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500-fold Increase in Data Flow from SETI Telescope

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the et-in-crystal-clear-high-defintion dept.

Space 346

coondoggie brings us an article from Networkworld about a flood of new data for the SETI@home project. We discussed something similar a few months ago when a new telescope array went live. The vast amount of processing power required to handle the new data is prompting the SETI@home team to make a plea for more volunteers. Quoting the press release: "What triggered the new flow of data was the addition of seven new receivers at Arecibo, which now let the telescope record radio signals from seven regions of the sky simultaneously instead of just one. With greater sensitivity and the ability to detect the polarization of the radio signals, plus 40 times more frequency coverage, Arecibo is set to survey the sky for new radio sources."

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sounds like (3, Informative)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903944)

Sounds like a good time to re-install BOINC and start up SETI.

Re:sounds like (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904038)

Didn't Seti@Home used to have their own client/agent/whatever?

Re:sounds like (3, Informative)

Trouvist (958280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904142)

Yes, and I personally found it to be much much better than the BOINC system they use now.

Re:sounds like (1)

bcdm (1031268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904896)

Amen. I stopped using SETI once they moved to BOINC. It became unwieldy, buggy, and more of a pain than it was worth.


That said, maybe I'll try again...it's a good cause, and it's the best screensaver I've had, if nothing else.

come on, people! (4, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905166)

Amen. I stopped using SETI once they moved to BOINC.
With that kind of attitude, how do you expect us to ever find the aliens?!!

Uhhh...Earth to slashdot nerds.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904156)

There is no life in outer space. It's the biggest fuckin' waste of all time to spend money on this shit.

Hey Nostradamus! (1)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904288)

Holy cats, can you also tell me who'll win the US Presidential election in 2008? I'd like to get a few bets down on tradesports.com...with my chutzpah and your omniscience, we can't lose!

Re:Hey Nostradamus! (2, Funny)

nilbud (1155087) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904578)

I am in touch with aliens, they want us to send cash, lots of cash. Oh no wait, that was a US Presidential candidate.

Re:sounds like (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904542)

Where the heck are they going to get the processing power to deal with all this new data? I know for a fact that they are not "running out" of work to hand out to SETI@Home volunteers.

That said, let them borrow some of your electricity, and run SETI@Home. I would like to find proof of extraterrestrial life, and I know you would, too. Here's the link: http://boinc.berkeley.edu/download.php [berkeley.edu] (This is a real link and not a minicity)

FoldingAtHome (5, Insightful)

perspectival (906492) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903952)

Protein Folding should take precedence over pointless searches for noise-in-patterns.

Parent is right. (2)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904012)

Although you're probably going to get marked troll you're right.

The cancer and other medical projects your can donate your processing power to are far more important then a fruitless search for aliens.

Re:Parent is right. (3, Funny)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904298)

I guess it depends. You could always argue that An alien race was found and they were technologically advance or already found a cure for many of the diseases and were willing to share. Or they were a warlike race bent to destroy Earth cause we spied on them... Either way, you might not have to worry about cancers and disorders anymore.

Re:Parent is right. (2)

brentonboy (1067468) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904770)

except that alien races discovered would likely be hundreds of light years away, or more. so unless they happened to be broadcasting their encyclopedia galactica, we wouldn't necessarily learn much, even if we could make sense of it. and they wouldn't know that we had received their transmissions until hundreds of years later--or thousands, depending on exactly how far away they really are.

Mostly Harmless (1)

enoz (1181117) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905130)

Chances are that if there are Aliens out there they would consider the Earth as insignificant or unimportant. And then destroy it to build an interstellar bypass.

oh I dunno (5, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904364)

There's a logic error here, I think. By this logic, we should do nothing except the very highest priority thing in our life, and society should pour all of its resources into the very most important priority. For example, we should all live in a thatched hut, eat weeds and grubs, wear the untanned raw skins of animals (or just go naked), and slave 18 hours a day so all our labor and energy can go into....whatever the single highest social priority is...curing cancer, fighting war 'n' injustice, whatever.

Which is silly. The goal of life is maximize overall satisfaction, not accomplish one single highest goal. It's important to rank your priorities, of course, both as an individual and as a society. But the notion that because A is "more important" than B implies ipso facto that A should get all the resources and B should get none is maximally silly.

Indeed, it's kind of OCD obsessive to always be focussed on pursuing the Top Goal, the kind of thing that when we see people doing it in practise -- giving up everything, including enough sleep and good nutrition, to, say, play World of Warcraft and become the biggest baddest player -- we conclude they need to do some growing up.

Re:oh I dunno (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904438)

I just don't think wasting CPU cycles on finding signals that are over 10 million years old is a good idea. By the time they receive a response from us their race could have been dead for millions of years. It's pointless.

Re:oh I dunno (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904828)

Spoken like an ignorant minded bigot. As your GP said, Grow up. If everyone gives up one anything considered by others as pointless, nothing in this world would ever get done. While you consider this pointless, others do not. I would rather do both protein folding and SETI.

I might also argue that protein folding is pointless since all you're doing is saving the life and therefore the DNA of an "inferior" person with a genetic disease. Why save them so they continue to pass on bad DNA? Why not let them die and keep track of their offspring so they don't procreate? As you've said, "It's pointless."

Well, fortunately, not everyone thinks SETI is pointless, nor does everyone think protein folding is pointless. We would have achieved nothing if people didn't continue their "pointless" pursuits. Remember Gallileo? He said the Earth was round. At the time, others else believed it to be flat. His views were rather pointless too. Why pursue the facts when no one else found value. At the risk of his own life, Gallileo continued his "pointless" pursuit of convincing others that the world was round. Before you start to interject that we know the fact that the Earth is indeed round, I say to you that hindsight is 20/20.

What may appear pointless to you now may lead to something more important than you can imagine. I say you need to grow up and accept the diverse views that everyone else has. There's room for all that research out there.

Re:oh I dunno (2, Interesting)

missing000 (602285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905112)

Remember Gallileo? He said the Earth was round.
No, he said the earth was not the center of the universe. Buy a history book. The ancient Greeks accurately measured the circumference of the earth about a millennia before that.

Re:oh I dunno (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904638)

Diminishing returns. After a certain point, it's pointless to continue pouring resources into a project. Really, the best way to go is to spread your resources into several things.

Now, clothing and shelter are important. They may not be important enough to justify all the resources that are poured into them, but they have use and value. Can you name a single benefit of SETI? Out of all the CPU cycles that have been thrown at radio signals, have any of them been of use? Folding@home has at least produced results, and promises more to come. Far be it from me to tell you to change, but to suggest that SETI@home is just as valid as Folding@home is as crazy as if I were to suggest that my hobby of playing Team Fortress 2 is as useful as the guy who created MythTV in his spare time.

Re:oh I dunno (4, Funny)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904648)

I'd wholeheartedly agree with you, so then my life's great priority list is as follows

1) Breathe
2) Sleep
3) Procreate
4) Eat
...
1444) Find Cure for cancer
...
2137832) Find extra terrestrial intelligence

Ergo when I have some computing power to spare I'll devote some to the cure for cancer, when I have the United States's entire Internet worth of computing power, I'll spare a little to extra terrestrial intelligence :-)

Sophistry. Or just poor logic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904806)

Your argument is based on the presupposition that the SETI@Home project actually has any chance at all of success.

However, good logic - hell, good science - completely demolishes that presupposition.

Unless an alien transmitter is broadcasting at the correct frquency and in the right direction as it passes near or through our solar system, we will not detect or receive its signals.

SETI is a nice dream, but it's still just a dream. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_propagation [wikipedia.org]

Re:oh I dunno (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905186)

For example, we should all live in a thatched hut, eat weeds and grubs, wear the untanned raw skins of animals (or just go naked), and slave 18 hours a day....
I was with you up until the slavery part.

Re:Parent is right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904552)

Not if we find the aliens and they send us cures for all of our ailments :P

Re:FoldingAtHome (4, Insightful)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904084)

Protein Folding should take precedence over pointless searches for noise-in-patterns.

So what are you doing here, wasting your important CPU cycles?

Re:FoldingAtHome (2, Funny)

penrodyn (927177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904784)

> Protein Folding should take precedence over pointless searches for noise-in-patterns.

Exactly, you're a hypocrite.

Re:FoldingAtHome (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904246)

Somehow I doubt the pharmaceutical industry would be very open with the results.

Parent is wrong (5, Insightful)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904248)

People should have a free choice about the causes they donate to. If you made everyone pick Protein Folding, it would be akin to just another tax.

Just because you think you know what people should do, doesn't mean you do.

No, You're Wrong (5, Informative)

perspectival (906492) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904512)

Did I say that people's spare CPU cycles should be mandated to SETI? As if that were feasible or even possible?

When I say that Protein Folding *should* take precedence over SETI, I'm simply making an appeal to people's personal priorities--and mine favor understanding and curing diseases over inconclusive alien signal-hunting every day of the week.

Yes, you're free to choose for yourself what cause you want to help out. As you should be. And I'm free to try to persuade others to help a very worthwhile cause:

http://folding.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu]

Re:Parent is wrong (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904584)

People should also have freedom to tell others on a forum what (and why) they believe others should donate their cycles to ;) ... you can simply choose not to listen to them. Nobody is 'forcing' anyone, yay freedom!

Personally I say "Go Folding!!" but I'm biased, I am at risk of inheriting (and have in my family) a currently uncurable and fatal deadly protein misfolding disease which has the potential to help be cured by that kind of research --- so for me there is even a sense of urgency in the matter.

Re:FoldingAtHome (5, Insightful)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904458)

Protein folding is important, however discovery of ETI ranks up somewhere along with; fire, wheel, tools, calculus.

Find a protein, you change many lives for the better.

Find ET, and you change the course of the human race forever.

I will choose what to do with my extra CPU cycles myself, thank you very much. To me, ET is more interesting.

(Yes, I should know, it was my computer that discovered the candidate object for SETI@home back in 2004. Got on TV and weekly reader for that. What have YOU done with your spare CPU cycles?)

My only regret is BOINIC runs so crappy and is so hard to manage (come on, install a program that crashes upon resume, gotta dig out the right profile, gotta figure out how to sign up for projects = fail).

Re:FoldingAtHome (1)

Dr_SimonCPU (1181635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904680)

Too bad we can't natively run BOINC on our amd64 FreeBSD boxes.

Re:FoldingAtHome (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904818)

Find a protein, you change many lives for the better.

Find ET, and you change the course of the human race forever.


This is a bias and gambling fallacy. You have $10 bucks. You can buy dinner, or try and win 1 million dollars at the pocker machines. 1 million dollars can change your life, but you'll not get 1 million dollars, you'll just waste $10 and cheat yourself out of dinner.

SETI is listening for possible radio signals coming from the nearby galaxies to Earth. When I say "nearby", that's million of light years away.

It means if SETI finds something, it'll be millions of years old, and it'll take another few million years until the ETI sees our answer. You'll not change course of humanity. You may likely die in 40-50 years from something that Folding@Home could have helped cure, though.

Re:FoldingAtHome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904932)

Well, they're both a gamble, but thankfully you don't get to decide what the rest of us do.

Re:FoldingAtHome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21905034)

You should make some kind of effort to understand what it is you're criticizing first. Your post betrays an almost total lack of comprehension of the physical parameters of the SETI work.

Nobody anywhere is listening for signals from other galaxies (which are indeed millions of light years away). The survey is in fact listening for signals which (in the unlikely event one were to be found) would almost certainly be coming from within our galaxy and thus would likely be anywhere from dozens to thousands of years old. Still a lot, sure, but fundamentally different from *millions* of years old.

Re:FoldingAtHome (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904490)

I certainly don't think SETI@Home is pointless, however, I do agree that Folding@Home should take MUCH higher priority at this point in human history, as it can have a direct impact on helping to cure diseases which affect millions of people today (including probably hundreds if not thousands of slashdotters) ... I'd rather see people first focus on that kind of research, and then later we can worry about finding alien radio signals, which if they are there now will probably still be there ten or twenty years from now.

Re:FoldingAtHome (2, Insightful)

penrodyn (927177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904878)

Do you think as lay people, we should tell federally funded scientists what to work on? I for one would like to see research done on many fronts, we can afford it as a society given the vast sums of money society spends on a worthless war. It is ironic though that many of the techniques being used to investigate cancer today were developed from work done in the 50s and 60s on viruses that infect bacteria. Now if you were in charge, I presume this work would never have been funded, let's be honest who really cares whether bacteria get infected or not, better tackle cancer first then worry about other areas of research?

pointless until... (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904626)

it's only pointless until ... do-do-do-do-doooo! (close encounters theme)
With the odds of finding a signal so low as it is, maybe the signal we find will already be the encoded protein folding solutions.

Re:FoldingAtHome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904944)

Bullshit. They're *my* cycles, and I'll use them for what I want. So fuck you.

Re:FoldingAtHome (1)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904996)


You are spot on.

Besides, haven't we learned anything from Hollywood? If we alert the aliens to our presence they'll just come and make food and sport of us!

Re:FoldingAtHome (2, Informative)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905032)

Protein Folding should take precedence over pointless searches for noise-in-patterns.

Distributed computing isn't an either/or proposition. Right now the BOINC infrastructure hosts at least 42 projects, and at least three of those are health related (malariacontrol.net [malariacontrol.net] , rosetta@home [bakerlab.org] , predictor@home [scripps.edu] ). When a volunteer starts BOINC and joins a project, they are presented with a list of many projects.

If SETI@home gets the 3 to 5 fold increase in volunteers that they hope for, it's a very good bet that every other BOINC based project will see significant increases in their volunteer base.

There are certainly far more than a million internet connected CPUs that are on and idle tonight. Anyone want to guess at the actual number? 10 million? 50 million? 100 million? A few percent of those would more than do all of the jobs that are available on all of the distributed computing projects that are out there.

Left seti when they went to bonic (2, Insightful)

huxrules (649822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21903968)

If they want more people then they should get rid of that silly bonic thing. I never liked it.

Re:Left seti when they went to bonic (4, Interesting)

zrq (794138) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904268)

Me too. Last time I used it the Linux install involved way too many steps. It is packaged as a 'generic' Linux binary, and left up to the individual to tweak it to fit their particular system. I am quite happy to contribute spare cpu cycles to the project, but at the moment I don't have the spare sys-admin cycles required to setup, configure and babysit the software.

If they want more people to install it, they need to do something like create a RPM installer and setup a yum repository. If the installation was as simple as 'yum install bonic' plus a simple Python configure script to set the project URL, then ReadHat could/would probably add it to Fedora. Which would mean that 1000's of people would see it listed in the install options, and some of them would probably give it a go.

The other reason I left was the change in the way that stat were reported. When I started, their website showed a headline figure of number of CPU years in the last 24hrs. To me, seeing that figure increase as the project gained more users was a real incentive to add machines and contribute more to the project. It gave you the warm fuzzy feeling that we were all contributing to what was at the time one of the largest computing projects in the world.

Now everything is listed as teams competing for 'credits', whatever they are. I didn't join to earn 'credits', I joined to participate in one of the largest collaborative computing projects in the world.

Re:Left seti when they went to bonic (4, Informative)

gsn (989808) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904398)

If they want more people to install it, they need to do something like create a RPM installer and setup a yum repository. If the installation was as simple as 'yum install bonic' plus a simple Python configure script to set the project URL, then RedHat could/would probably add it to Fedora. Which would mean that 1000's of people would see it listed in the install options, and some of them would probably give it a go.
It is on the Ubuntu box I'm sitting in front of at the moment.

gnarayan@munin|~> apt-cache search boinc
boinc-app-seti - SETI@home application for the BOINC client
boinc-client - core client for the BOINC distributed computing infrastructure
boinc-dev - development files to build applications for BOINC projects
boinc-manager - GUI to control and monitor the BOINC core client
kboincspy - monitoring utility for the BOINC client
kboincspy-dev - development files for KBoincSpy plugins

There are plenty of tools to convert debs to rpms

The other reason I left was the change in the way that stat were reported. When I started, their website showed a headline figure of number of CPU years in the last 24hrs. To me, seeing that figure increase as the project gained more users was a real incentive to add machines and contribute more to the project. It gave you the warm fuzzy feeling that we were all contributing to what was at the time one of the largest computing projects in the world.
You can still see this - login to your account (from boincmgr) and it shows you that - if anything today you get more stats - I know how many total users there are - it still is very much one of the largest computing projects in the world. I also know what the highest position I stood in the world is (if only that was my slashdot UID), where relative to my team, where relative to my country, how much credit I got from each work unit, how much credit I got on a day to day basis...

Re:Left seti when they went to bonic (1)

Linux987 (106521) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904382)

I agree. In the beginning they had a very nice client, with some cool graphical features and an understandable results system, including a fun website to browse and look up statistics. I participated very eagerly with Team Picard and made it in the top ranks. Now the website is boring and the client is difficult to understand. Until they make it fun again, count me out.

Re:Left seti when they went to bonic (1)

JimBoBz (111826) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904550)

I couldn't agree more. I thought I'd give seti a run again a couple of weeks ago after a few years absence. Getting boinc up was too much. I've been using gentoo for about 8 years and the last 4-5 years as my main desktop so it's not like I don't know what I'm doing, it is just too many steps to go through to help someone else abuse my resources...

YETI@Home (4, Funny)

Charles Dodgeson (248492) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904016)

All my spare cycles are working on Yeti@Home [phobe.com]

Not trying hard to keep what they had... (0)

eaddict (148006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904044)

A long time ago, on an ISP that went belly up...

Oh well, I can't write a good intro. But the point is, at one point I had thousands of units. My ISP went belly up with my registered address. There was no way for me to move my units to a new e-mail. In fact, e-mails to the SETI team probably went in to a black hole.

Regardless, they didn't help me keep the 'work' that I did... I don't see helping them again. Sorry.

Re:Not trying hard to keep what they had... (2, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904098)

These folks have millions of compute nodes. And very little resources, which is why they set up this network in the first place. You really think they have time to go chasing after silly little bits of data that matter only to you? Next you'll be wondering why GW Bush never returns your calls.

Might I suggest an alternative... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904152)

Was watching a number increment your sole reason for contributing to SETI@Home? Might I suggest http://www.progressquest.com/ [progressquest.com] as an alternative? I think you'll be much happier with it.

Re:Might I suggest an alternative... (1)

eaddict (148006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904846)

No... but losing all that computer time was a tad upsetting.
I am over it now. Gone past the heavy drinking... the denial... all 12 or so steps.

I wish SETI the best, honestly I do, but without me this time.
(Oh I can hear the 'you are but a tiny spec in the cosmos' line now...)

Re:Not trying hard to keep what they had... (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904830)

It's not entirely surprising that you weren't able to get through, since SETI@home is essentially three guys who get a lot of email...

Suggestion: Try out the SETI@home help forum [berkeley.edu] . If that doesn't work, email Eric Korpela, the SETI@home Project Scientist. I won't put his email address here, but a google search will reveal it. He's had the same email address for a very long time. He'll probably be able to give you a hand once you get past his challenge/response spam filter.

Arecibo Shutdown? (3, Interesting)

XPisthenewNT (629743) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904080)

I thought they were going to shut down Arecibo or move to an array of smaller antenna's or something? Did the plan change or am I making this up?

To sum up what this increase in data will bring: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904082)

Six hours nineteen minutes right ascension, fourteen degrees twenty-two minutes declination ... no sighting.
Six hours nineteen minutes right ascension, fourteen degrees twenty-three minutes declination ... no sighting.
Six hours nineteen minutes right ascension, fourteen degrees twenty-three minutes declination ... no sighting.

etc. ad infinitum

Now that i've just bought my first dual core.... (1)

sirmonkey (1056544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904116)

Now that i've just bought my first dual core....
and apparentlly linux is happy with 10% of one core...
i guess i'll see about letting seti use some of my new chip.

mabye? the cpu fan will finally turn on when i'm not gaming :-)

are the cycles really "spare" (4, Insightful)

atarione (601740) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904166)

i was kinda interested in this at one point then when I installed SETI@home i realized that it made my proc max out 24x7 and shoot up to it's load temps (obviously) and of course use more electricity. i decided that I wasn't willing to stress my equipment or pay for the electricity to run this type of software ( I do of course realize you can set the amount of cpu it uses.. but still) I think that all these distributed projects kinda try to gloss over the fact that it isn't free to participate ... and given the $100+ a barrel oil at the moment people that chose to participate should probably be made more aware of what the costs and wear and tear impacts really are.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904338)

Yeah, I don't know what universe you're living it, but the one I live in, we don't have cool running processors. There are no desktop (or even laptop) processors today that are incrementally clockable. There's a few that can halve the clock speed.. there's a few that can even quarter it.. but that's about it. That means for every second that you only need to execute 1000 instructions because you are idle, your 2GHZ processor is actually executing 1999999000 "nop" instructions (if you prefer, insert powers of 2, but normal people understand decimal). These instructions *are* wasted. Yes, an add instruction does take more than 1 cycle, and yes, it does use more power than nop instruction (as it uses more silicon) but these are minor details. All the massive number of control gates are still active even when you are doing nothing. Nops are still pulled from cache, etc.

Now, of course, if you were to actually turn your computer off that would save you a hell of a lot of power.. as would the next best thing, suspend or hibernate.. but for those billions and billions of cycles between every keystroke or when you've otherwise got the computer on and you're just not using all the cpu, you are indeed wasting cycles.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904460)

/* school yard chant */
while (1)
fprintf(stdout, "QuantumG counts his cccyyyccclllleeesss!\n");

Good explanation.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

DrkShadow (72055) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904526)

*sigh*

http://techreport.com/articles.x/7927/2 [techreport.com] -- read the brief part about Dynamic Clock Gating. It's also briefly mentioned here [wikipedia.org] .

There's one method in which turning off _portions_ of a processor has been used in modern processors. I think all modern processors use such features, but I'm not entirely sure about that.

Also, one thing you seem completely unaware of is that transistors only use current while _switching_. (Except for maybe a small leak current.) The significance here is that if you're not _actively_ flipping bits back and forth, you're _not_ using as much power. Also, I know that the Windows idle thread (and I know there's an equivelent in Linux, but I never get to see it) instructs the processor to do something that will pause certain computer functions for a short time -- this may relate to the clock gating; I'm not sure. Still, NT machines do use less power than 9x machines, which is when the idler was introduced.

It's times like this when there was a -1, Wrong mod -- it'd be much better than "Overrated". I'm sure everyone will say "post a comment correcting things!" but when there are already 10 such comments.. the _incorrect_ comment just needs to be removed from the system.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904658)

Yes, you're a nazi, we get it.

I do believe I mentioned the fact that there are power saving things you can do.. but regardless, there are still a shitload of cycles wasted by having the idle thread run nops. It's just unavoidable, so why not run something useful in the idle thread?

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

dotgain (630123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905012)

Hell, even the MC68000 from the 80s had a low power mode invoked by the "STOP" opcode. The CPU would stop processing until an interrupt occurred. (which you enabled before executing STOP, right? RIGHT? Aw nuts..)

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

Morten Hustveit (722349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904650)

That means for every second that you only need to execute 1000 instructions because you are idle, your 2GHZ processor is actually executing 1999999000 "nop" instructions

Or, in the case of 80386 and compatible processors, you can issue the HLT instruction, which will put the CPU in low power mode and not return until the next hardware interrupt. This is what happens in all modern operating systems.

Yes (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904958)

The other posters are right; the halt instruction is executed by all modern browsers and OSs, and dramatically decreases CPU power use (as well as A/C required to move the heat out, much of the time).

Also, by the way, cycles (Hz) are never base 2 units, they're always base 10, so 2GHz is 2000000000Hz.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (5, Informative)

Xelios (822510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904400)

The difference between idle and full load power use on processors nowadays is on the order of 20W (though admittedly this is more like 60W on processors like the Core 2 Duo if you have SpeedStep enabled). 50 hours at full load before you've used a kilowatt more energy. Given an average energy price of $0.13 per KWh that's a pretty small amount, on the order of $2 per month. It's still something, but to me the work done for SETI or Folding@Home is at least worth the price of a cappucino every month.

Processors are also built to run at full load, as long as it holds a good steady temperature (say 50C) you might see its lifespan decreased from 30,000 hours to 20,000 hours. What they're not built for is constant temperature cycling between load and room (off) temperature. Turning your PC off at night will likely have the same affect on its lifespan as constant load does. Again, to me at least, it's worth it. I replace the CPU every 2-3 years anyway and have yet to see one KIA.

I do think, though, that Folding@Home is a better investment than SETI. Not that I'm not curious about finding life out there, but there are more important things to do here first.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

c0nsole (1164167) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904562)

I'm at the other end of the spectrum here in the southern california inland empire (San Bernadino County), served by Southern California Edison. Because of the 'baseline' limits that SCE is allowed to set, I end up paying around 35 cents in the winter and 45 cents in the summer per kWh. My idle/full-load delta is about 65W on an Intel C2Q @ 2.7GHz according to my kill-a-watt wattmeter. So running a full-load app on all four cores pulls an extra 1.45kWh's per day. That's right about $20/mo. @ summer rates. Ouch. As you can guess I'm not running any distributed apps. If Nanosolar, Inc. ends up lowering utility prices in 4-5 years I will certainly start running F@H again.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

orangepeel (114557) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904608)

That's the best technical explanation I've read that actually matches and explains the real-world observations that anyone with an attention to detail will notice should they run software like SETI@home or Folding@home. Thanks for taking the time to post that!

It's because of the power consumption issue that I stopped running things like this year-round, 24 hours a day. Instead what I started doing about 4 years ago was only run software like this (in my case Folding@home) during the winter. That way the waste heat is not waste heat. It actually contributes to the heating I need in my apartment.

Even running Folding@home for 4 or 5 months a year gives me a geeky sense of satisfaction over having contributed something to an interesting scientific project -- and the timing means that it comes without any guilt over the potential environmental impact. Sure, I know a ground-source heat pump would be a more efficient method of generating that heat, but given the circumstances the difference falls far below the level required for me to care about it.

Now if only there were CPUs out there that absorbed heat, I could run Folding@home during the summer months too...

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904882)

This is a good idea. I've been compiling Gentoo for OS X for that purpose during the colder days this winter.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905004)

It's certainly true that it's cheaper, HVAC-wise, to run a CPU in the winter, that heat isn't necessarily free. There are much cheaper ways to get heat in the apartment than by running electricity through a resistor, such as a heat pump, or if you're in a really cold area, burning natural gas.

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904664)

Whoah. Where do you buy your capuccino?

Re:are the cycles really "spare" (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904404)

Yep, that's why I stopped participating in this kind of project. It's worth mentioning that this was less of an issue back in 1999, because processors didn't have the ability to clock down when they were idle. So there were indeed cycles "going to waste" though I guess it still took some extra power to use them.

carbon footprint? (5, Interesting)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904198)

I'm just curious how much energy the SETI project has used with zero results thus far. Is the amount of resources and time they are contributing to this cause really worth the incalculable chance they get a signal from an alien civilization? Having millions of PC's running at 100% doing pattern searching seems like a huge waste of energy. I'll run distributed clients myself like folding@home that actually have research results. Usually, only during the winter though (since electric heat is my only option anyway).

Re:carbon footprint? (1)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904480)

I stopped running Distributed.Net because I didn't want to leave my PC running when I wasn't using it, and when I was using it I didn't want all the fan noise caused by the CPU running hot.

There should be a minimum performance required for these applications so people don't run old inefficient PCs 24/7 while achieving bugger all.

Re:carbon footprint? (1)

carlmenezes (204187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904508)

1,000,000pcs each consuming 400W running 24/7 for a year would use :

1000000 * 400W * (3600s * 24 * 365.25) = 1.262304 × 10^16 joules (Watt-seconds) of energy

= 3,506,400,000 kWh

The conversion factor from kWh of mains electricity to kgCO2 is 0.43.
That gives you : 1,507,752,000 kgCO2.

My calculations may be wrong, but its a big number :)

Re:carbon footprint? (1)

netik (141046) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905058)

400W?

Nearly every computer we have in our labs is 100-200W. Don't believe what you read on the power supplies.

Re:carbon footprint? (1)

c0nsole (1164167) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905110)

An average Intel C2D desktop (w/ integrated graphics) will consume 50-70W when idle and 80-100W when the CPU is maxxed out. Add an extra 50W to that if you have an older Dual-core P4 (PD). You'd need to be running a massive rack mounted dual proc xeon server with a 14+ drive 3.5" disk storage array to even get near 400W. But yeah, its still a big number :)

Re:carbon footprint? (1)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904516)

The results;

- Bring distributed computing to the public eye, open the eyes of many researchers it is a tool they can use for certain kinds of tasks. (Think folding@home would have gotten where they did without SETI@home paving the way?)

- Bring distributed computing to the cryptographer eye, so the KGB can use your grandmas infected Windows box to break NSA messages.

- Bring contributions and publicity to the SETI projects so when the selfish-assed Bush regime shut off funding it could survive.

Re:carbon footprint? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904532)

I'm just curious how much energy the SETI project has used with zero results thus far. Is the amount of resources and time they are contributing to this cause really worth the incalculable chance they get a signal from an alien civilization? Having millions of PC's running at 100% doing pattern searching seems like a huge waste of energy.

SETI@Home currently has spent several million CPU hours, at average of 10 CPU hours per user. This may seem a lot, but in the global picture you'll rarely find numbers that are not in the millions to begin with.

Talking about SETI causing a problem with carbon emissions is a bit sensationalistic. I do see it as a waste too, but it's a waste funded by the curious public.

The nature of research is, that it's a complete waste, until the point a discovery is made. Then it's suddenly not a waste, and opponents are quick to try and cover their previous objections.

Whether SETI will arrive at any results in the near few thousand years is a completely different matter. My point of view it, let it live or die naturally (depending on the funding it receives from the public).

Re:carbon footprint? (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904694)

The search for extraterrestrial life has dramatic impacts on our own continued chances for survival as a species. As such, I'd say it's an inherently important problem [gmu.edu] . I'll take almost any amount of help to species-level survival over cancer drugs.

Note also that a null result is not the same as no results. Both a null result (failing to find ETI) and a positive result (finding it) convey useful information.

Re:carbon footprint? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21905190)

i just wonder how much energy you wasted breathin you fuckin faggot piece of shit

Arecibo? I thought they were closing it? (5, Interesting)

filbranden (1168407) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904258)

Arecibo? I thought they were closing it? At least they recently lost around 75% of their fundings [slashdot.org] .

Is SETI even needed? (0, Troll)

alexkraemer (877405) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904308)

Sorry to sound like a troll, but what do we stand to gain from analyzing all this data? How does making contact with aliens address any of the domestic problems we have? Wouldn't a more efficient use of resources be to support the Folding@home which will actually yield useful information about protein structure? And yes, I have the same criticism about Prime95 as well.
Which option benefits mankind:
1. Understanding how proteins work, which leads to medical advancements.
2. Yay! A new prime number! Let's call it OMGPONIES.
3. OMG Aliens! PONIES!

Re:Is SETI even needed? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904702)

The biggest benefit would be #3, ponies or no.

Re:Is SETI even needed? (2, Insightful)

hibji (966961) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904746)

I guess it depends on what you really care about. Personally, knowing that there are intelligent beings out there would affect me a whole lot more than a cure for cancer. It changes the way I think about myself and my place in the universe. Think about all the crazy things that will happen with the world's religions. That alone would be worth it to me. Of course, right now, I don't have cancer nor anyone close to me. Like anything else, I reserve the right to change my mind.

I agree with you about Prime95 though.

How wasteful is SETI? (4, Insightful)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904454)

Fine, I'm burning cycles running a project that may (heck, when it comes to SETI, probably) won't see any tangible results.

But how is contributing to a project that was the basis for mainstreamed distributed computing any more wasteful than blowing 9 hours a night on WoW? I'd love to see a breakdown of the increased energy usage from a high-end CPU and a good video card vs. a PC that's on anyway and running BOINC when it's idle.

Screaming "carbon footprint!!" about something as trivial as BOINC is the real waste. Here, I've swapped 80% of the lights in my house for CFL's, and I burned 10 bucks worth of electricity last month (with an electric heater and 4x computers in the house no less!) does make me green enough to spare some processor cycles now?

Re:How wasteful is SETI? (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904530)

I noticed that when I attach certain devices around the house so that makes it easy to flip the switch at night I saved about $AU20 per month. My projector consumed 30W when turned off but not off at the switch. I had fun with an electricity meter.

Almost never are more than 3 lights (CFLs) turned on in the house at any one time (2 people).

So where are ETs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904476)

I remember when we run SETI since late 90s, where are the results - did they ever publish anything
worth while or they still get noise from outerspace.

Fucking ignorant (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904524)

"Oh, but it uses my precioussss energy!"

Of all the things in the world that monumental amounts of energy are 'wasted' on each day (powering bin Ladens dialysis machine,lighting the creationism museum,all the power used by all the dictators and oppressors of the world who shouldn't be allowed to LIVE let alone use resources), 'wasting' a few of them LOOKING FOR FUCKING EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE doesn't even come CLOSE to being classified as a 'waste'. FUCK! Am I at the wrong site?!!

Re:Fucking ignorant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21904618)

Go back to zedshaw.com where you belong

Re:Fucking ignorant (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904866)

Besides, looking for ETI is important [gmu.edu] , too.

I agree completely, though -- whatever happened to doing things because they're fucking COOL? Aren't we supposed to be nerds, here?

Re:Fucking ignorant (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21905026)

Of all the things in the world that monumental amounts of energy are 'wasted' on each day (powering bin Ladens dialysis machine,lighting the creationism museum,all the power used by all the dictators and oppressors of the world who shouldn't be allowed to LIVE let alone use resources), 'wasting' a few of them LOOKING FOR FUCKING EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE doesn't even come CLOSE to being classified as a 'waste'. FUCK! Am I at the wrong site?!!
Um, yeah, it's a waste, because there's no extraterrestrial life to find. If all this number-crunching were actually resulting in real scientific discoveries that actually benefited mankind, then I don't care if it also leaves open the possibility of finding aliens, but if the whole thing is useless if no aliens are found, then the whole thing is useless, because aliens won't be found.

It always amazes me when the same people who make fun of Christians for believing in a God we can't see put just as much faith in their belief that extraterrestrial life must exist out there somewhere. At least we have the Bible; what the hell is your belief based on? UFO sightings? The historic account of Eric Cartman's anal probe as revealed in cartoon form?

Not a waste of energy (2)

mailseth (227177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904604)

Distributed programs like this aren't a waste of energy when you're trying to heat your home. Electric heat costs just as much when you get it from a computer as when you get it through a base-board. From a pure heating standpoint, useful computer calculations are pure byproduct. 200W of heat from a processor costs the same as 200W of heat from the heater. Funny how this should come out in the middle of winter (for most of the 'net connected population).

Re:Not a waste of energy (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904812)

When you use resistive electrical heat, in most cases you're wasting 2/3 of the fuel energy at the power plant and in transmission losses. This applies whether you're using baseboard heaters or computer chips. That's one reason that it's so hideously expensive compared to gas heat or electric heat pumps, and it's why resistive heating is rarely used in locations with any substantial heating requirements.

Re:Not a waste of energy (1)

Morten Hustveit (722349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904922)

Distributed programs like this aren't a waste of energy when you're trying to heat your home.

That's an excellent point. You could sell Folding@home electric panel heaters by installing an array of cheap CPUs rather than resistor wires, and use the mobile phone network for transferring results (about 30 MB/month, (US: 69 square cubic dozen bits per fortnight)) when LAN isn't available. Given the life expectancy of an electric heater, I guess you can easily sell them for a slightly higher price compared to heaters currently on the market.

could not meet their demands (1)

tacocat (527354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904718)

I couldn't keep up with the processing power they required after the second version was released. The wherecasking for too much and I had to bail.

which projects to choose (1)

rasantel (845097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904758)

I have always wondered how much more energy you consume. I agree it's probably less than what CPU/hardware "power-saving" features suggest. Especially when you are using your PC for office/browsing activity, most of the CPU(s) time is wasted. The big question though is how effective is a project. It's not only about the "most important to humanity". One project might sound less important but it might require much less computation than a project that sounds more important. Just look at ClimatePrediction.com, it takes months to compute a single unit, whereas you can complete several Seti@home or IBM's World Community Grid units in a single day. In a sense, the winner is the project that provides the more benefit to society per CPU cycle spent. My only worry is that the benefit might still be so low that you do more harm than good by using a little extra energy on it... Boinc is a nice manager software to share your cycles among several projects and even use each CPU core you have. Why doesn't folding@home have a Boinc link? Is it just competition/jealousy between Stanford and Berkeley?

Let me guess... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904930)

...some joker inserted a bunch of calls to rand()? Hey, it's periodic too!

700% increase (4, Funny)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21904986)

My first thought was that some aliens discovered spam...

Why do we think aliens use radio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21905040)

There are 10 planets we have explored. 1 has species.

That planet ( Earth ) has millions of species. Only 1 has figured out how to use radio. The others aren't even close at all.

Of the billions of individuals of that species over the course of history. Only 1 discovered radio.

Good luck guys. But you are not going to find what you are looking for.
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