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This website tracks every known, public distributed computing project in which anyone with an Internet connection can participate and in which results benefit everyone. It also tracks for-profit projects in which participants are paid or compensated for their particiation (those projects are clearly marked).

This website exists to encourage you to become involved in one or more distributed computing projects--not just to read about them. The projects listed on the Active Projects page are all going on right now, and they all need more participants. The projects are divided into general categories. Within each category they are listed in roughly in the order in which began, with the oldest projects listed first. Choose a category that looks interesting and go to that page. The Life Sciences projects, which are discovering cures for cancer and creating more effective medicines by learning how proteins fold into three-dimensional shapes, are a good place to start.

Each project listing begins with a short paragraph summarizing the goal of the project (what it hopes to discover or develop), followed by discoveries and achievements of the project, followed by any papers the project owners have published and other places the project has been mentioned, and finally followed by a paragraph describing how to participate in the project. In each entry, the name of the project and the image or icon associated with the project (if any) link directly to the project website which has more information about the project and more detailed instructions about how to participate.

Computing projects usually ask you to download a software application (a computer program) to your computer and install it. After the program is installed it automatically communicates (whenever you are connected to the Internet) with a computer called a project server, run by the project owners, to get tasks to work on and to submit its results when it finishes working on a task. The program runs either as a screen-saver when you are not using your computer, or runs while you are using your computer, but not in an intrusive way. While I wrote this web page, my computer did work for the Hydrogen@home alternative fuels research project. All of the programs listed on this web site are safe and will not harm your computer or give it a computer virus. None of the programs will wear out your computer either. I have run distributed computing programs on one computer continuously for over six years and it still works just fine.

Distributed human projects, another type of distributed project, usually ask you to log into their project website and do some work on the site, such as identifying features in images, or proofreading a page of a book displayed on a web-page. These projects are fun to participate in because they do not require you to know a lot about the subject they are researching and they teach you about something new while you are contributing useful work to the project. I don't know much about astronomy, but I have learned a lot about galaxies by classifying pictures of them.

Several computing projects use a common computing platform--a separate computer program which can manage the computer programs used by the projects. The acronym BOINC that you see next to several projects means that those projects use the BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) computing platform. To participate in those projects you need to visit the BOINC website, click on the Download link to download the software, then click on the icon of the software you downloaded to install it. You will be asked to create a user name and password when you install the software. You will use that name and password to log in to your individual account web page at the project website to see your statistics (how much work you have contributed, what discoveries your computer has made, etc.).

If you visit a few websites of projects that use the BOINC platform you will see that they all look similar, with links or logos at the top, instructions on how to participate on the left side near the top, and recent news items on the right side of the page. Once you have installed the BOINC software, joining a project is as simple as running the BOINC Manager program, clicking on the Tools menu, clicking on the "Attach to Project..." menu item, then entering the project URL from the project website. For example, for the Rosetta@home project, which studies how protein folds, you would enter the URL http://boinc.bakerlab.org/rosetta . The BOINC program then communicates with the Rosetta@home project server and automatically downloads the computer program it needs to do work for the project, and downloads new tasks and uploads results when the tasks are complete. Computing tasks may take from several minutes to several hours to complete. The BOINC Manager shows you which task it is working on and how much of the task is complete. Several project URLs are listed directly within the BOINC Manager program. You may join as many BOINC-based projects as you like using this technique. The BOINC Manager program will automatically split your computer's time among the projects.

Other projects use their own computer programs. For those projects it's best to visit the project website and follow the software installation instructions.

After you join a project I highly recommend that you take some time to study the project's website and learn about the work it is doing. It can be fascinating reading! For now, please find a project that looks interesting, download and install the software for it, and put your computer to work.

Questions? Comments? Know of a site or project that isn't listed here? Found a broken or outdated link? Send me email.