Frequently Asked Questions


Questions:


1. What is QCN used for and what information is collected?
2. Where is the ideal place to install my sensor?
3. The USB cable for my sensor is not long enough. Can I use a USB extension cable?
4. Why do I need to enter my location?
5. How do I check to see if my sensor and BOINC/QCN software is monitoring the sensor and sending data?
6. What does ‘Elapsed’ and ‘Remaining’ in the BOINC/QCN software mean?
7. How do I tell if my sensor recorded an earthquake?
8. When does my computer monitor the sensor?
9. I have followed the installation instructions found here, but can’t get my sensor to work. What do I do?


Answers:



1. What is QCN used for and what information is collected?


A: QCN records ground motion due to earthquakes on small sensors connected to computers or internal to laptops. The data is helping to provide detailed information about how the ground moves during an earthquake, to study building response, and to detect earthquakes more rapidly. QCN sensors collect acceleration data, e.g. how quickly the ground velocity changes during an earthquake. The acceleration data is combined with information you provide about the sensor located and orientation. When earthquakes are recorded on your sensor and by many other nearby sensors we use the information to better understand how an earthquake breaks a fault and how seismic waves vary as the propagate away from the earthquake source.


2. Where is the ideal place to install my sensor?


A: For a single sensor in a building, we prefer if sensors are installed on the ground or basement of a building, but can still use the information if the sensor is installed on higher floors. The sensor must be attached to a desktop computer, laptop or plug computer with Internet access. Please firmly attach the sensor to the floor to ensure it will not become dislodged if strong ground shaking were to occur. The sensor should be placed in a protected location to avoid inadvertently disturbing the sensor (e.g. kicking or stepping on the sensor). Ideally, the sensor would be in a relatively quiet location away from noisy or heat-generating machines. The sensor is not waterproof; avoid areas that are prone to flooding.


3. The USB cable for my sensor is not long enough. Can I use a USB extension cable?


A: Yes. However, please try to avoid using USB extension cables that are more than twice the length of the original cable.


4. Why do I need to enter my location?


A: To accurate locate an earthquake and for studies of how seismic waves propagate across a region we need to have very precise information about where the sensor is located. Without an accurate location, we are not able to use the data as effectively for most studies. So, please check that your sensor has the location set correctly by following these steps:

  • Open BOINC Manager
  • Go to View –> Advanced View
  • Click on the ‘Projects’ tab and click once on the QCN project in the table to highlight it and an additional set of buttons will appear on the left side of the window.
  • Click on ‘Computer Location’. This will open up a webpage with a map interface that allows you to mark the location of your sensor on the map. Just follow the instructions given on the webpage.


5. How do I check to see if my sensor and BOINC/QCN software is monitoring the sensor and sending data?


A: Please follow the steps given here.


6. What does ‘Elapsed’ and ‘Remaining’ in the BOINC/QCN software mean?


A: The BOINC is designed to be able to run many different types of computational projects; QCN is just one of the projects. Each project assigns the computer a task to complete. For QCN, the task is to monitor the sensor and send information to the server if a strong acceleration is detected. We divide this task into certain length time segments (generally 24 hours), so your computer is instructed to monitor the sensor for that time period. When the time period (or task) is complete your computer will request a new task, which for QCN will be to continue monitoring the sensor for another 24 hours. So, ‘Elapsed’ refers to the amount of time your computer has been monitoring the sensor since the task was assigned and ‘Remaining’ refers to the time until the computer will contact the server for a new task.


7. How do I tell if my sensor recorded an earthquake?


A: You can view an image of an earthquake by accessing the information from your BOINC account by following these steps:

  • Open BOINC Manager
  • Go to View –> Advanced View
  • Click on the ‘Projects’ tab and click once on the QCN project in the table to highlight it and an additional set of buttons will appear on the left side of the window.
  • Click on ‘Computer Triggers’. This will open up a website that shows a table of your computer’s triggers. This list will include both timing pings every hour or more (grey text) and ‘real’ triggers (black text) earthquakes or other significant ground motion (e.g. tapping the sensor).
  • Check to see if you have any real triggers around the time of the event. Please note all times on the QCN site are listed in UTC.
  • To see a plot of the event (or noise), click on ‘View’ in the corresponding row.
  • To tell if the plot shows noise or an earthquake compare it to the records shown here.


8. When does my computer monitor the sensor?


A: Typically, the BOINC software will monitor the sensor anytime the computer is turned on and connected to the Internet. For computers with external USB sensors, please check your settings to make sure the BOINC is set to always monitor the sensor by doing the following:

  • Open BOINC Manager
  • Go to Tools – Computing Preferences
  • Under the ‘processor usage’ tab, make sure to check the box next to ‘While computer is in use’.

Note: Laptops using internal sensors should be set to run ‘Only after computer has been idle for 3:00 minutes’. Please do not click the box next to ‘While computer is in use’.


9. I have followed the installation instructions found here, but can’t get my sensor to work. What do I do?


A: Please first check the Support Forum, but if you can’t find the answer to your question there please email Elizabeth Cochran and Jesse Lawrence from the QCN team. Contact information can be found here.