In its purest form, the concept behind "distributed computing" is simple: People lend their unused computing power to a collective cause, which can be anything from cracking World War II encryption to .
The key is making sure that it's done right and with consent, as well as easy to join. A non-profit organization called Grid Republic is trying to provide a safe and accessible way to do just that in its effort to create a massive supercomputer that can work on public research projects.
The platform for participation is a custom screensaver, which Grid Republic says won't affect a computer's performance any more than an ordinary one. Perhaps most important, people who wish to donate their processing power might find more psychological comfort with a screensaver that shows how their computers are being used, rather than downloading other types of software that "run in the background"--a practice that sounds increasingly pejorative in an age of spyware and malware.