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MLUG: Searching for Alien Intelligence - with Linux

Nov 09, 2001, 08:07 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Tatham)

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"...Well for one, it's the largest distributed computing project in existence. Several million home computer users contribute some of their spare CPU cycles to crunch data originating from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. The user simply downloads the client software, installs it on their computer and starts it up. They are now part of the Seti@home project.

The data collected at Arecibo is organized at Berkeley into quarter megabyte chunks called work-units . These are sent over the Internet to home users where they are analyzed by the client software. The results are sent back to Berkeley and a new work-unit is downloaded and started. You can read all of the technical details here.

The download and upload times are short, but it will take many hours to process the data in a work-unit once you have it. For example, on my 800mhz Duron with 256mb of memory about 10 hours of processor time is needed to complete a work-unit. But don't despair, you have full control of how the work is done. You can start and stop the client at will - it just continues from where it left off. And you will normally run it "nice" in the background so all of the other processes have first dibs on CPU cycles. In fact, you won't notice any change in performance on your machine - the idea is to let it use the idle time."

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