The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Sunday, 06 March 2005]

Bye bye, ET, we hardly knew ye

For the last five years or so, I’ve had a series of machines in the house assigned to file serving duties. And since a file server has to be on all the time anyway, it makes all kinds of sense to run a distributed computing project and give some of those otherwise wasted CPU cycles to a worthy cause.

So they’ve been slaking their thirst for useful endeavors by crunching on SETI units, looking for little green men. Which has been great, as I feel this is a very important project. After all, incontrovertible proof of intelligent life on other planets would be just the kick in the pants needed to get people to lift their eyes above the parochial, national, and religious clap-trap that’s causing so much unneeded pain and suffering right here and now.

And the project is full-on just cool as hell. Big-up yourself, as the British would say.

But lately the SETI project has been experiencing a lot of technical problems, leaving Flatline, my poor file server, to sit there, all alone and miserable, waiting for the Great Server in the Sky to provide it with more work units. And that’s just not right.

From reading through the troubles and travails detailed on the SETI tech news page, it’s simply mind blowing how poorly outfitted these people are. A shame on the University of California at Berkeley for allowing this kind of underfunding to go on. We’re looking for ET here, people! Could we perhaps have first-world electricity? Are the electricians busy doing a drum circle?

To make a long story short, it was time to find a source that would keep the fileserver busy at all hours, and after some time looking around at different distributed projects, the winner is Stanford’s Folding@Home. The idea here is to donate cycles to increase our understanding of how protein folding (a task your body performs all the time) actually works; this knowledge will help us fight disease and in general help all DNA-based life forms on this planet. How could you argue with that? So as I type this, Flatline is busy folding interesting proteins.

Seriously, if you have a machine that’s always on anyway, donate its cycles to some worthwhile project. It may just save your life some day.

Soundtrack: “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails itunes

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