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BOINC on Raspberry Pi

Lend your Raspberry Pi's processing power to a good cause using BOINC, helping to cure disease along the way

Some people manage to use their Raspberry Pis all the time. Whether they’re powering a robot, an automated house, a media centre or even a normal desktop PC, there are some excellent ways to keep your Pi occupied.

There are always a few neglected Pis though. If you don’t fancy starting your own Bitcoin farm with our other tutorial this issue, you can always donate the processing power to a more worthy cause using BOINC, a computing volunteering service. These causes include protein folding for medical sciences, crunching Large Hadron Collider data and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence – all of which can benefit from the Raspberry Pi.

Donate processing power to a good cause
Donate processing power to a good cause

What you’ll need

Raspbian SD card
A BOINC project

Step 01 Configure your Pi

Before we install BOINC, we need to configure the way Raspbian and your Raspberry Pi works. Open the terminal and use sudo raspi-config to enter the configuration options then go to Advanced Options and find the Memory Split option. Change the number to 16 and hit OK followed by Finish to reboot.

Step 02 Install BOINC software

We can now install BOINC from Raspbian’s repositories along with some other necessary packages to run it. Once you’re back into Raspbian, open up the
terminal again to install them all with:

$ sudo apt-get install boinc- manager boinc-client

Step 03 First launch

If Raspbian is not already on the desktop environment, use startx to launch LXDE. Go to the Programs menu then System Tools to find BOINC Manager. Click on that to open it and begin the process of creating a new account and adding projects.

Step 04 Add a project

Here we can add a new project to BOINC. If you haven’t made a decision on what project to use yet you will be able to look over all of the possibilities now. Make sure Add Project is selected and click Next. There are many categories you can choose from to narrow down your search; choose a project and click Next again.

Step 05 Identify yourself

After clicking Next you’ll need to create a BOINC account. You need a new account for each project; this allows you to have multiple systems donating to the same projects under your name. Create the account or login and click Finish once done – some projects will then ask you to name a machine on a separate webpage.

Step 06 Configure BOINC

Click View on the top bar and select Advanced View to access more settings for BOINC. Go to Tools then Computing Preferences and select the ‘Disk and memory usage’ tab; from here you want to change Memory Usage to ‘100% while idle’ to make the most of the Raspberry Pi.

Step 07 Add more projects

Click View and Simple View to return to the original window. In the bottom section there’s an Add Project button that allows you to not only add BOINC-approved projects, but also other projects with a BOINC link that are not necessarily included in the directory.

Step 08 Launch from command line

If you plan to keep your Raspberry Pi crunching data out of the way of your normal system, you might prefer to SSH in to the Pi. BOINC does have its own command line tool that can be accessed via:

$ boinccmd

Step 09 Crunch the numbers

BOINC will launch automatically when the Raspberry Pi is turned on, so find it a little space to stay appropriately powered and cool and let it do its work. You can add more projects in the future with the command line or by plugging it back into a monitor.