What is BOINC?
BOINC is the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. It is a free framework supported by the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley funded by by the National Science Foundation. BOINC is software program that allows volunteers to participate in grid computing. It was originally developed to support the SETI@home project and has since been used as a platform for many other computing projects. The projects range from astrophysics to medicine to mathematics. Some of the projects support original research while others satisfy the general quest for knowledge and fun.
The intent of BOINC is to make it possible for researchers to tap into the enormous processing power of personal computers around the world. Available for Windows 2000 and later, as well as for the MAC and Linux platforms it has an aggregate power larger than the most powerful supercomputer. As of mid 2012 there are about 250,000 volunteers sharing nearly 500,000 computers with a total processing power greater than 7.6 petaFLOPS. This powerful resource is provided by the more than 2 million people past and present who have decided to allow BOINC projects to use the power of there CPU and GPU for their research and work.
Reasons to be a Cruncher
A Cruncher is anyone who “Crunches” numbers for BOINC projects. Each one of the more than 2 million people who have participated have had their own reasons, mine stem from my engineering and computer background and a desire to contribute something of the resources I have been given. However, there are lots of reasons for you to participate, many of us do it for the chance to advance knowledge or search for new drugs to cure disease or learn how to best combat malaria for instance.
Competition motivates some of us, you may have a personal goal to be one of the top 10000 in points in BOINC or in your country or on your team. There are several web sites dedicated to tracking BOINC statistics, two of the best are BOINCstats and AllProjectStats.com. To see team USA’s stats for instance, click on the stats graphic on the upper left hand column on our site and you will see how we are doing (pretty well thank you). When you sign up for a BOINC project your stats will automatically be tracked by these and other statistics sites.
In the same way that some are motivated by competition, many of us are also motivated by camaraderie and cooperation. This is the reason for BOINC teams such as team USA, we have chosen to not only participate for our own reasons, but are adding our points to the team total. If you identify with the spirit of freedom and can do spirit that are hallmarks of the USA, then we welcome you to become a member of team USA, your contribution would be most welcome. While some of us can contribute lots of points, and some only a little, at the end of the day, every point is important. Plus, you never know, your task may be the one that solves the puzzle, creates the new drug, or maps that part of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Having Fun and being part of a community are also great reasons to be a cruncher. It is satisfying to tweak your computer to get the most out of it. It is satisfying to watch your points climb up day by day, see your part and ranking in the team, and learn about the science or math behind the projects you have joined.
What are “Credits”?
Of course statistics are not meaningful if there is no way to verify work completed. The “currency” of BOINC computing is the credit (sometimes called a point or cobblestone). Each project must abide by a common way to calculate and award credits that in general has to do with the amount of “work” your computer does for a project. According to BOINC cobblestones are calculated as follows.
“A BOINC project gives you credit for the computations your computers perform for it. BOINC’s unit of credit, the Cobblestone (named after Jeff Cobb of SETI@home), is 1/200 day of CPU time on a reference computer that does 1,000 FLOPS based on the Whetstone benchmark
Eventually, credit may reflect network transfer and disk storage as well as computation. A Credit has no monetary or other value; it’s just a measure of how much work your computers have done.
Credit and FLOPS
The average FLOPS (floating point operations per second) achieved by a computer or group of computers can be estimated from its Recent Average Credit (RAC) as follows:
GigaFLOPs = RAC/200 TeraFLOPS = RAC/200,000
(Remember that a 1 GigaFLOP machine, running full time, produces 200 units of credit in 1 day).
The credit figures for a particular day may be distorted if a project is catching up or falling behind on validation (the process or granting credit). Thus to get accurate FLOPS estimates you should look at average RAC over a period of a week or so.”
Some projects will give a credit bonus if your computer returns valid results in a short pre-defined amount of time. This is allowed as it contributes to the value of the work being done.
How to become a Cruncher
To join a BOINC project you will need a personal computer running Windows 2000 or later, or a MAC or Linux workstation. For CPU based projects, most any personal computer will work, although you will want to learn a bit about the demands of the projects as you decide which ones to join. You will need to download the free software from the BOINC web site. The software is well maintained and has never had a security issue. You can control how much of your resources are used, and whether it should be active while you are using your computer or not. Depending on why type of work you do, you may not even notice it running while you are using your computer. Others find it best to suspend it’s activity and only use your PC while it is on, but not being used.
After you have installed the BOINC software you will probably want to join a project manager if you will be using more than one PC (make sure you ask your boss before you install BOINC on a work computer). A project manager is a web site that lets you track the activity of each computer or “host” and control what projects you will work on, and the resources you will allocate to each. A great project manager is BAM. If you are going to install BOINC on a single computer it is just as easy to add projects from the BOINC console you installed on your computer.
How to join team USA
If you appreciate the values of freedom and opportunity for all that the USA stands for, whether you are a resident or not, we welcome you to join us. To join team USA you will need to let each of the projects that you have joined that you want to be part of team USA. When you have created your account when joining a project, you may log into the project with your email address and password. A link will appear, normally called “Your Account”, click on it and you will be able to manage your settings for that project.
One of the settings will be “Find a team” or “Join a team”, select it and you should find a tool to allow you to search for team USA. Type USA, in the search box and you should receive a list of teams that match “USA”, if you do not you may have to select United States in the country selection. You will know you have the correct team when you see the USA flag logo on the project page. Click on the team name USA and you will see a page with basic information on our team, click the “Join this team” link and you will be all set. If you are moving from another team to team USA, you will need to first click the “Quit Team” link on your project account page, and then follow the join team instructions.