Are you not getting enough sheep? If you just installed the software your cache directory is empty, the client needs to download its first sheep. Leave the screen saver running overnight (make sure to disable power settings that might hibernate your computer).
The free server is heavily loaded, it might take some time before it downloads many sheep. Please be patient.
Note: the Gold Sheep get delivered by Amazon's CloudFront at high bandwidth.
If you have a laptop make sure the power saving settings are not turning off the screen-saver.
If on Windows, Electric Sheep crashes instantly when run, try turning on "Direct Draw" in the advanced settings tab. If that doesn't work, turn on logging then check the log file (in Windows it is in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\ElectricSheep\Logs). If you get 'Failed to create Direct3D 9 device', your graphics chipset probably can't run it.
Most of the time, most users do not render. This is fine, don't worry about it. We have so many users that there is not enough work for everyone at all times, so most computers are idle. This is good, as it means it uses less power and is greener!
Sometimes when we are doing super-high resolution, then the network will be saturated, and everyone renders. When this happens is unpredictable, as is the rendering itself.
Nobody's had any problems, and the Linux version was audited by a security company, so I think it's safe. The Electric Sheep is listed on nonags.com, which screens its content for spam and virus risks. However, I cannot guarantee that a criminal hasn't broken into my web site and infected the installer. Anytime you download and run software from the internet there's a risk.
Some people have reported that their firewall alerted on the Sheep, but that was an old version many years ago that had P2P networking. We think that confused some security software.
No it does not violate your privacy in any way. The only data sent to the server are your votes (if you choose to). And the rendered frames, which are made according to instructions received on the server, and are the same no matter who would have done them.
The screensaver client does access a number of servers over the internet, in order to coordinate the work of creating the sheep, as well as downloading them. It uses the HTTP protocol over port 80, which is quite generic and standard. You can set a proxy in the settings dialog as needed. Since it only makes outgoing connections, you shouldn't need to configure any firewall you might have. But if you are curious, or you use something like the Little Snitch to monitor and control your network access, the domain names and IP#s used are listed here:
We tried that already and only 10-15% of our users were able to seed, which wasn't enough to make it work. Instead we are focusing on HTTP which is much more reliable, and adding a subscription system with premium content (the Gold Sheep) to pay for the bandwidth. Our goal is to keep it free for everyone, and at the same time make it sustainable. This is a freemium model.