Nov 012008
 

Back in 2000 I was working for Intel. I worked in a lab that had a lot of client computers powered up but doing nothing. Some coworkers turned me on to SETI@Home and we started a little game of running it on as many otherwise jobless computers as were running in our lab. At one point I had a line-up of six headless desktop computers each running an Intel P2 and Linux just to run the SETI@Home task. They were tucked under a desk and one of them served as a router for the other five to provide Internet access. I liked to jokingly think of that as my own personal “supercomputer”.

My interest in SETI@Home never waned. In the last eight years I’ve had several computers pass through my hands and I always installed SETI@Home sooner or later. My last laptop was a Dell P3 running Windows XP. Windows XP absolutely killed the performance of the laptop so I long delayed installing SETI@Home. Recently I began taking an online MS course at Colorado State University. That provided the impetus to buy a new laptop. I bought an HP Pavilion with an AMD Turion 64. Now that I’ve got a new laptop my interest in SETI@Home has flared up once again. I’ve installed SETI@Home on the new laptop and it is fast. I’ve also relegated the old Dell P3 to doing nothing but running the SETI@Home task in a quite corner of the house where the constant whirring of the CPU fan won’t drive my wife crazy.

Not stopping there, I began scouring the Internet for a WordPress plugin to display my SETI@Home participation on my blog. In past searches I had found Jason Irwin’s SETI Stats plugin. It was an effective plugin except that it used a mobile device URL for the stats data source. That data source didn’t provide the depth of stats that I wanted to display on my blog. Using Jason’s plugin, I rewrote the source code to use a more robust data source and I included a sidebar widget. The rewritten plugin is now hosted at WordPress.org.

After all that introduction, here are my SETI@Home stats:

Supporting SETI@Home is an endless task and there are many other distributed processing projects out there. I encourage anyone with CPU time to spare to get involved in any of them. For those interested in combating disease there’s Folding@home which I’ve heard some folks argue is a much more “practical” project to spend CPU cycles on compared to SETI. Another distributed computing project that searches space is the Einstein@Home project. Unlike SETI, E@H is looking for spinning neutron stars also known as pulsars.

Obviously, my favorite is SETI@Home hosted by University of California, Berkeley. If you leave at least one computer constantly running with little to do I recommend installing any one of the above tasks to put your computer to good use on a distributed computing project that suits your interest.