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BBR Distributed Computing
Putting your spare computer cycles to work...
Written by KeysCapt See Profile
A considerable cross section of our members here at DSLR have chosen to participate in something known as "distributed computing"; to that end we've assembled a primer on how to put your spare computer cycles to use. There are a number of similar but distinct projects users can choose from. This is an introduction to them, and the process of distributed computing.

Distributed computing is a very large number of individual computers all working on the same problem. The real beauty of DC is the way it uses your computer, by using only the idle time of your CPU. While you read this, your computer literally just sits and waits, even if you are listening to music, have some different files open, maybe even burning MP3s to CD. Probably 90% of your processing power is idle. If you were participating in a DC project, that largely unused portion of your CPU cycles would be put to excellent use, and you wouldn't even notice it. And yes, your security is assured.

So let's take a look at some of the teams here, and learn a little about them.

Team Helix is comprised of a group of loving and caring people who come from all walks of life and backgrounds and have different customs and beliefs. While we are all different and unique we do have one thing in common. We share the desire to help our fellow man. We do this by donating our time, our money, and our computers to run Stanford Universitys programs.

The programs that Stanford utilizes are Folding@Home and Genome@Home, which allow us to fold and bend proteins in hopes of finding a cure to one of the many diseases which have inflicted mankind. Some of us have lost love ones to Cancer, Diabetes, and Alzheimers, while others are battling to overcome these diseases themselves. Others are here with no other reason then its the right thing to do. We have found unity and friendship and will always find a way to help our fellow team member.

BBR's RC5-72 Team is involved in a contest. It is geared towards solving the RSA Labs 72-bit secret-key challenge. Prizes are awarded to Distributed.net (home of RC5), the person that finds the key, the team to which winner belongs, and a non-profit organization chosen by all of the participants.

Project RC5 depends on each of its participants to find the correct solution for RSA Labs 72-bit secret-key challenge through "brute force". We literally try every possible key in order to find the answer. The RC5 Project has already found the solutions to the RSA challenges for 56 and 64-bit keys.

Approximately 100 people participate, with 50 contributing work units daily. Although every platform imaginable is supported, the Macintosh is the most common platform on the Broadband Reports Team due to the 128-bit vector units of the Apple G4 CPU. Currently, the Broadband Reports RC5-72 Team is ranked 19th overall, and we are constantly improving. We encourage all users, from all platforms to join the BBR team, and start crunching! Go to Distributed Net for project and client information.

BBR's Team Ecology can be found in the General Distributed Computing Forum and is a team of environmentally and ecologically minded people that are working together to support various preservation projects at the Ecology Fund site. The Ecology Fund site is operated by the Hunger Site Network "as a way to get funds for critical habitat and wilderness preservation using the power of the internet." The Ecology Fund site is supported by sponsors, who have an interest in wilderness preservation as well as other environmental concerns. In return for some minimal exposure on the Ecology Fund site, these sponsors make financial contributions towards the various projects when you "click" on the designated project buttons.

The team was founded on February 14, 2001 and has nearly 500 members, with approximately 80 currently participating. The team is ranked second overall among all teams involved. Over 14 million square feet of wilderness and habitat areas have been saved by this team. While not a "true" DC project in the strictest sense, it is a true team effort to preserve wilderness areas on this planet we all share. It's an easy project to participate in and takes only a few minutes of your time each day.

Lifemapper is the newest Distributed Computing team at BBR, introduced on April 28, 2003. Lifemapper is a sister team of Team Ecology. The project is supported by the Infomatics Biodiversity Research Center of the University of Kansas, and its objectives are to retrieve records of millions of plants and animals in the world's natural history museums, compute the ecological profile of each species, map where the species has been found, and predict where each species could potentially live. The results will be used for biodiversity research, education and conservation worldwide - especially to forecast environmental events and inform public policy.

BBR's Team Endeavor is another small DC project that participates in Distributed Folding. A small team, it is made up of a group of dedicated "crunchers" who run the project on multiple machines. In essence, proteins have a vast number of folds, larger than we could hope to compute even with distributed computing. Usually only one fold can be found in nature. The Distributed Folding Project is testing a new protein folding algorithm to see if it can reproduce natural protein folds after making extremely large samples of many different folds.

The participants are attempting to create the largest samples of protein folds ever computed. Already 1 Billion folds have been sampled for 5 small proteins, and the process of sampling 10 Billion (10,000,000,000) for another 10 large proteins is underway. By the end of our first phase, we hope to make over 100 Billion protein folds spanning 15 different proteins.

Team Discovery is a two-project team. One of the programs is called UD, which stands for United Devices. The other program is TSC (Tuberous Sclerosis Complex). With UD, team members crunch to find a cure for cancer. With TSC, team members try to find a cure for tuberous sclerosis complex. The team was created on April 5, 2001 and has 1,500 members.

During 2003, TD created "TD Project Hope". TD Project Hope was born out of an idea in March 2003 to build a large, multi-node community "cruncher" to process data for the team. This big cruncher was developed from numerous new and used parts, and is hosted by four different hosts. The project was funded by almost fifty team members contributing approximately $2,850.00 toward the project.

If you would like to learn more about these projects, and the amazing community spirit that develops among the DC teams, you can start by browsing the Team forums. Some have their own forum, and other teams may be found in the DC forum. But most of all, feel free to ask questions in any of these clubs ... the members are all more than willing to lend a hand. There are also several FAQs on the site with more info. These can be found in the forums as well.

Several members of the individual teams participated in putting this article together.

Posted 09-05 09:54 See: BBR-News

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by nozero See Profile
last modified: 2005-08-07 17:09:08