple screen saver. The software is now called BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing).

Now there are lots of projects, in addition to SETI@Home, that you can have your computer work on. And you don’t have to limit it to one project. You can work on lots of them. I started with SETI@Home back in 1999. I still have my computers do some work for that project, but most of my computers concentrate on projects from World Community Grid. Why? Because their projects save lives. They are the ones with the projects that help fight Cancer, AIDS and other diseases.  Their projects help people.

Yes, using  your computer for distributed computing does use a little more electricity. But isn’t it worth it to help save lives? And if you have a friend or family member who has died from Cancer, or is fighting cancer right now, why wouldn’t you want to join in the fight?

If you want to use your computer to help with these projects, here’s how.

First, go http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/ to download and install BOINC. Now run BOINC. It will give you the option to attach to projects like World Community Grid or SETI@Home. You’ll create logins for each project as well. You can configure BOINC to run all the time, or only when your computer is idle.

If you need help with BOINC, we will be glad to help you with it remotely at no charge. Here are some websites with more information to references in this article:

SETI@Home                   http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/
World Community Grid  http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/

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