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Philanthropy Redefined 304

Posted by michael
from the bah-humbug dept.
The world is abuzz - thanks to a huge spew of press releases - about a "philanthropic" effort to "cure cancer". Just download the screen saver, which will cheerfully suck up your spare cycles and get to work eliminating the evil scourge - actually, doing a brute-force chemical interaction model which is one teeny-tiny part of the overall effort to fight cancer. What they forgot to mention was that running the client primarily benefits a for-profit company in Austin, TX which wants to sell your CPU cycles to the highest bidder in exchange for some nice beads.

United Devices is running the effort. All you have to do is download their closed-source, restrictive-licensed client program and install it on your PC (you also have to agree to their website license to even download the program, of course). You take all risks of installing the program - if the program deletes every file on your computer, too bad. If it downloads some kiddie porn and emails fbi@fbi.gov confessing to the crime, too bad. And I hope you don't pay for bandwidth by the byte, because their main commercial effort seems to be stress-testing websites for Exodus. You do read those license agreements, don't you?

Here's UD's business model in a nutshell:

"Get people to give us computing power and bandwidth for free and sell it to other people."

A nice gig, if you can get it. UD's primary business is selling computing cycles to corporations. As it turns out, they were having a hard time with the first part of the business model, so they came up with a scheme to get people to install their client: we'll do philanthropic work! And what could be more philanthropic than curing cancer?

Who else can we get on board? How about Intel? They're always willing to sponsor anything that promises to burn a lot of CPU cycles. In fact, they're willing to put up a disgusting website that totally misuses the term "peer-to-peer" to achieve an alliterative buzzphrase.

So, the stage is set. Now, read through the site that UD set up for this effort. Try to find in it any mention of anything other than philanthropy and cancer curing. You won't be able to. Why, you might even start to believe all this client does is work on curing cancer. Now go back to UD's main web site and read through it, noting how your computer will be sold to any corporation willing to pay for it. The task your computer runs is determined by UD, not by you.

Even the cancer research isn't philanthropic in the usual sense. Say that your machine discovers the drug that cures cancer. Who benefits? Well, Oxford University will patent it and sell the rights to produce it at some extortionate price, the name-brand drug will be hideously expensive, and 20 years later when the patent expires, the world will be able to afford cancer cures - shame about all those people that died in the meantime.

That's "philanthropy" in the digital age - agreeing to a restrictive license and running a program which can do anything it wants with your computer system or network including destroying it or committing crimes with it or running up your phone bill, all the while doing free work for a for-profit corporation so that a drug company can get a patent on a life-saving drug and charge outrageous prices to pay back the "research costs".

I think I'll stick with xscreensaver.

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Philanthropy Redefined

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    >"Oxford will own the intellectual property developed under the program, but the university will license it relatively freely."

    Key word is "relatively freely"
    who knows what that value is. Could it be 2% of the market value, that sound cheap to me ( as close free if you ask me ) and the cure is worth about 1 trillion US dollars over 20 years.

    so if that's the case then those 2 points are worth 20 billion dollars or a billion per year and if I'm the guy that did 1 /2 of 1% of all cpu cycles well where is my 5 million dolar check
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Screw these people...We want companies that make no profits. Yeah right. Where are people coming up with the idea that anything is free in life. Everything that you could possibly imagine has a price. Get used to it. The day of "everything free" business model is dead.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think I'll stick with xscreensaver.

    What a typical /. immature, mypoic, pig-headed response. Something isn't perfect, so you'll pick up all your marbles and walk off in a huff. I hope you never have to watch any of your loved ones die a lingering death of cancer. The change in attitude it triggers might cause you brain damage.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... then someone would hook up generators to stationary bikes, provide power to poor-wittle Californians, and put fat-assed people on them to pump off the ugly pounds, which would work off their fat fucking asses that make them vulnerable to cancer and heart disease. It's pathetic to walk down the street and see the average person waddling along like a pig, puffing on a cigarette. No wonder they get sick, they don't need CPU-cycles, they need bicycles.
  • Results != IP rights.

    Colleges != public institutions that don't hoard IP.

    I am afraid you are far too trusting. I'd want to see clearer language. And I'd want some more background. Is this cancer foundation a 501c3 nonprofit corporation? What kind of IP portfolio has Oxford been building, and what restrictions are being placed on their researchers? It's sad, but colleges are the _last_ place where you should look for public benefit these days. They will pick profit over social benefit just as quickly as any corporation...

  • I think it does deserve the beating, simply because genuine philanthropy and social benefit _is_ (gasp!) important. It's not meaningless, and it's not a helpful thing when con artists continue to add still more weight to the side of the argument that says 'there is no such thing as philanthropy, honesty or social benefit'.

    In a way, I guess what I am saying is that they deserve the beating _most_ for the misrepresentation: they're perfectly free to get people to donate computers to a for-profit company to develop IP on cancer curing which will then be withheld from cancer patients. They're free to do that. But they gotta CALL it that. Calling it philanthropy totally devalues philanthropy, and some of us think it can ill afford such devaluation at this point.

  • OK, I keep reading all these flames about how Michael spouts his mouth off, how he doesn't read, and I gave him the chance. But if you aren't even going to read about something that has been out for months, then you need to stop talking/typing/contributing.

    Places where you're wrong:

    • UD isn't new, PCWorld mentioned them in an article about free stuff a few months ago.
    • It's rather plainly stated on their page here [ud.com], right off the front page, thay they sell their service.
      United Devices supplies customers such as corporations and research facilities with the computing resources required to solve large computational problems, run financial analyses, or find cures for diseases. United Devices makes access to teraflops of power available at a fraction of the traditional cost, making previously impossible projects possible.
    • They haven't had a hard time getting people to install the client, they haven't tried yet. Technically, the service is still in beta. Or was until a few days ago
    • There are currently 4 projects in the UD queue, the other big one of which is Genetic research, looking for gene sequences.
    • You're not stuck doing the Cancer research project - each device you have running the UD agent can chose any or all of the projects available to run.
    • The agent will run disconnected from the network, and either connect only when it needs to upload results and download data, or will watch your connection state and only send info when you connect yourself.
    • They run prize promotions fairly frequently. These are also listed just off their main page
    • So what if it's closed source. So it the UOLinux client. So is Everquest. So is WordPerfect. Wah, get over it, everything needs not be open-source to be good. Why do you need the source code for the client anyway, they don't want you running altered clients.

    OK, go back to your XScreensaver. At least this is a little more interesting than watching my computer try to decode Signals from Aliens, or wondering how many keyblocks are left until I actually get a message.

  • Only the paranoid.... a fellow at work was telling me about his Netzero(?) Internet access that was trying to run some distributed process without even asking his permission - he was ticked off about it, but it may be just a misunderstanding (not a compu-savvy employee).
    Haven't checked - status: pure rumor.
  • Do you use SETI. You don't? Run for it and you get all your dreams realised!

    The day we get a signal from Cosmos we naturally will start building bigger guns, make some more nuclear weapon research and smoke more tobbaco as Earth is a paranoidal hospice that fears any stranger and gets panicked on every ununderstandable event...
  • Thats just it, according to thier license, the may not be using your cycles to cure cancer. They could be selling it to breakdown models of free nuclear reactions within the atmosphere, which would CAUSE quite a bit of cancer if it were to happen, if we lived through it. What they are saying is they are taking your cycles, not paying you for it, profiting off of it to the highest bidder, regardless of what thier cause is.

    That, and if it were to lead to the cure, like they brought up in thae article, it would be 20+ years before a LOT of people would be able to afford it.

  • It is who and how they are used that matters.
    One can find many examples on both sides of
    immense benefits and greed and evil.
  • Why are you slandering them without foundation?
    Um, dude? Slander is spoken defamation, while libel is what it's known as when it's written defamation.

    I suggest you read this Cyberspace Law Lesson [ssrn.com] for more background on libel and slander, so you can use the terms properly in the future.

    --

  • Well, the problem is striking a decent balence. And signing a restrictive license ... I would need to get something reasonable out of that, though since I have a dial-up line it doesn't sound like they want my participation anyway. So that's fair.

    The problem is people who want to use this as a profit center, and still expect others to donate freely. That kind of attitude is why I prefer the GPL to BSD. OTOH, if you walk into it with your eyes open, then more power to you. But I would check the license carefully. Those things are starting to bite people.


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • Responding to the numerous inane respondents to my original post thread:

    There is no single cure for cancer, any more than there is a single cure for heart disease. "Cancer" is a catch-all term that refers to a huge variety of cellular disorders that cause the cells to go out of control. Furthermore, a single computing project cannot hope to find the cure for cancer. Come on, do you really think someone had a blinding flash of the obvious and said "Hey! This code will cure cancer! If only I had a hugely distributed computing network to run it on..." The most such a project can hope to accomplish is to cheaply model folding of proteins and assist in research that could lead to a better understanding of life processes.
  • ...20 years later when the patent expires, the world will be able to afford cancer cures - shame about all those people that died in the meantime.

    OK, I'm going to shamelessly extrapolate Moore's law: 20 years is approximately 13 iterations of Moore's law. 13 doublings of computer power. A $2000 computer then will be the equivalent of 8,000 computers now.

    If this sort of thing is necessary to cure cancer (and I doubt it), then the cure will be within reach well before that 20 years are up.

    Many scientific projects that require high levels of computing power have had to decide "Will we buy hardware now and compute for four years, or wait three years, buy the hardware, and compute for one?"
  • by hugg (22953)
    So you build the Cure For Cancer wonder. You only get 1 happy face in each city. Forget that -- switch to Communism, build the Great Library, and mop up the rest of the world while you get their techs. Diplomats too.

    (For those that don't understand -- you've not truly lived :) )
  • Actually, yeah, I think you'd be a sucker to volunteer at a for-profit hospital. Would you volunteer to flip burgers at a for-profit McDonald's?

    If you do something that directly helps patients and doesn't help the hospital (like going to various children's wards and reading to the kids.) then I can see the point. But if you do something the hospital would have had to pay someone to do, yeah, I think you are a sucker.

    If someone makes money off of something I do, I want a cut. Otherwise they can go do it themselves. If someone wants my help because they can't get it any other way, instead of just being too greedy to shell out for it, then we'll talk.
  • ...if the drugs had never been developed in the first place.
    ---
  • I think I more or less agree with you, but money isn't the root of all evil. "For the love of money is the root of all evil..." (It's in I Timothy 6:10)
  • We anticipate this project quickly growing to become the largest...

    You are associated with UD? Might have been an interesting fact to point out.

  • Why don't you respond to #151, a post which *seems* to have some valid points, and is not a straw man?

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=01/04/03/163 42 59&cid=151


  • I agree with your argument, however, wouldn't you want the patent for cancer cure to be held at Oxford University or the Cancer Research Charity mentioned instead of some faceless pharmaceutical company?

    No patent will mean that some other company will get a patent on their work. You know how knackered patent offices are, it will happen.

    Also, I very much doubt that this research will be sold onto the biggest players. Most drugs cost a tonne because of two things - research costs to recoup and "we have 17 years to get our money on this one boys, then we have to find a health hazard with the system so that our competitors can't use it afterwards". When a cancer research charity is funding the research, it is highly likely that licenses for the drugs will be given out for a reasonable fee to all reputable drug companies. Market competition will then ensure low prices, unless they fix the price amongst themselves.

    Hey, even AMDZone wanted to get in on the act of having a team for Cancer Curing, and I hope that they continue to do so. Despite it being Intel sponsored, and the guys at AMDZone are pretty much the definition of Anti-Intel. I am surprised they don't use Macs! :)
  • If nothing else, at least it may provide some measure of hope to patients. If my uncle (brain cancer, no surgery possible) came to me and asked about this, I don't think I could tell him that it's probably a scam job. And what good would it do if I did? Hope is the best medicine some of these patients have.

    As opposed as I am to companies preying on the generous for their own good, there is at least a thin silver lining here.

  • Something like this would be better placed at the "cure for cancer" site than here. It is irritating to get the connection between that project and the business presented on slashdot, while the "cure for cancer" site doesn't loose a word about it.

    Maybe that was a good tactic to avoid people believing their cycles are being misused before the rumors started flying all about the net. But now the rumor is out in the world (and for the people you try to win for the project it can't be more in the world than on slashdot) you should put some reassuring documents up what exactly the client will do, and what those cycles will be used for, and more important, what they will not be used for.

    Also someone at UD should contact the slashdot editors ASAP to get an update of that article. While it may be tempting to ask the lawyers first, they will only waste away time. Sorry, but even if things are as you state, UD has to take part of the blame for: a) not being upfront about the rest of it's business and b) not providing along some reassuring terms in the contract saying that those cpu cycles will not be used for anything else (there is anyway a contract with the code saying you may not reverse engineer the code, why not put something in there to the effect that the Program will only work on the cure for cancer Project?)
  • Yes, but that's how you get the stuff to the market. I expect the resulting product to be something you can't brew together in your backyard. Publishing the results will also do some good, because if the pricing is too ridiculous someone will just go along, ignore the patents and build a fab Where a government is too happy to get a few dollars into the country to ask what international IP-laws exactly are violated.
  • Actually i never had any problems with them wanting no reverse engineering (i just mentioned it to point out that there comes a contract with the thing anyway) not only because some of the source might even not be theirs, but because i find it perfectly understandable that they don't want everyone messing with the code. Even if it's wellmeaning it can do damage by sacrificing accuracy for a performance gain.

    Anyway, when they come out with a linux client i'll look at it again. Until then i'll dedicate some cycles to Folding@Home.
  • The Peer-to-Peer compute-cycle companies have already started folding. (And I don't mean proteins.) The number of commercial businesses that could rake in more dough if they just had more compute cycles (aka a Beowulf cluster or these more loosely coupled P2P variants) is not too many.

    For example, Popular Power [popularpower.com] seems to have closed their company and website sometime in the last few weeks. A shame too, as their UI allowed you to easily choose what percentage of your CPU cycles were for-profit and what were for non-profit projects.

    --LP
  • Bait and swich doesn't mean that the company offers you something and gives you something else with no warning at all. It means that the company entices you with false promises, then gets you to spend on something different once you're at their store/website. And those cycles/bandwidth aren't free, they're expended.

    -----------------------

  • The simple fact that the results will be made public does not preclude the researchers from profiting from them. Publication is an central step in the patent process; all patented biomedical discoveries made in academia are published in the peer-reviewed literature. The faq on the UD website seems to be seeking to dodge this fact by ignoring the patent issue entirely. That the researchers will not be selling the rights to their research does not mean that they won't be licensing any inventions to a manufacturer. That's how it's typically done.
  • I want my CPU cycles to go for something useful. Like building bigger guns. Or nuclear weapons research. Or genetically engineering tobacco to make more cancer causing black goo that coats the walls of your lungs.

    I'm the anti-philanthropist.

  • The misrepresentation is the important issue here - the rest is a boilerplate screed against the open market. If they simply stated up front in a FAQ that they're not reimbursing users because it wouldn't be worthwhile to cut checks on a monthly basis that amount to $1.78, people would respect that, and make their own informed decision.

    As for the "delete every file on your drive" BS, do you think they'd be around for more than 10 minutes if that happened? It's not like they've got a monopolized grip on the PC desktop or something...

  • So how is that any different from other groups of researchers who do this sort of work??? It's not like bunches of hippies are doing this in their garages and giving the results away...

    At least when a university sells a patent, it can go towards further developing research centers, student financial aid, or recruiting genetically-engineered athletes.

  • Head over to the UD website [ud.com], and you'll see that the results of this research WILL be published and made available to the wider scientific community. The original poster has grossly misrepresented the situation, it appears.
  • Like I've posted elsewere, look here, [ud.com] and you'll see that the IP goes to Oxford, which will publish the results to the scientific community. UD's involvement seems to be related to building the application and handling the ongoing computing process.
  • Its too late. Microsoft Office 10 [bbspot.com] is already slated to cure cancer.
  • Looks like they're overrating your performance:

    SPECfp2000 of 900 MHz Athlon is 248

    SPECfp2000 of 1.5 GHz Pentium 4 is 549

    So, your Athlon is 48% as fast as the Pentium 4. The Pentium 4 is well over twice as fast as your Athlon.
  • This reminds me a lot of Napster's 60's-style "take back the net" mumbo jumbo [jamesarcher.net]. When it comes right down to it, most of the good causes nowadays are stirred up and promoted by one corporation or another. Linux is one of the few good causes left, but even that is starting to get a distinctly corporate feel.
  • For example, one time, I had a cold. I installed the "Hey Macaroni" screensaver and a week later, my cold was gone.

    Rich

  • Cool. So the power company supplies the electricity to run your computer for free. Can I get some?

    Rich

  • It is strange logic because of misplaced context. The context of the quote more like this:

    RICHMAN1: Hey look at me! I am so humanitarian for giving all my spare change to that beggar over that.

    RICHMAN2: You call that humanitarian? You and I were both born with a silver spoon in our mouths. Unlike you, I treasure what I was born with, and see it as my duty to give away money responsibly to the right people. You don't see me giving money to that beggar over there becuase I don't think he deserves it. I donate regularly to charities X, Y, Z, but I choose not to advertise that. And no, I don't consider myself very humanitarian for that. So what's your point?

    BEGGAR: Screw you man, I's rather have RICHMAN1!

  • As stated in a previous post, my younger brother died of cancer when he was 28. My girlfriend is at the hospital right now, as I'm typing this, with her father where he is having a biopsy to tell if he has prostate cancer or not. Two other members of my family have cancer. I know what it does to both the victims and their families.

    If a couple of mouse-clicks can help take that pain away from just one family, it's worthwhile. Surely.

    Thanks. You helped me make up my mind. I will install the screensaver tonight and add my little bit to the research.
    And I too know how it feels. My mother-in-law died from cancer i December last year.

    Ebbe

    P.S.: My wife (she's a GP) says that the chance of surving prostate cancer is in the upper nineties.

  • it's not hypocritical to disparage a company for bait-and-switch tactics. Who cares who they hired, and what those people might have been associated with in the past, if what they're doing NOW is unethical?
  • Anyone who's spent any considerable amount of time working on radiation and toxic substance issues knows that "finding a cure for cancer" is a public relations tool for diverting public attention from the CAUSES of cancer, which are overwhelming environmental in origin, i.e., radioactive and toxic substances. That's why the American Cancer Society has been regularly taken to task by experts for having a Board stuffed with chemical industry executives. For a superlative, well-reasoned analysis, see Dr. Samuel Epstein's Politics of Cancer. Finding a cure for cancer diverts attention from the biggest battle in the War Against Cancer, eliminating radioactive and carcinogenic chemicals from the environment to the fullest extent possible. It also allows drug companies, many of which are owned by the same chemical companies that create carcinogenic pollutants, to profit from palliative "cures" for symptoms. Kind of like the good doctors who take to drumming up business by shooting people at night. OK, let's assume that someone finally finds a "cure" for some form of cancer. Now how do we distribute that cure to all that need it, including the multitude of animals in the wild that suffer cancer right along with the humans exposed to the same chemicals and radiation sources? Prevention is the only reasonable response to the cancer epidemic (and it is an epidemic that's been on the steady rise for decades). "Finding a cure for cancer" is pure quackery. Put your bucks (and CPU cycles) into a better cause, such as supporting environmental groups that are actually doing something about cancer. Paul Merrell co-author, No Margin of Safety, Politics of Penta pem@casco.net
  • I wouldn't go so far as to say this is philanthropy in the digital age. In fact, UD is merely abusing the idea of philanthropy to promote itself and make a profit. It is not like this type of thing never happened before the digital age (say, donate your used car to "charity" when only 10% of the proceeds go to charity, and give "to the Lord" by calling a televangalist). We can't let one greedy, cash starved startup give it a bad name.

    To me, philanthropy in the digital age is that I can give to many institutions by going to their website and donating with my credit card online.
  • An expensive cure is better than no cure. Besides, there are corporations (yes I said corporations) in other countries that are breaking patents that other corporations have on cures for the aids virus so that they can produce a cheaper cure.
  • Poor person: "May I have a quarter, gov'na, I'm starving to death"

    Rich person "Well, I didn't have to work very hard for this money, so it really wouldn't be very 'humanitarian' of me to give you any"

    Poor person: "GUHAUAHahhha. *cough*... *THUMP*"

    Rate me on Picture-rate.com [picture-rate.com]
  • What the hell kind of action is that? Rather then print a retraction saying 'sorry I'm an idiot' you go and simply erase it from history. How very orwelian of you Michal

    Rate me on Picture-rate.com [picture-rate.com]
  • Post to kuro5hin, where stories are peer-reviewed.

    Beats slashdot in almost all respects (but, doesn't seem to have quite as much fun, unfortunately)

    Rate me on Picture-rate.com [picture-rate.com]
  • Gee, it's great that you'd rather "fight the power" than do anything to help find a cure for cancer. Ya know what? I'm willing to cozy up to a corporation if it means taking a shot at finding a cure. Does that mean that some of the time they'll be whoring my computer and connection out for other stuff? Fine, as long as some of the time they're using it to look for a cure, or researching gene therapy, or one of the other things found in the life sciences section of the UD website. Oh, but I guess you didn't take a look at that, did you? No, you were too busy flaming them for being corporate and closed-source and *eek!* trying to make a profit. You know, it's assholes like you that give open-source a bad name, the fanatics that believe that nothing closed is good, and who insist that if someone is profitting from an activity that it must, by nature, be bad.

    You disgust me.

    Now, for those of you who want an alternate point of view, here goes. I am not affiliated in any way with UD, other than that I run their client from my work machine. I went into this fully understanding that UD is a for-profit group. But guess what? Unlike what Michael says, you CAN pick what groups you participate in. I choose to ONLY participate in the life sciences group, which includes the cancer research study. Thus far, I have never seen my machine be used for anything outside of that group. Ah, but I guess they could be doing it at night when I'm not around, those corporate bastards, right?

    Ultimately, your cpu spends a big chunk of time cooling its heels. You can put it to use trying to cure cancer, which benefits everyone. Alternately, have it try to break encryption, which benefits primarily geeks, or look for aliens, which most likely will do not one damned bit of good. It's your call. But Michael? Before you can have righteous indignation, you've got do have a good reason. Your argument that this "redefines philanthropy" is bullshit. Philanthropy is "The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations," according to dictionary I had lying around. I choose to donate my cycles to look for a cure for cancer. This is for the betterment of mankind, even if that cure is patented, packaged, and sold by a corporation. The cure still exists, which is a step forward.

    Next time, try thinking before you spew, moron.

  • Yes it's a shame that people will die in the meantime, but how about all those people that would die if the cure was never found? I hate to tell you, but drug companies are businesses . They want to make money. If everyone could use the research that they spent their hard earned money on, they wouldn't do it in the first place. This bait and switch thing is wrong, no doubt, but please leave the communist anti-patent rants to another article.
  • Who cares if someone is making some money off it? If I can help, even in a very small way, solve one of the worst problems man kind has ever faced I'm happy to do it.. I got plenty of spare cycles hanging out here... I dont care if microsoft finds the cure for cancer... someone needs to... I can help? YAY!
  • Or both, or neither.

    They could be very clever or very lucky. Or very unlucky. Or any combination. Should be interesting.
  • Whilst I agree that the article is harsh, there's a fundamental truth here.

    As the article points out, you're assuming that if you run this screenserver that your computer will even be working on this. They don't promise that.

    For all you know the first two computers work on this problem, and the next 20000 computers work on making a buck for someone else. That wouldn't be good at all. Until that is clarified I for one ain't gonna touch it with a bargepole. All charity work (this is a charity work as we are donating bandwidth, our time, processor time and electrical power) has to be as transparent as humanly possible. I don't necessarily mind a small amount of profit. But it had better be small.
  • OK, let's go through this line by line, nice and slowly...

    Warning... long comment ahead...

    The world is abuzz - thanks to a huge spew of press releases - about a "philanthropic" effort to "cure cancer". Just download the screen saver, which will cheerfully suck up your spare cycles and get to work eliminating the evil scourge - actually, doing a brute-force chemical interaction model which is one teeny-tiny part of the overall effort to fight cancer.

    www.intel.com/cure/research.htm [intel.com]

    "Depending on the results of this program, the time required to develop a new treatment and drugs could be cut from twelve years to as little as five years."

    In other words, that's up to seven years worth of children who could have died but didn't. Even if running this app only saves one life, it's only "teeny-tiny" in comparison to the vast number of people who die of cancer every year - not to the people who may be saved because of it.

    What they forgot to mention was that running the client primarily benefits a for-profit company in Austin, TX

    (my emphasis)

    http://members.ud.com/membership/howitworks/faq.ht m [ud.com]

    "Members are rewarded for computer time that normally would go to waste, our customers and project partners can access more computing power to advance their projects, United Devices picks up a fee for building and administering the software that does it all"

    Yes, they do get some benefit (and are upfront about it), but "primarily" is a very harsh assessment based on the information available.

    which wants to sell your CPU cycles to the highest bidder in exchange for some nice beads.

    http://members.ud.com/prizes/ [ud.com]

    and more importantly:

    http://members.ud.com/vypc/wish/ [ud.com]

    United Devices is running the effort. All you have to do is download their closed-source, restrictive-licensed client program and install it on your PC

    Given that it currently only runs on Windows, it's targeted at people who are happy running closed-source restrictive-licensed software. Besides, the millions of current Setiathome users don't seem to have a problem with closed-source restrictive-licensed software, and Setiathome never got this kind of treatment from /.

    (you also have to agree to their website license to even download the program, of course). You take all risks of installing the program

    Show me one piece of software - free or otherwise - today that doesn't require the installer to take responsibility for all risks.

    - if the program deletes every file on your computer, too bad. If it downloads some kiddie porn and emails fbi@fbi.gov confessing to the crime, too bad.

    Exactly the same applies to every piece of software distributed in binary form. Why highlight it in this manner for this particular case ?

    And I hope you don't pay for bandwidth by the byte, because their main commercial effort seems to be stress-testing websites for Exodus. You do read those license agreements, don't you?

    http://members.ud.com/membership/howitworks/privac y.htm [ud.com]

    "Members will always be told which applications (including commercial ones) are running on their computers. They also will have access to Web pages outlining which organizations are providing the applications and explaining projects that Member computers are working on."

    "Members will be able to control how much of their system resources are used by United Devices. "

    "Members will be given user preference options on a wide range of factors, including: whether the program runs as a screensaver or an application when computation and communication can be done whether connections should be made automatically which proxies and firewall settings to use"

    Although the license agreement is pretty general, the above statements are very specific, and if they did not comply with them, then (IANAL but I have some in the family) it would look very much like false advertising.

    Here's UD's business model in a nutshell: "Get people to give us computing power and bandwidth for free and sell it to other people."

    My reading of the above would be "Get people to give us computing power and bandwidth for prizes and the chance to help people, then sell it or give it away (depending on user preferences) to other people."

    A nice gig, if you can get it. UD's primary business is selling computing cycles to corporations. As it turns out, they were having a hard time with the first part of the business model, so they came up with a scheme to get people to install their client: we'll do philanthropic work! And what could be more philanthropic than curing cancer?

    Yup, they're getting a lot of publicity from this. Big deal. As long as the client tells people what's going on (which it does, see above), what is the problem ?

    Who else can we get on board? How about Intel? They're always willing to sponsor anything that promises to burn a lot of CPU cycles. In fact, they're willing to put up a disgusting website that totally misuses the term "peer-to-peer" to achieve an alliterative buzzphrase.

    Dunno why Michael calls the Intel site "disgusting" maybe it's the colour scheme or something... but, yes, I'd agree that they are abusing the term "peer-to-peer" to mean its complete opposite. Mind you, you see idiocies like that daily on /. by both posters and editorial staff. I expect marketers to be idiots and not understand basic English. Journalists are generally expected to be at least reasonably literate.

    So, the stage is set. Now, read through the site that UD set up for this effort. Try to find in it any mention of anything other than philanthropy and cancer curing. You won't be able to. Why, you might even start to believe all this client does is work on curing cancer. Now go back to UD's main web site and read through it, noting how your computer will be sold to any corporation willing to pay for it. The task your computer runs is determined by UD, not by you.

    To repeat a quote given above:

    "Members will always be told which applications (including commercial ones) are running on their computers. They also will have access to Web pages outlining which organizations are providing the applications and explaining projects that Member computers are working on."

    Even the cancer research isn't philanthropic in the usual sense. Say that your machine discovers the drug that cures cancer. Who benefits? Well, Oxford University will patent it and sell the rights to produce it at some extortionate price the name-brand drug will be hideously expensive, and 20 years later when the patent expires, the world will be able to afford cancer cures - shame about all those people that died in the meantime.

    http://members.ud.com/vypc/cancer/about_picture.ht m [ud.com]

    "That is, the rights to the research results remain with non-profit organizations that are dedicated to cancer research."

    So, if they do sell the rights (as Michael claims they intend to do, without any evidence) rather than give them away, the proceeds from these sales gets reinvested in more cancer research. And the problem with this is ... ?

    That's "philanthropy" in the digital age - agreeing to a restrictive license and running a program which can do anything it wants with your computer system or network including destroying it or committing crimes with it or running up your phone bill, all the while doing free work for a for-profit corporation so that a drug company can get a patent on a life-saving drug and charge outrageous prices to pay back the "research costs".

    A nice summary of Michael's accusations (or misinterpretations ... I believe firmly in the principle of "never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to incompetence." It's just a pity that I've had to waste an hour of my time doing his research for him so that this worthwhile project doesn't lose out on potential helpers.

    I think I'll stick with xscreensaver.

    Feel free. (There's no X client right now, anyway... hurry up UD, I've got another 6 CPUs ready for you when you get it done...)

    As stated in a previous post, my younger brother died of cancer when he was 28. My girlfriend is at the hospital right now, as I'm typing this, with her father where he is having a biopsy to tell if he has prostate cancer or not. Two other members of my family have cancer. I know what it does to both the victims and their families.

    If a couple of mouse-clicks can help take that pain away from just one family, it's worthwhile. Surely.

    And if lazy journalism means that the cure arrives one day later than it could have, what is that worth ?

  • (well, that seems to be a common theme amongst the critical replies...)

    Sure, Michael shouldn't allow his "moral grandstanding" to get in the way of the cure for cancer! Heck, next he'll be targeting censorware companies for trying to SAVE THE CHILDREN...

  • A better considered view of the UD scheme is found in theregister [theregister.co.uk], which, presumably, is edited by adults. The linked article considers whether the UD scheme is or is not a rip-off. it concludes:

    In any case, the research is expected to knock years off the process of finding cancer fighting drugs. And isn't an expensive cure better than no cure at all?

  • Yeah.. I had netzero install surfari on my computer without asking. It just installed and stayed there.
  • by sulli (195030)
    The Register called the service "P2P" (peer to peer):

    The peer-to-peer (P2P) computing scheme, which also involves the US charity National Foundation for Cancer Research, United Devices and Intel, will let surfers worldwide use their computers to test chemicals for future cancer-fighting drugs.

    while it's in fact client-server. Sorry to nitpick but this gets on my nerves.

  • A user named "kpearson" has an excellent Distributed Computing compilation site [nyx.net] from which you can see the latest news, view all completed projects, and visit the websites of any active project you may have an interest in.

    So, if you don't trust a commercial company with your idle CPU cycles, look on the Active Projects list [nyx.net] for something run by a non-profit org, or an educational facility. There's dozens of projects available to suit your particular cup of tea.

    -Tex
  • The Cancer Treatment Research Foundation [ctrf.org]'s Parabon [ctrf.org] project is exactly that: distributed computing for cancer research. CTRF is a not for profit organisation. They say that commercial computing might be done for time to time, but that the profits will go to found cancer research. This seems like a good org, but I didn't see any mention on patenting the results. I don't have to do more research on them now, so please make your own, but it seems like worth considering. I really want to help, but not at any cost. In the worst event, maybe we could write our own program and compute for MSF [msf.org] or something. They're the ones fighting the AIDS medicine patents, so I doubt they would patent cures.

    My country is under siege [wtoaction.org]! Help [a20.org] us [sommetdespeuples.org] stop [indymedia.org] them [americascanada.org] !! It will affect you, as well.

  • Yes but the Intel requirements for sponsoring such a project require that it be 100% philantropic which they define as meaning totally not for profit. So what if the data gets patented as long as it is made available for free public use.
  • I completely agree. How can Slashdot so vocally support SETI@home, a cool, but completely useless endevour, but badmouth a project that aims to save lives? Protein folding and protein chemistry simulations have applications that could and probably will save your life at some point in time. Even if the project did make money for someone, somewhere, so what? What is so wrong with making a profit? Is robbing someone of their right to make earn a living a cause worth sacrificing lives to?
  • So when you go home to bed tonight make sure and think about how much extra suffering your lack of editorial integrity may have caused cancer sufferers due to lost computing resources for this project.

    You're kidding, right? Please tell me you're kidding.

  • IMHO, this is a worthy cause. I choose to run the client, and hopefully contribute to a cure, until I find out that they are not who they claim to be. I have lost family and friends to cancer, and if I am able to help out, that is what I will do.

    My $.02.
  • you'll see that the IP goes to Oxford, which will publish the results to the scientific community.

    That's meaningless.

    Surely you're aware that every patent filing is published to the scientific community. In fact, it's available to the entire world community. Call up the patent office and you can have your pick of amazing top-secret scientific developments mailed to your door.

    But that sure doesn't mean anyone can benefit from the invention or discovery.

    The only way in which this would actually be a philanthropic endeavor is if they specifically agreed to make all generated IP public domain.

  • Although it's not strictly relevant to the current debate--that is, the merits of this distributed computing effort--I'm troubled by both the original post and many of the replies. The original post gripes that this is for a "for-profit" company as if that is some sort of heinous crime. While I admit that there are legitimate and useful debates about the pros and cons of capitalism, last time I checked, most Western nations are, in fact, more-or-less capitalist. I shouldn't have to point this out, but it's OK to make a profit... Secondly, while it is true that some drugs are very expensive, it is useful to look at some of the history. Health care in general has extended lives, has in fact been made accessible to all (OK, there's some debate about how fair it is and how well we are doing, but that's not the point here.) Life spans are increasing, quality of life has increased, and so on. Obviously, we're doing something right. (Maybe we're doing some stuff wrong also, but lets have a little more reasoned debate, please.) I have no particular position on the merits of this particular screen saver, but I'm not sure that bilious rhetoric in the original post was very well founded.
  • Oh, that and the fact that Oxford has stated that they'll be making the results of the research available to anyone who wants it.

    As a UD representative, perhaps you could clear this statement up for us. Does this mean that Oxford will be placing any patents/intellectual property recovered into the public domain? As pointed out in other posts, making results available has nothing to do with giving away the rights to produce/sell/distribute any treatments that come from this project.

  • Counterpoint:

    What you are saying is that anybody can select what group your interested in correct. Good, that's understood.

    What my beef is that I would like the funds earned (my percentage) donated to XYZ. Now that's not asking for to much, is it. I'm offering my cycles up, and in exchange I would like to be compensated. I don't care if the research is going into cancer or to aids. I just would like to see the return of my TIME.

    Now look at it from my point please. For example, if I have 42 SGI O2's doing their animation / rendering work, I am in no position to offer up cpu cycles until the work is done. But I can commit maybe 3% of the cycles per second durring that job. of course that would delay my work. Now if I could get a small tax deduction or a return of some sort then the 3% of the cycle time would be justified. Hell, I would put up all 42 of them, if I knew that I could render on the distributed network. fair exchange of services.

    In reference to closed or open source. I would think that most of the /. users understand that on scientific projects data is analyzed using the scientific method, where certain outputs will be known and precise measurements are a must. Open source development can not be used in those moments. On the otherhand, O.S. programers can be utilized to refine the code after the first program is completed. This would lead to optimization of the code and of the CPU cycles.

    Currently the view from the /. community seems to have little or no trust in UD company. Therefore some parties would like to look at the source.

    ONEPOINT

    spambait e-mail
    my web site artistcorner.tv hip-hop news
    please help me make it better
  • The problem about solving these unsolved problems in society is the lack of computing resources. One Cray or such supercomputer can only do so much. There is so much computing power in the world that is being wasted on useless screensavers, or comparatively useless tasks like finding artificial intelligence on other planets. If we can combine this wasted computing power into a really worthwhile task, like finding the cure for cancer, we can actually get somewhere. It has been estimated, and unfortunately I can't remember where, that the combined computing power of all these wasted cycles, is equivalent to 1,000,000 personal computers! I repeat, if we can direct this enormous computing power into solving some of today's problems, then we can ACTUALLY change the world!
    So I say, spare these unused cycles to save some lives! Even if you do nothing else to change the world, do this.
    I have had my say.
  • People make their livings working for, and operating non-profit organizations. Didn't you ever wonder why people worked full time there? Did you think it was because doing good was payment enough? Well, while some people might believe that, doing good doesn't put food on the table, or electricity into your lights. Non-profit organizations simply operate under the premise that all proceeds which would otherwise be deemed profit, go back into the company in some way(IE buying new equipment, stuff like that). So even if UD is selling SOME CPU cycles, that may just be to cover expenses. As far as other projects go, for the most part even if you're only contributing 1 cycle out of every million, you're still accomplishing more than you ever will at dnet or setiathome(the largest, longest running, and least useful of all distributed computing projects). On the note of patenting the "cure for cancer drug", it simply won't happen. First of all, chances are there won't be some cancer cure that you can buy in little capsules that you take twice daily by mouth (with food). It will simply open up avenues for us to cure cancer, rather than irradiating people. And, even if there WAS some miracle drug, you KNOW the government would step in and force the results out somehow. When the gov't sets their mind on something, they get it done. If they feel like muscling their way into a pharmaceutical company, they will.
  • I am new here, and was referred by hardocp.com from a new snip they posted.

    Three weeks ago my father comes over for this semi monthly free dinner (and red wine). He is 65 this year. After dinner he says (basiclly) he has terminal lung cancer. Shock notwithstanding.... Now What.

    So Kyle Bennett of hardocp.com posts something about folding@home.com. blah...blah...blah... and they say they are working on (operative:Working On, better understanding things like, working on a cure for cancer).

    At this time I could give a f&*k about my cycles used or not. Unless this is total fraud. I have a vested interest (albeit probably to late for my father) in this process.

    So unless you point me to a better place that I can contribute extra cpu time, I am going there.

    Thanks for the time/.
  • by Jim McCoy (3961) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:24PM (#317693) Homepage
    The anti-market screed that was posted seems to ignore several important facts that should be brought to light. An article [yahoo.com] from CNET points out that:

    "Oxford will own the intellectual property developed under the program, but the university will license it relatively freely."

    That means that the big bad corporate nasty that Micahel is complaining about is Oxford University and the American Cancer Society, not quite in the same league as the evil pharmaceutical companies that can do no good in Michael's eyes. Perhaps he would rather that millions of people continue to suffer and die from cancer for the sake of his cynicism and moral outrage.

  • by squarooticus (5092) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @04:16PM (#317694) Homepage
    Here are your choices:

    (1) Medical research is required by law to immediately enter the public domain. All for-profit efforts to perform medical research immediately grind to a halt. The cures for cancer, MS, diabetes, AIDS come in 500 years instead of 15 years.

    (2) Medical research is patentable. Companies scramble to find cures for all those diseases, because they know they will have proprietary rights to them for 20 years. After the 15 years of research and the 20 years under patent, it enters the public domain.

    So, which scenario do you prefer? (1), in which people die for the next 500 years from these diseases? Or (2), in which most get to benefit in 15 years, and the rest in 35? Being that I'll be around 60 in 35 years, I know which one I prefer.

    Don't devalue patents. Although the terms may be inappropriate in some fields (20 years for a software patent? Sheesh...), the intent is to increase public knowledge by leveraging free-market demands. It's a good system, and it has been proven to work time and time again.

    Kyle
  • Allow me to use this response to reply also to the others in this thread who have asked why United Devices does not release the source code to the agent software. After addressing this more general question, I'll try to respond to your other, more specific, statements.

    If you are asking why the THINK code is not available...

    The primary reason that United Devices does not release the source code to the THINK application is because it is not our code to release. The THINK application is the brainchild of Keith Davies of Treweren Consultants Ltd. and has been developed with the possibility of being released as a commercial product. In acknowledgement of the non-profit motives of the Intel-United Devices Cancer Research Project and in return for the valuable feedback provided by such a massive deployment, Treweren has allowed the use of their code for this project.

    If you are asking why none of the code is available...

    Perhaps the most comprehensive treatment of this issue is the opecodeauth white paper [distributed.net] written by distributed.net's Jeff Lawson (also a United Devices employee). As most are aware, distributed.net only releases 99% of its code, and withholds the critical protocol and buffer format code as a supplement to the security of the system. Until someone solves the dilemma of trusting work performed by an untrusted machine, obscurity will always be a desirable component of any internet-based distributed computing effort.

    In the absence of open source, United Devices is relying on other factors to influence the internet community to trust its motives. In the general sense, we hope that the combined SETI@home and distributed.net pedigree might encourage you to trust that we're doing things the right way. In the more specific sense of the Intel-United Devices Cancer Research Project, we trust that the endorsement and support of our partners speaks volumes on the integrity of this project.

    The bottom line is, there are a great number of indicators which you should use to evaluate the integrity and sincerity of an organization, for-profit or not. While open source is a virtually unassailable endorsement, it is not the only tool at your disposal as you try to detect if UD is trying to do something illicit. Heck, perhaps it's naive of me, but I like to think that my presence and attention in this forum (and my leet, low user ID #) supplement UD's image in some small, geeky, inconsequential way.

    As to your rephrasing of today's exchange on slashdot, I must respectfully disagree. Michael's comments in the article body were far more inflammatory than your simple condensation indicates. Moreover, there was no justification or corroboration for the claims that UD was poised to violate the trust and agreements contained in the description of the project as provided by both Intel and United Devices. The license on the UD software is nothing noteworthy, and is the normal fare for any organization trying to conduct business with the benefit of legal input. I think it's quite clear that Michael's opinion of the project existed prior to his creative and conspiratorial interpretation of the license agreement.

    I also think that my response can be more accurately summarized as "No, no, UD can certainly be trusted because it has done nothing to invoke suspicion. Moreover, its founders and core staff have established a respectable reputation and history in the net community, and within slashdot as well, both in the form of distributed.net and SETI@home. If you're going to accuse United Devices of ill intent, you should be prepared to back those accusations with something more substantive than 'it is possible that they are bad'".

    You may feel that my response did "little or nothing to address [the questions raised]", but I would argue that my previous response, as well as this one, not to mention the FAQ and information published in relation to this project have provided considerably more supporting evidence and information that we've seen provided by michael to substantiate his accusations in this article. It's hard to provide less support than the "none" that he was satisfied with providing.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond, and for the lucid response to my earlier post.

  • by Ektanoor (9949) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:44PM (#317696) Journal
    Here we see one thing that /. lacks and refuses to accept: an editorial board. Yes, editorial boards are bad as they are a base for censorship, trade-offs, mob headlines, Pentagon infos and TASS statements...

    But having the lack of an editorial board is no better than having a bad one. And besides /. is not obliged to have an editorial board in the traditional sense of the word. I think /. team could think on something original... As usual... and you are good on this.

    Really I'm only waiting for the moment X when someone says "enough is enough", sues Rob down to the socks and lows Cmd Taco to deliver boy of tacos/pizzas... One day that will happen.
  • by Bearpaw (13080) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:05PM (#317697)
    Entropia [entropia.com] does a similar thing with "FightAIDSatHome". You have to read kinda carefully to catch this:

    Entropia is a for-profit corporation. From time to time Entropia 2000 will run commercial applications for our customers on your computer, then resume work on the non-profit projects of your choice. How much time goes to non-profit research is reflected by our project statistics.

    Note that their "project statistics" reflect work to date and there's no hint of the fact that the stats could change drastically once the paying customers line up.

    I got nothing against a little Benevolent Self-Interest, but being disingenuous about the set-up strikes me as slimy.

  • by gatkinso (15975) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:45PM (#317698)

    ...they will either GIVE us a cure for cancer or blow us to smithereens and take off with all of the oil.

    So. I say SETI@Home is the only worthwhile distro computing application.

  • by WNight (23683) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @02:38PM (#317699) Homepage
    Rant, Rant, Karma Whore, Karma Whore. (Oh yay, another moron insulting the editors. That's insightful. Yawn.)

    If you want to help, run Folding@Home. It's a much more open process (the results and the license) and stands to benefit us in many ways, not just cancer. (CJD, Mad Cow Disease, is caused by a protein folding into a different shape, and causing a cascade.)

    Not everything done by a corporation is evil. Sure, nobody said it was. What is 'evil' is essentially lying to people about what the client is doing. There's an expectation (it's a law as well, just ask AOL who got sued over it.) that if you help someone with something in a volunteer basis, that you will be paid for your efforts if it's a for-profit business. I'll bet their 'license' disclaims this though.

    You're just a troll, one who discovered the latest fad. Bash editors, gain karma. It's as old as "You slashdotters as so hypocritical..." or "Microsoft is just misunderstood..."
  • by TheDullBlade (28998) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @12:54PM (#317700)
    Let's lynch doctors for wanting a high salary, too!

    What, you volunteer at a for-profit hospital? What a sucker you are!

    Refuse to help treat cancer, and the world will be a better place!
    ---
  • by jake_the_blue_spruce (64738) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:16PM (#317701) Homepage Journal
    Patents expire in 20 years. If the cure for cancer is found using this method, it will take 20 years for any patent to expire. It has nothing to do with Moore's law. Please moderate Dillon's mistake down. However, I think academic institutions like Oxford are less prone to patent abuse than if it was a private research company.
  • by Sc00ter (99550) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:00PM (#317702) Homepage
    What a harsh article. Let's see, I had cousin that died of cancer at 32, and my best friend's wife had breast cancer and had to have one of them removed. I think I'll start looking for a cure with my spare cycles.

    Would help if I could connect to the freakin' UD server. :(
    --

  • by Lord Omlette (124579) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:04PM (#317703) Homepage
    So I might as well to:

    Folding@Home (foldingathome.stanford.edu) is a distributed computing effort to understand protein folding. It will possibly increase our understanding of medicine & nanotechnology. (I'm an idiot, yes, go read the site for more details plz.)

    They offer Windows, Linux, & Solaris clients, you can offer to help them with the other OSes they're working on (OSX, OS9, BSD, and IRIX).

    You know damn well and good that distributed.net will eventually crack whatever key they're working on. I question the usefulness, technique, and search space of seti@home. Folding@Home has actual implications for us right here, right now. If you don't trust this United Devices people, but you'd like to put your spare CPU cycles to good use, please check out Folding@Home. It has to be better than just "sticking with xscreensaver".

    Notes for Windows users: The screen saver is pretty but the console version will run while you're doing work (not just while you're sleeping) with no performance hit (lowest priority possible process). The screen saver also had some stability issues when I first checked it out (1.2something). Supposedly they've been fixed now (1.34) but I haven't had a chance to check on it.

    Peace,
    Amit
    ICQ 77863057
  • by gilroy (155262) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @03:34PM (#317704) Homepage Journal
    Wow. A well-constructed, well-written, level-headed response... that unfortunately tells us nothing and is essentially useless. Apparently the intended flow of conversation is,
    Poster: UD claims to be doing philanthropic work, but actually, their licensing and legalese appears to give them many options to distort or abrogate the implied responsibilities.
    UD employee: No, no, UD can certainly be trusted. After all, we say we can be trusted.
    Poster: Oh, then everything's hunk-dory then.
    I am put in mind of those old Joe Isuzu commericials.

    I don't want to malign UD, who might very well be intending to benefit all humankind out of the goodness of their hearts. But the fact of the matter is, legitimate questions were raised about the apparently shady way things are structured, and this "response" does little or nothing to address them.

    As for the kiddie-porn comment, the gist is this: It's not that anyone expects UD to actually do this. It's that the license propagated by UD reserves the right to do, by abnegating any responsibility for what their program does... even though they will not open the source and let the user decided if the code is safe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @12:53PM (#317705)
    I'm running STI, the Search for Terrestrial Intelligence. 500000 cpu years and no luck yet!
  • by sharkey (16670) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:34PM (#317706)
    I still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

    --
  • by Illserve (56215) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:00PM (#317707)
    Depending on the ratio of cpu cycles spent on cancer vs their bank account, I could care very much. Let's say they use 99.9% for themselves and the rest for the research. That qualifies as a scam in my book.

    Organizations that trick people into giving to "charities" are one of the world's greater evils in my book, because they eventually turn most people into cynics who look warily upon anyone asking for help.

    Bleah.

  • by Convergence (64135) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:32PM (#317708) Homepage Journal
    I'm taking no sides. Nor am I claiming that this is what they do or don't do...

    But, most drugs I've seen have public research, and the rights are sold off.... Oxford *is* claiming 'intellectual property' rights on anything that is discovered. So... They publish research results it as a scientific study (as they must if they wish to actually get the drug past the FDA), then they charge some random drug-company through the nose for exclusive rights to their 'intellectual property', which passes on those costs to the people.

    While it is true that a lot of academic research used to be public and distributed and used freely, in the modern age of software, thats becoming less and less true... Where is google's codebase? What about the patents Lycos got on their search engine years ago?

    Publicly published results != public domain; useable by anyone.

    Given this new modern regime, I'd believe the origional author of the rant, barring clear evidence to the contrary. What you've held up as evidence does not pass any such standard; about hte only thing that would would be `we will claim no intellectual property righs upon any discovered drug and any results will be available in the public domain'.. Which I'm not hearing.

    (True, I'm not sure that this is a good idea. Without some carrot, who will spend the billion dollars it may take to get a wonder-drug approved for use by humans? An expensive cure is ALWAYS preverable to no cure at all.)

  • by TopShelf (92521) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:13PM (#317709) Homepage Journal
    You might want to do some checking before posting stories like this. Here's an excerpt from the United Devices website:
    Are you going to sell the results to large pharmaceutical companies?--No. The results of this study are the intellectual property of the University of Oxford and the National Foundation for Cancer Research, who will make the scientific findings of this project available to the greater scientific community.

    Are the results going to be made public?--Yes. Prof. Graham Richards' research group, the project coordinators, will publish the results. This group originally designed the project and is currently orchestrating the study. Scientific interpretation of the results from this study will take some time. Results and scientific findings will be published in the usual manner through a peer-reviewed process.

    When are you going to publish the results of the Project?--It is hard to tell what will be published with the research still underway, but a mixture of technical and results papers are envisaged over the next 2-3 years.

    It would appear that the results of this research are intended to be released to the scientific community at large, rather than ransomed off. It would appear the UD's role in this endeavor was to develop the application and coordinate the data and computation - for which they deserve to be compensated. So what's the problem???

  • by pz (113803) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @02:39PM (#317710) Journal
    Having recently gone through a number (3) of patent applications in the past 18 months, I can readily assure you that public disclosure in no way directly implies public domain. As long as a patent application is filed within 12 months (in the US) of initial public disclosure -- including peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations -- the inventors own all rights to the claims covered.

    Don't be fooled: if a cure for cancer is discovered, Oxford and the National Foundation for Cancer Research will own the results. Period (depending of course, on the IP negotiations between them which we are not privvy to). I don't know about NFCS, but Oxford will most certainly look to profit from it, by, for example, licensing the rights to a biotech firm who is in a position to manufacture and distribute tons of the stuff, at profit.

    -- pz.

  • by SpanishInquisition (127269) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @12:59PM (#317711) Homepage Journal
    http://www.stanford.edu/group/pandegroup/Cosm/ [stanford.edu]

    I'm pretty sure they're clean.

    --
  • by slashdoter (151641) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @12:53PM (#317712) Homepage
    Do I still look for ET, or shall I try folding some protens ? Or should I try breaking some useles crypto message, or do I sell my cpu time to someone else for 0.25 a month? I want to do something with my computer when i'm not at home ( no I will not serve up Pr0n for you) but I don't think we can ever trust any person/company that has a lawyer, or even talks to one. So what do I do with it?


    ________

  • by Cyclopatra (230231) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @04:35PM (#317713)
    Poster: Ok, so you've told me that the allegations are unfounded, you've done so in writing (well, almost), this statement will be permanently archived, and you've done so in front of a whole Slashdot-full of witnesses, so I will trust you, but will hold you to your word. If you break your word, your statement will be used to rip you a new asshole.

    Poster, cont: However, since we have no proof that you are in fact affiliated in any way with United Devices, and in fact that the /. user who goes by "Uncle Fluffy" is not in fact a 13-yo alligator in the Everglades whose owner is out on the bayou, we have no way of knowing whether ripping *you*, personally, a new asshole will have anything to do with the price of tea in China. Furthermore, the entire /. community collectively sticking out their tongues and saying "Neener, neener, neener" to you will do exactly shit to rectify the outrage felt by anyone who thought their cycles were going to a cancer cure, when in reality they were testing out MBNA's new online credit card application, in the event that UD does, in fact, default on their assurances that they will not use those cycles for anything but cancer, since their licensing argreement does not in any way bind them to it.

    I'm not really so much taking sides here, as I enjoy pointing out holes in people's arguments.

    Cyclopatra

    "We can't all, and some of us don't." -- Eeyore

  • by Jabes (238775) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @12:58PM (#317714) Homepage
    This article at distributed.net DISTRIBUTED.NET AND UNITED DEVICES JOIN FORCES [distributed.net] tells how most of the distributed.net team are now working for United Devices. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the scope of UD's future projects. I'm all for a simple distributed client that can handle multiple projects - as long as you can elect which ones you take part in. I'll give United Devices the benefit of the doubt for now.
  • by moniker_21 (414164) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @12:56PM (#317715)
    As much as I'd like to brag to my friends about how I am personally helping combat cancer, I just don't think that letting someone else use my spare CPU cycles for a noble cause while I sit on my fat ass in the other room watching Star Trek reruns constitutes any sort of humanitarian act. This more accentuated by the fact that there is a for-profit organization behind this. Sorry, but my spare CPC cycles are not to be worshipped.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @12:48PM (#317716)

    Michael, you do know that United Devices hired the distributed.net guys, right?

    And David Anderson, the guy behind seti@home?

    Isn't it a bit hypocritical to attack them while you're running dnet at the same time?
  • by Badger (1280) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:09PM (#317717)
    http://members.ud.com/vypc/cancer/faq_proj.htm

    The above FAQ completely contradicts what you said, Michael. The results of the study will be made public. The results are the property of the University and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. The results will not be sold.

    Why are you slandering them without foundation? Do you really get off on making new enemies? Do you have to create enemies if you cannot actually find them?
  • by Nugget (7382) <nugget@distributed.net> on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @02:06PM (#317718) Homepage
    Full disclosure: I'm a United Device employee, a SETI@home enthusiast, distributed computing fanatic, and co-founding board member of distributed.net.

    This is certainly an unfortunate editorial, mainly because it's being presented as news. The suspicions and accusations are quite unwarranted. At least now I know why my original submission of this news, with facts instead of rantings, was rejected this morning.

    I'm not sure if Michael's bile is targeted at Intel (for their "disgusting" website?) or at United Devices. I doubt he's upset at Oxford University or the National Foundation for Cancer Research, he's certainly thrown them into the mix as well.

    The UD/Intel project is a genuine, noble attempt to cure cancer, and to try to spin it as anything else is a misrepresentation of the facts.

    If you download the UD agent from the Intel site [intel.com], your cycles will only be used on the Think application. United Devices will not claim any cycles or bandwidth on your machine for any commercial tasks. Users may, at their option, choose to participate in United Devices commercial tasks, and in return they'll be elgible for whatever compensation and remuneration that commercial work brings with it. There are a variety of promotions at present, although none that I'm aware of involve beads. The way I see it, getting paid for a resource I'd otherwise waste is a good deal, no matter what the compensation. Sure beats the alternative.

    The speculation about UD's motives for participating in this project are also quite sketchy. I would have hoped that the SETI@home and distributed.net heritage might have given United Devices the benefit of the doubt here, but in case that's not sufficient there are a number of plausible and compelling reasons why United Devices might wish to participate in finding the cure for cancer that don't involve the conspiracy and speculation offered by slashdot.

    We anticipate this project quickly growing to become the largest distributed computing project ever. As wildly popular as SETI@home and distributed.net have been, the number of people whose lives have been affected by cancer is daunting. For United Devices, this represents an ideal proof of concept and validation of distributed computing technology.

    Intel's arguable misuse of the phrase "peer-to-peer" is, while technically inaccurate, certainly with common usage. United Devices was present, along with all the other commercial distributed computing companies, at the recent O'Reilly Peer to Peer conference where CmdrTaco and Hemos spoke. The "P2P space" is broadly defined at present, mainly because nobody's quite sure how all these quasi-related technologies will take hold in the coming months. Bundled together with Napster, Mojo Nation, Freenet, and even the groove.net folks isn't all that bad a place to be. Regardless, calling this project "P2P" is certainly acceptable current usage of the term. I have no idea how it qualifies as "disgusting".

    If you choose not to read the documentation, it's still quite safe to assume that "all this client does is work on curing cancer" because that's indeed what it does. We (at United Devices) hope that some people will choose to also work on other United Devices projects, commercial or not, but we benefit greatly regardless.

    I can assure you, the United Devices agent will never download kiddie porn or get you in trouble with the FBI. I feel silly having to explain this, though. I mean, honestly. Is it possible that someone was genuinely worried that this might be the case? As for the rest, I'll let Oxford University's reputation as an honorable and worthy organization and the National Foundation for Cancer Research's endorsement speak for themselves. Oh, that and the fact that Oxford has stated that they'll be making the results of the research available to anyone who wants it.

    What an embarassment for slashdot.

  • by mr. roboto (85479) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @02:54PM (#317719)
    Sorry about the caps lock, but none of the outraged posters here seem to understand that the dedication to public disclosure embraced in the UD FAQ is NOT equivilent to the free public license of the research results. Public disclosure is part of the patent process, and it would be expected that any patentable results of this work would be patented, disclosed, licensed, and turned into drug company profits. The FAQ does a very good job of eluding this reality.


    Also, I didn't want to say it, but some of these outraged comments seem a little astroturf, if you know what I mean.

  • by Electric Angst (138229) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @12:59PM (#317720)
    So what do I do with it?

    Well, you could always just turn it off. The resulting energy conservation wouldn't go to any corporation, it wouldn't be put towards some point of geeky minutia, and it would do just as much good, if not more, than your machine could do otherwise.


    --
  • by Decado (207907) on Tuesday April 03, 2001 @01:46PM (#317721)

    Ok, as none of the slashdot editors seem to be able to do any editing here are a couple of excerpts from various faqs and information services describing how this stuff work.

    From http://members.ud.com/vypc/cancer/faq_proj.htm [ud.com]

    Are you going to sell the results to large pharmaceutical companies?

    --No. The results of this study are the intellectual property of the University of Oxford and the National Foundation for Cancer Research, who will make the scientific findings of this project available to the greater scientific community.

    Are the results going to be made public?

    Yes. Prof. Graham Richards' research group, the project coordinators, will publish the results. This group originally designed the project and is currently orchestrating the study. Scientific interpretation of the results from this study will take some time. Results and scientific findings will be published in the usual manner through a peer-reviewed process.

    So the results are going to the National Foundation for Cancer Research and Oxford. The National Foundation for Cancer Research are not the type of body to charge for commercial development of this work

    From http://members.ud.com/vypc/cancer/index.htm [ud.com]

    The project software cannot detect or transfer anything on your machine but project-specific information. It just allows your computer to screen molecules that may be developed into drugs to fight cancer. Each individual computer analyzes a few molecules and then sends the results back over the Internet for further research.

    So your computer is only allowed to scan molecules

    From Intels criteria for Philantropic projectshttp://www.intel.com/cure/criteria.htm [intel.com]

    A. 100% Philanthropic:
    The programs and, more specifically, workloads should be 100% philanthropic. Being a 100% philanthropic program means that that the program(s) run non-profit projects all of the time. Programs that run commercial projects "from time to time" are NOT considered 100% philanthropic.

    B. No Cost to the Public:
    The program should be completely "free" to the public. This means that there should be no cost to the public to download any of the software applications needed to run the workloads.

    C. Complete Disclosure to User:
    The programs should allow complete disclosure of information to the user about the workloads running on the user's machine (including, but not limited to, the type of data being processed), without giving away proprietary information.

    D. Complete Disclosure to the Public:
    The programs should allow all results obtained from processed workloads to be completely disclosed to the public within approximately 12 months of receiving the results.

    So thank you michael for allowing your cynicism and laziness in research to potentially take a lot of computing resources away from an important project. Yes it is getting attention for all the parties involved but it is not a cheap trick to steal our computer cycles for commercial interests, if you join for the cancer project then that is all you will work on

    So when you go home to bed tonight make sure and think about how much extra suffering your lack of editorial integrity may have caused cancer sufferers due to lost computing resources for this project. When will the slashdot editors learn that they can't just post any old crap, slashdot is not a small site where a mistake has no affect, it has a huge readership and needs to start taking some responsibility for the integrity of the stories it posts.

    Thank you, I expect to see the front page updated with a retraction of these false allegations soon to try and repair some of the damage your laziness has done. For the first time since I started posted here I have finally found something important enough to use my +1 bonus. I hope it is the last time this is needed.

    Decado

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..." -- Hunter S. Thompson

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