Let’s say you just got a brand spanking new 8-core computer. Let’s also say you can’t run Mathematica because Wolfram’s registration process sucks so much (seriously, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen, and I always end up calling them on the PHONE to register). Now you’re thinking what to do with all those cycles that could be crunching numbers and doing some good, but they’re just sitting there re-indexing Spotlight or something. You think about downloading BOINC, which is a generic grid computing client that a bunch of different projects are using. The thing is, you’re a bit obsessive about unnecessary cruft on your computer and BOINC wants to create hidden users and stuff:
Starting with version 5.5.4 of the BOINC Manager for the Macintosh, the BOINC installer creates 2 new “hidden” users boinc_master and boinc_project, and two new “hidden” groups, also named boinc_master and boinc_project (unless they were created by a previous installation of BOINC.)
Yuck. You’re just not that committed to the project, but you do have the cycles to contribute. Isn’t there some way to more casually participate in projects? When I leave for lunch or overnight, why can’t I pull up a page that contains a Flash or Java applet that does some crunching, displays the nice graphics, uploads results and doesn’t install stuff on my machine? Sure, it’s not as efficient as a native binary, and it doesn’t ramp up when my computer’s workload is low or when the screen saver comes on, but it’s much less intrusive. It’s also more intentional.
UPDATE: There’s Legion, a Silverlight-based grid computing framework, but I’m not finding any projects that use it.