After a brief stint at distributed computing early in the pandemic, I came back first to Folding@Home, then BOINC, with the following goals:

  • Use some spare computing power to help with worthwhile research.
  • Not drastically increase my power usage.
  • Mainly run projects when my computer would be on anyway, not start running a full desktop power supply full blast 24/7.
  • Avoid damaging my primary system, and especially not have to replace a fried CPU or GPU in a hurry during the ongoing chip shortage! (I’ve had heating problems with graphics-intensive games on this box.)

Folding@Home only seemed worth doing with the GPU, and the tasks took long enough that it only seemed worth doing if I was going to keep the computer on, which tripped up on my targets for power usage, uptime, and overheating risk. And their ARM version had dropped 64-bit support, so I couldn’t put it on the Raspberry Pi either. Well, not without installing a new OS and setting everything up again.

I tossed BOINC on an old Android phone (via F-Droid) to start with, using Science United as a manager to automatically choose projects based on areas of research instead of having to dig into each project one at a time. After a week or so, that seemed to be working out pretty well, so I looked into expanding.

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  1. Put Folding@Home on my desktop.
  2. It’s using too much power.
  3. Can I put it on my Raspberry Pi 3B?
  4. The software is 64-bit. The OS on there right now is 32-bit.
  5. Specs show the 3B has a 64-bit processor.
  6. /proc/cpuinfo shows it has a 32-bit processor.
  7. Specs show it should have BCM2837
  8. /proc/cpuinfo shows it has BCM2835
  9. Magnifying glass shows BCM2837 stamped on the chip.

A close-up view of a circuit board with Raspberry Pi 3 written on it and a Broadcom chip partially hidden by plastic spacers.


It turns out all Raspberry Pi CPUs appear as 2835 in the kernel?!?!?

I decided to put BOINC on an old phone instead. I don’t feel like installing a new OS on the Pi. *sigh*

Too bad it’s the bad guys.

As reported on DailyDave and picked up at SANS, Email Battles and elsewhere, there are phishers out there using a botnet (a network of infected “zombie” computers) not just to send emails, but to host the websites and the DNS for their scam.

Imagine what this technology could do for legitimate sites. It could potentially surpass Akamai’s system of worldwide mirrors. You could set up something like BitTorrent that would automatically mirror sites you’re looking at. Getting Slashdotted would actually improve a site’s response!

Yesterday morning, I remarked to Katie that it seemed odd that with the vast number of “zombie” computers infected with remote control programs via viruses, trojans, spyware, etc., their primary use so far has been sending spam. After 7-odd years of distributed computing projects ranging from demonstrating weaknesses in encryption schemes to searching for extra-terrestrial radio signals via SETI@Home, and reports that access to zombie nets is selling on the black market, you’d think someone out there would be trying to crack into the DoD or something. (That last link refers to phishing attacks, but the current form of phishing is very tightly coupled with spam.)

Last night I saw proof that zombies are at least branching out a little: they’re not just being used for email spam, but they’re also being used for comment spam. Starting around 8:30, someone started posting pairs of comments every 20-30 minutes. The content and links were identical each time, except for some random numbers in the (probably bogus) email and at the end of the body… but the IP address was different each time.

I caught it around 10:00, added “poker” to the list of moderation triggers, figured they’d give up when they saw their comments weren’t posting, and after another 3 pair (that’s not a legal hand, is it?) I just closed comments on the two posts.

Update 6pm: After a long afternoon dealing with server recovery issues, I checked my email and found about 40 “Please approve…” notices, starting around 1:45 and running all afternoon. All from the same blog spammer. A bit more aggressive than yesterday’s, because they hit a new post every time, but this batch all went straight into moderation. You’d think after you posted 20 comments and none of them showed up, you’d get the clue that it’s not worth posting 20 more…

Update 9am: I installed a plugin last night to block those comments from even reaching the moderation queue. Then laaate last night I noticed that it was screwing up comments with apostrophes, so I disabled it. The moderation notices started coming in immediately. 60 of them from around midnight to about 6am this morning. And none were ever displayed on the site. (Thank you, WordPress!)