Donate your computer's idle time for medical or climate change research

Grid computing (or distributed computing) is a way of connecting thousands of computers and making them work together on a research project. You can volunteer your computer to work for medical projects like AIDS or cancer research or studying climate change. It requires very little effort on your part and it will not even slow down your computer.

When you use your computer, you rarely use more than 10% of your computers computing power. By using a free Grid computing software, you can take the remaining 90% and donate it to research. The grid computing software only uses idle CPU cycles and when your computer needs more processor cycles, the software automatically turns those resources back over to the program you are using. It starts automatically when you open your computer and runs quietly in the background. You just download the software, install it and forget it. That's it.

With a program called Super Donate, your contribution will also help raise money for charities.

You can use grid computing applications on Windows, Linux and Mac.

Is there a catch?

In earlier versions of windows the 90% of computing power was simply wasted and using grid computing applications did not have any effect on the energy consumption. In new operating systems however (Windows2000, XP and Vista) there is a "halt" command which stops the CPU when there is no work to do. What this means is if you use grid computing applications on newer operating systems your computers electricity consumption will increase (and it will also produce more heat). Therefore you must consider whether the gain is worth the extra energy consumption or not. The impact on energy consumption for a tabletop computer has been estimated to be the equivalent of an additional low watt light bulb (for more on this topic see: http://www.climateprediction.net/info/part_faq.php#q3.1).

As the electricity use increases so does the temperature inside your computer. Laptops can easily overheat if they are performing intense operations over a long period. If you use grid computing on a laptop, make sure it doesn't use 100% of your processors power. All grid computing software let you limit the amount of processor use and I personally use grid software with a laptop and have set the processor use to 40%. Most tabletop computers can handle the extra heat of even 100% processor use, but in any case if you are worried about overheating your computer you can download a free utility like SpeedFan to keep an eye on the temperatures on different parts of your computer.

Another concern is noise. When your computer is getting hotter, some computers start spinning the cooling fans faster in order to cool down the computer. This can result in more noise coming from your computer - which you might find disturbing. In addition, heat is not good for your computer parts either. Excessive heat leads to additional stress and eventually wear.

If none of the above concerns bother you too much, then let's get going...


Grid computing projects:

  • World Community Grid - http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org
  • Easy Donations.net has it's own team in WorldCommunityGrid, which you can join from this link or by searching for team named Easy Donations.

  • Climate Prediction
  • This project is more demanding and takes more time than any of the other projects found on World Community Grid. You should not join this project if you have your computer on for a few hours every week. This project is mostly for powerfull computers and ones that are on almost all the time. There is another climate change related project on World Community Grid called Clean Energy project. This is less demanding for your computer and it doesn't take ages to complete one assignment.

    For more detailed information about grid computing platforms, please see: http://www.distributedcomputing.info/platforms.html

     

  • SuperDonate
  • SuperDonate has a different approach to distributed computing. In addition to donating computing power your contribution will also help raise money for charities.
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