I want to help folding@home get more client machines

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I want to help folding@home get more client machines

Postby vince_lewis » Wed Apr 12, 2017 3:51 pm

I'd like to help get you more client machines added to this fabulous project.

I am an English IT professional of many years and as such have worked in large blue chip organisations. Some of these have thousands of employees and hundreds or thousands of servers. I have also made contacts with senior people who will move from place to place, and some people who work in British Government depts.

It occurs to me I may be able to get some of these organisations to install the client on their laptops and desktops at least. Most of the people I have worked with leave their laptops on overnight at work to avoid having to reboot them in the morning.

Before I start approaching my contacts, it occurs to me you must have already thought of this and have tried it, sometimes with success. I would imagine most people would have security as the main issue, since it has to talk to the web to get the work units.

Please can you share any information you may have that may help me break into these organisations? Do you indeed have an information pack I can give to the CIOs ?

Please note my sole motive is to try and get you some extra client machines - hopefully hundreds rather than a handful. My mother died of cancer last year, and this has been much on my mind. Maybe by the end of next year I'll be brave enough to try and get Amazon to install it on their Firesticks and Google to install it on Chromecast. They are on all night doing mostly nothing, right?

Many thanks,
Vince Lewis
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Re: I want to help folding@home get more client machines

Postby JimboPalmer » Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:06 pm

Vince, I wish you well!

Be sure you get your approvals in writing. I was the IT department for a local (to me) Mental Health organization. I had approval from 3 different Directors, over time. You will typically find that most PCs are doing CPU folding rather than GPU folding. The electrical load will be real and needs to be discussed up front. (I live in an area that needs year round air conditioning, so the cost is high)

The communications with Stanford's servers is via the same protocols a Browser would use. (a frequent debugging step is "Can you get to the server in a browser?") So no additional holes need be punched in the company firewall in most cases, unless they block employees' ability to browse.

Just another volunteer,
Jimbo
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Re: I want to help folding@home get more client machines

Postby bruce » Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:00 am

The companies that sell laptops don't seem to seek the permission of the new owner but this may be a showstopper for FAH if you don't figure out how to get the permission of the new owner. (See the EULA)

FAH is designed to use all available CPU resources at a low priority so it shouldn't interfere with normal activities ... except for the heat generated by CPUs that are continuously processing and the electricity to do that. Operating systems are designed to minimize power usage by entering a sleep/hibernate state when the mouse/keyboard are idle for a while. Without a change to the power-saving settings, FAH won't accomplish much. In other words, you need the cooperation of the owner as well as any technician that may work on the computer in the future.

Some laptops can also fold on the GPU, but it probably make sense to DISable that setting since it generates more heat and Laptops don't do a particularly good job of getting rid of the unexpected heat.

Laptops, like portable phones, are designed to operate when not plugged in and this means they are designed as if battery power is precious. FAH is typically configured so that it suspends processing when battery power is being used. Many laptops are, in fact, used as desktop machine and they're plugged in almost all of the time, but it's something to think about.

Given these types of constraints, your idea (which I strongly support) isn't quite as foolproof as you probably thought it might be.
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Re: I want to help folding@home get more client machines

Postby bruce » Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:32 am

JimboPalmer wrote:The communications with Stanford's servers is via the same protocols a Browser would use. (a frequent debugging step is "Can you get to the server in a browser?") So no additional holes need be punched in the company firewall in most cases, unless they block employees' ability to browse.

Perhaps true and perhaps not. The company proxy will probably permit it (perhaps with a minor tweak to FAH's configuration) but the firewall on the PC probably needs tweaking.

Almost every computer has some kind of anti-virus/firewall software on it. Many of them automatically restrict outgoing connections except when initiated by a browser that's on some kind of a whitelist. {This would be a reasonable anti-spyware restriction if FAH somehow is on the whitelist, but it is not.] That means that somebody needs to give FAH permission to act like an approved browser.
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Re: I want to help folding@home get more client machines

Postby vince_lewis » Thu Apr 13, 2017 5:08 am

Jimbo, Bruce - excellent comments and stuff I'd not thought about (esp power saving settings and heat). These are exactly the kind of comments I was hoping for. And I knew it wasn't foolproof hence asking for help from more intelligent people than me.

Bruce - as Site Admin - are you actually part of Stanford ? If so, do you know if anyone else has actually tried this? I know you MUST have done it with Sony to get it on the playstation. In particular I'm thinking if you (Stanford) already have a checklist eg group policy settings for firewalls, AV, power saving mode, all the things you mention and possibly more.

Regarding heat - I'm now thinking about server farms and "the cloud". Most companies I know, the big ones, tend to either use the cloud if the are fully devops or at least a 3rd party host with a server farm for all their servers. Almost no-one has a room full of servers any more. I guess if you installed it on the servers then the problem gets transferred to there, and they should have aircon a plenty. But then it also depends on your service agreement if you are paying per server or for the actual CPU seconds being used I guess.

It would indeed be a good place to target if we can find someone philanthropic. Imagine if we got google cloud or microsoft azure to install it running it low level but on every server they own.... I'm targeting Bill gates eventually. Although my first target in the UK is the Alzheimer's charity. They are already looking into the research side (doing their due diligence) as a first step. I figure if I can't get a charity to support (free) research into it's own thing them I'm pretty screwed.
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Re: I want to help folding@home get more client machines

Postby bruce » Thu Apr 13, 2017 5:52 am

I am NOT part of Stanford; I am a volunteer just like you. This site is sanctioned by Stanford as their support site, but we're all volunteers here except for the folks with a University logo who are actually running specific scientific projects.

...But I've been doing this for many, many years and I read everything I can, so I've got a lot of experience. I've also met many of the folks at Stanford, though not many of the scientists from the outlying Universities which are, in fact, part of FAH.

As far as I know, each of the Universities buys their own servers and allocates those resources to the scientists who do the research on them. They function mainly as database servers to distribute work assignments and store the MASSIVE amounts of data that are uploaded when you complete work units. (They're also used to digest that data and figure out what the protein is actually doing.)

Some donors have evaluated the trade-offs between running FAH on their own hardware vs. paying a cloud service and the costs of having somebody else rent you their hardware seems to be consistently higher than using your personal hardware. (When a company decides to start a new cloud service they often offer reduce rates ... or even free ... but that only lasts a few weeks.)
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Re: I want to help folding@home get more client machines

Postby vince_lewis » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:42 am

well, I had a reply from Alzheimer's society that they are researching the Folding @ Home project, and that they'll get back to me in a few days. I'll post back when I hear more.
Hopefully someone there is already aware of it.
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