Do you know that you can contribute to the society substantially without spending practically ‘nothing’ ?
The only requirement is that you own a PC / Laptop.
You may be surprised to know that even when you are using your Laptop / PC, most of it’s CPU’s power is not utilised. And if you have a home server or similar setup (Say a Raspberry Pi), most of the time it remains completely idle.
This is where distributed computing comes in.
Welcome to the world of BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing).
It is a free and open source software which utilizes the free / available power of your CPU & Graphics card for scientific research. You only need a laptop / PC / Single Board PC l(ike Raspberry Pi ) and occasional internet connectivity to download data from the server and upload the computed result from your device. Before you get scared – the data is not huge. I doubt if it will be even 1 GB for the entire week (considering your PC is on 24 x 7). And yes, it does not slow down your PC. The moment you start any CPU / GPU intensive task, the software automatically suspends computing.
There are a lot of users already associated with various projects using BOINC, however we need more and more people to join so that we TOGETHER as a community can work on the data faster.
Now, you must be thinking what kind of ‘work’ is being done – well practically everything under the sun. Whatever field you want to contribute to has a project where you can contribute.
One of the first such community was SETI@Home. As a matter of fact I joined that project in 2004, back then it used to work only when your PC went into ‘screen saver’ mode. However, they are now in ‘hibernation’ stage.
Following are some of the projects where you can contribute.
One of my favourite is WCG. Below I have given a brief description of the major projects that are presently using BOINC for distributed computing.
1. World Community Grid (Powered by IBM): https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org: They have active projects on Covid-19, Zika, Mapping of Cancer Markers, Microbiome, African Rainfall (forecast) among others. So as you can see – they are mostly into the pressing needs of the humanity at the moment.
2. SETI: https://setiathome.berkeley.edu/: As already mentioned, this project is currently under hibernation and I guess everyone knows what SETI stands for :-).
3. Einstein At Home: https://einsteinathome.org/ : Einstein@Home uses your computer’s idle time to search for weak astrophysical signals from spinning neutron stars (often called pulsars) using data from the LIGO gravitational-wave detectors, the Arecibo radio telescope, and the Fermi gamma-ray satellite.
4. Milkyway At Home: https://milkyway.cs.rpi.edu/milkyway/: Milkyway@Home is creating a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This project enables research in both astro-informatics and computer science.
5. Asteroids At Home: https://asteroidsathome.net/boinc/: Analysing asteroids and their orbits.
6. Universe At Home: https://universeathome.pl/universe/: Work on the fields of Ultraluminous X-ray Sources, Gravitational Waves, Supernovae 1a etc.
7. Rosetta At Home: https://boinc.bakerlab.org/rosetta/login_form.php?next_url=home.php : Advance research in medicine, clean energy, and materials science.
8. YoYo At Home: https://www.rechenkraft.net/yoyo/ (Natural Science)
If you want my honest opinion, there is absolutely no reason, why you should not contribute to at least one of the projects, if not more than one. It is costing you nothing. But these go a long way in scientific research as no super computer can match the power of hundreds of thousands of PCs around the world.
If you want to download the BOINC client, you can directly go to any of the site mentioned above (all sites require you to register) or you can directly download it from Berkeley University’s web site (For Windows/ Mac).
If you are on Linux – BOINC is available in all major distribution’s official repositories.
Once you install and run it for the first time (you may enable and start the service if you are on Linux) – it wil ask you which projects you want to join. Make your choice, if you have not already registered for the project, it has an option to register. But this does not work for all projects, so it will be better if you register through the web site.
And in case you are thinking – yes, you can also install it on your phone or Tablet, but it works only when your phone / Tablet is charging.
If you are installing it on Linux and facing any problems do post in the comments, I will try to help as much as I can (you basically get two issues, one is an authentication issue and the other is that the data don’t get downloaded on Raspberry Pi).
P.S. If you decide to join this global community project, please use the b/m Link (There is no benefit for you or for me by using the link). Even if you can’t for some specific reason – do spread the word. You can also join without using the link.