The FreeBSD 'zine
February 2000 : SETI At Home

Is the truth out there?
by Brett White <[email protected]>

Steven Speilberg created that most famous alien with the glowing finger who has imortalised the words " home", but now things have changed. Berkeley University suspects that ET was returning a call from a rather angry father wanting to know where his band new inter-stellar space craft is and why he was out past his curfew. So now the search has begun for calls being placed by other disgruntled alien parents using the SETI@home project.

SETI@home is a distributed computing effort run by Berkeley University to help in the Search for Extra Terestrial Intelligence At Home / School / Work or any supported system you can sneak it on to without your boss catching you. >:) Data is recorded from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico (around 35Gb per day) and sent via snail-mail to Berkeley where it is split up into 0.25Mb chunks refered to a "work-units".

The SETI@home client program downloads these work-units from the SETI@home server and proceeds to perform intensive calculations on the data to search for radio signals that could have originated from another planet. Once these calculations are complete the work-unit results are sent back where they are checked for possible 'favorable' results. If a favorable result is found then the SETI@home server will re-analyse the work-unit to check for the validity of the result. But that's enough of the semi-gory details for now (if you want more of the gory details including exactly how it works please check out the Links section at the end of this document.

As of 02/02/2000, SETI@home has 1,673,821 users registered and who have processed 67,982,028 work-units for a total CPU time of 174115.40 years. This averages out to about 22.5 hours per work unit. But don't let that lengthy time per unit discourage you. Most of the work-units have been completed on Windows 95 which has an average of 29.25 hours as compared to FreeBSD's average of around 16 hours. The reason for this is that the Windows version attempts to keep it's users happy by displaying a lot of graphical status information during processing whereas, up until version 2.0 of the client, all Unix clients were purely text based (as of 2.0 there is the option of running SETI@home with an X interface to display similar graphs).

All seem too much to handle alone?

Don't worry, the SETI project allows you to create or sign up to current groups to whom your work-units and time will be contributed (while still keeping a personal record as well). VicFUG User Group currently has a team that has 6 members and we have completed a total of 1383 work-units. But check out the list of thousands of work, school and club groups that are registered to get a better feel for the kind of people who contribute to the effort.

So how do you join? Well you can download the latest SETI@home client from for your platform and install it. When you first run it you will be asked to provide some details (name, email address) to create an account and then you will be provided with your first work unit. Once you have your accont created you can then go to the SETI site and sign up to any of the groups by following the "Groups" link.

Well, that's about it, but as a final word, if you want to join a group you might like to consider VicFUG's, although there are a number of FreeBSD groups out there..

Current Platform rankings

Platform Work Units CPU Time
1) Windows 95 18065211 60325.34 yr 29 hr 15 min 08.5 sec
5) solaris2.6 3325140 6200.53 yr 16 hr 20 min 06.5 sec
6) linux-gnu 2831496 4589.38 yr 14 hr 11 min 54.6 sec
18) freebsd3.2 217926 413.09 yr 16 hr 36 min 18.4 sec
22) freebsd3.1 142596 263.05 yr 16 hr 09 min 35.2 sec
24) freebsd2.2.8 99304 187.73 yr 16 hr 33 min 36.9 sec
35) freebsd4.0 15607 28.42 yr 15 hr 57 min 10.3 sec
36) freebsd2.2.7 15410 30.61 yr 17 hr 24 min 01.1 sec
38) freebsd2.2.6 11588 25.66 yr 19 hr 24 min 02.1 sec
46) freebsd3.3 3377 5.47 yr 14 hr 10 min 37.8 sec


SETI at Home

VicFUG User Group Team

VicFUG User Group

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