Posted by: englishdubai | April 4, 2007

I Like to Fold It, Fold It


I have been involved in distributed or GRID computing for sometime now and was actually involved (in a small way) in the GRIDs currently running at the University of Nottingham and also at the University of Sheffield.

A long time ago I tried SETI but looking for ET seemed a little empty for me so I then tried United Devices which was for more worthwhile causes however at the time I found the client would use up all my system resources then refuse to give them back. A little frustrating. With that I left it until the recent release of firmware update 1.6 for the PS3 brought with it a Folding@Home client.

What is that I hear you ask?

Answer: Folding@home is a distributed computing project designed to perform computationally intensive simulations of protein folding. The project’s goal is to add greater understanding to protein folding, misfolding, aggregation, and related diseases. Such diseases include BSE (mad cow), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, among others.

Folding@home does not rely on powerful supercomputers for its processing; instead, the primary contributors to the Folding@home project are many thousands of personal computer users who have installed a small client program. The client runs in the background, and makes use of the CPU when it is not busy. In most modern personal computers, the CPU is rarely used to its full capacity at all times; the Folding@home client takes advantage of this unused processing power.

The Folding@home client periodically connects to a server to retrieve “work units.” These are packets of data upon which to perform calculations. Each completed work unit is then sent back to the server. (text taken courtesy of the overclockers distributed computing forum)

Below is an illustration of the graphical display (hardcore users do not use this and go for console/text installs):

To get folding on the PS3 was just a short download and very easy setup and it is now folding full time – which is great seeing as it all it did before was mostly gather dust under my TV.

Gripped by the fever of success I then installed the client on my 2 desktop PCs and my work laptop. With all this dual core processing power at my disposal, the fact that the Windows OS can barely take advantage of one of these cores and seeing that my DEWA bill is a paltry 100AED a month I figured that this is a worthwhile cause – and of course the folding clients are now well behaved.

I am folding for Team ID: 10 which is a British based team who have been folding for a number of years and are ranked the 33rd folding team in the world and have nearly 900 members. I am amazed at the top contributors who must have their whole corporate desktops folding for them!

I would encourage you to participate as the average desktop PC runs at less than 5% utilisation so we can all spare the compute cycles and when I looked at the global map of IP contributors there only appears to be one for the UAE. Now this maybe because Etisalat only presents that one IP address to the rest of the world for the UAE – but nonetheless lets get the UAE on the folding map! (this plea is to the 40% of visitors to my humble blog who reside in the UAE)

Happy folding.


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