Distributed Computing For The Greater Good

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | ZDNet | March 1, 2013

Summary: From searching for alien life to working out cancer's protein structures to seeking cores for orphan and rare diseases, distributed computing programs can put your idle computers to good work.

What do you think your computer does most of the time? For most of us, most of the time, it just sits there idly spinning its wheels.

It doesn't have to be that way. There are many distributed computer programs, such as Seti@home, the search for alien life; Folding@home, protein research for understanding how many diseases work; and the just announced Quantum Cures project which seeks to find cures for "orphan" diseases. Most can put your PC to useful work while you're drinking coffee or asleep in your bed.

These programs use the power of up to hundreds of thousands of computers around the world to create distributed supercomputers. While no single distributed project is as fast as a Top500 supercomputer, they're still faster than the computers to which most researchers have access.