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For anyone who is interested, we have set up an Ask Different team that is now folding for the Folding@home project.

For those not familiar with Folding@home, it's a distributed computing project for performing calculations for biomedical problems, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, Ebola and now COVID-19. It works similar to how SETI@home works (in case you're familiar with that). In the case of Folding@home, it was initially started by Stanford University in 2000 and since 2019 has been run by Washington University.

For those of you unfamiliar with distributed computing projects, they use the idle processing power of people's computers to help process data as part of the overall research effort.

In fact, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Folding@home project has attracted so many volunteers that it is now offering a combined processing power that is greater than the fastest supercomputers. See this article for one example of media coverage.

If you're already contributing to this effort, great! No need to do anything else, unless you're not part of a team and would like to join ours. If so, Ask Different team ID is 260066.

If you're not sure about this but would like to find out more, start by visiting the official Folding@home site, and/or have a look at the Wikipedia entry. You can also visit the official FAQs page.

If you're not already contributing but would like to, continue reading.

Getting started

To get started, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Start folding webpage.

  2. Click on the download link to download the software for your operating system. Access the Alternative Downloads webpage to get the installer for your specific operating system.

    (Note: Due to it's nature, the Folding@home app is only made available for desktop operating systems and is can't be run on devices running mobile or tablet operating systems.)

  3. Once downloaded, run the installer to install the software.

  4. For those running macOS and preferring to install via Homebrew Cask, run using the following command-line:

    brew cask install folding-at-home

  5. After installation, a web page may open. Ignore this and close the window/tab.

  6. If you are using a Mac, go to Finder and open the /Applications → Folding@home folder, and launch the FAHControl.app. Or, alternatively you can search for FAHControl in Spotlight to launch the app.

  7. Users of Windows and Linux computers can search for and launch the app from the appropriate applications menu/folder for their operating system.

  8. You may be alerted to the fact there is no identity. You can:

    • Click the Fold Anonymously option if you'd like to remain anonymous, or

    • Click the Configure Identity option if you'd like to use a name. This allows any points you have contributed to be credited to the name you're using. You can also join a team if you'd like by entering the Team ID number. (If you'd like to be part of our team, just enter our team ID: 260066).

  9. Click Save.

  10. The app is also made available as a standalone command-line client. You can use the following links to access the version corresponding to your operating system:


NOTES:

  • By default, the Folding@home project is currently prioritising COVID-19 data. However, if you'd like to dedicate your idle CPU power to another cause, then click the Configure button, select the Advanced tab and select the cause from the drop-down menu - The 'any' option is currently prioritising COVID-19.

  • The main FAHControl screen allows you to manually set the amount of processing power you want to allocate (Light v Medium v Full). Feel free to change this as you see fit (e.g. you may want it on full if you're not using your computer for a while, or if you've got a powerful enough Mac to just leave it on Full all the time).

  • On MacBook models it will be normal to hear the fan running - if this concerns you, feel free to reduce the Folding Power (see bullet point above). Please allow a bit of time for the change to take effect.

  • It may take a little while after setup for the FAH client to download it's first piece of data for processing. Also, it is normal that there will be periods when the software isn't actually processing any data. This is because it needs to download the data, process it, upload the results, and start the process again - and sometimes there can be a delay depending on server demand etc.

  • Depending on your computer, and how much it's being used, processing each piece of data can take anywhere from hours to days, so do not be concerned if it seems slow to you.

  • You do not need to keep the FAHControl app open for your computer to keep folding. There is an FAHClient that will run in the background to keep things chugging along.

  • You can change your Identity or join a team at any time by clicking on the Configure button and selecting the Identity tab. To join the Ask Different team, just enter our Team ID: 260066. To join or change to another team, you can change the Team ID at any time.


Support

For support you can visit the official FAQs page. There is also a Folding@home Support Forum.

Also, while I am not in any way affiliated with Folding@home, if you do have any questions/concerns feel free to ping me (@Monomeeth) in the comments below and I'll try my best to assist.

A final word

We have set this up in the hope it may interest/attract new users to this effort, especialy in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Every bit of processing power is useful and appreciated, and it is in that spirit we are joining the effort. We are not doing this to try and be the 'best team'. In fact, there are over 249,000 teams, many of which have been around for years, so it would be a futile effort to try and reach the top of that list. But, it is our hope that this Meta post and the creation of our team may attract new users who previously have not heard of this effort.

Remember: Every little bit helps, so if you're interested, why not give it a go. Many of us also have an older computer laying around not doing much, and IMHO this is something well worth doing. :)

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    Well done - thanks for putting this together! – bmike Apr 10 at 2:38
  • we can also see the protein moving using the viewer button in the app. Looks cool! – anki Apr 12 at 10:19
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Don’t forget to join the Ask Different team using ID: 260066.

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