Another Easy Win

Mar 31 2020

Many years ago I watched a podcast called Tekzilla, and the hosts there were often demonstrating the "Folding at Home" application that helps in cancer research (Check it out here).  I had several PCs at home and while I was away at work I would allow the PCs to work on the "Folding at Home" data.

After several years I put the work aside as I didn't have the most effective machine to perform the work.  "Folding at Home", or FAH for short had started to use the power of the Graphics cards to perform the work.  My home machines were castoffs from work and rather straight forward business machines that were off lease, so they came with simple graphics cards or built-in graphics cards -- so bottom line -- they were not supported by FAH.  I eventually stopped using FAH and life moved on -- but I had been part of the Tekzilla team and they were one of the top 10 teams overall. 

Recently, I was reminded of "Folding at Home" by several posts I had read, plus an email from a friend who had just set up his system to start FAH again. So I returned to working with Folding at Home as this would be an easy win again the fight of COVID-19.

I had an "unused" PC that I had been using to mine coins - another story to be told - that had a very good graphics card - an AMD Radeon RX580.  So I loaded up the FAH Client program and was surprised at the rather lack of performance I saw.  My graphics card was not being used!!!!   While the PCs CPU was running at 50%.. the medium performance setting - the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) just sat there do nothing.

OK ... off to Google and see what I need to do.  Many stories of issues where the AMD graphics cards were not working -- but all these stores dated back to 2017 or before.  Hmmm.  So I poked around the configuration and manually told the FAH client there was a GPU. Bingo!  The FAH system started processing work items on my GPU.  Yeah.  The issue is the FAH Client can't discover some of the AMD Graphics when first started.  The client had found the card just didn't enable the processing.  By manually setting the card, the client was happy ... and started processing -- for a while ???

As it turns out, a rather large number of nerds like myself have turned to "Folding at Home" during the "Stay at home" period.  This has had a rather huge impact on the FAH's servers - they are swamped.  So my graphics card was able to complete to work, but when asking for more work it getting a busy signal. So it can be several hours before the FAH Client finds a new work item of either the GPU or CPU as the client only checks once an hour or so.  That's OK -- at least I'm here and ready to process when they are.   "Folding at Home" team is hard a work to stand up more servers.

After getting things working, I thought I would again join the team Tekzilla (team 57391) - I was curious to see if the team still existed and if my old details were still usable.  Turns out they are alive and well, currently ranked 23 of 246454 teams. 

As you can see I was 211,907 out of 2,452,349 FAH users -- wow.  I had run FAH for over 5 years back in the middle 2000s. (2000 to 2010).  So I had a rather good score even if I wasn't using a GPU.  Question is, can I improve this.  Time will tell given all the renewed interest in FAH.

Seems I can -- in only 3 days I am now 205,689 of 2,459,905 - that's a 6218 improvement.  An additional 7556 people have started Folding too!  

Lastly, I am ranked 885 out of 10273 on the Tekzilla team.

Regardless, I hope that my burning of some electrons will help improve the chance of impacting someone's future. 



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