Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Fight Alzheimers and Parkinsons Effortlessly on Your Computer!

I haven't commented on it in a while, but I'm still folding proteins for Stanford University on my computers, both at home and at work. I should be passing 60,000 points today, and I moved into our team's top 100 a couple days ago. The team I'm folding for, TeamMacOSX, is still sitting at number 11 in the world, but our production seems to have dropped off a little bit. There's one team catching up to us, but they aren't projected to pass us for a few years, so we've got time to kick it up a notch.

I had an opportunity to help out our team this past weekend by reading a transcript while listening to an interview with Prof. Vijay Pande, who heads up the Folding@Home project. If I had any doubts about the benefits of Folding, they were washed away. The Folding project has produced more scholarly publications than any other distributed computing project. It is focused on learning more about the biological processes involved in protein folding. I can't even begin to explain it, but look here for an explanation. In the interview, our team leader asked about the results that they've seen from Folding@Home. The first thing that struck me is the amount of sheer computing power going into this project. If you consider Moore's Law, then it will be another 15 years before there are computers powerful enough to produce what Stanford's got going now with the distributed computing. Second, this project is yielding results that are producing new medicines/treatments for Alzheimers and could soon produce similar results for Parkinsons and Huntingtons diseases.

Basically, distributed computing uses your processor to do work when you aren't using it. So, if I'm using 10% of my processing power, Folding uses the other 90% to run Folding@Home. This is usually the state my computer is in if I'm barely using it or not using it at all. I never put my computer to sleep, I simply let it fold away! There are several different versions of the software, one only runs in screen saver mode, one is a graphical client, and one is a command line client. The command line produces the best results, from what I've seen, while the screen saver only works when your screen saver is on. Folding runs 24/7, but I've never noticed a hit in performance because it is designed to scale back as my needs increase. This is what makes it so awesome. I can use my computer as usual, but I also know that its being used to help battle three of the worst diseases out there.

If you know anyone who suffers from Alzheimers, Parkinsons, or Huntingtons, you should be signing up to Fold. TeamMacOSX has a couple of GREAT install programs that put it on your computer and keep it out of your way once its going. They install the command line client, so there isn't a hint of it running unless you go look for it. Check out the software installs for Mac (InCrease) or Windows (Folding@Home Windows Service Installer) by going here. You don't have to join our team to use this (though I'd appreciate it if you do!). Contrary to our name, we are not a Mac-centric team, we're focused on providing the best Folding experience for anyone who wants to fold. Our team's forums have info for both Windows and Mac users. Install the software, walk through the installation and start folding. Oh, and if you want to Fold with/for me specifically :-), I Fold under the name treadlightly and our team number is 1971. If you want to Fold on your own, but be a part of our team, you put in your own name and enter 1971 to join our team. You can find out if the name you use is already taken by going here. This is the download page at Stanford, but my team's download software is much easier to use if you want it out of your way. FOLDING AWAY!!!