[email protected] for COVID-19 Research

Ahoy, listeners!

We started contributing to the [email protected] project as a team some number of years ago, but recent events have driven additional attention to it over the last month or two. If you don’t know what Folding at Home is, it is a program which allows users to donate their spare computing power by working on computational research that goes towards finding solutions and cures to things like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancers, and more recently, SARS-CoV-2 / “Coronavirus” (the virus that causes COVID-19).

This computational research investigates how proteins fold into the shapes which enable biological stuff to do what it does. That’s why it’s called “Protein Folding”.

Folding at Home is not new. It began in October 2000, and it effectively combines the computing power of everyone involved to create a distributed supercomputer. Personally, I started folding back in 2003 for a now defunct team. Recently, usership has increased from 30k to around 400k users, meaning that [email protected] is currently more powerful than the world’s top 7 supercomputers combined. That’s a lot of computing power!

Back to our team then… More members are actively contributing now than ever before, and we’d be happy to help new folks get started! If you’d like to see our most recent activity, you can check out the stats page for the team over here. Contributors get points for their work, and it’s really nothing more than adding some friendly competition to something which we’re all working toward. You can also check out how we rank among other teams.

There’s some additional information in the #folding-team channel on Discord, but we’ll detail the basic process below. Take note that, while most computers can contribute in some way, it’s especially effective to use a computer with a modern GPU (but certainly not required!).

How to Join

  1. Head over to http://folding.stanford.edu/ and download the [email protected] program.
  • Please note that the program provides a couple main interfaces. One of them is the web interface, and the other is a separate program window. These are both the same program! There is no “web version”, just a web interface.
  1. When starting for the first time, you should see a screen to enter three things: username, team number, and passkey.
  • Username can be what you want it to be, but using your GR username would be easier to recognize.
  • Team number for the Gensokyo Radio Folding team is 230362.
  • Passkey is a unique alphanumeric string which uniquely identifies your work and helps to prevent someone else from claiming your work as theirs or vice versa. You can get this through stanford’s site. It’s technically optional, but having one gives you more points for your work, so do this!
  1. Start!
  • You can designate what hardware is used for folding and when. There’s an idle option which will only run the program when you’re away from your computer so it doesn’t interfere with your regular routine.

For more granular control, there are three levels of folding power: Light, Medium, and Full.

  • Light
    • CPU is Folding at half speed, GPU Folding is off.
  • Medium
    • CPU is Folding at three-quarter speed. GPU Folding is on. This is the default setting, and recommended for most users.
  • Full
    • CPU is Folding at full speed. GPU Folding is on. This is the most productive setting. Will cause fans to run faster and may produce more heat.

For even greater granular control, you can open up the Advanced Control Panel from your taskbar (next to the system clock usually in the lower-right corner of the screen) and select which CPU/GPU you want to fold, pause, or finish the work it’s doing (and stop accepting more work after).

  • Keep in mind that changing the folding power (light, medium, full) might change any specific settings you set via the advanced panel; the power levels are more or less just presets.

:information_source: One last thing… Because the popularity of folding has risen in recent weeks, the [email protected] servers may be bogged down and slow to give and/or receive work units, so the program might not do anything until its able to get work.

With that, please do ask questions either here or in #folding-team if you need assistance. Happy folding!

Disclaimer: Running calculations on your computer may push your hardware more than normal, so be sure you have adequate cooling to minimize any risk of overheating. Participation is at your own risk.

Holy moly, all 400,000 folding computers are more powerful than today’s super computers? Jeez, I better get my buddy to start folding as well.