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PlayStation 3 gives strength to Stanford's Folding@home

Since last March, the PlayStation 3 has been one of the leading contributing technologies to the Folding@home effort.

Now, less than a year since release, more than one million users have taken part in Stanford University's Folding@home project. According to Sony, this equates to roughly 3,000 PS3 users registering for Folding@home per day or 2 new registered users every minute worldwide.

"Since partnering with SCEI, we have seen our research capabilities increase by leaps and bounds through the continued participation of Folding@home users," said Vijay Pande, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University and Folding@home project lead.  "Now we have over one million PS3 users registered for Folding@home, allowing us to address questions previously considered impossible to tackle computationally, with the goal of finding cures to some of the world's most life-threatening diseases.  We are grateful for the extraordinary worldwide participation by PS3 and PC users around the globe."

According to the Folding@home team, a network of roughly 10,000 PS3s can accomplish the same amount of work as a network of 100,000 PCs. It took just six months after PS3 joining Folding@home for the project to surpass a petaflops, a computing milestone that had never been reached before by a distributed computing network. On September 16, 2007, Folding@home was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's most powerful distributed computing network.

Currently PS3 users make up approximately 74 percent of the total teraflop computing power of the Folding@home project.

The Folding@home program runs simulations in protein folding and misfolding, helping scientists understand – and hopefully curing – diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's and certain forms of cancer. That’s not all the PS3’s CPU is able to do for the medical community, though, as the Cell Broadband Engine is also helping doctors at Mayo Clinic with medical imaging.

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Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By Foxery on 2/4/2008 6:34:38 PM , Rating: 2
Stanford's own statistics page shows 25,000 PS3s out of 250,000 active members. How did you determine that there are a million?

RE: Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By daftrok on 2/4/2008 6:51:27 PM , Rating: 1
Its total shows around 422,000 but still that's not close to a million. Perhaps some people unregistered? Perhaps they didn't feel like helping people and would rather pwn some noobs on Warhawk?

By ghost101 on 2/4/2008 7:20:18 PM , Rating: 2
Well there are also 900k anonymous donators. Could be that the majority of these are PS3s.

RE: Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By RamarC on 2/4/2008 8:16:09 PM , Rating: 2

How do I get a copy of Folding@home for the PS3?

If you have PS3 system version 1.6 or later, you will see a Folding@home icon in the Network column of the XMB (PS3 menu). Just click on the icon and that's it. If you don't have 1.6 or later, please perform a system upgrade.

The figure is probably how many have tried it (clicked the icon) rather than use it regularly.

By leexgx on 2/4/2008 9:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
more would be running PS3 Folding@home if thay Tell the users that there is an auto start option on the FAH icon (green button/options) some may asume it runs in the back ground, alot may have changed the there names as well so it may not say, name PS3 /team 0 as mine does not

thay may be getting the numbers of compleated work units as the servers that give out the work units can count each uniqe ID for each PS3, even if thay chaged the name

allso turn off the music if you been haveing problems with it hanging the PS3 as it can crash FAH and you have to turn off the PS3

RE: Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By jmke on 2/5/2008 7:42:40 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps they didn't feel like helping people and would rather pwn some noobs on Warhawk?

maybe people use their PS3 for gaming and when they stop gaming they turn the machine off... to save power. When running F@H the PS3 consumes more than 200W continuously, do you also leave all the lights in your house on 24/7?

Of course not, you turn OFF your lights when you leave it, as you should turn OFF your PS3 when you stop using it. You're wasting tons of resources and losing money keeping F@H running.

RE: Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By cochy on 2/5/2008 9:22:28 AM , Rating: 2
You're wasting tons of resources and losing money keeping F@H running.

That depends on your definition of waste. Some people, myself included would like to contribute and donate some power to F@H. When not gaming my PS3 is folding.

RE: Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By jmke on 2/5/2008 10:44:43 AM , Rating: 1
what? I can't hear you very well, because that fan in the 60GB PS3 is too loud :(

and we're not talking about a dollar/euro or two you'd be wasting, rather closer to €$1000/year...

RE: Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By masher2 (blog) on 2/5/2008 11:10:07 AM , Rating: 2
$1000 a year? No. Assuming 10c/KW-h, it'd cost you about $175 to leave a PS3 running full-tilt 24x7. Assuming you're using it 20% for other that's a surcharge of $140 for folding.

RE: Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By BZDTemp on 2/5/2008 4:53:32 PM , Rating: 2
We pay aprox. 33c/KWh so the numbers add up differently here.

To give and idea I live in a 1 bedroom apartment roughly 800 sqf and my electric bill is about $1600 a year and that covers heating, hot water and all my toys. Fortunately the place is well isolated so I use little power on heat and in fact most of the time my Stereo and IT stuff supply enough heat (which is then wasted in the summer).

By masher2 (blog) on 2/5/2008 10:03:16 PM , Rating: 2
You must live outside the US then. The most expensive state for retail electricity is Hawaii, and even that runs in the 22-24 c/kW-h range. Some states are as low as 7c.

By AlphaVirus on 2/5/2008 11:53:50 AM , Rating: 2
I think you were reading your moms car note, not the elctric bill.

And stop opening your parents mail.

By cochy on 2/5/2008 1:02:29 PM , Rating: 2
lol are you joking?

Anyway lucky for me I live in Quebec where Hydro power is abundant and inexpensive. It might cost $2 a month for me to run 24/7

PS. The PS3 is one of the quietest consoles I've ever had. I can't hear it over the TV, as opposed to the jet engine of the 360 that my step brother owns (unsure what hardware revision).

By BZDTemp on 2/5/2008 4:42:45 PM , Rating: 2
Of course not, you turn OFF your lights when you leave it, as you should turn OFF your PS3 when you stop using it. You're wasting tons of resources and losing money keeping F@H running.

Well - the main question here is if helping the scientist find a cure for diseases is a waste? I can think of much worse ways to spend energy - say how about not using the dryer to dry you clothes but hang it outside to dry instead for starters (It's better for most the clothes too).

Also for me my heating is electric so if I heat my home with electric radiators or a PS3 running 24/7 makes no difference. Except the PS3 will most likely not outlive the radiator so if I have to replace it some day there is the cost of making the thing. However most likely when the PS3 is done chances are I will be done with as well having moved on to a PS4 or something.

RE: Huh? Completely ficticious post?
By Foxery on 2/4/2008 6:52:40 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it looks like the press release came directly from Sony. Strange... The contribution of the Playstations is amazing enough to not need exaggeration.

<3 donating CPU time to medicine!

By Malhavoc on 2/4/2008 8:45:50 PM , Rating: 3
"have taken part"

GPUs are the kings though
By Amiga500 on 2/4/2008 6:37:15 PM , Rating: 2
As good as the Cell BE is, GP-GPUs dwarf it when it comes to FLOPS power.

Levering these things into HPC will revolutionise the industry...

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By Assimilator87 on 2/4/2008 7:01:29 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not of the specifics, but GPUs are confined to certain types of folding, whereas CPUs can handle all of them.

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By ChronoReverse on 2/4/2008 7:09:09 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, but even the Cell can't do all of them.

GPU < Cell < CPU in flexibility

GPU > Cell > CPU in speed.

Classic tradeoff scenario.

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By zpdixon on 2/5/2008 2:18:24 AM , Rating: 2

GPU < Cell < CPU in flexibility

I am sorry but this is BS. I develop, mostly in C & assembly, on the Cell on my PS3 running Linux. The SPU and PPU cores on the Cell are general purpose units , you can do anything with them. Sure the SPUs are highly-optimized for integer & single-precision SIMD workloads, and you have to constantly shuffle around your data between the 128 kB Local Store and the RAM to accomodate for the relatively small amount of directly addressable memory. But I repeat myself: technically the Cell, even if highly optimized for some workloads, is a general purpose CPU.

Sony, Toshiba, IBM are using and plan to use the Cell in numerous products: HPC servers, media devices, laptops (yes), game consoles, etc.

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By zpdixon on 2/5/2008 2:23:31 AM , Rating: 2

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By wien on 2/5/2008 5:47:56 AM , Rating: 3
GPUs are more or less general purpose these days too, but that doesn't mean they run normal general purpose code with any kind of efficiency. Same with the SPEs. Even though they can in theory run anything, they're not really efficient unless it's a certain type of workload. CPUs also have their weak points of course, but of the three they're the least picky about the workload they need to operate efficiently.

Hence "GPU < Cell < CPU in flexibility".

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By zpdixon on 2/5/2008 12:20:20 PM , Rating: 2
You are obviously not a Cell programmer either.

The Cell SPU ISA defines arithmetic, floating-point, branching, boolean , bit manipulation instructions. It is just as general-purpose as a CPU can be: they couldn't make the ISA more flexible .

Don't comment on what you don't know.

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By wien on 2/5/2008 2:41:05 PM , Rating: 2
I know it has a similar ISA to other processors. Even a DX10 level GPU can do most of that you mentioned there. The point is that it's still very dependant on having suitable workloads to take advantage of all those FLOPS. A GPU would absolutely croak if you for instance tried to compile on it because that kind of branch heavy workload just isn't suitable for the GPU's architecture.

The Cell SPE is similarity more specialised than a normal CPU core in terms of workloads it is good at, and that makes it less flexible in my book. The ISA has nothing to do with it.

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By zpdixon on 2/5/2008 3:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
I think a point of vocabulary is causing this disagreement between us. For me "flexible" means "able to run a wide range of workloads" (at average or above average performance levels). While it seems you use the word "flexible" as a synonym for "able to run a wide range of workloads in way that always has to be as efficient as possible" (so you require the presence of traditional CPU features which do not exist on the SPUs: caches, out-of-order execution, branch prediction, register renaming, etc).

RE: GPUs are the kings though
By AlphaVirus on 2/5/2008 11:57:56 AM , Rating: 2
That is why the Cell was the perfect candidate to use. The is no see-saw effect going on because everyone is on the mid of the spectrum.
Cell - Average speed and average flexibility
GPU - Poor flexibility and good speed
CPU - Poor speed and good flexibility

How Efficient is Distributed Computing?...
By flgt on 2/4/2008 9:32:07 PM , Rating: 2
General question. I was on the Folding/SETI/etc. kick there for a while until I noticed that when I came home my office was uncomfortably hot. Also, while I didn't look into it too much I did see a noticable bump up in my electric bill. I had my laptop and a used dual processor xeon workstation I bought for a good price cranking away. Admittedly I left my computer on 24/7 in an effort to save the world which was stupid in hindsight after becoming aware of how much power a CPU can suck down. Now if you take this experience and apply it to the PS3 population I came up with these numbers on a monthly basis assuming something like 100W for a cell processor running at 100% for 50% of the time(don't know if this is completely accurate, I'm sure someone will correct it):

kWh's used = 0.1kw*30days/month*24hrs/day*50%*422000PS3's= 1.519*10^7 kWh

1.519*10^7 kWh * $0.10 / kWh = $1.519 Million per month

Now obviously I swagged a few numbers here (I also didn't include the cost of cooling the room if necessary in warm climate) but I was wondering about the total cost of distributed computer projects. It's low cost for the organization heading the project since they don't have to purchase the CPU's or the electricity, but are single location supercomputers more cost effective or efficient overall? Can a modern supercomputer work in the petaflops range? You also have overhead of shipping all of the data back and forth and managing a more complex network of computers.

RE: How Efficient is Distributed Computing?...
By Foxery on 2/4/2008 10:03:52 PM , Rating: 3
The key is that no single person or company is footing the entire bill. Nobody has to go get a grant for that $1.5 million... we all just chip in our five bucks and get 'er done.

By Frank M on 2/4/2008 11:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, while someone else makes a buck.

RE: How Efficient is Distributed Computing?...
By flgt on 2/5/2008 7:51:13 AM , Rating: 2
That's my point. Maybe we should just send in $5 a month to the project and have them do the computing in a central location if it's more efficient. I know I sound like an environmentalist wacko but we're talking megawatts of power for the PS3's alone. The IT/computer industry is so frickin wasteful. They've made some strides recently but I think there is a long way to go. I work for a large corporation and their policy for client maintenance is log off and leave on. It's definitely an area that there's room for improvement.

By AlphaVirus on 2/5/2008 12:06:06 PM , Rating: 2
You try telling a 10 year old with a PS3 to send a check written to some random place in California for $5. Then make sure you remind them to put the PO Box #.

I think its better that you have 1mil PS3's doing 1 job each rather 1 super computer doing 1mil jobs.
If 1 person turns his PS3 off, you still have 999,999. If you turn of the 1 super computer you have 0.
If people can not foot the electric bill, they will just turn off the PS3. If a project can not foot the bill on a super computer, they have to shut the project down.

I hear what you are trying to say but it is just more efficient having the PS3's do all the work.
Also remember, the PS3 can do a simple firmware update and move on. Have you ever seen a super computer? They are usualy large rooms full of computational mess. To try and update/upgrade would take time and effort.

Look at it like this, the PS3's are doing the number crunching, and that just leaves the University to do their research.

By Jedi2155 on 2/5/2008 12:09:24 AM , Rating: 2
I had a kill-a-watt meter and had my friend bring over his 80 GB PS3....the thing measured around 190 watts idling in the screen and up to 300 watts gaming! So you can probably easily double your numbers and still come up short with the folding.

By FITCamaro on 2/5/2008 8:52:52 AM , Rating: 2
I keep an X2 3800+ machine with 1GB RAM, 5 hard drives, and a 7600GT on 24/7. If I were to turn it off for an entire month I might save $3.00 on my power bill.

It might get 2 more hard drives here soon.

RE: How Efficient is Distributed Computing?...
By Azzr34l on 2/5/2008 6:04:03 PM , Rating: 2
I'd like to see Stanford produce some data that shows the Folding project is actually going to produce something. Nobody knows if it's going to produce any tangible results.

Millions of users running their PS3's at maximum capacity is DEFINITELY producing something. It consumes 220W at the plug (maybe less for the new 40GB versions) while Folding. You take that power draw times millions of users, some possibly running 24/7 and you don't see a huge waste of power resources? Anyone here realize how many power generating plants are still using coal? That's a lot of harmful pollutants being generated by this Folding project.

Some people just don't get it. Your energy companies send you reminders to turn off your lights when you're not in the room and you don't think the power sucking PS3 is any different?


By Durrr on 2/5/2008 9:07:19 PM , Rating: 2
power production plants like coal/nuclear run at 100% all the time due to a large energy input to get them going.They supply a "base load". Natural Gas/Gas Turbine(read oil) electrical production facilities are the units which are throttled based on grid usage.

good work.
By jadeskye on 2/4/2008 6:36:15 PM , Rating: 2
The Ps3 may be the least popular console sales wise but at least it's doing some good.

Heres to 2008 being a good year for the PS3.

and the continued success of the 360 and wii.

RE: good work.
By Frank M on 2/4/2008 11:29:59 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah! Go multinational corporations!

RE: good work.
By JahCityMassive on 2/5/2008 2:48:45 AM , Rating: 3
so we're 100% sure this folding @home is for a good cause? sure big Gee Dubya isn't behind it doing some mass scheme? ah well.

By conrad13a on 2/4/2008 7:16:34 PM , Rating: 2
After owning the pos3 for over 3 months now, I've found the folding to be it's best attribute.
Browsing the net is a slow, painful and incomplete experience.
Gaming leaves much to be desired in any shooters and the sony software that is part of the console is cut off at the knees.
Who knew a gaming console would benefit others more than yourself?
I'm glad it can play blue-ray dics - it is now just my home theater dvd player, and it collects dust just as well as it plays high def movies.

RE: folding
By mmntech on 2/4/2008 10:16:42 PM , Rating: 2
Why didn't you return it to the store then? I've never understood why anybody would buy and hang onto a $400+ item they don't like. They usually give you two weeks to return it, which is more than enough time to decide if you like it or not. Whining about it when it's too late only makes the person look more foolish.

I do a bit of folding occasionally. I don't keep my PS3 on 24/7 like some people do. I'm trying to keep my electric bill down. I ran United Devices a lot on my PC before. Collaborative projects are huge now. Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams dubbed it Wikinomics. They were talking about projects like Wikipedia but the same applies to Folding@Home. It's amazing to finally see the internet living up to its intended purpose as a powerful research tool.

RE: folding
By deeznuts on 2/5/2008 1:56:31 AM , Rating: 2
For some reason I don't believe you.

Someone who owns a Blu-Ray player calling it blue-ray, after presumably buying/renting Blu-Rays. If you wanted shooters, get a 360.

If you call something you own a POS, well what does that say about the owner? Shit stinks, I wouldn't keep it my house.

RE: folding
By AlphaVirus on 2/5/2008 12:11:21 PM , Rating: 1
For some reason I don't believe you.

He sounds like a kid trying to be on the anti-PS3 wagon just for the sake of getting attention.

Someone who owns a Blu-Ray player calling it blue-ray

Which again, proves he is a kid.

If you call something you own a POS, well what does that say about the owner? Shit -snipped-

Lol you answered your own question.

What I cannot understand
By qdemn7 on 2/5/2008 12:03:24 AM , Rating: 2
Is why Nvidia has made no effort to develop a client for Folding@Home? AMD/ATI has done so, and given that the most powerful GPUs are Nvidias. Guess it's beneath Nvidia to do so.


RE: What I cannot understand
By Spoelie on 2/5/2008 4:47:17 AM , Rating: 2
1) ATi did not create the folding client, stanford itself did
2) Starting from the X1xx0 series, ATi's GPU's have been computationally faster in GP-GPU's applications than NV. Where ATi is lacking is 'painting pixels', but pure crunching numbers, the X1xx0 series had a huge leg up over the G7x. Look at current game (shader-heavy) benchmarks to see the difference in speed between those 2 architectures: . Also in this generation, ATi has a case for number crunching superiority, but we have to wait for actual applications to see if it pans out.

Consider the stanford comments on the release of the client (2006, before G80):
"The R580 (in the X1900XT, etc.) performs particularly well for molecular dynamics, due to its 48 pixel shaders. Currently, other cards (such as those from nVidia and other ATI cards) do not perform well enough for our calculations as they have fewer pixel shaders. Also, nVidia cards in general have some technical limitations beyond the number of pixel shaders which makes them perform poorly in our calculations."

RE: What I cannot understand
By qdemn7 on 2/5/2008 5:53:08 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for that information.

By billybob24 on 2/5/2008 8:06:57 AM , Rating: 2
What exactly has folding at home cured or even made any progress in, even an inkling of a treatment?

Oh yeah, absolutely nothing.

I'm surprised the EPA hasn't banned folding, seems like little but a big global warming contributer, if you believe that nonsense.

If the EPA can now tell auto manufactorers to stop building sports cars as a recent Dailytech post mentioned, I'm sure folding wont be far behind to be banned.

RE: So
By masher2 (blog) on 2/5/2008 10:08:56 AM , Rating: 2
> "What exactly has folding at home cured or even made any progress in, even an inkling of a treatment? Oh yeah, absolutely nothing"

You couldn't be more wrong. Over 50 research papers have been published with the results of F@H data, and its contributed greatly to our understanding of protein formation and peptide self-assembly.

Molecular biology is still in its infancy, but F@H has contributed substantially to the field.

RE: So
By TerranMagistrate on 2/5/2008 2:53:15 PM , Rating: 2
More like: you don't have a clue.

Not much folding right now
By Scott66 on 2/4/2008 7:43:54 PM , Rating: 2
The timing of this article is amazing. Right now stanford servers and the PS3's are not talking to each other. Check Stanford site under news and you will see updates on the problems they are having with PS3's uploading results and they seem to blaming Sony. This is hard for me to see as I had over 60 units done in a month and now out of the blue there is a problem. Sony's software did not change.

By kingcarcas on 2/5/2008 7:13:06 PM , Rating: 2
Nobody is forcing you to Fold.
If you're going to "pollute" you might as well find a cure for cancer.
Nobody forced you to keep the PS3, if it's a POS take it back.
I think it's the best $400 you can spend on a piece of electronics. HD movies, gaming and Folding@Home while you're asleep. You have to start somewhere, you don't know if 20 years from now we will see F@H pay off.

PS3 won! Sony won!
By IntelGirl on 2/4/08, Rating: -1
RE: PS3 won! Sony won!
By Squilliam on 2/4/2008 7:28:34 PM , Rating: 4
You can add yourself to that ignorant category.


RE: PS3 won! Sony won!
By Ringold on 2/4/2008 9:21:49 PM , Rating: 1
Intel Girl ?

Sure you're not PS3 girl?

Console partisanship for the lose.. cheap and fun (girls) for the win.

RE: PS3 won! Sony won!
By Manch on 2/4/2008 11:57:04 PM , Rating: 1
In the end, the PS3 is a monster of a machine and is on it's way to making the world a better place.

DAMN IT!!! I told those dumb shits in the U.S government to buy PS3's instead of F-22's!! They never listen!!!

For the same price they could have created the largest distributed network running WorldPeace@home ver 20.5!!

RE: PS3 won! Sony won!
By EglsFly on 2/5/2008 12:50:32 AM , Rating: 4
I see you are trolling under different accounts just to stir stuff up, just read some of your posts, its the same person:
"PS3 won! Sony Won!" or "Blu-Ray Won! Sony Won!" posted over again under different accounts. Your other posts attack other DT readers, such as:
Either you are an insane fanboy, or someone trying to stir up Sony hatred, or maybe haven't reached the age of 12 yet, not sure. Here are two of your accounts:

RE: PS3 won! Sony won!
By BansheeX on 2/5/2008 9:23:54 AM , Rating: 2
Real fanboy posts aren't usually this blatant. I smell flamebait.

RE: PS3 won! Sony won!
By AlphaVirus on 2/5/2008 12:17:13 PM , Rating: 2
I smell flamebait.

Exactly what it is.

Isnt there a way to ban a persons IP address, yes. Well how about we ban someone who creates multiple accounts just to start a bunch of mess.

RE: PS3 won! Sony won!
By FITCamaro on 2/5/08, Rating: 0
"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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