Running on my computer at home is the free BOINC software for donating my computer’s idle time to the advancement of science. BOINC stands for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing and allows my computer to participate in one of numerous distributed computing projects. My favorite one is SETI@Home, which is the famed search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the one project that started this whole thing.
The BOINC software works by downloading a work unit for your selected project, does some data crunching and then returns the result to the project’s server. Along the way you get credit for your contribution and see how you rank among other participants worldwide.
So that’s the desktop version of BOINC. Soon I got curious about a version for my Android smartphone. It turns out there is one available at the Google Play Store, but I had concerns about running it on my phone. It does do some heavy computing that no doubt drains the battery rapidly.
It turns out that the Android version of BOINC is ingeniously designed. It won’t do any computing until your phone is hooked up to its charger and the battery is charged at least 90%. I have not seen any difference in my phone’s charging time even with it running in the background. However, there is an option to have BOINC use your phone’s battery anyway, which will cause it to drain quickly. You can even adjust the minimum battery level for it to stop computing when your battery goes below that level. By default, the option to use your phone’s battery is disabled, but you can enable it if you feel the need to do some computing on the go.
If you’re looking for a cool app that actually helps with scientific research, this is it.