Facebook Useful? Who Knew?

Intel and Facebook Team to Tap Unused PC Processor Power

IntelHaving just finished the “Who Has the Biggest Brain” Facebook app (and scoring just ahead of a sixth grader), I found myself wondering if all this social networking really served any useful purpose.  Just then I came across an Intel Corporation press release describing Progress Thru Processors, a volunteer application Intel has built on the Facebook platform that allows people to donate their PCs’ unused processor power to non-profit research projects.

Faceboookers can contribute their excess computational resources to Rosetta@home, Climateprediction.net or Africa@home. Rosetta@home uses the additional computing power to help find cures for cancer, HIV and Alzheimer’s. Climateprediction.net focuses on increasing our understanding of global climate change by predicting the Earth’s climate and testing the accuracy of climate models. Africa@home looks for optimal strategies to combat malaria by studying simulation models of disease transmission and the potential impact of new anti-malarial drugs and vaccines.

Nice to see the Intel Corporation is continuing to find innovative ways to tap the power of microprocessors for good causes. It’s proof once again that providing a means to collect together lots of individual contributions can have a far-reaching impact. And partnering with Facebook allows them to reach a huge swath of individuals, who like me, may have been looking for something useful to do there.

facebookFacebook launched the application this week and it’s available to all users. (You can download it here.) The application automatically directs your computer’s idle processor power to one of these computational projects. The application will activate only when your PC’s processor is not being fully utilized. When your computer usage demands more processor performance, the application defers and sits idle until spare processing capabilities become available again.

The application runs automatically as a background process on your PC and Intel assures participants it will not affect performance or any other tasks, nor does it require you to leave your computer powered up unnecessarily. You can still make a contribution, just by keeping your PC powered on as you normally would.

For Progress Thru Processors, Intel has teamed with GridRepublic, a non-profit volunteer computing organization that brings together spare processing power with worthy projects in need of computing resources.  The program was also developed in collaboration with the BOINC project (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) at the University of California, Berkeley.

My professional experience over the past 20 years has taken me from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley in various marketing research, marketing, business development and sales roles. I now work as a freelance environmental writer and researcher while pursuing an MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School.I'm especially interested in the use of technology to address the issues of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development.You can keep tabs on me at Triple Pundit and the NY Times Green Inc blog, email me at jameswitkin@gmail.com, or find me typing away at the various coffee shops around Palo Alto.