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SETI@home having Problems 238

Foxman writes "Due to failures in coping with the overwhelming response from volunteers, the SETI@home project has been erroneously sending the same packets of radio data to its 500,000 participants." The scariest comment is the estimate that SETI@Home is using 8 tons of fossil fuel per hour.
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SETI@home having Problems

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    All potential alien life WILL be far more advanced than us. Consider that we have only been putting radio waves out in to space for a hundred years or so. Do some quick math and realize that those radio waves are not even to another star yet.

    Now think the other way. If radio waves are reaching us from another planet, they were emittted a very long time ago. Ahhh.. That means the aliens were around long before us and are much more advanced.

    And consider that radio is a shitty way to communicate and everything on Earth is moving more and more to cables or spread spectrum or other hard to detect transmission means and you will realize that there is only a feww hundred yyears of radio waves that will be easily detected. How many aliens will pick up on those? And what sort of technology will we have when they do?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm not calling possible alien technology obviously more advanced. I'm saying it's most likely, well, alien.

    But light is light, and radio waves are radio waves. Their alien origin is irrelevent.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Judging by the weakness of the excuses offered up by the fine folks at SETI@home, I am led to conclude that there must be darker, more sinister forces at work here; I suggest that important, perhaps earth-shattering evidence of some kind must have been discovered in the early data sets, and the rest of the data is being withheld while the SETI community (at the urging of the MIB and other secret government agencies, no doubt) scrambles to alter the remaining data or otherwise prevent the general public from becoming aware of the situation. Noting some recent /. headlines and the "coincidental" disparaging remarks in the SETI@home press release regarding hackers and the hacker mentality, it seems clear that alien transmissions must have been discovered to contain detailed instructions for the construction of a cold fusion device.


    "Paranoia? No such thing, it's all a conspiracy by the mental health profession."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @07:14AM (#1858822)
    That SETI@Home has been Slashdotted and is having a little touble scaling is unfortunate, but understandable. They just need some time to fix the problems that the massive reponse they got dragged to light, No big deal.

    But I find the fact that people are trying to exploit loopholes and bugs in the the client to be sickening, even revolting. Come on guys, SETI@Home is worthy science and a chance to demonstrate to the world how good and powerful we are when we co-operate, Can't you find some other place to vandalize?

    Is nothing sacred?
  • Netrek does that, for the most part. They distribute the source to all the clients, but most servers will only accept a "blessed" binary. A blessed binary is one that was personaly compiled by one of the coding gods. They used to verify it by sticking an extra .c file in just for that purpose, which was not distributed. Now, however, they use RSA keys. Methinks that once you have that done, signing the results should be trivial.
  • I personally alwayss thought the SETI project was a little far fetched anyways. I'd rather spend my CPU time with distributed.net hoping to change stupid laws. The odds are a lot better, anyways (: Of course everyone should run what they want; but why not give SETI some time to settle down, work all the bugs out, and apologize for calling *nix users cheaters (:
  • A signed binary buys you a degree of assurance that the binary is what you think it is. It is useful for the person installing the binary on their machine.

    A signed binary does not buy others confidence in the results of the binary -- they can see neither the binary itself nor its signature. This is a general problem in distributed computing, SETI@Home is just an interesting case.

    My understanding of digital signatures (the probable solution, IMO) is that they rely on a secret maintained by a user, where the integrity of the secret can be trusted. With a binary, you have an object which may be accessed by several users, and either the object or the user may be trying to hoodwink you. What would be required is some way to at least verify that the the binary itself is what it purports to be. I see a challenge-response of some sort on data transfer as the only real way for this to happen, however the mechanism would have to rely on something not apparent in either the source code or the binary itself.

    Possibly a twist on public key encryption, where the compilation host generates a key pair for each binary (or for a collective set of binaries), in which one portion of the key is coded into the binary and its pair is retained by a trusted host. This would allow for public distribution of code, however production results would have to come from a binary compiled on a known trusted host.

    I'm talking through my hat and making this up as I go. The idea sounds intriguing however.

  • If you're still listening....

    Do you have more info on just how this happens? The FAQ and webpages at Netrek don't really get into details. Sounds like it's up my alley though.

    Respond via email (unmunge address).

  • I was reading with some interest the notes at SETI@Home discussing why an open source client wasn't being distributed. Apparently there are concerns with what would happen if an OSS client were hacked to provide wrong answers. I have two key thoughts.

    First, closing the source apparently isn't preventing exploits based on the existing client. Whether or not anyone's tried to reverse engineer the code or not I'm not sure, but it's probably a matter of time before an RE or exploit-capable client is produced.

    Second, this problem is something which OSS must face in general, particularly in a distributed computing environment. While digital signatures can be used to validate individuals and email, I'm wondering if similar means can be used to verify a program and its results. What SETI@Home needs is a way to distribute its source (to get benefits of OSS development), but to be able to mark the "canonized" version of the code in such a way that a non-forgeable signature can be attached to results and not just the code.

    I'd be interested in knowing how or whether this issue is being persued elsewhere.

  • The closest star is far less than 100 LY away

    So? Since when do radio waves travel at the speed of light?

  • They're completely un-responsive, having not updated their news since the project began.

    You have not been paying close attention. They've been changing the status items (the bulleted list) on their web page about every other day. I also sent them a note about the non-standard port on a proxy issue, and while I didn't get a personal response, the problem made it into the 'known bugs' list 24 hours later.

    If you analyze the page a little, you'll see that the entire operation is being run by 4 guys, reportedly on a part-time basis. Give them a little slack.

  • Joining distributed.net made me feel like I was joining a team, joining Seti@home makes me feel like a tool.

    You must have joined a different distributed.net than the one I dropped out of. Or did you miss the day-after-day blasts on the mailing list about how uncommunicative Nugget and the other founders were? Granted, that was a year or more ago, and things might have changed. But, these two progjects are more alike than you might think.

  • Could they at least provide an simple option NOT to draw pretty pictures, making it v1.01 in the next day?

    Why, when it's already in version 1.0?

    From the web site:
    If you want your PC to analyze data as efficiently as possible, you can have your screen blanked (no graphics) after a given period. To do this, go to the Display Properties control panel, the Screen Saver tab, select SETI@home, click Settings, and check the "Go to blank screen" box.

    Now I don't think these instructions have been on the website since day one, but the option has been there all along. There were a lot of messages floating around discussing it. Didn't you look in the client and say 'Gee, I wonder what this does?' If not, what's more the shame, that the Seti@home programmers aren't up to your high standards, or that you're not capable of doing a little independent investigation of software you're installing on your machine?

    Nevermind that stupid URL at their site, why on Earth they needed SSL in it? seti.berkeley.edu could do fine.

    I'm sorry to hear how Berekley sets up their network doesn't meet with your approval. I'm sure they can use a network consultant of your caliber. I presume you're going to jet right over there and set them up correctly.

  • Not all RF is used for communications. Radar utilizes very concentrated, very high-power beams that could be detected at much larger distances than communications RF.

    And considering that the star Alpha Centuri is 4 light years away, we have a pretty good idea about your grasp of science.

  • Posted by frogbert:

    Anderson said some groups are claiming credit for processing the same data packet over and over..


  • I do hope, Prof Anderson will publicly appologise
    for his words. Basically, equivalent of his words
    in the "Real word" would be:

    (Prof Anderson commes to classroom)

    "I am sorry that I couldn't make it to a class yeterday. Someone has robbed me on the street, while I was walking alone, trough one of the worse slums in the whole USA at 2:30 in the morning, so I had to spend the whole morning at the Police station - first they were waiting me to get sober, then I had to describe the man...

    And, I don't want to name names, but
    it's fair to say the blacks have caused all this trouble. It seems to be the neger mentality."

    I don't want to name names," he said, "But
    it's fair to say the blacks
    are causing most of the headaches. It
    seems to be the neger mentality."

    Now, I just wonder how long could he stay a professor with such an attitude?

    Yust for the case he does not come with a public appologies, I think we should organise a strike.
    (A very public strike)

  • Your science is woeful, but amazingly, your hypothesis is probably correct.

    RF travels at about the speed of light. It's sound that travels much slower (and not at all, through a vacuum like deep space).

    Odds are, though, any alien race we encounter will be far more advanced than us. Why? Because we have been transmitting significant RF signals for less than 100 years of our planet's 5 billion year history. Assuming advanced civs aren't inherently unstable, we should be transmitting RF for many thousands, millions, or even billions of years to come, and advancing technologically all along the way. Persumably other alien civilizations would develop similarly. The odds, then, that we would receive a signal from exactly that tiny window of time when their civilization is near the same point of development as ours seems pretty darned small.

    It's possible, of course, that for various reasons technological advances tend to slow beyond a certain point. (Perhaps once a civ gets "holosuites" and "replicators", technological advancement slows.) Or it may be that civs only generate significant enough RF emissions to be detected from other stars for a very brief time, so we would miss the even more advanced civs due to their radio silence. In that case or for other reasons, it might be more likely that the only civs we could hear were (at the time of transmission) at a similar level of technological development.
  • My machine has been pumping in results all week but my totals haven't been going up. Also if you add up the number of results sent in for every one in a group it doesn't seem to match the result for that group.
  • Since I upgraded my client to 1.2, none of my results have registered!
  • Duh...

    Visible light and radio waves are both electromagnetic radiation. They both travel at the speed of light.

    - Ken
  • "And read more Sagan."

    Always good advice. I read "Billion and Billions" a while back and I though it was so good that I recently read "Contact", "Cosmos", "Broca's Brain", and am now on "The Demon-Haunted World". It's very interesting stuff, even though he sometimes loses me on the physics(still in HS and haven't taken Physics yet).
  • I realize your arguements have merit, but we really just have to assume(hope) that
    1) there are a bunch of civilizations out there
    2) since whatever they do, fundamental laws of science should be the same, they would have radio

    Now we are making some assumptions, but don't we have to try? Would it be better to just forget about looking for ET life? The thing is, even though the chances are low(or maybe not low, we can't be sure), the gains from even finding life somewhere like Mars would be enormous, the gains from being able to contact an intelligent ET lifeform would very possibly be the biggest event in human history. What if there was some lifeform trasmitting out vast amounts of knowledge so we picked up something like a big reference book. Who knows how many years it would advance human science? Tens? Doubtful. Hundreds? More likely. Over one thousand? Definitely possible.

    To not conduct this search would be doing a disservice to the human race.

    "It's a pretty safe bet that your Powerbook won't be able to uplink with the mothership."

    I don't know, Jeff Goldblum was even able to write a virus, imagine that. It seems that aliens use the MacOS.
  • "Since when do radio waves travel at the speed of light?"

    Oh boy. Well suffice it to say they've been traveling that fast for a while and hopefully will continue to do so.
  • Nope, it's not just you. Here's the snippet of text that Fizgig is referring to. (In case some of you missed the second page of the article.)

    Anderson said that at least two of the top 10 work groups have only reached the rankings because some of the members had cheated.
    "I don't want to name names," he said, "But it's fair to say the Unix and Linux crowds are causing most of the headaches. It seems to be the hacker mentality."

  • Biggest problem I have with this group is that they're yet another Distributed-type project. It would be nice if we could have some sort of concerted effort on one distributed project before we spawn another. Distributed.net has a lot of experience with this sort of thing, and so they've got the infrastructure to handle it. We're spawning ANOTHER group, and they're reinventing the wheel as far as the organization, the client, etc. (Although, I admit, the screen saver IS pretty -- and I'm tempted to run SETI@Home on my home PC alng with the Distributed.net client.)

    For now, I just run SETI@Home at work, where I don't want to explain (or even have a possibility of having to explain) "Code cracking" on my work computer.
  • Yes, they'll check out the "positive" results to see if they're faked, but what about the negative results? I've seen a lot of posts on this subject saying that it's a waste of time. Suppose someone wants to sabotage the project (just in case they're wrong) by sending negative results at a fast pace in an attempt at preventing others from doing a legitimate scan of the data?

    Every packet sent back to them should be verified, not just the "good" ones.
  • You know how I feel about it!

    and I'll quit and join distributed.net - where they don't blame Linux users for their problems.

    and where we are slowly catching up!

  • To me, the "hacker mentality" is to look at something, figure out how it works, and see how it might be adapted to other purposes. Anything that relies on "security through obscurity" is a prime target, and the Seti folks should have realized this.

    IMHO, distributed computing will ultimately have to rely on open protocols and software. It seems to me that redundancy is probably the easiest way to validate data; send the same block to 2 or more randomly-selected clients around the world, and compare the results (ideally, there would be some sort of checksum returned rather than just a Yes/No result). I would also think that participants could "earn" trust over time if their blocks were always legitimate. I know it's nowhere near as simple as this in the real world, but I think this is the direction in which people should be heading.

    BTW, I downloaded their client for Linux/x86 but it wouldn't talk through my SOCKS5 proxy server. My other computer is a Netwinder, and I didn't see a Linux/ARM client there. And I don't have anywhere *near* enough free time to try to spoof their servers, so I've abandoned the whole project.
  • I thought that the reason that Windows clients were not cheating was due to the fact the the Windows client did NOT have the bug in it that caused it to do a WU ever 5-10 minutes. From the article - Anderson said that at least two of the top 10 work groups have only reached the rankings because some of the members had cheated. "I don't want to name names," he said, "But it's fair to say the Unix and Linux crowds are causing most of the headaches. It seems to be the hacker mentality."
  • Not to mention they have no respect for the people putting their CPU cycles into this. They close up their software totally, cut off all communication. I'm sure they had good intentions, but they did it to themselves. Many people in the free software community were willing to help with developing clients, but they basically ignored them; now they're using a shortage of manpower as an excuse. I do not consider these people a part of the scientific community, and from what I understand, neither do many scientists.
  • The fact that they had a little hiccup and started sendind duplicate packets does not bother me in the least. As you said this is a new program and no program of this scale ever ran right the first time. What chaffes my arse, is the fact that say that they are having problems from the *nix community, I.E.

    "I don't want to name names," he said,
    "But it's fair to say the Unix and Linux
    crowds are causing most of the
    headaches. It seems to be the hacker

    It does not say that the problems are coming from members in the *nix community, but that it's from the *nix crowds...Blaming us.

    1. I volunteered to help, yes. But I'll not stand here and have it said that me and my community are to blame. I give blood, the fact that there has been tainted blood found, make me responsible? Not likely.

    2. I "complain", as you put it, so my concerns can be heard by the SETI staff and the world in general. I hope that by voicing my concerns, change can be made.

    3. Are we spoofing the results? Or is it a case of the *nix platforms just better at the task than expected?

    After all look at these two points. *Nix doesn't have the overhead that Windows9x/NT have. Also, there is no screen saver for *nix, so the machine is not using idle process for drawing. I.E., more idle process for *nix.

    They asked for help, we offered help, we got slapped. I guess that this proves the old saying "No good deed goes unpunished"
  • Ok, They (whoever they are) probally use more advanced technology for communications. But remember when we get a blip from a star 300Ly away, we are getting the blip as it was 300 years ago. If an advanced race was sitting, Oh...about 40Ly away, they would probally hear good old 50's rock and roll on amplitude modulation. Sure! We're using microwave to satelites and whatever, but that's what they would be hearing.

    Whatever advancements they may or may not have, odds are they used radio at some time. After all, look at how we discovered the concept of carrier wave RF signals
  • by Troy ( 3118 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @10:56AM (#1858851)
    I don't think you're taking Dr. Anderson's comments properly.

    Dr. Anderson caught some people cheating. The majority of those people were running Linux/Unix computers.

    This is a fact. You may not like that fact, but it is a fact nevertheless. Dr. Anderson wasn't launching an attack on anyone -- he was simply stating a fact: Most of the cheaters are coming from Linux/Unix circles.

    The only way one could find that **fact** offensive is if s/he believed that Dr. Anderson was lying...but since we have very little evidence to support that notion (and indeed, a great deal of evidence to the contrary), it had best be discarded right here and right now.

    Next, Dr. Anderson offers a brief explanation for that fact, as scientists tend to do. His explaination: It must be the hacker mentality amongst that camp.

    NOTE: Dr. Anderson did not say that all Linux/Unix users were dishonest....he did not make any blanket statements that all Linux/Unix users were causing any problems.

    He simply observed that most of the cheating is coming from some (NOT ALL) Linux/Unix users because most of the people who use that platform like to explore code, discover how programs work, etc etc etc. In other words, he's saying Linux/Unix users are hackers of some sort (a pretty well-founded statement, if you properly interpret the word 'hacker')...and really, it would take a hacker-type to figure out how to fool their computers. Indeed, if you interpret the term hacker properly (as Dr. Anderson most likely does, given his background in Computer Science), then really Dr. Anderson is paying a complement to the Linux/Unix community, saying that the community has a large concentration of individuals who have the know-how to do such a thing.

    So, a more realistic "real world" interpretation of Dr. Anderson's comments would be:

    "I'm late to class because I got mugged in a seedy part of town by some African-Americans [NOTE: Statement of fact]. They probably mugged me because they needed my money [NOTE: Observation based on the fact that most people living in a seedy part of town probably don't have a lot of money]."

    There's nothing too inflamatory about that...and chances are that if someone did take offense those statements, most of us would roll our eyes and say "whatever."

    So, if you're offended by Dr. Anderson's comments, get over it. He doesn't have a vendetta against you. He's not thinking that you're cheating. He's not making any derogatory statements about the Linux/Unix community. Chances are that many of the people on the SETI@Home team are a part of the Linux/Unix community (someone had to code that app, and it did come out first). Stop trying to be a martyr.

    He's simply saying that most of the cheaters are running Linux/Unix (a factual statement) and then says that it's probably because (in essence) most Linux/Unix users have the skills necessary to do such a thing.

    Perhaps a more appropriate response to Dr. Anderson's comments would be tracking down those people who are cheating and giving them a heavy handed smack down (verbally, of course). Imagine how much it would suck if we missed a block containing a stray extraterrestial transmission, because some dorkface downloaded the block, dumped it and sent a "done" message back to the server.

  • Why must we keep killing all these webservers? Can't we all just get along? :)
  • Section 3.11 of their FAQ states that if they don't have enough data then multiple users will receive the same data.

    If their servers are being overwhelmed(as their site indicates) then it's entirely possible that they didn't have enough data online to send to all the clients.

  • as it's only using the idle time of the computer. I have SETI running at home(the new OS/2 client) and work, but the computers are only on when I'm using them, thus no extra fuel is being used.

  • they are instead running some variation of Windows:-) As such, they don't gain the power benefits of the CPU's idle state.

    off-topic: battery life on laptops is one place that OS/2 and Linux really shine at :-)

  • I think they're referring to 'cheating' in the sense of 'team slashdot' utilizing the slashdot effect to gain the lead. They shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, is what I think. They should admit "Wow! We weren't ready for that kind of response! But give us some time and we will be...". They should be grateful that this resource pool is being offered to them.
  • SETI@home should consider NOT posting ANY user/team related stats publicly. Situations like this, wherein one can get his or her "name in lights" INVITE DISASTER.

    Seti@home probably posts these statistics in the hope of generating a spirit of competiton in order to get more people involved. Understandable but unnecessary. Let those who wish to contribute do so for their own reasons. Your pool of players may shrink considerably, but the quality of the players will rise dramatically.

    Remove the "game" aspect of it and you'll rid yourselves of most of those who seek only to play games.

    Post only the most fundamental overall statistics, to give contributors an overall idea of how much work is getting done.

    When you believe that 'Contact' has actually been established, THEN you can say who processed the data in question, when, where and so on.

  • Brought to me by the Duane Adams Energy Center, just north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    Nuclear power is still the cleanest and most reliable sorce of energy available, except for hydroelectric. But hydroelectric is for wimps. Give me cerenkov blue-glow over Hoover dam any day.

    Of course, I don't subscribe to Seti@home either. After all, my processor cycles are Mine, not anyone else's. I'll use them as a darn well see fit.

  • From the wired article...
    "I don't want to name names," he said, "But it's fair to say the Unix and Linux crowds are causing most of the headaches. It seems to be the hacker mentality."
    "Fair to say"? Hah! I don't think that is anywhere near fair to say. Before reading this portion of the article, I had planned on posting in defense of SETI@home, it seems basically they suffered from a massive /. effect. However, he (project director David Anderson) states in the paragraph before the one I quoted about *some* members of the teams had cheated. Then in this paragraph he makes it sound like the entire Unix/Linux userbase has a "hacker mentality" that somehow equates to a desire to cheat.
    I certainly will discontinue running the client until they fix these problems so we're not all wasting our cpu cycles and even after the bugs are fixed, in light of the attitude of SETI@Home expressed through the project director, I may never run it.
  • I fear you totally missed the point of my comment.
    I'm not denying that the cheating could've been done by Linux/Unix people. I'm saying that the vast majority of Linux/Unix did NOT cheat.
    So his statement would be like me seeing one white person steal something and then saying "Well, I'm not going to name any names, but you know white people love to steal, it's the white mentality."
    Another key point to my post was that the "hacking" mentality that Slashdot promotes is NOT the urge to cheat, but the urge to learn, to tinker with things, etc. This is the crux of the hacker/cracker issue, keep up with the posts on Slashdot and you'll see what I mean. Just today there was a story posted about it.
    I'm also not asking that he detail exactly what happened - I don't care. Much of your post doesn't seem at all to be in reply to mine - why did you post it as a reply???
  • > And 8 tons of fossil fuel a day? Like all those people would have otherwise turned off their computers.
    > Waiting patiently for contact,

    Please keep in mind that under Real OSes (tm) idle CPU
    time actually does use signifigantly less power then CPU
    time used for computations, because the "noop" or "halt"
    commants repeatedly given to the CPU during the idle
    loops uses almost no power.

    Haven't any of your overclocker friends noticed how their
    CPUs run colder under Linux than Windows? Thats why.

    So don't run seti@home on your laptop. :-)
  • > Won't argue with you there. It isn't any wonder,
    > and it does kinda-sorta invalidate some of the
    > utopian "we can all work together" propaganda.

    No argument there. Anyone who thinks that people won't be real jerks at least some of the time (even where there is considerable counterincentive) need to get in better touch with reality.

    > The people promoting stuff like this are
    > shineing a really bright light on the whole OSS
    > concept.

    Are they? Last time I checked, SETI@Home certainly was not OSS, and their decsision to avoid OSS doesn't appear to have helped them significantly either.

    You can maybe say something about shining a really bright light on the inherent good of mankind concept, but this is neiter a vindication nor an indictment of OSS specifically. OSS depends on the same kinds of you-scratch-my-back-i'll-scratch-yours economic exchanges we're used to, just as much as it does on altrusim.

    [ n.b. economic != monetary ]

    Very few people would do OSS if they couldn't realisitically expect to get something back, and that's usually more than just a clean conscience. However, neither is it World Domination...

    > One world, one nation, one GNU. er... let me
    > rephrase that....

    Godwin's law, you lose.
  • I tried the mersenne client for a while but I wasn't happy with it. My cpu was only at around 30-50% usage compared to 100% on rc5. That's too bad because I liked the idea ($50,000 helps too :)
  • it's not like anyone is going to find ET anyway (unless you think that there's some serious reason for thinking the x-files is real). I mean...Star Wars and Star Trek are lots of fun but let's get back to the real world and find some intelligence on _this_ planet? Thank you
  • Man that article paints a pretty dim picture of the whiny Seti@Home client user.
  • 3. Are we spoofing the results? Or is it a case of the *nix platforms just better at the task than expected?

    It is obvious that some people's results are spoofed

    90) zenosin 437 426 115 hr 01 min 03.0 sec 0 hr 16 min 12.0 sec

    considering A) the client is not multithreaded and B)I read one team page who was touting their fastest machine, an Alpha 21264 running at 600MHz, running Linux would finish a block in 4 hours. This is a case of bad spoofing, good spoofing would simply cache the results and resubmit so that the CPU time would be less obviously wrong.

    It is simple to say where the spoofed results are coming from, so the guy pointed it out. I use many of the different clients(including a couple of linux clients), and I would have to say that I am certaintly not offended, but I do find the spoofing, cracking and especially whining most offensive!

    Very well. I must hurry back to my comic book store, where I dispense the insults rather than absorb them.

  • People forget that everything they view is just one perspective of a multitude. This guy who is having all the "headaches" because of hackers. The hackers are finding loopholes you shouldn't have, plug them! He also acts like this has hampered there research, but with the repition of the same day over and over, its been a great hard core beta phase IMO. They've learned, now they are patching.

    However, I think they should smile more often, nothing is irrepairable. The only thing lost in things like this are tolerance, which i didn't know had a limit or capacity to begin with...

    Lastly I still don't see why they don't OSS their project, something like this should be open, all of science should be open! I'm tired of privacy of informative information. I'll eventually find out what your hiding, but in the end you've made me waste hours of searching and digging to find the abstracted hints!

    Keep'n it real,

  • That's just it. They apparently started sending the same data to everyone because they didn't have enough resources to store and process the returned data. Basicly, they put it into an idle loop until they could get the resources they need.

    The other option would be to tell everyone to stop and they would lose much of the momentum they had.

    Yes, the lack of communication sucks. But these people are bigger nerds than we are (trust me!), and communication skills aren't their forte.


    PS.. BTW I'm sure all the data is interesting to them...

  • by John Fulmer ( 5840 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @07:24AM (#1858870)
    The article starts out implying that due to the some kind of bug, all the effort so far as been wasted. THEN it states later that the SETI people have been trying to get it to scale to 500,000+ systems (which is 3x the origional number expected) and have been sending out the same information to everyone for testing and sanity checks.

    Why all the negative vibes because of this? People volunteer and then get mad because SETI stopped to try to get the system to scale?

    It's very hard to do testing on something like this. How could you stress test a new distributed system with 500,000 nodes beforehand? You probably can't.

    Distributed.net had to start over a couple of times due to programming errors. Granted, the communication about this could have been better, but do they HAVE to tell you that they are in a test mode? Cut the ET watchers some slack.

    On another note, does anyone have any information about the "Unix and Linux" uses that are 'cheating'? If you know anyone doing that, SLAP THEM HARD!

    First Carmack getting mailbomed, now this. Some people on the Internet are REALLY starting to suck...


    SETI is an extremely long term project
  • To some, this may not be "worthy science". If you don't agree with the project, don't participate.

    What it does have is what we used to call "hack value". The joy of the attempt at finding alien signals justifies the attempt itself. Who cares if it's not successful? Seems to me that all scientific discoveries are lead up to by mistakes and failure. No one has ever gotten it right the first time.

    As for the little script kiddies who tamper with the client and the data...I believe that a real hacker has an ethical responsibility to find the loopholes, and instead of exploiting them, present his findings to the SETI people. This would benifit the project as a whole.

    Only children with no ethics would distroy something simply for the sake of distruction.
  • grow up....if you didn't cheat, then you shouldn't take offence.

    Do you feel guilty? Is there something we should know about?
  • I doubt it. I don't see how the Unix comment could have been taken out of context. I was running the SETI client on 4 boxes, but their down now, and I don't plan to bring them back up. I'm not going to give them my help if they don't want it. Someone insults you and you defend them and then continue to further their cause, SETI@HOME will just have to search for extraterrestrial life without my extra cycles.

    -- Hawk
  • "I don't want to name names," he said, "But it's fair to say the Unix and Linux crowds are causing most of the headaches. It seems to be the hacker mentality."
    Well that's pretty thinly veiled.
    Whatever- get it together before you launch such an ambitious project.
    The linux and mac boxes I have working on it have been chugging along (45 units returned) for a couple weeks, that sucks if they're just chewing on redundant data.
  • I note that the Wired article says they've put most of their computing power into webservers to handle the demands of people downloading the software and not enough into data block allocations.

    Have they ever heard of mirroring? They do host the main download site at ftp.cdrom.com, but the other 4 or so sites are all their own. Why not just ask for support from some of the main FTP sites around the world and have them serve everything except the blocks?

  • Ow, that's low. We're getting our place by cheating?

    Now let's see... I've noticed that on my dual-boot machine, the Seti@home client runs about twice as fast under Linux than under Windows 98. (Maybe it's the pretty graphics.) This is clearly going to give Unix users a hand.

    Second, uh, the Slashdot effect. I suspect Unix/Linux types are disproportionately represented among Seti@home users, more sci/tech enthusiasts or something.

    Unix/Linux implies hacker (read: cracker) mentality? Yeah, it's a good thing that there is no such thing as a Windows hAXX0r d00d. (sarcasm)
  • Do you really expect the SETI@Home folks to kiss *your* very personal butt, just because you contributed a few cpu cycles and were even thinking of throwing in your mighty RS6000?

    Hardly. What I meant to communicate was that if one's project depends on the good will of volunteers, going out of your way to offend those volunteers is counterproductive. Moreover, it's not very nice, which is the worst part of it. I know that being nice is not considered important in some quarters, and that some people confuse it with butt kissing, but it matters to me. That's all.

    What offends me, or more accurately, bothers me about Anderson's remarks is that:

    • They unfairly reflect badly on Linux. This is personally important to me because I'd like to see Linux win more hearts and minds.
    • Anderson helped perpetuate the misuse of the term 'hacker'.
    • The whole thing struck me as an underhanded way to direct attention away from the SETI@Home team's own mismanagement of their project. I have no proof that this was his motivation, so I didn't mention it in the letter.

    SETI@Home is a volunteer project relying on essentially personal motivations to encourage participation. I personally didn't care for what Anderson said, I told him so, and it is possible that I will cease to participate because of it. I offer my opinion as a personal opinion, not a recommendation that others think or do likewise.

    Did it ever occur to you that the statement might have been meant in a positive way, as in "while it's been mostly the Unix/Linux crowd, it's not because they're all criminals, but rather because of the hacking spirit"?

    That strikes me as highly unlikely given the rest of the things he said. If a retraction or clarification appears, I am willing to be convinced otherwise.

    If you don't like the project, get out. If you like it, stay in.

    But shut up either way, right? No thanks.

  • To SETI@Home project manager David Anderson:

    I am not concerned with the recent technical problems with SETI@Home. While the decision to continue accepting new clients before the system was ready for the load demonstrated dubious judgment, problems of this sort are to be expected with a large distributed project during the early stages.

    What was not expected was the poor judgment to make the following statement, among others, to _Wired_:

    >"I don't want to name names," he said,
    >"But it's fair to say the Unix and Linux
    >crowds are causing most of the
    >headaches. It seems to be the hacker

    I have the SETI@Home client running on eight or nine workstations at present, some of which are Linux boxes. I was about to take three backup servers that are currently idle -- an IBM RS6000, a Compaq Proliant, and an IBM PC Server, all of which are running one flavor of Unix or another -- and devote them wholly to SETI@Home until such time as they are needed for other purposes. I thought it would be a nice project for my "hacker mentality". That plan is no longer on the burner. I don't know if I will go as far as many Unix admins already have and take the trouble to pull SETI@Home off the machines it's already running on, but I'm giving it some thought. It certainly won't be going on any new servers. You guys clearly don't want any of us hackers burning CPU time for you.

    The next time you have problems with a few individuals, you might want to address them directly, rather than the largely innocent and devoted demographic to which they belong. If you have problems with a businessman who happens to be Jewish, you would not launch a polemic against Jews as a class, would you? Yet, faced with a few problematic vandals who happen to use Unix and style themselves "hackers", you denounce law-abiding, honest Unix hackers as a class. That was stupid and indecent. Shame on you.

    If we do someday manage to achieve contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, it is my devout hope that their first impression of humanity does not come from the likes of you.

    --Eric O'Dell
    Director of Information Services,
    The Gadget Guru, LLC
  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @08:03AM (#1858880)
    That they are having problems is understandable for a new project struggling to scale to unanticipated load levels, and it doesn't bother me at all. I wasn't using those CPU cycles for anything else anyway, and I think SETI@Home is a great idea -- certainly more important in the broad scheme of things than the encryption projects run by distributed.net, which are merely political rather than cosmic in scope.

    On the other hand, their wholesale slam against the Unix/Linux crowd on the basis of what are probably a tiny percentage of idiots was just plain stupid. I won't end my participation in the project because of it, but I'm insulted enough that the next time they screw up I'll give it some serious thought. It's precisely because of my hacker mentality that I'm participating in the first place.
  • 500,000 simultanious connections as extreme as 150,000. I am not sure they actually tested it against the latter number. In fact, given that fact that they claimed to have 35Gb a day of work-units (and 350kb per unit send), we have
    35,000,000/350 = 100,000 users per day. So, given the fact that they expected at least 150,000 they would max out rather soon. Bad planning.

    Now, pardon my mood, but I am completely pissed off the fact, they released extremely slow Win client, while according to their own statistics Pentium/Windows platform leads by at least 5-8 times. Excuse me, but if they had a bit of brains they would optimise first WINDOWS client, no matter how they hate it. Could they at least provide an simple option NOT to draw pretty pictures, making it v1.01 in the next day? It is shame that Berkeley has got associated with such a poor programming. You might hate windows, but you should not be a fool and ignore thousands of people who dedicated their Win boxes, we feel like being treated as 3rd class users!

    Nevermind that stupid URL at their site, why on Earth they needed SSL in it? seti.berkeley.edu could do fine.

    http://www.investigatio.com [investigatio.com]
  • Well, it's using some extra. Since I started running this, I haven't shut off my machine. It used to only run maybe 12 hours a day. Same with a couple of machines at work (all Windows machines; I don't shut off my Linux boxes). I bet others have been doing the same.
  • Is SETI worthy science? You bet.

    I'll take that bet...

    Their basic premisse is that Look at all the ways you use radio transmissions (...) On earth, we've already decided on the most efficient method! ( seti [berkeley.edu])

    Excuse me, we have decided? Dinosaurs roamed the earth 65 million years ago, and we have used radio transmissions now for only slightly more than a hundred years. What if we find something better than radio signals in say a hundred, a thousand, or even a hundred thousand years.

    These people have zero respect for time. These people are not scientists.

  • If you had read the information on the SETI@Home website, you would understand the reasons for not making this an open source application. They specifically addressed this.

    Releasing the source code would provide ample opportunity to the same kind of idiots who do mail bombs, hijack ratings, and generally screw a good thing up. Arguing that it would be more good than bad is crazy : They have working clients for many platforms right now, and that seems fine to me. What good would open source do? Open source is good stuff, but it's NOT the solution for everything!

  • by alhaz ( 11039 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @07:53AM (#1858885) Homepage
    Worthy science? You're kidding.

    This is a guy, with no ties to SETI, with a prerecorded chunk of data, that most astronomers believe is of dubious value. It comes from a very slim section of the radio spectrum. just a handfull of Khz wide, if i remember right.

    You're not searching for a needle in a haystack. You're searching for a quark in a haystack.

    Furthermore, recent advances in RF technology have made it clear that it's positively idiotic to believe that alien life forms would be using the same modes of radio transmission we do.

    Take for instance ultra-wide-band transmissions. They broadcast across the entire spectrum with exceptionally high power, but they do so in picosecond pulses, and the FCC says they can't discern them from background radiation. They don't know how to classify UWB because, while it does interfere with important things like air traffic controll, you never know you're being interefered with.

    So lets say aliens use ultra wide band transmissions. is the granularity of SETI data finer than picosecond? Doubtful.

    As humans we seem to have an understanding of amplitude modulation, frequency modulation, and phase modulation. phase modulation is still experimental and of questionable value. We're just starting to understand pulse modulation. How many more kinds of modulation are there?

    The man who discovered frequency modulation was branded a mad scientist and fired from RCA for wasting precious corporate resources on his hair brained ideas. How many people are quietly researching modes of transmission that don't currently fall into recognizable catagories of reasonable physics?

    We're not going to pick up interstellar cell phone calls and listen in on greys discussing family matters. At best we're likely to hear the RFI generated by their equipment. And that's assuming their technologies are vaguely similar to ours. An optical processor doesn't emit RFI. Maybe they use an energy form that doesn't fit into our concept of physical law.

    The neat thing about history is, we build upon the past. Having started from an entirely different point, why would a completely foreign culture do things anything like we do?
  • by alhaz ( 11039 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @11:19AM (#1858886) Homepage
    My assertian is not that they would obviously be more advanced.

    My assertion is that technology builds upon itself.

    Having started from a different point, how can you assume that another culture would reach the same conclusions?

    Leaps in technological complexity occur when a culture learns to do something it previously didn't know it was ignorant of.

    Human science has suffered various huge setbacks.

    Hydrolic technology was cut off at the knees when it was decided that it was far better to employ hundreds of manual laborers to open the temple doors than to build an experimental device using sand.

    The library at Alexandria was burned. We don't know what we lost.

    It took spanish missionaries 14 years to destroy all the collected writings of the maya. We don't know what we lost. Their religion, their science, their literature, their poetry. All gone. Just because they weren't christians. (OK, they say they were performing human sacrifice too, but that's still no reason to erase their history)

    Alchemists were so feared and loathed that they obscured their writings so much we're not sure what most of them were doing. A lot of them thought they could spontaniously generate mice by leaving a box with a sweatty shirt and some wheat in a field, but they can't all be wrong.

    Millions of people in third world countries die of gastric disorders because they still believe the popular teachings of an early medic who said the best way to deal with a leaky bottom is to avoid liquids.

    Furthermore, many of the important technological advancements of the last few hundreds of years have been purely accidental.

    If you don't believe me, research the history of polymer plastics. Read about how the search for artificial crop fertilization revolutionized explosives. Read about the discovery of the diode.

    A lot of important things came to be because of someone who was looking for one thing and stumbled on another.

    A few years ago a japanese college student who was bad at math used 1000 times as much catalyst as he was supposed to and stumbled upon a polymer that conducts electricity and can hold a charge. How often does this kind of thing happen?

    Who would have figured that an inordinately difficult method of printing (lithography) would allow the miniturization of transistors?

    Why would you assume that a completely foreign history would advance the same technologies?

    Maybe when they find us, they'll be utterly enthralled by jello.

    Given the fact that human technology has advanced more in the last 100 years than all previous recorded history, it's assumed mathematically that an alien culture is more likely to be well ahead or well behind of us. We spent thousands of years dicking around and then lept into this era with a vengance.

    What if Babbages machine was built and functioned within his lifetime? the british government poured millions of pounds into trying to build it, but the metalurgical technology wasn't up to it. We might have entered the information age much earlier.

    How can you assume that human understanding of physics encompasses all of reality? We don't make the rules you know, we just try to understand them.

    I'm not calling possible alien technology obviously more advanced. I'm saying it's most likely, well, alien.

    It's a pretty safe bet that your Powerbook won't be able to uplink with the mothership.
  • "I've sent three requests for help for a problem with using a solaris client behind a standard firewall, and haven't recieved a single response."

    If you'd read their page you'd see:

    We're a bit overwhelmed with emails and bug reports, and won't be able to respond to them
  • We're still probably talking about less power than it takes to keep the porch light on.
  • I understand everyone is upset over what the director of seti@home has said. I'm sure he's getting flamed from many sides and I'm suspecting is going to be appologizing to the volunteers shortly. I wonder if the wired people might want to link back to this thread to see the reaction from thier article. I'm disapointed I've been doing the same blocks as other people, but it does let me take it off one of the computers here without 'loosing' a block. :)

    If your going to give away cycles - they're gone don't be upset they were 'wasted'. Nearly all blocks are meaningless anyway. I'm still looking for the needle, its up to everyone to decide what they want to do.
  • Right now, Seti@home seems to be going through a lot of the same growing pains that Distributed.net went throught a couple years ago. Distributed.net hasn't had problems with issuing duplicate keyblocks, but we have had the problems with stats, bandwidth, and many other issues. Its a shame seti refused the Distributed.net offer to join projects. They might be doing better now...

    Ironic if you ask me. They have a large ammount of corporate backing and are having tons of problems (which started when their network of users was far smaller then the distributed.net userbase), yet distributed.net is entirely vollenteer based with very little funding and doesn't have too much trouble with bandwidth and network stability.

  • Actually, it seems like a really easy way to check for faked responses is to occaionally send data from which a known response can be expected. If they send back a fake response, send a second set of data for verification. If that is also falsified, use the client to upload a pirate copy of Office (TM/R/) 2000 and then send an anonymous email to piracy@deathbyfacistsoftware.com.
  • Arecibo produces one 35 GB data tape per day. The data is cut up into 350 KB blocks to send to the SETI@home clients. 35 GB divided by 350 KB supposedly gives us 100,000 blocks per day. With 560,000 registered SETI@home clients working at an average of 40 hours per block, we can handle 336,000 blocks per day.

    336,000 is greater than 100,000.

    Add to that the fact that anyone who actually watches the processing can see for themselves that the blocks have all come from Jan 7 and 8. What's the statistical probability of that?

    Add to that the fact that SETI itself has said on the homepage since LAST WEEK, "Our 'data pipeline' is not flowing at top speed yet, so we're sending out the same work units (mostly recorded Jan 7 and Jan 8) repeatedly. This will be fixed shortly."


    Even without the technical difficulties, the processing will outpace the input within a matter weeks. Such is the broad appeal of this project. If you guys are this upset now, I'd hate to see what you'll be like when it happens for real.

    The moral of the story? Sit back, relax, boost your rankings while helping SETI to stress test the system. It's just a bloody screen saver, so your machines would have been on anyhow. Sheesh.
  • to blame other people for their mistakes.
    It's Microsoftish.
    (also, testing for bugs after the release, and they did that)

    "We're having trouble and wasting everyone's CPU cycles for nothing"
    would be much better than
    "Unix hackers are fucking our systems".

    I have used Seti@home just for a day,
    (since I heard there is a slashdot team),
    and I'll quit and join distributed.net - where they don't blame Linux users for their problems.

    Yeah, I rather waste my cycles on something useful. ;-)

  • People don't run their home computer all the time.

    You have to remember,
    Although most of the packets come from fast alphas and such, that would work all night anyway,
    Most of the computers that run it are home computers,
    used by people to play games and chat on IRC,
    and would otherwise be turned off at night.
    (or when not in use)

    The people that conribute to Seti@home,
    may leave their computer on for the night for that matter.
    I know I did.
    (Until I heard I'm wasting CPU, I thoguht I contribute to an important project)

    As a proof for my claim,
    you can see clearly the statistics that state that most of the clients are Windows/Intel ones,
    and that almost everyone is runnig this project AT HOME.

  • I upgraded to 1.2 and my results are doing just fine.
  • by Royster ( 16042 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @07:06AM (#1858896) Homepage
    I hope at least that they're getting the same answer from each client.
  • Yes, it'd be nice to be able to validate all packets. But if it weren't for this project these packets wouldn't even get looked at at a thorough level. Of course they should persue better methods but even if it's flawed, it's better than nothing.
  • or did they allude to Slashdot as cheating? Oh well.

    I don't know about that 8 tons of fuel per hour. For one thing, they gave no credentials for the guy giving the estimate--I estimate 4 tons, so there! Besides, if the people aren't using the HLT command, they're really not wasting anything (unless they're intentionally leaving their computers on longer than they otherwise would have; I don't put it past them). So they're really wasting nothing.
  • Good point, but still, the majority of users are using a DOS-based OS, so the estimate is off. Don't blame me! I didn't cheat! I run distributed.net!

    And I don't run HLT either. It does not like a Peltier. My CPU turned green and stopped working!
  • Sure, more advanced life forms will probably have means of communication we can't imagine. But WE'RE emitting all kinds of detectable and clearly nonnatural signals. Who's to say they won't discover our primitive signals and respond in the same manner?
  • I don't follow your logic.
  • I don't get the fuss about waste.

    What would your CPU do otherwise?

    Wait, I know, Linux uses HLT, saving power. Too bad your hard disk, RAM and power supply are still burning up significant wattage.

    Oh, wait, you would be cracking RC5 keys. Can you say boring?! Can you say, it was an interesting project the first time but it isn't any more?

    Get over it. Get over the perceived slight against UNIX & Linux users, it was a general comment. I don't see how you could take it personally unless a) you are cheating, b) you have a big chip on your shoulder.

    If you are cheating, shame on you! If you have a chip on your shoulder, keep in mind that this guy is probably a UNIX/Linux type of guy. They are using UNIX on their back end and they are trying to do big science on a small budget.

    On the subject of publishing source. I think their concern about doing what they can to eliminate tampering is a valid one. There are various ways to deal with it, but they are obviously resource constratined. Ultimately though, they are trying to do real peer-reviewed science, so you can be sure that even if they don't publish the source, they will describe it in great deatail and provide a lot of background on how it works and why they did things the way they did.
  • The closest star is far less than 100 LY away. Why bother doing the math if you don't bother getting good numbers.
  • Get your facts straight and calm down.

    All experiments make simplifying assumptions. Sometimes they make the wrong assumptions, but that doesn't necessarily mean the assumptions are faulty. It is simply the result of the complexity of the problem.

    Seti@Home decided to focus on part of the problem.

    They decided to look for intentional transmissions to other intellegent life , not cell phone calls & other artifacts of civilization like computer noise (jesus christ, where do you get this shit).

    They have to start somewhere, don't they. They can't very well start looking for transmissions methods that humans dont' know about and they can't look for transmissions using methods which we can't hope to detect.

    Personally, I think it reasonable to go after lowest common denomitator communications.
  • I said "Right On!"
  • 1)Software is done when it is done, unless it isn't.
    2)I can lock everything down really tight, that doesn't mean that people trying to break in aren't still a "headache"
    3)Lets see how you deal with triple your wildest design dream on a limited budget.
    4)Don't know what to tell you.
  • Somewhere in the low billions of years, according to best estimates.
  • A lot of people are getting worked up about the tone of the SETI guy in the wired article.

    Keep in mind, this article is a news *story*. Like all news storys, it is designed to try and get a reaction out of the reader. This one is clearly constructed to insite your outrage.

    Well guess what, it looks like it worked you have been manipulated by the media.

    I can't be sure, but I bet if you had the full text of the interview, or if you talked to the guy yourself (please, don't try, he obviously has enough to deal with) you might feel differently.
  • But what if its true?
    Somebody is 'hacking'/'cracking' them and chances are they use Unix/Linux. Painting ALL Unix/Linux users with that brush is unfortunate and unfair, but no more unfair than the average /.er generalizing about Windows users in every third line of every post about every story. How does it feel to be on the recieving end of a bigoted gernealization?

    Keep that in mind next time you throw a "Winbloze" or "Windows Sux" or a "point and drool" reference to Windows users in a post.

    As for the accuracy of the statement well consider:

    1. Most of the "headaches" come from people sending too many responses from one downloaded packet (download once, analyze the data and then upload it 5000+ times so it looks like you processed 5000+ data chunks and now your "in the lead"). This results in overloading of the servers (they aren't scalled for 500000 users remember) and running out of disk space. This software bug is causing hardware failures. SETI@home does not have the money to just buy new equipment.

    2. This bug is only a bug in the Unix/Linux client, and can't be done in the Windows version. Therefore only Unix/Linux users will ever do this.

    3. The bug is a loophole which is exploited by people who go looking for it and code around it - that is people with the 'hacker' mentality. My understanding is that if you don't look for it and exploit the bug, the Unix/Linux client works as expected (Windows users aren't hackers or don't want to be hackers... right?)

    Therefore the majority of the "headaches" for the project come from the Unix/Linux community with the hacker mentality, correct? Isn't that what Dr. Anderson said?

    Instead of being upset for some percieved insult by the head of the SETI@home project, maybe we should be upset about the fact that some bunch of idiots is screwing with the system just so they can get their names on the web site.

    Maybe the person who discovered this should have done the OSS thing and done the exploit once to show it could happen then e-mailed SETI@HOME and tell them about it. But I guess it's "closed "software so it deserves everything it gets, even at the expense of good science.

    Man some people here should really grow up...and learn to sign their name if they are gonna troll for responses with four letter words! Grow up chicken shit!

  • by JohnnyCannuk ( 19863 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @08:20AM (#1858929)
    First off buddy get your facts right..This project is very much associated with SETI and is governed by the SETI league and the members of other SETI organizations (Dr. Jill Tarter is on the board of SETI@home so I don't know how much more affiliated with SETI you can get.) Perhaps you should try reading their website, the Website of the SETI League,Project Serendip etc all of which mention an link to SETI@home.
    As for dubious science, that is your humble opinion, and not one shared by a lot of the scientists in the field, it appears. So it you don't agree with the science, don't participate. Better yet put your money where your mouth is and design an experiment or system you think would work.
    The point is that there are some people out there trying to destroy what science is going on because they think that damaging other people's data and messing with their systems is ok simply because the can. You really didn't address the 'hacking'/'Creacking' problems the project has encountered. If some won did this to distributed.net or one of the projects to calculate PI, would you simply say 'well, chances are RC5 can't be broken so lets not try' ' PI will never be soleved to x digits so don't bother'?

    With crap like this going on to legitimate, not-for-profit science, is it any wonder the term 'hacker' gets bad press - grow up, scrit kiddies nad go after MS. Leave the science alone.
  • by Myxx ( 21264 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @08:16AM (#1858932)
    In all things there are complainers and there are doers. Here we have a project that is grand in scale. Just because someone else is doing this kind of distributed networking more efficiently has NOTHING to do with SETI's efforts. That's like saying that because the Commodore 64 was so wildly successful and efficient that all computers ought to be. Well, I would assume that all C-64's would be that efficient, but not something that does something totally different. Sure, computer hardware is essentially the same, but the way it is implimented is not.

    And to say that "I will not waste computer cycles on this buggy program" is almost as laughable as the people who have gotten offended at the Unix/Linux slur. Am I not mistaken that the Linux/Unix version came out first? I don't see these folks being anti-Linux with this sort of evidence. And just what were you wasting your computer cycles on before SETI? This is like saying "I wasted my Saturday helping to search for a lost child and then I find out the parents hadn't looked hard enough for the child yet." Sure, it can be frustrating, but you volunteered, didn't you? No one meant to take advantage of you. You joined SETI because it was cool, not because you wanted reward.

    I guess that some people just cannot mess up.

    And about the hacking...if the hacking took place and it was verified to have been done by LINUX/UNIX then their statements are justified. Perhaps not the hacking statement, but the dig against the platform is justified. If he had said that "Widnows users seem to be the cuplprits, but that is probably because of the MS mentality" then we would have all cheered. But I guess the double-standard is ok?

    In essence, I volunteered because I thought it would be the coolest thing since sliced bread. It has been. I like the screen saver. My computer is on anyway. Nothing is lost by me in any way shape or form. That I have been chewing on a duplicate packet is unfortunate, but they will fix the issue. Anyone invlolved with SETI knows that Congress has gleefully been chopping away at its budget for years and calling it a victory while they continue to pour funds into more "dubious" research. If I can help them out I will.

  • What if the "tiny percentage of idiots" comprised 95-100% of all the hacks they experienced?

    It's no different than the people that looked down Denver with the superbowl riots (both times). You're looking at 100 people MAX making a city of millions look like idiots. We couldn't convince the country otherwise though. Whenever Denver wins some big sporting event people will wonder "Will they burn down their city again?".

    It's our society. You either have tough skin and grin and bear it when it happens, or you start screaming and crying and stomping your foot and act like a child. Considering the "I'M A VICTIM - COMPENSATE ME" attitude most in this country has, you tend to see the second reaction a lot more than the first.

    (BTW, I'm not saying you had the second response, I'm just making some general comments.)

    If certain people in the Linux/Unix community think that comment warrents boycotting the program, and possibly attacking it though additional hacks and cheats then I would say they have some very thin skin. Face it, we are, for the most part, a country of cry-babies (or at least they are the most vocal portion of our country).
  • by blyant ( 24690 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @07:25AM (#1858938) Homepage
    I don't care that they've managed to push out the same packets over and over again. At least they get to stresstest the system real hard (they must have one hell of a load if they only expected 150k users and got 500k users).

    I'm still gonna keep on working on it. I don't care about the group results or the team results. Maybe It's just me, but I'm still stuck with the image of one day (not very likely to happen) checking the result output and find a spike kind of like the spike Jodie Foster found in contact. That's the reason why I personally stick to it. The hope and dream of discovering that we are not alone.

    -Spaced out Blyant.
  • So far it appears that the total communication from SETI@home to their half million volunteers, since the official launch on May 17th, has been 17 lines of text on their main web page. That's what has turned off some people, including me.

    Given the big snafu with repeated data (is it still busted?) and their subsequent brushoff of the volunteer base, not to mention the tone in the Wired article which seems to blame the users for their own administration problems and faulty statistics, I don't think I'll be re-joining the SETI@home project until their lines of communication are much more open.

    One thing I think about now is whether the data distribution, once the pipe starts flowing properly, will be truly random, or whether potentially interesting bits of the sky will be cherry-picked for their own analysis, while the masses of volunteers get the parts of the sky deemed less interesting. That's not to say that I wouldn't still participate if that were the case, but I'd like to know that up front. So far the masses have been treated like second-class citizens, otherwise this issue wouldn't have occurred to me.

  • Exactly. When word first got out about SETI, the d.net folks asked if they wanted to use the existing client/server as a base or handle adminstration. SETI said no. Serves them right...

    Jason "glad I didn't waste my time" Untulis
  • Idle machines use less energy. When idle, the
    processor executes the halt instruction which
    saves power. This does not hold for Windows 95.
  • I can't believe the reactions that have been shown by slashdotters! Do you think Anderson hasn't been checking logs to find out that some of the UNIX/Linux clients are returning packets back with IMPOSSIBLE times!? Are you guys stupid or something to think that it's a baseless comment? It's easy to trace this kind of thing and I'm sure they have. The fact that he refers specifically to the UNIX/Linux versions as being the culprits is that it's really only possible to do this kind of thing with those versions of the client. Add to this the hacker mentality that ANYONE running a version of UNIX automatically has and you will understand that the "hacker mentality" mentioned is using "hacker" in the good sense of the word, and is only pointing out that people using versions of UNIX are more likely to screw with things. If that bothers you, and if you don't admit that that is true, then you have a problem, not them. I believe it is entirely true that "MOST OF THE HEADACHES" have come from the UNIX/Linux community. That is a perfectly true statement, because only the UNIX versions can be messed with like this. Therefor, "most" of the problems DO come from this community. In any case, this is an offhand comment taken out of context, most likely prompted by the reporter, and anyone offened by it is damn insecure in my book.

    The fact that Wired got some idiot to email them with a stupid figure of the amount of fuel wasted makes me want to cancel my Wired subscription, not my SETI participation! My computers have been on anyway! It's not like I would constantly shut my machines down if it weren't for SETI! More stupidity and FUD and I'd be ashamed if I were one of the people who have fallen for it.

    I'm just sitting here waiting for all the ABSOLUTELY PERFECT distributed computing clients that all the complainers will be writing and releasing, because obviously SETI doesn't know what it's doing but the people who have complained and vowed never to run SETI again do. I mean, come on people! Get off the high horse and get a clue! Nothing is perfect, especially in the first few months of release, and if you think otherwise then , once again, that's your problem, not theirs.

    I will be running SETI on as many machines as I can as long as I keep getting a packet at least once a month. It doesn't cost me anything, it looks really neat, and I still feel like I'm doing something useful and wonderful. I'm also not going to give up at the first sign of trouble as many seem to have. Hell, I wouldn't even have an OS on any of my machines if I gave up every time something didn't work perfectly (and this goes for Microsoft, Mac and any UNIX variety you can name. None of them have worked as advertised). To give up so easily on something so noble and possibly Earth shattering simply because the administration got dumped into something over their heads is pathetic. Cut em some slack! Because of all your complaint mail they probably haven't had time to tell you that the pipeline was screwed (which they did point out once they got the time). Like I said, where are all those perfect distributed clients guys? Haven't you had time yet to test them with 1,000,000 simulated users? You haven't? Wow, maybe that's the same problem SETI@Home is having? Gee, imagine that, nobody IS perfect after all...

    To expect perfection is to invite your own failure.
  • The problem is that the distributed.net people don't seem to care about hyping a worthwhile project. Look at all of their banner ads which are talking about RC5-64. RC5-64 is at this point a worthless project. All it will prove once they finally do get the key (if they do) is that 64 bit crypto is crackable but pretty hard without specialized hardware. How much computing power it takes to crack RC5-64 using brute-force is known. The only thing which was unknown was how much power a bunch of people on the internet could cobble together. That is now known. Therefore distributed projects such as this should concentrate on using their massive computing throughput to do something useful such as SETI, Gulomb rulers, or Mersene Primes. (or anything else which will produce useful results) I can see why the SETI people didn't want to use distributed.net -- they didn't want to play second fiddle in hype to RC5-64. It's unfortunate that they're wasting cycles like this, but I can completely understand why they didn't want to use distributed.net.
  • I admit members of Team Slashdot of cheating in half-veiled words was uncool. I didn't read it to say that all of /. was cheating, but hey. We're a big bunch, the creation of teams and the publication of results has turned the thing into a big competition, so it's natural that some of us would go out and exploit loopholes.

    I don't think the guys at SETI said they were pissed off at it, though. They just said it was a big headache. I think the whole point is that they're feeling overwhelmed with what has become a big fat Slashdot Effect.

    SETI has been surviving all these years through abysmal funding, squatting radiotelescope time, and the only reason they haven't fallen through is because everyone recognises their research as being fundamental, although the chance of positive results are practically nill.

    So I say: give them a break, guys. It's normal they take a little while to organise, and at least they're being honest about it.

    What would you have done with idle CPU time, anyway? Run Life simulations to generation Googol?

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • by Robert Hayden ( 58313 ) on Wednesday June 09, 1999 @07:23AM (#1858982) Homepage
    I realize that the geeks of the Internet have been doing distributed processing for years now, but until SETI@Home, it has never been put in terms that the lay person could understand and want to particpate in. I'm glad to see this whole thing happening to move distributed processing into the masses.

    As for the specific problems with SETI administration, yea there are some real problems with the adminning of the project, but you know, it's a research project run at (and maybe by) a research institution. Let them work the kinks out and move on. Instead of dwelling on how much fossil fues are wasted (which aren't really wasted since the computers would be otherwise idle), how about we all learn from this?

    And maybe you nay-sayers could donate your time and expertise to the project.

    -- Robert Hayden aka rhayden@geek.net

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..." -- Hunter S. Thompson