CPU cycle recycling

One of the side effects of being a computer geek seems to be the proliferation of junker computers on the home network. Currently we have 4 machines running pretty much full time and another 3 that get used off and on. While these machines are on all/most of the time, it doesn’t mean they are doing anything useful, they basically idle, burning electricity and wasting CPU cycles. I’m not the 1st to notice this “waste”, there are a number of “distributed computing” projects designed give those bored computers a reason to live:

  • Seti@Home
    While not the first, this project put distributed computing into the mainstream with it’s cool screensaver and the chance of finding ET by scanning radio telescope data for intelligent signals
  • Folding@Home
    Following on the success of S@H, this project hopes to understand the processes that turn the long chains of protein created using DNA instructions into the complex, chemical “nanomachines” that makes life possible. While the direct result of any one computer’s work isn’t as exciting as finding ET, the rewards are higher, because understanding protein folding will lead to tailor-made therapies for everything from Mad Cow disease to old age.
  • Distributed.Net RC5
    While not as noble as proving we are not alone in the universe or ridding the world of disease, Distributed.Net’s goal of breaking RC5 encrypting keys by brute force has lead to higher standards in encryption key sizes and security in general. A 56 bit test key fell in 250 days, a 64 bit key took 1757 days, and a 72 bit keys is being chip away at a rate of about 147,300,000,000 keys per second!
  • More Projects
    The above are just some projects I’ve tried, but there are many more. The above link lists many of them.

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