Philanthropic uses of your computing power (mining rigs)

I recently posted about cryptocurrency mining at home. This is where you use video card GPU’s, which have tremendous processing power, to make a little money from mining cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum. There are in fact, other uses for this computer power, if money is not your primary motivator.

Have you ever looked at the “task manager” on your computer and noticed that your computer is basically idle a vast majority of the time?

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And what’s crazy is that a modern computer has a LOT of processing power, just sitting idle, almost all of the time.

Well, you can “donate” this computing power (and now your additional GPU processing power) to computationally-intensive projects that need it. This concept is called “grid computing”. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. You simply download and install some software, and that software (securely) makes your processor available for processing “jobs” on the grid. You can start/stop it whenever you’d like. It’s as simple as just starting a program on your computer.

What are some options? Where there are two primary ones that I know of:

  • Folding@Home
  • SETI@Home

But the software application you run for SETI@Home, BOINC, actually supports many grid-computing projects. There will be more on that, below. You can pick one that you like.

Normally, these grid-computing applications take available computer resources when you aren’t using your computer. So, to give them your GPU’s is a ENORMOUS help to that cause.

And to be clear, you can and should use these just from a regular computer. For example, you can turn on “screensaver mode”. This is where it will give your processing power to the grid project only while your computer screensaver is on. Once you come back to your computer, it will just as fast as normal.

In other words, you can use these software programs with your regular computer, you don’t need any GPU’s at all to contribute. You can use just your regular laptop or desktop computer, no matter it’s age or how fast/slow it is.

Folding@Home:

This is a project where they use computing power to run simulations, mostly to find cures for diseases. See: https://folding.stanford.edu/

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You can download the application you need to run, from here: https://folding.stanford.edu/start-folding/ – there are downloads for Windows, macOS, and Linux (Debian and Red Hat based distros).

Once installed, here’s what the program looks like:

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and then you can navigate to: http://folding.stanford.edu/client/ to go see more specifics about your processing power:

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SETI@Home:

This is a project where they use computing power to process results from the search for extraterrestrial life: http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/

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If you are not familiar, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Life (SETI) gained significant steam with Carl Sagan and others founded the U.S. Planetary Society in 1980, with the intent to determine one way or the other, if it was possible to find and contact extraterrestrial life.

As antennas scan the sky, they need raw processing power to analyze the gobs of data that are collected every day.

You can download the software from here: http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/join.php and you do need to create an account to “join” the program.

What is interesting is that SETI uses Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC). So, when you run the program, you can actually choose from a bunch of different grid-computing projects:

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Then, once you start processing, it gives you a status of what it’s working on:

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More on BOINC:

As discussed above, BOINC is a general-purpose platform for grid-computing. If you have a project that needs computing resources, you could host it on this platform, while interested parties could donate their computing power to your effort.

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Here is a list of all of the available projects, similar to SETI and Folding, available via BOINC: https://boinc.berkeley.edu/wiki/Project_list

Tax Implications:

Since your “donation” of processing power, but also electricity is considered charity, in my book, none of the above organizations are non-profit organizations, or 501c3. Therefore, you cannot declare your electricity use, or purchase of hardware as a tax-deductible donation.

Here’s a video that shows it might be $25 to $40 extra per month in electricity if you had one to two GPU running full-time.

So, that is a way to think about it: if you had a “gaming” type system, with one GPU and let it run 24/7 for your cause of choice, that would be like donating $25/month to that cause.

But as far as tax-wise, the satisfaction of helping some worthy cause will have to be recompense enough!

Bottom Line:

For your everyday computers, it would be good to download one of these programs and let it take advantage of your idle computing power. But if you also had GPU computing power, which can be orders-of-magnitude more potent, that would truly be a significant gift to these programs.

Lastly, here’s a great video from Linus Tech Tips about both of these programs, and example of a cool build-out if you wanted to build up a rig, just for this use:

Posted in Blockchain, Cloud Computing, Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, Professional Development

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