If you've been around computers for a few years, you may remember a project called SETI@Home. In the US, scientists gathered radio data from distant stars and needed huge amounts of computing resources to analyse the information in the search for extra-terrestrial life. So they hit upon the brilliant idea of creating a PC screen saver. Whenever your PC is idle, the screen saver contacts the SETI project, downloads a batch of radio data to analyse, and sends back the results to the remote server. It means that your PC can be doing good, while you're not using it.
SETI@Home now has around 3 million contributors, which makes it just about the largest distributed computing project in the world.
The original screen saver has now evolved into something even more powerful, and there's a list of some 60 different uses to which you can put your computer's spare cycles. As always, you simply need to download the special screen saver, choose one or more projects from the list, and that's it. Whenever you're not using your PC, it will request a batch of important information to analyse. It could be, for example, information from a trial which is aiming to find the most effective cure for malaria, or as-yet-uncracked data from German wartime encryption machines, or just about anything else.
The software is called BOINC, and it comes from the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing at the eponymous university. You can find the download at https://boinc.berkeley.edu/download.php and it's around 9 MB. The program is malware-free according to VirusTotal and Web of Trust. Once downloaded and installed, you can then choose one or more projects in which to take part.
Some of the projects require the use of a virtual PC created via the Virtualbox software. So if you think you may want to take part in those too, download the larger version of the file which also includes Virtualbox bundled in.
If you rarely turn off your PC, and it spends even just a couple of hours a day doing very little, why not donate some computing power to some very worthy projects.
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