Using your Linux box for volunteer computing

You can do your part to help tackle such global issues as disease control and climate prediction simply by volunteering your computer's resources to solve complex computational problems. The concept, known as volunteer computing, benefits universities and research institutions around the world, who conduct projects that often have humanitarian goals, such as predicting and controlling the spread of malaria in Africa.

To get involved, you download and install client software, which periodically downloads tasks for your computer to process using otherwise idle CPU cycles, memory, and disk space. Once a task has been completed, your computer sends the results back to the project's coordinating computers to form part of the greater project solution. By using computers from around the world, the projects involved gain massive computing power that would otherwise be well beyond their reach, and as a result, achieve their goals far more quickly. This form of computing was made popular with the SETI@home and Folding@home projects, but many other projects are now available, with goals as varied as finding cures for human diseases to rendering 3-D animations. Let's look at some of the options that are available for volunteer computing on Linux.