In this time of giving and over the course of the next few weeks that begins the new year, many of us may be looking for was to give to good causes. As many of us may have difficulties giving financially during these times, we look to alternative ways to help others. If you’re a fan of science like we are here at AuctioneerTech, you’ll appreciate the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, or BOINC.
We were first introduced to BOINC when we installed SETI@home on several computers at home and at the office. It not only allows an idle computer to aid in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, it also presents a pretty darned cool screen saver of the data as it’s being analyzed.
The underlying concept of BOINC is a kind of distributed computing known as volunteer computing. In volunteer computing, volunteers donate extra computer resources – essentially the time when a computer isn’t being used such as at night or while it’s otherwise idle – to a project or cause. It’s different from grid computing in that it’s not managed and there isn’t any commitment given by the computer owner.
BOINC allows the volunteer to select among a number of different research projects, categorized into earth sciences; multiple applications; mathematics and strategy games; astronomy / physics / chemistry; and biology and medicine. It’s possible to divide the time you donate from your computer to be spent on multiple projects if you can’t decide between Proteins@home and Einstein@home.
BOINC is simple to install and takes no system resources until it begins to run, which only happens when you’re not using your computer. BOINC clients run on Windows, Mac and Linux. As of December 17, some select BOINC projects support using specific graphics cards in addition to CPU power. If your computer has a recent NVIDIA GPU, you can compute 2X to 10X faster than with your CPU alone.
It’s true that it’s much better for the environment and your electric bill if you turn off your computer (or hibernate it) should you be leaving it for more than 15 or 20 minutes. However, BOINC projects can still be useful should the be run for 5 or 10 minutes frequently throughout the day.
Any time you see a screen saver, think to yourself how much more valuable it would be were that computer connected to BOINC and helping science. Also, if you for some expensive reason don’t turn off your computer at night, at least put it to use for a good cause.