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Very interesting story on CNET about how distributed computing helped crack one of the last remaining dispatches using Germany's Enigma code from World War II.

Check out the original coded message and the translation here.

The codebreakers, the M4 Message Breaking Project, worked by enlisting volunteers to downloaded the codebreaking software into the background of their computers.

What other historic mysteries could distributed computing help solve?

Note: I may cross-post comments on the IHT blog and they may be reproduced in the paper for publication.


Only one message has been cracked, the project still needs your help for the other messages it wants to crack :).

I don't know really, but I guess there are still big problems that need heavy-duty processing power to crack. One that comes to mind is finding new prime numbers. I know, the world isn't exactly clamouring for these, but I hear they are pretty important in the world of mathematics and cryptography. But we would need a proper number-theory specialist to tell us more about that. Some of the distributed computing people should be able to give some pointers to problems that require large-scale processing power.

sorry to post this as a comment, but it's the fastest way for you to notice it.

Would you please help us spreading the word about our project in your blog? "Tip me for dancing!" ( is where me and two partners try to collect money to start our own business.

All we are asking is a small post about our project. Thanks!

There are plenty of cryptography mysteries to solve, like the kinds of codes used in banks to shut off their alarms and spring open their vaults. I'm not so comfortable having a group of programmers who are that clever loading stuff onto my hard drive.

"Mr. Guinane, what are you doing with specialist cryptography software on your hard drive?"

"Uhh ... solving the Enigma Code?"

"Very funny, Mr. Guinane. This is no time for childish games. Perhaps you can explain why it was your hard drive that hacked into Mr. Schmitzhagen's bank account which, by the way, used to contain millions."

"Uhhh ..."

"We have ways, Mr. Guinane, patient ways, of finding out what you did with the money ... even if it takes 20 years."

"Look officer, it wasn't me, honest! I've never even heard of this Mr. Smithswagon."

"Sure, we believe you. Kiss your children goodbye and step this way ... sir."

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This is great fun. I have downloaded and installed the software for the M4 project - this sort of research is intriguing. And the cost is zero, unless this is a Trojan, in which case my innate trustfulness has received... Read More

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