SETI@home – April to October 2019

The intention was to switch all of my computers off from the end of March until the end of October (all but the one I actually use), and stop participating in SETI@home in order to save electricity since my home didn’t need the heating they provide. However, I found myself switching them back on prematurely to take part in the yearly SETI WOW event that takes place during the last two weeks of August.

Two weeks of crunching to honour the discovery of the Wow! Signal on August 15th, 1977, which was received from the direction of constellation Sagittarius.

From then I got hooked on what progress I was making and what others around me were doing, whether they were gaining on me, and putting me at risk of losing a place in the UK standings or if I might, with a little more effort hold on to or win back a place etc etc. It’s all rather silly, especially since my home didn’t need heating at that time.

During this period I swapped some parts around and installed replacement graphics cards; I’ve enjoyed getting things in order and have been installing Ubuntu 18 on all; although I have some AMD CPU-based machines that aren’t running as well as their Intel counterparts.

In all, it was a fun couple of weeks during the event but the weather got warm again and I had to switch some things off (this is why I leave things off until the winter months). I’ve continued to iron things out since then and still have some computers waiting in the wings for when the weather turns cooler; it was down to 11’c in my bedroom this week, so a computer in there during the day would be welcome.

By way as an update to my progress, I did make it into 9th place for a short while but I’m now back to holding on to 10th place, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to hold onto this until March or beyond without throwing more money at the electricity company. Part of me wants to switch everything off and go huddle by the fire with cat and book.


  1. In thinking about your technique, I wonder about the % of energy. My guess is that nearly all of the watts spent against FLOPS are converted to heat right? It might be 100%, allowing that even fan and bearing friction eventually turns to heat.

    So, if ANY computing need be done (yeah SETI is a silly endeavor in light of today’s understanding of Fermi’s Paradox), but worthy computing, protein folding, AI and neural network development, medical imaging analysis, etc. should take place in a location where the exhaust heat is beneficial and not waste.

    What if instead of heaters, you plug in modular computing units? As you crank up the thermostat, you engage more and more CPU/GPUs. Said units are tied into a world-wide process dispatch hub where your HeatProcessingUnits connect to fetch work.

    I wonder if the selling of computer cycles would monetarily equal the BTUs gained?

    • It’s not just about where the waste heat is most needed but also where the free energy is, and in the case of data centers which generate a fair amount of heat, are best located in regions with cooler climates to reduce the need for air conditioning, which can be the bulk of energy consumption (and thus cost) for some.

      Your idea about using modular computing units is essentially what I have; a computer in each room that I switch on when the weather turns cold; they automatically fetch more work as and when needed. In the unlikely situation where things might overheat, CPUs and GPUs can throttle back.

      • And your use case personifies my point. What if datacenters distributed their cpu-units into establishments where the heat could be used, not simply sluffed off into the Arctic cold?

        I think your setup must be the most ingenious use of waste-heat.

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