VNU Net: Idle PCs to help research projects
Jul 08, 2000, 14:23 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Linda Leung)
Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame
By Linda Leung, VNU Net
A US startup has developed software that enables Linux users
to donate their machines' idle processing power to help run tasks
for commercial and non-profit projects.
Users can download Popular Power's client software on their PCs
which kicks into play whenever their machines are idle or have
spare processing power. If the PCs are online but not being used,
the software automatically alerts Popular Power's website which
distributes small tasks for the systems to process.
Current projects include a non-profit research application that
uses computer modelling to help better understand flu vaccines. But
according to Popular Power chief executive, Marc Hedlund, users
will in future be able to donate their machine's processing time
for commercial tasks, such as movie rendering, for which users will
receive online gift certificates or frequent flyer miles.
Popular Power's software was originally released for Microsoft
Windows clients last April and a version for Apple Mac clients will
be available during the summer.
According to Hedlund, several hundreds of thousands of the
Windows version has been downloaded since its launch and several
hundreds of Linux versions are already in use.
Tasks can be carried out when users are at lunch and the
workload can last between 15 to 60 minutes. Like a screensaver,
users can stop the work and take back full command of their
machines by hitting any key.
Hedlund promised that the tasks would not interfere with or pose
a security risk to users' machines because the workload is carried
out within the confines of the Java Security Soundbox. This ensures
that the program does not interfere with the machine's disks or
modems, he explained.
The software requires Pentium-class machines with about 32Mbs of
RAM. The size of the workload varies between 50Kbs - the size of a
graph on a website - and 1Mb.
The company also plans to make available an open source release
of the software early next year.
Nelson Minar, the company's chief technology officer, said:
"Linux users fuelled a number of early distributed computing
efforts, helping the field advance to where it is today. Strong
feedback from our web site made Linux the most requested new system
for us to support."