Friends, Mefies, countrypeople, lend me your TFLOPS
March 12, 2020 6:23 AM   Subscribe

I come to bury COVID-19, not to praise it.
The evil that viruses do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with its victim's bones;
Folding@Home has started releasing work units to help fight COVID-19.

Currently the work units are GPU only but if you have a discrete GPU in your system, please consider running the Folding@Home client. Feel free to remove the CPU slot to save power. All priority on the GPU slots is being given to COVID-19 projects.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock (32 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm one of the PIs helping to run Folding@home. Great to see this post first thing this morning!

GPU work units are up and running currently. CPU work units WILL be released later today, so everyone can help contribute. We have been working around the clock on little sleep to make this happen. In the meantime stay tuned to Folding@home news updates: https://foldingathome.org/news/.
posted by Vitamaster at 6:49 AM on March 12 [31 favorites]


Not a non-console GPU in the house, but I've passed this on to some game dev types, and in my imagination they have all the GPUs.
posted by pompomtom at 7:04 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Are there any sort of resources or expertise that can help beyond extra GPU power?
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:17 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Thanks for this. My gaming PC is now puttering away and folding. Also shared on social!
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:20 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Are there any sort of resources or expertise that can help beyond extra GPU power?

This.

I have machines with decent CPU and loads of RAM, but no GPU, and I have a PS4, which I suspect would be more useful, computationally.

Vitamaster: is there any possibility of this becoming a PS4 app?
posted by pompomtom at 7:27 AM on March 12


I don't mean this to sound snarky, because I think this is great, but how helpful is this likely to be? Is there a significant probability this type of work will provide some useful information, or is it more of a "we need to try everything, and this is a thing" situation?
posted by FishBike at 7:43 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


This is relevant to my interests.
posted by teraflop at 7:47 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]


Following on, while the world is a big place and there's a lot of unused gaming machines that could be left running -- but the quantity of available gpu oriented VM's on AWS/GCP/Azure has got to be incredible. Not cheap but any serious study should have a pretty fasttrack to funding. And those systems are fast, mind bogglingly fast.

(and to slip in the snark comment, most of the gaming systems are going to be in use with folks self quarantining ;-)
posted by sammyo at 7:49 AM on March 12


Just think if all the machines that were mining bitcoin could be repurposed now that the bitcoin market is crashing. Do something useful you fucking wankers.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:58 AM on March 12 [33 favorites]


Note that if you have a Mac you'll need to wait until the CPU work units are released, since there is no GPU support for Macs.
posted by jedicus at 8:00 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


I have a GPU, but f@h doesn't seem to be using it at all?
posted by mittens at 8:03 AM on March 12


neat. i was sort of looking for an incremental browser game that was pandemic themed, and this feels way more important, but somehow just as satisfying.
posted by zsh2v1 at 8:09 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Mittens: How are you checking that? Task Manager doesn't seem to report correctly. Mine shows 9%, while HWMonitor reports 100%.
posted by CaseyB at 8:10 AM on March 12


Task manager doesn't show F@H usage because it's CUDA /OpenCL not 3D rendering. If you go to the GPU tab in Task Manager and selecting the heading of one of the graphs, it should have an option for CUDA where you can see your GPU going flat strap.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:13 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Run Folding@home only on computers that you own, or for which you have obtained the owner’s permission.

The FAQ's a bit light on expected costs of running such code.
posted by scruss at 8:16 AM on March 12


Is there a significant probability this type of work will provide some useful information

The work at the moment is basically running Monte Carlo simulations to work out how COVID-19 interacts with the ACE-2 receptor to enter a cell. The math is basically brute forcing Brownian motion and the subsequent chemical interactions. They're looking for all of the different ways the protein interacts so that they can figure out which molecules or antibodies might be able to stop the virus from entering the cell in order to provide a treatment. We have a lot of drugs out there that are already tested and generally safe and by knowing how the molecules interact we can possibly find one of the proverbial needles in that haystack.

Also, researchers can use the interactions to design and manufacture therapeutic antibodies that can be used to treat a coronavirus infection. This would stimulate our own immune system, letting it skip a few steps and get the adaptive immune system to kick in faster while also binding to the virus, interfering with its binding sites and stopping it from infecting more cells while the adaptive immune system ramps up.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:18 AM on March 12 [19 favorites]


Re cost:

I just got this setup on my gaming PC (3700x + Geforce 2070super). My desk is now drawing ~500W according to my smart wall plug, and is driving the folding computer, my work laptop, a large monitor, speakers, and sundry other small electronics & usb hubs & such.

As such, my desk is drawing half a kwh each hour. I currently pay about 13 cents each for those, so my desk is costing me 7 cents an hour. I guess about half of that is the folding server itself, although I don't want to go turning stuff on and off to measure exactly.
posted by cschneid at 8:22 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Is there a MeFi team?
posted by ringu0 at 8:25 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


I just got this setup on my gaming PC (3700x + Geforce 2070super). My desk is now drawing ~500W according to my smart wall plug,

Remove the CPU slot. Your GPU is an order of magnitude faster and more efficient than your CPU for this purpose. Your CPU clocks much harder and uses more transition power than a GPU while having less execution units.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:28 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


I have a vintage 2012 macbook pro and ... yeah, there's no way the electricity I'd burn in the CPU is anywhere near useful compared to an even modest GPU manufactured in the last year or so. So after the sole work unit I signed up for finishes in .. three hours ... I'll be signing off. Good hunting y'all.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:35 AM on March 12


Rosetta@home is doing something similar, and doesn't require a GPU. I made Team MetaFilter last week.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:13 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


I have an older desktop, windows 10, with an I5 2500K CPU and 16 GB memory. Last year I updated it with a GTX 1060 6GB GPU. Nothing great but maybe useful. I did the express install of the Folding At Home client and started it running with its default settings. I found that the FAH viewer/screensaver wasn't working. I saw in the forums that its a known issue. I also found that the work unit assigned to me wasn't about COVID-19, but was for a project about myosins. I'd like to be able to work on the COVID-19 project. But perhaps my machine isn't strong enough for that?
posted by DarkForest at 12:01 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


And if you are currently in a heating climate the watts aren't wasted anyways
posted by Mitheral at 12:10 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


cloud GPUs are E X P E N S I V E. a few dollars per hour per GPU usually or like $2k / month. plus NVIDIA has much lower margins on their consumer cards, which they restrict in various ways from being used in datacenters despite similar capabilities. There may be legitimate advantages to doing this even if the labs in question legitimately did have the money to pay for cloud GPUs or buy their own hardware which they probably don’t.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:13 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


I see now that I was reading the FAH web control display wrong. My GPU is working on COVID-19. It's just the CPU that's working on myosins. My mistake...
posted by DarkForest at 12:15 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


re: bicoin mining.. it is all done with dedicated SHA256 hashing hardware now that is only suitable for BTC ..
I just loaded the FoldingAtHome client and got my GPU online.. now to mine some covidcoins...
posted by zog at 6:17 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


And if you are currently in a heating climate the watts aren't wasted anyways

Tons of caveats (mostly around 'are you burning loads of coal?'), but this might well be a good point.

Where I live the weather is famously variable (and that's before "weather being famously variable" was a trend), so I'd want to add a temp sensor to switch it, but I suppose if you're in the mountains somewhere maybe pull out the 8088 and get cracking.
posted by pompomtom at 7:36 AM on March 13


Tons of caveats (mostly around 'are you burning loads of coal?'), but this might well be a good point.

10kW solar setup and I've net sent over a megawatt hour to the grid.

It looks like they keep running low on work units. I think we're blasting through COVID-19 research faster than they can throw it up on the server.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:08 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Ironic that they recommend turning off your antivirus.

Does it seem worthwhile to run this on an older 32-bit XP machine, or is that not that helpful? I have some old hardware lying around.
posted by MtDewd at 1:39 PM on March 13


Thank you Vitamaster for your work on this project.
posted by Gadgetenvy at 8:24 PM on March 13


Tons of caveats (mostly around 'are you burning loads of coal?'), but this might well be a good point.

I forget that electricity =/= Hydro everywhere. I guess one could live someplace where electricity is coal but heating is natural gas or something but generally I'd think electrical power is going to be at least as clean as home heating (and if your heat is resistive electric it is exactly the same). With the the big exception to this being people with heat pumps.
posted by Mitheral at 1:38 PM on March 14


I guess one could live someplace where electricity is coal but heating is natural gas

One could! For example, one could live in the Midwest.
posted by nickmark at 10:27 AM on March 22


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