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PlayStation (Games) Science

Folding @ Home Petaflop Barrier Crossed 90

Posted by Zonk
from the soon-they-will-take-over-the-world dept.
The official PlayStation blog is reporting that the petaflop barrier has been crossed by the nodes participating in the Folding @ Home project. The article talks about what this means for computer science, and why this awesome amount of computational power was reachable. "Just six months after we launched the program, nearly 600,000 PS3 users have registered. Second, we made several improvements to the application (v 1.2) that helped make the computations more accurate and enabled us to squeeze even more work out of each and every PS3 console -- we went from 450 teraflops to 800 teraflops. These factors, combined with the contribution from all the other platforms, helped us cross the barrier, which happened sometime over the weekend."
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Folding @ Home Petaflop Barrier Crossed

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  • Now, until they come up with a way to use my Wii to fold proteins (and Dr. Baker has a great lab doing that here at the UW), I'll just use it to play Wii Sims instead.

    On a processor level, I must admit the literal hardware of the PS3 is vastly more suited for the calculations involved in folding proteins, so it might be a while, even if there are many more Wii systems being sold.
    • by trdrstv (986999) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @07:12PM (#20690409)

      Now, until they come up with a way to use my Wii to fold proteins (and Dr. Baker has a great lab doing that here at the UW), I'll just use it to play Wii Sims instead.


      On a processor level, I must admit the literal hardware of the PS3 is vastly more suited for the calculations involved in folding proteins, so it might be a while, even if there are many more Wii systems being sold.



      Agreed. Since the Wii was actually designed to be left on 24/7 I think it would be a great candidate despite being a slower machine.


      Not to discredit what Sony has done however. In a year of Stupid decisions, this is one of the shinning examples of a good idea that floated to the top. I hope they encourage its' use by setting milestones (100 WU, 500 WU, 1000 WU etc...) and offer Trophys in Home.


      I've only had a PS3 for about 1 month and I keep it on pretty consistantly to fold. About once a week I give it "the night off" (since that system fan is spinning constantly). Since I noticed the Background downloads still work while folding I got to thinking that even when using the system Folding could take please (even at a slower rate). I have a 60 gig PS3 with the EE chip. When playing a PS2 game it is using that chip to play the game so the Cell would be practically dormant. Why not let it "background fold" ? How about a DVD, or a BluRay movie? Playing music of the HDD?


      I can't imagine anything shy of a PS3 game (and a big one at that) would be running the Cell full tilt, so why not Add a "Folding@Home" option in system settings and let me chose to add it as a background task?

      • Agreed. Since the Wii was actually designed to be left on 24/7 I think it would be a great candidate despite being a slower machine.

        Also, many people have their Wii hardwired into their cable modem, and have bought additional flash cards, but the main problem is the chip capabilities.

        I think the Cell processor is more capable at handling higher vector math, IMHO.

        Mind you, even so, I never bought a PS3, I bought a Wii. Not because it is more powerful, but because it's fun.
      • by dch24 (904899)

        I can't imagine anything shy of a PS3 game (and a big one at that) would be running the Cell full tilt, so why not Add a "Folding@Home" option in system settings and let me chose to add it as a background task?

        The PS3 runs Linux, so it would be technically possible. But even though Sony did a Good Thing(tm) and added FAH for idle time, they're not going to go to the effort to test FAH in each game.

        The best way to get FAH would be to add the Sony FAHrootkit(r) in the Sonygcc that everyone is forced to use

    • by vux984 (928602)
      The PS3 apparently runs a sustained 200W running folding @ home. That's 140kWh per month. Assuming a 0.12 kWh rate, you'll be paying ~$200 per year in electricity for folding at home. .12 cents isn't high; its much higher in some places (Alaska, California, New York,...), and lower in others like most of Canada, Tenessee, Iowa, etc...)

      But running with a .12 kWh, and assuming the "33,000 CPUs" for PS3s means indiviual PS3s, then that's over $7 million in 'donated' electricity PS3's are using for this project
      • Electricity in BC and WA is around 7 cents a kWh actually. So it's cheaper for us.

        If you're already leaving it on anyway ...
        • by vux984 (928602)
          Electricity in BC and WA is around 7 cents a kWh actually. So it's cheaper for us.

          Yeah, only ~$120.00 per year. Cheaper, sure, but you could have bought a couple games each year with that money instead. Or over a few years, it would be enough money to buy a PS4 when it comes out... and most people pay a hell of a lot more than 7 cents.

          If you're already leaving it on anyway ...

          A decent system should go into standby, or at least a low power mode. Of couse the PS3 doesn't. Even idle the PS3 uses 177Wh. There i
          • by GeckoX (259575)
            Or unless you WANT to donate it's time and a bit of money via electricity to F@H.

            It's not like anyone is being coerced or forced to do this you know.

            Don't want to spend that bit of money or don't care about F@H? Turn it off. I fail to see the issue.
            • by vux984 (928602)
              Or unless you WANT to donate it's time and a bit of money via electricity to F@H.

              Exactly. But don't you think it ought to be clear that you are doing that?

              I have NO ISSUE with F@H's goals. I have no issue with people who WANT to donate $100 - $500 worth of electricity to them. I applaud them.

              The -issue- here, is that most people contributing have no idea its costing them, on average $200+ per year.

              To their credit, buried at the bottom of their FAQ they do have an (outdated) article that talks about Pentium'
              • by GeckoX (259575)
                Ehh, still don't see it as a problem. Nice that they DO offer some information like that, but really, lets not dumb down the layman anymore than they already are.

                It should really be common sense that using something that requires electricity...wait for it...costs money for the electricity being used.

                I mean, should all lightbulbs be stamped with a warning that if they use it it will cost X dollars to do so in electricity?

                Just sayin ;)
                • by vux984 (928602)
                  It should really be common sense that using something that requires electricity...wait for it...costs money for the electricity being used.

                  Fair enough. But considering how MUCH electricity is being used, especially considering that its far in excess of what most people would think, I think it should be better disclosed.

                  I mean, should all lightbulbs be stamped with a warning that if they use it it will cost X dollars to do so in electricity?

                  Yes. Absolutely.

                  Nothing would motivate people to switch to CFL's fas
      • by Trogre (513942) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @07:58PM (#20690825) Homepage
        It's only wasted power if you don't want the heat. If you live in a cold climate you've got yourself a perfect small heater with a COP of 1. So your thermostat-controlled heater won't need to work quite as hard to maintain your room at the target temperature, so you break even energy-wise and effectively get your F@H flops for free.

        Of course if you're in a hot climate and want to cool the room, well the opposite is true. You're wasting more power (200W to do the F@H work, and 200W/COP for the A/C unit to shift the heat out of your room).

        • It's only wasted power if you don't want the heat. If you live in a cold climate you've got yourself a perfect small heater with a COP of 1.

          In some areas, natural gas is so cheap that an entry-level natural gas furnace is more efficient in joules per dollar than even a 100% efficient electric heater. This happens in part because gas distributed to customers is burned in the house, while gas burned at an electric power plant suffers transmission losses over long-distance power lines.

      • The PS3 apparently runs a sustained 200W running folding @ home. That's 140kWh per month. Assuming a 0.12 kWh rate, you'll be paying ~$200 per year in electricity for folding at home. .12 cents isn't high; its much higher in some places (Alaska, California, New York,...), and lower in others like most of Canada, Tenessee, Iowa, etc...) But running with a .12 kWh, and assuming the "33,000 CPUs" for PS3s means indiviual PS3s, then that's over $7 million in 'donated' electricity PS3's are using for this proj

        • by vux984 (928602)
          However even if you didn't look it up I don't suppose anyone thought it ran on our belief in Faeries.

          Most people just don't think about it at all.

          And if they do, they assume its absurdly cheap; "it must be far less than the fridge or stove" they might say, for example.

          But that's not true, an even halfway modern energy star fridge spends 90%+ of its time idle; and the stove, which might peak at 400W+, also spends over 90%+ of its time drawing just enough power to run a clock. The PS3 uses more electricity by
          • by trdrstv (986999)

            I think the bigger question is: "Is $200/year towards F@H better spent than $200 towards the Cancer foundatation, or the ACLU, the Red Cross, or whatever your favorite charity is... if you think it is, then fine. But if you haven't asked the question because you assumed the cost was negligible then you really should. F@H shouldn't be receiving your donations simply because you erroneously thought it didn't cost anything.

            An excellent point. I personally consider F@H a "targeted donation". I know how much

      • Ok, what if Sony comes out with a cooler running unit with more processing power. At what point to you think that this is a worthwhile expenditure. Electricity here in Idaho is below 6 cents kwh. Alzheimer's runs in my wife's family. Do you even know how bad it's going to hurt if she comes down with Alzheimer's?

        I leave my Desk AND my laptop running 24/7. The laptop's been at it for almost 3 years. The desktop longer. I've been eyeballing a new CPU/Mobo/Radeon GPU card combo just for its folding capabilit
        • by vux984 (928602)
          At what point to you think that this is a worthwhile expenditure.

          This isn't really about what I think is worthwhile. Everyone gets to choose for themselves which charities they feel are most worthwhile donating to, and how much they wish to donate to them.

          If you wish to donate $120.00/year in support of Alzheimer's research, and you think F@H is the best Alzheimer's related charity to donate that money too, that is entirely your perogative. While I may disagree that its the best use of $120, even for Alzhei
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by SnoopJeDi (859765)
      Well, the hand-gestures involved in folding proteins are rather complex....

      (couldn't resist)
    • by Ant P. (974313)
      It'll never happen on a Nintendo console. The company is far too xenophobic.

      The 360 has more of a chance, but I doubt MS would let it on their hardware unless it's making them money.
    • As opposed to your WII shooting proteins?:P
      • As opposed to your WII shooting proteins?:P

        Well, actually, right now it's mostly used to mine for minerals like Bacon and Cake and to grow Skulls and Ghosts on trees while my family plays My Sims on it.
  • by crayz (1056) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @06:59PM (#20690279) Homepage
    Their project list [stanford.edu] doesn't seem to have been updated in quite a while. Many of their recent papers [stanford.edu] seem more focused on how to scale and utilize the type of computing cluster they have than they relate to any sort of medical progress

    I'm not dismissing the contributions to the study of computer science, but the stated goals of the project are:

    The Folding@Home project ("FAH") is dedicated to understanding protein folding, the diseases which result from protein misfolding and aggregation, and novel computational ways to develop new drugs in general. Here, we briefly describe our goals, what we are doing, and some highlights so far.

    We feel strongly that a distributed computing project must not just run calculations on millions of PC's, but d.c. projects must produce results, especially in the form of peer reviewed publications, public lectures, and other ways to disseminate the results from FAH to the greater scientific community. Below, we also detail our progress in these areas as well.
    • Of course you can't compare bogomips from a very easily parallelizable application like Folding@Home with Linpak, but the latest Top500 list [top500.org] has the #1 machine, Blue Gene/L at Livermore Labs, at 280 TFlops, and the next two at 101.x TFlops. And Japan's Earth Simulator, which was the top machine a few years ago, has been left in the dust at #20.

      If you want to talk about whether Real Science is being done, too many of the top machines are working on various aspects of Weapons of Mass Destruction and therefor

    • Many of their recent papers seem more focused on how to scale and utilize the type of computing cluster they have than they relate to any sort of medical progress

      How do you figure? By my count, about two of the most recent twenty publications/conference talks are mainly about the computer architecture. The majority are legitimate chemical physics and biophysics.

      Keep in mind that this group, and others like it, don't do any laboratory work. Their research is about "understanding protein folding," no

  • EULA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by toolie (22684) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @07:22PM (#20690489)
    I'd be a lot more interested in Folding @Home if their EULA wasn't so damn draconian. When I thought about installing it, I just glanced over the EULA to see if there was anything outrageous in it. There was a section that basically said they could monitor what I'm playing on my PS3 at any time - whether I was running it at that time or not.
    • There was a section that basically said they could monitor what I'm playing on my PS3 at any time - whether I was running it at that time or not.
      Unless I'm playing something like DoA: Xtreme Beach Volleyball or Tokimeki Memorial [wikipedia.org], I wouldn't be too worried.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by toolie (22684)
        I don't think anybody needs to know what games I'm playing or how much time I spend playing them. Of course, I pay cash for groceries, don't use the discount cards they give and never use credit cards... I'm silly about my privacy that way.
        • That's not privacy, it's just good common sense. You should be hidden from the world. A non-entity. It's the only sane choice.
        • by tepples (727027)

          Of course, I pay cash for groceries

          What do you do when buying something that isn't sold within cycling distance of your home? Ordinarily, people would use debit cards for that, but in some ways, a debit card is just as traceable as a credit card.

          and never use credit cards

          If you have no credit history, you might find it hard to buy a house or a car or even qualify for some types of employment. Do you find it feasible to pay cash for a house without invoking suspicions of money laundering?

          • by toolie (22684)
            Oh, I have credit cards and a credit history, I just choose not to use the cards. My mortgage payments and (before the car was paid off) car payments were direct withdraws from the bank.
            • It's pretty dumb to open a line of credit for buying groceries, but what's keeping you from getting a check card? All the convenience and none of the stupidity of buying groceries on credit.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by eosp (885380)
          Hint on the grocery discount thing: ask for a new card ("oh, I just moved here") then just toss the card on the way out. Or just give it back after they scan it.
          • by toolie (22684)
            They usually have courtesy cards that the clerks use anyway. Somehow my roommate got one that is not connected to him in any way. Usually they ask for a driver's license with a current address, etc.
  • Barrier? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UNFAIRMAN (470301) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @08:36PM (#20691151)
    Dear Slashdot editors,
    Its a milestone not a barrier. The 640k memory limit on PCs was a barrier. Going faster than the speed of sound was a barrier. A barrier requires technical challenges to be met to move beyond a specific maximum point. A milestone is significant only in artificial numeric terms, such as reaching a percentage of a goal, or achieving a number of ops per sec that happens to be divisible by 2^10.

    Its still quite newsworthy and very cool, but it isn't a broken barrier.
    • by RuBLed (995686)

      A barrier requires technical challenges to be met to move beyond a specific maximum point.

      They do have a marketing challenge though, with all those PS3 sitting in the....
    • Cycles per second in the computing world have always been in base 10, not base 2. This is divisible by 10^3, not 2^10.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_prefix#Usage_notes [wikipedia.org]

    • They did it on a PS3. If they had done it on a system which is actually deployed across many homes, then you could downgrade it to a milestone. (If they had done it on XBox360, maybe it wouldn't be a milestone so much as an Achievement. If they had done it on the Wii... just skip the press release, we get the idea already, the entire world owns Wiis.)
  • Has anyone else had systems issues with this? When I run the program, a number of times, my computer has frozen up and I had to do a hard reboot. I tried to ignore it but after a number of months of that garbage, I've uninstalled it.

    My theory was that perhaps they're doing some kind of low level hardware calls my system doesn't like. Anybody else seen this on an HP laptop (or any other hardware)?
    • When I run the program, a number of times, my computer has frozen up and I had to do a hard reboot.

      Have you tried running memtest86 or CPU temperature diagnostics?

      My theory was that perhaps they're doing some kind of low level hardware calls my system doesn't like.

      Like actually using the CPU to its full capacity? I've read that some systems don't like that because they have poor cooling or defective parts.

      Anybody else seen this on an HP laptop (or any other hardware)?

      Laptops especially have cooling issues.

      • No, I haven't tried running those diagnostics. memtest86 and CPU temperature diagnostic? I'll take a look for them. Thanks!

        My theory was that perhaps they're doing some kind of low level hardware calls my system doesn't like.

        Like actually using the CPU to its full capacity? I've read that some systems don't like that because they have poor cooling or defective parts.

        No, I actually thought they might be doing something screwy like bypassing the HAL to make their processing faster, or something really funky like that. But my theory is based on nothing but the fact that the folks at Stanford are probably pretty smart and are likely to try to grab as many cycles as they can, and making low-level calls would probably accomplish that. Your theo

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Try the forums. FAH's 'core' actually runs completely in assembly, this will push your system to the limit, shouldn't crash it out though. If you're blocking air vents while running FAH, you will have problems. Maybe you're overheating. Try the forums though http://forum.folding-community.org/ [folding-community.org]
    • by iTowelie (1118013)
      Oh God.. I can understand your sig :( I am not a nerd!
      • I believe being motivated enough to find a binary translator to decipher a series of binary numbers is, in fact the definition of a nerd :)

        You get uber-nerd points if you didn't need a translator.
  • this is way off topic, but ive been curious: quite often, a story will have tags on it that are almost nonsensical, and it seems unlikely that they even show up unless a lot of people are tagging the story with the same weird tags. Now how are people doing this? is there some group out there gaming the system or what?
  • by Eventual Karma (1051894) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:13AM (#20693071)
    I am about to go back into the nursing home where my father lays dying of late stage Lewy Body Dementia, another form of Alzheimer's. The doctor says he has until midnight. As someone who has watched a healthy old man turn slowly into an unresponsive shell, and watched a previously loving family split over how he is to be cared for, and all the horrors that go along with that, I offer thanks to you and all the others that fold when you can (I've been doing so for quite a while now). Life is indeed not always fair and if you could spare a few cycles whether it be on your PS3 or your PC, or whatever else it runs on, I suggest the possible pros outweigh whatever cons you might come up with. If folding does lead to cures, vaccines or even more understanding, it's a good thing, believe me. It's too late for my old man but it might be in time for you, or me, or someone you know. Bring on the next barrier (or milestone).

    Cheers. And may yours be the cycle that matters. :)
    • > Life is indeed not always fair

      It only _appears_ that way because you don't have all the facts.

      Karma is Divine Justice.
      • by Duffy13 (1135411)
        Karma is a myth perpetrated by those who need divine justice but refuse to believe in god(s), it is equally ludicrous. On a time line approaching infinity all actions and counter-actions approach equilibrium, unfortunately the avg. human life span is but a finite time line.
        • Karma and God are not mutually exclusive. An understanding of both are needed if one wants to gain and apply true knowledge.

          Fortunately the soul life span is infinite, and has as many finite human life spans as it needs to grow.

          --
          My karma ran over your dogma.
  • Now...not to knock on the door of progress or achievements but you're telling me that the greatest news the PS3 has under it's belt is that it reached a milestone in Distributesd Computing. Me? If that's all a 600$ console can do well right now...I'd feel ripped off!
  • Second, we made several improvements to the application (v 1.2) that helped make the computations more accurate...


    More accurate or more precise? I think this is a pretty important difference. If I'd been running F@H for a while, I'd be upset to find out it was lacking accuracy; that's a lot of wasted (or less valuable than they could be) cycles I'd paid for.
    • More accurate.
      I'm pretty sure the folding algorithms are processor intensive because they are monte carlo simulations. These are very precise and very inaccurate.

      I'm guessing they're monte carlo because 1. I can't imagine a better way to simulate macro-molecular interactions and 2. because it's the only reason why the giggling picture would be necessary to perform the simulation.
  • Active CPU's (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vasqzr (619165)
    For the cell, they took the # of PS3's and multiplied it by 8 to get # of active CPU's. Shouldn't they have multiplied by 6, since one isn't active and one is reserved?

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein

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