Sun, SGI CPUs lead NZ's search for extra-terrestrial intelligence

Sun Microsystems is leading the field of New Zealand teams and individuals processing data for the Seti @Home project - but the fastest individual computers appear to be the Silicon Graphics machines operated by Peter Jackson's Weta FX.

Sun Microsystems is leading the field of New Zealand teams and individuals processing data for the Seti @Home project - but the fastest individual computers appear to be the Silicon Graphics machines operated by Peter Jackson's Weta FX.

Seti @Home is a Berkley university project that distributes processing of radio telescope data across hundreds of thousands of computers via the Internet, in the hope of finding signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Late yesterday the New Zealand Sun team had processed 5732 "work units"in a total of 5.74 years of CPU time at an average of eight hours, 47 minutes.

But the Silicon Graphics Octane R12k owned by Jackson's Weta, which knocks off a unit in a world-class two hours 51 minutes, is the fastest individual computer listed in the New Zealand data processing league table. The local top 100 also features eight other SGI computers and a group of PCs owned by Weta.

In terms of national contributions, the US is, unsurprisingly, way out in front, with more than half a million participants having churned their way through nearly 10 million work units.

Next is the United Kingdom, with 88,550 participants racking up just short of a million units. New Zealand has produced over 7000 participants, more than twice as many as the "knowledge economy", of Ireland.

But, at number 20 in the country rankings, New Zealand is eight places below Switzerland with roughly the same number of participants. Switzerland's participating computers are achieving an average of 18 hours 15 minutes per work unit, compared to New Zealand's less-than-scorching 31 hours, 14 minutes.

Japan and the Scandinavian countries also appear to have fast computers. But Seti At Home's impressive ratings for the US Virgin Islands, Tonga and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (where the average is quoted at less than five hours) are deceptive.

Only 13 of the 36 participants in Macedonia, for example, have actually returned any data, but their total 4156 hours of CPU time is still divided by 36.

The US average is just under 30 hours and Canada's is 33 hours.

Intel CPUs dominate the world processing pool but at an average 32 hours 21 minutes are considerably slower than the PowerPC (22 hours 28 min) and various flavours of SPARC, MIPS and Alpha chips.

The story is similar in platforms, where Pentium/Windows has notched up 11,031,241 at an average 35 hours 16 min and Macintosh 1,472,958 units at 22 hours 41 min. Linux and other open-source operating systems appear to have drawn considerably more performance out of Intel CPUs than Windows.

The Seti @Home Website, which offers client software and full statistics on the project, is at:

http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/

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