Those of you who have read this blog for a very long time will know that in the early days I was a very avid contributor to SETI@Home. I used it regularly from December 2001 until some time in 2005 when I lost interest.
I never deleted my account though, and finally decided a couple of weeks ago that I should re-join it. Although I don’t leave my computer on much when idle, there’s times when I’m not using it and I may as well as donate those spare CPU cycles to a good cause.
The BOINC software that SETI@Home uses has improved considerably since 2005. If you have a modern graphics card that supports OpenCL then BOINC will use it in addition to your CPU, to process even faster; in fact, you can even set it to use the GPU all of the time if you want. You can also have BOINC work with multiple grid computing projects, so I’m also assisting Rosetta@home which helps to determine the three-dimensional shapes of proteins, potentially leading to new cures for human diseases.
I’m not sure how many people still participate in grid computing projects – they were really popular around 10 years ago when the internet really began to take off, but are less well known now. It’s a shame as people’s home computers have increased in power by several orders of magnitude in that time. So if your computer isn’t doing anything when it’s idle, why not get yourself a copy of BOINC and donate your computer’s spare capacity.