Through Boing Boing I discovered Assault on 13th Labour – a project to decipher an encrypted message on a Perplex City card which remains unsolved by anyone thus far. The message has been encrypted using RC5, and so the task of deciphering the message has become a grid computing project which can be downloaded from the web site.
Though I haven’t personally taken part in Perplex City one of Hari’s housemates has been collecting the cards and has been stuck on the Thirteenth Labour card for some time now. The card does have some clues on it – some cows and a line, and the title may have something to do with it, but no-one has so far managed to find the right answer.
There are incentives to taking part – the user who processes the work unit which cracks the code wins a prize of Perplex City goodies. When you run the client you are asked for a name and email address – provide this and you may be with a chance of winning. You could falsify these but then you probably won’t win anything.
The client, incidentally, requires the Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1, but can be run outside of Windows using Mono, a Novell-backed project to allow applications written for the .NET Framework to run on other platforms. Indeed, if you’re using Mac OS X, all you need to do is download the Mac build, open it and run the installer. Then, when you want to run a program compiled for .NET, open a terminal, go into its working folder and type ‘mono [appname]’. At present this will only work for some .NET applications, namely those that work in console mode. It is a bit bizarre to be running .exe files on a Mac, though.
Speed-wise the program seems to run much faster on Windows, using my rather crude benchmark of starting a unit at the same time on my Mac (1.42Ghz Mac Mini) and my parents’ Windows machine (2.17Ghz AMD Athlon XP 3000+) and seeing which one finished first. It’s by no means a fair test though.