Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Could Wikipedia Become a Supercomputer?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the aggregating-overhead dept.

Supercomputing 165

An anonymous reader writes "Large websites represent an enormous resource of untapped computational power. This short post explains how a large website like Wikipedia could give a tremendous contribution to science, by harnessing the computational power of its readers' CPUs and help solve difficult computational problems." It's an interesting thought experiment, at least — if such a system were practical to implement, what kind of problems would you want it chugging away at?

cancel ×

165 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

/. harnesses user cpu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570436)

all that guru meditation is bound to bring enlightenment 0.18

Re:/. harnesses user cpu (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570532)

all that guru meditation is bound to bring enlightenment 0.18

Nah. Too many errors. I reverted to 0.17.

Re:/. harnesses user cpu (2)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571540)

I would settle for the gurus figuring out how to stop all the personal appeals from Jimmy Wales

boinc (5, Informative)

mrflash818 (226638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570446)

There is already existing infrastructure and projects where people can donate their system's computational power: http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ [berkeley.edu]

Re:boinc (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570480)

Really. This is a stupid story. You might as well ask why you can't convert your car into a spaceship.

but why can't you? (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570556)

i have a car.

i have a rocket engine.

what's the problem?

Re:boinc (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570618)

You might, if it isn't supervised by a trio of idiots [youtube.com] .

Re:boinc (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570714)

Really. This is a stupid story. You might as well ask why you can't convert your car into a spaceship.

No, that would actually make sense some day.

More like converting all cars into clock just because you happen to notice lots of them show up at certain times of the day.

Re:boinc (2)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571114)

Really. This is a stupid story. You might as well ask why you can't convert your car into a spaceship.

No, that would actually make sense some day....

Do we really need to add the word "Relevant" in the line "News for Nerds" here? I thought it was fairly clear with the line "Stuff that Matters".

Parent is right here, this is a stupid story, mainly for the fact that the author acts like boinc, SETI, genome/folding@home, and many, many others have somehow fallen into a black hole that everyone forgot about. The concept of using CPU cycles in a massive parallel effort is hardly new. "harnessing the power"...sheesh, like once THIS project cracks 500,000 cores processing at once, a holodeck or time machine will magically appear...

Re:boinc (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570780)

actually no, it's about how wikipedia could introduce banners to keep them afloat. I thought about that a long time ago, instead of making your flash banner do cpu taxing graphical stuff, have it compute some calculation blocks for whatever. actually what porno guys should do, would be to make banners calculate bitcoins instead of doing annoying popups and "do you want to leave this page" shit.

Re:boinc (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571132)

Then you would introduce another popup:

Your browser has notice a script taking too much cpu time, do you wan't to terminate the script ? Yes/No

Ever seen those ?

Re:boinc (2)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 3 years ago | (#36572026)

That's for JavaScript. The post you're replying to said Flash. I've never seen a browser pop up a message saying that a swf was taking too much CPU time. It is a cunning plan.

Re:boinc (1)

lostmongoose (1094523) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570800)

Really. This is a stupid story. You might as well ask why you can't convert your car into a spaceship.

Or a 1986 Yugo into a Bugatti Veyron.

Re:boinc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571276)

You could but this would be the result.
http://www.topgear.com/uk/videos/space-robin

Re:boinc (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570616)

Boinc is merely a recent example in a long line of examples of computational networks serving what in the long run are problems not worth solving unless the cost of doing so approaches zero.

Now if Facebook somehow snuck such a computational client onto every visitors computer then it might actually serve a real purpose other than as a sop to the ego of lonely desperate people.

folding@home (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571026)

Or run Folding@Home and help cure cancer.

Re:folding@home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571830)

F@H runs on BOINC. BOINC is a framework

Re:boinc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36572000)

They're not talking about using Wikipedia's servers.
They're talking about running calculations on the users of Wikipedia webpages.
There's a huge difference.

Deep Thought (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570456)

"what kind of problems would you want it chugging away at?"

Well obviously the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything

Re:Deep Thought (1)

Fireking300 (1852630) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570506)

Well that's already been solved. "42" http://goo.gl/WRNhV [goo.gl]

Re:Deep Thought (1)

ThePangolino (1756190) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570598)

Well, let's try The Last Question [multivax.com] then.

Re:Deep Thought (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571008)

So I get the value of "LET THERE BE LIGHT!" is 42?

Re:Deep Thought (1)

MurukeshM (1901690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571606)

The last question is about decreasing the total entropy in the universe. Upon obtaining the answer, Multivac found no one to present the answer to, and decided to create an universe, with human beings in it, to whom it could give the answer.Hence, "Let there be light..."

What Deep Thought...? (1)

waterbear (190559) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570544)

Just think -- wikipedia can be changed in a few seconds by any schoolkid with an idea for some online graffiti -- would you want it chugging away at _any problems at all_?

-wb-

Re:Deep Thought (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570558)

"what kind of problems would you want it chugging away at?"

Well obviously the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything

How about, "How do we make wikipedia accurate and reliable?"

Re:Deep Thought (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570750)

Cut the content by 95%, stop taking user contributions, pay experts in each field to contribute a paragraph or two, then don't revise the content until it's hopelessly outdated.

But in the meantime we'll take "pretty damn good" as a replacement. Smartass.

Re:95% (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571254)

Nope.
Welcome to the new paradigm. Das Tubes moved your cheese.

Try this:

Employ researchers to correct Three Mistakes Per Article.

Anything so hoplessly confused not to survive that metric gets tagged as Start Over.

I'd much rather broken information on any topic than elite info on more than seven topics.

Re:Deep Thought (1)

homey of my owney (975234) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570586)

Where's Waldo?

This has already been done... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570462)

google SETI sometime. It was successful there because all involved had a common interest, NOT SO for wiki, so I'll put my money on 'flop'.

Re:This has already been done... (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571044)

Well, we can't know the success of a computative collaboration among wikipedia users until we know what the effort is. Obviously, if the point of the collab is nonsense we'll get nonsense results. I would hope that such a project makes some kind of sense for all. But yes, its all ready been done. The folding at home project is one that makes sense. SETI, well, hard to say how much sense it makes (at least to me), but it was a well coordinated effort at least.

Maybe, but (3, Funny)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570476)

Only if bitten by a radiaoactive calculator!

Re:Maybe, but (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570602)

Only if bitten by a radiaoactive calculator!

Even then - I'd probably stop using Wikipedia if it slowed down my computer whenever I visited it as I tend to leave dozens of pages open for extended periods when researching anything.

No. It couldn't. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570484)

Wikipedia is a clusterfuck of little tiny fiefdoms. And you expect them to solve actual problems? hahahahaha.

Re:No. It couldn't. (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570514)

"Clusterfuck of little tiny fiefdoms." That has to be the best description of wikipedia that I've ever heard.

obviously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570488)

...mining bitcoins.

coins (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570498)

Wikipedia could use that computing power to harvest bitcoins so that they'll never have to beg for money again. It's a brilliant plan.

Re:coins (1)

alanw (1822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571074)

17th June, Symantec's blog:

It has been known for some time that a botnet’s combined computing power could be used for a number of nefarious purposes. We can now add Bitcoin mining to that list.

http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/bitcoin-botnet-mining [symantec.com]

Re:coins (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571250)

17th June, Symantec's blog:

It has been known for some time that a botnet’s combined computing power could be used for a number of nefarious purposes. We can now add Bitcoin mining to that list.

So that is what all those annoying Flash things in webpages are doing when they swallow all my CPU power!

no, thanks (1)

orange47 (1519059) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570500)

I would prefer if wikipedia remained free to use. besides, javascript is 'evil'

Re:no, thanks (1)

rwven (663186) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571190)

The biggest reason JS would never work is that there's no ability to sleep execution in JS. If you set it on a task, it will devote 100% to it, and leave nothing left for the browser. Essentially your JS would kick off and your browser would freeze.

A 1x1px swf or something like that would be a far better idea.

Re:no, thanks (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571592)

There's a new "web worker" api which I think is similar to multithreading.

Wikipedia supercomputer stalls (5, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570512)

Sure, it would come up with a solution pretty quickly, but then that solution would get edited, then the edit would be attacked by the supercomputer's moderating subroutine, then there would be a flame war on the discussion page occupying a large percentage of the total cycles. Then the solution would be locked and you couldn't see it or see a graph of it because there was no graph of it in the public domain.

lol (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570722)

don't forget where the solution is declared copyright by sony and your edits get "Suppressed" so that the history log is wiped.

coins (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570520)

Easy, wikipedia will use user's computational power to mine bitcoins. In this way they won't need any donations. Just wait.

Sending more carefully targeted emails.. (1)

gb7djk (857694) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570530)

Afterall it is now being done with a rather blunderbus approach. With all that extra processing power we could target people so much more effectively.

Bitcoin! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570538)

Is there a javascript bitcoin generator that can make money for me?

I could then inject the script into many websites by exploiting XSS vulnerabilities!

I wouldn't be surprised if zynga games generate bitcoin for them already or turn your computer into a general purpose compute resource for them.

Re:Bitcoin! (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570956)

Is there a javascript bitcoin generator that can make money for me?

Yes there is. Just google for it.

But no CPU in existence can mine fast enough to cover the electricity costs, let alone the extra wear.

You could still earn money by inserting these scripts maliciously though, but I'm not sure if the criminal penalties are worth it for a few cents a day. Remember, bitcoin is not anonymous and AFAIK there is no way to cash out bitcoins in an untraceable manner.

Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570540)

This could be illegal under the UK's Computer Misuse Act unless specifically opted into. This also triggers the Data Protection Act and EU law which effectively means the browser is by default is opted out of this and signing up requires clear consent so no burying it in 1000 pages of bullshit.

Just because an entity is a charity doesn't give it special rights.

Re:Illegal (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570980)

Billions of websites use client-side JavaScript. Have any website been targeted by these UK and EU laws yet?

Re:Illegal (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571090)

There is a difference between using JavaScript to perform the site's function and using JavaScript to perform some operation completely unrelated to the visited site. What would you say if e.g. Mozilla added code to Firefox which did number crunching while you are surfing?

And BTW, I do my own scientific calculations on the same computer I also use the browser on (occasionally also to look up something on Wikipedia). I'll definitively not allow it to use unnecessary CPU power. (And before you ask: Yes, there's a computing cluster. But normally, that cluster is full and my desktop computer is free.)

Re:Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571670)

Quite. The Computer Misuse Act is also why software developers taking revenge on pirated software get prosecuted if they do something dumb like delete users data. (It has been done and people have been prosecuted.) I'm sure it would also fall foul of other UK and EU law.

Do not like it (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570548)

if i want to contribute computing power somewhere for free then there are ways to do it already

if wikipedia needs money, i can donate something or pay something.

But *please* i use wikipedia often, maybe primarily, on my tablet. I dont think that abusing an ARM processor running on Battery power connected via an instable and slow internet connection will help a lot.

Re:Do not like it (1)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570668)

I'm pretty sure you'll be able to control when to contribute CPU cycles and when not.

Re:Do not like it (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571256)

The only real advantage to JavaScript in this case is to capture the cycles of the sort of people who wouldn't trip that control -- which means anonymous visitors, which means I'd have to opt out.

If they made it opt-in, they could just as easily link to boinc.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570568)

Firefox is already slow enough. This would result in lots of angry Wikipedia users who don't use NoScript. Moreover, the extensive use of Javascript recently is growing out control. I have to agree more and more with rms here [gnu.org] .

Besides:

While Wikipedia's visitors read Wikepedia's entries, the CPUs of their computers are almost idle.

What make you think that this is the case?

Already being done (4, Interesting)

plutorodinium (1973060) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570570)

PluraProcessing has a cloud computing platform like the idea in this article. Customers pay Plura to perform computations and Plura outsources the computations to the browsers that are visiting its affiliate's websites. This is an interesting way to monetize the Web. Would you rather view ads or rent off some of your CPU / memory?

Re:Already being done (1)

Americium (1343605) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570806)

Depends if it will be more than my electricity costs, which I'm sure it won't be. I don't have a highly efficient server farm that gets cheap commercial electricity rates. It would probably be cheaper to just build you own server farm for computation than to outsource it to the public.

Re:Already being done (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571096)

Would you rather view ads or rent off some of your CPU / memory?

It depends. Personally, I'd prefer to rent off my CPU only when I'm not using my computer, not when I'm actively looking for something on Wikipedia and I have x number of tabs already opened. I guess the same could be said for ads too. Whenever I'm browsing the web, I opt for no ads if I can help it, or less computationally intensive ads (like Google ad-words) instead.

And the problem with Wikipedia doing that is that its users are already used loading a clean site without too many ads (except for various fundraising ads), that the foundation already has a pretty clear mission (and this idea would severely detract from it), and that since the overwhelming majority of wikipedia users are already using wikipedia for non-editing and/or non-altruistic reasons, I don't think they would be supportive of this idea either.

Ummm... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570590)

Let me tell you a little story:

Once upon a time, shortly after an asteroid impact wiped out the vacuum tubes; but before Steve Jobs invented aluminum, we had computers that plugged into the wall, with CPUs that ran all the time at pretty much the same power level. Even when idle. Back in those days, had most people's schedulers not kind of sucked, there may actually have been some "free" CPU time floating about.

Now, back to the present: On average, today's computer has a pretty substantial delta between power at full load and power at idle. This is almost 100% certainly the case if the computer is a laptop or embedded device of some kind(which is also where the difference in battery life will come to the user's notice most quickly). CPU load gets converted into heat, power draw, and fan noise within moments of being imposed.

Now, it still might be the case that wikipedia readers are feeling altruistic; but, if so, javascript is an unbelievably inefficient mechanism for attacking the sort of problems where you would want a large distributed computing system. A java plugin would be much better, an application better still, at which point you are right back to today, where we have a number of voluntary distributed computing projects.

If they wished to enforce, rather then persuade, they'd run into the unpleasant set of problems with people blocking/throttling/lying about the results of/etc. the computations being farmed out. Given wikipedia's popularity, plugins for doing so in all major browsers would be available within about 15 minutes. Even without them, most modern browsers pop up some sort of "a script on this page is using more CPU time than humanity possessed when you were born to twiddle the DOM to no apparent effect, would you like to give it the fate it deserves?" message if JS starts eating enough time to hurt responsiveness.

In summary: Terrible Plan.

Re:Ummm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570790)

I wouldn't get too hung up on the implementation.. this is a cool idea for NYT and other paywall sites

Re:Ummm... (2)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570804)

If they wished to enforce, rather then persuade, they'd run into the unpleasant set of problems [...]

Hehehehe... I am perpetually amazed that people who probably never even contributed to Wikipedia cannot sleep at night because a site this popular refuses to make money by abusing its users. It seems like every interview with Jimmy Wales starts with "have you thought of putting ads on Wikipedia"? Yes. I am sure he had. I am sure he probably figured out how this would be a checkmate in 2 moves:

Black: put commercial ads or scripts on Wikipedia.

White: create a $1e7/year non-profit and fork the project. Checkmate.

Thanks to copyleft, the same fate awaits anybody who tries to hijack a popular free software/content project for selfish gain.

Re:Ummm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571498)

Javascript may be inefficient but it is someone elses hardware and power that wouldn't need to be paid for...

Re:Ummm... (1, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571966)

javascript is an unbelievably inefficient mechanism for attacking the sort of problems where you would want a large distributed computing system

Not necessarily. This is true of most of the Javascript engines around, because they're pure interpreters of a language not designed to be particularly efficient, but Javascript can be compiled to machine code before execution. This is what Google's V8, the Javascript engine in Chrome, does. With JIT-compiled Javascript you'll get comparable efficiency to JIT-compiled Java, which is pretty competitive with compiled C.

The rest of your post is dead on, though. There really aren't any spare cycles today. Even desktop machines and servers dynamically adjust clock rate on demand, and automatically drop into various power-saving states to save even more power when the cycles aren't needed. So it would be rude to exploit users' CPUs without their permission, and in the case of battery-powered devices it could be much worse than just rude.

Some things mass cpu power might obtain for us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570620)

Figuring out..

1) How to manipulate gravity so reactionless air-cars and spaceships are possible. As well as gravity on the spaceships as they travel.
2) Enviromentally clean, cheap, abundant and easily mass-produced energy ...
3) FTL velocity for spacecraft (we need a way around the speed of light barrier).... we can't live in the cradle of humanity much longer

Timing exploits... (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570622)

... against entropy.

I don't buy it... (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570640)

There is plenty of raw computing power. Take BOINC for example: if you look at the projects, there is very little exciting. Seti@Home has been running for ages, you can do protein folding, you can do some mathematics that it interesting but hardly revolutionary. More computing power leads to marginally better weather forecasts. NP-complete problems will not yield to computing power - you only get a tiny bit farther.

I'll be interested to see if any /.ers can propose genuinely significant problems that would be solvable by a 100fold or even 1000fold increase in processing power.

Bitcoin (1)

joshuac (53492) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570682)

farming!

-ducks-

Re:I don't buy it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570788)

The problem I would propose isn't CPU time, but retention times. It seems that a large scale distributed archive would be a higher priority than flops.

When are we ready to forget an historical item? If the answer is: 'not any time soon,' then data repos need to be leading the charge to the next level of robust long-term storage, and they should be doing it now.

Re:I don't buy it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570872)

I'd totally lend plenty of space for a semi-realtime wiki backup.
Even become a server for handling a subset of requests.

Likewise for other backup groups such as Archive.org

Re:I don't buy it... (1)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571262)

"....there is very little exciting."

De gustibus, I suppose. What's not to like about donating spare CPU time to protein folding, finding candidate drugs for treating diseases, genome comparison, etc.? This by you is "insignificant?" Have you delved into some of the projects at, for example, World Community Grid?

What problems would you suggest be addressed? Maybe you could help spark new lines of inquiry - perhaps even something exciting.

Re:I don't buy it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571346)

How about a distributed neural net? It's my understanding brains consist of a fuckton of neurons and we've only been able to come close to simulating insect brains so far. For that type of thing you can never have enough memory and power. Give users a way to interact with the AI or 'creature' they are simulating in a controlled fashion and it might even draw interest from people otherwise uninterested. Distributing it might be a bit hard though, I don't really know that much about the subject to guess if it would be a good candidate.

Maybe I'll think some more on it... right after I watch this stack of movies, including Terminator and the Matrix.

Re:I don't buy it... (3, Informative)

the gnat (153162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571594)

I'll be interested to see if any /.ers can propose genuinely significant problems that would be solvable by a 100fold or even 1000fold increase in processing power.

I guess it depends on how you define "significant." My guess is that there are a lot of areas of science that could benefit from massive computing resources, not because it would magically solve problems, but because it would enable researchers to explore more hypotheses and be more efficient while doing so. The reason they're not using existing resources like DOE supercomputers is because many of these applications are (not unreasonably) perceived as wasteful and inefficient, but if petaflop-class distributed systems became widely accessible, this argument would vanish.

I personally find some of the hype about Folding@Home to be overblown (it's not going to cure cancer or replace crystallography, folks), but it's actually an excellent example of the kind of problem that's ill-suited towards traditional HPC but a perfect fit for distributed systems. The molecular dynamics simulations that it runs are not hugely time consuming on their own, but there is a huge sampling problem: only a tiny fraction of the simulations have the desired result. So they run tens or hundreds of thousands of simulations on their network, and get the answer they want. There are other examples like this, also in protein structure; it turns out that you can solve some X-ray crystal structures by brute-force computing instead of often laborious experimental methods involving heavy atoms. This isn't common practice because it requires 1000s of processors to happen in a reasonable amount of time - and it still may not work. But if every biology department had a petaflop cluster available, it would be much more popular.

More generally, if we suddenly gained 100- or 1000-fold increase in processing power, habits would change. My lab recently bought several 48-core systems (which are insanely cheap), and we're starting to do things with them that we would have considered extravagant before. Nothing world-changing, and nothing that would have been outright impossible on older systems, but the boost in efficiency is very noticeable - time that would have been spent waiting for the computers to finish crunching numbers is spent analyzing results and generating new datasets instead.

Disagree: not enough CPUs AVALIABLE (1)

oldbox (415265) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571880)

There is NOT enough raw computing power, and there is certainly NOT enough that is available to those who could make use of it.

I am a scientist who is lucky enough to have unfettered access to one of the top 100 supercomputers on the planet (http://www.top500.org/), and I'm STILL limited computationally. Most researchers don't have access to a thousandth of this resource. I know that the modeling & simulation field is also computationally limited. Neither field is bumping up against NP problems, just very large ones. Luckily, they are often trivial to parallelize. If you like the fruits of science, there are a small army of researchers (hobbyist and professional) whom you could help with their significant problems.

As I see it, the problem is in the gatekeeper design of the volunteer systems (like BOINC). For many problems, it wouldn't be worth it to apply to BOINC, and try to motivate enough volunteers for a one-off run that would only take a few days on their system. Also, an entire infrastructure would need to be ported to run under BOINC.

There are solutions to this problem. A cloud (I apologize for using the buzzword), where a visualized environment would be downloaded by volunteers once, and join into a cluster where vetted researhers can run arbitrary code. Then researchers who have problems that could be run in hours to days on a system like BOINC, but not in years on their own systems could just log into the head node and launch their jobs. Several groups have most of the infrastructure built (CloVR / Science Clouds / Nimbus and Magellan / Eucalyptus), but the volunteer aspect is lacking.

To get back to the original post, would someone like to port Nimbus to run in the browser, and then load it on the non-mobile wikipedia?

            cpubox

could this replace adds (1)

xonen (774419) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570648)

Most likely, a system like this is so inefficient in terms of network usage vs potentional computational power plus added administrative overhead, that it would only be wasted bandwidth and electricity and netto only harmful on a macro scale.

Better have the wikipedia servers, and other datacenters, run some boinc when idling. But they won't do that cause it's directly translated to the electricity bill. Network and cpu power are cheap, but still not free, and cpu's make up a large part of that power bill especially when used.

I do however like the general idea though, of 'giving some useful cpu time back' as thanks for using a free service. For example, as alternative for the now-common advertise system. As long if it could be done efficient, i see no objection at all, but i'm afraid it can't, at least not on a 'per-web-request' microscale.

Re:could this replace adds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570716)

Forget adds, it should be subtracts we're trying to replace!

Bitcoins, Obviously (2, Interesting)

Yeknomaguh (1681980) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570680)

Bitcoins could then have the credibility they deserve! [Citation needed]

Q: Could wikipedia become a supercomputer? (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570752)

A: Yes.

Q: Will wikipedia become a supercomputer?
A: It turns out that there are stupid questions.

Hamster wheels! (3, Funny)

neokushan (932374) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570792)

I have a better idea!
Instead of resorting to nuclear power, think of the untapped resource of the common household hamster!
All those wheels, spinning and turning - all that energy going to waste! Every hamster owning house should have a miniature turbine inside it, powered by the hamster. Think of the energy it'll generate! Why, after only a year, your single solitary hamster will probably have generated enough power to power a lightbulb for a few minutes! Assuming your hamster lives that long.

Re:Hamster wheels! (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571066)

You laugh, but a decade ago, I was asking the folks at my local gym why the friction-based exercise equipment was plugged into the wall. When you're riding an exercycle, you're generating electricity. Same with ellipticals and that ilk. They laughed at me.

Now, most of those machines are free-standing and running on human power only. Give it another few years and they'll be providing enough power via efficiency gains to power machines that don't get anything from the user, like the treadmills. Heck, even those could probably be redesigned to get some energy out of the user's movements.

It's not inconceivable to think that with efficient enough machines, and with shifts in our culture, we might find that people are buying exercise machines for their home to allow them to stay in shape while reducing their power bills. It's not going to replace that reactor nor that coal plant, but it'll do something.

Of course the right-wingers will try to portray them as socialist and wasteful, counting every ounce of energy used in the creation and distribution of those machines against the gains they provide. They'll say that they're useless because they don't make enough of an impact, but then they'll also decry them as job killers because the power industry will be irreparably harmed by their use. Fuckers. I hate them already.

Re:Hamster wheels! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571202)

You laugh, but a decade ago, I was asking the folks at my local gym why the friction-based exercise equipment was plugged into the wall. When you're riding an exercycle, you're generating electricity. Same with ellipticals and that ilk. They laughed at me.

Now, most of those machines are free-standing and running on human power only. Give it another few years and they'll be providing enough power via efficiency gains to power machines that don't get anything from the user, like the treadmills. Heck, even those could probably be redesigned to get some energy out of the user's movements.

It's not inconceivable to think that with efficient enough machines, and with shifts in our culture, we might find that people are buying exercise machines for their home to allow them to stay in shape while reducing their power bills. It's not going to replace that reactor nor that coal plant, but it'll do something.

blah blah blah blah politics blah blah blah blah

0$ machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571222)

Such workout machines would pay for themselfs as people use them.

Re:Hamster wheels! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571196)

Poor little thing has to power my Prius. And you expect him to do extra work as well?

Re:Hamster wheels! (1)

bjs555 (889176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571724)

Of course, the hamsters must be fed and so the cost is not zero. But I have an idea that may be cost free or even negative in cost. Imagine a short ramp placed on the downhill side of a downgrade in a highway. The ramp is spring loaded to return to an up position when there is no weight on it. Cars and trucks passing over the ramp push it up and down. Linkage from the ramp turns a generator producing energy. You might argue that the system is stealing a bit of gas from each vehicle to generate the energy. That would be true if the ramp was on level ground but, since the ramp is on a hill and the driver would normally use his breaks to slow down, gas is not being wasted. In fact, the system is doing the driver a favor - extending the life of his break pads by reducing the amount of work they must do to slow down the vehicle.

Who is going to pay the power bill? (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570848)

Unused CPU capacity is not free to utilize. A CPU under load consumes much more power, so who is going to pay for that?

We could do the same thing is many other areas! (2)

shess (31691) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570900)

While you're in the movie, someone else could drive your car around! You aren't using it, and the gas is already paid for!

While you're at work, we could use your house for storage!

Or while you're waiting in line to checkout, you could stock shelves!

Re:We could do the same thing is many other areas! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571168)

Your wife isn't busy at the moment. Would you mind if I ....

Re:We could do the same thing is many other areas! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571532)

sorry shes busy right now...

This has been done before (1)

Masa (74401) | more than 3 years ago | (#36570908)

Not with JavaScript, but with Java. Using Java Applets is an old idea for implementing automatically loaded website-based distributed computing. Although, I haven't seen these clients anymore in a long time, so maybe the idea wasn't received so well.

Hack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570938)

I would get LulzSec to see if they can hack it :)

Queuing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36570974)

Skynetipedia jokes...

Spare CPU? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571172)

My CPU's are already used up scanning for malware.

Readers CPU does not belong to the website! (2)

jarofgreen (1848392) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571394)

Article: "While Wikipedia's visitors read Wikepedia's entries, the CPUs of their computers are almost idle."

Assumptions, Assumptions. How do they know? Personally I do tons of stuff and I use computers several years old - I notice if a web-page starts to kill my CPU and I quickly kill it.

The users CPU is the users. Not the website's, they don't have the right to take it over without asking, no matter how altruistic the cause is.

Why not ask the user for permission? Well, if your going to do that, why not just prompt users to download and install any of the many other programs that use Idle CPU time for good causes? They could use an idle CPU much more efficiently than some Javascript on a webpage could.

Hijack my PC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571754)

The idea is fine, but honestly, unauthorized use of MY computer, even for a good cause, is going to get me the hell away from you and a very sternly-worded email sent.

Had you asked first, I might have agreed. But now? Nuh-uh.

This is a very old idea (1)

Salamanders (323277) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571796)

http://hackaday.com/2009/03/03/distributed-computing-in-javascript/ [hackaday.com] - nothing new under the sun! However, to all those who say "it would be way too slow in JavaScript", I refer you to the entire OS in browser (previously on slashdot) http://bellard.org/jslinux/ [bellard.org]

You Watch (1)

goadventure (2092188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571922)

I wouldn't put it past some bureaucrat to think it's ok to use the mass population's computers to accomplish some task. So I not do apt to discharge the story.

Why pick on Wikipedia? (1)

SpaceCracker (939922) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571928)

The article mentioned in the original post explicitly said "websites like Wikipedia". Why are all the comments aimed at Wikipedia. The poor sods have a hard time as it is. Someone mentiones them as an EXAMPLE and everyone here is worried about their electric bill...

Flash games do this already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36571944)

There's a company that provides this as a revenue stream for flash game makers.

At least then Wikipedia will be less error-prone.. (2)

aleckais (1457189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36571962)

...only if that super computing power is used as a substitute for those falsity-mongering monkeys contributing `knowledge' under the egidy of that covetous W(h)ale(s). They actually dumbify the masses by their interactions.

Theres always SETI (1)

Chardansearavitriol (1946886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36572060)

Of course the problem with that is that in less than 100 years we went from blubbering all our communications into space to near silence, and we should assume that others would make similar leaps. Right now we could use it for our biggest threat: Compiling data on asteroids and comets to find those which are most at threat to earth. We could use it to monitor solar flare activity and magnetic field fluctuations on a planetary scale. Or we could use it to help make a larger scale model of the earth to help predict climate and plate tectonics
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>