Donating Cycles, Making the World Better

One of the things I generally try to do is leave the world in a slightly better state than I found it. Of course, I’m not always perfect at that, but on the whole I think it’s a good goal to shoot for.

To that end, I recently started participating in BOINC again.

If you haven’t heard of it, BOINC is a system where nonprofit science research teams can solve computationally complex problems without having to build or buy time on horrifically expensive supercomputers, by using all the spare idle computation time of ordinary people who leave their computers on even when they aren’t using them. BOINC detects when your computer is idle, and donates CPU cycles to researchers, basically making your computer part of an enormous ad-hoc supercomputer. You can choose what research projects you want to participate in.

Back when I lived in Canada, I joined BOINC and allowed them to use my laptop to look for new treatments for diseases by studying protein folding.

I dropped out of BOINC when I came back to the US from Canada, but I’ve just re-joined again.

This is my old 2012 laptop, which now does nothing but BOINC. I’ve joined two research projects, Rosetta@Home (which does research on protein folding to look for new drugs and disease treatments) and World Community Grid (which looks for genetic markers for cancer and searches for cures for diseases that are too uncommon or appear in parts of the world too impoverished to be worthwhile for conventional for-profit pharmaceutical companies).

I have a computer that is essentially a backup Time Machine server and Web server, and I may run BOINC on that as well.

I would encourage anyone out there who wants to help solve real problems by donating idle computer time to join.

Basically, you just install the BOINC software, choose a research project from a list, and that’s it.

BOINC stops running whenever you use your computer, so it won’t slow you down, but it means your computer time isn’t being wasted whenever your computer is turned on but you aren’t sitting in front of it.