This is actually something I’ve been having my computers do for a while now, but I’ve only decided to post about it now. If you’re like me, and you leave your computer(s) on all the time, why not let them do something useful while they’re just sitting there. You can help various research projects by crunching some data for them. All it takes is a little bit of setup on your part and your computer.

Step #1 – download the BOINC client software from the Berkeley homepage. You should be able to find a package for whatever operating system you might be running. I’ll go into a little more detail about this later if you happen to be running a Linux box.

Step #2 – Attach your computer to a project. There are several projects to choose from, but amongst the most popular are SETI@Home, Einstein@Home, Rosetta@Home, and many more. You can take your pick of scientific or mathematical problems that you want to contribute to. For a more complete list of available projects, look here.

Step #3 – Sit back and wait. Your computer will download the work from the project servers and start crunching away at the data.
A note on the installation type – if you’re running Windows, I would recommend a service based installation. You won’t get to see any graphics from the projects that have them, but you’ll ensure that the software is running even if you’re not logged on. This is the best setup if you’ve got multiple users on the computer.

If you’re running Linux, I would recommend creating a new user specifically for BOINC projects (call the user ‘boinc’ for the sake of argument). Download the BOINC package and run the shell script to extract all the files. Copy the following files from the source directory to your system:

<sourcedir>/boinc —> /usr/local/bin/boinc_client
<sourcedir>/boincmgr —> /usr/local/bin/boincmgr
<sourcedir>/boinc_cmd —> /usr/local/bin/boinc_cmd

Once you’ve got that setup, download this startup script, remove the .txt extension and place it within your /etc/init.d/ directory. Chmod it to add execute permissions, and run the necessary chkconfig command to set it to startup at your desired runlevels. You’re set! Now start the boinc_client daemon, and then start the boincmgr program under the boinc user. From here you’ll be able to attach the client to your desired project.

As for OSX… I haven’t dealt with a Mac in ages, so you’re on your own. 😛

If you have any more questions or comments, please let me know. 🙂