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The Cost of Distributed Client Computing?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the does-idle-equal-free dept.

Software 527

ialbert asks: "I only recently decided to install SETI@home on my mostly idle home computer. It got me thinking though, are those free processor cycles truly free? Has anyone had experience with processors dying prematurely due to a constant, heavy load, or is usage pretty inconsequential? What about other components, like harddrives? And how much does a 100% processor load increase your power bill versus a 1-2% idle load over the course of a year? It's easy to think of idle computers as an untapped computational resource, but what are the costs to the computer owners?"

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527 comments

Nice job (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220221)

I just want to say to the article poster: you formatted your post very well, nice job.

second post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220233)

yeah!

second post!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220235)

using up processor cycles for this one NATALIE PORTMAN HOT GRITS

Processors dying... (1)

DJPenguin (17736) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220236)

I imagine that processors die mainly though being powered on and off repeatedly, than being fully used. Same for hard drives I expect.

I don't imagine it's possible to "wear out" a processor by using it. Course I could be wrong...

Re:Processors dying... (1)

Karamchand (607798) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220303)

Well, if you run a processor too hot its lifetime will certainly be reduced. Insofar you can wear it out.
And since processors get hotter when they're used than when they're idle you can wear it out buy using it intensively. Of course only if you don't have a good cooling solution. (i.e. a well-proportioned cooler..)

Re:Processors dying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220307)

I imagine that if I sail my boat towards the horizon, eventually I'll fall right off the edge. Course I could be wrong...

Re:Processors dying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220344)

Thermal stress and high ripple currents from constantly switching on/off when mostly idle will almost certainly have a negative effect on CPU life, but so will the constant high temperature of full load.

Wear Out (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220348)

Chips can "wear out". There are physical effects that make molecules move when there is an electric current in a conductor. My understanding is that this is a known problem and the traces are made thick enough so that it will be many years before they start to fail.

Re:Not necessary (1)

botzi (673768) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220456)

t will be many years before they start to fail.
Heat can be a major factor in the process of "wearing out". I have seen a practically fried K6 chips(bac at the time), from a machines which only use was 24/7 jukeboxes. Also this summer the local server at the place I work (which was a decent config with 2ghz Celeron CPU) died during a 30 heat wave and againt it was the CPU overheating.
While one may argue for the first case heat was a known problem and in the second the cooling wasn't enough(although, I may assure you IT WAS), when a CPU is constantly wroking even @ 35%, it does wears out much faster than while being idle or off.....

All Your Distributed Computing Ideas: +1, Legal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220407)


Are belong to Microslop Craporation:

"but what are the costs to the
computer owners?" :

Royalties due Microslop on their patent for sharing idle CPU cycles.

Thanks and have a nice day,

George W. Bush [whitehouse.org]

Re:Processors dying... (2, Insightful)

sjwt (161428) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220424)

From what i understand,
if you are useing an overclocked Intel chip,
then yes, as they change the cycles to suite
the load and heat, you may age the chip,
but the ageing is only slight.

On AMD chips, they run the same weather under
load or not, so theres no ageing there.

Most of the damage to chips happens durning
booting up, powering down and spikes and surges.

[overclockers.com]
Overclocking's Impact on CPU Life

God Bless America! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220237)

God Bless America

God Bless America, with the worst crime levels in the first world
God Bless America, where "democracy" means a rich, white male as President
God Bless America, the biggest consumer of the world's natural resources
God Bless America, so happy to violate international laws
God Bless America, where "freedom of speech" means race-hate groups like KKK
God Bless America, and its massive and ever-growing poverty gap
God Bless America, with barely 300 years of dire history and culture
God Bless America, all its appalling "sitcoms" with no grasp of irony
God Bless America, with the highest obesity levels in the developed world
God Bless America, because corporations should be allowed to run amok
God Bless America, wasting billions to attack foreign countries

God Bless America, and thank God I don't have to live there.

-

Re:God Bless America! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220263)

Fuck you asshole. I thank God you don't live here either.

Re:God Bless America! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220306)

God doesn't live here either, idiot.

Re:God Bless America! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220333)

where "freedom of speech" means race-hate groups like KKK

You're a fucking idiot. That's exactly what freedom of speech means. FREEDOM TO EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS.

Perhaps we can send you back to Stalin's Soviet Russia, there you wouldn't have to worry about morons in white sheets and as a bonus you wouldn't have to deal with that annoying Freedom of Speech thing.

Re:God Bless America! (1)

Eric Ass Raymond (662593) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220400)

FREEDOM TO EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS

If you want enjoy freedom, you also have to be responsible. Break a law (=a social rule enforced by the majority of the society) and we'll take away your freedom. Abuse your freedom of speech and we'll take away your freedom of speech. No freedom is absolute and irrevocable. Why don't you try to see a little bit beyond your dogma?

Don't worry about it. (-1)

Genghis Troll (158585) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220238)

The aliens will reimburse you.

Mine works out to (2, Funny)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220239)

what are the costs to the computer owners?

$4.23

Next question?

Re:Mine works out to (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220382)

Wrong. The answer is 42.

Re:Mine works out to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220393)

Actually it's $4.20

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220244)

FIRST POST BABY!!!!!!!!!!

Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220250)

what are the costs to the computer owners?

The costs will be trivial upon the arrival of our new SETI-detected alien overlords.

missin the point. (3, Insightful)

sg_oneill (159032) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220255)

While it is an interesting question, the reason you donate cycles to seti/columb rulers/cancer research/whatever is you love science and the progress of humanity.

Its not about money.

Or to put it another way. How much CPU cycles are wasted on Pr0n, and how does this help society? :)

Re:missin the point. (1)

mark_lybarger (199098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220377)

Or to put it another way. How much CPU cycles are wasted on Pr0n, and how does this help society? :)

1. not enough
2. there is no I in team

Re:missin the point. (1)

Potor (658520) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220435)

i don't think the poster is missing the point: he is simply asking about the economics of distributed computing, which is a legitimate question. for, when you donate money, your knowledge of the personal cost does not preclude the donation. cheers, potor

Re:missin the point. (1)

black6host (469985) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220440)

While I agree with your comments regarding altruistic behaviour for a good cause I think the original question is still valid. Not all uses of distributed computing will necessarily be for the benefit of mankind. (I'm making no judgement regarding SETI or any other research.) I believe we're seeing the underpinnings being put in place for possible commercial uses including compensation of some sort to those who donate their cpu cycles. How can you tell if you're being fairly compensated if you don't know the associated costs. I would also add admin time in addition to the hard costs such as equipment life, etc.

Computer Lab (1)

SnowDeath (157414) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220258)

In the computer lab at my school, I am about to replace some P5's with brand new machines and those lowly P5's have been running Setiathome constantly for at least four years without a hiccup.

The only way a CPU would die from being "overused" is if it didn't have sufficient cooling or if it was a bad chip in the first place.

Re:Computer Lab (0)

wanderers_id (682230) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220410)

What kind of time travel did you use to get a Pentium 5?

*OH* you were talking about the pentium classic. My bad.

Inherent danger (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220264)

I used to run a protien folding application on a spare Athlon I had. I thought it would help advance humanity. Then I discovered that the deamon I was running was spining my hard drive up and down all the time. Eventually the bearing gave out, and the disk platter came flying out of the case at high speed. It sliced through my cat and embedded itself in the oposite wall. The computer itself then caught fire when the drive motor over heated. It burnt my entire house and all of the contents, including a twelve thousand page thesis I had been working on (That work is classified, so I can't tell you what it was about). I stubbed my toe escaping, and a fire fighter died trying to put the fire out.

Just don't bother is my advice.

That's a damn good story (0)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220331)

Just wanted to congratulate you on your outstanding writing abilities.

increased electricity bill? (1)

hendrix69 (683997) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220265)

Just let it run, ya cheap bastard.

Re:increased electricity bill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220345)

You insensitive clod. What about the future generations (your children!) who will suffer horribly because of our current energy wasting ways?

I only buy electricity that has been generated in environmentally friendly ways (wind, solar and ground heat pumps). Sure it costs more than twice the amount of the regular feed but at least my conscience is clear. I'm not supporting wasteful and polluting (oil, gas, coal) or outright eco-criminal ways of power production (nuclear)...

Like a fridge. (0, Interesting)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220269)

Think of it like a refrigerator.

It probably causes more wear and tear to the fridge if you put more food in it instead of keeping it empty, but the prime purpose is to store food.

So, do you really care if by putting less food in it you save some cold box life?

I don't.

--
SPAM INTERCEPTOR NOW! [si20.com]

Re:Like a fridge. (1)

mark2003 (632879) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220325)

Fridges are cheaper to run when they are full...

Keeping them full reduces the air volume and therefore the amount of cold air that escapes the fridge when you open the door.

Re:Like a fridge. (1)

HalfStarted (639977) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220337)

Actually a refrigerator runs more efficiently if it is full.

Re:Like a fridge. (1)

jcoxatonce (228245) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220363)

Actually... Refrigerators experience lower load if they are well-stocked because the food items in the fridge hold their temperature longer than the air, and thus help keep the temperature more stable, reducing the need for the compressors to fire up.

Re:Like a fridge. (OT) (1)

guido1 (108876) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220370)

Interestingly enough, refrigerators are more efficient when they're full. They need something inside, or they'll short cycle frequently.

(Compressor starts, runs to get air temp down x degrees, and stops. Air temp rises quickly (in relation to things that are normally stored in a fridge) so it cycles again...)

Off topic, yet amusing.

Re:Like a fridge. (1)

Keck (7446) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220398)

It probably causes more wear and tear to the fridge if you put more food in it instead of keeping it empty

Actually, there's a nice medium point at which it uses the least amount of energy. The mass in the fridge acts like thermal inertia, so when stand there with the door open trying to figure out what to eat, the 'fridge doesn't have to work as hard to restore the temperature setpoint afterwards.

That said, this is why it's a good idea to keep gallon jugs of water in a storage freezer. There's an ititial energy cost to freeze the water, but it lowers your average cost over the long haul.

Re:Like a fridge. (1)

Lshmael (603746) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220404)

Assume that you rarely use your fridge to store food for long periods of time. Most of the time, you stick something in, and then take it out a few seconds later.

Then, someone comes along and asks to use the excess capacity. So, instead of your fridge being at or near empty, it is always full. Also assume that replacing a fridge is something you do not want to have to do until you need more fridge capacity, in order to store better and bigger amounts of food.

Now, if the Seti@Fridge food caused your fridge to use significantly more electricity (or in my case, caused weird problems which made you have to reboot your fridge), you would be annoyed, right?

Re:Like a fridge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220405)

Actually, having food/drink inside your refrigerator makes it cost less to run. It's easier to keep water cool than air.

Re:Like a fridge. (1)

Godeke (32895) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220408)

Ok, I'm being retentive here, but a densely packed fridge operates more efficently than a sparsely packed one, especially if opened frequently. That's because the room temperature air that rushes inside when opened represents a smaller fraction of the total volume when it is full, and the objects inside will be able to absorb the small thermal difference more easily.

My fridge from the univeristy, on the other hand, would have basically no cold remaining when I stared inside at the emptyness that lay before me, and would have to try to cool the air, 1/16 of a gallon of spoiled milk and a tupperware container of ramen noodles.

Nice thoughts, but wrong... (1)

TamMan2000 (578899) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220412)

It probably causes more wear and tear to the fridge if you put more food in it instead of keeping it empty, but the prime purpose is to store food.

A fridge will perform better and last longer if it is kept full. When a fridge is full of air, the cold air excapes easily when the door is opened, and new air must be cooled, causing wear. If it is kept full, a much smaller air turnover occurs and less cooling is required. The same logic applies to air leaking out of the fridge, but most fridges these days seal pretty well...

full speed ahead (1, Informative)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220272)

Processors always run at full speed. It's just they're executing NOPs when they're "idle".

Excludes wierdo laptop setups

Re:full speed ahead (2, Insightful)

jumpingfred (244629) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220339)

Most processors actively turn the clock off to parts of the chip that are not being used. So when you are doing nothing the processor is doing much less than when you have the computer do something.

Re:full speed ahead (1)

rmull (26174) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220343)

Yet the dissapate more heat when they're busier, somehow....

Re:full speed ahead (2, Insightful)

nilspace (676196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220384)

Wrong.
Back in the halcyon days of RC5-56 and the DES Challenges, computers didn't make a distinction between idling and crunching, so it was a great idea to use those spare cycles for something (remotely) productive. But this is no longer true: modern-day power-sucking CPUs do have circuitry that lets them idle and cool off when the processor is just running NOPs. Thus, keeping a number cruncher running 24 hours a day will stress your processor, requiring full ventilation and running up your power bill.
From the link posted below: Link [everything2.com]

Re:full speed ahead (1)

Nevo (690791) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220388)

Exactly. The CPU is always executing instructions. On the NT operating systems, the System Idle process runs when no other thread is in the ready state. The idle thread executes DPCs and checks for keyboard/mouse input and does some other housekeeping duties for the operating system. So and idle processor isn't really truly idle. It's always doing somethign. On the other hand, some instructions are more expensive than others. Gamers note that their CPU temps go up when they run demanding games. Heavy math uses more transistors than executing other instructions, which does generate more heat.

Re:full speed ahead (1)

udif (32355) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220389)

Nope. The processor is stuck in a NOP loop Only in DOS world (and even there its not a NOP loop, its a busywait loop waiting for keyboard input).

When running a real O.S, the processor actually halts until it is waken by an interrupt, either from an I/O device or from the periodic interrupt used by the task scheduler.

Re:full speed ahead (1)

AArmadillo (660847) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220397)

Perhaps, but processors run a lot hotter when they are executing 'real' instructions. If you ever get a noisy laptop like mine, you can actually hear the effects. As my CPU usage increases, I can hear the fan rev up to higher speeds. If you have sufficient cooling, this really isn't a problem. However, on laptops there usually isn't sufficient cooling for a machine running at full capacity, so sometimes it is dangerous to run a 100% CPU utlization application for extended periods of time.

Re:full speed ahead (1)

Maddog Batty (112434) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220414)

They may well run at full speed (not all though, some slow the clock when they are not required), however, the power requirements are significantly reduced when doing NOPs.

Every time a transistor changes states, it requires a gulp (technical term) of electricity due to capacitive effects. Staying in a particular state by comparison requires no significant power at all. This means that an idle processor will be significantly cooler than a processor running SETI or similar. Too much heat kills processors, but this should not be a problem if the heatsink / fan are OK.

The power requirements for memory access / hard disc access are likewise dependant on the processor load so will also heat up when used.

Re:full speed ahead (1)

henryhbk (645948) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220431)

Actually many modern processors shut down portions to try and reduce heat loads (seen the wattages on some of these monster processors lately?), so this can actually affect heat and power use.

As for the NOP's being executed, it is unlikely that it powers up the aux pathways to do branch prediction, multiple on-the-fly instructions, vector processing, etc... By not using these functions, some processors can shut down parts of the chip reducing heat loads.

Now all that being said, a real geek user never keeps a primary computer long enough due to becoming obsolete, rather than chip failure. Same with drives (I fill them up long before they fail, and replace them with larger drives, since they are practically given out free with box-tops nowadays), so from a practical standpoint, this probably doesn't matter.

I would guess that the power drain is more from increase in use of cooling fans, etc... I mean think of the apple G5 using all 9 of its fans! That's a big difference from in its most idle with just 1 or 2.

Re:full speed ahead (2, Funny)

confused one (671304) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220449)

running a NOP draws less power than running a calc. CPU's get warmer (and are happier -- being all warm and fuzzy) when they're doing intense calculation work because they're exercising more transistors (got to keep in shape, you know).

100% load (2, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220273)


People don't buy a Cray or Origin cluster to have the CPUs sitting at 1% load, they're made to work. If a home PC was properly cooled I'd hope that it should last to whatever the lifetime is spec'd at by the manufacturer.

No moving parts (2, Insightful)

bunnyshooz (632195) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220275)

Since there aren't any moving parts inside the processor, processor load is unlikely to wear it out. It is more likely that a processor will fail due to issues with cooling and from being turned on and off frequently. So keep that Seti@Home going!

Power (2, Insightful)

jak163 (666315) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220276)

I've noticed a significant difference in my electric bill if I don't use the suspend function in my computer. I don't have the bills in front of me but maybe $10 a month. I'm using one of the early, high-power consuming P-IIs though.

the math (4, Informative)

proj_2501 (78149) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220277)

somebody worked this out when i started the e2 distributed.net team.

the figures [everything2.com]

Important part (1)

notque (636838) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220376)

Wasteful
Wrong. Back in the halcyon days of RC5-56 and the DES Challenges, computers didn't make a distinction between idling and crunching, so it was a great idea to use those spare cycles for something (remotely) productive. But this is no longer true: modern-day power-sucking CPUs do have circuitry that lets them idle and cool off when the processor is just running NOPs. Thus, keeping a number cruncher running 24 hours a day will stress your processor, requiring full ventilation and running up your power bill.

To illustrate, a standard Pentium III, without the requisite array of cooling fans, sucks down around 30W when running at full speed. Run that sucker for 24 hours, and you've run up a bill of 0.72 kilowatt-hours, or about 3.6 assuming 5/kW/H.

Laptops get hot with those programs (1)

PinternetGroper (595689) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220281)

I ran SETI on my laptop for about a year, until the hard disk died. I mainly contribute this to the heat it produced. A year's worth of 150 F temperatures couldn't have been good!

Re:Laptops get hot with those programs (1)

karl.auerbach (157250) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220395)

Yes! My IBM Thinkpads run much warmer, in fact they get positively hot, when setiathome is running - to the point where the fan is on almost constantly. I no longer run setiathome on laptops.

Also, I have several dual-Xeon boxes. These become noticably warmer when running setiathome than when running relatively idle.

I've never had a processor die (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220282)

At least not from doing what it's supposed to be doing. They died from excessive heat, or shorts, but never from doing their job...

Hard drives can't be that stressed by the sort of work the SETI program adds. Not exactly a daily thrashing.

Power (4, Informative)

DaHat (247651) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220284)

I've found that on my laptop, the cost of running seti@home cuts my battery life in half, so when I care about power I am sure to leave it off, however, when ever it's plugged in, it like the rest of my boxes are chugging away. When it comes to power costs I don't really care currently as I don't pay my electricity, it's included with my rent and believe you me I make good use of that.

As for premature death of CPU, being under heavy load should not hurt it, powering on and off often does far more 'wear and tear'.

Re:Power (1)

Scottaroo (461317) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220390)

Greetings:

I run distributed.net on my laptop. When the power is unplugged, the program notices and suspends operation until mains power is returned.

It's so nice when someone thinks these things through beforehand.

Re:Power (1)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220445)

I learned this the hard way. I had the United Devices cancer research agent running on my laptop. I unfortunately did not realize the power penalty of running this app in the background until I was on an airplane and ran out of battery in
In terms of wear and tear on your hardware, I would suspect it would be minimal, if you compare it to leaving the machine on running idle.

BTW, I know SETI paved the way for this technology, but feel something like UD research [grid.org] has far more potential benefit to society than SETI.

Shorter lifespan (1)

Hanul (533254) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220287)

A CPU under constant high load will on average die younger. The heat puts a lot of stress on the material. But all in all, looking at the way CPUs are upgraded, it is more likely you have a new computer before your CPU dies of finding aliens.

Not very informational (1)

notque (636838) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220289)

But I wanted to praise the choice of article. I myself have been wondering the same thing. I know that it may not seem like a lot of extra usage, but the hidden costs may be substantial.

Or my Tin Foil hat is on too tightly.

Coincidence? (1)

lacrymology.com (583077) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220295)

I installed the SETI@Home client on my GFs laptop in order to up my work packet totals. I then started it and saw that everything was peachy and the CPU was chugging away at 100%. I then closed the case and went to bed. In the morning the keyboard was partially melted, the CDRW no longer worked, and the fans were dead. Maybe the fans were about to go anyway, and maybe the CPU load caused them to run constantly thus causing a failure.... we may never know.

True story.

-m

http://www.modus-ponens.com/blog/blog.php

Re:Coincidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220340)

I think the fact that your 'girlfriends' laptop has crappy cooling has little to do with the costs of running Seti@Home

Re:Coincidence? (1)

lacrymology.com (583077) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220402)

Maybe it was crappy cooling. That possibility was never dismissed. Regardless, even if the fans had failed during normal usage, the CPU would not have been running at 100% and therefore most likely would not have melted the internals. The cost of running SETI@Home in this case... $1100.

-m

ram drive (5, Interesting)

ih8apple (607271) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220301)

Since I figured the cost of the processor running at 100% was insignificant compared to the cost of the hard drive constantly spinning instead of spinning down during downtime, I created a small RAM drive on my various computers where I ran seti@home so that the file access wouldn't affect hard drive usage. This worked equally well on linux and windoze. The only other thing to do was to create startup and shutdown scripts to create the ram drive, copy the files over, and start the process and then to copy off the files before shutdown.

power consumption (1)

elviscious (681985) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220308)

The power consummed by a fully loaded processor is pretty inconsequently compared to just leaving the computer on all day vs turning off overnight. I used to always turn my system off I wasn't going to use it for another hour or so. I have all my computers running 24 hours a day now however.

And no, I've never had a processor burn up from this. Don't imagine I will anytime either.

Here's what I do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220313)

I intentionally bought my house so that I had a street light in my front yard. I had my power turned off once I moved in. I then opened up the plate on the bottom of the street light and tapped into the wires. I then ran the wire to my breaker box and buried the wire. I haven't had an electrical bill in months. Better yet, my SETI clients cost me nothing. Thank you taxpayers!

50 Watts increase at 100% CPU Load (5, Informative)

eaglebtc (303754) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220316)

I have a Pentium 4 @ 2.6GHz, overclocked to 3.2GHz. My power strip is plugged into a great little device: the Kill-A-Watt [ccrane.com] wattmeter. I can track my electricity usage over time by Volts, amps, Watts, VA, and it keeps a log of the kWh consumed by a particular device.

When Folding@Home is turned off, my power consumption for the entire system is 140W. When I activate Folding@Home, the Wattmeter reading jumps to about 190-195W.

So if you're concerned about electricity usage in your house, then yes, distributed computing sucks more power.

Free? No (1)

MrEnigma (194020) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220318)

I used to think this was a great idea. Until I started overclocking my box, and building my own systems.

If I run at 100% processor utilization, my case heats way up, causing my room to be noticably hotter, plus the fans are always running...and with the higher case temperatures come higher failure rates in everything...

If you could have it use..say 40% of the processor, I would be all game...

Windows Box (1)

imscarr (246204) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220319)

I have noticed by running SETI@Home, that any extra processing causes my windows box to crash just that much sooner :)

Wear and Tear (1)

jak163 (666315) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220320)

As for HDDs, I would think that they last longer if they're not spinning, although I have no proof of this. This is an important reason why I don't leave them spinning. And the displays, no question about it that it being on, screen saver or no, decreases its life. A given vacuum tube has a certain number of hours of life in it. If it's on, the numbers left go down. That's why I don't use a screen saver but instead have the monitor shut itself off.

Electrical Costs (1)

wolrahnaes (632574) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220323)

It'll definately cost you in electricity to power the processor that would otherwise be in sleep mode. It will also increase your cooling bills. (On the plus side, during the winter, your heat bills will be less ;)

How much it will affect these depends on too many variables (which processor, OCed or not, cooling method (air, water, peltier, etc.), and the cost of your energy).

Someone should do an experiment with a few different PCs in different simulated environments comparing sleep, idle, and 100% load states.

How MUCH extra? (1)

pegr__ (144172) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220329)

I think the question is how much EXTRA, be it in juice or hardware wear, does this cost? Unfortunately, it's one of those extremely difficult to measure items, much like many business cases and "what-if" situations...

Since most of a processors energy is disipated as heat, I would imagine little difference in load for a "resting" processor as opposed to a "working" one. But what is the value of the work performed as compared to the extra energy required to perform it? Physical work is easy to measure. How do you measure computational work in comparison to the electricity required to do it?

forget CPUs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220341)

CPUs are extremely hardy. The reason why I wouldn't run Seti is because it gives your hard drive some serious punishment. There is no way it is worth our while running Seti when it is going to help burn your hdd out.

Johnathan Feruken Conspiracy !!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220346)

To Whom It May Concern (other than myself):

Hi. I have been a huge fan of cereals of all kinds for my whole life. Sometimes I eat it for all three meals of the day, or live on it exclusively for weeks, or put it in my underpants to keep me feeling fresh (and also as an emergency back-up snack). I cereasly love it.

I am especially fond of a lot of your cereals like Boo Berry and Trix and Chex and Lucky Charms and Cookie Crisp. My absolute favorite is Fruity Pebbles though, which I believe is a Post cereal. Maybe you guys should make something that tastes like Fruity Pebbles except manages not to have Fred Flintstone's ugly mug all over the box. Yabba Dabba Eww. Anyway, my point is that I like a lot of your cereals and so I am personally concerned with their condition. And, quite frankly, lately I've been a bit worried.

Let's start with my favorite cereal of yours - Boo Berry. I love Boo Berry... at least I think I do... actually, I know it used to be my favorite cereal but I haven't had any in years so I've kind of forgotten what it tastes like - because it's not in any stores! No stores in my area carry it. I checked on your website and apparently you still make it; you even offer it for sale. Unfortunately I can't justify buying it for the $6.74 for a twelve ounce box price. You do offer buying it in a case instead of a four pack, which would drop the price to $4.71 a box, but that is still unreasonable and would also require me to spend an entire week's pay on a large shipment of haunted cereal. My girlfriend would kill me (if I didn't overdose on blue food coloring first).

I think I have a solution to this dilemma. I know you can't force any businesses to carry your cereals and I know that you can't afford to sell them direct for less than $4.71 and still have money left over to pay for upkeep on Count Chocula's castle, hiring someone to build 400 mind-numbing advertisements disguised as crappy kids games for youruleschool.com, and keep your CEOs rolling in golden Kix. So here's what you should do - open up your own stores all across the country. You've already got one in Mall-of-America, now put one in every mall in America. Even if you don't sell much cereal (and you'd sell a lot, trust me) it would be great advertising. You can sell t-shirts with nifty slogans like "Frosted Wheaties: When You're Too Damn Lazy To Put Sugar On Your Own Wheaties!" or "Honey Nut Chex: It Rhymes With 'Funny Butt Sex' For A Reason!" and other stuff which is even more great advertising plus it makes money up front. I can see it now, picture a young child in the mall with its mother...

YOUNG CHILD: Mommy! Mommy! Look at all the pretty colored cereal!

MOTHER: Oh Honey, you know cereals like that are just a result of the global dentist/cereal/porn conspiracy, we've been through this a million times...

YOUNG CHILD: Awww...

MAN IN TRIX RABBIT SUIT comes out of the store.

MAN IN TRIX RABBIT SUIT: You know Ms. Averagemother, all of our cereals are fortified with titanium plating and deflector shi... er, essential vitamins and minerals; and they are a part of this complete breakfast.

MAN IN TRIX RABBIT SUIT whips out a complete breakfast on a tray.

MOTHER: Well... I guess a few minutes couldn't hurt...

YOUNG CHILD: Gee, thanks mom!

YOUNG CHILD runs in followed slowly by MOTHER. Group of scantily clad dentists appears and drags MOTHER into back room. YOUNG CHILD transforms into a cartoon and spends eternity trying to steal Lucky's Charms and torturing the Trix Rabbit by hogging the cereal.

Now, on to my next suggestion. You need to do something about Cheerios. Really, they're awful. Yes they are good for my heart, but this is overshadowed by the fact that they taste like my butt.

On the other hand, a cereal that already tastes great is Lucky Charms. I would like you to address some concerns I have about the marshmallows, though. I remember that when I was a lad, there were only five different marshmallows in Lucky Charms: pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, green clovers, and blue diamonds. I could find at least a tenuous reason for all those symbols to be 'lucky charms' other than the pink hearts. What is so lucky about a pink heart? And by messing with the marshmallows you've only made the cereal even more unlucky overall. Purple horseshoes were a really great addition, good color choice and they are lucky, but red balloons? Anyway, rather than discuss each marshmallow change in the cereal's history individually, let's look at the marshmallow situation currently:

1. Shooting star. You've modified the orange stars and changed them into shooting stars. I can get into this. Shooting stars are way lucky. Good move.

2 and 3. Pot o' gold and rainbow. It seems redundant to me to have a raindow and the pot o' gold which one finds at the end of it. One of these should be dismissed with prejudice.

4. Red balloon. Ugh. Sad movie, sadder marshmallow. Please explain to me why a red balloon is lucky. You can't - because they aren't. Remove this shit from my cereal and fire the jackass who thought it was a good idea.

5. Lucky's hat. You changed the four-leaf clover into some midget's out of fashion hat. I realize how cool it is that you guys have the technology now to make two-tone marshmallows, but just because you can doesn't mean you should. Change this back to the clover.

6. Pink heart. This one is hard to call. I guess it should stay given that it's the only one of the original four marshmallows left, and I guess it's lucky to have a heart because otherwise you'd need to pump your blood manually which would be awfully dull and very time consuming.

7. Purple horseshoe. The best one in the box.

8. Blue moon. Not bad in and of itself, but there was no need to combine the blue diamond and yellow moon into this single marshmallow. Why did you bother? To make room in the marshmallow factory for the 'red balloon' machine? Come on.

So, for maximum luckiness, this is how Lucky Charms should be. Shooting stars, rainbows (or pots o' gold, but I like rainbows better because they remind me of homos), green clovers, pink hearts, purple horseshoes, yellow moons, and blue diamonds. This would also reduce the total number of different marshmallow types from eight to seven - which is a far luckier number.

Hey, Trix is too sweet and pointy now. I remember it being tasty and pleasantly round at one point. Fix my Trix you dix.

And lastly, I feel I have to bring up a subject that may be hard for you to discuss. We need to talk about what happened to some of your spokespeople.

For instance, the current spokesman for Cinnamon Toast Crunch is Wendell the baker (why making cinnamon toast requires a baker is a question I won't even bring up right now). I clearly remember two other bakers, Bob and a chap with the unfortunate name of Quello, helping Wendell out (why making cinnamon toast required three bakers is another question I won't even bring up right now). Now they are gone. What happened to them? My theory is that Wendell collaborated with someone in your company to have them rubbed out so he could get a large raise and be given the chance to market his inferior French Toast Crunch. But maybe it's something more innocent than that, like they were run over by an out of control cookie cop truck, ground up, and made into delicious cinnamon-sugary sprinkles.

Speaking of cookie cop trucks, Cookie Crisp was once sold by a crafty crook, his canine companion, and a cookie cop who never failed to capture the chocolate chip crazed criminals. Now only Chip the cookie dog remains, and he has apparently given up his life of crime and become a big silly wussbag. I am disturbed by the lack of information about what happened to the other two. Was the crook arrested? If so, why is the dog still free? If he was let off on the basis of being a dog, why did the cop throw him in jail with his master in the commercials? What happened to the cop? Is he still on the force? Why isn't he after snickerdoodle thieves or something?

Those are the ones I've personally noticed go missing, but I've talked to some people inside your organization and they had disturbing news. A lot of names were mentioned: Cheeri O'Leary, Ice Cream Jones, Mr. Wonderfull, Waldo the wizard, Major Jet... the list goes on and on.

Please explain these disappearances or I may be forced to contact the authorities.

Your biggest fan,

Johnathan Feruken

P.S. Hey, whatthefuck is up with Kaboom, anyway? That's some scary crap!

The cost of Linux? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220347)

This is off-topis, I know. But it is somehting I have been thinking about, and figured I would bring up while we are talking about hidden costs/

I work as a consultant for several fortune 500 companies, and I think I can shed a little light on the climate of the open source community at the moment. I believe that part of the reason that open source based startups are failing left and right is not an issue of marketing as it's commonly believed but more of an issue of the underlying technology.

I know that that's a strong statement to make, but I have evidence to back it up! At one of the major corps(5000+ employees) that I consult for, we wanted to integrate the shareware version of Linux into our server pool. The allure of not having to pay any restrictive licensing fees was too great to ignore. I reccomended the nstallation of several boxes running the new 2.4.9 kernel, and my hopes were high that it would perform up to snuff with the Windows 2k boxes which were(and still are!) doing an AMAZING job at their respective tasks of serving HTTP requests, DNS, and fileserving.

I consider myself to be very technically inclined having programmed in VB for the last 8 years doing kernel level programming. I don't believe in C programming because contrary to popular belief, VB can go
just as low level as C and the newest VB compiler generates code that's every bit as fast. I took it upon myself to configure the system from scratch and even used an optimised version of gcc 3.1 to increase the execution speed of the binaries. I integrated the 3 machines I had configured into the server pool, and I'd have to say
the results were less than impressive... We all know that linux isn't even close to being ready for the desktop, but I had heard that it was supposed to perform decently as a "server" based operating system. The
3 machines all went into swap immediately, and it was obvious that they weren't going to be able to handle the load in this "enterprise" environment. After running for less than 24 hours, 2 of them had experienced kernel panics caused by Bind and Apache crashing! Granted, Apache is a volunteer based project written by weekend hackers in their spare time while Microsft's IIS has an actual professional full fledged development team devoted to it. Not to mention the fact that
the Linux kernel itself lacks any support for any type of journaled filesystem, memory protection, SMP support, etc, but I thought that since Linux is based on such "old" technology that it would run with some level of stability. After several days of this type of behaviour, we decided to reinstall windows 2k on the boxes to make sure it wasn't a hardware problem that was causing things to go wrong. The machines instantly shaped up and were seamlessly reintegrated into the server
pool with just one Win2K machine doing more work than all 3 of the Linux boxes.

Needless to say, I won't be reccomending Linux/FSF to anymore of my clients. I'm dissappointed that they won't be able to leverege the free cost of Linux to their advantage, but in this case I suppose the old adage stands true that, "you get what you pay for." I would have also liked to have access to the source code of the applications that we're running on our mission critical systems; however, from the looks of it, the Microsoft "shared source" program seems to offer all of the same freedoms as the GPL.

As things stand now, I can understand using Linux in academia to compile simple "Hello World" style programs and learn C programming, but I'm afraid that for anything more than a hobby OS, Windows 98/NT/2K are your only choices.

thank you.

Universally Wrong Thinking (2, Funny)

tds67 (670584) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220350)

...but what are the costs to the computer owners?"

The costs will be a lot higher if we don't detect and defeat the alien hordes through SETI.

I hate penny-pinching accountant types.

Pretty inconsequential if you ask me, (1)

NecroBones (513779) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220354)

Pretty inconsequential if you ask me...

I've been running SETI@Home on multiple computers since it first debuted, and have had no problems at all. The temperature difference on my processors usually at most a few degrees, and the power draw, as measured by my UPS, changes by only about 2 watts as compared to sitting mostly idle (on P2/P3 era machines, anyway). That's about half of one of those small night-lights, in terms of power consumption.

[I have a rackmount 1500VA APC UPS, max load is about 960 watts. With two servers connected, I see the load change from about 18.8% down to about 16.9% after killing SETI on one machine, hence roughly 2 watts each]

CPU power draw (1)

Anonymous Canard (594978) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220357)

Honestly, at ~700W for a typical 19" monitor, your monitor is probably the highest powered device in your computer. CPU power draw varies from about 10W or less when idle, to 70W or so for a rigorous instruction mix (the Intel Itanium is somewhat anomalous at about 100W when fully exercised). So remembering to turn off you monitor, or at least selecting the low-power mode of your monitor for a screen saver rather than animating useless objects will probably have the largest effect on your power bills.

SETI cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220359)

Your post made me wonder too. I have come to the conclusion that you have to much idle time on your hands to be worrying about things like this.
Please plant a garden or sweep your sidewalk. LOL

there is a cost (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220365)

I don't know for sure what the cost of the electricity is, but the heat difference on my CPU is visibly apparent on my hardware sensors. I could run SETI@home and see my core CPU temperature around 155 deg F, and then terminate the process and watch the temperature drop to about 140 deg F. As soon as I restarted SETI, the temperature would shoot back up, usually within about 30 seconds.

OTOH, consider other (possibly more immediately) beneficial programs that use distributed computing. Cancer and Alzheimer's genetic research, for example, can be found through Philanthropic Peer-to-Peer [intel.com] . You donate your cycles, pay some extra for your electric bill, and let them have some computing power that they may not be able to afford directly.

Never had a problem with that... (2, Informative)

greymond (539980) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220366)

I've been using http://www.distributed.net/ [distributed.net] on and off for a few years now and i've never had a problem with any of my processors. However I usually upgrade my cpu/mb every 3-4 years, so if you have or keep your systems longer i'd imagine any burnouts would be due to "just an old cpu" and not from the constant use. Then again I don't plan or expect my hardware to last forever.

As far as the power bill goes. I currently have a desktop, laptop, wireless router/hub and zaurus going the majority of the day - at least the systems are always on since I am too lazy to turn them off and have no need too. I also live with my girlfriend who runs the haridryer every morning and must have every light on in the house to check her makeup with. At the end of the month we get our power bill of $45-50 - which in my opinion is not a lot. We're also in California for the record.

Burnout rate vs. useful lifetime (1)

ENOENT (25325) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220369)

You will throw out your CPU for being such a slow and out-of-date piece of junk long before it burns out.

MY 2 cents... (1)

MoeMoe (659154) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220373)

As far as I can imagine, having the processor under full load all the time wouldn't be too damaging so long as you kept it cooled properly. Heat is the number one source of trouble for me when it comes to maintaining a stable system.

As for the cost over the course of a year, it would depend on a few factors, namely the particular specifications of your unique system. If you took two identical computers, except you put in diffeent CPU's, and ran both straight for one year in 2 different locations, you would probably see a slight contrast of the electric bills over a one year period. If what you are worried about is "wearing out" your hardware, just make sure you keep it nice and cool inside (30-45C core temp preferable).

cost (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220374)

Processor's shouldn't have a shorter life due to usage, unless it's because the cooling fan get's F'd. Having to replace the fan more often will cost you a few $ every couple of years.

For a single (typical) PC, the difference in electrical usage will be a few dollars per year. Given the typical cost of electricity in the U.S., you're only talking somewhere in the $20 - $100 range.

You're more likely to see it negatively affect your sanity; having those fans running at full output all the time.

Windows does it for you. (0)

Dr. Bent (533421) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220375)

If you're using Windows, all your spare CPU cycles are already being used. Open up the task manager and look for a process called "System Idle Process". Notice the CPU usage. Using SETI@home (or folding@home) is a much more productive use of those CPU cycle, so compute away!

Some Measurements. (3, Informative)

taliver (174409) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220383)

I'm kinda in a position to answer at least one part of this question.

CPu's, when idle, can use as little as 2-5W. When fully utilized, up to 40-50W (depending on the make/model/etc). So let's assume you have a middle of the road processor that has a difference of 25W between active and idle. (This is consistant with measurements on a PIII 800MHz, a little lower than middle of the road.)

Now, 25W * 24Hrs * 365 days * 1kw/1000W * $0.10/kWhr = $21/year. Roughly $1/year per Watt of additional power.

As far as breaking of components, as well as the system is cooled properly, I wouldn't think it would be a problem.

Change a few bulbs (1)

Umrick (151871) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220411)

Only cost is the electricity, and if you're that concerned about your power bill, just replace a few bulbs with compact florescents. While you're at it, get the natural light output bulbs and you can fight winter depression at the same time...

If your computer otherwise dies, odds are it's a defect that would have killed it anyway.

Is this a real question? (1)

nkntr (583297) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220422)

I keep expecting Alan Funt to pop up on this one.

There are no gears in a CPU, so physical wear and tear is not possible. I guess if you consider wearing out the little electrons...

And since a processor is constantly working at full speed, what difference does it make if it is sitting idle, or running some application. When your CPU is doing nothing, it sits around churning out no ops.

I kind of enjoyed responding to this, good chuckle factor.

Re:Is this a real question? (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220458)

>>>And since a processor is constantly working at full speed, what difference does it make if it is sitting idle, or running some application.

I guess you've never heard of ACPI: run at .5 speed unless you need it.

>>>When your CPU is doing nothing, it sits around churning out no ops.

And those NOP's cost almost nothing either. NOP'ing will actually cool down the cpu a bit.

havn't noticed.. (1)

kidlinux (2550) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220426)

I run the distributed.net client on all the machines I have running. One which has got to be 6 or 7 years old, and dnetc has been running the whole time. That machine is rarely shutdown - and it's still goin strong.

I've got a couple other machines, 1 and 2 years old running some hot AMD processors, the 1st runs around 40-45 degrees C, the other 50-55. They also seem to run fine.

I don't think it'll wear your hardware down unless you've got a really poor cooling solution. As far as hard drives go, the dnet client probably makes the least hard drive access of any app on my system. Not sure about seti, but I don't imagine it crunches the HD either.

As for electricity, I have no idea, but where I'm from we pay the lowest rates in Ontario I think. So whatever ;)

The cost outweighs... (1)

bigjnsa500 (575392) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220428)

The cost outweighs the coolness factor of telling chicks you are looking for proof of ETs.

SETI@home not dangerous to computers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220434)

I wish I could say the same about my brain. Every time it seems I get a sample with a high Gaussian, the men in the black helicopters come over to my house, erase my data units and inject me with the happy juice that takes me to that special place. I don't think I can take any more.

If you are that worried... (1)

MarkJensen (708621) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220443)

Errr... If you are that worried about a few cents in electric bills, perhaps you should never turn your PC on? Think of the HUMONGOUS cost savings there! ;)

Energy costs (4, Informative)

p7 (245321) | more than 10 years ago | (#7220446)

Check this website for a breakdown of the energy costs.

http://www.dslreports.com/faq/2404

Additional power consumption (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7220455)

The last time I measured my PCs' power consumption, there was about a 10-15 watt difference between sitting in idle state and actively crunching on something (seti@home, folding@home, etc.) That's assuming the OS is smart enough to issue HALT instructions when idle. Win98 in its busy-loop (w/o Rain or Waterfall installed) will draw the "full load" wattage no matter what.

This was measured at the AC line input, using a "Kill-a-Watt" metet, for several Pentium III, AMD K6, and Via C3 machines. Consumption would rise from ~45 watts at idle to 55-60 under load. Multiprocessor boxes probably show this delta for each CPU, although I haven't had the chance to measure one.

Assuming a 12-watt difference and 24/7 operation, this amounts to 8.64 kilowatt-hours per month... not very significant, unless you're off-grid running on solar panels or somesuch.

Average US energy cost is around 8 cents/kW-hour, so that adds up to USD $0.70 per month.

which would be about USD $0.70 at the nat
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