SETI@home participant statistics include as a base all individuals who joined the project. Since many were running very low capacity computers, some grew bored with the apparent lack of progress and "bailed out" of the project before completing even one unit of analysis.
It turned out that an appreciable percentage of members fell into the "no completed units" category! The result is that the ranking of members according to completed work results showed peculiar results: members who completed their first work units found themselves ranked above 30% or more of all of the members!
The forum discussion is a response to a stongly worded request that those who had completed no work units be removed from the statistics. "Great Aunt Millie" is an emotion laden counterexample for the request. I have omitted some items from the transcript because they are not relevant to the story.
Subject: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 1 of 32
While SETI might claim 4 million plus users, the fact is that only about 60% at most have ever done anything. I was amazed when I completed my first WU to be told that I was ahead of 40% of all users (or whatever the number was at the time).
Posted by Gareth Randall on Aug 31, 2003 at 07:21
Why not delete all users who've never done a single WU, apart from those less than 2 weeks old say?
Any thoughts? :-)
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 5 of 32
My great aunt Millie heard about the SETI@home project on the radio ... one of
those late night talk shows, I think.
Posted by Stan Pope on Aug 31, 2003 at 10:01
Now, great aunt Millie, for all her years, is Thoroughly Modern. She has
EMAIL! And she uses it to talk from time to time with her relations,
especially those who are still in school. When they tell her about something
that they saw on the INTERNET she knows how to go read what they tell her
about. The magnifying glass that she holds up to the screen does look a bit
silly, I guess, but she gets by. She spends an hour or two every week with her
computer handling her EMAIL... sometimes even more, if the responses require
much typing, since her artritic fingers don't hunt and peck as well as they
So, when she heard about the project, she thought, "Well there are a lot of
hours in every week, and I only use my computer for a couple of them, why not
use the rest for this great project?" Magnifying glass in one hand and mouse
in the other, great aunt Millie set about the task of running SETI@home.
The download was fine, and the program started right up ... impressive! She
fed it her email address and it went away for a while. After a few minutes,
the big bright window said that it had a WORK UNIT to run and began flashing
nice pictures in the window. Aha! This is easy!
Great aunt Millie's 25 MHz computer kept flashing the nice pictures for the
rest of the day. Her Siamese cats were a bit nervous about all this, but she
knew that Siamese cats are generally nervous anyway and shooed them out of the
At bed time, great aunt Millie went around the house turning off and unplugging
the various appliances. A lot of old people worry about electricity and fires,
and great aunt Millie was no different. But, she made a concession... she did
not unplug the refrigerator or the kitchen clock. The computer, tho, well,
that did have to be "put to bed", just like the toaster.
The next day, and for several days afterward, great aunt Millie plugged in and
started her computer, and, just like they promised, the SETI window made more
pretty pictures. And the Siamese cats paced nervously about the doorway.
After about two weeks, great aunt Millie began to grow suspicious... SETI@home
program didn't appear to be doing anything other than making the pretty
pictures. There was some writing ... some small print numbers that seemed to
be getting bigger, but the print was too small and the numbers didn't mean
anything to her anyway.
After that, great aunt Millie quit starting the computer except to do her
Wednesday and Saturday email sessions. The SETI@home program did run at those
times, but, of course, has not accomplished much since then.
I visited great aunt Millie a few weeks ago. She showed me her garden, her
scrapbook, her Siamese cats, and her computer. She even started the computer
and showed me the stack of emails that she had sent and received. The
SETI@home window popped up, too. I could read the numbers whose meaning
escaped her, and they showed that she had finished about 87% of that first work
unit. I was impressed. (Really I wasn't, but I couldn't let great aunt Millie
If the project lasts long enough, great aunt Millie will finish that work unit
during the spring of 2004. But, I had an idea. It would be painful, but i'd
do it! I'd send here lots of interesting emails. If I can keep it up, she
will finish that work unit before Christmas!
And you would delete the efforts of my great aunt Millie? For shame!
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 6 of 32
me again from another side....
I just recently discovered this message board and I'm just beginning.....
I surely have all the sympathies for your auntie Millie and all the folks out
there like her.........
Posted by buttrash on Aug 31, 2003 at 23:49
check out , for instance , user # 83 in the records for Mongolia , if you go by
This guy surely should NOT be in any statistics of SETI , no matter what SETI
is running for at Guiness....
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 7 of 32
Not because he hasn't finished his first WU. He is clearly lacking in decorum
and couth. He'd best keep his distance from great aunt Millie. She'd be
planting more rose bushes.
Posted by Stan Pope on Sep 1, 2003 at 07:15
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 9 of 32
Posted by iceMan on Aug 31, 2003 at 10:51
I'm nominating you for an ATTABOY for that!
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 10 of 32
Stan, I think you won the argument. Case closed :-)
Posted by pwm on Aug 31, 2003 at 10:59
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 11 of 32
Stan, that has got to be the great SETI story that I have read. I understand
what you mean. I passed my Pentium 3 1 GHz to my mom to use and she uses it
maining for emails and surfing. It take about 6-8 hours to return a WU but in
her hands, it returns only 1 or 2 WUs a week!
Posted by Legacy on Aug 31, 2003 at 11:37
Subject: Do Computers Use THAT Much Power? Message 13 of 32
Posted by erica lopez fitzgerald on Aug 31, 2003 at 12:10
I agree, that story made my day.
Maybe you could challenge your Mom (and Stan his Aunt Millie) to leave the
computers on 24/7 for one month. If the electric bill goes up significantly,
or enough to distress them, then go back to powering down.
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 14 of 32
I love you Stan, but I have a solution for all of the Aunt Millie's our there.
Posted by bridalsilkcreations.com on Aug 31, 2003 at 11:37
Why don't they just register all the Aunt Millie's in to the Data Base, but
don't count them into the total stats until the first WU is uploaded?
The Seti Freak in me wants to know how long it would take a 25mhz machine
running the CLI and doing nothing else to finish 1 WU. A week, or More????...
Hmm, Maybe I could get a couple going. Every WU Counts ya know. =)
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 15 of 32
About 11-13 days at full force :-)
Posted by Joppe on Sep 1, 2003 at 13:13
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 16 of 32
Posted by Stan Pope on Aug 31, 2003 at 14:10
Putting aside great aunt Millie's objections for the moment, I have some purely
First, I have to rewrite my projections page software and, then, reestablish a
base of history data. And for this effort, we get just another set of
Second, I couldn't compare some of the statistics about today's population and
its accomplishments to the population and accomplishments of the past. Rank is
unaffected, but percents are noncomparable.
Now, if you wish, you may convert your percent to a different percent based on
exclusion of the members with zero returns ... that is pretty easy. But, the
number has no comparative significance.
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 17 of 32
Nearest I can guess (using the calculator in SETI Spy) is around 1000 hours ...
is that 40+ days on that machine? More like 80 days for a VLAR since great
aunt Millie is still on Win 95.
Posted by Stan Pope on Aug 31, 2003 at 12:41
I'll pass your comments on to great aunt Millie ... I'm not sure that she will
be impressed with your proposal. I can almost hear her utter an expletive,
such as "Oh, shaw!" (I think that is as close as she has ever come to turning
the air blue.)
Oh, and if she sends you a bottle of elderberry wine, don't drink it ... pour
it out! And don't correspond with her further, or she'll know you didn't drink
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 18 of 32
I'd like to know what version of windows and how the client runs on a 25hz
machine and why none of her relatives care enough to give her a real computer?
Posted by hiamps on Aug 31, 2003 at 12:35
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 19 of 32
> ... why none of her relatives care enough to give her a real computer?
Posted by Stan Pope on Aug 31, 2003 at 12:46
We tried. But she couldn't find stuff on the new OS screen so she gave them to
her grandchildren to use at university. When she started forwarding them to
grandchildren unopened, we quit sending more!
Subject: Re: How about a "Garbage collect" of all zero WU users? Message 20 of 32
Everytime I'll see a zero I'll picture a quiet Sunday morning, cup of tea on
coaster, the sun rays laid across the floor and of course, an Aunt Millie, going
about her daily routine.
Posted by meckano on Aug 31, 2003 at 14:30
Thank you for the story. (ya can't dvd that!)
Subject: to Millie Message 21 of 32
There is a dear cruncher named Millie,
Posted by tceti3 on Aug 31, 2003 at 16:22
Whose methods, some say, are quite silly;
Her concern about fires
before she retires,
has rendered her stats willy-nilly.
But if she is sent enough mail
the first of her count shall prevail;
though I hope that Stan Pope
will be able to cope,
and the cats do not force her to bail.
To those who cry out "let's delete!"
I say "not everyone's here to compete",
For crunching Seti
is like eatin' spaghetti:
It's the taste---not how much you can eat!
Why don't we ALL email her, Stan?
Subject: Re: to Millie Message 22 of 32
That is so precious, Joe! I'm sure that she would approve. In fact, I'll snip
it out and email it to her.
Posted by Stan Pope on Aug 31, 2003 at 16:45
In as much as I have revealed some (ahem) potentially compromising details, it
is better that I do not share her email address. They are too easy for the
(ahem) "wrong people" to trace. I will, however, be glad to forward such
emails as I receive. Please include "to Millie" in the front of the subject
line, since I wouldn't want them to fall prey to the Big Delete Key.
Subject: Re: from Millie to all of us... Message 23 of 32
Posted by Chip Long on Aug 31, 2003 at 20:26
What would be really cool...
would be a 'PostCard' from you and aunt Millie...
Subject: Re: from Millie to all of us... Message 24 of 32
Posted by Stan Pope on Aug 31, 2003 at 21:10
I'll have to ask her. I don't hold out much hope, though. I recall her 39th
birthday party. I was just a kid then, not yet a teen, even. When the camera
came out, she excused herself to the "powder room", and didn't come out again
until the roll was exhausted. She said that she wanted to be remembered as she
was. At 39, she said, she was "far past her prime."
She is still a striking person, certainly beautiful in my eyes, but the years
have taken their toll. I am sure that she has lost none of her strength of
I'll be visiting there again in a few weeks. Perhaps if not a picture, I can,
at least, get an update on her "Percent". If so, I'll report it here.
Subject: Re: from Millie to all of us... Message 25 of 32
Posted by bridalsilkcreations.com on Aug 31, 2003 at 21:17
Would it ruin the effort if I offered to do a WU for her?
This message strand made my whole day. ROLFLMAO
Subject: Re: from Millie to all of us... Message 26 of 32
Well, Korey, great aunt Millie has a strong sense of decorum ... the thought of
a grown man rolling about on the floor would probably leave her aghast. I
won't tell her about that. I think that she hasn't found out about these
message boards (I hope not, at least) or I fear that I shall be severely
chastized for discussing family matters in public.
Posted by Stan Pope on Aug 31, 2003 at 21:49
She is also strongly independent. I offered to set up the CLI version, etc.,
when I was there. But she said that if she couldn't do it herself, it didn't
need to get done. I will pass on your kind offer, but I suspect that it will
be refused most graciously.
Subject: Re: to Millie Message 27 of 32
Nicely done, Joe!
Posted by Clay Ruth on Aug 31, 2003 at 16:42
Subject: Re: to Millie Message 28 of 32
Stan this story is great !, I laughed I cried.. naaa not really, but it have to
be the best seti story I have read !
Posted by Bikerman on Sep 1, 2003 at 05:19
I wan't to get my aunt Millie to do seti UW´s, but I don't have one, so I just
turned on a nother machine...
If great aunt Millie wount have us do a UW in her name, why not set up a
account dedicated to great aunt Millie :)
hmm, as I write this one of my fan's in my server died - doing about 10 rpm,
making alot of noise...... how anoying is that ? - think I'll hit it with a
hammer and see what happens
Subject: on using hammer Message 29 of 32
Posted by tceti3 on Sep 1, 2003 at 07:09
I have found over the years that striking some faulty apparatus with a hammer
(when nobody's looking) or "oops"-pretending to drop it (when someone IS
looking), often presents a cure.
I have also found that there is a direct proportion between the amount of
frustration released and the amount of force applied.
Subject: Re: on using hammer Message 30 of 32
It did help :), now it "mostly" run at the right speed, but sometimes drop in
rpm making some noise... I guess I'll have to replace it some day soon...
Posted by Bikerman on Sep 1, 2003 at 14:07
But then again, there is 2 fan's, the server probably just need one :)
Subject: Re: to Millie Message 31 of 32
Great aunt Millie is strongly independent. I offered to set up the CLI
version, etc., when I was there. But she said that if she couldn't do it
herself, it didn't need to get done. I will pass on your kind offer, but I
suspect that it will be refused most graciously.
Posted by Stan Pope on Sep 1, 2003 at 06:56
Subject: Re: About Great Aunt Millie Message 32 of 32
Hope that you enjoyed my little reminiscence about Great Aunt Millie. I think
I need to discontinue further discussion, lest anyone get overly suspicious of
Posted by Stan Pope on Sep 1, 2003 at 18:40
You may have concluded, as have others in private communications, that Great
Aunt Millie is a total fabrication, a completely fictional character. To
preserve her tranquility in her remaining years, I will allow that belief to
It is enjoyable to share such stories, though, And at risk of exposing her,
this is one of my favorites.
I really don't fear for her, though. I am sure that should anyone
investigate, she would simply invite them in for a glass of wine and plant
another rose bush.
Subject: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 1 of 18
It is with a heavy heart that I report the passing of my great aunt Millie. The work unit that she had been "crunching" (if that is an appropriate term for the slow pace) had reached approximately 96% at the time the executor scrubbed the hard drive and sold the hardware for a pittance. For those who may be interested, I've attached portions of her obituary, excluding those details that would clearly identify her, partly because of some of the facts that I have improperly disclosed in past postings and emails.
Posted by Stan Pope on Jan 13, 2004 at 20:03
Although she has not, in the end, succeeded in completing and submitting the work unit that she started processing those many months ago, her staunch determination has been an inspiration to me. Along the way, she also taught me to "Sit up straight" and to "Treat my elders with respect." Though the loss is bitter, the memories are good.
"Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 93, of rural (city) died on January xx, 2004 at her home.
"She was born on May xx, 1910, in rural xxxxxx County to Joshua and Adelaide Mxxxxxxx.
"She was preceded in death by one sister, Ruby xxxxx.
"She was a teacher at xxxxxxxxxx from 1929 until her retirement in 1972. From 1935 until 1998 she tutored individual students in piano, voice, diction, comportment and manners. US Senator Paul xxxxxxxx and US Representatives Charles xxxxxxxxx and Robert xxxxxxxx as well as several corporate leaders studied under her private tutelage.
"She was a life member and Chairman Emeritus of the (state) Education Association and a life member of the National Education Association.
"She was a member of the Congregational Church where she served on the education committee.
"She was a long time member of the Garden Club of (county) where she was highly regarded for her exquisite roses."
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 2 of 18
Stan and family, my condolences on the passing of Great Aunt Millie. I have
come to know her through your posts and regret not having the opportunity to
have met her. She did a good job with you as to your respect and tactfulness
with us who tend to react rather than act, calming down posts before they get
out of hand. I have read posts that were becoming ugly, seen your reply, and
look at it in a more rational manner instead of firing off a condesending
retort. Perhaps Great Aunt Millie has taught us all through you and will
continue to do so. Thank you for introducing her to us, may the world be a
better place because of her.
Posted by leonidman on Jan 13, 2004 at 21:40
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 3 of 18
Posted by Rick Bivans on Jan 14, 2004 at 06:14
From my family to yours, we send our sincerest sympathy on the passing of Great
Aunt Millie. I echo the thoughts of leonidman (well said by the way). The
Seti community as a whole is better for having been introduced to her.
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 4 of 18
I'm very sorry to her of her passing.She sounded like a very good woman.
My sincerest condolences.
Posted by Tom Marshall on Jan 13, 2004 at 20:21
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 5 of 18
A wonderful full life completed. I only hope to have a fraction of her
accomplishments and acolades in my life.
Posted by Harry Cummins on Jan 13, 2004 at 20:12
RIP Aunt Millie.....
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 6 of 18
Stan my family and I send our reguards:
Posted by celttooth on Jan 13, 2004 at 21:07
Please try to remember her with pride, and a smile
on your face, People such as her don't come by often enough
Long Sufferin' Marie, Sherrok (The D.O.S. God) and old celttooth
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 7 of 18
Hello Stan, My condolences to 'You and your Family' on the Passing of "Great
Aunt Millie"..., (Millicent I. M.). May she find a more Restful/Peaceful place
than we have here on Earth. And let not 'Millicent I. M.'s name be forgotten in
your Family's "Book of Life"..., but rather, passed on down through the Ranks
of the younger Family members, for a place in their hearts, also.
Posted by daav on Jan 13, 2004 at 23:43
All Peace to You & you Family...
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 8 of 18
What can I say Stan, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. My thoughts are with
Posted by Gazzap on Jan 14, 2004 at 01:39
Even though few of us actually knew you, you touched a lot of us, be in peace.
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 9 of 18
Posted by Trash on Jan 14, 2004 at 04:49
I'd like to add my condolences on the passing dear Aunt Millie. I would also
like to thank you for sharing her with us. We should all have an Aunt Millie
for the positive influence in our lives. You are fortunate to have had her in
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 10 of 18
"Behind every man now live thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the
dead outnumber the living.Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion
human beings have walked the planet Earth.
Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are
approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So
for every man who has ever lived, in this Universe there shines a star."
Posted by tceti3 on Jan 14, 2004 at 08:14
Arthur C. Clarke, 1968
When Great Aunt Millie came into the world, Comet Halley was preparing to kiss
the atmosphere with its tail. This was the time of corpulent presidents,
women's suffrage and imminent world conflict.It was also the time when mankind
first lifted itself from the floor of its cradle.
Nearly a century later, after living , by any standards, a full, meaningful
life lived during mankind's most prolific century - one in which his best, and
worst, accomplishments were showcased - when he began taking his first,
cautious steps towards leaving the cradle, dear Aunt Millie has left us.
Before doing so, she had taken part in mankind's first attempt to contact his
Had contact been made, would she not have made the perfect ambassador? The
gracious hostess?...serving elderberry wine, with our Mozart on the piano
supporting the most polite conversation - while keeping a keen eye on
deportment! (Oh pshaw! Stan, sit up straight!)
Now she is off to her star.
Had I the renewed pleasure of one more communication, I'd likely say:
"Shine brightly, Great Aunt Millie - as brightly as you did in our midst.
Shine brightly so we may know where you are,
for the time will come when we seek out our star."
My condolences, Stan.
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 11 of 18
Posted by Chip Long on Jan 14, 2004 at 08:10
My deepest sympathy for your family on the passing of your Great Aunt Millie.
I'm sure her memory will be cherished.
And thanks for posting the original threads.
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 12 of 18
Posted by sowulo on Jan 14, 2004 at 09:07
Time moves on . . .
The crossing of lives—
But a brief interlude along the way.
Friends and relations raised from common ground,
Life touching life,
Stand as monuments—
From which to gather bearings
When journeys are hard
And ways seem lost.
The past, grants experience . . .
The present, gives opportunity . . .
The future, is for dreaming.
Love cuts through the boundaries of time—
With each passing,
Be thankful for the gift
Of touching hearts.
Love is never wasted—
It is the gift of new beginnings.
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 13 of 18
Wow! I'm a latecomer to this thread, and anything I could say at this point
would be anticlimactic to what has already been so eloquently stated. Let me
just say "Ditto" to all the condolences and compliments above.
Posted by Clay Ruth on Jan 14, 2004 at 11:02
Thank you, Stan, for posting the original material again. I will save this
thread for posterity, and were I a gambling man, I'd bet that this will become
the most saved thread in SETI@home message board history!
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 14 of 18
Stan, by now it looks like there isn't much more of substance to be said in
Posted by Brumm on Jan 14, 2004 at 17:17
However, I'm certain that the sentiments expressed by the many well-put replies
to your sad, yet wonderful story, are shared by every reader of this thread,
Please accept my condolences as well.
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 15 of 18
Thank you all.
Posted by Stan Pope on Jan 14, 2004 at 21:44
Joe, I know that you have a fitting limrick that you are itching to share.
Please share it with us!
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 16 of 18
well, Stan...if you insist.
Posted by tceti3 on Jan 15, 2004 at 21:02
There was a new cruncher named Joe
whose progress, at first, was quite slow.
He ran hit and miss
with his 166,
and he knew very little,... but Lo!
Information would come from the boards -
where wise men have stored it in hoards;
every bit, every byte
to this newbie's delight
would result in more crunching rewards!
Great Aunt Millie's work unit was rave
(consider the inspiration she gave!).
There was hope from Stan Pope
and Clay Ruth with his Truth,
and from Daav there was save after save!
Now what has become of this Joe,
with his new 2.53 in tow?
It is said he has sped
from the "Valley of Dread"...
and has reached THE 500 PLATEAU!!!
Alas! We shall miss from this forum
a friend who enhanced its decorum.
She had joined in our quest
and had given her best.
To our search: Live on 'ad infinitum'.
We now say good-bye to this friend
whose crunching endured 'till her end.
She now wanders far
to her very own star ...
perhaps there's a message she'll send?
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 17 of 18
Thank you, Joe! Nicely done.
Posted by Stan Pope on Jan 15, 2004 at 23:13
Subject: Re: Great Aunt Millie ... Millicent I. Mxxxxxxx, 1910-2004 Message 18 of 18
Saddened to hear about your loss, Stan.
Posted by Joppe on Jan 15, 2004 at 16:55