Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Crunching Numbers...

In 1999, a Distributed Computing Project, SETI@Home opened and let computers and people from all over the world try to help in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. The project became a huge success with a lot of people, even those who have little experience with computers.

The main idea behind this project was the fact that there are billions of computers connected or with connection capabilities to the internet, which can be used to process data for projects such as SETI. Most computers remain idle and are not used for long periods of time, so their processing capabilities at such times can be used. This gives the projects huge amounts of processing power.

The SETI@Home project was a huge success and people volunteered that unused processing power to help the project. Seeing the success of SETI, more projects have come online and nowadays through the use of a Distributed Computing Client more than one projects can be run at the same time.

The Distributed Computing Client is called BOINC and can be found here: http://boinc.berkeley.edu, along with information on said client, information on available projects and more.

Before I continue talking about Distributed Computing and projects, I will take a moment to explain some of the terms used by the people who donate their PC's processing power to such projects. First of all, WU or WorkUnit is the chunk of data that a computer downloads and processes. Crunching Numbers refers to the processing of such data, since all the computer does is actually process numbers, and providinbg a result for each WorkUnit.

Continuing our discussion, the Distributed Computer Projects have been so successful, that even from the very start people started having contests and competitions as to who would crunch the most data, who would process that number of WUs first, etc. As a result, people started also forming teams and informal contests and competitions started arising between the various teams, but also between members of the same team. There is no prize to whomever wins and there are really no losers in these unofficial games. The winners are always the projects!

You will notice that on right hand side of the blog, I have put the statistics for my projects, and those for my team. This is a way of me saying that it doesn't matter whether you can crunch 10 WUs per day or just one every week, what matters is that you help in those projects that you are interested in. I also am proud of the work that I am doing in that department and the work my team puts in.

The statistics for users and teams of such projects can be found at the BOINC Statistics site.

My team is called "The Knights Who Say Ni!" and I chose the team because everyone is a serious lunatic and madman or madwoman. If you are interested in any distributed computing projects and are a bit (or more) of a looney (bin or not) then come and look at The Knights Who Say Ni!

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