Fight Cancer with your Ubuntu Desktop or Server

The World Community Grid

So you have an extra server or two running your blog, doing — for the most part — nothing. Why not put that extra processing power to work?

The World Community Grid allows regular people (and also very geeky people) to donate their unused processing power to help advance scientific research that will cure diseases and create a sustainable future. Research aided by the World Community Grid ranges from detecting cancer to improving solar panels.

Computers tend to spend a lot of their time doing very little. Why not put them to work helping solve some very real problems like the Zika outbreak?

BOINC

We will be using a program called BOINC to allow the World Community Grid to use our idle processing power. BONIC will download tasks for our computer to perform and then upload the results. These tasks usually take between 3–4 hours to complete.

Fun fact! As of this writing, the combined power of all BOINC projects clocks in at about 140,000 TeraFLOPS. That’s compared to just 54,000 TeraFLOPS for the world’s most powerful super computer!

Step 1: Create an account

Before we can begin, you need to make an account by clicking here. Your World Community Grid account will allow you to see your device statistics, join a team, or even create a widget for your website!

After you have made your account, go to your profile page and copy the Account Key. We’ll need that later.

Step 2: Install BOINC

Now that it’s time to actually start! This tutorial will be assuming that you are running a Debian-based Linux computer like Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, or Elementary OS.

Install the client with the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install boinc-client

Now we need to tell the BOINC client that our computer should get work from the World Community Grid. Remember to replace the <Account Key> with your actual account key from earlier.

sudo -u boinc boinccmd — project_attach https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org <Account Key>

If you have a desktop computer, you can install the graphical version to manage and view the tasks that your computer is doing.

sudo apt-get install boinc-manager

Step 3: Configure BOINC

If you are on a desktop computer, you can use the BOINC Manager application to configure the settings for when your computer should work on projects.

To change the amount of CPU that BOINC should use, open this file in your favorite text editor — mine is vim, but you can use nano too.

sudo vim /etc/boinc-client/global_prefs_override.xml

The file should look something like this; here you can change the CPU usage and set whether the computer should work while in use.

<global_preferences>
 …
 <run_if_user_active>1</run_if_user_active>
 <suspend_cpu_usage>50.000000</suspend_cpu_usage>
 <cpu_usage_limit>60.000000</cpu_usage_limit>
 …
</global_preferences>

The important setting in the file above is <cpu_usage_limit>. You can change this to set how much CPU it should use. On my server, I set this to 80.000000 which equals 80%, because it’s not doing much. On my laptop however, I have this set to 35% so that the fan does not turn on.

sudo systemctl restart boinc-client

Don’t forget to restart the service after you change these settings though!

Conclusion

Whether you participate for a day, a month, or a year; know that your computer is helping people do something amazing.

Find out about the ongoing research here, and don’t forget to check your stats here. As of this writing, my computers are generating 2,031.85 points per day.

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