Tuesday, May 26, 2009



Today's column is about distributed computing and the various projects that exist that leverage that technology to do good things. One in particular that is the focus of the piece is the Folding@Home Project run by the Pande Lab at Stanford University.

I support that project myself through volunteering my PC when I am not using it - and I created a team for today's column - the team number is 164706 if you would like to join it. Joining is as simple as entering that team number in the slot provided when you register as a volunteer for the project and download the software for your OS type.

I have already received more than a few email messages about this, so I thought I would mention a few things here that are the result of them:

- FAH updates once a day, very early in the morning. If you have joined the team, you will not see yourself listed on the team page until the next time that the FAH server updates the statistics - and I think that happens around 3 in the morning east coast time, which would be midnight in California, and a logical time to do it, right?

- Participating in FAH requires that the computer be on... If you regularly put your computer in sleep mode than the FAH client will also be sleeping and not processing data. That does not mean that you need to change the way you use your computer, but I should point out that leaving your computer on does not hurt it; I never turn mine off.

- The goal for our team is to help with FAH. Having said that, and all things being equal, I think it would be nice if we managed some sort of event at which we could meet some time this summer - perhaps a picnic slash cookout at one of the parks or beaches here on the Cape? I would be interested in hearing your opinions on that and any suggestions that you have.

- Worms in general: the FAH program is not a worm, but I can see how there might be a bit of confusion as I mentioned two worms in the column. Creeper and Reaper were in fact worm programs, but the FAH client software is not, I assure you. It is a dedicated program that only preforms the following specific tasks:

(1) It contacts the FAH Server.
(2) It downloads a Folding Data Packet.
(3) It unpacks and verifies the content of the Folding Packet.
(4) It places the packet in the work directory (under your documents folder).
(5) It engages the simulation routine when the CPU is available (when you are not using it).
(6) It packs up the completed packet.
(7) It uploads the completed packet to the FAH Server.
(8) It maintains a log file of everything that it does on you computer.
(9) It starts the process all over again with a new packet.

It does not access your data or other programs, and it will not use resources that you need while you are using your computer. Its strength is that it harnesses the idle CPU cycles, so it is all good!

I wanted to thank you all for your interest in FAH and in the other distributed coomputing projects discussed in the piece. I really do enjoy hearing from you - so thank you for your email and thank you for reading the paper!


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