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12 ways to use your PC's spare processing power

Donate wasted clock cycles to a worthy cause

Did you know you can actually donate the spare processing power on your computer via one of the dozens of ongoing volunteer computing projects? We look at 12 cool projects your PC can help.


With an acronym like that, how can you go wrong? BURP stands for Big and Ugly Rendering Project, and is designed to render 3D animations. The project started in 2007.


Albert Einstein recognised that we live in a universe of gravitational waves. This project searches for spinning neutron stars, or pulsars, using data from the LIGO using data from the LIGO and GEO gravitational wave detectors. It also seeks radio pulsars in binary systems.


SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Hosted at University of California Berkeley, the project celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.

The SETI@home team last year expanded on the traditional SETI@home search for narrowband signals via the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico to look for broader-band, short-time pulses, via its Astropulse application.

At last count, SETI@home had about 180,000 active volunteers and nearly 290,000 active computers doing work.


GPUGrid.net stands apart from a lot of older volunteer computing projects in that it relies on graphics processing units from nVidia graphics cards and PlayStation3 systems. The project uses the processing power to perform simulations aimed at better understanding proteins and other molecular events.


This project, launched in 2008, is run by D-Wave, a Canadian company trying to build a quantum computer.

D-Wave's stated goal is "to predict the performance of superconducting adiabatic quantum computers on a variety of hard problems arising in fields ranging from materials science to machine learning".

The company's current focus is trying to determine how an adiabatic quantum computer's running time scales with the size of the input problem, says Dr. Kamran Karimi, D-Wave algorithms researcher. "We want to go to 200-qubit and 240-qubit problems," Karimi says.

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See also: Donate your PC's spare time to help the world

  1. Donate your spare processing power to a worthy cause
  2. LHC@home
  3. BURP

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