What does your computer think about when you aren't using it?
A lot of people use screensavers. These date back from when CRT monitors were standard; they would keep the display changing so that an image was not burned into the phosphor. When laptops and flatscreen monitors became more popular, screensavers were still popular, often for aesthetic reasons. Some of them could be elaborate, requiring significant system resources. Could this computer power be put to some useful purpose?
One of the first projects to harvest this computer power was SETI@Home, a program which could be downloaded and run as a screensaver, but which processed and analyzed radiotelescope signals. Out of SETI@Home grew the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, a system for harnessing spare computer power for scientific research.
We finally got a working desktop computer, so we can burn LiveCDs and make bootable USB sticks and so on. But when we aren't doing that, it's running BOINC. Right now it's signed up for two projects: ClimatePrediction, which studies climate change, and MalariaControl, which runs epidemiological simulations.
If you'd like to keep track of our progress, you can check out our stats here