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World Community Grid: Serious Games For Your PC To Play

The next time you step away from your desk for a quick latte at your local coffee bar, your computer can get to work....doing calculations for AIDS research. Or genome comparisons for drug development. Or sample analyses for better cancer treatments. In fact, your computer can do the calculations while you’re actually using it for something else.

It’s possible when you volunteer your PC or laptop’s unused time to World Community Grid (WCG), created by IBM. Grid computing joins together thousands of individual computers, establishing a large system with massive computational power equal to a supercomputer. Because the work is split into countless tiny pieces and done simultaneously, research time shrinks from decades to months.

So why not donate something you don’t need, use or even think about-your idle computer time-and help make the world a better place? Here’s how it works.

This is one out of eight projects I'm currently participating

Active Projects
 Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy - Phase 2
Influenza Antiviral Drug Search
Help Fight Childhood Cancer
The Clean Energy Project
Nutritious Rice for the World
Help Conquer Cancer
Human Proteome Folding - Phase 2

Your first step is to go to and download a free, small software agent onto your PC. It is similar to a screensaver. An icon will appear in your lower right-hand icon tray. Your computer is ready to go to work. Then, this agent will request a set of data-or an assignment-from World Community Grid’s servers, located at an IBM facility. These servers send out the “job” assignment (in the form of a data packet) in triplicate-to three separate PCs-as a security measure.

Turn Your PC Into a Tireless Serious Gamer

When idle, your computer performs the calculations and sends the results back to the servers. An average task runs 10-20 CPU hours. The servers wait for the other two sets of identical data to be returned. The results are compared to ensure that they are identical and no hacking has occurred. The servers then send out a new work unit to your PC.

Only when your computer is turned on, and the agent senses it’s idle, will it be “volunteered” for research work according to the guidelines you set. Even when your applications are up, your system is idle about 80% of the time and this power can be used. You’ll know when your computer is being used for research because a screen saver appears, charting the progress on your current task.

Power in Numbers: The Grid

As of early February 2007, about 500,000 individuals from 200 countries have registered some 1,400,000 devices, contributing 279,755  years of run time to the Grid. It ranks among the top five supercomputers worldwide.

World Community Grid has also hundreds of teams where you can contribute as part of a university, country, city, website community, or many, many other themes. Joining a team does not affect your individual contribution, but it does allow you to participate as part of a larger group.

 IBM Community Grid Servers

But the work is far from over. A World Community Grid advisory board continues to look for other potential research projects that would benefit from grid technology, above and beyond those it is already working on. Future projects might focus on infectious diseases, hunger and natural disasters.

The promise of World Community Grid is as real as it is seductive. In a time when the mysteries of science and human health continue to elude us, untold amounts of computing power lay dormant in millions of machines around the globe, holding some hope for the future.