I have a couple of older computers laying around my house that I don’t really use so much any more. They all work fine, but as I’ve upgraded my system I’ve just kept my old computer, maybe as a backup, maybe for parts, maybe because I just never got around to posting it on Craigslist. Regardless, I have extra computers that work and that are just collecting dust. A couple of months ago I was listening to the DL.TV podcast and Robert Heron was talking about a distributed computing project out of Stanford University called Folding at Home. The idea behind this project is that they use the computing power of multiple machines around the world to do what’s called Folding Proteins. Now I don’t begin to understand what that actually means, but the idea of distributed computing caught my attention and the purpose behind it is to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. I figured that was as good a cause as any to break out those older machines and set them up to “fold proteins.”
Right now I have 2 machines that are running the Folding at Home software 24/7. I know that it’s costing me a little in the way of electricity, but I’m OK with that. I like that I’m part of a distributed computing experiment and that my CPU cycles are going towards something worthwhile. My wife and I have been trying to think of ways to show our children the value of charity. While this is a pretty simple way to help people, it’s still modeling that kind of behavior for my kids.
If you’re unfamiliar with distributed computing and are curious about this type of technology, or maybe you have some extra computing power you’re willing to part with… check out Stanford’s project. You can participate anonymously or you can be a part of the team competition. Hopefully my extra computers will, in a small way, help future generations.