Put those idle computers to use

Let remote researchers and businesses use your idle computers via the Internet while you eat lunch or sleep.

Want extra cash? Let remote researchers and businesses use your idle computers via the Internet while you eat lunch or sleep.

That scenario -- called metacomputing -- could become a reality once pricing and security issues are resolved, says Baruch Awerbuch, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Under a federal grant, Awerbuch is studying the economics of buying and selling otherwise-dormant computer power over the Internet. People who need extra computing horsepower or special equipment for a one-time project could post a notice on the Internet. For instance, an accountant could offer 50 cents per minute, or US$5 per minute if he were in a hurry, for remote use of a Macintosh with graphics software.

But Awerbuch says safeguards are needed so renters can't pry into the owner's files.

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