Irony, your name is Anonymous. The hacktivist group tosses DDoS bombs around with callous ease in an apparently never-ending quest against government and corporate “tyranny,” all behind the smiling, blank Guy Fawkes mask featured at the end of “V for Vendetta.” Sure, a silent crowd full of masked Anons can be creepy, but here’s the funny part: each Guy Fawkes mask bought by an Anon member puts cash into megacorporation Time Warner’s pockets.
Walking into the Pande Lab at Stanford University is somewhat of a hardcore geek’s ultimate dream. This is, after all, where the real work gets done—or should we say, work units. For the various desktop systems and consoles scattered around the area are all a part of a larger initiative that likely you and I, as well as Stanford graduate students, researchers from around the globe, and consortiums of geeks and enthusiasts alike, have all contributed to.
But don’t take my word for it. Dr. Vijay Pande, an associate professor of chemistry, structural biology, and computer science over at Stanford—as well as the longtime director of the Folding@Home distributing computing project, which his aptly titled “Pande Lab” oversees—estimates that around 400,000 systems actively “fold” at the current moment. Given the program’s fairly linear growth of around 40,000 new systems a year, Folding@Home should be able to push past half a million “connected” PCs easily before its crystal anniversary.
Factor these (now) thirty-six tests against an average of ten test suite iterations--a minimum number of variances that Resig runs in a common jQuery testing environment. That's three hundred and sixty runs for every test you create, more if you're expanding to include OSX and Linux platforms. And did I mention that the best results tend to occur when actual human beings are behind the testing instead of some automated attempt at user interaction? Yeaaaah...
Distributed computing is one of the wonderful ways that you can use your PC to contribute to more thoughtful, worldly causes than keeping your room warm during a cloudy summer day. These projects, made up of members from all corners of the world (even Maximum PC's own forums), make use of your computer during its idle periods. Whether they're come as a screensaver that launches after a set period of time, or a background application that launches after a certain period of CPU inactivity, these free applications divvy out the tasks of a large, complicated project to a number of people at once.
Why should you care? Because distributed computing is a nice way to use a minimal amount of your system's resources--resources that you wouldn't be using anyway--to contribute to something greater than yourself. It's entirely altruistic in its purpose. Very, very few distributed computing projects have some kind of monetary award attached to the work, and you'd have to score a major knock-out in your individual contribution to the project to see the result. That is, your computer would have to be the one that finds the next huge prime number, or major breakthrough in protein analysis, or something to that effect. If you're in it for a reward, you might as well develop a program that estimates lottery odds.
You'll find that entities like Maximum PC, amongst others, have teams of people contributing to these distributed computing projects. It's a great way to make friends and fellow geeks--in fact, I'd probably be strung up by this site's forum folk if I didn't include a shout-out to their work on the Folding@Home project. Click the jump to find out how you can get involved in this and other awesome distributed computing efforts. +10 Light Side points for you.