back to article SETI@home needs You!

SETI@home, the distributed computing project, is calling for more volunteers willing to donate their computers' downtime to the project which scans radio telescope data for evidence of intelligent alien life. Volunteers download a small programme which acts something like a screensaver - it kicks into life when your computer …


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  1. Andy Ivey

    SETI vs. Green Computing

    I enjoyed reading a well written article about keeping otherwise idle computers busy consuming electricity by aiding the search for aliens. It contrasted nicely with the Green Computing Debate ads displayed alongside.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Can't run BOINC on Solaris

    I used to run seti@home but had to stop when they moved to BOINC as I couldn't get it to work under Solaris - disappointing seeing that Sun are a sponsor.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Don't waste your computer time and energy on this project, help fight Alzheimer's and Cancer instead

    You have a better chance of helping our society by putting your cpu time and energy into research that actually has RESULTS - like folding proteins to research cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.


    Google, Dell, Apple, Intel, ATI, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health and Stanford Medical Center are all behind it.

  4. Timbo

    Been there, still doing it....!!

    Well, I've been "crunching" for years....and I'm glad that the multiple "ears" now being installed are about to become operational.....SETI@home has been running out of NEW work to crunch for some time, resulting in the SAME work units being processed many times with the new receivers picking up even more data from a wider part of the sky around Arecibo, we've got more chance of finding out if anyone else is "out there"....

    Shameless plug - the UK BOINC Team needs new members - see

  5. M. Burns Silver badge

    SETI needs to drop BOIC

    I am like a lot of old SETI@Home folks. Once they forced us all to switch to BOINC, which is an absolute POS, all the resource hogging issues, bugs, and other problems of BOINC made us decide after a few months that it was not worth putting up with. The old stand alone SETI@Home software was reliable, consumed very little in resources, and didn't crash PC's.

  6. Kevin

    Half the time

    Half the time when I update the account I already have there is no new work...thats one of the reasons I went to the new client so I can do other projects. You'd think with all the data that they supposedly have to process they would actually have it available for those with extra processing power to process...


  7. Andrew Norton
    Thumb Down

    one word BETA

    I, like many others, joined SETI@home when it first statrted. I was there when, for 6 weeks, they passed out the same 30 work units. After a year or so, I did find out about the previous SETI computing projects, called META and BETA. EAch of which use roughly the same equipment as the SEti@home server farm, and can prcess the data themselves, at near real time.

    After that, I switched to - left that a year or two later, after a flaw I spotted in their OGR roject went unresolved for 2 years (thats what started phase2) before finally moving to Muon1DPAD.

    Not only is muon1 completely british, its also one of the very few 2nd generation projects. That means its not just crunching data its told to crunch, its determining itself, at the client level, what to do. It then evolves based on its own results, and the results of others. Basically, its evolution in action. This method allows it to deal with much larger data streams than other projects. For comparison, a seti@home work unit, and an average muon1 simulation takes about the same time to process. A lattice (or design type, a subproject in the overall design) can have 10^900 (thats a 1 with nine hundred zeros after it) different designs. The current crop of 1000 or so users, can crunch through that, and give a best result (or at least a better result than through conventional design) in about 6-9 months. By contrast, RC5-64 took, with 100,000 users almost 3 years to do, by brute force. RC5-64 has a keyspace of around 10^15 keys, and a client on a 1Ghz system was doing maybe a million keys a second.

    In the end, muon1 is a small project, run by one person as part of his job, at the RAL in Oxfordshire, and is far more cutting edge in its abilities and methods than the same tired old 'download this datablock, crunch this data block, return the results for this data block, repeat' simplistic method of work.

    brute forcing small projects, very 1995...

    Andrew Norton - currently building his own 15m radio telescope.

  8. Red Bren

    Any chance of a PS3 client?

    Yes I know I can install Linux and run BOINC; I did. But I don't want to boot over and back between OSes in between gaming sessions. I just want the screensaver to kick in when the box is idle.

    Folding@Home is all very worthwhile but finding the cure for cancer on your PS3 doesn't have anywhere near as much kudos as discovering ET!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Or, instead of looking for anti-social alieans..

    You could fold some proteins and cure a disease. Your choice...

  10. Charles Spalton

    "It was the internet's first distributed computing project"? Really?

    How about the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search? Launched in January 1996, and still running today? Plus, it's a great way to test an overclocked system. Take part and it could be YOU receiving some of the EFF's $100000 prize money for the discoverers of the first million-digit prime number. Take a look at for more info.

    Mine's the white canvas blazer with optional long sleeves,


    PS Aside from running the software, I am not affiliated with the site I mentioned.

  11. Pete


    Works just fine for me and has done since the early beta days. I think someone needs to troubleshoot their PC's hardware a little better.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    I'll go back once BOINC is dead...

    I used to crunch WU's for seti. I had the standalone executable installed on many comps, and when they were idle (scheduled task on 'doze) they would crunch. Never bothered the user.. BOINC didn't work as well. Another thing I ran was a proxy that cached work units. I could see near real time what the status was of all of the computers. If they went back to a standalone executable that can be easily be called from the command line... I will go back to crunching WU's... Until then, Folding is the way to go for me.

  13. Eugene Goodrich

    Aliens vs. cancer / alzheimer's / etc.

    Ah, but once we find the aliens, they will cure our cancer / alzheimer's / itchy scrot for us. So it's a tricky decision to make.

    Of course, it's hard to be sure if they'll cure us with medicine or by death ray...

  14. Chris G Silver badge

    Don't bother looking for aliens

    We are already here. Who do you think invented the medical art of proctology?

  15. Greg

    @M Burns

    You might be pleasantly surprised by recent BOINC clients. BOINC's been running happily on my system for a year now without so much as a crash or corrupt file.

  16. Gerald Davison

    Climate Prediction Dot Net

    I'm more bothered about things down here on earth which we know are going to affect us.

    I've been "crunching" climate models for two years as part of the CPDN and BBC Climate Experiments.

    I'd suggest that this (and the medicine related) projects are more important than looking for some aliens that probably don't exist anyway.


    for an explanation of why we're so unlikely to find anything and this also from New Scientist

    If you do want to crunch for CPDN you can find out how to join here

    Gerald Davison - Crunching for Team Wales

  17. James Pearson

    as many others have said...

    I found it, shall we say, irrelevant crunching WUs for SETI, when found that I could participate in worldcommunitygrid's compilation of projects that actually benefit humanity...

  18. Chris


    I was on SETI within the first month it started, but left after the BOINC fiasco. That was some really stinky software. Almost everyone I know has abandoned it.

    If ET wants us to find him, I'm sure he'll let us know unambiguously.


  19. Andrew Norton

    erm, forgot the URL

    I forgot the URL for the muon1 project

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another one for FaH here

    I've been running Folding at Home since 2004 and have racked up a score of 83647 for a total of 491 work units processed. Not bad considering it's running on an AMD Sempron 2500 with 1 gig RAM. The box is running FC4 (was 2 then 3) and is on permanently, so it's not so much a screen saver as a background process. I renice it to 10 so it doesn't interfere with my usage of the box (I use it for all my net access etc).

    I'd run SETI too, if I thought the box could handle both without a problem, but they would both be slower.

  21. Mike

    Whatever you may think

    BOINC now does much more than SETI. The amount of research into major medical conditions is growing by leaps & bounds so there are many other projects you can join - just run it while you are using your computer - it won`t cost you anything and you can do something worthwhile for nothing. What have your got to lose ?

  22. Andy Tyzack
    Thumb Up

    oh please

    everyone knows theres no such thing as aliens,

    in addition everyone knows there is a such thing as cancer.

    get folding those proteins people!!!!

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Boinc - complete trash

    I had SETI running on 50 or 60 computers at work -

    we turned in enough WUs to land us in the top 100 or so schools running SETI

    Then came BOINC - locked machines (Macs and PCs), crashed SETI clients, failure to install, etc etc etc etc

    Suffice it to say - the department is larger now, and there are NO (zero, nada, zip, zilch) systems running SETI

  24. wibbilus maximus


    i stopped using seti@home when they released that awful boinc software.

    I don't want to attach any other studies to it.

    i don't want a rotating 3D sparkly grid

    if they ever decide to re-release the original looking software (with the security fixes naturally) then i'll use it again, but not before

  25. Steve Roper

    Say NO to free medical research for corporates.

    I refuse to participate in protein folding or medical research programs for the same reason I refuse to donate to medical research charities. That is:

    If a cure for cancer, AIDS or whatever is found, the only ones who will benefit will be the pharmaceutical corporations who will patent the results of the research and then charge such extortionate rates for treatment that only the rich will be able to afford it. These companies make billions of dollars, yet they expect the public to donate money and computer time and fund their research? Fuck off.

    I'd rather use my computer to look for alien intelligence. At least if we find one I can send out a radio message telling them to come here and obliterate this planet before the human race gets out of the solar system and infests the rest of the universe!

  26. Pierre
    Black Helicopters

    Fold proteins: OK, cure cancer... erm

    Maybe in a few hundred years? In the meantime, we could contact aliens and use their wonderfull technology to cure every single disease.

    Or, even better: wait for Uncle S. (you know, the one who lives between Mexico and Canada) to nuke us all -including himself. Shouldn't take more than a couple of years now that He is out for blood.

  27. tony trolle

    oh still going is it

    I gave up on it years ago, thought it stopped :~

    Maybe there should be a Azureus plug in for it..

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Green vs Seti

    What's the difference between the computer chugging along running Seti and producing heat...and the baseboard electric heater?

    Me? I quit running Seti when they pushed BOINC out...I had over 6 years of processing time.

  29. Andy

    No problems with BOINC

    I've never had a problem with BOINC... maybe you guys were just using the first release or something. I've been running it for the last 2 years. It currently eats up 5.2megs of my 2.5gig memory and the boinc.exe process is using 0% CPU. I had never thought of it as resource hungry.

    But I think SETI is a bit of a waste of time anyway, I only devote 10% of my computing time to it and the rest I give to Einstein@home.

    I don't doubt that there could be life out there. I do think the chances of finding it in the ocean of space and time are slim. And I don't know what we would do with the knowledge that 16 million light years away there is an alien civilization. Other than taunting religionists and giving the USA a new place to invade there doesn't seem to be much benefit to having this knowledge.

    Or rather, not as much benefit as doing real science.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    I hate this project. In fact more than that, I despise this project.

    I dont have the remotest part of hippie green blood in me but the energy wasted ont his pointless experiment is absolutely ridiculous. The chances of finding alien life (which I doubt exists anyway) this way are next to 0. Yet all these sheep have it happily running along on there computer heating their house.

    I can at least see a little benefit in the folding at home project, but i struggle to see it in the climate modelling or the stupid alien one,

    Grr Grr Grr.

    I've got my coat and I'm heading for the door, not good for my blood pressure.

  31. Dr. Mouse Silver badge


    I used to run SETI on 1 PC, 1 Laptop and 1 Server at home, as well as a few workstations and a couple of Linux servers I had access to at work (bringing in work units from home to avoid the boss noticing on the proxy logs). That was about 7 years ago.

    Then I changed jobs to find that the machines were so locked down and loaded with spyware (OK, auditting software, but same thing) that I couldnt use the work machines for the job. Gutted, I was racking up HUGE amounts of processing time, and a great ranking.

    Then, to top it all off, my father went on a rampage about saving electricity. No computers to be left on except the server. That killed SETI for me.

    Not looked at it since then, even though I now have some nice powerfull machines under my full control at work :)

    However, SETI is just a bit of fun (IMHO). Folding, however, as was stated above, is going to make money for the pharaceutical giants, so I wont be running that unless they are prepared to share the wealth.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Free" medical research?

    "I refuse to participate in protein folding or medical research programs for the same reason I refuse to donate to medical research charities. That is:

    If a cure for cancer, AIDS or whatever is found, the only ones who will benefit will be the pharmaceutical corporations"


    Not forgetting of course the thousands of men, women and children that die a horrible death each year in this country alone.

    How the hell do you expect medicines to be made? Magic?

    Yes, the pharm companies do rip us off but who else do you suggest makes the new drugs? At least if these projects succeed the cure would exist.

    What if someone close to you was dying from cancer. Would you prefer a cure to be available but expensive or not available at all?

    Tell you what, why don't you go back to sitting on your ass pointing at everything that's "wrong" with the world instead of doing anything you can to make the world a better place?

  33. Lee Richards

    Go on, try again.....

    After getting back into this distributed computing malarkey with Folding@Home on my PS3 I thought I'd give SETI another go. Been running the BOINC client (SETI@Home and FightAIDS@Home) on a Vista machine and two XP boxes for over a month now with no problems whatsoever. Suggest all ex-BOINC users try again as I'm sure this new version (which I assume it is) is much more stable.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frickin' lasers

    Why are they scanning radio signals from pulsars and black holes etc and not looking for lasers instead?

  35. Andy


    I'd rather kill aliens on my PS3 than search for them.

  36. Sandra Greer
    Thumb Up

    I just tried it for the first time

    This is a Mac on Intel. BOINC is a lovely thing. I am doing Rosetta protein folding, and it's fascinating. It's a whole new interest for me, thanks to the Reg readers. I imagine it will have to be turned off for music composition, but all those cycles are just sitting there...

  37. Tim

    Green issues

    Problem with all these "idle" apps is they load the CPU to max and consume a lot of power.

    Worse for modern PCs and in particular laptops which changes power consumption (and throttles the CPU) on demand. On my laptop I just can't run them as the laptop fan kicks into overdrive whilst the CPU hits 70 degrees C!

    It's funny especially with the climate change projects which are contributing to global warming by having all these computers maxed out trying to work out the effects of global warming!

    Anyway, what with the drive to have more efficient PCs and get office and home users to turn off their PCs rather than leave them on, means the likes of SETI@Home are doomed.

  38. Timbo

    To everyone...

    ....who gave up on SETI and/or BOINC.

    1) BOINC is now a hell of a lot better as a piece of software - sure it had problems to start with and for a good couple of years afterwards.....but the developers never gave up, never surrendered and it now works fine on many types of OS.

    2) SETI have also had more than their fair share of criticisms over time...but they are poorly funded and have tried hard to improve their ability to do good. Given that they are pretty much run by volunteers with only a couple of "staffers" (who I think are part time anyways) they have carried on and 12+ years AFTER the original SETI@home screensaver, they are still dong their best.

    3) You can of course now choose to run many different BOINC projects all from the same client software. So you are not limited to just looking for aliens - you can do other worthwhile stuff as well, including Climate Prediction, Rosetta, Proteins@home, World Community Grid, etc.

    4) Most projects are run by research groups attached to universities. Some projects ARE commercial.....but at the end of the day, everyone crunching work units via BOINC is a VOLUNTEER who knows what they are doing, who they are helping and that their contribution allows them to benefit others (whether it is the researchers or people afflicted by specific diseases or conditions).

    OK, so many people had a bad experience with BOINC, especially during the transition from the original SETI screensaver.....however, the latest version installs more easily (and doesn't require uninstallation first, like early versions did)'s more "friendly", enables you to check multiple PC's from one client and allows you to easily make a worthwhile contribution, while your PC is "on".

    Give it another go if you can:

    BOINC Cheerleader mode > "off"

  39. Niall Campbell

    Pray to god there's...

    intelligent life somewhere out in space...

    cos there's bugger all down here on earth!!!

    The Universe Song from 'The Meaning of Life'

    It still rings true. This planet is screwed so why bother!!

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Temperature Sensitive Fans

    While I do have World Community Grid running on my media server (2x PIII 450Mhz, slow but steady!) I won't run any DC projects on my main fast rig as it's too bloody noisy when it heats up!

  41. Jeff Rowse Silver badge

    It's called seti@HOME for a reason

    To all of you complaining you can't run Seti@home on your work machines for whatever reason (I notice nobody mentioned problems with firewalls - do the Corporate Goonsquads know what you're trying to do??), I'd just like to point out that most companies have restrictions in place concerning what you can and cannot have on your work machines (and what's more, some of them actually make sure they let their staff know what is and isn't allowed rather than just telling them it's on the company intranet somewhere... and then providing a "search" facility that is less use than a chocolate teapot to try to find it with. But that's another story).

  42. Mike

    Yet you seem more than happy......

    "Yet all these sheep have it happily running along on there computer heating their house."

    Doubtless you have a computer which you leave on with your favourite screensaver when you go off for a beer/tea/dinner whatever heating your house. Doubtless you also have a computer at work on 8/10/12/24 hours a day also heating your workplace. So your point is ?

  43. Anonymous Coward

    "SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Life."

    "SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Life."

    That spells SETL, in the words of google "did you mean Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence?"

  44. Mister

    Aliens - You got to be kidding

    At the end of the day, do you think, if they actually discovered anything they would tell you? Knowing that we are not alone, would just cause mass hysteria, and for what? Helping the government out.....

    Come on - Benefit Human Existance by helping to research something that will help the Human Race.

    I've been folding since Grid started


  45. Kibble

    @ Andrew Norton

    A related project to the one you mentioned is being run from the Queen Mary University, LHC@home. Granted it uses BOINC as the framework, it is still a worthwhile program to think about for those interested in applied science applications.

    An article with appropriate links at The Reg mentioned it last October,

    The project has few work units currently since the Large Hadron Collider in Cern isn't operational yet. The system should be fully up around June this year, and the volunteer machines may well be kept busy depending on the number of experiments being run. (The few work units occasionally available now are probably just tests of the system and to keep the volunteers happy.) You can find out more about it at


    P.S. I'm currently running SETI@home, Einstein@home, and LHC@home and have been for years under the Amateur Radio Operators team for each.

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