Hunt for ET folded into distributed computing project
By John Leyden
Published Monday 28th November 2005 12:02 GMT
SETI@Home, the popular distributed computing project, will cease to
be a standalone program on December 15.
The SETI team is throwing its lot in with BOINC, the Berkeley Open
Infrastructure for Network Computing, where computer users will be
encouraged to donate their spare computing cycles towards a wider
range of tasks including modeling climate change, molecular biology,
high-energy physics as well as the hunt for little green men. The
work unit totals of SETI@Home Classic users and group will be frozen
at that time, and score cards will be published on the web.
Thereafter users can run a new version of SETI@home, based on BOINC,
which lets users participate in more than one project, specifying
what fraction of your computer time should go to each task. New
program versions are downloaded automatically. SETI@Home plans to use
this feature do a new type of analysis of radio signals, looking for
short broadband pulses that could be evidence of life on other
world's, black holes, or fast pulsars.
The change means users will have control over how their computer is
used: for example, setting preferences for network bandwidth use and
CPU time. SETI@Home's graphics have also been spruced up with a "more
modern" 3-D look.
SETI@Home captured the public imagination and brought distributed
computing projects to the masses. However the screen saver, which
helps in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by analysing
data captured by the world's largest radio telescope, has been
criticised over the years as a waste of network resources and a
potential security risk. Richard Carrigan, a particle physicist at
the US Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, recently even when so
far as to suggest malign signals sent out by aliens could interfere
with computers running the [email protected] Back on planet Earth, Charles
E. Smith, a computer programmer at the Ohio Department of Job and
Family Services was sacked last year over allegations he broke rules
by running SETI@Home on work computers.
But you can't keep a good idea down and SETI@Home ignited the growth
of other distributed computing projects, involving various scientific
and medical research projects. An IBM-backed project, called World
Community Grid, launched last year, aims to put the untapped
processing power of thousands of unused computers into use; crunching
numbers for scientists working to understand diseases like HIV,
Alzheimer's and cancer. IBM has lent the project its backing to
provide a measure of respectability, and allay corporate concerns
about the security of downloading distributed computing software.
According to IBM, more than 100,000 World Community Grid members are
running on more than 170,000 computers around the world.
In the run up to World AIDS day Thursday, 1 December, IBM has
launched a new research effort – FightAIDS@Home - to help battle AIDS
using the computational power of World Community Grid. FightAIDS@Home
is World Community Grid’s second major project (the first was the
Human Proteome Folding Project) and aims to help develop "new
chemical strategies to treat HIV-infected individuals in the face of
evolving drug resistance to the virus". Volunteers will donate CPU
cycles to the project in order to help researchers at San Diego-based
Scripps Research Institute, a private, non-profit research
organisation, with their work.