Get Seti for massive computing project

The creator of the world's largest distributed computing project SETI@home was in Australia this week spruiking local participation in his supercomputing vision.

Speaking at the Australian Centre for Advanced Computing and Communications in Sydney, SETI@home founder David Gedye revealed fundraising efforts were under way to establish a data collection centre out of Parkes (in central west NSW) which would operate as a local Australian chapter for the project.

"We are still awaiting for the final go-ahead for the Southern SETI@home project which will allow us to observe much more," he said.

SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers and is most famous for its involvement in the 'Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).'

But unfortunately for X-Files fans there has been no contact with "aliens so far", Gedye joked.

The distributed computing project, which has been driven by public participation, is the world's most powerful supercomputer. SETI@home is operating at 66 teraflops - well ahead of the most powerful commercial supercomputer, NEC's Earth Simulator which operates at 35 teraflops.

Established in 1999 when it attracted 100,000 participants in its first month, Gedye said grid computing was one of the catalysts for the project, which has about half a million active users.

Calling it "public participation science", Gedye said it is these kinds of projects that can change the way science is viewed.

A few years ago, he said, many companies were formed to try and adopt the SETI@home idea as a business model.

"This was a failed grid business model as it expected people to donate their resources for commercial gain; the current grid business model involves selling platform software to big business," Gedye said.

Referring to software infrastructure, he said the project will move to a new platform launching SETI@home 2 in the next few months.

"SETI will be moving to the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) platform which is open source, more secure, fault-tolerant, and can support multiple projects," Gedye said. "The current SETI implementation has had problems with hackers transmitting false readings."

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Rodney Gedda

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