GEEKNOTE: Are little green men watching us? Did ancient astronauts pay us a visit? Back in the late 1990’s, an enterprising group at Berkeley came up with an idea on how to find out if someone else is out there. They started by getting time on various radio telescopes to gather data.
Looking for extraterrestrials in the mountains of data that quickly accumulated was a daunting task that could quickly cost millions of dollars for the super computer time needed. They hit on a brilliant idea: Instead of using millions of dollars of time on a few expensive super computers, what about using donated “extra” CPU time on millions of inexpensive individual computers? Thus was born SETI@Home. Owners of home computers were enlisted to run a program that would download a small data set, run an analysis on it, and then upload the results, all while the computer was otherwise sitting idle.
The program grew in leaps and bounds and it became clear that other computing challenges could benefit from the same approach. They developed the “Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing” (BOINC). There are now some four dozen projects using the BOINC software.
I’m still partial to the original SETI@Home project. The thought that I might be the one of millions of supporters who’s computer discovered an ET signal is cool. I’ve probably got more of a chance of that than winning the Power Ball lottery and it doesn’t cost me anything other than some processing time.
If you’d like to know more about SETI@Home, visit their website at: http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/
What do you do with your computer when you aren’t sitting at the keyboard?
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek
Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.