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smullster Blog

Hey, Folding@Home.... Bite Me

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Stanford University and the Pande Group (headed by Professor Vijay S. Pande - Associate Professor of Chemistry and Structural Biology at Stanford) have initiated the Folding @ Home project; available now for your computer and soon to be released for the Sony Playstation 3.  Folding @ Home works on a distributed computing model where a software client is installed on your machine and raw data is received from the project via the Internet.  The client software then processes the raw data by using spare computer processor cycles (it works while your not using the processing power of the computer).  Once the data is processed it is sent back to the project.  Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

The thing of interest about folding proteins is what happens when it screws up and misfolds.  (If I understand the issue, proteins "fold" as a normal part of forming themselves, but if the protein "mis-folds" nasty things can happen).  Misfolded proteins can cause Cancer, Alzheimer's, Mad Cow, and Parkinson's disease to name a few.  By downloading and running the Folding @ Home program you (OK.. your computer) become a participant in discovering how these things work and ultimately aiding in the discovery of medications that will eventually cure these diseases.

At this point you're probably wondering why Stanford and Pande Group should pucker up and kiss my tush, because what they're doing is pretty cool and on the surface it makes everyone involved get a warm fuzzy feeling.  Here's the thing... discovering a cure or better treatments to these diseases is not only a great humanitarian effort but also an extremely lucrative one.  The Pande Group is nonprofit and says that it will give the data freely to whoever asks for it.  You KNOW that Pharmaceutical companies are just salivating to get their mits of free research.  Heck, why should they spend their precious research money when they can get it funded by government grants (ie. your money), and data that has been funded by your computer processing power, electricity, internet connection and time.  I'm sure that they'll recognize your contribution by making the cure affordable for everyone.

One of the first distributed computing public programs that I can recall is SETI @ Home... which enlisted computer enthusiasts to use their computers in the search for extraterrestrial life.  The SETI @ Home project was innovative because the project itself was underfunded and losing scientific funding yearly.  By thinking out of the box and seeking help from interested volunteers they were able to continue their research.  In contrast, the search for a cure for Cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease is not a fringe topic.  It's big business.  It doesn't make sense to me why this kind of research needs your and my help.  The whole thing smacks of cost cutting and maximizing profits.  Why pay for something when you can take advantage of people who will happily fund your project for you.

Sony's advertising they are taking part in this project seems like opportunistic marketing... "Not only is the Playstation 3 a superior machine but when you get one, you cure cancer."  Who (besides me) is going to put a negative spin on that!  Eat that XBox 360!  All this good PR is certainly worth making a 'screen saver' available for free download.

So, if you're one of the anticipated thousands who are going to install this on your PS3 - please, feel good about your contribution.  But if you'd really like to make a difference, why don't you volunteer at a shelter for homeless people or donate blood?  Those are truly neglected, underfunded and needed services.

Lots of Games

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I haven't been as focused this week on gaming as I had hoped. I've been spending most of my time playing in short sessions of Alien Hominid, Crackdown, and as of today, Lost Planet.

Lost Plant Initial Impressions

Nate and I went down to Game Crazy this morning and traded Saints Row for Lost Planet. It was a pretty good deal seeing as I couldn't play Saints Row with the kids in the same room. (It came to $23.00).

The graphics are beautiful especially the snow storm (fog) effects as well as the explosions. I really wish, though, that you could move faster. Perhaps the running speed will improve as the game progresses.

So far we're on mission one - have found the main hive and are trying to kill the boss. I just discovered that the missile launcher will knock over the boss when he's in his 'spining' mode. I'm pretty sure we'll get by this guy today.

More later....

Crackdown!

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OK... So I left work early today to pickup a copy of Crackdown at Circuit City.  I usually buy my games at Game Crazy, just because the staff there makes sure that the games that my kids buy are appropriate for their age / tastes.  (Not that I can't do it but it is nice to have other people back you up when your 9 year old daughter wants to get God of War) :roll:.  In any event, I decided to go to Circuit City and discovered that they are giving away Halo 3 XBox 360 face-plates with the purchase of Crackdown.  Cool!  The plates are blue with a picuture of Master Chief down around the power button.

I've had a chance to play about 1 1/2 hours of the game and am enjoying it.  After watching Jeff's review of the game, I have to agree that it is a ton of fun jumping around the city.  I still like driving though.  Shooting fools is probably my least favorite aspect of the game.  I prefer to either kick the stuffing out of them or run them down with their own cars.  :D

While playing someone wanted to join in on my game.  Sorry dude for turning you down... I want a little time to get used to the controls and all.  Not having read the instructions yet, what are the benefits of multi-player?  It seems to me that it would be too constraining.  (ie. I want to drive the car, while my multi-player partner want's to jump over buildings.)  Perhaps I should RTFM.