Coronavirus: learn how to use your PC to fight the pandemic

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Assistance in combating the new coronavirus can come from any user. The Folding @ Home initiative allows you to make a donation for part of the processing of any computer. The project brings together the efforts of several PCs around the world in a distributed computing project, allocating fractions of calculations for each connected machine.

In this way, scientists responsible for seeking a vaccine against the virus or drugs to treat Covid-19 gain time and the ability to make accounts, reconstruct shapes in 3D drawings, among other works. See below how to donate part of your computer’s processing to research related to the new coronavirus.

At the moment, the great concern about the virus has motivated the adhesion of millions of people to the project. Folding @ Home already concentrates processing power around 470 petaflops, equivalent to twice the capacity of Summit, the most powerful supercomputer on the planet today.

How it works
Folding @ Home is a project in operation since 2000. The name “folding” comes from the term “protein folding”, or protein folding, in the Portuguese version. These proteins, like those that make up the virus, go through the process to assume a specific three-dimensional shape, allowing them to perform their functions. Finding out how these processes work is essential to understanding the behavior of the new coronavirus.

When participating in Folding @ Home, your computer will receive some fragments of the great computational effort to calculate how the Covid-19 virus behaves. These results may help scientists create strategies and antiviral drugs that can block the virus from acting on the body.

How to participate
There are no minimum hardware requirements to participate in the project, but computers with dedicated graphics cards end up having much more performance available given the large capacity of AMD and Nvidia cards in parallel processing. Another consideration that you need to make is that the tasks are intense and can cause your computer to lose performance. But in return, you can stop the app and leave it running only when the PC is not in use.

Step 1. You need to download the application that will run on your computer. To do this, go to the website “https://foldingathome.org/start-folding/”, without quotes. There are versions for Windows, Linux and macOS;

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Step 2. Install the app as normal. At the end of the process, a web page will be displayed: you can make simple adjustments and track your score on the project from there;

Step 3. To open the application itself, find FAHControl on your computer;

Step 4. Click on the “Configure” button, then on the “Advanced” tab and make sure that the “Any” item is selected in “Cause preference”. Note that there are other diseases under research by the project, but if you want to contribute to studies related to the coronavirus the recommendation is to select “any”. With the selection made, click on the “Save” button;

Step 5. It is not necessary to create an account or use a name, but if you want, you can enter it in the “Identity” tab. What you put in the “Name” field will be displayed in the Folding @ Home rankings with your score. In “Team Number” it is possible for groups of people to create teams, which organize the rankings among members. However, all of this is optional and you can leave everything as it is if you want to contribute anonymously;

Step 6. In the initial screen, you configure the behavior of the software. In “Fold” you start the calculation process, as long as your computer has already downloaded a task: if the “status” is in “Ready”, you can start to contribute;

Step 7. In “Folding power”, you define the processing intensity for Folding @ Home. In “Low”, your computer will not lose as much performance and the tasks will be concentrated on the processor. In “Medium”, notebooks with a dedicated video card activate the GPU to face more demanding tasks and in “Full” your computer will be practically 100% dedicated to the project;

Step 8. In the “Selected Work Unit” box, you can track real-time data about the task your switch is performing, such as estimated time to complete it;

Step 9. If you want, you can pause and interrupt the tasks by selecting them individually and clicking on the control buttons;


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