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SETI@home Instructions Macintosh

SETI@home Help File for Macintosh
May 1999
© SETI@home, UC Berkeley, 1999

This document provides information on setting up and using SETI@home. For
additional information, go to our Web site,

How to use this document


Thank you for installing SETI@home. With your help and the help of hundreds of thousands of other computer users like you, we increase the odds of detecting signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. This Help file explains how to configure and use SETI@home. You need not read it unless you have some questions about how SETI@home works, how to alter its settings, or how to remove it from your computer.

SETI@home actually runs in two ways: The “application” and the “screensaver”. It can do its work in either of these modes: it downloads blocks of data through the Internet, performs the number crunching on that data (looking for orderly patterns that might originate in outer space), returns the results, and gets another block of data. The application is represented by a green radio telescope icon in the Menu Bar (normally at the upper right of your screen). You can open the application window by selecting Launch from this icon.

Click to Enlarge

The screensaver program runs when you haven’t used your keyboard or mouse for a while. It displays color pictures showing the data analysis process. Normally the application processes data only when the screensaver is running. Optionally, you can have the application process data at any time by launching the application.

Logging in to SETI@home
To use SETI@home you must create an “account” on the SETI@home server. Your account is identified by your email address. This lets us notify you in case you discover ET.

If you run SETI@home on several computers, they can all run under the same account.

When you install SETI@home, you are asked whether you want to create a new account or use an existing account. The account is verified or created on the server, and SETI@home will run under this account indefinitely. If you want to switch to a different account, bring up the application window, open the Settings menu, and select Change/Create login. You will be shown the name of the current account, and you can elect to switch to another existing account or create a new account.

To switch to an existing account, you just type in the email address. If you create a new account, you will be asked for

  1. Name or nickname (handle)
  2. Email address
  3. Country
  4. Postal code
  5. Whether your computer is at school, work, or home

We will not give this info out to anyone. We use it to get statistical information such as how many people in country X are participating in SETI@home, how many users are at school, etc. This information is on display at our Web site, .

If you check the option to display your email address, your email address might be shown on our web site if your screensaver finds something interesting, or if you earn some other mention, such as by crunching more data than any other user. The default for this setting is to NOT provide your email address. It’s up to you. You can also decide whether to have your name appear on the web site.

SETI@home lets you express your preferences for when it does data analysis, and when it makes network connections. You are asked for your choices when you install SETI@home, but you can change them later if you like. To do so, bring up the application window, open the Settings menu, and select Preferences.

There are three sets of preferences: Network Connection, Proxy Server and Screensaver Options.

Network Connection:
You can choose either
• Ask me before connecting to the Internet, or
• Connect automatically whenever needed

You can choose whether SETI@home should ask your permission before setting up an Internet connection to the SETI@home server. A connection to the SETI@home server is only necessary when it’s time to retrieve a new block of data. On a typical G3 computer, this will happen every one or two days. Therefore, connection is not going to occur very frequently, but still you may want to have the screensaver alert you before doing so.

“Connect automatically whenever needed” allows SETI@home to be more productive. The screensaver will connect to the Internet whenever it completes a work unit to send back results and get more data to analyze. This makes sense if you have a full-time Internet connection such as a Local Area network (LAN), ASDL or Cable Modem service, or if you have a dedicated dial-up phone line used only by the computer.

If you choose this, don’t be shocked when the modem suddenly begins to dial the phone, seemingly out of nowhere. SETI@home probably just needs more data to analyze.

If you have a dedicated line with a dial-up connection (modem or ISDN), you must also set the following 2 options in your System’s Internet software:
• Connect automatically when starting TCP/IP applications (allow applications to open connection).
• Disconnect if idle for xx minutes. This will allow SETI@home to dial the phone and will hang up the phone after SETI@home is done transferring data.

“Ask me before connecting to the Internet” is the better option if your computer shares a phone line with voice calls, a FAX machine, etc. This setting will prevent the computer from interrupting another call. This is also the correct choice if you do not wish to set your System’s Internet software to dial automatically.

The “Ask me” option does not allow the screensaver ever to connect to the internet directly. Instead, the flashing SETI@home icon will alert you to run the SETI@home application, where you can tell SETI@home to make its connection. If you have not set automatic dialing in your system software, remember that you must establish your Internet connection first before telling SETI@home to connect.

SETI@home will connect to the Internet using the connection that is currently selected in your PPP or FreePPP Control Panel. This should be the connection that you use to access the Internet.

Proxy Server:
For increased security, some organizations use an "HTTP proxy server" when connecting to the Internet. If you are not sure whether you need to use a proxy server from your computer, ask your network or system administrator.

If your system does require an HTTP proxy for Internet access, check the box labeled "Connect Via Proxy Server", and enter its name and port number in the fields provided. When you enter the proxy server's name, do not type the characters "http://" in the edit text field.

The port number is usually 80. If your proxy server has a different port number, enter it in the port number field. This field accepts only numeric digits 0 - 9.

Screensaver Options:
These let you choose when the screensaver runs. If you turn off the “Enable Screen Saver” checkbox, then SETI@home will process data only when you run the application from the Menu Bar icon.

In addition to having the screensaver run after the system has been idle for a while, you can also set a sleep corner. If you move the mouse to put the cursor in this corner, the screensaver will activate. Note that if you have more than one monitor on your Mac, the sleep corner is always on the main monitor.

You can also activate the screensaver with a hot key. You can change the hot key if the default (Command-Shift-S) conflicts with another program on your computer.

If you wish, you may have the screensaver set your monitor completely black after a period of time.

The Blinking Icon
Sometimes you will notice that the SETI@home icon is blinking. This means that your attention is needed. Click on the icon and select “Launch” for instructions. There are several possibilities:

• SETI@home needs to connect to the Internet, and is waiting for your permission to do so. If you do not have your computer set to dial automatically, you will have to dial manually (by running your Internet Dial-up connection for your ISP) before telling SETI@home to go ahead.

• There is a new version of SETI@home that you can download from our web site (

• SETI@home has encountered an error that you can fix. For example, you might be out of disk space.

• SETI@home has encountered an internal error. In some cases you may be able to fix things by quitting the SETI@home application and starting it again. If the same error occurs repeatedly, please report it to use via our web site (; go to “Software Download and Help”).

Removing SETI@Home
Tired of looking for ET? Want to go back to flying toasters? Is SETI@home causing problems, and want to turn it off? Here are the three options you have:

• If you want to temporarily disable the SETI@home screensaver, select Preferences from the SETI@home icon menu in the Menu Bar. Select Never for the Start After setting.

• To select another screensaver, go to Control Panels under the Apple menu and run the Extensions Manager. Check your desired screensaver program. Then restart your computer. After you do this, SETI@home will process data only when you run it as an application by selecting Launch from its Icon menu in the Menu Bar.

• To totally disable SETI@home without removing it from your hard disk, go to Control Panels under the Apple menu and run the Extensions Manager. Then uncheck SETI@home and restart your computer.

• To remove SETI@home from your computer and hard disk, drag it from the Control Panels folder (inside the System Folder) and drag it into the trash. If you wish, you may also drag the “SETI@home Preferences” file and the “SETI@home Data folder” to the trash from the Preferences Folder (also inside the System Folder), as well as the “SETI@home Documentation” folder in the root directory of your boot drive.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: How do I bring up the SETI@home application window?
A: Click on the SETI@home icon in the Menu Bar and select Launch.

Q: Why are the Preferences, Help and Login menu items sometimes disabled?
A: These are disabled while SETI@home is transferring data over the Internet, as they could interfere with the transfer.

Q: Can I run SETI@home without installing it as a system extension?
A: Yes. Move the SETI@home icon out of the “System Folder : Control Panels” folder, to another location (such as the desktop), and restart your Macintosh. You can run SETI@home as a stand-alone application whenever you wish. But if you have another screensaver installed, SETI@home will run very slowly when the other screensaver is active, and the other screensaver’s animation may be sluggish or jerky.

Q: Sometimes my computer seems to ignore mouse clicks or keystrokes while SETI@home is running.
A: Response to user input may be a bit sluggish on Macintosh models with slower processors (prior to G3), or with less than 32MB of physical RAM. You may sometimes need to hold the mouse button over the Menu Bar for a few seconds before getting a response.

Q: Sometimes I cannot get SETI@home to run from its icon in the Menu Bar or using the hot key or sleep corner.
A: SETI@home will not launch if another application has a modal dialog frontmost. The Standard File (Open and Save) dialogs are examples of modal dialogs. You must dismiss the modal dialog for SETI@home to launch.

Q: SETI@home seems to get very slow or even stop at times.
A: Different portions of the same work unit can vary greatly in speed. If progress seems to freeze, be patient and let it run overnight. It may have gotten past the slow spot by then.

Q: What can I do to make SETI@home run faster?
A: Here are some suggestions:

Each time SETI@home launches, it optimizes itself for the current monitor color “depth” (256 colors, Thousands, Millions). If you change the color depth while SETI@home is running, it may slow things to a crawl.

It should run reasonably at any screen depth, but it will run somewhat faster at lower screen depths (256 colors) than higher ones. Screen resolution (800X600, 1024X732, etc.) should have negligible effect on speed.

SETI@home runs fastest if the screen is blanked, so for maximum speed set the preferences to blank the screen after a short time.

Many Macintosh models are equipped with the Energy Saver Control Panel. This can put the computer's processor, hard drive, and monitor in a low-power “sleep” mode if the mouse and keyboard have been idle for a period of time. Although SETI@home can continue to run when the computer is in “sleep” mode, it will run much slower. You may want to change the settings in the Energy Saver Control Panel to let SETI@home have more time. Some people prefer to have the computer never sleep so it can analyze more signals, while others prefer to save electricity. The choice is up to you.

Q: Are there any special considerations if I have 2 monitors or an extra video card on my Mac?
A: SETI@home may run much slower if the 2 monitors are set to different screen depths (number of colors). It is also slower if the window is split across the 2 monitors (in application mode). Some video boards are much more sensitive to these things than other video boards.

Q: Only part of the SETI@home window appears on my screen.
A: In response to many requests from our users, SETI@home will now run on systems with screen resolutions smaller than 800X600 pixels. But if the window is larger than the screen resolution, parts of the SETI@home display window may extend off the edge of the screen. If this happens, we recommend switching your monitor to a higher resolution using the Monitors Control Panel. Or, you can launch SETI@home as an application from its icon in the Menu Bar, then move the window around to see all the data.

Q: I see references to versions 1.04 and 1.4. What is the difference?
A: The SETI@home version numbering system consists of two whole numbers (integers) separated by a period. The part after the period is not a fraction. The first number is the major version number, the second is the minor version number.

Originally, we called the versions 1.0, 1.1, ..., 1.9, 1.10, etc. But this caused confusion; for example, which version is newer, 1.2 or 1.11? We felt it would help to include a leading zero for minor versions less than 10, to emphasize that version 1.02 is older than version 1.11.

Taken from the Mac "Read Me" Document.

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