Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Red Hat Software Businesses Science

"Nightlife" Harnesses Idle Fedora Nodes For Research 171

Posted by timothy
from the deserves-an-award-for-the-name-alone dept.
A. B. VerHausen writes "If you've given up on SETI, now you can let your idle computer help with other kinds of scientific research. Red Hat employee Bryan Che started a project called Nightlife. He wants people to 'donate idle capacity from their own computers to an open, general-purpose Fedora-run grid for processing socially beneficial work and scientific research that requires access to large amounts of computing power.'" Che hopes to have more than a million Fedora nodes running as part of this project.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

"Nightlife" Harnesses Idle Fedora Nodes For Research

Comments Filter:
  • SETI (Score:5, Informative)

    by pryoplasm (809342) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:42AM (#23584793)
    There is also folding at home http://folding.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu] that might help someones life more than software ever will.

    I am all for open source, but there are some better places to donate some spare cpu cycles
    • Agreed here. I don't have much hope in the mission of SETI, but Folding@Home's research is basically like throwing a gigantic brute force attack at unsolved protein mysteries. It feels like hacking, in a way. I love that idea, instead of just processing bombarded information from outer space.
      • unsolved protein mysteries
        You mean like the chicken and the egg debate? Why pot noodles are so addictive? Or how that mouldy block of cheese managed to solve the game of solitaire that you'd left lying out on the kitchen table?
    • Re:SETI (Score:4, Informative)

      by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:15AM (#23585143) Homepage Journal
      Not to mention climate change prediction at home via climateprediction.net [climateprediction.net].
      • Re:SETI (Score:5, Funny)

        by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:41AM (#23585449) Homepage
        I guess that's irony; letting your computer consume large quantities of environmentally unfriendly produced electricity in order to calculate climate change.
        • Re:SETI (Score:5, Funny)

          by somersault (912633) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @09:15AM (#23585849) Homepage Journal
          It's better to think of it as job security.
      • Re:SETI (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Krigl (1025293) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @09:51AM (#23586349)
        I'd personally still prefer Folding@Home - climatology is way too complex, with lots of unexplained and speculative stuff. I'm not a scientist, but I'd guess this needs more basic research of underlying principles before brute force number crunching starts yielding useful results (any climatologist here?), not mentioning this project screams "junk science" out loud. And if they want internet community to get interested maybe someone should enlighten them about possibilities of different picture formats than 22 MB .bmp for high resolution histogram of global temperature change [climateprediction.net].

        Folding@Home is useful and brings actual results - you'll get a chance to throw your own pack of frozen pea against Africa's hunger, instead throwing it into wastebasket of "well, it seemed as a way to go then".

        As for SETI, well, yes there's a lot of space research fans here and way more Star Trek and Star Wars fans, who just secretly wish aliens to exist because it would be so cool if they existed even if without a chance to get into a hot threesome with Spock and E.T, but let's face it - aliens don't exist. And if they do, hoping to get some proof from SETI is like going to the sea coast once in your life, step on the shore with closed eyes and reach into the water in hope you'll get a grasp of bottle with a message from boat wreck survivor.

        If you gonna donate spare cycles, donate them on something useful instead of something cool or guilt relieving.
        • by Otter (3800)
          Folding@Home is useful and brings actual results - you'll get a chance to throw your own pack of frozen pea against Africa's hunger, instead throwing it into wastebasket of "well, it seemed as a way to go then".

          The gap between Folding@Home and anything that addresses "Africa's hunger" is at least as speculative as anything in climatology, and not that much less than SETI.

        • by phulegart (997083)
          Wow.. here I was, picking out posts that needed some moderation (since I'm sitting on points)... then I came across your post. So much for moderation.

          I can't decide if I should just reword what you've got there, in the standard /. tradition, or if I should just deal with the issues I see one at a time.

          Climatology is way too complex, with lots of unexplained and speculative stuff. Ok. I'll agree to that. You aren't a scientist? Ok. I'll tuck that fact away for future use. How would you have any clue a
    • You realise folding at home is software right?
    • I thought the most interesting part of this is that he thinks he can get a million people to do this.

      Fedora is mostly a hobbyist OS (as opposed to RHEL), and I bet a lot of Fedora machines are desktops. If that number is at all realistic, the number of Linux users worldwide is way underestimated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Danathar (267989)
      If you don't know what the guy is talking about, then don't comment.

      Condor is WAY different than BOINC or Folding@home.

      BOINC is middleware but NOT general purpose grid computing. Condor is a distributed batch oriented system that allows people to submitt jobs and get them done. You can configure BOINC to run as backfill to Condor when Condor is not being used.
    • I am all for open source, but there are some better places to donate some spare cpu cycles

      And they are thing like BOINC [slashdot.org] which are complete opensource infrastructure for distributed computing, which are cross platform and feature lots of project you can pick from to contribute your spare time (among other, the original SETI, but also dozens of bio-medically related ones which will also have a similarly more close impact for humans as folding at home is).

  • by Nursie (632944) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:44AM (#23584807)
    It's the not-so-idle electricty bill that'll turn up when I let people use my PC's spare cycles all the time.

    That's why it's off, in stand by or auto throttling the processor. That's why letting people use your "idle" cycles is not as simple a charitable proposition as it sounds.
    • by abolitiontheory (1138999) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:49AM (#23584865)
      What's the actual difference in energy costs, though? Not saying you're stupid or selfish for not donating, just interested in the real figures, if you've got any. I throw my system into hibernation most nights, and try to turn off the monitor at least when I go away for a couple hours during the day. What have you found your general savings to be?
      • by Hairy Heron (1296923) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:52AM (#23584899)
        In my experience it's around 5 dollars a month more to run my computer all the time rather than shutting it down or putting it into hibernation at night.
        • Presumably it was just idling when you left it on overnight though - what would the costs be if it was run flat out all the time? I leave my PS3 running folding@home all the time, I'm not too fussed about the extra cost - have done over 100 units now after having it for just over a month. If it were in my bedroom rather than the living room then I'd probably switch it off in the evenings because of the fan noise (it's not bad, but it's not silent either).
        • by PitaBred (632671)
          So, $5 a month to help understand proteins better? It may be tax deductible if you really work at it, but it's still charity I can get behind
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nursie (632944)
        Real figures?

        I don't know, but given that people have PSUs rated from 250W - 1KW these days, I would have thought fairly significant, assuming a pretty high utilisation of "spare" cycles.

        I know we've managed to cut our electricity bill in half lately by moving to energy saving bulbs and making sure we actually switch stuff off at the socket when it's not in use.

        Also, there's that whole "not using more than you need" thing to do with electricity having to come from somewhere, and that simewhere usually bein
        • by abolitiontheory (1138999) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:05AM (#23585039)

          ... making sure we actually switch stuff off at the socket ...
          I keep trying to think of a funny and poignant way to point out that we Americans don't have the slightest notion of this concept, because its not built into to our electrical system. I'm sure you could get switches at the sockets if you intentionally looked for them, but I was 21 before I ever knew of this concept, from going over to England to visit family. It's one of those small details that sticks in your head, kind of like slang words or Cadbury chocolate. American chocolate is rubbish.
          • by Nursie (632944)
            Come to think of it, you're right, I haven't noticed power switches on power sockets whenever I've been in the US (quite a lot over the years). Guess you don't notice the absence of little things like that.

            Ghirardelli do an ok bit of chocolate. OTOH, Hersheys is like some sort of brown soap.

            Actually unplugging everything would be more hassle, having the switch right there on the socket is a good thing, IMHO. I'm not obsessive about this and have a home server and a router that are UPS'd and on all the time.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by analog_line (465182)
            A power strip with a switch does the job just as well as a switch on a socket. In fact, that's what I thought he meant until I read your post.
          • I think you meant to say that "I personally didn't have the slightest notion of this concept before I went to England". In all the places I've lived, there were several receptacles that were controlled by wall switches. Considering that I've lived in six different states, I'd say that's a fairly reasonable sample size for one person.
          • by drew (2081)
            It depends where you live. In most American houses built since at least the late 70's or so, you'll typically find at least one switched outlet in each room, because when building houses went from being a one at a time custom thing to a neighborhood at a time thing, developers decided that they didn't want to have to choose light fixtures for each house, and would rather save the time and money by having the light switches control an outlet that the eventual homeowner could plug whatever kind of light they
            • by xaxa (988988)
              The grandparent should have included a picture:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Uk_13a_double_socket.jpg [wikipedia.org]

              Now you know what we're talking about :-). All UK sockets are like that (and some other countries).
              • by drew (2081)
                I figured the implementation was different than what I was describing, but my point remains that, unlike the GGP, most Americans shouldn't be that utterly confused by the concept of turning off an outlet.

                I hadn't the slightest idea what a UK power outlet looked like until just now, but I've been seeing / hearing people use the phrase "switching things off at the outlet" or similar for probably two years now, and I don't think I was ever once confused as to what they meant when they said it. So saying that
        • Real numbers (Score:3, Informative)

          by BLKMGK (34057)
          I use the newer 80+ rated PSUs and I don't oversize them like so many others do. My desktop machine AND a server that also has an 80+ PSU in it (and 10HDDs) together use just about 300Watts as measured by my Kill-a-Watt device. That's not an insignificant amount but that was also with all of my drives spun up - normally drives not in use goto sleep (unRAID).

          The PSU ratings of those two machines together are probably somewhere right around a kilowatt and yet I use a fraction of that at full chat. My desktop
      • by Idbar (1034346)
        Well, as you can use your CPU cycles to help research, I guess you can also help by not wasting energy too. Both are common efforts and achieve better results as more people join. If blackle [blackle.com] has any numbers that only by changing the background (I have all my windows with dark background anyways, just because I don't get so tired of my eyes at the end of the day), you can help. I think, that as a common effort to achieve different goals, you are free to chose either one, independently on how much it cost to
        • by Nursie (632944) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:24AM (#23585247)
          Err, blackle is nonsense in the modern world, IMHO.

          LCD/TFT screens don't work that way. There is a bright light that's always on, and the colours and darkness come about by blocking portions of said light, not by generating more of it.

          Of course, once OLED comes in that'll change again.
          • by Idbar (1034346)
            Yes I was just setting an example. There are several places I know they still use CRTs, and I'd guess in that case it makes a little sense to use black. But if by turning your computer off, you are completely avoiding consumption, then makes much more sense, than any pseudo-screensaver.
          • by lubricated (49106)
            I've wondered about this. If the light is always on and you need electricity to not let part of it through then white should in theory waste less power than black. Also setting your backlight lower during the screensaver would help too.
            • Also setting your backlight lower during the screensaver would help too.

              Or turning your screen off (or "power saving mode") instead of going to screensaver. Screensavers also don't make a ton of sense in the modern world. Burn-in is much less of a problem on modern monitors, and computers can power down the screen instead of going to screensaver.

              In truth, I still use a screensaver as a sort of warning system. The screensaver comes on 3 minutes before the computer sleeps, so if I want to keep it from sleeping, I have a couple minutes to stop it. But if you're using some k

          • Fpanels turn off the backlight after a period of inactivity, typically 15 minutes. They must to earn an energy star symbol.
          • Err, blackle is nonsense in the modern world, IMHO.
            Maybe so, but they did cite their source, which is a paper from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory [lbl.gov] that supports their claim. See pages 15 through 19 of the paper.
      • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:48AM (#23585525)

        What's the actual difference in energy costs, though?

        I just hooked a Killawatt to my Athlon 64 X2 4800+ system. Idle, it uses 67 watts at the wall outlet. Simultaneously transcoding two videos with mencoder reads 130 watts.

        If this runs 24x7, the extra 63 watts would use 1.5 KwH per day, which would cost me $71 per year with my incremental electricity cost of about 13 cents per KwH. That costs almost as much as a subscription to Netflix.

        Another consideration is that when idle, the system is almost silent. Under load, both the power supply fan and CPU fan crank up and get rather loud.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by swillden (191260)

          You can go for a happy medium. Configure your system to keep the processors scaled back to minimum clock speed and then use the idle cycles. The power consumption will go up as compared to a completely idle system, but not very much, and you'll still have a lot of cycles to donate. Also, your machine should be able to sustain that load without speeding up the fans.

          • I just tried your idea. Forcing the system down to 1GHz from 2.5Gz causes it to use 13 additional watts instead of 63 extra watts while under load. The frames-per-second performance scaled with the clock speed at 40%, while the power increment was only 20% as much as full speed. So on this test low speed was twice as "efficient" at producing results per additional watt. (Of course, that assumes the system was going to be left turned on anyway. If not, it looks like full speed would get through a given numbe
        • Yes but what is your video card? I have a ATI x1800 XT that runs hot even when idle, I've often wondered how much it has increased idle consumption.
      • What's the actual difference in energy costs, though? Not saying you're stupid or selfish for not donating, just interested in the real figures, if you've got any. I throw my system into hibernation most nights, and try to turn off the monitor at least when I go away for a couple hours during the day. What have you found your general savings to be?

        A modern dual core processor can use about an extra 100 watts of energy when processing than when idle. This is from using a watt meter on a few computers of

      • Wikpedia [wikipedia.org]: Microwulf, a low cost desktop Beowulf cluster of 4 dual core Athlon 64 x2 3800+ computers, runs at 58 MFLOPS/Watt.

        BOINC [berkeley.edu] does about 1200 TFLOPS (= 1,200,000,000 MFLOPS) atm.

        => BOINC probably burns around 20MW (assuming that the power used is directly proportional to the CPU time used even if it isn't 100%, which is wrong but an upper bound and probably not very far off).

        1 KWh electricity = 0.43Kg CO2

        => BOINC generates 8.6 tons CO2 per hour or about 3100 tons/year (correct me if I'm wrong

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Don't see it as free, see it as a really easy way to give some money that you know will go into CPU cycles quickly and efficiently.

      And to donate your company's money as well ;-)
      • Don't see it as free, see it as a really easy way to give some money that you know will go into CPU cycles quickly and efficiently.

        And to donate your company's money as well ;-)

        In that case, you are better off switching your computer off and sending the organization a check for whatever it would cost to run your computer at max load 24/7. Not only will you give them a much more useful work for the dollar (if the million nodes they wanted instead just have them just one dollar, they could easily buy a supercomputer), it will also save the environment by not using electricity by a million inefficient home desktop machines.

        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          You mean, write the check, put it in a letter and put a stamp on it ? Of course one million people will not donate one dollar to this project, but they will more easily give 2$ in electricity money.
    • not as simple a charitable proposition as it sounds.
      Would the fact that it's costing you more money than you thought make it more charitable?
      • by Nursie (632944)
        Weel, that would depend if it's just the money or the associated energy use and atmospheric pollution that's on your mind.
    • by compro01 (777531)
      to provide some numbers:

      According to my UPS, my computer (3.0ghz core2 duo E6850, 2GB ram, 8800GTS 640MB, 500GB hard drive, including modem and switch) consumes about 180W at idle (monitor/speakers/etc. off, torrents running). Running FaH (same as before, including torrents, but with FaH running on both cores), it sits at about 220W. Powered off, it registers at 5W. Running flat-out, it registers about 350W.

      Assuming it's running flat out 8 hours a day, that leaves 16 hours of off, idle, or FaH each day.

      P
    • by CCFreak2K (930973)
      That's why I run it on my shell server out in some datacenter instead. We pay the same no matter how much/little we use of ANYTHING on the server, so we might as well make use of it.
  • Why Fedora? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sysusr (971503)
    If they settled for Windows, the sheer volume of available machines would far outweight any (probably minor to begin with) advantages to using Linux.
  • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:47AM (#23584839)
    Err... I've read TFA and all I can see is that some guy would like to use spare Fedora cpu cycles for some sort of project but he doesn't know what and he's not really sure how. My immediate response is come back when you've got something concrete.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Err... I've read TFA and all I can see is that some guy would like to use spare Fedora cpu cycles for some sort of project but he doesn't know what and he's not really sure how. My immediate response is come back when you've got something concrete

      Hmph. Sounds just like a PHB when they propose a new development project. "Well, see, we want to use [ SAP | Lotus Notes | Teamcenter | other complex technology here ], but we're not really sure how we'd use it. For fsck's sake, if you don't already know HOW yo

      • by Blkdeath (530393)

        Hmph. Sounds just like a PHB when they propose a new development project. "Well, see, we want to use [ SAP | Lotus Notes | Teamcenter | other complex technology here ], but we're not really sure how we'd use it.

        For fsck's sake, if you don't already know HOW you would use something, you probably DON'T NEED IT!

        As the old addage goes; when the only tool you have is a hammer suddenly every problem looks like a nail.

    • by ronaldb64 (633924)
      In other news, a new botnet was discovered. It consists of close to a million computers, all of them running Red Hat Fedora.
      The new botnet for Linux is seen as proof that Linux is threatening the monopoly of Windows in more than one area.
  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:50AM (#23584877) Homepage Journal
    how about calling it "red computing" to remind people of how much energy it'll cost them. On modern computers, you have roughly 20-100W difference between idle/working CPUs.
    • by Ngarrang (1023425)
      If we would just build more power plants, this wouldn't be a problem. I need more power for my cluster, anywho. And, if I ever complete my cluster powered by 1000 Mini-ITX boards, watch out world!

      Bwuhahahahahahaha!

      (This message has been brought to by Pave The Planet.)
      • by Lazy Jones (8403)
        That's the right way really... build more power plants (preferably solar power plants), then if there is spare energy at peak production times, we may use it to trigger some grid computing by otherwise idle processors. Nothing wasted that way...
    • by CCFreak2K (930973)
      According to my color wheel, the opposite of green (lime green, anyway) is magenta. Let's call it magenta computing.
  • by pwilli (1102893) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:09AM (#23585075)
    BOINC [berkeley.edu]

    is a client that allows you to choose out of many projects like Folding@home or SETI. The client also runs on Windows, Linux and MacOS without problems.
    There are many configuration options available to control the amount of CPU-power, cores, hard-disk space, RAM, the times it runs, how it should behave is someone else is using the system, etc. and the best is, anybody could set up a project that uses the client (although you'll probably have ahard time getting people to choose your project if it isn't something very interesting).

    Check it out!
  • by nweaver (113078) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:09AM (#23585081) Homepage
    The Seti-at-home crowd, long ago, realized that it was more than Seti@home, thus created BOINC [berkeley.edu]. So whats new here?
  • by Bazman (4849) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:11AM (#23585101) Journal
    http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ [berkeley.edu]

      "Use the idle time on your computer (Windows, Mac, or Linux) to cure diseases, study global warming, discover pulsars, and do many other types of scientific research. It's safe, secure, and easy"

      And you can do it NOW. With almost ANY computer.

    He's either not done his research or he's an idiot.

    • From reading the linked articles, it seems the main difference is the way work is managed.

      With BONIC, clients redundantly get sent out chunks of work that get send out again if they expire without some response. So this can lead to really large and unpredictable lag times between work scheduling and work completion. Which is great for some tasks but not so great for others.

      With Condor, from the Condor website under the clearly indicated link "What is Condor?", "Should Condor detect that a machine is no long
  • by Dekortage (697532) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:15AM (#23585147) Homepage

    Since Mac OS 10.4 and later come with Xgrid [apple.com] already installed, it's very easy for your spare processor cycles to be donated to science [macresearch.org]. A few clicks in your System Preferences, and you're done.

  • World Community Grid (Score:5, Informative)

    by Luyseyal (3154) <[swaters] [at] [luy.info]> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:16AM (#23585165) Homepage

    Personally, I prefer World Community Grid [worldcommunitygrid.org]. I've been a member of the Slashdot team there since 2005 sometime.

    -l

  • Che Fedora! (Score:3, Funny)

    by WheresMyDingo (659258) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:50AM (#23585547)
    Greedy capitalists, share your idle cycles! Power to the people!
  • To all you people saying "why don't you just use BOINC"

    Why indeed? Why not use BOTH. (As Condor can be configured to use BOINC when it's idle)

    With BOINC data is PULLED from them to you when YOU request it. In grid computing with Condor data is PUSHED to you.

    Big difference.
  • I prefer Electric Sheep [electricsheep.org].

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill

Working...