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SETI Distributed Searching 207

Everyone, their brother, mother and dog wrote to point us over to SETI@Home v1.0. Taking a note from the distributed playback, they are giving clients to use the spare cycles on your machine - check out more information, if you like.
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SETI Distributed Searching

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you open taskman under NT, you can see why this thing is such a cpu hog. Set it to show kernel time. I'd guess that all the pretty graphics are silly directX calls eating that massive kernel time that doesn't want to be pre-empted... Am I right?

    --> sorry for the anon: (greg)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    To startup seti in background

    ./setiathome -nice 19 &> /dev/null &

    Create a script like /etc/rc.d/init.d/seti with this and add it to the runlevels where you want this started. Check out the existing files for examples.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've got all these 4 and 8 gig RAM machines around here at work that don't even notice...

    Yeah, if you've only got 16 or 32 megs, you'll probably throw your machine into perpetual swap and your performance will degrade badly.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There are a lot of issues with it. Even with the most secure protocol in existance, you are still getting the client to do work for you. You need to have some level of trust in that work, or it's pointless. No matter what checking methods you use, without completely duplicating the work you cannot be 100% sure that the results are 100% accurate. I'm sure it's quite obvious there are a lot of attention starved people out there that would have no qualms about upsetting the research if it made them feel special (Just look at how many web servers get hacked just to slap up a page like 'free mitnick' (sp)) It may be obvious when a disruption occurs, but who wants to clean it up? Don't forget that altered data can work both ways.. in the situation with RC5 one could merely mark blocks as "done and not found" and then process those blocks at their leisure to get the reward. Or a small modification could cause a valid key to not be sent, and instead that person claims the prize. Except in this case you're dealing with people that have dedicated a large chunk of their lives to "chasing little green men" - sacrificing a good deal in the progress. I have no doubt that there are people out there that wouldn't think twice about masking a valid discovery, and then suddenly claiming it for themselves. Of course.. they'd have to know what they were looking for, how to modify the client, etc. This is a case where your .1% performance boost is not worth the hazard it introduces.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    'humanity can probably survive well without discovering ET' but can humanity survive well if discovered by ET? How different would history have been if the American Indians met the Europeans at sea?

    Anyone else read Excession by Iain Banks? I believe the following is appropriate.
    An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilizations

    encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the
    same way a sentence encountered a full stop. The usual example given to
    illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on
    a lush, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or
    writing or whatever, the neighbors were cooperative or enslaved but at
    any rate peacful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all
    the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-
    absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly
    have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely
    like a canoe on wet grass ... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron
    appears sailess and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long
    funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered,
    you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called
    tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.

    Though, I agree if there were something searching for near earth objects, I'd run that in favor of SETI.
  • Hello,

    the binaries are build by volunteers for their
    respective platforms and you see a glibc2.1
    binary because that is what the volunteer
    in question (me) happens to have on his machine.
    If you wait a little bit the other developers
    will get around and produce the other Linux versions as well, including the glibc2 == glibc2.0.x version.

  • I have submitted a gnulib1 and a gnulibc1-static
    version yesterday. Someone else will make
    tar-files from them make them available.

  • "Some memory". Yeah, that's one way to put it. Last version I tested used in the neighborhood of 20M. That's why I'm still running RC5. I've got plenty of spare cycles, but I don't have 20M of spare RAM.
  • On a box with 128M or more, I'd just fire it up and forget about it. With "only" 64M of RAM, though, there's a noticable performance hit, especially when there are other memory hogs running, like Netscape or the GIMP.

    The screensaver idea'd be perfectly fine if I was running a Windows box, or other system that was designed to be used primarily from the console. I'm using Linux, though, with a permanent 'net connection, and how heavily I'm using the box has little to do with whether or not I'm in front of the machine.

    I suppose I could set up a cron job to look for aliens between 0200 and 0600, when there's very probably no one using the machine, and let RC5 have my spare cycles the rest of the time. Or maybe I'll just get more memory. RAM prices are coming down again...
  • I think my privacy is more important to me than my desire to know if there is intelligence in the universe. Really.

    Then I hope you're not running any Microsoft products.

  • I believe it's keeping all its data in memory.

  • If Hogan's Heros was on the air from, say, 1966-1970, then the first episodes are 33 light years out.

    You do the math.

  • Now the government can say "You have all the computing power you need with all those volunteers, why should we give you any more money?" This might be bad for SETI in the long run.
  • Posted by Matt Bartley: home_win_1_0.exe

    Similarly, the Mac client [] is at home_mac_1_0.sit

  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    Sorry, but the size of the milky way galaxy is 100 thousand light years on it's major axis, not 100 million ( ya gotta watch the order of magnitude dude...).
  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    Look, I'm sorry to get nasty about this, but what rock have you been living under for the last five years?

    There are currently several projects in the pipe that will accomplish this, including the interferometer currently under construction down in Chile and NASA's proposed "Deep Space III" interferometer that's scheduled for launch around 2002.

    Like I said, I don't want to be nasty about this, but why is it that the people at SETI keep acting as if they have a monopoly on the subject? Are you guys taking lessons from Bill Gates on "how to win friends and influence people?".

    Astronomical observations are of importance to the entire scientific community. The subject of habital planets and the possible occurence of life (including intelligent life) elsewhere within the universe is of interest to the entire scientific community.

    Normally, I don't have a problem with SETI, since it's now privately funded, but I really wish that you lot would stop acting as if the issues involved were your personal playground.
  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    Ah yes, that old shaggy dog story.

    The main problem with the Drake Equation isn't even that it's pure guesswork in terms of estimating the various factors.

    The real problem with the Drake equation is that it's more a statement of the pre-conceptions and obsessions of the 1950's than actual science.

    For example, consider the term Ll, the expected lifetime of a tecnologically advanced species. This seemed like an important factor during the height of the cold war, but today it's starting to look more and more irrelevent.

    Likewise the factors Ee, the number of habitable planets around each main sequence star of the right spectral type and size. Irrelevent. Any species that develops interstellar space flight will alter this variable by re-engineering any suitable planets that they find into life supporting worlds.

    The same argument also applies to many of the other terms in the *damned* Drake equation, such as the likelyhood of sentience evolving on a living planet. This is where David Brin rocked the boat a few years back with his "Uplift Series", which is based on the idea of a galactic society that artificially modifies species to intelligence.

    In short, the Drake Equation is only valid for galaxies with intelligent life at infinte dilution ( ie, N ~ 1 ). Once intelligent life forms start re-engineering planets ( or stars for that matter ), it ceases to have *any* *relevence* *whatsoever*.

    Not that any of these arguments seem to have much impact over at SETI. The Drake Equation has become a matter of "religious orthodoxy" amongst them, and any critisism of it is viewed as nothing short of hearesy.

    Just my two inquisitors worth.
  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    You stated

    >I'll stay away from the Christians, cuz I don't >wanna rain on their parade.

    Yeah, but SETI claims to be *science*, not *religious faith*.

    Now excuss me moron, but as I understand it, debate and critisism is supposed to be part of the process whereby which science refines a concept to either establish it's validity or to dump it in the pile with other things that have been shown to be false.

    Why not just stop pretending. For people like you, SETI is *religion*. If you want to cross out "God" and write "ET" in it's place, go ahead, but don't claim that it's science unless your prepared to engage in some serious debate on the subject instead of spewing profanity at anyone who disagrees with you.

    If that's your opinion, then my advice is - stick with "God" and give "ET" a miss.
  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    The last time this came up here at /., the usual response to your questions were along the line of "hey, don't worry dude, there are plenty of spare cycles out there. We can do SETI and look for space junk...".

    At this point in time, that's true enough.

    However, according to some of the blurbs in New Scientist magazine's "In Brief" column over the last year, there are a number of commercial companies out there who are starting to look at this technology ( largely because of all the publicity around the SETI project ).

    The idea that you can have the equivelent processing power of several thousand super-computers via the internet is something that the corporate players are already looking at making money from.

    Nett result - all of those spare cycles will soon be rented out to the highest bidder. At which point, you can say goodbye to the whole idea of distibuted internet processing for any public project. It will all be commercial and strictly buisness as usual.

    As for your comments on "1km objects", nope, they dont' have to be anywhere near that size.

    One of the theories that's currently gaining ground is that the Tunguska event was actually caused by a 40m diameter meteorite that super-heated and explosively vaporised [ ok, this still hasn't been proven, but it's what the latest bunch of simulations are indicating ].

    In addition to this, some of the most recent work ( in was in an issue of Scientific America about six months back ) is starting to indicate that we will probably get Tunguska type events about once a centuary [ ie, 2,000 square kilometers flatened ].

    As human population levels continue to rise, there are fewer and fewer places on the surface of the Earth where something like this can happen without wholesale loss of human life.

    I'd like to think that we will be mature enough to wake up to the nature of the problem before much more time goes by, but my inate cynisism tells me that we will probably have to wait for a major city like New York or London or Tokyo to get wiped out before anyone starts paying attention.

    As for running to NASA for help, not neccessarily. There are a lot more people out there who are concerned about the problem than you might think. SETI might get most of the media coverage [ because it's regarded as more newsworthy than a 40m diameter meteor ], but there are plenty of us out there.

    I make reasonably good money as a programmer. If there was some kind of public group out there that was trying to get going, then I for one would join it [ and for that matter, put my money where my mouth is on the subject ]. Ditto for any distributed projects doing image processing to hunt for Earth orbit crossing meteorites. If anyone can give a URL it would be appreciated.

    Just my 40m of space wandering debris gang.
  • Posted by AnnoyingMouseCoward:

    ...since they are the ones with the loudest voices. Overall though, I don't see much of a difference between any of them.

    Maybe I'm wrong to paint them all with the same brush, but so far my experience with people who are into SETI hasn't been very productive. Whenever the subject comes up, I can't help but get the impression that I'm talking to a bunch of Mormons or Jehova's Witnesse's.

    Admitedly, I have met some people who are into SETI who don't fit this mold, but they have tended to be in the minority. On that basis alone, I really don't hold out much hope that SETI projects are going to do anything except make a laughing stock out of anyone associated with it ( and by implication, anyone involved in Astronomy in general ).
  • The source for SETI@Home was released under a GPL-type licence, prior to the closing of the volunteer work. That source is obtainable, and can be examined, edited and extended as with any other GPL program.
    I'm not sure about this. From the FAQ, they refuse to release source code for this project (they blab about some bullshit "security" concerns). If they're really worried about the integrity of their data, they should have thought a bit harder about setting up a simple registration process, perhaps through public key authentication. Your definition of a "GPL-type" license seems to mean "you can use our old code, or our new binaries but with none of that annoying source code."

    As a side-note to the data integrity argument, but having not looked at the source code (ha!), I'm convinced anyone with tcpdump and a little persistence could surely just work out the protocol between the client and server and feed these guys whatever malicious data he wanted to.

    Oh well, they won't get my CPU cycles. And I was looking forward to using them on something at least remotely useful (unlike breaking DES over and over to prove that, yes, 56 really is a smaller number than 1024).

  • Run it with "-nice 19" and yes, it will take your load average up to 1.0. However, it will also get out of the way and not interfere with your work. I've found that large compiles are only slightly slower (like less than 1%).
  • I launched it in application mode (constantly doing processing) and noticed that it does *not* automatically lower its priority. It runs right alongside other apps and will degrade your system's processing ability.

    To fix this under NT, open the Task Manager (ctrl-alt-del), click the Processes tab, right-click on the "SETI@Home.exe" entry and select Low priority.

    Once I did that it things started working as I'd expected them to.
  • You're probably looking at the application window, not the screen saver. It can be run in either of these two modes. Perhaps you should read the documentation that came with it before posting stuff like this to Slashdot?

    Try waiting until your screensaver comes on, or open your screen saver settings and click on Preview. It is indeed a "screen saver" (in the modern sense) and even asks me for my password.
  • Firstly, the government isn't involved, even indirectly. This is all donation-funded volunteer work. SETI doesn't get crap from the government.

    Secondly, you shouldn't automatically distrust all closed-source software simply because most people can't really tell you for certain what it does. You should distrust software you get from untrustworthy people, sure. If you go through this whole procedure of locking down the program using setroot/restricted shell/etc for EVERY closed-source app you run, well, I just feel sorry for you.

    That's a whole lotta work for a practically non-existent risk. I've never had a virus on my Windows computers and I've never accidentally run any silly trojans under Unix. Nobody I know has either, and I run closed-source, proprietary apps quite frequently (under both OS's).

    There IS a point where founded caution becomes silly paranoia, and in my opinion, this crosses it.
  • by Fastolfe ( 1470 )
    With source code, the packet kiddies will find some way to crash the servers or forge "I found it!" messages and generally cause mischief, much like what happened with and (esp.) it's ancestor at

    It's pretty sad that people deliberately find ways to *prevent* progress like this, but it happens.
  • I just wonder what sort of continuous data stream we'd send them over the course of 50 years... (and vice-versa).

    I can just picture their transmission after we've been sending them stuff for 50 years sounding like, "Look, we KNOW ENGLISH already, and can't you send anything faster than that? Great, I guess we have 50 years of this to look forward to."
  • I sincerely doubt we'll find much anything several million light years away, especially given that our own galaxy is some 100,000 light years across. If you had read anything at all about the project (which it appears you haven't), you'd know that our radio receivers are pretty much capable of receiving most terrestrial-strength radio signals only in the better part of our galaxy.

    In all likelyhood, if our galaxy is indeed teeming with life, the signals we receive will originate a bit closer, on the order of a few tens of light years, perhaps a bit further.

    At that distance, one or two two-way messages could be sent and received in my lifetime.

    What's this about our physicists? What makes you think we CAN invent some sort of faster-than-light communication? Stop putting people down because they can't accomplish the impossible or don't know how to approach the extremely improbable. Why don't you go invent it if you know it can be done and how?

    If you think this whole SETI thing is a bunch of crap, fine, just don't run the program! Remember, we're all volunteering our CPU cycles for distributed tasks like these. I personally think it's worth it.
  • Start it up using setiathome > /dev/null. That will send all the program output (not including error messages) to limbo.
    1. You don't have to run the program.

    2. The source for SETI@Home was released under a GPL-type licence, prior to the closing of the volunteer work. That source is obtainable, and can be examined, edited and extended as with any other GPL program.

    3. Aliens can run, but they can't hide. Spectrosopy, and the 1 Km dish being proposed by the SETI Institute would give astronomers a view of Earth-size planets at 1 AU distance from it's sun, at a resolution of one pixel - sufficient to analyse it's atmosphere and detect whether there are living organisms there.

  • Forget it, must have just been slashdotted...
    Trying a fourth or fifth time managed to connect and get data through the firewall.

    Thanks to anyone who decided to try looking this up anyway!
  • Does anybody know what ports/methods the software communicates on? I have a packet filtering firewall and no SOCKS proxy, so I'll have to configure the firewall to pass whatever the software needs, but I don't feel like breaking out a packet sniffer to try and take educated guesses...

    The software claims not to get a connection when I attempt to "create an account" so I assume my problem is my firewall, rather than the SETI@home's servers... although with the slashdot announcement, that may not be a valid assumption :-)
  • Neat article in Discover Magazine about this either this month or last. It's online but I don't have an exact URL. Try to find it at Tres' cool.

    - Rev. Randy

  • No problems on two linux boxes here. I run it with this command line ./setiathome -nice 19

    It does take a sizable chunk of memory though.
    RSS=13196 %CPU=97.2 %MEM=20.8

    which compares to netscape:
    RSS=13924 %CPU=0.0 %MEM=22.0

  • The web site talks about how they're encoding the data to ensure that it's not false. Does anyone have any idea how any of this is being done? I'm not a cracker or anything, I'm just curious as to whether they're using known algorithms or came up with something new.

    Wouldn't it be interesting if they used the pattern itself to encrypt the data? Sure would make life simple, and although if someone discovered that, I suppose the code would be broken.
  • "You may recently have heard about a project, called SETI@home, to use thousands of Internet-connected PCs to help in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. This is not part of the research program of the SETI Institute, but will use data collected with the Arecibo Radio Telescope, in Puerto Rico, as part of Project SERENDIP. The SETI Institute is a major supporter of the SERENDIP search."

    While it seems that it is not "officially" SETI it obviously has their approval.

  • Yeah, well, we don't know what alien civilizations might or might not be doing. Even if we spend hundreds of years doing continuous SETI-style radio monitoring and don't catch anything other than natural celestial signals, the endeavor will still be worthwhile, if only to have greater confidence in the unlikelihood of finding anything. ;-)

    But, unless you know of some alien physics that will make a supra-luminal communications system feasible, I don't think it's fair to compare radio monitoring to listening for distant drums. So far as we know, electro-mag is the only way to fly. Now, if we do find a signal, it may very well be something very difficult to understand or decode, but given the way that radio waves work, we should at least have a chance of detection.

    You're right, though, there are a whole lot of scary constants in the Drake equation, and it's hard to believe that we'll hear anything from one planet out of a thousand with life on it. SETI has always been the ultimate long shot.

  • Well, obviously if any of the terms of the Drake equation are unknown (random), then the result is unknown/random. The math isn't invalidated, though.. if you could somehow accurately quantify the terms, then multiplying the terms together would give you the right answer.

    The Drake equation is intended to document the factors involved in figuring out how many radio civilizations might possibly be out there, which it does reasonably well. Actual numbers that anyone gives you for that number are indeed just guesses, although possibly bounded by at least plausible constraints on at least some of the terms.

  • Hm, I'd imagine everyone would pretty implicitly understand that the Drake equation has no scientific validity.. it's just a way of laying out various significant factors in the question of 'what are our odds?'.

    I'd love to see a better one, but I'm guessing that to do any better would require a lot more data than we have.. like if we could somehow tap into the galactic Usenet a la 'A Fire Upon The Deep'.

  • Excellent points all, but it sounds like we need a network of solar-system roaming monitors using ion drives than we do a bunch of earthly CPU cycles. Where do I send my check?

    And SETI@Home is more useful than rc5.. what's the prize if rc5-64 is cracked? $10,000 and rc5-72, which at the current keyburn rate would take on the order of 200 years to have a 50% chance of solving it. And if that is cracked, rc5-80.. bleah, no thanks. I can work out the geometric progression myself. I can't work out whether there might be radio signals coming from alien intelligences out in deep space myself.

  • Correction: that would be on the order of 2,500 years at the current keyburn rate for rc5-72. No thanks.

  • How will they know we're here in order to illuminate our solar system in particular? Oh, I know, they'll have been running their own SETI program for a few million years...

    I was raised on too much science fiction (albeit the good stuff.. Heinlein, Clarke..), but it seems to me that having a low-level on-going SETI program should just be one of the things an advanced civilization does to while away the eons.

    No time like the present to get started.

  • Oh, one more thing.. SETI@Home is searching a specific band of frequences around 1.4 GHz because that's an unusually quiet region of radio frequency due to various physical properties of the galaxy, etc. SETI@Home is listening for what would be a deliberately placed radio signal.

  • by jonabbey ( 2498 ) <> on Friday May 14, 1999 @06:40AM (#1892596) Homepage

    Um. Have you read the background materials at [] at all? The SETI@Home project is being carried out by a team at the same university that is doing the Serendip IV project, which is the main SETI project previously underway. They are funded, they have published (very interesting) technical details about their methodology, and they are every bit as much a 'part of' SETI as is anyone else.

    Are you upset because Jodie Foster didn't use SETI@Home on her personal computer in Contact or something? Who do you imagine decides who is 'affiliated with' SETI?

    According to the published papers on their site, SETI@Home will examine as many possible signals as the Serendip IV project. Yes, SETI@Home will process a smaller frequency range, but it will examine it in much greater detail, which much more expensive computational analysis thanks to your computer and mine.

    Incidentally, I'd recommend taking a look at the scientific papers linked to the SETI@Home site.. what they are doing to perform reasonable data analysis on signals picked up by their piggy-back receivers while the Areceibo telescope is in use and even in motion for other projects doing direct observation for traditional radio astronomy is fascinating. No wonder it took them so much longer to get the SETI@Home client out than it took the people to get their network running.

  • If you're running an old client, you might not be doing as much as you think. The earlier versions didn't run as thorough a check, and the newer ones do ten or more times as much work. That's mentioned on the SETI Web page. On the other hand...

    I'm sort of wondering if the Mac client (at least) has some optimization problems, or a conflict with some extension or other. I'm running it on a G3/233, and it's taking *forever* to finish a chunk (as much as 40 hours). Maybe it's something to do with my setup, but I'm not getting any responses from the Project SETI team about it.
  • There is already a large group of people doing a search for Earth-crossing asteroids. They're called "amateur astronomers."

    It would taks a *much* larger investment in time and equipment to get an automated optical search going, involving hundreds of small telescopes and image capturing devices. The Arecibo telescope project happened only because the equipment was basically already in place, and the data only needs interpretation.

    As a comparison, SETI@Home only needs a few gigs of information passed through a server, along with the "free" client time, versus the millions of dollars worth of CCDs and telescopes that you would need for an ongoing optical search (SETI@Home is only going to run for two years, versus the "never can stop" optical asteroid search).

  • I was able to download the client for my Linux workstation
    at home, but all the windows ftp sites are currently
    spammed (/.ed?) I'd liek to run it on my NT PC at
    work, anyone have a mirror?
  • Is anyone working on a SETI screensaver for Unix? JWZ mentioned [] (search for 'jwz') a module for xscreensaver, but nothing showed up in the latest release. I think his best idea was a sphere with the constellations traced on it. You could also put an xload like display on the bottom of the screen showing the strength of the signals found. That would be a lot more fun than a background process pumping out numbers.

  • They have several postings on their website (in the FAQ i think) explaining that they would reset stats with version 1.0. the reason is because they have expanded the algorithm to cover more possibilities, which has increased the running time by a factor of 4 for most clients.

    Some clowns were running the old client in order to boost their stats. They knew that these people would continue to be self-serving and run the less thorough client unless they reset statistics. Anyhow... it is fresh territory.

    Let's start finding some aliens.
  • Anyone else besides me think that the RC5-64 project is actually counter-productive at this point?

    It's my understanding that the point of the project was to demonstrate how 64-bit keys were not strong enough by showing how quickly a 64-bit key could be cracked by a large group of computers working together.

    Well guess what, the current effort has been running for almost 2 years, and only 8% of the keyspace has been checked.

    Sure it could be cracked today, or tomorrow, but all the project is doing now is making it look like 64-bit keys are very hard to break, making the argument for allowing export of larger keys less persuasive.

    Just a thought. That's why I stopped participating a few months ago.
  • I figured out how to lower the priority:

    1. bring up NT Security Dialog with CTL-ALT-DEL
    2. Select Task Manager
    3. Choose the Processes tab
    4. Click on the CPU column header(will bring SETI@home.exe to top cuz it's busiest)
    5. Right-Click on SETI@home.exe and Set Priority to Low
    6. Click Yes on task manager warning about changing the priority

    This makes a dramatic improvement in NT's responsiveness. However, when you have to reboot (hehe), SETI@home.exe goes back to normal priority. Anybody know how to make this priority change permanent?

  • I rebooted my NT system to see what would happen and SETI@home picks up where it left off.

  • In actuallality, we're only capable of detecting radio transmissions of equal power to our own a few lightyears away (on the order of 20ly if I recall correctly) which is nothing in comparison to the size of the galaxy (100 million ly across).
  • You're of course correct. And thanks for the kind way of pointing it out.

  • What you use your CPU cycles on is of course your choice.

    But this is one of the things that I keep asking myself:

    Why SETI? If there is intelligent life out there, somewhere, why is it important to search for it _now_? The way I see it, it is only a matter of time, and humanity can probably survive well without discovering ET.

    I would rather suggest that we focus that energy on a search for potentially threatening objects in our own solar system; objects that could destroy our civilizations in one terrible smash.

    We know for a fact that such objects exist, we just don't know how many of them there are, if their orbits will take them on a collision course with Earth, etc.

    I think spending CPU time on analyzing images of the solar system, searching for such objects, would be much more worthwhile _now_ than SETI. SETI is fine. Let's do that when we are pretty sure that there are no 1 km or larger objects out there, coming at us. Maybe there are none. Great! But we don't know that.

    I judge the continued existence of our civilizations to be more important than finding an ET somewhere, who we almost certainly won't be able to have direct contact with in less than a hundred years. Finding ET is all fine, but it won't help us much if -- in the worst case scenario -- we're all dead. :)

    I suppose I should be running to NASA or something right now, asking for help with such a project, but my schedule is all filled up, so I'll just be cracking RC5-64 for now. It's just as useful as SETI@home, IMHO.
  • I hope we can get some more mirrors up, as the slshdot effect overwhelms those that exist.
  • Here [] is a link to the Windows EXE. Or, for the full directory, go here [].

    Although how long that will last I can't say ;)

    /*He who controls Purple controls the Universe. *
  • I just upgraded from the .49 client to the 1.0 client. The overhead on the client has defineately been lowered. It doesn't drag a system down as much as in the past. It is noticable but not as hindering as past clients.
  • The client does indeed use spare cycles. Turn the client off and using top watch your cpu go to 98% idle. Now turn the client on and watch the idle time go away. Now notice that the client is running at a 1 nice value where everthing else has a value of 0. The seti client is indeed using only spare cycles. Besides if your real concerned do what I do and nice the seti client. Now it's nice value is 11 making it the lowest priority on the system. The thing that got me was the 12 meg of memory used. Even on a 64 meg system that put a hell of a dent in my it.

    Oh well. Back to hunting for LGM.

  • What then? Well for one thing, knowing that they exist is one thing in itself. That alone is worth the search. And suppose we find nothing and we are alone. That to, is worth knowing.

    Think about it.

  • Now your talking! Time for the penguin to kick some butt!

  • by jshare ( 6557 )
    You might as well run the RC5 stuff at the same time. The Seti@Home client is such a pig (on my box anyway), that I had to set it to run only in screensaver mode. So, the rest of the time, RC5 can be cracking away.

  • Then they should have coded something more
    secure! (So secure that simply having the
    source available isn't enough to break its
    protocol. cf. RSA).

    The odds of me giving up my privacy, versus
    the odds of my finding something that may
    be construed as a sign of possible intelligence?

    I think my privacy is more important to me than
    my desire to know if there is intelligence in
    the universe. Really. I've begged off this
    project. Thanks for letting me know about it though!
  • I can't get excited about this. I think SETI is almost certain to be futile.

    There are two possibilities. First, ETs may actively be trying to contact us. In that case, they will probably illuminate our solar system with a fairly powerful beam with a fairly obvious message: not one that requires distributed processing to decode.

    Second, ETs might be accidentally leaking so much radiation into space that we can detect it. But that's unlikely. Broadcasting energy into space isn't very efficient. We will probably stop doing it within a few decades as better options become available. The chances that we are looking just when some civilization is going through it's primitive, wasteful broadcast phase is pretty small.
  • by Type-R ( 8130 )
    10247 jman 92 1 14900K 14520K RUN 35:47 93.26% 93.26% setiathome

    14.5 *MEGS* resident? I take it they don't read comp.risks, and/or are running a copy of word perfect in it....

  • I've got all these 4 and 8 gig RAM machines around here at work that don't even notice...
    Yeah, if you've only got 16 or 32 megs, you'll probably throw your machine into perpetual swap and your performance will degrade badly.

    Yeah, I've got lots of big machines around too... But I think that this might be part of the reason we *need* the big machines... :) 14meg? Heck, netscape on this box dosen't have that much resident at the moment. There is some serious bloat in that client.

  • Hey all,

    I'm still (apparently) in the Stone Age, running Glibc2.0 on a Pentium-233mmx.

    I don't see a client for me on their unix download page.

    Is this true? Should I just wait? I don't plan on upgrading to glibc2.1 anytime in the near future.

    At least not on my *main* workstation.


  • I guessed, but they are still at version 0.46.

    I was planning on running 1.0 of the client or nothing at all (sticking to rc5 which is not a memory hog.)

  • Do you really think that even with the closed-source version, a 'discovery' is going to accepted by the scientific establishment without a very thorough, independent investigation of the signal in question?

    So even if someone hacks their SETI@home client to produce a false signal, it is going to be checked and rechecked by the seti folks before any kind of announcement is made.

    Whether or not it is open source is irrelevant to any scientific value this project has.

    Where is does matter is the fact that we can't compile an optimized version for our own platforms, we must rely on the seti@home people to do it when they feel good and ready.

  • It's lamentable that the source isn't included, though I can certainly understand their reluctance to provide it, considering that fairly sophisticated (and therefore easy to screw up) mathematics involved.

    Personally, the prospect of discovering signs of alien intelligence is worth a lot more to me than an insignificant risk to my privacy. In fact, it's the sort of thing I'd risk injury or death for.

    I'm much more worried about what MS Office does behind the scenes on my Win95 box than I am about what a Real Science(tm) app might be doing.
  • I reckong it will take 3% of block done on PII-266. Considering that this client seems doesn't flush stuff till it's 100% done, machine should run 30 hours w/o break-off. It also seems, that in case if some luser turns off computer (I am running client on the Uni comps) I will have to relogin and start all over.

    Am I the only one who thinkgs blocks should be way less in size/time? I would say few hours per block, or 7-8 hours (nightly run).

    Also, it seems the client doesn't support MMX, or does it?

    AtW, []
  • > it's not showing up in the system tray either.

    I am in the same position -- NT 4.0, no Admin assess. However, there is a trick I used with client, to hide it from tray. Easy hack -- got my fav. resource editor and made tray icon -- TRANSPARENT! Now, when I run this thing first (before other tray icons), you can't see it!
    However, this won't work with SETI client -- when it runs full=mode you can't really do anything! This is because of priorities (I guess they will fix it).

    AtW, []
  • I think so. Perhaps I should not have used word -- block size -- this is more from RC5 competition. I meant: DATA UNIT. It's too big. I am running the client for 4 hours now and it's only 10% done of the DATA UNIT. IT is my understanding that until the WHOLE unit is done, it is NOT flushed to server. Consider this:

    1. It will take 40 hours on PII-266 to complete it.
    2. I am running the client on my University computers. Guess what? They are shared. I can reliably run a client only overnight (so no sucker will switch off the machine during day time).

    Since it will take 4 nights to complete the whole block I have to MANUALLY go from one machine to another to backup partially done units. If I won't back it up, they might be deleted on a user disk by yet another sucker in the University.

    While I had RC5 client I could get 100 blocks to do them overnight and flush 'em. Now, I can't do so, manually backup stuff from 20-30 machines sucks!

    So, by saying block size I meant UNIT SIZE, this has nothing with actual resolution, just make data less (not resolution), so people on a decent machine can do a unit overnight and flush it.

    Otherwise, project is bound to lose some people like me -- who are not admins but can run processes overnight. I hope now I am clear.

    AtW, []
  • This distributed project is mostly hype. Here's why.

    First, because SETI@home is in no way affiliated with SETI. That's right. it's Just Some Guy.

    Second, because the data being tested represents a relatively brief recording from an extremely narrow slice of the spectrum which most astronomers believe to be of dubious value.
  • Just because the reason given is plausible doesn't make it true (though I'm not terribly inclined to buy into the conspiracy dystopianati(TM) theory at this point). His question may be paranoid, but it is hardly stupid. Closed source from a government agency, running on your computer ... what an opportunity for the NSA! It wouldn't be the first governmental abuse of volunteers.

    Of course, there's nothing to prevent us from disassembling and analyzing the code, so I doubt very much there's any hanky panky going on (though once again, it wouldn't be the first time a governmental beaurocracy did something collassally stupid, either). Many of us (myself very much included) tend to leap to the defense of NASA because we see so much promise in the space program and support it so strongly. Lest we forget, NASA is another government agency which also has military dimensions (who else is going to put all those CIA/NSA/military statelites in orbit?), so a little critical questioning of their motives is never really out of place.

    Having said all that, I'm off to downlooad my copy of seti@home for Linux. I will be running it as a user under a restricted, setrooted shell, but then I'd do that with any closed-source program I'd just downloaded...
  • Can you really be certain?

    The point is there is reasonable doubt whenever closed source software is downloaded and run, and that doubt increases for many of us whenever the government is involved, even indirectly. My point is that questioning motives and taking a hard look at software before you run it, and taking appropriate precautions if you do chose to run it, is always a good idea. How on earth does that point become invalid, merely because the software presumably comes from a private group rather than the government? The only effect is the degree of concern one may have (depending on one's trust or distruct of government institutions), not on the validity of the precautions one takes, or the questions one asks.

    Of course, the really paranoid would argue that there is no guarantee that the software isn't an NSA trojan, planted by the SETI group. And before you flame, no, I don't believe that for a minute! But when I run the software I will lock down the user it runs as (using setroot, a restricted shell, and so forth), because I simply can't be certain I know what the program is doing. And I don't have the option of looking at the source to find out.
  • Easy -- make a new entry in inittab, on an unused virtual console. You even get keyboard control of it if necessary. Something like:

    9:23:respawn:/usr/local/bin/seti (put a less-than sign here) /dev/tty9 (and put a greater-than sign here) /dev/tty9

    ought to work, though I haven't tested it explicitly myself. No parentheses, of course; bloody posting won't let me use the ampersanded or bare less-than/greater-than symbols.
  • I'd like to know how you got it set up on your box. all I did was set it up so that it boots every time I log into a user... can get a bit nasty some time. I'd like to actualy get it running automaticly the moment I boot into linux and have it run in the background without all the screen output and only one instance of it. I can't figure out all the piping stuff properly... I just wish I knew more about the commands of Linux... (still learning)
  • I feel so used...

  • Now that's the right guy to talk to.. can't you make a statically linked version available? It should run on most if not all versions of Linux (the versions I have run so far have all been static).
    I'm sitting here with a bunch of now useless Linux boxes :-(
  • by TA ( 14109 )
    Arecibo's main function is as receiver, so you don't "hear" it at all. But occasionally they use it as a Really Big radar, and then you could "hear" it too, however no way you could hear it across the galaxy -- too much noise in between (and inside the galaxy is where you want to listen anyway). The FAQ at the web site says it could be detected 10000 light years away. But:
    There's the big problem -- the beam is very narrow (a millionth of the total sky, according to the FAQ) and "hitting" something useful (like a civilization) is unlikely.
  • The point of the Drake equation isn't to validate any number you get out of it, it's the equation itself. You look at the equation and then you either agree or you don't that if you had numbers to put in then what comes out could be about right.
    Then there's the additional fun.. if you do put in numbers you'll find out that the result is a very low number even if you vary the input between whatever extremes you are willing to accept as maybe possible..
  • by TA ( 14109 )
    Thanks a lot, Steffen. It's really appreciated.
    The binaries are not available yet, but I keep checking.. although I suspect it will be Monday before they're there, nothing has moved since Friday (it's so strange to observe that people are not working on their pet projects in the weekends too, I'm not used to that :-)
  • Of course it grabs 98% CPU! What do you think spare cycles actually are? If you start setiathome on a "fresh" machine with only you hacking at the keyboard then your CPU would be 99.9% idle. That's the cycles setiathome will use. That been said, even though setiathome runs with a lower "priority" (nice value) you will notice it, at least if you try to compile or something. Because as soon as it has the time slice it will spend it, even though it is low down on the priority list of tasks to get timeslices.
    It's quite a bit different on SGI boxes, you just start it with e.g. npri -h 200 (or npri -w on the newest versions of IRIX) and it will be truly low-priority, i.e. you will still see it using 98-100% CPU most of the time but it will yield instantly (preempting the timeslice) as soon as something else want to run. You don't notice anything. Great! I got this great tip from a nice guy on a mailing list. Thanks, if you read this :-)
  • I agree it wasn't smart of them to go to glibc2.1, but the reason you see slowdown isn't because you went from i686 to i386, it's because the 0.42 version did only 1/8 as much work as the new version you tried. All the newer versions are slow, but don't run the older versions -- I'm sure they throw away any results from those versions, because they don't analyze the data the way the new versions do.
  • It still doesn't handle proxies that require authorization. Can't run it on my machine at work... sigh
  • So we find an alien race several million light years away -- then what? Watch their TV shows?

    Um, as a matter of fact, YES! Wouldn't you want to watch their TV shows? Haven't you ever channel-surfed and found "nothing good on"? Well, alien TV may indeed be interesting. Just think: what are the chances of alien TV would follow the same programming guidelines and agendas as our own? About Zero. Do you have any idea what that would mean?

    • First of all, you'de probably have plenty of nude aliens. Yowza!

    • Second of all, their sitcoms, instead of being target at the 18-35 male range, would probably be targeted at the 650 year old sex-type-4C silicon-based audience. You'de find yourself wondering if you were watching a geology show or Baywatch.

    • You'de finally get to hear Shakespeare in the original Klingon!

    • On the Alien Discovery channel, you would get to watch all these great shows about alien psychologists speculating on human nature from what they learned from our TV shows. This would, of course, be hilarious. Imagine them trying to reconcile WW2 history with Hogan's Heroes.

  • Well, not exactly. There's a lot of physics unstated here, but a signal would decrease as an inverse square only if it was carried in a single frequency and propagating out into space uniformly.
    If you either let it spread out in bandwidth or restrict the signal dispersion in space ("beam it!") then you change the loss to something other than inverse-square of the distance.

    My statement came from Sagan and Sholvsky's book from about 1975, and it was about the Arecibo 1000' radio dish. It's simplistic, granted. But it's basically true. We could "hear" Arecibo's twin at a distance about the size of the galaxy.

  • by Bucko ( 15043 ) on Friday May 14, 1999 @05:29AM (#1892643)
    No one's commented yet on SITI. So what if they succeed? So what if they don't?

    It's sort of cool to realize that if von Neumann machines are possible at all, the galaxy would/should be filled with them in about 1x10**5 yrs. If we don't find them soon, it may be a strong hint that self-replicating machines aren't feasible, and e-m signals are a much better bet for finding life "out there".

    We're already capable of detecting the equivalent of our own radio transmissions across the galaxy (more or less), and since radio is cheap and easy, it starts to look like we can detect anything in the galaxy that wants to be detected, and probably will within our lifetimes, if they're out there.

    Now it gets into the realm of psychology. Why would intellegent creatures want to be detected after all? It gets real speculative, to say the least. It's also possible (or at least, not impossible) that we're either alone, or we're the first. After all, the assumption that there is nothing particularly special about our situation, an assumption that's served science very well for the past 400 years, is just an assumption.

    The implications of both success and failure of SETI to detect extraterrestrial life are equally important.

  • 10-20 hours??? It only takes my machine between 2-3 hours per work unit and that is with an old client, I expect the latest clients have improved slightly in performance.
  • Actually Win95 v4.10 is Win98.
  • Since I grabbed the client earlier before it was /.ed, I have posted it on my site:

  • by Kritty ( 21387 ) on Friday May 14, 1999 @05:06AM (#1892674)
    All of the Mirrors that they list are FTP based - But the UNIX Version downloads are http based... So, I did a quick peek in the UNIX directory, and tada - the Windows client... athome_win_1_0.exe

    BTW - I also noticed that they finally came out with a Solaris x86 client :)
  • One the computers of the people that wrote it. Are you afraid their going to be doing weird things to your computer? I feel sorry for someone so paranoid.... I'm off to hunt for aliens now...
  • I can't get the latest versions to run. I get a seg fault and a core dump. I'm guessing it's because I have glibc2.0.x, but when I tried to run previous versions, all I got was something like "register frame info", I thought that was because it was compiled on a machine that had a more recent version of gcc than I have...
    Way back in version 0.42, the i686 version was labelled as glibc2, and that worked great. I wonder why they moved to glibc2.1? Now I'm stuck with the i386-glibc2, which is *slow* (because I was a dumbass and erased version 0.42 before I tried out 0.45).
  • Yes, very cool but...

    I want someone from SETI@home to explain why I've been on the mailing list for almost a year ...been receiving email about it 'coming up soon' and I find out about it being "active" on /..

  • Spare cycles my butt....Start it on a fresh machine and watch it grab 98% cpu....
  • by Aiantes ( 35663 ) on Friday May 14, 1999 @04:44AM (#1892703)
    If you're seeing performance degradation and you're running on *nix, don't forget to run it nice--15 or above should do the trick.

    I've no clue if such a feature exists on the windows/mac clients.

    Does anyone know how to set up a script which will run two clients (SMP) and dial up for data return/retrieval on demand from the clients?
  • Join us on EfNet at #seti@home.
    Right now this is a support channel and open forum, live stats also available.
    Looking for people to idle with us!
  • by Aquitaine ( 102097 ) <sam.iamsam@org> on Friday May 14, 1999 @08:44AM (#1892725) Homepage
    Actually, Seti @ Home is very much affiliated with the SETI project. I attended a lecture given by Frank Drake (President of SETI) when he was here @ Cornell a few weeks ago and he devoted a good chunk of his closing remarks to the Seti @ Home project. Obviously it has access to the radio data gathered by the Project Phoenix team, and if you check out the Seti Insitute's home page, you will see several references.

    So essentially, it is not 'some guy' -- it isn't a big cohesive government project (if it were, /. would be doubly critical and skeptical of it) but rather a team of researchers, engineers, and Plain Old Folks who have the technical know-how to put together something like this. The idea is a lot of hype, yes, but so is the whole idea of SETI. The field of Astronomy is one of constant disappointment and extremely infrequent tangible discovery, but just the prospect of that discovery has kept the field (and projects like SETI, which is privately funded with a budget of $4 million a year, travelling between the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico ala Golden eye from Australia with a second, verification telescope in Manchester) alive for centuries.

    No respectable astronomer with the ambition and drive to succeed, even when confronted by the 'astronomical' improbability of doing so is ever 'just some guy.' I regret that I don't have the physics knowledge to be one of them myself.


I've got a bad feeling about this.