Yesterday I signed up for Intel's "Progress Through Processors" application on Facebook. Essentially, through a small local application that interfaces with GridRepublic and BOINC, as well as your Facebook account, the application enables your Mac or PC to donate spare processing power to a variety of research causes.
According to Intel's press release,
Often in the fight against cancer, researchers are not limited by their ingenuity, but the resources available to make research effective. The processor power needed to handle complex calculations is often in short supply. To help address this need, Intel Corporation today announced Progress Thru Processors, a new volunteer computing application built on the Facebook platform that allows people to donate their PCs’ unused processor power to research projects such as Rosetta@home, which uses the additional computing power to help find cures for cancer and other diseases such as HIV and Alzheimer's.
In addition to Rosetta@home, Progress Thru Processors participants can choose to contribute excess processor computing power to the research efforts of Climateprediction.net and Africa@home. Climateprediction.net is dedicated to increased understanding of global climate change by predicting the Earth’s climate and testing the accuracy of climate models. Africa@home is currently focused on finding optimal strategies to combat malaria by studying simulation models of disease transmission and the potential impact of new anti-malarial drugs and vaccines.
Setup of the software, account, and all the regular hooks of most Facebook apps takes less than 5 minutes and you can post your contributions to your profile. The software also suspends itself automatically when you shut down your computer, so you don't need to draw energy unnecessarily by leaving the computer on.
One caveat: on the Mac, at least, it isn't initially clear that you need to download a client application in addition to connecting to the online application in Facebook. A bit of exploration will get you there, though. Once installed, you may want to open the preferences and crank down the available processing power from your computer; although the application doesn't slow down multitasking (it's very good about backing off when you're working), you may notice your computer fan humming along quite a bit if you allow it to use 70 or 80% of your CPU cycles.