Putting Your Computer Cycles to Work for Good

Nearly 2 years ago I posted a list of some of my favorite podcasts. Reviewing that post I see some have disappeared and some I don’t listen to as regularly as I should. And there a some that I listen to regularly now that are not on the list. I will update my favorites some day soon, but want to mention one I listen to daily (working days): Marketplace Tech Report. It’s a 5 minute or so tech news show with a twist. John Moe and team highlight often under reported but really interesting stories often with a touch of humor.

Last week on Market Place Tech I heard a story about Harvard wanting to borrow your computer to help develop a better solar cell. Remember SETI? I used to run a program on my computers that allowed the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence to use your idle computer cycles to analyze data gathered from space. This project is similar in concept: You download an application that connects to the project’s system, the application downloads raw data, runs through some algorithms and sends the analyzed data back to the mother ship. It’s a neat idea. And while the Tech Report highlighted the Harvard Solar Cell program, it’s really one of several you can participate in through the World Community Grid.World Community Grid

So I’ve signed up and am now allowing my computer to help on projects from alternative energy to curing cancer. Why not? It’s a bit of work to create an account and set it up, but it’s better than having your computer be a slave in a botnet sending out spam, now isn’t it?

Greening the Planet Dreams

I attended the Plan It Green Conference last weekend and I found it both stimulating and frustrating. I was stimulated by the size of the crowd and the number of vendors. There’s clearly a great deal of interest in and “energy” around green technologies at least locally. Many of the vendors had interesting information to share. Though I didn’t see anything really mind blowing.

Plan It Green ConferenceWhat frustrates me is the return on investment that using many of the green solutions still offers. Or rather, the lack of return on investment. For example, one solar water heater provider had a formula that after base cost and rebates, the total installation of the solar water heater system was close to $7,000. Based on their estimates you could recoup that cost in 6-9 years. This is still on the upper reaches of most home owners. First, the initial cash outlay is high. Getting the rebates most likely a process of filing documents and waiting several weeks, if not months. Finally, unless you are sure you are going to stay in you home for 6-9 years, you will never recover the total of that initial investment. Unless maybe you could increase the sales price for having the system. Finally, in 6-9 years the whole industry will probably have changed and your 2011 solar system will probably look 19th century.

Somehow the price/value relationship is going to have to change for there to be widespread consumer adoption of many of these technologies. Either the current energy sources are going to have to continue to skyrocket in cost or some kind of subsidies are going to need to help solve the cost issue for most homeowner.

At least that was the impression I was left with. I would be happy to learn that I am wrong. Let me know. Please!