What is BOINC? I need help explaining to my friends/family.

Message boards : Number crunching : What is BOINC? I need help explaining to my friends/family.
Message board moderation

To post messages, you must log in.

AuthorMessage
jringo

Send message
Joined: 17 Jul 17
Posts: 3
Credit: 148,601
RAC: 1
United States
Message 2011568 - Posted: 11 Sep 2019, 10:54:52 UTC

So, I was recently talking to a family member about having attended the BOINC workshop in Chicago. Right off the bat they asked the big questions: BOINC? BOINC what? What’s a BOINC?

I answered as best I could, but ultimately I realized that “it’s a middleware system that networks everyone’s computers together to form a supercomputer that anyone can use. SETI uses it.” was seriously insufficient, particularly when it came to keeping the attention of this science loving technically illiterate individual -- let alone driving their desire to learn more or participate.

I’ve spent some time thinking about it and I have a few different answers now, but even they feel limited. I’ll share a few ideas if the discussion gets going.

So yeah, I'm curious what everyone else thinks:

What is BOINC?
ID: 2011568 · Report as offensive     Reply Quote
Profile Gary Charpentier Crowdfunding Project Donor*Special Project $250 donor
Volunteer tester
Avatar

Send message
Joined: 25 Dec 00
Posts: 26042
Credit: 51,133,512
RAC: 21,800
United States
Message 2011581 - Posted: 11 Sep 2019, 13:31:22 UTC - in response to Message 2011568.  

So, I was recently talking to a family member about having attended the BOINC workshop in Chicago. Right off the bat they asked the big questions: BOINC? BOINC what? What’s a BOINC?

I answered as best I could, but ultimately I realized that “it’s a middleware system that networks everyone’s computers together to form a supercomputer that anyone can use. SETI uses it.” was seriously insufficient, particularly when it came to keeping the attention of this science loving technically illiterate individual -- let alone driving their desire to learn more or participate.

I’ve spent some time thinking about it and I have a few different answers now, but even they feel limited. I’ll share a few ideas if the discussion gets going.

So yeah, I'm curious what everyone else thinks:

What is BOINC?

See my answer https://boinc.berkeley.edu/forum_thread.php?id=13106&postid=92772#92772
ID: 2011581 · Report as offensive     Reply Quote
Profile Keith Myers Crowdfunding Project Donor*Special Project $75 donorSpecial Project $250 donor
Volunteer tester
Avatar

Send message
Joined: 29 Apr 01
Posts: 10340
Credit: 1,015,238,561
RAC: 1,445,773
United States
Message 2011618 - Posted: 11 Sep 2019, 19:52:38 UTC - in response to Message 2011568.  

So, I was recently talking to a family member about having attended the BOINC workshop in Chicago. Right off the bat they asked the big questions: BOINC? BOINC what? What’s a BOINC?

I answered as best I could, but ultimately I realized that “it’s a middleware system that networks everyone’s computers together to form a supercomputer that anyone can use. SETI uses it.” was seriously insufficient, particularly when it came to keeping the attention of this science loving technically illiterate individual -- let alone driving their desire to learn more or participate.

I’ve spent some time thinking about it and I have a few different answers now, but even they feel limited. I’ll share a few ideas if the discussion gets going.

So yeah, I'm curious what everyone else thinks:

What is BOINC?

Or point to the BOINC Help pages. Or point them to the definition of grid computing.

BOINC lets you help cutting-edge science research using your computer (Windows, Mac, Linux) or Android device. BOINC downloads scientific computing jobs to your computer and runs them invisibly in the background. It's easy and safe.

About 30 science projects use BOINC; examples include Einstein@Home, IBM World Community Grid, and SETI@home. These projects investigate diseases, study global warming, discover pulsars, and do many other types of scientific research.


Add that your individual compute device takes a small portion of a large supercomputer job that is sliced into millions of parts that is sent to the volunteer compute device to process and then return the result to the project where it can be integrated into the larger solution of the supercomputer job.
Seti@Home classic workunits:20,676 CPU time:74,226 hours
ID: 2011618 · Report as offensive     Reply Quote
Profile Bill Crowdfunding Project Donor*Special Project $75 donorSpecial Project $250 donor
Volunteer tester
Avatar

Send message
Joined: 30 Nov 05
Posts: 261
Credit: 5,034,978
RAC: 23,620
United States
Message 2011654 - Posted: 11 Sep 2019, 23:18:27 UTC

I think you’re asking how to explain it to someone with little computer experience. That is, keep it so simple your grandma can understand.

I would say it is a program used to help others work on a very big project by doing a very small part of the work.
Seti@home classic: 1,456 results, 1.613 years CPU time
ID: 2011654 · Report as offensive     Reply Quote
Profile Mr. Kevvy Crowdfunding Project Donor*Special Project $250 donor
Volunteer moderator
Volunteer tester
Avatar

Send message
Joined: 15 May 99
Posts: 2858
Credit: 918,630,059
RAC: 1,804,410
Canada
Message 2011658 - Posted: 12 Sep 2019, 0:02:42 UTC
Last modified: 12 Sep 2019, 0:04:41 UTC

"Scientists have big problems to solve and hard questions to answer that take lots of computer power. In the old days, the only way to do it was to build a big computer, but these cost a lot of money and used a lot of power. BOINC helps scientists let people help them by working on those problems on their own computers. It's sort of like having a big floor like a dance floor to sweep, but giving many people their own little square to do instead of one person sweeping it all.

The scientists write the actual computer program to do the work, but BOINC takes care of breaking the work into small bite-size pieces, sending them out to people's computers, getting their results back, and making sure they are correct by making sure at least two people work on each piece and they get the same result."


Except for "scientists", "computers" and "pieces" (and only because they are pluralized... and of course BOINC as it's an acronym) this description is Ogden's Basic English compatible (like Simple Wikipedia.) That's about as easy as I can make it. :^)
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
---Margaret Mead
ID: 2011658 · Report as offensive     Reply Quote
Profile Retvari Zoltan

Send message
Joined: 28 Apr 00
Posts: 7
Credit: 77,304,317
RAC: 563,566
Hungary
Message 2011667 - Posted: 12 Sep 2019, 1:28:58 UTC - in response to Message 2011568.  

What is BOINC?
That's quite simple: BOINC is a tool: the swiss army knife of Network Computing.
Now you only have to explain Network Computing :)
ID: 2011667 · Report as offensive     Reply Quote
jringo

Send message
Joined: 17 Jul 17
Posts: 3
Credit: 148,601
RAC: 1
United States
Message 2011755 - Posted: 12 Sep 2019, 20:32:11 UTC

Wow. Okay. I posted this question on several forums and have admittedly received a lot more response than I expected. There’s no way I can reply to everything so I’m just going to absorb and reply in general.

I’m providing the links to all the threads (ordered from most responses to least). I would highly recommend reading them. There are very insightful responses that approach the question from several different perspectives. I have no doubt that they will help anyone looking to spread the Word of BOINC. I plan on integrating a lot of the ideas into my personal elevator pitch.

https://www.reddit.com/r/gridcoin/comments/d2oi12/what_is_boinc_i_need_help_explaining_to_my/
https://www.reddit.com/r/BOINC/comments/d2ohll/what_is_boinc_i_need_help_explaining_to_my/
https://setiathome.berkeley.edu/forum_thread.php?id=84643
https://steemit.com/gridcoin/@jringo/what-is-boinc-i-need-help-explaining-to-my-friends-family
https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/forums/wcg/viewthread_thread,41828
https://boinc.bakerlab.org/rosetta/forum_thread.php?id=13277#91104
https://boinc.berkeley.edu/forum_thread.php?id=13106

My own answer to the question was lightly touched on by Mod.Sense over on the Rosetta@home forums when they said:

“BOINC is also the client which makes it easy for participants to connect to projects…”

Lumendan from the Gridcoin community on steemit also shared something that resonates with what I’ve been thinking:

“There is a network of people who contribute to research by volunteering some of their PC's spare computing power to solve massively difficult problems. BOINC is the backbone of that network, it's the system that links research projects with volunteers.”

To elaborate:

BOINC is the middleware software, but it feels like there’s more... particularly after having experienced the BOINC workshop... after sitting in a room (or walking along a lake) and discussing the worlds of BOINC and science with only a few dozen of the engineers, scientists, researchers, professors, contributors, builders, leaders, crunchers, thinkers, tinkerers, students, publishers, enthusiasts,... whatever, involved with BOINC...

it feels like there’s more to BOINC than the code that handles the data.

It feels like there’s more in that when I explain BOINC to my friends we never end up discussing the software or how it works. And when I force them to start crunching and we start talking about BOINC again, we almost never talk about a feature or a coming update. And when an update is released my friends really don’t care.

But when DHEP was spun up… or when DHEP was spun down… or as BlackHoles@home gets closer to release or when WCG teases new climate change projects… or when they realize that IBM runs WCG, or that DHEP was hosted out of the University of Sussex… or that LHC runs data with BOINC… or that some projects are hosted on laptops in closets by people just like them…

What I’m getting at, I suppose, is that these folks really couldn’t care less about the tech behind BOINC, supercomputers, or even science and research in general. Their interest seems to focus on the human network behind BOINC and the potential to become part of that network.

First they seem to think:

Here’s this human network established by and around a program that seeks to better humanity through the advancement of science, understanding, and knowledge.

Then they seem to think:

Here’s this program developed, maintained, and utilized by this human network that lets me immediately participate, contribute, and interact with scientists, entities, and other like-minded individuals by completing real world scientific and data-analytic tasks.

So what is BOINC? Well. What is the internet, what is Linux, what is Bitcoin?

Maybe BOINC is a human network anchored by a grid computing technology that enables seamless and immediate participation in and contribution to that network.

One thing I’ve learned for certain over my years interacting with the BOINC community is that BOINC feels like far more than just some software.
ID: 2011755 · Report as offensive     Reply Quote
Profile Retvari Zoltan

Send message
Joined: 28 Apr 00
Posts: 7
Credit: 77,304,317
RAC: 563,566
Hungary
Message 2012475 - Posted: 18 Sep 2019, 22:38:53 UTC - in response to Message 2011755.  

One thing I’ve learned for certain over my years interacting with the BOINC community is that BOINC feels like far more than just some software.
What brings people together? Their common field of interests.
You could ask: "What is soccer?" - It's just a stupid ball game which brings millions of people together. But there must be more in it if it's capable of that.

I've tried to define "what is BOINC" in a provocative argument about GridCoin at GPUGrid. It goes like this: (the quotation is from the GPUGrid forum)
Regardless of that - I stopped at the point when I learned that there is no other way to start earning GridCoins than joining the GridCoin team.
This, in my opinion, goes against some of the most fundamental principles of BOINC.
What "fundamental principles" are you refering to? BOINC is Berekeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. This is a tool, like a Swiss army knife of (network) computing, there's no high ideals behind it. Only the user of this tool could have high ideals which will determine this tool's purpose. It could be used for anything in the range of "saving the world" to "make yourself incredibly rich and surrounded by beautiful women" depending on the ideals of the user.
I think you are looking for this unwritten "fundamental principles" of BOINC. I think this lies in the hearts of the people who contribute to aid science by donating money, equipment, knowledge, their time, computing time for running a project which uses BOINC as its backbone.

There is another thought in the end of that post which I feel related to your original question:
Ah, yes, maybe later, if there will be sufficient deviant hope, things might change later.
According to my friends and family it is quite deviant to spend this much I donate for scientific research, of which most probably I will never "profit", as it takes more than a lifetime. But in my vision it has more impact in our future than anything else I could do. But all we got here and now is only deviant hope for a better future.
So that's what BOINC is capable of. To make "deviants" of the world unite!
ID: 2012475 · Report as offensive     Reply Quote

Message boards : Number crunching : What is BOINC? I need help explaining to my friends/family.


 
©2019 University of California
 
SETI@home and Astropulse are funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and donations from SETI@home volunteers. AstroPulse is funded in part by the NSF through grant AST-0307956.