How to install an optimised app for Boinc

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Gavin Shaw
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How to install an optimised app for Boinc

Post by Gavin Shaw » Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:15 pm

How to install an optimised app for Boinc

I thought I would start this thread and give some information for users of Boinc on how to install and optimised application when there is one available.

It is a relatively straight forward process which I will detail out over the next few posts.

Of course the exact steps may vary a little bit depending on computer, Operating System, Boinc version and install configuration. The following directions are based around Windows XP as the operating system (since that is what I use) and Boinc 5.10.45.

So without further waiting. Here it is in a nutshell...
Last edited by Gavin Shaw on Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:11 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by Gavin Shaw » Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:23 pm

Step 1.

Determine your CPU type and features.

This is most easily done using CPU-Z, a program that will identify your CPU and instruction sets.

CPU-Z is available at http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php

Download the latest version (it is usually a zip file).

Once downloaded extract out the contents and run by double clicking on the cpuz exe. Give it a moment and it will report back what it found.

The most useful stuff for opt. apps is on the first tab.

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Here is my notebook. The stuff in the circle is the most important part. It identifies the CPU and instruction sets. In this case my CPU support MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3 & SSSE3 as well as EM64T.

Most opt. apps use SSEx based instructions to speed up processing. Boinc and Windows do not always report the full instruction sets available.

So now you know what your CPU can do. We go to the next step...
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Post by Gavin Shaw » Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:30 pm

Step 2.

Locate and download.

Now you have to locate and download the optimised app. Not all Boinc porjects have opt. apps. Usually the links to any opt apps that exist can be found in the message forums for that project. How to get there varies.

Eventually you should find somewhere to download them from. You need to pick the one the matches what your CPU can handle. In the case of my notebook I could download any opt app that uses SSE, SSE2, SSE3 or SSSE3. However, I can not successfully run an opt app that uses SSE4.1. So make sure the one you download is supported by your processor.

Also note: SSE4.1, SSE4.2 and SSE4a are all different. SSE4a is for AMD chips while SSE4.1 & SSE4.2 are for Intel chips. An AMD system supporting SSE4a can not run an SSE4.1 or SSE4.2 opt app. The same goes for Intel chips, they can not run SSE4a.

So pick the one for you and download it to your computer and save it somewhere for the moment. Usually they are zip files as there are usually two file needed.

Once we have downloaded the opt app we go to the next step. The 'upgrade'...
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Post by Gavin Shaw » Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:53 pm

Step 3.

Install the app.

This is probably where most users go wrong.

Try to follow these steps and it should all work out fine.

Firstly a warning. Boinc uses application version numbers to determine what application can process (aka crunch) what workunit. If the you are going to install an opt. app that has a lower version number than what Boinc is currently using (ie. the opt. app is 'older') then I would recommend setting that project to 'No New Tasks/Work' and waiting for the units on your machine to process and report back before installing. This is because Boinc will see an older application number/version and will indicate that it can not handle the workunits it currently has. They will all then be canceled.

A project can be set to stop getting work through the Projects tab in the Boinc GUI. Highlight the project and click on the No New Work/Tasks button.

If the opt. app version number is higher than what Boinc is currently using then you should be able to install the opt. app without waiting for the current workunits to finish. However, this is not a certainty. Do so at you own risk. I don't take responsibility. If you are not sure, set it to No New Tasks/Work and wait for it to finish.

Okay the install.

To install successfully you need to stop Boinc completely. Suspend computation if necessary (usually found in the activity pull down menu in the Boinc GUI. Select 'Suspend'). Then you need to close the manager by right clicking on the Boinc icon in you system tray and selecting 'Exit'.

If you have installed Boinc as a service you will need to stop it as a service. Boinc must be completely shut down not just suspended from work.

Firstly, some people will have trouble due to Windows hiding folders and files. So it may be necessary first to get Windows to show them. To get windows to show hidden folders/files for a particular drive, firstly open Windows Explorer and click on the drive. Then in the Tools pull down menu select Folder Options. A new box will pop up. Click on the View tab and part way down in the list there should be an entry labeled 'Hidden files and folders' with two sub options. Click on 'Show hidden files and folders' and click Apply and then Okay to close the box.

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Above shows the option to have Windows show the hidden files and folders.

Now open up the Boinc folder and navigate to the directory of the project you are installing the opt app for. For most installations under Windows XP, your Boinc folder is probably located in the 'Programs Files' Folder. However if you installed it elsewhere then you need to go to where you installed it.
I have also been told that version 6.x.x of Boinc stores the relevant folders in a different location (which is usually hidden - see above on how to show hidden folders/files). From 6.x.x onwards the opti app files go here in the following hidden folder:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\BOINC\projects\project

So instead of going to 'Program Files' you would navigate to Documents and Settings, then All Users, then Application Data and then Boinc. From there follow the directions below as normal. The install procedure is the same, just Boinc is in a different location. I personally do not have experience with Boinc 6.x.x, so this may not be 100% accurate or correct. Thanks to Chris S for this information.

As I have previously noted, this help guide is based on Windows XP and Boinc 5.10.45. However, for users of other versions of windows the following is a list of the default locations of the Boinc installation when using version 6.x.x. If you installed using the default then you need to navigate to here.

Windows 98/SE/ME: C:\Windows\All Users\BOINC\ or C:\Windows\Profiles\All Users\BOINC
Windows 2000/XP: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\application data\BOINC (using Boinc 6.x.x) or C:\Program Files\BOINC (which is what I detail out in this step)
Windows Vista: C:\Programdata\BOINC

Thanks to Debs for this information.
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This is my Boinc folder. You want to select the Projects subfolder.


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And here is my projects folder. Each project you are connected to will have a folder here. This is where it stores its workunits and program(s) to process them along with any data files needed.

Select the folder for the project you wish to install the opt. app. Each folder is named for the project. In this case, say I wanted to install an opt app for MilkyWay@home I would go to the 'milkyway.cs.rpi.edu_milkyway' subfolder.

Once you are in the folder for the project we now need to install the opt app files. To successfully work there are at least two files needed. An xml file called 'app_info.xml' and an executable.

Go to the file(s) you downloaded earlier and extract out the app_info.xml file and the executable that goes with it. There may be other files in your download and there may be a readme file that gives some information. If there is a file that indicates that you need to install more than just the app_info.xml and executable then install the files as detailed. The opt. app developers know best as to what is needed.

Unless the opt. app developers say otherwise all the files needed (usually only app_info.xml and something.exe) are to be placed in the project folder.

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This shows the app_info.xml and executable (in this case named astronomy_0.19_SSSE3.exe) in the folder for the MilkyWay@home project.

If everything is good you know have the opt. app installed.

Now we go to the next step. Checking...
Last edited by Gavin Shaw on Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:26 am, edited 7 times in total.
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Post by Gavin Shaw » Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:10 am

Step 4.

Checking that the opt. app is installed (and hopefully working).

Now we have the opt. app in the project folder we need to make sure we did it all right. Go back to the Boinc folder (usually up two levels) and double click on the BoincManager icon/file.

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This will start Boinc back up. Once it has opened the GUI and loaded everything we will see if Boinc has identified the opt. app.

Go to the 'Messages' tab in the GUI and look at the messages displayed. Look for a message that says something similar to 'Found app_info.xml; using anonymous platform'. If you see this for the project that you wanted to install the opt app for, then it means Boinc has found the opt. app and is ready to use it (if it is not already).

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This is my Bonic Manager for my notebook. As you can see in the highlighted messages, Boinc has identified an app_info file for Set@home and MilkyWay@home. This means I have installed opt. apps for both of these projects.

Now you can restart the project and allow it to get new work if needed. Provided the opt. app is installed correctly and you choose one that your CPU can handle, Boinc will download more work and start using the opt. app. The workunits should now be completed in a shorter amount of time.

If you have installed Boinc as a service you need to restart the service etc. I don't install as a service so I don't know all of the steps there.

A final check if you are still worried. In Windows open up the task manager (usually through Ctrl+Alt+Del) and select the Processes tab. If necessary, go to the View pull down menu, select 'Select Columns' and make sure CPU Usage is ticked.

Then back in the Processes tab click on the CPU table header to organise the process by the amount of CPU they are using. Provided Boinc has a workunit and you have not set it to use very little CPU time, then whatever project Boinc is currently running should be near the top (if not at the top) using most of the CPU. Check the value in the Image Name column. If it matches the name of the executable file you installed into the project folder in Boinc then you are running the opt. app.

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As you can see, I have two instances of astronomy_0.19_SSSE3.exe running. This is the opt. app for MilkyWay@home that I have installed. For a single core machine you would have one instance running at near 100%. For a dual core machine (like my notebook) you would most likely have two Boinc apps each running at around 50% (they are using close to 100% of each core, but in Windows each app is only using around 50% of the CPU time/power available). On a quad core you could have up to 4 instances running and each would use around 25% (100 / 4 cores = 25% of CPU time available per core). An 8 core systems would have each instance running at around 12.5%.

Now we go to the final step...
Last edited by Gavin Shaw on Wed Feb 18, 2009 2:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Gavin Shaw » Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:14 am

Step 5.

This is the hardest of all the steps. Just as well it is the last one too.

The directions are simple.

Enjoy the faster crunching and in most cases the high RAC and higher credit earnings over time. You may get the same amount of credits or even a little less per workunit as before, but you will be completing more workunits in a given time so the credits you earn over a period will be higher.

And that's it. Pretty straightforward... :smt002
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Post by Dark Angel » Wed Feb 18, 2009 9:03 am

Thanks for putting this together for people Gavin this is really good information and to preserve the thread so it stays in this form I'm locking it to prevent it from being added to except by a mod or admin.
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