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Space Science

theSkyNet Wants Your Spare CPU Cycles 136

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-just-bet-it-does dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Thousands of PC users are being called on to donate their spare CPU cycles to help create a massive grid computing engine to process terabytes of radio astronomy data as part of theSkyNet project. It will be used for, among other things, processing the huge amount of data expected to flow off Australia's forthcoming Square Kilometre Array telescope." One can only assume that "other things" will include achieving sentience and finding John Connor.
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theSkyNet Wants Your Spare CPU Cycles

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  • And who was to think that the apocalypse would come from the Australian Outback?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For the love of everything, can we stop making shitty references to Terminator in computational intelligence stories? There are actually people stupid enough to believe that shit. Also, its not funny.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Here, have a tampon.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      For the love of everything, can we stop making shitty references to Terminator in computational intelligence stories? There are actually people stupid enough to believe that shit. Also, its not funny.

      Can't blame us, mate. The SKA people knew about it and still decided to chose this unfortunate name.

      Better tell us when's the date the SkyNet is supposed to become self-aware.

      • Might as well get it over with by making the Obvious Reference in the article.

      • Re:Dammit (Score:5, Funny)

        by Bobakitoo (1814374) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @02:46AM (#37383944)

        Better tell us when's the date the SkyNet is supposed to become self-aware.

        August 29, 1997
        July 25, 2003
        July 25, 2004
        sometime in 2005
        April 21, 2011

        Fear not, judgment day is like the rapture. It is always more profitable to rescheduled it the next year.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Better tell us when's the date the SkyNet is supposed to become self-aware.

          August 29, 1997 July 25, 2003 July 25, 2004 sometime in 2005 April 21, 2011

          Fear not, judgment day is like the rapture. It is always more profitable to rescheduled it the next year.

          (See? See? Given the circumstances, wasn't it a non-trivial question?)

          On a more serious line, I looked for when the SKA will become operational. It seems this is not too frequently asked [skatelescope.org] one.

    • Re:Dammit (Score:4, Funny)

      by formfeed (703859) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @02:30AM (#37383854)

      For the love of everything, can we stop making shitty references to Terminator in computational intelligence stories? There are actually people stupid enough to believe that shit. Also, its not funny.

      How does it make you feel that There are actually people stupid enough to believe that shit?

      • by drb226 (1938360)

        How does it make you feel that There are actually people stupid enough to believe that shit?

        About 2/3 superiority, 1/6 incredulity, 1/6 detesting humanity.

    • No, we will not.

    • No. Not with SkyNet in the name.
    • > For the love of everything, can we stop making shitty references to
      > Terminator in computational intelligence stories? There are actually
      > people stupid enough to believe that shit. Also, its not funny.

      Affirmative!

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      For the love of everything, can we stop making shitty references to Terminator in computational intelligence stories?

      Sure, as soon as they stop naming telescope arrays after the artificially intelligent system which became self-aware and revolted against its creators in the movie Terminator.

      OK, I know the telescope array got its name decades before the movie came out, but that's just because they sent someone back in time to change its name from the original, which was "Deep Space Nine Telescope Array".

  • What could possibly go wrong?
  • Well, at least theSkyNet will see that I was the first to welcome, I mean bow before, it. Did I just type that out loud?

  • Zooniverse seems much more distributed human analysis, kind of a Mechanical Turk. Why not BOINC, which already exists as a distributed computing source? Being on BOINC gives them access to tens of thousands of computers.

    • by jovius (974690)

      I actually emailed them about BOINC, they responded that

      ..there's currently no plans to introduce this to Boinc but we're only just beginning so anything's possible at this stage.

  • by lucm (889690) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:28AM (#37384092)

    Remove all youtube videos that contain any of the following:
    -rick
    -a cat
    -a black person talking about rapists
    -a crossdresser
    -lipdubs with fat chicks wearing clothes that are too tight or too sexy for them
    -hot chicks talking about their emotions/hope/career/fashion tips, thinking that because they have a lot of subscribers people care about what they say, while actually most subscribers are just sick old pervs doing the ol' nasty while watching these videos in their basement

    Then use all the processing power suddenly available on youtube servers, and give us a break with screensaver processing a la seti.

    thinking of that, scratch the whole list above and just remove videos with hot chicks that have a lot of subscribers but that are seldomly watched completely because viewers are "done" before the hot chick... and there you go, plenty of cpu available, and probably a few more bucks will find their way to those single moms working the pole to pay their student loan.

  • With modern CPU's generally slowing down to save power and reduce heat output, are spare CPU cycles really spare?

    I defiantly know - fans speed up when CPU is busy, does this grid type of software take this into account and use only really idle cycles or does it keep the CPU powered up when there is no user doing anything 'important'?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This isn't exactly new. Sure modern CPUs have clock switching, but systems since the 80486 (possibly earlier) have halt instructions that allow the processor to stop doing work and save power until the next interrupt.

      OTOH, I know several people who run distributed computing software on their computers during winter, specifically because it produces heat, which otherwise would have to be provided by a fan heater (because they don't have AC), so it's not necessarily wasting energy, but it will cause your comp

    • It depends on your CPU scheduler and your throttling algorithm, too.

      I run BOINC on linux. BOINC is "niced" to have an idle priority, meaning that CPU time is only granted to it if there's nothing better to be doing. In addition, I used the on-demand frequency governor which I have instructed to ignore "niced" processes when determining whether to spin up the CPU.

      As a result, yes, BOINC only uses spare CPU cycles and not too many of them, either.

      • Oh yes the beauty of Linux (et al), giving you full control. I was aware of priorities but being in the Windows world the last few years and not heard of configurable frequency governor.

    • by plover (150551) *

      My current machine draws something like 360 watt-hours when the CPU and GPUs are busy, but only 217 watt-hours when the system is idle. (Time to trot out the Kill-A-Watt again.) My computer room noticeably heats up if I run an OpenGL screensaver, distributed.net client, or WCG client.

      You will increase your household energy usage (and add to your summertime air conditioning bill) if you run their client 24x7. Information may want to be free, but that doesn't fit the power company's profit model.

  • They need all those extra cycles to screen out porn and violent video games from interstellar communications.
  • Saying that the SKA belongs to Australia is misleading - the decision on whether it will be built in Australia or South Africa will only be made in 2012.
  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @04:10AM (#37384262)

    I'd happily donate my CPU cycles to them. I have 4 cores here sitting doing mostly nothing, and I fully agree it is for the most part completely wasted silicon for the 23 hours a day I don't play games.

    But I will have to send them my power bill. While my processor cycles are free, the energy usage is not. The difference between a computer sitting idly all year and running full pelt on the processor can easily be $100+ from a back of the envelope calculation, the GPU can also amount to the same.

    • Did a few calculations myself for the UK. Based on some figures I pulled from a Bit-Tech review of the Core i7-990X CPU I figured the difference between CPU idle and CPU flat-out (running Prime95) was 122W. I then pulled up some electricity costs based on living in London using British Gas's standard rate tariff. I then figured out how much extra it would cost per hour and per year overall to run a CPU-hogging processing client against leaving the CPU idle during the day and during the night-time cheap elec

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Wow. The back of my envelope had a 13pence/kWh flat tariff. I'm amazed at the cost of electricity in the UK.

        • by magnusk (569300)
          I'm in the UK and pay 13.1p/kWh flat rate, including tax. Either StoneyMahoney's figures are a "London-only" thing or he should switch supplier.
    • I wonder if anyone's considered donating CPU time to a project like Folding@Home or this, and then writing off the electricity costs on their taxes?

  • Looks like some people are jumping the gun [skatelescope.org] a bit...

    Typical, like when the Aussie's volunteered [smh.com.au] to host the World Cup Soccer because they 'knew' that South Africa was not up to it.

    • ...arrogant sheep shagging basturds. They have funny accents too. ...and too many flies. They know how to keep their serving wenches in their place though. :D

  • They really picked the perfect name.

  • by grantek (979387) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @04:32AM (#37384356)

    Drop the "The." Just "SkyNet." It's cleaner.

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @05:06AM (#37384482)
    It read a Gartner report and outsourced itself to another galaxy.
  • Way to waste at least 20% of the CPU power, lazy programmers. I'll take my CPUs to something that actually uses them efficiently like Folding@home which is optimised as opposed to interpreted or even compiled java bytecode being pushed like molasis through a straw.

    • Way to waste at least 20% of the CPU power, lazy programmers. I'll take my CPUs to something that actually uses them efficiently like Folding@home which is optimised as opposed to interpreted or even compiled java bytecode being pushed like molasis through a straw.

      Or you could just download the native binary version. The java version was designed specifically for people that want to contribute but are unable/unwilling to install software on their computers.
      FTA:

      Project participants also had a choice of how to participate in SkyNet: Either anonymously through simply having their browsers open on the SkyNet site, or through downloading a dedicated app to run in the background on their PC.

  • ...are buried deep on the website for some weird reason. They are available for Windows and "Macintosh". No generic *nix version so far, which struck me as something pretty bad given the common demography generally interested in helping out with this sort of project.
  • I managed to get into Test4Theory before it got overwhelmed a few weeks ago and I'm happily cruching data for Cern. Sorry, SkyNet.
  • CPU cycles are not "spare", when a computer has noting to do it just halts. This saves power.

    Using your "spare CPU cycles" makes the CPU use more power, it is by no means free.

    This is true for other things, like ads using flash animations for example. I always find it ironic to see it in sites like TreeHugger [treehugger.com], which is full of flashy animations. I would expect a green site to use mostly static HTML and text based ads to reduce the carbon footprint of all it's viewers.

  • "Silently look for the off switch!"
  • Nereus? Why would they use Nereus? Someone on the board own stock?
    • by SETIGuy (33768) *
      Sorry, I thought Nereus had been spun off into a company. It appears that it's still university research software.
  • The original post is incorrect.

    theSkyNet [theskynet.org] is working on HIPASS data initially, as a precursor to working on data from the CSIRO Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder [csiro.au] when it comes online.

    As numerous people have pointed out the site selection for the SKA won't be announced until next year

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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