BOINC - What is it and how can I help?
BOINC is the acronym for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing and is software that enables distributed computing. For example, the computing power of all volunteers' computers is utilized to distribute computationally intensive tasks among them and have them computed. Usually, these are university or non-profit projects that lack super-computer budgets, too. Therefore, you can run this software on your PC, laptop, tablet, or even your smartphone; additionally, you can configure it to use computing power only when you are not actively using your device at that moment. Moreover, to be honest, most people have their smartphones turned on and plugged into the charging cable overnight anyway. So why not do something beneficial with it?
Supplying your computing power, meaning running your devices for BOINC, is called "crunching." Since crunching together with your friends or even participating in groups is incredibly fun, there is also the utopify team for many projects (see the link at the end of the project description).
There are many projects, including modeling simulations to find possible treatments for COVID-19, forecasting (bad) weather with greater precision, improving climate predictions, creating a high-precision three-dimensional model of our galaxy, searching for extraterrestrial life, searching for the largest provable prime number, and much more. Many projects may not be immediately understood or even deemed nonsensical. Personally, projects from the fields of astrophysics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and computer science that could actually solve problems are meaningful to me. For instance, if there is a mathematical problem, such as finding an even larger prime number, subjectively, I do not consider it beneficial because the previously discovered prime numbers already solve current problems adequately, such as in the world of cryptography.
The following is a small overview of projects that I consider worthwhile:
As you can tell from the name, it is about predicting the climate. It involves calculating how climate change will affect the planet and its development in the future. These calculations are vital, as they can provide evidence about whether investments in reducing greenhouse gases are crucial. These computer models simulate the climate for the next century and make predictions about temperatures, the climate, and the likelihood of extreme storms.
With Einstein@Home, your computing power is used to detect weak astrophysical signals from spinning neutron stars/pulsars. The long-term objective is to detect gravitational-wave emissions from spinning neutron stars. Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein (the origin of the name of the project) more than a century ago, and humankind only succeeded in detecting them for the very first time in 2015.
This project does not run on conventional central processing units (CPUs) but only on graphics processing units (GPUs). The advantage is that GPUs can perform this type of task much better than CPUs can. Therefore, if you have a gaming PC, you can effortlessly help biomedical science by using this project. Whether it is cancer, HIV/AIDS, neurological disorders, or researching new approaches for understanding protein functions. Everything is there.
Through this project, highly accurate three-dimensional models of our galaxy, the Milky Way, are being generated. This project enables research in both astroinformatics and computer science.
This is a project that is highly applicable to biology/medicine. Computational power is used to identify three-dimensional shapes of proteins (protein folding) that help researchers discover cures for human diseases (such as HIV, malaria, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease).
We live in times that are marked by the fastest scientific development in history. Our knowledge grows faster than ever before, and this project will assist problems where laboratory examination is inadequate. Among them are ultraluminous X-ray sources (black holes in binary star systems), gravitational waves, and type Ia supernovas (fundamental for determining distances in the universe).
World Community Grid is a non-profit philanthropic initiative sponsored by IBM that targets, but is not limited to, numerous research challenges in the medical field. Some examples include:
- OpenPandemics: Searching for potential treatments against the COVID-19 virus
- Africa Rainfall Project: Helping farmers in Africa by forecasting weather patterns
- Smash Childhood Cancer: Tackling childhood cancers
- Help Stop TB: Combating tuberculosis
This is a non-computational project because it just collects properties of BOINC projects like computation time, memory requirements, checkpointing interval, and reporting limit. However, not only does it yield interesting information about work that you have done and what projects you have contributed to, but it can provide a view of other people's data as well.
Sometime in the near future, I will write more blog articles about how to easily participate in multiple projects with one manager, how to control your hosts (smartphone, computer, laptop, Raspberry Pi, etc.) from one website, and how to configure BOINC, to begin with. Additionally, as a little bonus, I might write an article about my small army of Raspberry Pis since I now own seven of them, and all of them are explicitly configured for BOINC.