Wednesday, April 04, 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.


Marsh said...


Even more interesting was when I downloaded the ATI Radeon drivers recentyl , you are encouraged to sign up to this. You can download the CPU or GPU client. As has been the case for some time, the GPUs on modern graphics cards are capable of executing certain functions far faster and more efficiently than the CPU. Todat this has been in the context of cryptographic functions, but its nice to see it extended to these grid work loads. As mentioned though , using the GPU in a PC is probably far less efficient in over all carbon terms than a dedicated farm, even considering that it's only idle cycles being used. I dont think it will be too long before some one works out that it is far more important to conserve net power, than to take advantage of the fact that compute devices are left on and idle.
see here.

Aaron said...

Hey Marsh - I was looking at the GPU client but backed off from it as high GPU load = high GPU fan noise.

I need to move into the world of Windows SMP client - especially when the AMD quad cores will make a debut in my PC later this summer.

However saving the planet vs finding cures for diseases is an interesting question in itself. Right now I will lend my support to curing disease and let the multi-nationals save the planet.

hosni said...

I've been trying to fold@home using my PS3 since the respective update was released, however my PS3 has been unable to download the work unit. I connect to the PS network and access the Playstation store normally but can't seem to get 'folding@home' to download the work unit. I was wondering if anyone has a similar problem and/or can shed some light on the situation.

Patrick said...

I have tried to access folding@home via PS3 and my home pc, but it seems Etisalat are somehow blocking this. I really want to help fold as my mother-in-law has just been diagnosed with cancer and it's the least I can do to help.
Have you found out how we can download work units with Etisalat as teh ISP?

DeZtroyer said...

Same issue here, I just cannot seem to download a work unit. any help would be appreciated. Thanks.