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Old April 30, 2010, 05:18 PM
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chrisk chrisk is offline
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Default Folding@Home Windows and PS3 Starter's Guide: FAQ, Links to Guides

Here is an index of the sections of this thread:

So you heard about Folding@Home and you are interested. But you don't know what it is, and where to get started.

Find below a no-nonsense, plain-english guide to Folding@Home. I will also link to the various guides on this website and others that will get you started.
  1. Intro to folding (what folding is, and common terms used) . This link just takes you to this post, so if you like you can just keep reading below.
  2. Which client should I install? This post will help you decide which client to install based on your setup.
  3. List of Folding@Home Client guides . This is a list to all the guides that do a good job explaining how to setup your folding@home application. For Playstation 3 folding, click here!
  4. How to monitor and see what your folding client is doing . This is a post showing how to setup a monitoring application to allow you to see what your folding client is doing, and to help troubleshoot.
  5. Information needed when asking for help . Please refer to this post when asking for help as it will assist greatly.


What is Folding@Home?

Folding@Home is a 'distributed computing' project operated by Stanford University. The people in charge of the project at Stanford are called the "Pande Group", named after the project's leader, Vijay Pande. Folding@Home is often simply called 'folding.' People who enjoy the 'folding' hobby are called 'folders.'

Distributed computing is a way to share complex computations among many computers in order to get those computations done quickly. Lets just say that it would take a $1 million supercomputer six months to do a set of calculations; you could take those calculations, break them down into small pieces, and get thousands of regular computers to do the calculations for you much quicker. So instead of using one supercomputer and waiting six months, you can use ten thousand home computers and get the calculations done in one week.

Folding@Home uses distributed computing to simulate how proteins in our body 'fold' from one state to another (for a more in-depth explanation and an image of what a folded protein looks like, see this Wikipedia article.) For simplicity's sake, scientists think that when a protein does not 'fold' properly, it can lead to, or be a major factor, in major diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's Disease. Stanford's Folding@Home project seeks to use computer simulation to test theories on how these diseases develop, and they need many home computers and their processing power to do so.

How Does Folding@Home Work?

Folding@Home requires that people download a program to their computer called a client. This client will use your computer's processor or video card to do various calculations. You can set your computer up to do these calculations when your computer is idle and not being used, or you can tell your computer to do these calculations to fold all the time.

After you have the client installed, the process works like this:
  1. Your client opens like any other program on your computer
  2. The client downloads protein calculations called a 'Work Unit' (often simply called a WU)
  3. The client checks for the required files to do the work unit, and if they are not present or are corrupted, downloads the files from Stanford's servers. The file that is downloaded is called a Core. There are different types of cores, and these will be discussed later.
  4. Your computer does the calculations
  5. The client sends the calculations and completed work unit back to Stanford's servers. Stanford then records your work done, and gives you points as a 'reward.' More on the points in a second!
  6. The client goes back to step 2 (downloads a WU) and repeats over and over
The above process is a simplified explanation, but is basically how it works.

What are those points all about? Whats this about teams?

Points are a way to make the folding project more fun, and to encourage competition. When your computer completes the calculations, and the results are sent to Stanford, Stanford awards you a certain amount of points. The work units you download can be worth a various amount of points, but suffice to say that the faster you send Stanford completed WUs, the more points you get. The rate at which you get work units done and sent in to Stanford, is called Points Per Day. This is often called PPD by folding hobbyists. The higher your PPD, the more points are credited to your account.

Teams are simply a group of users that pool their points together so that they can compete with other teams for some friendly competition. You simply enter your username and team number in your folding client to join a team. There really is no sign-up or anything like that; you should just make sure you pick a unique username, and make sure you know your desired team's number.

Hardware Canuck's team number is 54196 .

How to I pick a unique username?

More than one person can use the same ID, but it is considered a good idea to find your own. People often use a name thats similar to their forum login.

To find out if your desired username is already used by someone, please search the name here:
Folding@Home

If the name does not appear, you can use that one.

I am interested! What do I download and how do I install it?

Please see the next post in this thread for links to various guides and places to ask for specific help. A general recommendation on which one is best for you will be provided as well.

I see a bunch of acronyms and terms that I don't understand!

There are many terms that you will see Folding@Home hobbyists use. I would glance at this list, but don't worry about it too much yet. Just refer back to this list when you read the various guides.

I will give you a brief list here for reference, but further explanations will be provided in this guide, or in the guides I will link to later on in this thread. I will only include the major terms that are currently popular, and not an exhaustive list. Focus is on Windows.

Glossary:

Client: the program that you download and install. There are several types:
System Tray Client: you will see a small multi-coloured icon near your clock when this one is installed.

Console Client: this client is configured in a black 'MS-DOS' like window.

GPU Client: this runs on your video card, and uses the video card's GPU chip to do the calculations. It comes in an ATI and nVidia version. Both ATI and nVidia can be downloaded as a System Tray client or a Console client as listed above. GPU2 is used for ATI and nVidia 2xx/earlier video cards, while GPU3 is required for nVidia Fermi 4xx series cards.

CPU Client: this runs on your processor. There are different versions of this as well, and some can be run as a system tray and console version. This may not always be the case.

SMP2 Client: this runs on your processor, and is suitable for multi-core processors. Available as a console version. This is required for Windows Bigadv folding (see below).

V7 Client: this is a beta client that has a totally graphical interface. Can run on GPUs and CPUs.
WU (also called Work Unit): this is the protein information that your computer downloads and calculates. The results are then sent back to Stanford's servers and points are awarded.

Credit: this is the amount of points awarded to you when a work unit is sent back to Stanford. Each work unit you download may have a different credit amount awarded. Folding hobbyists will often mention the credit amount when discussing a type work unit (ie. "I got a 511 point WU").

PPD (also called Points Per Day): when a work unit is sent to Stanford's servers, you get points awarded. More points is better. Points per day is an approximation of how many points you would get if you let your hardware do that type of work unit all day long. ie. 5000PPD is more desirable than 3500PPD

Project: this is represented by a number (ie. Project 5123, Project 10100, etc). A project will have many work units to be completed by many users over a course of time.

F@H: Folding@Home

Folders: usually a person who enjoys participating in Folding@Home

FahMon: a program used to monitor your folding clients, and calculate your points per day. Latest versions have not kept up with the current points awarding schemes, and is therefore not recommended.

FahSpy: a monitoring program for your folding clients. Shows you your points per day, any errors, and other info.

HFM.NET (also called HFM): a newer monitoring program, and is highly recommended. Displays your points per day, errors, and other information.

Bigadv: a special type of work unit, that is very demanding on your computer system. Recommended for highly clocked multi-cpu computers (16 threads). This is the hardest folding setup to configure, but also awards a lot of points. There used to be a version that required vmware machines, etc, but now is possible and recommended to be run in Windows.

Flag: this is a command that is often added to a program shortcut. Usually used for advanced configuration options. A flag can be identified by the minus "-" character that preceeds it (ie. -advmethods). More info on flags will be provided in the guides linked in the next post.

advmethods: a configuration flag used to tell your folding client to download special work units that often award more points, but can cause trouble for unstable computer setups.

SMP: Symmetric Multiprocessing, or in folding terms, using all your processor cores. SMP2 is the newest version. Some clients need a 'smp' flag, such as "-smp 4". This would tell the folding software to use 4 of your processor cores.

TPF (also Time Per Frame): a work unit is broken down into 100 frames. Many folding enthusiasts will talk about TPF as a way to compare one computer to another (ie. my TPF is 31mins, 10 seconds...why is yours 30mins 15 seconds?)

Shader: in folding terms, this is an 'engine' on the GPU chip in your video card. A GPU can have various amounts of shaders. Typically, the higher the shader count in a GPU family, the more folding power is present. Also, the faster the shader is, the greater folding power. See note
Note: What makes this overall statement problematic though is comparing shaders from one GPU family to another (ie. a 9800GT to a GTX 470, or a GTX 285 to a Radeon 5890). At first glance, the 5890 might look more powerful than a GTX 285, but there are other under the hood differences that affect performance. It is better to stick to comparing shader capabilities within the same brand (nVidia or ATI), and same family (GeForce 2xx, or Geforce 4xx).
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Fold for team #54196

Last edited by chrisk; November 15, 2011 at 03:34 PM. Reason: v7 and new bigadv requirements
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