Geek Charity– Donate Bandwidth and CPU Cycles

Every computer represents more computing power than you can possibly use, except for a few minutes of peak number crunching a day. Same goes for bandwith.

The extra CPU cycles are easy to give away, since recipients don’t care when you give them CPU cycles. When you need your CPU, recipient jobs will wait.

Bandwidth is a harder to give away because the operating system doesn’t do a good job of giving priority to my browser and lowest priority to charitable recipients of my extra bandwidth.

I was a happy user of United Devices/Grid.org and had donated nearly 4 years of CPU time before it bit the dust on Friday.

I am now promoting BOINC, which is a free framework for distributed computing.  You can either join an exiting project, or you can create your own project.  Someday when I have a massive math problem that is easy to state, but hard to solve without 100′s of days of computer time, it will be exciting to try it out.

For now, I’m going to run the BOINC client.  The BOINC client asks you what projects you want your computer to work on. After consulting the BOINC directory, you pick the charitable cause that you think is worth the higher electric bill. (Trivia, with boinc my computer’s CPU runs at 46C, that hotter than it was under UD agent)

Advice: check the estimated time of completion for a job.  Some jobs take up to three months of 24 hour a day computing.  If your computer isn’t on all the time, the task won’t finish before the due date.  For your ocassionally on machines, pick BOINC projects with short jobs.

Personally, I’m skipping the cryptography, the search for space aliens, and solving esoteric math problems and other similar projects of limited social value.  The bio-informatics area–drug searching, DNA decoding and epidemiological simulations–is an good place to start, but if you are doing protein folding, you might as well let the specialized computers like the Sony PS3 do the work, since a PS3 is so much more efficient at calculating protein folding than a PC, the work done on a PC represents electricity wastage more than a charitable donation.

I donate bandwidth using Bit Torrent. It’s a charitable act when you are picking out organization that other wise couldn’t afford the bandwidth, or when the bits themselves represent a good cause.  Examples would include FOSS software, public domain art, non-profit websites trying to distribute large files, etc. 

Bit Torrent was originally intended to be a utility to speed the downloads of large, popular files.  If I want to give the Red Cross, say, some of my bandwidth, I first need to get a file from the Red Cross so I can distribute it, but if it is a file I wouldn’t download anyhow, then I would make the a negative contribution to the bandwidth of the charitable organization.

So instead of using a directory to find charitable organizations, use your own directory of previously downloaded files and pick which ones you want to let the uploading go on and on. 

My favorite bandwidth recipients are Vox Libris (the free audio book organization), Guttenburg project (free public domain books), and Ubuntu (free operating systems).  I happen to use these and since I have the file, I’m more than happy to donate my bandwidth so that the organizations that originated them don’t have such a big internet bill when it comes to distributing their bits.

Vista Temptations

I’ve been tempted by Vista. But the feeling keeps passing.

It has parental control features, like, no gaming or favorite websites during homework hours. I think, this would be great for my sisters with gaming age children.  But then I realize that the UI has completely changed and half (really?) of existing XP software doesn’t work on Vista. I don’t want to be the family helpdesk for those calls just yet.

It will have Halo 3. Someday. It will have Xbox Live for PC’s. For some games. Someday. It has directX 10! Which will be used by games–someday.

Then I think, man, I’m going to be working on Vista someday, might as well get started.  Then I realize I’d need a new boot drive.  Or install it to a VPC.  And I start to think that all of that sounds like a lot of work.  Then with a dual boot set up, I know I won’t be in Vista very often unless there is a killer application.  I hate rebooting, so given my infrequent booting habits, dual boot, means few opportunities to pick the other operating system.

I haven’t even tried it and I’m planning on turning off UAC and the other CPU eating security measures.  I don’t want security if it is going to use 100 watts and some arbitrary, large percent of my CPU’s cycles.

The Great ASP.NET Lunarpages Experiment

I tried to move my webhosting account from a Linux server to a windows server at the same webhosting company–Lunarpages. My conclusion is that Lunarpages is a good Linux host, not a good Windows host.

Why

Plesk. Plesk is slow. It is not intuitive to see what is happening when you configure NTFS settings on the filesystem. It is not intuitive to see what is happening when you try to configure IIS virtual directories, websites and applications. And it is slow, at least 10 seconds between every single operation. Every click. Ten. Seconds. Or. More.

If Plesk had a family resemblance to the IIS snap-in manager or Explorer, then I might have had more success.

MyLittleAdmin. Not to be confused with MySQL, this is a web based admin tool that targets SQL 2005. And. It. Is. Slow.

I would not be surprised if Lunarpages is greatly overcrowding the servers. Or Plesk and MyLittleAdmin are crap. Or they are poorly configured. Or I won the trifecta.

I couldn’t get ASP.NET to work the way I wanted it. I wanted ASP.NET to be the 1st module to handle all requests, so that ASP.NET security would rule. Unfortunately, Plesk doesn’t allow it. So if I requested an aspx page, I got ASP.NET security. All other pages were public to anonymous users.

I tried setting security using NTFS. That required denying rights to all the anonymous users, but like I said before, Plesk pretty much leaves you in the dark about what is going on and I ended up denying the right to browse a folder to everyone, including myself.

I tried creating more than one ASP.NET application. No dice. The web.config files interfered with each other.

I couldn’t connect directly to MySQL or SQL2005. Being forced to use web clients for database administration is punishment unbecoming of a webhost. I will not tollerate it.

I’ve moved onto another provider–webhost4life–and I’m retaining my linux account.