Beginner Builder series 75% done! will probably never be finished. :(

Monday, November 23, 2009

Folding@home: Ask not what freeware can do for you....

Freeware can be really handy. Just browsing the freeware on this little site can show you that. It's just downright helpful. Checking e-mails, browsing the web, chatting with friends, writing work documents, listening to music, organizing wedding photos, you name it. Freeware helps in many areas of life. But who helps freeware?

Folding@home is a very interesting idea created by Pande Lab at Stanford University as a way to help us understand the "art" of protein folding. Proteins do what is called "folding," essentially changing form and purpose in the time span of a microsecond, and understanding how and why they do this could help us find the cures to many diseases, and help us better understand our own psychological structure. (That's just my understanding of it.)

You might think that a supercomputer is the best way to get this done, but that's actually not the case. The best way to virtually fold the maximum amount of proteins is to actually have it spread out on a ton of computers, all over the world. What better way than to do it in our households? "Folding@home" is a computer program that simulates how a protein will fold, and does so "at home" on all types of computers. It uses the host computer's processor to fold a specific protein, then sends that data back to "headquarters" (Stanford).

You may be a little skeptical, but Folding@home really does produce results. All you have to do is install it, set it up (just a little configuration), and add it to run on startup, and you'll forget it's running. I've run it on multiple computers over the years, and I've never seen a decrease in performance when it's running. You can set the priority and even make it stop if you switch to battery (for laptops) so it doesn't eat up your battery life. Overall, it doesn't require anything of the user, and helps so much. Why not start folding?

Also, as a bit of an incentive, you can also keep track of how much you've folded. You can register a username and even join a team, and you can compare your "work load" with others in your team, or even compare your team with other teams. In fact, there's actually a FreewareWire Folding@home team, in case anyone wants to join. To join a team, just type the team number, (for example, 174576 for the FreewareWire team) into the "Configuration" window of your F@h client, right below your username, and bam, you are linked in to that team. But don't feel pressure to join the FW team. There are plenty of teams out there, from a Google team to Duncan's (mobilephone2003 of Youtube) team (whom I must mention, since he's the one who first introduced me to F@h). Just pick whatever team you want, and fold away. Or don't even choose a team, if you don't want. Just start folding, somehow.

With so little cost and so much gain, why not start folding? Freeware gives a ton to us. Let's give a little back to freeware.

Visit Folding@home website for download

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