Walking into the Pande Lab at Stanford University is somewhat of a hardcore geek’s ultimate dream. This is, after all, where the real work gets done—or should we say, work units. For the various desktop systems and consoles scattered around the area are all a part of a larger initiative that likely you and I, as well as Stanford graduate students, researchers from around the globe, and consortiums of geeks and enthusiasts alike, have all contributed to.
But don’t take my word for it. Dr. Vijay Pande, an associate professor of chemistry, structural biology, and computer science over at Stanford—as well as the longtime director of the Folding@Home distributing computing project, which his aptly titled “Pande Lab” oversees—estimates that around 400,000 systems actively “fold” at the current moment. Given the program’s fairly linear growth of around 40,000 new systems a year, Folding@Home should be able to push past half a million “connected” PCs easily before its crystal anniversary.
Stanford's Folding@home team has released a beta client for Nvidia GTX 400 series GPUs. It's the first F@h GPU client to achieve more than 1 microsecond per day performance, Nvidia says, who added that it worked closely with Stanford on this latest release.
Does all this sound Greek to you? In short, Folding@home is a distributed computing project run by Stanford University. The idea is to install the software on as many PCs as possible and combine all that computing power to help understand how proteins fold. By doing so, scientists hope to better understand (and eventually find cures for) diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and others. Folding@home takes a backseat to other tasks, only tapping into unused CPU (and in this case, GPU) cycles to do its thing.
To help keep things interesting, there's a strong competitive element to Folding@home in which you can join a team and help rack up points for bragging rights. If you want to join team Maximum PC (team 11108), check out this forum for more info.
The beta client mentioned above is only for Nvidia GTX 4xx owners and requires the latest Nvidia graphics drivers (197.45). However, Vijay Pande, director of the Folding@hom project, says his team is "actively pushing ATI support (with the help of AMD/ATI)," although there's no ETA just yet.
One of the most rewarding parts of doing these weekly freeware roundups for Maximum PC is the sheer wealth of software that I get to play with each month -- applications that I not only use myself, but ones that I feel compelled to tell you about as well. But coming in a close second are the responses that you, the readers, leave in these posts. For as much as I scour the Internet to find awesome new programs for you to check out, you too have become my eyes and ears for the latest in amazing free software.
You might guess where this one's going. I'm looking toward the pool of Maximum PC users this week and highlighting programs that you, yourselves, have recommended in the various comments you've posted to these articles. For a number of you have left links and comments featuring compelling alternatives or hidden gems that relate to the programs I've posted. Although I'm featuring your best answers this week, don't let that stop you from joining the discussion! If a certain freeware application has really caught your eye, jump in the thread and say something! Or hit me up on Twitter and let me know when you've found something great!
After the jump: The Maximum PC commenters get their day in Freeware Court!
Three years ago the MaximumPC Folding Team challenged the team ranked above us in the global folding ladder to a race. Each team picked a folding name and tried to get as many folders as possible to fold for it. The race was to a set amount of total folding points, and team Maximum PC won that first contest. In the contest’s second year, the number of points required to win went up and we lost to the third place team. But as winning points went up again last year, we rose to the challenge and won the Chimp race, as it is called today.
This year, 8 or 9 teams may enter, so the Maximum PC team faces some stiff competition. Each year the race stimulates new interest in teams across the world (Russia, Australia and England joined recently, for example). Two top teams from EVGA and overclock.net are loaded with new members and challenging our daily production total. In addition, the top ranked team right now, Horde, produces a million more points a day than any other team.
But we still have plenty of time to build our troops before the race begins in early May.
Overclock.net forum member nitteoclaims to have built a Folding@Home farm with no less than 51 GPUs, and he has the pics to prove it. In them are a mixture of 8800GT and 8800GS videocards spread out across a variety of MSI and Gigabyte motherboards. Final numbers are still be tallied, but nitteoestimates he'll pull in over 250,000 points per day on his new setup, and things only look to get better with the CUDA-based folding client.
That's all well and good for Overclock.net (and the Folding community in general), but that also means Team Maximum PC has to keep it kicked up into high gear. Maximum PC currently holds the 4th spot in team rankings and could use your help. If you want to Fold for your favorite magazine, add team 11108 to your client's profile, and drop by the forum for tips on how to optimize your production.