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.