The University of California Berkeley’s SETI@Home project is no longer allowing new users to participate in its ongoing search for extraterrestrial life, meaning it’s no longer able to provide a passive income stream for those who’re willing to leave their computer on 24/7.
The SETI@Home project launched way back in 1999, inviting users to download a special software program that enabled them to donate their excess computing power to the initiative, which is looking for signs of alien life elsewhere in the cosmic void. But much to people’s disappointment, scientists announced in 2021 that they’re winding down the project and no longer require contributions from the general public.
While the announcement was a major disappointment for participants, the good news is that there are still many other distributed computing projects that allow users to make money by renting out their idle storage space or processing power.
What is Distributed Computing?
It might sound incredibly technical, but the concept of distributed computing is actually a very simple one. It refers to a process where the combined resources of multiple, distributed computers are aggregated together, providing powerful compute or storage resources for heavy-duty projects. In some ways it can be likened to Airbnb, but instead of renting out your spare room or vacation home, you simply rent out your unused computing resources.
To participate, you’ll need to download and install the required application or plugin for whatever project it is you want to contribute to. Then it’ll run in the background, allowing your computer’s excess resources to be used by the organization concerned.
Where Can I Participate?
There are dozens of interesting projects looking to borrow people’s excess computing capacity in support of various use cases:
Mining cryptocurrency is one of the most obvious ideas for utilizing your spare capacity that comes to mind, but it’s important to choose a suitable network. While it was possible to mine Bitcoin from a PC back in the early days, its cryptographic algorithms have become so complex and its mining ecosystem so competitive that such limited hardware simply won’t do any more.
Enter Spacemesh, an alternative cryptocurrency network that’s designed to serve the average joe who wants to mine a little crypto on his or her computer at home. Unlike Bitcoin’s proof-of-work consensus algorithm, Spacemesh uses a novel proof-of-space time consensus mechanism that is much less energy-intensive. It also employs a unique “race-free approach” that disincentivizes the use of massive amounts of hardware, ensuring everyone can participate and earn a passive income on their personal Mac or PC.
All that’s required to start mining with Spacemesh is an Intel or AMD CPU with at least 1GB of RAM, and an always-on, unmetered internet connection with a minimum of 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.
Unlike Bitcoin, where the CPU is the main factor for miners, Spacemesh relies on disk storage resources, which do not use energy when they’re idle, resulting in much lower costs. The protocol is centered on fairness, and ensures all miners are rewarded for their contributions at every EPOCH, which currently concludes every two weeks, with their exact reward based on how much storage space they commit in proportion to the network size. In addition, the protocol prevents whales from joining the system with massive storage resources – in such a case, they would face much higher overhead costs, eliminating any profit gains. In this way, Spacemesh ensures its network remains highly decentralized.
As an alternative, PC and laptop owners can opt to join the HyperCycle network, which is a Layer-0 blockchain that’s building an artificial general intelligence network. The idea with this is to promote cooperation between AI agents by establishing a network of nodes that collaborate with one another to solve complex problems.
This cooperative AI sees distributed computers aggregate their compute resources to create a “global brain”, kind of like a distributed supercomputer. AI systems can tap into this network and use its combined power to perform computing tasks that would normally be performed by sophisticated server networks.
Users are required to purchase an individual software node license to participate in HyperCycle’s network and deposit a minimum of 1,024 HYPC tokens. That might sound expensive, but HyperCycle insists it’s a small price to pay to democratize access to advanced AI computation and pave the way for a future “Internet of AIs”.
A great option for Web3 enthusiasts, Fleek Network is calling on users to participate in the industry’s first decentralized content delivery network.
CDNs play a key role in the internet, ensuring that websites, images and videos can load instantaneously no matter where users are located. Essentially, CDNs are geographically-distributed server networks that enable content to be cached closer to users. When someone connects to an app or website, the content will be delivered from the closest server to their location, significantly reducing latency.
Fleek Network aims to provide an alternative to centralized CDNs operated by companies like Cloudflare, which go against the ethos of Web3. Of course, it cannot build out a global server network from scratch, so instead it relies on people who’re willing to provide computing resources in exchange for rewards. It invites anyone to contribute bandwidth to its network by running a cache node, so they can accelerate content delivery to end users.
Fleek Network’s approach could actually be more advantageous, as its reliance on contributors means its network can potentially extend to the smallest rural villages. Whereas most centralized CDNs are restricted to building their infrastructure in cities, Fleek will be able to operate nodes across the globe. The result is that someone living in Siberia can be served by a node from the same town, rather than connecting to a large data center several hundred kilometers away.
If you have plenty of hard drive space and you’re willing to put it to work, Storj offers a viable opportunity with its decentralized cloud storage network, which it presents as an alternative to services like Dropbox, Box and Amazon Web Services.
It claims to have some big advantages, including greater privacy with guarantees that content stored within the Storj network will never be monitored or censored. All content stored on people’s hard drives is fully encrypted, and only the owner has the keys required to access it. The other key selling point is that content is automatically distributed across multiple devices, eliminating the risk of downtime that would prevent users from accessing their files.
To rent out your extra disk drive space to Storj, all that’s required is to download its application, install it, and then select how much storage capacity you want to contribute. Once activated, that portion of your hard drive becomes a part of the Storj network so you can no longer use it yourself. Instead, you’ll be compensated for renting it out.
One of the requirements, obviously, is that you must be willing to leave your computer up and running and ensure it’s always online, in return for payments made to your bank account each month.
Hyperlink refers to itself as the “World Supercomputer”, but is really a global network of computers that anyone can join to earn passive income. Users donate their computer’s resources to host third-party websites, mobile applications and content. Its services are offered as a low-cost alternative to businesses that don’t want to invest in their own infrastructure or traditional cloud computing services.
One of the advantages of Hyperlink is that it claims to offer significant earnings potential for users, saying it’s possible to earn up to $8,600 per year by connecting a desktop or laptop to its network and leaving it running 24/7. Users can even contribute an entire server if they happen to have one lying around.
Another bonus is that Hyperlink offers flexible payment options, allowing users to receive their earnings through PayPal, bank transfers, credit card payment and more. In future, Hyperlink will expand its network to include tablets and smartphones too.
What Are The Downsides?
There actually does not seem to be a lot of downsides to earning a passive income, but those considering it should be aware that by running these programs and keeping their computer switched on 24/7, it may degrade its performance and lifetime.
However, the reality is that most people don’t normally use the full capacity of their machine, so they can afford to contribute without really noticing any performance impact. And of course, it’s always possible to use an external storage device if you do need more disk space.
Then again, if you do need to perform intensive computing tasks yourself, it might be worth investing in a more powerful machine, or even a second computer that you can leave running and forget about.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.