Have you heard of the SETI Project? SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and the project is operated by the University of California at Berkeley. SETI monitors and processes radio signals from space, looking for possible signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life. SETI uses proprietary software to distribute computer processing power among all connected PCs participating in SETI project so that the radio signals can be processed faster and more efficiently. SETI effectively creates one big supercomputer from thousands of connected PCs across their network. Now users of the Google Toolbar can contribute to scientific research in much the same way, through Google Compute.
Google has teamed with Folding@home for their first project. This research organization is non-profit and based at Stanford University. They use participants' combined computing power to analyze the genetic structure of proteins for medical research.
Once installed to the Google Toolbar, Google Compute can be disabled easily at any time. While enabled, it will use your computer's otherwise idle time to process computing work assigned to it automatically from Folding@home, then automatically transfer results back to Folding@home when complete.
Users have plenty of informational and control options for Google Compute. A system tray icon (a double helix) indicates that Google Compute is running, and when bright, the same icon indicates that processing work is being performed. There are two modes available to help prevent interference with other programs that you use.
Google Compute requires Windows, IE5 or higher, 64 megabytes of RAM minimum, and the English version of the Google toolbar. A high speed internet connection isn't required, but you should routinely connect to the Internet every few days, and be prepared for a delay while the processed data is uploaded. Data is transferred using outbound HTTP, so it will work through most semi-transparent firewalls. About 20 megabytes per month of data is transferred to the Folding@home project.
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