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Truth be told, the necessity of the screensaver is behind us. Since CRT monitors have gone the way of the 12-inch Powerbook, most people don't need to worry about screen burn. Yet we still love screensavers.
Why? Some of them do useful things. Others are pure eye-candy. Your friends couldn't care less about seeing TPS reports on your new Cinema Display, but fire up one of these cool screensavers and watch as everyone becomes mesmerized.
SETI@Home falls into the "useful" category‚ sort of. It fills your screen with colorful graphs, but it's what's behind the scenes that's truly fascinating. SETI is a "distributed computing" project that connects your computer to a network of machines analyzing data. In this case, your machine's idle cycles are used to search for aliens. I want to believe.
En Francais, it means "flying windows," and on your Mac it means, well, the same thing. As your machine goes idle, your existing windows pick up and go buzzing around the screen. It may not sound like much, but this screensaver is definitely something to see. When you're ready to get back to work, everything glides gracefully back to where it belongs.
Fluid hasn't been ported to Intel yet, but for the folks still rocking Power PC-based machines, it's a highly-customizable screensaver that can turn into a major time-suck. It won't be long before your stoner friend suggests turning off all the lights and putting on Dark Side Of The Moon while you watch Fluid do its thing.
LotsaWater sucks up processor power, and it doesn't hide whatever's on your display (privacy freaks be warned), but it's really, really cool. LotsaWater shows your desktop, if it were caught in a rainstorm. You can configure the intensity of the raindrops as well as the accuracy of the rendering of the ripples. Sit back, enjoy and stay dry.
Folding@Home is another distributed computing project. This time, your Mac's spare cycles are being put to use crunching data for Stanford University. Your idle Mac might just unlock the key to curing cancer or Alzheimers. It can be set to run constantly in the background, or only when your machine is inactive.