Monday, September 19, 2005

Use Your Unused PC Power to save Life

Many PCs around the world, especially in office buildings, are left idle when their users or employees are not using them. Many of them quite powerful PCs (such as Pentium 4, AMD or even the 64-bit version and/or with dual core or multiprocessors). Why don't we use them for something useful?

There is a project at Stanford University under project Folding@Home that's trying to simulate proteins (interactions, quantum physics computing etc.). All of this computation requires very huge computation power. The group of Biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, biology, physics and computer science experts led by Prof. Pande (called 'Pande Group') at Stanford has come up with a novel technology and idea: distributed computing (computational grid using clusters).

Instead of using single supercomputer to compute, the software distributes chunks of work to many computers connected to the server over the Internet. This chunk of work is called Work Unit. Every user who wants to contribute his/her computation power can subscribe and download the software (people can also affiliate to any groups or even make their own group). The software that's running on every user will then download workunits from Stanford University's server and does the computation. After the workunit has been done, the computer then send the result back to the server.

The software can use up to 100% utilization of the PC, but we can adjust how much it is allowed to consume (or even when the computer is idle only). There are different versions of software: console-only and screen-saver; available on Windows, Linux and PowerPC (MacOS). Unfortunately, Solaris has not been supported.

Actually, there is another project that came before Folding@Home (not sure which one came first). I used to run this program under project SETI@Home from UC Berkeley (?). But after sometime, I was thinking, why should I run such a useless program to find extra terrestrial (ET)? (Off the record, I don't believe there is another creatures in outerspace. Even if they exist, not with intelligence as human being have).

So, instead of leaving your PCs idle for many hours (do the math: you leave at 6:00 PM from work and come back next day at 8:00 AM. The PC is idle for 14 hours!), you participate to a project that can find cures for some diseases.

Please check it out at:

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