|Thoughts about SETI and SETI@home|
|I am in charge of a few computers at work. All are connected to the LAN so that they can act as clients and servers on the LAN and the Internet. They run 24 hours a day to make their services always available, and sometimes to keep connected imaging equipment active. As clients, they access files and remote desktop services on other computers and the Internet, and they access pages on the World-Wide Web (so far only under direct user control); they also automatically download updates from the Internet. As servers, most serve collections of files (images or software installers) onto the LAN; most serve remote desktop access onto the LAN (using TightVNC and/or TeamViewer), and/or across the Internet (using TeamViewer). |
Like most computers, they spend virtually all of their time idle, wasting compute capacity and not using available network bandwidth. I install SETI@home (and some other BOINC projects) on the computers I am personally in charge of. SETI@home claims the otherwise unused computing power and contributes it to a shared project.
SETI@home takes a little effort to install and keep up-to-date. But there is a tangible benefit. SETI@home keeps the computers under continuous test. It runs the CPU at full capacity at all times. If a computer latches up or loses LAN connectivity or Internet connectivity, it is more noticeable with SETI@home running. I often notice a problem and correct it sooner than I would without SETI@home.
I don't leave computers powered on just to run SETI@home. There are plenty of computers that can run the search. SETI soaks up the computing power; the computer has some other reason to be powered on, but nothing to do.
I never run the SETI@home screen saver. It wastes computing power. i don't need the display, and I don't enjoy it either. The new SETI@home screen saver is even less attractive than the old "classic" SETI@home screen saver. I choose a minimal screen saver such as "Mystify", and only let it run for 15 minutes until the Power Saver kicks in and turns off the display.
SETI@home is a big search. I don't have a strong opinion on what it should or should not find.
room for improvements on SETI:
BOINC automatically updates the SETI@home software as needed. However, BOINC does not update itself. The SETI@home central computers have actually stopped issuing Work Units to my computers when the BOINC software on them got too old. It is a significant amount of work to visit each computer and manually update BOINC on it. (It is easier now, with remote desktop software.) If BOINC won't update itself, maybe there should be a separate add-on, "BOINC auto-updater".
BOINC with SETI@home generally never interferes with any other software running on the computers. There are some exceptions:
(1) SETI is not supposed to run when the computers are not idle. I see no sign that SETI suspends itself. It stays runnig and holds onto a significant amount of memory.
(2) On computers that have Symantec Antivirus, Corporate Edition (tested with v 9 or 10), some kind of scan runs after logon that keeps the "winlogon" task busy for about 1.5 minutes. The scan tries to adapt, and suspends itself if some other task is running. If BOINC is running, the scan never moves forward, it stands still. Until the scan task completes, all actions on the computer run sluggishly. I had a work-around. I did not let BOINC run at startup (logon); instead I created a startup task that waited 180 seconds before launching BOINC, and the system ran much better.
The SETI@home screen saver uses computing power AND is unattractive. Worse yet (is this true?), it might not stop computing after the Power Saver has kicked in and turned off the monitor. It wastes computing power computing graphics that are not even displayed. (Or do all screen savers stop computing after Power Saver turns off the monitor?)
I reported these objections and deficiencies here. (Maybe the forums weren't working when I started this page.)
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