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Donating CPU Power to Humanity
 

Daniel Adi Nugroho dot Net

...because a man can’t just sit around

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Donating CPU Power to Humanity

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For you who have never heard about Folding@Home, it's a scientific project using distributed computing concept, started by Vijay Pande, a researcher at Wisconsin University. The purpose of this project is “to understand protein folding, misfolding, and related diseases”. Basically, you will need to install a client software that will pull some data to be worked on (called work-units) from a server, and starts molecular-dynamics simulation on your machine. Once the work-unit is completed, the resulting data will be sent back to the server. The processed data will then be used by the researchers.

Protein Molecule  Model

The list of scientific papers using data from Folding@Home can be found in this link in Wikipedia. You don't have to worry that the processing will interfere your real work, because the engine will work as a low priority task which yields CPU time when the higher priority tasks needs it, therefore your main programs that runs in the foreground will not be affected at all.


You should donate your CPU to Folding@Home if:


  • You have a passion to contribute for humanity. If you see those disabled people caused by genetic diseases, and you have the passionate urge to help them out, then you can help.
  • You have a computer that is used mostly for writing documents, creating presentation slide-shows, crunching numbers on a spreadsheet, or playing Solitaire. This will leave the CPU idle for most of its time, since the work assigned to it is quite minimal, compared to its capacity.
  • You have full control over your computer. Either you personally owned it, or if it belongs to an institution, you need to have a full administrative privileges, and you must be authorized to install the client.
  • You can connect to the Internet. Even only occasional connection will do. This is essential to get raw data and submit finished work units to the remote server. The client engine will patiently wait until the Internet connection is restored before uploading or downloading the work units.

I started folding many months ago on my laptop. I am fortunate enough to have administrative privileges on my work laptop, owing to my technical background as an engineer. I installed the software on both Windows XP and Ubuntu 9.10. For some unknown reason, the high-performance multiprocessor client on Windows XP ceased to work since September last year, leaving only the uniprocessor client functional. I have tried re-installing the client using both MPICH and Deino packages, to no avail. There is nothing wrong with using the Uniprocessor client, it's just if you have multi-core CPU, then it won't crunch the work units with all of your machine's potential.

How to install the clients?
It depends on what kind of computer that you intend to use.

  • Basic computer, uniprocessor:    http://folding.stanford.edu/English/WinUNIGuide
  • Basic computer, multiprocessor:   http://folding.stanford.edu/English/WinSMPGuideMPICH or http://folding.stanford.edu/English/WinSMPGuideDEINO
  • Computers with high-end graphics card:    http://folding.stanford.edu/English/WinGPUGuide
  • Sony Play Station 3:   Installed by default on PS3 system version 1.6 or later.



The perfect scenario would be running the client on a multi-core CPU with huge amount of RAM, and equipped with high-end graphics card, which is turned on 24 x 7, and always connected to the Internet. That will definitely max-out our contribution, but not all of us can afford to pay the cost of this scenario.

There's another interesting aspect in this distributed computing project: the scoring system. Folding@Home assigns different points for each work unit. The smallest and non-urgent work-units tend to have lower points, and those large work-units with short deadline, will reward you with most points. Work units for high-performance clients, such as multiprocessor and graphics card, will gain much more points compared to the basic, uniprocessor client.



During the installation process, you will be asked whether you want to do it anonymously, or specify your own user name. You can even create or join groups, which will enable you work together as a team to achieve a high score, and compete against other folding team in a positive way. The scoring system tracks the amount of our contribution to the project, both the points and the number of work-units, and this information is readily available at any time on the project's website.

Folding@home SMP client

Here's my folding points as of now:

Folding certificate

So, if you see that the CPU usage of your computer never exceed 20% for most of the time, it would probably a good idea to start thinking to donate your computer processing power and some electricity to Folding@Home. Even a single completed work-unit helps.

Happy folding!


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Last Updated on Thursday, 15 July 2010 16:28
 

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