Okay, maybe that's a little grandiose.
As promised earlier, this is an advertisement for one of my favorite sites and products.
BOINC stands for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. It is a distributed computing platform that allows a given user to connect to as many different projects as he may like.
I am sure you have all heard of SETI or Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. UC Berkley is strongly associated with SETI due to on going SETI research at their Space Sciences Laboratory. Several years back UC Berkley launched a distributed computing project known as SETI@home.
After several versions of SETI@home, they decided to create a server framework that was divorced from the project that it was serving, and a end user client that did no science of it's own, but managed the science applications that were on the computer and handled the network communications. The end goal was to enable anybody who desired to create a distributed computing project and allow the end user to connect to which ever projects that they desired and to as many projects as they desired.
There are many projects out there to "crunch" as it is called, SETI@home is just one of them.
Also there are sites that collect the information from many or all the projects and display them in many fun ways. My favorite is BOINCStats, which is also runs an account manager called BAM. An account manager makes it easier for a user to manage multiple projects and multiple machines by centralizing most of the management at the account manager. Again there are many account managers out there.
This is enough to get you started. Links to all the important parts are above and in the right column (as soon as I get them there).
I will tell you more about SETI@home and many other projects in future posts.
If you do decide to install BOINC on your machines (make sure you have permission to do so before you do), please feel free to join my team Stephenson Clan, available on most projects.