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!

Philanthropy Redefined

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the bah-humbug dept.

Science 304

The world is abuzz - thanks to a huge spew of press releases - about a "philanthropic" effort to "cure cancer". Just download the screen saver, which will cheerfully suck up your spare cycles and get to work eliminating the evil scourge - actually, doing a brute-force chemical interaction model which is one teeny-tiny part of the overall effort to fight cancer. What they forgot to mention was that running the client primarily benefits a for-profit company in Austin, TX which wants to sell your CPU cycles to the highest bidder in exchange for some nice beads.

United Devices is running the effort. All you have to do is download their closed-source, restrictive-licensed client program and install it on your PC (you also have to agree to their website license to even download the program, of course). You take all risks of installing the program - if the program deletes every file on your computer, too bad. If it downloads some kiddie porn and emails confessing to the crime, too bad. And I hope you don't pay for bandwidth by the byte, because their main commercial effort seems to be stress-testing websites for Exodus. You do read those license agreements, don't you?

Here's UD's business model in a nutshell:

"Get people to give us computing power and bandwidth for free and sell it to other people."

A nice gig, if you can get it. UD's primary business is selling computing cycles to corporations. As it turns out, they were having a hard time with the first part of the business model, so they came up with a scheme to get people to install their client: we'll do philanthropic work! And what could be more philanthropic than curing cancer?

Who else can we get on board? How about Intel? They're always willing to sponsor anything that promises to burn a lot of CPU cycles. In fact, they're willing to put up a disgusting website that totally misuses the term "peer-to-peer" to achieve an alliterative buzzphrase.

So, the stage is set. Now, read through the site that UD set up for this effort. Try to find in it any mention of anything other than philanthropy and cancer curing. You won't be able to. Why, you might even start to believe all this client does is work on curing cancer. Now go back to UD's main web site and read through it, noting how your computer will be sold to any corporation willing to pay for it. The task your computer runs is determined by UD, not by you.

Even the cancer research isn't philanthropic in the usual sense. Say that your machine discovers the drug that cures cancer. Who benefits? Well, Oxford University will patent it and sell the rights to produce it at some extortionate price, the name-brand drug will be hideously expensive, and 20 years later when the patent expires, the world will be able to afford cancer cures - shame about all those people that died in the meantime.

That's "philanthropy" in the digital age - agreeing to a restrictive license and running a program which can do anything it wants with your computer system or network including destroying it or committing crimes with it or running up your phone bill, all the while doing free work for a for-profit corporation so that a drug company can get a patent on a life-saving drug and charge outrageous prices to pay back the "research costs".

I think I'll stick with xscreensaver.

cancel ×


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

Making $$$$? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#317419)

Screw these people...We want companies that make no profits. Yeah right. Where are people coming up with the idea that anything is free in life. Everything that you could possibly imagine has a price. Get used to it. The day of "everything free" business model is dead.

Figures (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#317420)

I think I'll stick with xscreensaver.

What a typical /. immature, mypoic, pig-headed response. Something isn't perfect, so you'll pick up all your marbles and walk off in a huff. I hope you never have to watch any of your loved ones die a lingering death of cancer. The change in attitude it triggers might cause you brain damage.

If people really want to cure cancer... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#317421)

... then someone would hook up generators to stationary bikes, provide power to poor-wittle Californians, and put fat-assed people on them to pump off the ugly pounds, which would work off their fat fucking asses that make them vulnerable to cancer and heart disease. It's pathetic to walk down the street and see the average person waddling along like a pig, puffing on a cigarette. No wonder they get sick, they don't need CPU-cycles, they need bicycles.

Re:so that leaves me where? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#317422)

I'm afraid you will have to leave now.

The Uptime Gestapo will escort you out.

Re:Why not cut the users in on the profit? (1)

Badger (1280) | more than 13 years ago | (#317423)

I happened to be thinking about something like this the other day. Why doesn't somebody set up a like system which resells users unused computer resources but then pays the users for their trouble?

That actually is UD's business model (it's there on their website). They mention things like frequent flyer miles and what not. In fact, they have two categories of projects: for-pay projects and free projects (like this one).

Re:WTF? (1)

Marcos the Jackle (7778) | more than 13 years ago | (#317429)

Yes, you did imagine it... actually I implanted the image in your mind using an experimental version of 802.11b (called 802.11bs)... but I was unaware of the newly found WEP bugs, and some script kiddie hacked my mental web page. I did a ctrl-alt-del and reset the page but my synaptic allocation table (SAT) was corrupted, so it looks like I'll have to reinstall Braindows 98. Damn... so much for mind control over IP.

Re:folding@home (1)

baglunch (11210) | more than 13 years ago | (#317432)

I've been running the Folding@Home console (text) version under Windows for the past couple months with no problems. So this is pretty much a "me too" post.

Re:Oh yes, how horribly, horribly evil! (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 13 years ago | (#317433)

So which part of bait & switch (claim philanthropy, then sell the cycles for whatever else) are you having problems understanding?

It's not evil that they're for profit. It's evil that they claim to be doing real philanthropy to trojan horse their client onto your system.

sad (1)

Raindog (13847) | more than 13 years ago | (#317436)

I don't know what is sadder...the amount of people that will unknowingly do this or the negative impact this could have on such things as Seti@home.

Why not cut the users in on the profit? (1)

mackman (19286) | more than 13 years ago | (#317437)

I happened to be thinking about something like this the other day. Why doesn't somebody set up a like system which resells users unused computer resources but then pays the users for their trouble?

You could have a payment structure that pays based on CPU time (measured in a unit independent of CPU type or speed), RAM use, network utilization, storage space, and storage activity (I would expect to be paid more for drive activity than CPU time since drive lifetime is more affected by activity than a CPU).

In fact, the user could even specify how much they want to be paid for each type of resource. The managing server would chose how many and which computers to utilize depending on how much the client (business client, not network client) would be willing to pay. Of course users would also be able to specify the limit of each resource which the (network) client could use.

All jobs would be crytographically signed by the managing company. For the paranoid among us, the daemon could run in a chrooted environment as user nobody (although the server and all the jobs would have to be statically linked binaries). There isn't a good way to provide such security on Windows, although if you're paranoid, you shouldn't be running an MS operating system anyhow.

Also, this would be an interesting economic experiment, with real time statistics available for a large market practicing good ol' supply and demand.

If somebody's up to the task of setting this up, I'd be happy to spare some cycles for a few bucks a month.

seriously (1)

Mdog (25508) | more than 13 years ago | (#317442)

It's a lot more 31337 to have your computer work on hax0r-made problems like RC5. What does cancer have to do with 31337?

Re:so that leaves me where? (1)

Silicon Avatar (30968) | more than 13 years ago | (#317446)

I wish I had mod points to mod this up. Humor and good point in one response.

California should enact this. "turn off your computers when you leave for work!" Wonder how much that would save californians ;)

There's a big difference (1)

Illserve (56215) | more than 13 years ago | (#317456)

Lying about a cure right now is different than hope for a cure in the future.

more trolling by slashdot editors (1)

cetan (61150) | more than 13 years ago | (#317458)

It's amazing. The trolls have actually finally worn off on the slashdot editors. What an amazing, lame write up on a non-story. Hurray for slashdot it's fallen just a bit further down the shitter.

Don't know what you're doing (1)

Kodrik (74544) | more than 13 years ago | (#317462)

It seems you might sign-up for cancer research and your CPU's might end up sumulating nuclear explosions. The problem is that you sign-up for cancer but have no insurance of what will be done with yoru computer. Like democracy in America, you vote but quite don't know what your vote will decide, depends who offers the most money to your representatives.

A bit overstated (1)

richard_willey (79077) | more than 13 years ago | (#317463)

Quick comment:

I think that this type of business model has the potential of being revolutionary. Do you fully understand the implications of this type of effort? If United Devices succeeds, they will be creating a commodity market for processing power. Its difficult to under estimate the potential.

In many cases, supply creates its own demand. In this case, the existence of low cost processing power will enable any number of new projects ranging from weather modeling to video imaging.

Do I believe that it will be possible to popularize a business model based completely on philanthropy? Probably not. [If it were my company I build in a lottery system. Kick back 1% of revenue to a prize pool. Weight the lottery based on the number of work units contributed. This should create a good incentive for end users.] However, I think the UD has some real potential and I wish them a lot of luck.

Re:Come on, Editors... (1)

Puk (80503) | more than 13 years ago | (#317464)

This is a really great point, and I'm not contradicting it at all here.

Note that the scenario where the drug costs too much and people can't afford it until the patent runs out is still quite likely. However, this is going to happen no matter what, because, as the article points out, this is just a small part of the cancer-curing problem. Some pharmaceuticals company will have to shell out the dough and spend the time to create an actual drug to cure cancer, as well as go through clinical trials, FDA approval, etc. They are the ones who will cause this scenario, and its an open debate whether or not this is fair.

However, contributing to an academic effort to generate more public information about cancer does not benefit any particular pharmaceuticals company, and only brings the day when an affordable cure for cancer is available closer. So don't let this article stop you.


Re:Computing power [huh?] (1)

Puk (80503) | more than 13 years ago | (#317465)

That's all very good and well, but you didn't address his point at all. He's talking about the scenario where this distributed project does find the cure now, and, since it is owned by a for-profit organization and gets patented, no one can afford to buy that cure (name-brand "Advil") until the patent runs out and any company can produce it ("Motrin IB", or any other generic "ibuprofin" product).

So it doesn't matter that it will be calculable by anyone within 20 years -- the people who did this first and found it first still have the rights to it, and plenty of people couldn't afford it in the meantime.


Re:Come on, Editors... (1)

mr. roboto (85479) | more than 13 years ago | (#317469)

And, as per standard procedure in the world of academic biosciences, any useful findings will certainly be patented prior to disclosure in the peer-reviewed literature. Note that the questions answered above refer only to the publication of the results--publication is perfectly consistent with a patent application, which involves mandatory public disclosure. In fact, UD notes specifically that the results will remain the intellectual property of Oxford, allowing them to license any inventions to a manufacturer. This is simply the way things are done.

At least it isn't (1)

graniteMonkey (87619) | more than 13 years ago | (#317472)

At least it isn't "F*ck Microsoft" or "F*ck Intel". Going after a startup is a little off the beaten track, though.

folding at home (1)

nrmrvrk (89299) | more than 13 years ago | (#317474)

What about the Protein folding screensaver / CPU cycle user folding@home. Some Stanford geeks want your help to fold protein strings. Works for me. SETI is lame and overrated. I might as well start watching X-Files again...

Re:sad (1)

GodHead (101109) | more than 13 years ago | (#317479)

the negative impact this could have

Uhh... like curing cancer? Even if this is a plot to sell you cycles to the highest bidder so what. You are STILL HELPING (in a 10% kinda way). That is 10% more cancer research than my curent screen saver is doing (how's that for ad copy?). I for one think this is a "Good Thing".

And for those that are pissed off that this is run by a for-profit company look research going on in Universities. Most, if not all, has some form of a corp in it so this is not a new thing, an evil thing, or even a noteworthy thing.


Re:Computing power (1)

SmokeSerpent (106200) | more than 13 years ago | (#317483)

Michael did not say it would take 20 years to calculate the cure, he said it will take 20 years for the patent taken out on the "philanthopically" calculated cure to expire.


Making Billions of the public (1)

Coward Anonymous (110649) | more than 13 years ago | (#317488)

"What they forgot to mention was that running the client primarily benefits a for-profit company in Austin, TX which wants to sell your CPU cycles to the highest bidder in exchange for some nice beads.

Those beads would be small potatoes compared to the untold billions a pharmaceutical company would generate from selling the publicly number crunched drug at outrageous prices. I'm sure the company would not fail to patent the drug completely disregarding the fact that people volunteered their computing power to the task of finding it. Not only would the company reap huge profits from such a drug, they would potentially outprice and kill untold thousands of cancer patients...

As noble as the idea of finding a cure for cancer is, I don't think pharmaceutical companies need public computer cycle subsidies. Especially when one considers that the return on the investment is in question.

genome@home (1)

emir (111909) | more than 13 years ago | (#317491)

pandegroup is actually running 2 projects, folding@home & genome@home []

Xscreensaver? Nah, TkSeti... (1)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 13 years ago | (#317492)

At least let it work on something worthwhile, like the SETI@Home project.

So to summarize... (1)

hyperizer (123449) | more than 13 years ago | (#317496)

Michael sez:
  • If you're only going to do "one teeny-tiny part" to help cure cancer, why bother?
  • Companies that make money are bad.
  • Closed-source is bad. (How are you going to hack the results?)
  • Licenses are bad. No further explanation necesary.
  • A program that purports to help find a cure for cancer is likely to download copious amounts of readily-available kiddie-porn instead. Isn't the Internet Evil?
  • Intel is bad. And their marketing people are stupid.
  • To clinch his point, Michael makes up a story about UD selling the research, though their Web site clearly states the opposite.
  • Xscreensaver is good.

ET (1)

Walterk (124748) | more than 13 years ago | (#317497)

I still say, search for the aliens! They will cure all our diseases! All your CPU cycles are belong to SETI.

Re:so that leaves me where? (1)

stilwebm (129567) | more than 13 years ago | (#317501)

Sure, SETI is really kind of a lost cause, it will behighly unlikely for it to find any ET. But you can probably trust Berkley and SETI to keep it clean. As for the extra 25 a month - look at the EnergyStar website for ways to make your home more energy efficient, and you'll save more than enough to make up for it. Hell, turning your monitor off when not in use should save you more than that.

Re:I'll do it! (1)

andrew71 (134546) | more than 13 years ago | (#317503)


Cure your cancer with MS DeCancer 2004.

You'll just need the costly upgrades and to reboot yourself once in a while.

"cure this"

Re:Cynicdot (1)

binford2k (142561) | more than 13 years ago | (#317505)

No, its very true. Read the EULA for NetZero.

Cancer is a symptom of the disease Humanity (1)

demo9orgon (156675) | more than 13 years ago | (#317518)

Cancer is being caused by a much bigger problem. Throwing CPU cycles at it won't help. Sure, we will eventually brute-force a treatment, but why should we combat something when the underlying causes are much more destructive to the species. It's like saying we're developing a sunblock because we want our CFC's--sucks to your ozone depletion and possibility of global Aids due to unfiltered rads.

Western culture, specifically the kind found in the United States, combined with the Big Polluters, like GE, and a army of thousands of corporate entities along with a burgeoning planetary population are the real reason.

Throw all the CPU against that problem that you want but it's going to take something serious decisions on a global scale, sans big-money/politics.

Personally, I'm waiting for someone to invent those wonderful nanites that Bill Joy was flapping about. I want to see the population of monsters with SUV's and cell phones tore down. Sometimes I can't help but feel that as a species are too stupid, too trained to accumulate CRAP to ever really understand how much we're going to have to sacrifice our luxury in order to recover from the mistakes of the idiots who saw us to this untenable position. Humanity has so much more potential, but we'll happily squander it to see our sitcoms, eat our plastic food, drink our caffiene and play our video games...and consume the pablum-sacrament of corporatized news.

I can't be the only bastard who sees cancer for what it's a wolf, it kills the weak. If I get it, I'm not flawed, it's just time to make room for the next mewling consumer. It serves a purpose, and if you think you're supposed to live forever, wake the fu*k up while you still have time and get a clue.

We don't need a risk-free world. We are the monsters, we are the artists and lovers. We need pain and suffering as much as we need air, as much as we need each other. Without life, we're just cattle, slaughtered by the mintue for our eyeballs, spammed into oblivion by fools, and placated and kicked in the head by a system which happily creates a utopia for itself.

Re:Use Folding@Home instead (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 13 years ago | (#317525)

That is very cool. Thanks for the link.

Just to clear everything up (1)

Teflon Coating (177969) | more than 13 years ago | (#317530)

Don't flip out at michael, i think he's just trying to show that everything just isn't as peachy as it seems in the news articles. From the Reuters article it explains, "Researchers estimate one million people will participate in the program at least once, making it possible to complete the screening of the 250 million molecules in a year." (250 million to scan through) This makes it sound like it's going to be a year before we cure cancer. And besides how many times has science been wrong before? I'm not trying to get anyones hopes down just don't look at this as "the cure for cancer that will be out in one year" solution.

Cynicdot (1)

Bingo Foo (179380) | more than 13 years ago | (#317533)

Negativity for Herds. Suspicion that splatters.

Grow up, editors.

Bingo Foo


Re:RC5 (1)

drag88 (185469) | more than 13 years ago | (#317535)

Correction: All your CPU cycles are belong to obscure corporations...

Seriously...logic dictates that you must use availible ressources as efficiently as possible to attain the most probable goal. What are the probabilities of finding alien life within the next 6 months? after you've spent time figuring that out: What are the possibilities of breaking an RC5 key within the next 6 months?...

Insert shameless advertising: []

Re:new area of competition? (1)

drag88 (185469) | more than 13 years ago | (#317536)

I think it is more interresting to see that there is a rather fascination new area of competition forming: "Leeching user ressources". Why waste thousands of dollars developing one's own supercomputing systems when one can use the fact that everybody is willing to "show off their CPU strength" to their advantage? Companies are venturing slowly into this field because of the fear that people might realize something is getting flaky...that maybe they're being scratched a little too well on the back... and Memory (1)

mark_lybarger (199098) | more than 13 years ago | (#317540)

at first i thought, ok, help them out, but then it felt kinda like a scam. sending them my email address so they could get more memory? that's quite odd. most other folks are just asking the hw companies to donate (xcdroast for a good example). additionally, at the cost of memory these day (40$ for 128MB), i find it all kinda odd. who knows, maybe i'm just being a little paranoid.

A little harsh? (1)

CharmQuark (200261) | more than 13 years ago | (#317541)

My we are getting cynical today. Does my heart proud.

Although this is absolutely misrepresentation, it is unclear whether it deserves the beating.

Wait! (1)

bitva (206067) | more than 13 years ago | (#317544)

United Devices or Juno?

Open Source Distributed Processing? (1)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 13 years ago | (#317550)

Anyone know of some open source distributed processing software?

Re:Well researched (1)

n7lyg (219105) | more than 13 years ago | (#317553)

At least the editor did the work to actually read about the issue in depth and report on it, no matter what bias shows up in the report. That is much more than can be said of the usual /. editor pseduo-work (exemplified by the completely clueless intro to the XP book review).

I say, good work michael!

There goes my karma (1)

wanderung (221424) | more than 13 years ago | (#317556)

Michael, did you start out as a flaming asshole, or was it something that happened after you started working for slashdot?

s'why I still do SETI@home (1)

TWX_the_Linux_Zealot (227666) | more than 13 years ago | (#317561)

I'd rather contribute to something that's concentrating on the skies and can't generate revenue than something that is being twisted into something that it's not, in this case the whole side use the company has for their daemon. All of the things people consider problems with SETI@home aside, its still a free project, and they don't make it very hard to participate at all. I'm lazy, and I like that.

"Titanic was 3hr and 17min long. They could have lost 3hr and 17min from that."

Re:Er... (1)

Alatar (227876) | more than 13 years ago | (#317562)

Wasn't the whole rationale of the project to develop a distributed computing client? I don't think it's hypocritical to attack this falsely-philanthropic company, since they don't have anything to do with the RC5-DES project. I mean, the crypto breaking thing is nice, but their mission statement says [] nothing about crypto or non-profitness. has a distributed computing client for twenty or thirty different operating systems.

Re:A little harsh? (1)

Geeky Frignit (232507) | more than 13 years ago | (#317574)

I personally think it is all the "Girls Gone Wild" commercials on Comedy Central after 10PM.

double standards ? (1)

stud9920 (236753) | more than 13 years ago | (#317577)

How about Intel? They're always willing to sponsor anything that promises to burn a lot of CPU cycles.
You complain about that business being sponsored by intel. The first time I loaded this thread, the top ad was for AMD.

Welcome... (1)

_newwave_ (265061) | more than 13 years ago | (#317585) what we call a Free Market Economy.

With the freedom we are given in our Democratic Republic to run business models such as this, we also have the freedom so that people such as yourself can point out the big bad evils of corporations trying to make money.

Get out of your utopian dreamworld, the invisible hand is what's spurning on our advances in technology and medicine.

Seti@Home isn't useful. (1)

derf77 (265283) | more than 13 years ago | (#317586)

Call me a cynic, but has Seti@Home found anything important yet? Even if we find aliens, then we need to wait a few hundred years to get a call back. And what happens if they miss the signal entirely?

We've been using the radio for 100 years, and it's starting to be replaced. What makes you think that they're piping on the radio? I mean it is such a shortlived thing.

Let's get real, ET is probably out there, but we aren't going to find him anytime soon. Put your cycles to good use and crack RSA.

Re:Making Billions of the public (1)

karlharrison (265639) | more than 13 years ago | (#317588)

Please don't forget the project is being carried out by Oxford University's Centre for Computational Drug Discovery - a unique 'virtual centre' funded by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), which is based in the Department of Chemistry [] . Not a pharmaceutical company!

Re:SETI@HOME to remain on my pc (1)

karlharrison (265639) | more than 13 years ago | (#317589)

But of course you cannot buy a super computer with any where near the power of the distrubuted net. Bysides, the project is exactly what drug companies do try to do. The molecule dooking software fo rthe this part of the project is writen by someone who develops software for drug companies. However, it takes them years to come up with a few target molecules because they cannot throw enough CPU power at the screening..... so again this is a good idea.

For real research in a Not-For-Profit environment: (1)

poisoneleven (310634) | more than 13 years ago | (#317597)

Go to []
They are in the process of folding the different protiens to see how they interact. The raw data and results will eventually be published on their site.
Though not exactly open source, there is talk of allowing developers to work on it.
Windows and Linux currently, more ports planned for the future, and they could use your help.
This was stuck up here on /. a while ago I think.

This might catch on... (1)

wyopittsa (310894) | more than 13 years ago | (#317598)

If the mainstream media gets ahold of this story, I'll bet this would really take off. I could just imagine the CNN interview with the company CEO saying, "We're just trying to help people, blah blah..." That would in turn cause everybody who has a computer sitting at home (and who doesn't realize this is a for profit company), like my Mom, Grandma, etc. to go and download this thing. I'll bet that's what the company is counting on.

No responsibility, either. (1)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 13 years ago | (#317604)

As for the "delete every file on your drive" BS, do you think they'd be around for more than 10 minutes if that happened?
The point is that they're engaging in a for-profit effort but disclaiming any responsibility for damage their software might do to you. They get all the profits, you get all the liabilities, and if you happen to run your business on that computer and it corrupts or deletes your essential files, you have no way to recover from them even if they make a billion dollars off of your CPU cycles.

I'd give CPU cycles to a bunch of researchers who will publicly publish their results and make them available royalty-free to the world, but not to people like these.
Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.

Re:Unfounded accusations! (1)

I_am_God_Here (413090) | more than 13 years ago | (#317610)

No offense or anything but that sounded like a corperate denial.

The caring human being (1)

I_am_God_Here (413090) | more than 13 years ago | (#317611)

They may be making themselves filthy rich and taking advantage of the masses but they are doing for a good cause. Hey does anyone know of a corporation that is willing to pay me for the use of my clock cycles? Like these guys but actually paying me for my clock cycles. I am all for saving the world and all but I can't go broke doing it.

Re:Wow, enjoy your rant, you moralistic bastard. (1)

I_am_God_Here (413090) | more than 13 years ago | (#317612)

Good rant yourself. Long, lots of big words, you even did research by picking up a dictionary. But you are willing to "cozy up" to a corporation if it helps. How do you know that the application is doing what it claims? I have done lots of programming in both networking and front end work. In a corp I worked for we devised a Seti@home like app that was required to be installed on most peoples computers in the office. The only thing was that what the user thought our app did was nothing like what it actually did. Given that I am still under a NDA(nondisclosure agreement) I can't say anything more about that but still I don't trust the people. Given they way phrase the license I am not convinced that they have to tell you what they are working on or respect you wishes on what you want you clock cycles to go to.

Selling your soul -- or CPU? Hmm... (1)

Zancarius (414244) | more than 13 years ago | (#317615)

What a wonderful idea! Nothing like selling other folk's bandwidth and CPU cycles to the highest bidder... I just thought this sort of computer hardware prostitution would have been made illegal...

Re:A little harsh? (2)

Chris Johnson (580) | more than 13 years ago | (#317627)

I think it does deserve the beating, simply because genuine philanthropy and social benefit _is_ (gasp!) important. It's not meaningless, and it's not a helpful thing when con artists continue to add still more weight to the side of the argument that says 'there is no such thing as philanthropy, honesty or social benefit'.

In a way, I guess what I am saying is that they deserve the beating _most_ for the misrepresentation: they're perfectly free to get people to donate computers to a for-profit company to develop IP on cancer curing which will then be withheld from cancer patients. They're free to do that. But they gotta CALL it that. Calling it philanthropy totally devalues philanthropy, and some of us think it can ill afford such devaluation at this point.

Re:Cynicdot (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 13 years ago | (#317629)

Only the paranoid.... a fellow at work was telling me about his Netzero(?) Internet access that was trying to run some distributed process without even asking his permission - he was ticked off about it, but it may be just a misunderstanding (not a compu-savvy employee).
Haven't checked - status: pure rumor.

Re:I'll do it! (2)

Ravenscall (12240) | more than 13 years ago | (#317631)

Thats just it, according to thier license, the may not be using your cycles to cure cancer. They could be selling it to breakdown models of free nuclear reactions within the atmosphere, which would CAUSE quite a bit of cancer if it were to happen, if we lived through it. What they are saying is they are taking your cycles, not paying you for it, profiting off of it to the highest bidder, regardless of what thier cause is.

That, and if it were to lead to the cure, like they brought up in thae article, it would be 20+ years before a LOT of people would be able to afford it.

Re:Making $$$$? (2)

HiThere (15173) | more than 13 years ago | (#317634)

Well, the problem is striking a decent balence. And signing a restrictive license ... I would need to get something reasonable out of that, though since I have a dial-up line it doesn't sound like they want my participation anyway. So that's fair.

The problem is people who want to use this as a profit center, and still expect others to donate freely. That kind of attitude is why I prefer the GPL to BSD. OTOH, if you walk into it with your eyes open, then more power to you. But I would check the license carefully. Those things are starting to bite people.

Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.

Re:Computing power (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 13 years ago | (#317635)

Responding to the numerous inane respondents to my original post thread:

There is no single cure for cancer, any more than there is a single cure for heart disease. "Cancer" is a catch-all term that refers to a huge variety of cellular disorders that cause the cells to go out of control. Furthermore, a single computing project cannot hope to find the cure for cancer. Come on, do you really think someone had a blinding flash of the obvious and said "Hey! This code will cure cancer! If only I had a hugely distributed computing network to run it on..." The most such a project can hope to accomplish is to cheaply model folding of proteins and assist in research that could lead to a better understanding of life processes.

Computing power (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 13 years ago | (#317636)

...20 years later when the patent expires, the world will be able to afford cancer cures - shame about all those people that died in the meantime.

OK, I'm going to shamelessly extrapolate Moore's law: 20 years is approximately 13 iterations of Moore's law. 13 doublings of computer power. A $2000 computer then will be the equivalent of 8,000 computers now.

If this sort of thing is necessary to cure cancer (and I doubt it), then the cure will be within reach well before that 20 years are up.

Many scientific projects that require high levels of computing power have had to decide "Will we buy hardware now and compute for four years, or wait three years, buy the hardware, and compute for one?"

Re:Money (2)

cheeser (30863) | more than 13 years ago | (#317640)

I think I more or less agree with you, but money isn't the root of all evil. "For the love of money is the root of all evil..." (It's in I Timothy 6:10)

Even assuming the worst, It's not all bad (2)

Illserve (56215) | more than 13 years ago | (#317644)

If nothing else, at least it may provide some measure of hope to patients. If my uncle (brain cancer, no surgery possible) came to me and asked about this, I don't think I could tell him that it's probably a scam job. And what good would it do if I did? Hope is the best medicine some of these patients have.

As opposed as I am to companies preying on the generous for their own good, there is at least a thin silver lining here.

Re:Unfounded accusations! (2)

mr. roboto (85479) | more than 13 years ago | (#317650)

The simple fact that the results will be made public does not preclude the researchers from profiting from them. Publication is an central step in the patent process; all patented biomedical discoveries made in academia are published in the peer-reviewed literature. The faq on the UD website seems to be seeking to dodge this fact by ignoring the patent issue entirely. That the researchers will not be selling the rights to their research does not mean that they won't be licensing any inventions to a manufacturer. That's how it's typically done.

Not Me, Man... (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#317651)

I want my CPU cycles to go for something useful. Like building bigger guns. Or nuclear weapons research. Or genetically engineering tobacco to make more cancer causing black goo that coats the walls of your lungs.

I'm the anti-philanthropist.

No kidding... (2)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 13 years ago | (#317652)

The misrepresentation is the important issue here - the rest is a boilerplate screed against the open market. If they simply stated up front in a FAQ that they're not reimbursing users because it wouldn't be worthwhile to cut checks on a monthly basis that amount to $1.78, people would respect that, and make their own informed decision.

As for the "delete every file on your drive" BS, do you think they'd be around for more than 10 minutes if that happened? It's not like they've got a monopolized grip on the PC desktop or something...

Re:Come on, Commenters... (2)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 13 years ago | (#317653)

So how is that any different from other groups of researchers who do this sort of work??? It's not like bunches of hippies are doing this in their garages and giving the results away...

At least when a university sells a patent, it can go towards further developing research centers, student financial aid, or recruiting genetically-engineered athletes.

Re:No responsibility, either. (2)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 13 years ago | (#317654)

Head over to the UD website [] , and you'll see that the results of this research WILL be published and made available to the wider scientific community. The original poster has grossly misrepresented the situation, it appears.

Re:A little harsh? (2)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 13 years ago | (#317655)

Like I've posted elsewere, look here, [] and you'll see that the IP goes to Oxford, which will publish the results to the scientific community. UD's involvement seems to be related to building the application and handling the ongoing computing process.

Re:I'll do it! (2)

bornholtz (94540) | more than 13 years ago | (#317656)

Its too late. Microsoft Office 10 [] is already slated to cure cancer.

Altruism ain't what it used to be (2)

zpengo (99887) | more than 13 years ago | (#317658)

This reminds me a lot of Napster's 60's-style "take back the net" mumbo jumbo [] . When it comes right down to it, most of the good causes nowadays are stirred up and promoted by one corporation or another. Linux is one of the few good causes left, but even that is starting to get a distinctly corporate feel.

It *CAN* work (2)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 13 years ago | (#317659)

For example, one time, I had a cold. I installed the "Hey Macaroni" screensaver and a week later, my cold was gone.


Re:Somehow I don't see this as philanthropic (2)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 13 years ago | (#317660)

Cool. So the power company supplies the electricity to run your computer for free. Can I get some?


Re:Er... (2)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 13 years ago | (#317663)

it's not hypocritical to disparage a company for bait-and-switch tactics. Who cares who they hired, and what those people might have been associated with in the past, if what they're doing NOW is unethical?

But is this philanthropy in the digital age? (2)

stilwebm (129567) | more than 13 years ago | (#317665)

I wouldn't go so far as to say this is philanthropy in the digital age. In fact, UD is merely abusing the idea of philanthropy to promote itself and make a profit. It is not like this type of thing never happened before the digital age (say, donate your used car to "charity" when only 10% of the proceeds go to charity, and give "to the Lord" by calling a televangalist). We can't let one greedy, cash starved startup give it a bad name.

To me, philanthropy in the digital age is that I can give to many institutions by going to their website and donating with my credit card online.

Mod this up (2)

MongooseCN (139203) | more than 13 years ago | (#317666)

An expensive cure is better than no cure. Besides, there are corporations (yes I said corporations) in other countries that are breaking patents that other corporations have on cures for the aids virus so that they can produce a cheaper cure.

Wow, enjoy your rant, you moralistic bastard. (2)

Bitter Cup O Joe (146008) | more than 13 years ago | (#317670)

Gee, it's great that you'd rather "fight the power" than do anything to help find a cure for cancer. Ya know what? I'm willing to cozy up to a corporation if it means taking a shot at finding a cure. Does that mean that some of the time they'll be whoring my computer and connection out for other stuff? Fine, as long as some of the time they're using it to look for a cure, or researching gene therapy, or one of the other things found in the life sciences section of the UD website. Oh, but I guess you didn't take a look at that, did you? No, you were too busy flaming them for being corporate and closed-source and *eek!* trying to make a profit. You know, it's assholes like you that give open-source a bad name, the fanatics that believe that nothing closed is good, and who insist that if someone is profitting from an activity that it must, by nature, be bad.

You disgust me.

Now, for those of you who want an alternate point of view, here goes. I am not affiliated in any way with UD, other than that I run their client from my work machine. I went into this fully understanding that UD is a for-profit group. But guess what? Unlike what Michael says, you CAN pick what groups you participate in. I choose to ONLY participate in the life sciences group, which includes the cancer research study. Thus far, I have never seen my machine be used for anything outside of that group. Ah, but I guess they could be doing it at night when I'm not around, those corporate bastards, right?

Ultimately, your cpu spends a big chunk of time cooling its heels. You can put it to use trying to cure cancer, which benefits everyone. Alternately, have it try to break encryption, which benefits primarily geeks, or look for aliens, which most likely will do not one damned bit of good. It's your call. But Michael? Before you can have righteous indignation, you've got do have a good reason. Your argument that this "redefines philanthropy" is bullshit. Philanthropy is "The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations," according to dictionary I had lying around. I choose to donate my cycles to look for a cure for cancer. This is for the betterment of mankind, even if that cure is patented, packaged, and sold by a corporation. The cure still exists, which is a step forward.

Next time, try thinking before you spew, moron.

I'll do it! (2)

chowda (161971) | more than 13 years ago | (#317672)

Who cares if someone is making some money off it? If I can help, even in a very small way, solve one of the worst problems man kind has ever faced I'm happy to do it.. I got plenty of spare cycles hanging out here... I dont care if microsoft finds the cure for cancer... someone needs to... I can help? YAY!

Re:Damn... (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 13 years ago | (#317674)

Whilst I agree that the article is harsh, there's a fundamental truth here.

As the article points out, you're assuming that if you run this screenserver that your computer will even be working on this. They don't promise that.

For all you know the first two computers work on this problem, and the next 20000 computers work on making a buck for someone else. That wouldn't be good at all. Until that is clarified I for one ain't gonna touch it with a bargepole. All charity work (this is a charity work as we are donating bandwidth, our time, processor time and electrical power) has to be as transparent as humanly possible. I don't necessarily mind a small amount of profit. But it had better be small.

The bullshit that Michael spews... (3)

Jim McCoy (3961) | more than 13 years ago | (#317693)

The anti-market screed that was posted seems to ignore several important facts that should be brought to light. An article [] from CNET points out that:

"Oxford will own the intellectual property developed under the program, but the university will license it relatively freely."

That means that the big bad corporate nasty that Micahel is complaining about is Oxford University and the American Cancer Society, not quite in the same league as the evil pharmaceutical companies that can do no good in Michael's eyes. Perhaps he would rather that millions of people continue to suffer and die from cancer for the sake of his cynicism and moral outrage.

Sorta like Entropia (3)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 13 years ago | (#317697)

Entropia [] does a similar thing with "FightAIDSatHome". You have to read kinda carefully to catch this:

Entropia is a for-profit corporation. From time to time Entropia 2000 will run commercial applications for our customers on your computer, then resume work on the non-profit projects of your choice. How much time goes to non-profit research is reflected by our project statistics.

Note that their "project statistics" reflect work to date and there's no hint of the fact that the stats could change drastically once the paying customers line up.

I got nothing against a little Benevolent Self-Interest, but being disingenuous about the set-up strikes me as slimy.

Oh yes, how horribly, horribly evil! (3)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 13 years ago | (#317700)

Let's lynch doctors for wanting a high salary, too!

What, you volunteer at a for-profit hospital? What a sucker you are!

Refuse to help treat cancer, and the world will be a better place!

Re:Computing power (3)

jake_the_blue_spruce (64738) | more than 13 years ago | (#317701)

Patents expire in 20 years. If the cure for cancer is found using this method, it will take 20 years for any patent to expire. It has nothing to do with Moore's law. Please moderate Dillon's mistake down. However, I think academic institutions like Oxford are less prone to patent abuse than if it was a private research company.

Damn... (3)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#317702)

What a harsh article. Let's see, I had cousin that died of cancer at 32, and my best friend's wife had breast cancer and had to have one of them removed. I think I'll start looking for a cure with my spare cycles.

Would help if I could connect to the freakin' UD server. :(

folding@home (3)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 13 years ago | (#317703)

So I might as well to:

Folding@Home ( is a distributed computing effort to understand protein folding. It will possibly increase our understanding of medicine & nanotechnology. (I'm an idiot, yes, go read the site for more details plz.)

They offer Windows, Linux, & Solaris clients, you can offer to help them with the other OSes they're working on (OSX, OS9, BSD, and IRIX).

You know damn well and good that will eventually crack whatever key they're working on. I question the usefulness, technique, and search space of seti@home. Folding@Home has actual implications for us right here, right now. If you don't trust this United Devices people, but you'd like to put your spare CPU cycles to good use, please check out Folding@Home. It has to be better than just "sticking with xscreensaver".

Notes for Windows users: The screen saver is pretty but the console version will run while you're doing work (not just while you're sleeping) with no performance hit (lowest priority possible process). The screen saver also had some stability issues when I first checked it out (1.2something). Supposedly they've been fixed now (1.34) but I haven't had a chance to check on it.

ICQ 77863057

STI (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#317705)

I'm running STI, the Search for Terrestrial Intelligence. 500000 cpu years and no luck yet!

Re:STI (4)

sharkey (16670) | more than 13 years ago | (#317706)

I still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.


The ratio matters (4)

Illserve (56215) | more than 13 years ago | (#317707)

Depending on the ratio of cpu cycles spent on cancer vs their bank account, I could care very much. Let's say they use 99.9% for themselves and the rest for the research. That qualifies as a scam in my book.

Organizations that trick people into giving to "charities" are one of the world's greater evils in my book, because they eventually turn most people into cynics who look warily upon anyone asking for help.


Err, scientific research is sold. (4)

Convergence (64135) | more than 13 years ago | (#317708)

I'm taking no sides. Nor am I claiming that this is what they do or don't do...

But, most drugs I've seen have public research, and the rights are sold off.... Oxford *is* claiming 'intellectual property' rights on anything that is discovered. So... They publish research results it as a scientific study (as they must if they wish to actually get the drug past the FDA), then they charge some random drug-company through the nose for exclusive rights to their 'intellectual property', which passes on those costs to the people.

While it is true that a lot of academic research used to be public and distributed and used freely, in the modern age of software, thats becoming less and less true... Where is google's codebase? What about the patents Lycos got on their search engine years ago?

Publicly published results != public domain; useable by anyone.

Given this new modern regime, I'd believe the origional author of the rant, barring clear evidence to the contrary. What you've held up as evidence does not pass any such standard; about hte only thing that would would be `we will claim no intellectual property righs upon any discovered drug and any results will be available in the public domain'.. Which I'm not hearing.

(True, I'm not sure that this is a good idea. Without some carrot, who will spend the billion dollars it may take to get a wonder-drug approved for use by humans? An expensive cure is ALWAYS preverable to no cure at all.)

Come on, Editors... (4)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 13 years ago | (#317709)

You might want to do some checking before posting stories like this. Here's an excerpt from the United Devices website:
Are you going to sell the results to large pharmaceutical companies?--No. The results of this study are the intellectual property of the University of Oxford and the National Foundation for Cancer Research, who will make the scientific findings of this project available to the greater scientific community.

Are the results going to be made public?--Yes. Prof. Graham Richards' research group, the project coordinators, will publish the results. This group originally designed the project and is currently orchestrating the study. Scientific interpretation of the results from this study will take some time. Results and scientific findings will be published in the usual manner through a peer-reviewed process.

When are you going to publish the results of the Project?--It is hard to tell what will be published with the research still underway, but a mixture of technical and results papers are envisaged over the next 2-3 years.

It would appear that the results of this research are intended to be released to the scientific community at large, rather than ransomed off. It would appear the UD's role in this endeavor was to develop the application and coordinate the data and computation - for which they deserve to be compensated. So what's the problem???

so that leaves me where? (4)

slashdoter (151641) | more than 13 years ago | (#317712)

Do I still look for ET, or shall I try folding some protens ? Or should I try breaking some useles crypto message, or do I sell my cpu time to someone else for 0.25 a month? I want to do something with my computer when i'm not at home ( no I will not serve up Pr0n for you) but I don't think we can ever trust any person/company that has a lawyer, or even talks to one. So what do I do with it?


United Devices & working together (4)

Jabes (238775) | more than 13 years ago | (#317714)

This article at DISTRIBUTED.NET AND UNITED DEVICES JOIN FORCES [] tells how most of the team are now working for United Devices. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the scope of UD's future projects. I'm all for a simple distributed client that can handle multiple projects - as long as you can elect which ones you take part in. I'll give United Devices the benefit of the doubt for now.

Somehow I don't see this as philanthropic (4)

moniker_21 (414164) | more than 13 years ago | (#317715)

As much as I'd like to brag to my friends about how I am personally helping combat cancer, I just don't think that letting someone else use my spare CPU cycles for a noble cause while I sit on my fat ass in the other room watching Star Trek reruns constitutes any sort of humanitarian act. This more accentuated by the fact that there is a for-profit organization behind this. Sorry, but my spare CPC cycles are not to be worshipped.

Er... (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#317716)

Michael, you do know that United Devices hired the guys, right?

And David Anderson, the guy behind seti@home?

Isn't it a bit hypocritical to attack them while you're running dnet at the same time?

Unfounded accusations! (5)

Badger (1280) | more than 13 years ago | (#317717)

The above FAQ completely contradicts what you said, Michael. The results of the study will be made public. The results are the property of the University and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. The results will not be sold.

Why are you slandering them without foundation? Do you really get off on making new enemies? Do you have to create enemies if you cannot actually find them?

Re:so that leaves me where? (5)

Electric Angst (138229) | more than 13 years ago | (#317720)

So what do I do with it?

Well, you could always just turn it off. The resulting energy conservation wouldn't go to any corporation, it wouldn't be put towards some point of geeky minutia, and it would do just as much good, if not more, than your machine could do otherwise.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

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>