A couple years back, I was a real fan of some of the projects running on BOINC. I’d contribute hours and hours of my computer’s computing time to these projects and had even brought out the old PCs from the storeroom and had the BOINC client running on them. For a couple of years I was really enjoying this and convincing my friends and family to join and co-operate until this certain point that I started having doubts about what I was actually processing on my computer and whether or not it might end up processing something related to defence projects or anything that might have done more harm to people than good. I don’t want to get into details about why I think so but believe me, I have some good proven reasons behind what I’m saying.
At some later point, I also realized that these things put a rather massive load on the electricity bill, especially with the number of computers that I had on at the same time so I completely put everything behind until 2-3 years ago when I needed some extra money and was looking for a rather simple & effortless way and thought about this. Did some Googling and at that time I only found 1 website that had some pages about this idea but it wasn’t functional and the only thing that they were doing was collecting emails of people who were interested, which I did signup for that but never got any followup and don’t even remember what the name of the website was and what happened to it.
That idea, obviously didn’t work out and I had completely forgotten about it all until a couple weeks ago when I read about this new service called Slicify which at this date that I am writing the review is still in the Beta state.
What I have summarized below is based on my personal testings and some 500 or so connection hours to Slicify’s servers regarding matters that were important for me:
– Operating System Support
The service currently does not work on a computer running Mac OS or Linux as well as Windows XP + the CPU has to support virtualization;
I own a Mac and because of the type of work I do, I always have a couple of virtual OSs by hand which I can use through a virtualization platform and as a matter of fact the specific platform which I use, allows the virtualization option to be passed on to the virtual systems (guests) to act as a host for other virtualized environments within the guest itself (I hope it makes sense! :D), so I tried installing the client on my virtualized Windows 8. (As far as I know virtualization doesn’t work within a guest environment but anyway, I gave it a try to see what would happen). The client was installed without any problem and it downloaded the virtual machine image which was needed to run the service. The first few days the client would successfully connect to the servers but as far as I saw and realized, no actual work or request was being handled through it and a proper respond wasn’t being sent back from my computer to the server and all work requests were being logged with errors on the service website. After some days, the client wouldn’t connect to the server for more than a few seconds, even though it would try reconnecting several times in a row so I just uninstalled the client and tried installing it on another virtual OS and guess what? It didn’t work on the other OS either. I assume that they had realized the issue and patched it so that such virtualized clients couldn’t connect to the server(at least for now that they are paying for every 250 hours of connectivity whether or not you are allocated with a job or not).
At the same time I had the client running on 2 other Windows 8 based systems to complete my tests. Both were working fine and work requests were being handled without issues, however the only glitch was that every now and then the connection to Slicify’s servers were broken and not having luck with re-establishing the connection, I had to restart the computer to resolve the issue. Later on (after the virtualized OSs wouldn’t connect to the servers and the possible patches being applied) this issue was resolved and the connection was live at all the times that I checked.
– System Performance & Drawbacks
Now that I had successfully connected to the servers and the clients were all running properly, it was time to see whether or not my computer would slow down or if anything strange would happen;
At first I allocated the maximum amount of resources (RAM + CPU) to the virtual machine and didn’t have to wait any more than half an hour for someone to connect to my computer and start processing stuff on it. (I realized so when the fan started roaring.) When I came to check the computer, I could barely even move the mouse pointer. Everything was so slow and unresponsive. I had a browser window open that took like 2 minutes to finally manage to close. Since I couldn’t do anything with the computer, I tried restarting the system. It took 5 minutes until I managed to open the Window shutdown box (and this was around 30 seconds after I pressed Alt+F4 because the mouse wasn’t functioning properly) and strangely the system wouldn’t restart even after waiting 15 minutes so I had to force a hard shut down by holding the power button and then turning the system back on.
Lessons learnt from this, as soon as the system was up and running, I decreased the allocated resources to minimum and waited again for someone to connect to the system. The fan started to run faster, almost the same as the other time but this time the system had a better response and instead of waiting 5 minutes to open/close/move something it would happen in a matter of seconds but it still was much slower than what I was expecting and to summarize, it was too slow and almost impossible to carry on with normal light-load tasks such as browsing a website or using the word processor and etc.
Restart & shutdown wouldn’t respond either. This behavior is sort of reasonable since the virtual computer is probably in the middle of processing some stuff but I need to be able to shutdown my computer when I want to, especially if it’s running on my laptop and I want to pack it in my bag and go somewhere! Then that’s when the trouble starts. The power settings had even been modified to prevent system sleep/hibernate on lid close and I had to manually re-enable these options. I think they should implement something such that the virtual system would enter hibernation when the host computer wanted to restart/shutdown/sleep/hibernate + I still don’t understand why the system get’s so slow and unresponsive. I sometime run 2 virtual operating systems at the same time, (Either Windows 8 + Windows XP or one of the Windows OS along with a Linux distribution) but never do I experience such low performance on my computer even when I have 6GB of my 8GB ram and all 4 CPU cores allocated to the virtual systems. Perhaps it’s the virtualization software that they use which is based on Oracle VM VirtualBox which is slow!?
– Security Matters & Access to Private Data
Slicify has done a great job on this part; All tasks are handled within the virtualized (guest) environment which is configured to disallow any access to the host environment so no files can be read/written from/to the host + an internal firewall working in parallel with the Windows firewall assures the virtual machine staying off the local network. And finally, all the network traffic to/from the virtual guest machine is relayed through Slicify’s servers to ensure security. All data transactions and tasks are handled through a Secure Shell SSH environment and everything is encrypted along the way as well.
– Money Matters
I can’t say that this is the most important part because every other part that I pointed to is also relatively important but this part will really much take a big proportion in deciding to keep the client running or not, especially when there is the poor performance and slowing down of the system taking place.
Slicify is currently offering a fixed $5 USD for every 250 hours that each computer/node is connected to their servers whether they are offered a processing task or not + a separate pay for every hour of processing which is handled through the node that starts from 1 or 2 cents. There is also a referral bonus of $5 USD for every 25o hours that their computer is connected to the servers (probably only for now).
The part which concerns the 250 hour connectivity and referrals is pretty decent since you are basically doing nothing and being paid but for the part that you are meant to be paid hourly, Slicify is trying to compete with the leading cloud computing giants on the internet and this is really bad and obviously a major decision maker for anyone who’d want to be paying for these services (and also for people like you and I who want to decide whether or not to provide such services).
Cloud providers are offering a much more stable solution at a rather competitive price so the only way someone would perhaps prefer Slicify and dealing with cloud systems which are definitely not as fast and reliable as those that cloud giants are providing, is a much lower price tag for the service. This is where the 1-2 cents per hour starting price (and not to mention the commissions that will be deducted by Slicify) starts making no sense for someone willing to sell their computing time! Although this is the starting price and it will be increased as demand grows (IF demand grows!) , I really doubt the demands would be growing to any part more than the price of the cheapest competing cloud provider.
I even doubt that the couple of cents per hour would make up for the electricity bill, not even mentioning the heating problems that might damage or wear out the hardware.
Even if the performance issues are solved, I think Slicify needs to figure something unique to offer so the payout amounts make sense!
For those of you that are interested in knowing whether or not Slicify has offered me a payout so far, I can verify that both a friend that I had referred & I have received our 1st payouts to PayPal after 1-4 days from requesting the withdrawal. So no issues on this part.
Though the client software and services are secure and my personal data is protected (or at least protected for now until someone perhaps discovers a backdoor or a security glitch in Oracle VM which I doubt), there is a noticeable performance drop on the computer causing problems for my daily tasks that I handle with the system and not to mention the ridiculously low amount of money that is offered for my computer’s processing time + the fact that I can not shutdown my computer when I want, so in conclusion, I will only keep the client running on my computer with minimum allocated resources until the service starts sending work to my computer. At that point even if the performance drawbacks are solved I will NOT keep the client running at this rate.
Slicify has put a lot of time and effort into building their business model and preparing the software but I really doubt the computing rates would ever reach an acceptable amount. They’ve thought more about getting the buyers attention and less on the sellers. As an entrepreneur, myself, not every project and idea will succeed and unless Slicify figures out a completely new way to make money and share the revenue with the people selling their computing time, their time will soon be over.
Review Follow Up: There has been an enormous amount of problem and trouble connecting to Slicify servers in the past few weeks through my own computers and also my friends. The same computer running the Node service and maintaining it’s connection has been shut off and displaying all sorts of errors. Some were resolved with a couple of times of restarting and double checking that Slicify services were running on windows through the Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Services but some haven’t been working since, no matter what actions we took and even re-installing of everything from scratch. Some of those clients that aren’t connected are showing connectivity time for perhaps 1 hour over the past week, connecting and disconnecting with no known reasons so I’ve uninstalled the Node client from all of my computers except one which is working with less problems (losing connectivity and displaying errors every now and then) and I’m starting to suggest the complete removal of the software to my friends that can’t manage to get their clients connected to Slicify servers…. What’s the use of having an extra lousy piece of software on the computer when you can’t use it properly!? So if you’re new and here trying to decide whether or not to install the software and use Slicify to make a little bit of extra money, I advise you to stay away. It’s not worth all the trouble unless a proper solution to all these issues and problems has been provided, which then I shall update this review and notify you about.
Final Follow Up: Since Slicify is no longer paying for every 250 hours of connectivity (though they have reduced the commissions and you end up with a couple more cents from selling your cpu time) I personally think it is no more worth working with. Therefore this post will no longer be updated and it is advised not to use the system unless you have access to plenty of computers and resources. In that case those cents MIGHT add up to something noticeable.