Geekette at work
Distributed.net runs a project to use your computer's spare CPU cycles to help calculate large problems. Distributed.net farms out small, manageable portions of complex problems to volunteers running their client software. The RC5-64/DES client runs quietly in the background of your computer and does its calculations during what would normally be CPU slack times. When you connect to the internet, the RC5-64/DES client reports its findings to distributed.net and gets another portion of the problem to chew on.
The long term project is the break the RC5-64 encryption scheme. This is expected to take a few years via the brute force method being employed--which points out why the project is always in need of new volunteers. The Distributed.net team, when you get down to it, IS the ultimate supercomputer. And each computer serves as a brain cell!
As almost an aside, we interrupted the RC5-64 contest to work on the DES-II contest. This is an example of the strongest type of encryption that the government would like us to have. The Electronic Freedom Foundation cracked the code in 2.5 days!
There is also a modest cash reward for the person and team that finds the winning key. :) I really encourage you to participate in this project!!! You will never even notice the program running! The more computers we have working on the project, the quicker we'll break it!
In support of this project, I have my work and home computers calculating away, plus I've recruited some of my office mates, as well. :) In addition, I have the cooperation of the Computer Lab Manager at my institution, so there's a lab of Pentium II 266 and 300 MHz machines that would normally be sitting idle helping the cause under my name--though to be sure, if we found the correct key, the reward money would be shared! (Thanks, everyone!)
When I first started this project, my ranking was somewhere around 38,000. (Just to give you a point of reference.) Here's my current standing:
Oh, BTW, I'm also listed on their webcam page! :)
You'll find I'm passionate about the whole encryption topic because it pertains pertinently to the "right to privacy" issue. I know this comes as ironic from one who voluntarily surrenders a large portion of her privacy each day, but I have no apologies. There is a significant difference between voluntarily inviting guests into my house as opposed to having people sneak in through the backdoor using a key my landlord gave them without my knowledge, which is exactly what the government proposes with their "Yes, you can have military grade encryption, BUT we want a backdoor so we can get into your private files if we want to."
I don't have a whole heckuva lot to hide, ya know? My bad poetry, my dark thoughts in the middle of the night, that kind of thing, admittedly subversive, but hardly terroristic. If I feel the need to express these things in an electronic form, such as a file on my computer, I have the right to keep these things to myself or to the chosen few I wish to share them with. Members of our government would have you believe that no individual has the right to communicate in perfect privacy with another individual lest the government of the United States fall. I posit to you that if we don't respect the privacy of the individual, then the United States has already fallen.