My Computer & Public Service

If you would like to use your computer for doing good in the world as well as for satisfying your own needs, read on!

Many scientists have projects that will extend the life and comfort of humans. For example, there are projects concerning clean water and projects concerning the curing of certain diseases. These scientists do computer simulations before they do actual laboratory work. For example, in one project concerning a tropical disease known as Schistosomiasis that kills 200,000 persons every year, the scientists estimated that with the computing resources available to them, it would take 30 years to do all of the simulation work necessary for them to choose actual drugs to be used in laboratory research and field tests. But, by using the unused computer cycles of many computers they expect to get the simulations completed in one year or less. In this case, they are using unused computer cycles of many of the computers connected as part of World Community Grid (WCG), a grid of over 500,000 computers sponsored by IBM. WCG has several active projects and has completed more than 18 projects since its first operation in 2004. The following article discusses how volunteers with WCG are helping scientists understand the world.

Even though I don't know much about the work of the scientists, I am participating in the work of those scientists. I am doing this through my computer that is connected to WCG, and unused computer cycles are contributed to scientists via WCG. My computer uses clients controlled by WCG servers that use software known as BOINC. The scientists doing the research have created the data files processed by the clients. The WCG servers send the results of my simulations to the scientists.

I like WCG because it has multiple projects, and I'm able to choose particular projects that I will simulate. My computer is a Macintosh and runs OSX and has several "cores" or CPUs, but there are clients available for other platforms, such as Windows and Linux. Some people have more cores running simulations, and other people have fewer cores running simulations. We each do what we can.

In addition to running the clients, the cores are available for my work, because I have the clients set to pause if my computer is busy with "regular" work. This allows me to use the computer for my work without significant interference from BOINC.

There are projects that run on BOINC that are not part of WCG. Before I joined WCG I participated in several projects, including searching for radio transmissions from other worlds, a climate prediction project, a project in folding proteins, and a project concerning the cosmos. I went with WCG because I like the humanitarian basis of its projects (e.g. diseases, the environment, natural disasters, and hunger). There are many people who run both WCG and individual projects on their computers.

If you would like to use your computer for public service in a way that does not significantly interfere with your use of your computer for other tasks, please consider donating unused computer cycles to WCG and/or to the individual projects. To get started, click here.

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