In early October 2008 my wife gave me a Playstation 3. Calmly, not much really, I was looking at the various applications that It had my new toy and then I saw by the first time the term Folding@home. As Sony said in the presentation screen was a distributed computing project from Stanford University. Was a 3D globe seen at night in black and lit with the cities, also showed some numbers and accountants who ran at full speed, and in the lower right corner that looked like a three dimensional representation of a molecule as we did in college with porexpan balls and sticks. All this accompanied by Chillout music and little sounds style R2D2 in Star Wars, ¬°beep, beep!. Very cool but very boring, so I switched off and I started to play: something called Playstation.

Six months later, surfing the Internet, I stumbled again with the term so I opened Google and searched.

The first page that appeared in the search was the Folding@home project (that belonged to Stanford University where explained as follows:

Our goal: to understand protein folding, misfolding, and related diseases

What is protein folding and how is folding linked to disease?
Proteins are biology's workhorses -- its "nanomachines." Before proteins can carry out these important functions, they assemble themselves, or "fold." The process of protein folding, while critical and fundamental to virtually all of biology, in many ways remains a mystery.

Moreover, when proteins do not fold correctly (i.e. "misfold"), there can be serious consequences, including many well known diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.

You can help by simply running a piece of software.
Folding@home is a distributed computing project -- people from throughout the world download and run software to band together to make one of the largest supercomputers in the world. Every computer takes the project closer to our goals. Folding@home uses novel computational methods coupled to distributed computing, to simulate problems millions of times more challenging than previously achieved.

Colloquially speaking, proteins have to adopt shapes as part of a puzzle, and when they do not correctly we suffer serious illnesses. In addition to the explanation given does not mention that behind almost half of all known cancers is the bug of the P53 protein that must be protected from mutations in the cellular DNA. Because of this bad folding of the P53 protein, these mutated cells will continue playing out of control giving rise to what we know as cancer.

What they do with Folding@home is to simulate the folding of proteins to compare the results with theoretical results of laboratory experiments and thus be able to understand the mechanism that causes the folding of proteins. When we understand the mechanism, we can try to repair.

The problem
The point is that a computer takes about 1 day to simulate 1 nanosecond of folding, and protein folding takes in 10,000 nanoseconds, in other words is 10,000 days in calculation on a computer. Almost 30 years for a single experiment!. At this rate it seems to me that none of us free to enter the draw for these diseases.

Fortunately Folding@home is more than 1 million from anonymous donors throughout the world, we provide the time in which our computers are waiting to press any key to process small pieces of simulation. With all these teams of anonymous people working at the same time, that was not even possible to imagine a few years ago, is now a matter of routine and in about a month scientists have the results of simulations. Not in vain in April 2009 Folding@home reached a record of 8.1 PFLOPS (Petaflops) or what is 8.1 trillion (8.1 x10 ^ 15 = floating point operations per second. The greater computing power in the world, neither the last generation of supercomputers reach these levels.

How can I participate?
It is very simple. If you have a computer (PC, Mac, Windows XP, Vista, OSX, Linux) and preferably less than 5 years old to give it time to do their work in time limit, click here to go to project page and download the version that fits your system. At the bottom of the page are links to older equipment and links to equipment with high performance nVidia or ATI graphics cards or processors with 4 cores.

Once downloaded the software, only takes 20-30 seconds, you only need to install and run. And you're working!.

Playstation 3 users already have the software pre-installed on the application Life with Playstation so they only have to run it.


Folding@home in Life with Playstation.
The bright points represent the location of Playstations 3 being processed.
In the lower right corner can saw the protein that is working and on the above calculating rates in real time with our nickname, the team with which we work and the reference of the experiment.

Akiytloer TEAM
Now that you're participating like anonymous can consider joining the team Akiytloer, so you can join your efforts to the rest of the team and move up in the world rankings.

To do this just go to the configuration window (Configure ...) and enter your name or nickname you want to identify and change the team number (default 0) by 162,949. From the moment you send your team first result you'll see your progress on the statistics page of the team. You can access from the menu of Folding@home or from this page (top left). The statistics are updated every 2 hours and usually takes about 1 hours to update.

This explanation is only for Windows but is basically the same on Mac or Linux.

In PS3 first you must change to the Folding@home channel holding the square and pressing down. Once in the channel folding press triangle and select "This Channel", then select and change your ID name and join the team 162949.

frecuently ask questions

Run the computer slower?
No, Folding@home is installed as an application in the background with low priority (as we see the icons next to the clock) and only consumes processor time that is free when the rest of the applications have ended. Anyway, if you have the impression that you slow down a little, can give pause and resume work when you leave the computer unattended.

Spends an Internet connection?
Just a few seconds when you download the work unit and a few seconds when you send the results. Spend hours or days between sendings, depending on the speed of your computer and when it is running.

Spends to much electricity?
In fact when we unattended the equipment, the screen and hard drives that are large consumers are off. If you want to save electricity, replace the screen saver option with to turn off the screen.

Is it bad to have the computer always on?
Really bad is turn it on and off frequently. The processor and the motherboard's semiconductor suffer heat stress due to the rapid warming that occurs in the computer when switch on it.

Can I have more than one computer with the same name?
Absolutely. I've myself 7 equipments as Akiytloer. You can see it in my statistics.

I hope your like me, find the thought of many people who can help work with your computer or Playstation for these investigations move as quickly as possible. One study estimated that in 2006 there were over 26 million people worldwide with Alzheimer's and the World Health Organization estimated a prevalence of 0.4% of world population. Add to this numbers for cancer, Parkinson's, MS, etc.. and do you an idea of the assistance we are providing with a very small effort.

April 24, 2009

If you have any questions can be found me at akiytloer@gmail.com. I'll try to respond as soon as possible.