Internet

Better than FreeCell

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comp downtime

Remember when the geeks that you knew in college lent their computers' downtime to help find alien life? (They did if you were in college in 1999, anyway). The SETI@home project showed up as a geek chic screensaver while using spare processing capacity on ordinary computers to sift through radio-telescope data for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Now dozens of other projects are following the same model–and some are capturing the spare processing capacity of human brains, too. Mental dabbling that might have gone to FreeCell now helps identify galaxies, give guidance to new Skype users, and classify cosmic dust.

And then there's this:

The project, which is part of an initiative called Africa@home co-ordinated by the University of Geneva, will enlist volunteers to extract useful cartographic information—the positions of roads, villages, fields and so on—from satellite images of regions in Africa where maps either do not exist or are hopelessly out of date. This will help regional planning authorities, aid workers and scientists documenting the effects of climate change. Dr Amoako-Yirenkyi is excited by the prospects such projects open up for African researchers. "We can leapfrog expensive data centres, and plug directly into a global computer," he says. Rather than fretting about a digital divide, researchers in developing countries stand to benefit from this digital multiplication effect.

Via KurzweilAI.net

NEXT: Hear Me, O Baltimore!

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  1. classify cosmic dust.

    Cosmic dust is classified now? The Bush Administration is covering up for the Magisterium nowadays? Somebody should tell W that A – it’s just a story, and B – the Magisterium are the bad guys, not the good guys.

  2. Forget FreeCell. Anyone remember JezzBall? Now THAT was a great Windows game.

  3. The project, which is part of an initiative called Africa@home co-ordinated by the University of Geneva, will enlist volunteers to extract useful cartographic information-the positions of roads, villages, fields and so on-from satellite images of regions in Africa where maps either do not exist or are hopelessly out of date.

    Speaking as a map nerd, this is totally awesome.

  4. and some are capturing the spare processing capacity of human brains, too.

    A massive, untapped resource…

  5. If we could only get 1 billion people to leave their computers on 24/7, then we could really document some climate change. Even better, every person in the world could fly to Africa to witness the effects of pollution in person. If that doesn’t work, maybe spnsor a “cut down a tree day” in an effort to build awareness.

    I did SETI back in the day. I thought it was just to verify system stability after overclocking.

  6. Wow, bigbigslacker:

    Benefit >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Cost

    Every decision has both, but sometimes it’s really a no-brainer.

  7. I smell a business oportunity here. Perhaps unused brains can be leased while some of *cough*joe*cough* us are at work.

  8. Anyone remember JezzBall?

    Crack. Crack fuckin’ coke.
    Thank God for the recent SCOTUS decision.

  9. Speaking as a map nerd

    lunchstealer,

    Heh. Nice to hear I’m not alone. 🙂

  10. lunchstealer is the king of this thread.

    (His Dark Materials + maps = kewl)

  11. Highnumber, For the ultimate experience in map-nerd-normal-nerd crossover, there’s always The Atlas of Middle Earth, compiled from the maps sketches and descriptions by a cartographer with unashamed nerdiness and a brilliant marketing plan.

  12. For map nerds, here is an awesome site.

    My fave map on the first page is 212 – 12/4/2007 where the number of greeting kisses by French departments is identified.

  13. Contributing effort voluntarily to government instead of having it forcibly removed through taxation? I love it already.

  14. Meh, I don’t care so much about the fictional maps. That, or maybe I just don’t care so much about LotR. I haven’t seen a Dark Materials map, but I imagine that it would have to be something like the Bible that Elijah gives God in The Divine Invasion.

    Whoa. I’m not usually such a nerd. I think I’m going to turn the Hives up real loud and read about the Mitchell Report for a bit while I shake off this geekiness.

  15. You sure that reading government reports and listening to Swedish rock is the way to the mainstream?

  16. Aaaaackkkk!!!

    I’m doomed!

  17. Ryan, so you’re with me then?

    🙂

  18. Speaking as a map nerd, this is totally awesome.

    Speaking as a menovelent dictator-to-be, I find this awsome too.

    Checking off one more item in my quest for global domination.

  19. Now there will be 6 hits for “menovelent”!

  20. For map nerds, here is an awesome site.

    Thanks, de stijl, a few links later I found this interesting map showing the average age of virginity loss around the world. I wonder if it’s the cold climates of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, etc. that leave not much else to do during those long winters? Of course Russian and Canada can be pretty chilly too and they don’t seem to be getting it on nearly as young…

  21. Brian Courts,

    I notice a correlation between population size and age of loss of virginity…Iceland to India.

    I bet if you go down to smaller units (i.e., small towns) you will get even stronger results.

    The causal link has to have something to do with boredom.

  22. I did SETI back in the day. I thought it was just to verify system stability after overclocking.

    Slacker: it was. It was a way to get your name up in lights for having the fasted processor.

    These massive, distributed processing ideas are cool on a project-per-project basis. But they lack a certain staying power. Each project must have a small client piece installed on each persons computer. Just like the Seti project, it gets old, you don’t keep up with it, you uninstall the client, and eventually, the fad goes away, and eventually you might do just as well with a small group of powerful, centrally located systems.

    Because of the need for a local client, there are only so many local clients that a given user is going to install that use “spare” processing power. The idea becomes that you’re going to pick your pet project, install the client, run that for a while, then either move onto the next distributed processing fad, or sort of give up altogether– as I did.

    Basically, as more and more projects compete for more and more of each persons computer, brain or time, we end up with less and less “spare” computing power, even though the number of systems available increases. There’s simply too much noise, and not enough quality.

  23. SETI@Home has worked great for me. I’ve been using it to communicate with aliens for quite a while. I’m negotiating to be named Lord High Governor of the Sol System.

  24. ProGLib,
    That was actually a 12 year old in Seattle you’ve been negotiating with. He is willing to take you to his eighth grade prom, however.

    (Don’t tell them I told you, but actually he’s not a 12 year old in Seattle. He’s a Dateline reporter, so you should skip the prom.)

  25. and some are capturing the spare processing capacity of human brains, too

    Just about the cleverest use of idle human cpu seconds:

    T&A reward for password hacking

  26. (Don’t tell them I told you, but actually he’s not a 12 year old in Seattle. He’s a Dateline reporter, so you should skip the prom.)

    But don’t ask ^# how he knows…

  27. highnumber,

    Perhaps you’re right. But if you’re wrong, let’s just say I’ll have happy slaves and unhappy slaves.

    On an unrelated note, do you have any mining experience?

  28. On an unrelated note, do you have any mining experience?

    I spent some time leading a negative-reinforcement squad in the sugar-cave industry in the mid-90s. We mostly focused on whips, but I always made sure there were a couple of guys with bats to keep things well-rounded. Is that the kind of experience you’re looking for?

  29. Note to self: lunchstealer may have slave-driving experience.

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