The computing needs of the LHC, especially when it comes to comparing various theories with experimental results, are enormous. Basically, the physicists' appetite for computing power expands to fill all available resources, because there are always more theories to test than there are computers to test them with.
Since budgets are constrained, especially in these economically difficult times, access to volunteer resources is seen by CERN as a great opportunity to expand computing capacity. We'll never replace the Grid's core function of managing the data mountains, but we could augment its computing power considerably. While the LHC World-Wide Computing grid is used at full capacity to handle the analysis of LHC data, there is need for additional capacity for simulations of LHC physics, ranging from theory to simulations of detectors as well as design improvements for future accelerators.
It's also clear to everyone in our community that getting the public more directly involved in LHC physics has great outreach benefits as well. So we see this as a win-win situation. And who knows, perhaps one day we'll be able to announce an important discovery that will have been made in part thanks to the volunteers. That would be cool!
You need a computer connected to the Internet with at least 512MB of RAM and 9GB of free hard disk space. It can run Windows, MacOSX or Linux.
To run any of our LHC@home projects, you will need to install BOINC.
For all projects except Sixtrack, you will also need to install VirtualBox.
For more information, see our installation guide.
See the forum thread here: http://lhcathome2.cern.ch/vLHCathome/forum_thread.php?id=1681. In a nutshell:
You will need to have an open internet connection while running project tasks. You cannot run the tasks if not connected to the internet.
The task starts up a VM, then the VM runs a series of tasks that each run for about 60 to 90 minutes each. At the beginning of each task inside the VM, it downloads some data, crunches the numbers, and uploads the result, then the next VM task starts and downloads more data.
Is it possible to configure the maximum amount of data that can be downloaded/uploaded by the project per month?
The BOINC transfer at most network preference is not supported for the moment. If your ISP has a limitation in the bandwidth that you can use each month, bear in mind that the virtual machine will continue downloading/uploading data when needed.
You will only have to provide a user name and an e-mail, nothing else is required. The information that is sent about your machine is the hardware specifications: CPU type, RAM and disk space, OS version, etc.
We know it, and for this reason we are working together with the BOINC and VirtualBox communities to simplify the whole process to set up the software and join us. It will be interesting if you can tell us where you have difficulties, please use the forums, so we can try to fix them for the next releases.
We recommend to exit BOINC before powering off the computer, because the VBox Wrapper will capture that exit signal, and will try to save the virtual machine and avoid canceling the WU. This is not necessary when suspending or hibernating the computer.