Remember SETI@home? Launched in 1999, the alien-tracking effort was one of the first (and most popular) distributed computing efforts. It’s still going, but a number of new distributed computing projects have popped up. The latest is Intel’s Progress Through Processors effort, which uses excess processing power on volunteer computers for research efforts like the malaria-focused Africa@home, Climateprediction.net‘s climate change models, and the disease-fighting Rosetta@home project.
Progress Through Processors has an edge over earlier distributed computing efforts: it’s available as a Facebook application that automatically guides idle processing power to computational efforts. Because as easy as downloading software from a website is, having a Facebook application makes Progress Through Processors accessible to the most lazy among us.
The project still has some kinks to work out; when attempting to sign up for Climateprediction and Africa@home , I encountered an error message telling me that the project servers aren’t available. John Timmer at Ars Technica reported a similar problem. Progress Through Processors is still in beta, but Intel might want to hold off on signing up too many new users until it can fix its error messages. Otherwise, the company risks turning off potential volunteers.