Posted: Feb 27, 2010 1:01 pm
by kiore
Please read here for some more frequently asked questions on:
Answers to: Reasons for not using F@H.
Thanks to John Naylor. (F@H Beta Tester and Administrator FAHAddict)

Will F@H reduce the security of my computer?

The Folding@home client and distributed computing system is no less safe than other programs that you can download from the internet and run on your computer. Because security of the F@H client is very important to the Pande Group, they have designed the F@H system to be as secure as feasible through encrypted downloads/uploads, file checksums, etc. F@H should not reduce the security of your computer. But, to ensure maximum security of your computer, never download a client or purported client update from anywhere other than the official download page.

Can’t they just use a Supercomputer? /They already have 400,000 processors, how is my one processor going to make any difference?

F@H is more than three times as powerful as the world’s current most powerful supercomputer, in terms of operations per second, so using a supercomputer would be a massive step backwards for the project. Even with that in mind, the project is still restricted by the power available to it and needs all the extra silicon it can get.

Won't this stop me using my computer?

F@H is designed to give priority to any process other than itself, so if you use your computer it will back off to allow the programs you run to have all the power they need. This applies to the CPU and SMP clients, but GPUs do not have this functionality so it is recommended that GPU clients are paused if a GPU-heavy program is to be used.

I’m worried about the environment, won’t running this program increase greenhouse gas emissions?/ Won’t running my computer at full or near full usage all the time make my electricity bill skyrocket?

F@H needs only to be run when your computer is running. From the folding@home website here the average computer uses 100W a day if heavily loaded, which works out at about $10/month (using a value of $0.15/kWh) if the computer is run flat out 24/7. If you factor in the time that you would be using that machine anyway, the cost is going to be much lower. As for the PS3, thus uses about 200W (using the original power supply) and about 115W on the newer power supplies in the 40/80gig models. That is between $12 and $20 a month again assuming the machine folds 24/7 and $0.15/kWh.
Cheers to Tarx:There is also the fact that treating all the diseases which this project can and probably will help find cures for, has a significant environmental cost (i.e. to power all the necessary machinery), and also a significant financial cost should you become a victim of the diseases. The comparatively small extra outlay for running F@H is peanuts compared to the cost of treating these diseases.

Won’t running my computer at full usage/100% all the time damage it?

Modern computer chips are precision instruments, they are designed to be able to operate continuously at full speed without degrading. A typical example of this would be the humble web server. These serve thousands, maybe tens of thousands of connections a minute and are fully loaded for long periods at a time, yet hardly ever fail due to hardware faults. For the more technically minded, it is usually a good idea to clean out any heatsinks though (this applies to both desktops and laptops).
Good point by kikimarie:You may wish to install a temperature program and watch the temperatures if you are using a laptop to run F@H. Well designed laptops should stay within their defined operating temperatures but will almost certainly get noisy, and the temperature monitor program should ensure peace of mind about the noise. However if your laptop cannot cope with the extra heat then the monitoring program will alert you to its' overheating and the need to buy a cooling pad or similar device, to enable continued running of F@H.

This is pointless; you can’t solve something like this without lab work!

This is correct, however Folding@Home uses independently tested and proven techniques to advance and work alongside the work done in laboratories across the planet.

F@H is irrelevant now due to [Corporation X]’s research. Why bother?

As long as we lack complete knowledge about how and why proteins misfold, the work of the Folding@Home project will remain relevant. Maybe the project will render itself irrelevant by solving these problems, we don’t know. But for the foreseeable future, the project will not be rendered irrelevant by the research of any one company or group of companies.

How can I be sure that my resources, "loaned" for free, will not be used to generate research that will then be sold for profits, e.g. like United Devices?

Folding@Home is a project run by Stanford University, and they release all of their findings into the world free of charge, in the form of peer reviewed papers. See here for more. Anyone in the world can then use the results to further their own research without the need to redo these computationally intensive simulations.

I have an internet usage cap, using F@H will use more than I am allowed, will it not?

Put simply, no. The uniprocessor clients use up to 10MB each way at their normal settings (assuming use of v6 clients), but most computers if run just during the day will only finish a Work Unit every 2 or 3 days. Over a 30 day period that is an absolute maximum of 300MB (if a WU is completed every 2 days, so 15 WUs at 10MB each way), or well within any usage cap. Most Work Units are far smaller than that limit anyway, and the v5 and v6 clients can be set to limit Work Unit downloads to 5MB each way.
WARNING: Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the GPU clients if run on higher-end GPUs - if run for ten hours a day internet usage can be as high as 30MB... which over a thirty day period is 900MB. Please consider this if you have a high- or top-end GPU and want to run the client, but have a bandwidth cap.

The Project has been running since 2000, but I don't see any cures. Why not?

For this, a note from the director of the project:

VijayPande wrote:In terms of big picture highlights, we spent the first 5-6 years working out how to use distributed computing to efficiently tackle protein folding and then applying it to do the first simulations of protein folding reaching the folded state with experimental validation, etc. This was one of our primary goals laid out in the Science section and we're excited to have accomplished that. Part of our work today involves continuing in that direction with more complex systems, continuing to push the state of the art.

The other part of our work is to apply these methods to study disease, especially Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and Huntington's Disease (HD). We are interested in understanding what's going on in these diseases to facilitate a cure. Indeed, our motto in big letters on our web page is "Our goal: to understand protein folding, misfolding, and related diseases," and we are on track for that. One could ask "how do you know if you understand the disease?" A good answer is new small molecule drugs which appear to prevent or minimize the effects of the disease. This too is in the works, with encouraging results in the lab (but it's not time to talk about this publicly until it passes peer review).

However, it takes a long time (often as much as 2-3 years) from the point where we have something interesting in the lab to where we are talking about the results publicly (it has to be validated by ourselves and go through peer review). Our first results on AD and HD will hopefully be coming out soon, i.e. in the next 6 to 12 months or so.

Finally as for a cure -- a cure takes a while to test and develop. First, one has to understand what's going on and that's where basic science comes in and most of what FAH does. However, we and others are excited to take the published results from FAH and apply them to real world problems such as AD and HD and our expectation is that our work could give some critical insights into these diseases, thereby helping to accelerate a cure.

If you have any other questions re this project please post them here and someone will attempt to answer them.
If you do decide to contribute, drop by for some advice or just to say hello.
Further team discussion can be found on the Rationalia team page: