Thursday, April 2, 2020

All Nerds report to Battlestations! Covid-19 inbound

I bet the two-and-half man who still read this blog, probably have a computer. And did you know that YOUR computer can actually help in this crisis?

You may have heard of "render-farms", where dozens of computers help rendering tiny bits of a new Pixar movie. You may have heard of the SETI project, where dozens of computers try to find alien blips on our cosmic radar. The same kind of technology can be used to understand the proteïns of virusses such as AIDS, Malaria, and of course, Covid-19.

I'm not a scientist, so I'm won't even try to tell you how it exactly works, but the idea is that universities / labs can "borrow" our computing-power to help searching a best-fit proteïn structure that can cripple this nasty virus, or at least gives a better understanding to the boys & girls in coats. Needle in the haystack, so every CPU/GPU is welcome.

Interested? Had to figure out how it really works, as this whole science-environment is vague as usual, not really telling the average Joe how it works. So here is a quick setup:

Step1: Download BOINC (from the Berkeley university, California). This is a (free, open source) tool that allows you to sign your computer up for various "work" projects.

Step2: Run the tool & Pick a project. There are various projects, including SETI and cancer research. For Covid-19, look for the rosetta@home project. You will need to create an user + password as well.

Step3: Download work. In my case (see below) click the "Instructions" button bottom-right, and click "Update Project". This may take a while, as it starts downloading work-to-do first. Once its done, it will start crunching!
If this kind of super-hero work doesn't impress the ladies, then I don't know what will.

Step4: Don't shutdown your computer. Well, you can of course. And if you still need your computer for other work like I do, you can suspend BOINC, or tune the available computing resources. You can reduce the max CPU usage, tell it to only work after 17:00, or not on Sundays if the Lord has a problem with that. That's all really!

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