You might be familiar with SETI@home, a distributed computing project launched by the University of California, Berkeley over a decade ago in which you can help participate in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Some SETI@home users were bummed when the SETI Institute announced back in April of this year that the Allen Telescope Array was being forced into hibernation due to budget cuts and lack of funds. Thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollar in contributions, the search for alien life is set to resume in September.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Did you vow to shed those holiday pounds you put on the past couple of weeks? Perhaps you promised to finally use this year's tax refund to put together that dream machine build you deserve. Whatever they are, here's an easy one to add to the list: start "Folding" for team Maximum PC.
We're referring to Stanford's Folding@home distributed computing project. The ultimate goal is to better understand (and find cures for) diseases like Alzheimer's, ALS, Huntingtons', Parkinson's, various cancers, and more. If you're new to Folding, or distributed computing in general, the way it works is you download a piece of software that taps into your spare CPU cycles to study protein folding. One machine by itself isn't very helpful, but collectively, it's like having access to a supercomputer.
Points are tracked and there's a lot of friendly competition (and trash talking) between sites. To join Maximum PC, you'd input 11108 in the Team number field. Hit up the links below for more info.
You and your home PC play hard – and sometimes, work hard. While you can grab some shuteye every night, and bid your PC goodbye when you head out the door for work, there's no need to give your PC half the day off. From scheduled FTP downloads to converting digital photos and more, here are the ten best ways to keep your PC busy so it won't miss you when you're gone. Downtime be damned!
According to a solicitation notice found on the Internet, the Air Force plans to purchase 2,200 PS3s equipped with 256 MB of memory and 160 GB hard drives. The PS3 is the Air Force’s choice because it provides the best cost-benefit ratio: “With respect to cell processors, a single 1U server configured with two 3.2GHz cell processors can cost up to $8K while two Sony PS3s cost approximately $600. Though a single 3.2 GHz cell processor can deliver over 200 GFLOPS, whereas the Sony PS3 configuration delivers approximately 150 GFLOPS, the approximately tenfold cost difference per GFLOP makes the Sony PS3 the only viable technology for HPC applications.”
These new PS3s will be added to an existing configuration of 336 units, with all connected via each unit’s one gigabit Ethernet port to common 24 port gigabit hubs. The networked PS3s will be driven by Linux using both commercial and in-house developed software.
Ars Technica notes the PS3’s advantage comes from Sony’s subsidy of the price. Sony expects to make up the subsidy on the back-end, from game or TV purchases. While the Air Force probably won’t be in the market for such things, it definitely is happy to take advantage of Sony’s largess in console pricing.
What might you get by crossing SETI@Home with the movie Saturn 3? Quite possibly Bruce Damer’s new distributed computing effort EvoGrid, which strives to create a plausible simulation of the chemical origins of life on Earth by replicating these origins in a digital environment. Damer is a Silicon Valley computer scientist and the creator of the Biota.org web site, which is dedicated to the engineering of artificial life.
Damer’s objective is to create a digital replication of early Earth’s “primordial soup.” From this he believes it possible to learn about the actual evolution of life on Earth, as well as gain insight into the possible creation of artificial life. Damer’s project will make use of Bionic, the National Science Foundation’s system that makes available free computing cycles on Internet networked computers, and Gromacs, software developed by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, which will model the molecular interactions. According to John Markoff of The New York Times, “The EvoGrid goal is to detect evidence of self-organizing behavior in computerized simulations that have been constructed to model the first emergence of life in the physical world.”
Intel and GridRepublic joined forces this week to launch a Facebook application that will tap into your PCs spare processing cycles to both fight diseases and study climate change.
Intel calls the application 'Progress Thru Processors,' which is built on the Facebook platform and gives users the ability to choose up to three distributed computing projects, including Rosetta@home (find cures for diseases), Climateprediction.net (aimed at gaining an increased understanding of global climate change), and Africa@home (currently focused on finding optimal strategies to combat malaria).
"By simply running an application on your computer, which uses very little incremental resources, you can expand computing resources to researchers," Deborah Conrad, Intel vice president and general manager of corporate marketing, said in a statement.
The application, which was launched Monday as a public beta, will only fire up when the PC has processing cycles to spare. You can download the app here.
The third annual Chimp Challenge kicks off today, in which Maximum PC's Folding at Home team will once again try to claim victory in the race for more points than the competition. If successful, this will mark the third victory in four attempts, but it won't be easy. More teams have entered this year and it's going to take a massive effort if we're to claim back-to-back bragging rights.
For those of you not familiar with Stanford's Folding at Home distributed computing project, you can get up to speed here. In short, the project relies on the computing horsepower of many in hopes of finding cures to common diseases, like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and many more. Stanford's Folding client taps into your PC's unused CPU and/or GPU cycles, and can even be run on a Playstation 3 console.
Before someone asks, the answer is 'yes,' we don't doubt the Atlas Folder can handle Crysis. But despite outfitting his server with 23 -- TWENTY EFFING THREE! -- gual-GPU GeForce GTX 295 videocards, Jason Farqué, who goes by the username Atlas Folding, has a more important goal in mind:
"The reason that my father in enrolled in [a clinical trial] is the same as the reason I run my folding farm. To fight back, to do something," Farqué wrote on his blog. "To help science overcoming Huntington's Disease so that people as yet unborn wont' have as hard a time as he and others do. Because my father wants the human race to succeed, to get better, to overcome our bodies' inherent frailties by using our minds."
Farqué's father suffers from Huntington's Disease, and if Stanford's Folding@Home distributed computing project leads to a cure, then it will be hard to imagine a better use for such a gluttony of high powered videocards. Among the setup are 9 MSI-brand 295s, 14 EVGA-brand 295s, and and a single GTX 260 and 9800GT thrown in for good measure.
And if you think that's impressive, Farqué has been mulling a similar setup with Nvidia's 300 series once it launches.
Check out a video of the super Folding server here, a Maximum PC forum post on how Farqué handled the configuration here, and see how you can both help the cause and lead Maximum PC to victory in this year's Chimp Challenge here.