Search for ET

Actually, the headline is a little misleading, but it does grab one's attention. We found ourselves with a sizeable collection of used, but usable computers and were looking for something useful to do with them. We decided to participate in the SETI@home project (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) which uses idle home computers to search for life beyond Earth. As we looked into the project, we found that there were several projects that we could participate in, but more on those later.

The University of California has developed a system for using widely separated computers (connected via the Internet) to participate in solving large scale problems using volunteer computers and grid computing. This sytem, called BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing), developed by the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley was initially for the SETI project, but has since been expanded to other projects. There are currently over 560,000 computers worldwide participating via BOINC in various research projects. Eight of those computers are located in our office in Jasper Indiana. More info on the BOINC system may be found in this pdf document.

Matt with a table full of SETI computersFirst, the physical setup. Jasper Communications staff member Matt Mehling collected 8 of our most powerful idle computers and loaded each with a fresh copy of Windows XP Pro. These were all gathered to one location in a spare office. A private LAN was created for these 8 computers and they were placed behind a firewall, just to be safe. Each computer is configured for remote administration, so only a single keyboard, screen and mouse are necessary for the entire collection of computers.

After Matt had the hardware and operating sytems setup, he then loaded the BOINC software onto each of the 8 computers. Then we had to decide which of the research projects that we wished to participate in. Here is a summary of our selected projects.

SETI. The SETI Volunteer Project's mission is searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence through analyzing data for evidence of radio transmissions. More info on the SETI project may be found in this pdf document.

QMC. The Quantum Monte Carlo Volunteer Project's mission is to further develop the Quantum Monte Carlo method for general use in quantum chemistry. More info on the QMC project may be found in this pdf document.

EINSTEIN. The Einstein@Home Volunteer Project's mission is searching for gravitational waves from stars and black holes. More info on the Einstein project may be found in this pdf document.

CLIMATE. The Climate Prediction Volunteer Project's mission is forecasting climate change in the 21st century. More info on the Climate project may be found in this pdf document.

We at Jasper Communications are proud to make our small contribution towards uncovering the mysteries of our universe.

Comments, criticisms, and questions may be directed to Matt via e-mail.



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