Folding@home [research:covid-19]

I’d like to share with what readers that are reading this something a little more serious than how I’ve previously been.

The project is Folding@home, and it’s a distributed computing service much like the render farms I’ve discussed in previous posts – which uses your idle computing power to analyse scientific data that is used for research.

You can read more about the project and covid-19 on their website. [27/02/20]
It’s a very in depth report; personally, I struggle to understand it – but I know some of you out there will.

The link to the software is buried in the text, so I’ve placed it below, so that it’s easy to find.

Once you have it running, you’ll have a web based interface that looks like the one below, where you can control the amount of resources Folding uses, and when to use it.

It may be preferable for those with lower end computers to switch it to Idle, so that it doesn’t not impede their functionality by completely slowing their system down.

I have mine set to full, because most of the time during the day it has enough resources to, and is going to be either sitting unused, or rendering while I do my job on another computer.

The bottom right tells you which dataset you are working on, if you click Learn More – it will naturally give you more information.
I only put that sentence as a placeholder to seperate these two images, I’m not trying to be patronising.

Folding also supports teams, if you’re feeling competitive and need to contribute the most research?

The Change Identity screen looks like this:

I’m not entirely sure how the team numbers are assigned, but looking at the randomness of the Top 10 [below] I think you just claim it and tell your friends, family, colleagues, Raspberry Pi’s, cloud instances, botnets, IoT toaster and virtual machines to join this team number and that’s it.
It’s your team. Go Team #!

You can register for a team from this form.

I think it would be a good idea for businesses to register to become teams on here, a sense of unity in researching this together.
Internal stats within the group are good for friendly competition between colleagues – since they can no longer bond over playing sports together.

The OS tab gives a live breakdown of current computing power.

Advanced Controls

The section above is about getting Folding up and running with as little effort or fuss as possible.

This section is going to get more technical, for those who want to explore/tinker/administer minutiae controls.
Click the system tray and select the multi coloured Folding icon that looks like a protein block

If you click Preferences on the Toolbar, you’ll have this screen:

There’s a variety of really nice themes and render mode styles to match your current desktop.

Connection: For running Folding on a network

Identity: You, your team and your identity protection.

Slots: Add and remove your CPU and GPU resource availability.
Remote access: There’s text missing from this screenshot, but you can see the headers to give an idea of what they do.
Proxy: Proxy server settings
Advanced: Erm…advanced options?…


The viewer shows the dataset it is currently working on, and is completely 3D – you can click and drag this around with your mouse to look at it from different angles.
The protein molecules shift, jiggle and wiggle in different arrangements around while your computer processes the dataset it has downloaded from Folding, once it has completed, it will upload the data back to the researchers.

The dataset

That’s what you see on the main screen:

We can see the current progress here in the Log tab

If we want to dig a little deeper into what’s actually going on, we can look in the data folder:

if you open the file ‘md’ – it will give a very detailed output of what’s happening with your CPU/GPU, and the test settings it is executing.

Here’s a snippet from mine, so you can see:

Screensaver for the mind.

With the game on pause for a while; entertainment projects can wait for now. We’re entering serious times, and playtime is over.

I’d posted the other day about physics simulations, since I’ve had more free time to set up not so much elaborate, the geometry is very simple – but scenes where the environment is affecting the object – and I find it really satisfying to watch. It’s peaceful in its chaos.

Even creating the scene, experimenting with the scenarios – it was ultra relaxing, it makes us smile.

I’t’s calming because nothing is getting hurt, there’s no peril and it’s oddly satisfying, we can disengage fight or flight.
The geometry is basic, so there’s nothing really to focus on, and you can watch in night mode and not miss any of the cruicial action.
There’s no plot, no dialogue, no need for subtitles.

Tonight, I was taking a few minutes out to watch it, and I thought to watch it at slower speeds, and you know what? I wish I’d originally rendered it at 0.5x because I find it a lot more enjoyable.
Here, listen.

I’m not trying to repost my old videos out of laziness, I want to show you something that I’ve just found out from this video.

Yeah, I know you can play videos at different speeds – but I’m on about this video in particular. It has vastly different moods for every increment, and still syncs with the video; where you notice the chaos in ultra slow motion.

1.0x – Normal [Upbeat, electro. 80s vibe]
0.75x – 16 bit-ish. Very similar to 1.x
0.5x Emotional – This is my favourite, it feels epic.
0.25 Meditation. – Very little space between notes; drony. good for meditation.

The majority of the nation have found themselves being forced to work from home, quite suddenly – and it’s a hell of an adjustment.
I’ve plenty of experience with living and working in the same building or room, and it takes it’s toll. It’s hard to switch off when there is no commute from work to home.

I understand that a lot of people who are now working from home may not have second or third monitors, and may have had to resort to using their high-end TVs as a second monitors – so it wouldn’t do just to them to render Screensavers for the mind in anything less than at least 4K resolution.

Why screensaver for the mind?

In the first part of this article, I spoke about using our overworked computers to contribute to human study about something very important in their free time while they’re idle.
This is the opposite, this is using computers to compute physics in a visually appealing manner to us, so we can go idle: that is very important to us… resting for a few short moments, because we work hard too.

Remember to take regular breaks.

10 PRINT "All work and no play makes [$user%]a dull (var)."
20 GOTO 10

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