Distributed computing consists of splitting a problem across many different computers, using the combined computational power to solve the problem over a shorter period of time. Computing projects often need a supercomputer to solve large problems in a timely fashion. If the people running the project do not have hundreds of millions of dollars, they usually cannot afford to buy a supercomputer.
So instead, they write a project client for many different computer platforms, and release it for free. People run the client, often as a screen saver, and allow it to crunch away at the problem in the background. For the computational project, this is much cheaper. They only have to write and distribute a software application, and let other people buy the hardware.
For the person who downloads and runs the client module, there are several reasons for doing so:
- The person sympathizes with the project in question. Worthwhile projects are often underfunded by corporations or governments, and running a screen saver is much more practical than sending a few thousand dollars to the project - and then trying to explain it to your tax advisor.
- The project has organized teams, this gives you a good reason to compete against co-workers, other companies, other schools, etc. No one gets hurt, economically or otherwise, and it can be very satisfying to bury the other guy. Especially when you have a Mac and the other guys have PCs.
- Everyone else is doing it. Time to join in and show those clueless idiots how it's done.
Our team is, of course, the most worthwhile team to join. Joining us helps you to accumulate good karma, and helps us roll over teams of losers who deserve their fate.
What you can do
Sign up. Sign up other people. You can even offer incentives, including monetary. While many might consider this bribery, offering money to encourage a legal activity is not a crime. Car dealers often offer kickbacks, er... cash back, to buy a brand new lemon.
It would be unethical to slip clients onto other people's computers without permission. Especially if these unauthorized installations were all set to Team MacNN member accounts. Naturally, we would not dream of, um, suggesting any such thing.
Above all, have fun and do not get too serious. The world will surely be a better place if Team MacNN prevails, and very few people will suffer if a less deserving team comes out on top.