SETI@Home In Your Mac

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive


Not letting the PowerPage staff get all of the glory searching for Alf, we’ve assembled a few reader notes about the Mac SETI@Home software. For those not in the know, the SETI@Home project is an effort to use idle processor cycles on computers around the world to analyze data taken from space telescopes that are searching for alien intelligence. Just download and install the client software, which is essentially a screensaver that looks like something out of the USS Enterprise, and the software will crunch away at blocks of data when your computer is idle.

Several readers who wrote in noted that the Macintosh client software is slower than the Windows client software, although we are currently leading against the Pentium/Windows group in the “Average CPU time per work unit” category:

If you check out the time per work unit on the general statistics page you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that not only have the Macs returned a far greater percentage of the work units sent to them, they do it in about 4 hours less per work unit. This is without PMT or protected memory or any of the other buzzwords that get flung about.. Now, granted Linux on intel and the Alpha systems are much faster, but we already knew they were fast. It was just that from all the press in the world I heard my iMac sucked and yet it consisitently returns a work unit every 18 hours as opposed to the average of 24 hours for x86 Wintel.

Jeffrey Ellis, a proud beta-tester, mailed in his comments about the current bugs in the Macintosh client release:

However, the bad news is that the Mac version is still a little buggy. The primary bugs appear to be a memory leak…Every few completed units, the program reports that it’s memory partition is full and force quits. Of course, being that the SETI@home Client is a control panel, there’s no way to increase that amount. Another “bug” is that the SETI programmers have set the priority VERY low for CPU usage. For example, even going to the Finder virtually stops the program completely. I have found a GREAT workaround for this. Bob Clark’s neat little utility Peek-A-Boo, available at:

With this, I adjusted SETI@home’s CPU usage priority to “High”. Now it runs great in the background, and I’ve cut nearly 4 hours from my average per data unit time. Of course, this does somewhat slow down other processes, so adjust according to taste.

Another bug is that when the program is in the foreground, selections from the Apple Menu have no effect. You have to switch to the Finder or make any other program the frontmost to be able to make a selection from the Apple Menu.

Bugs aside, get cracking!

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