Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Psst - Hey Buddy, Can You Spare Some CPU?

Next to Alzheimer's Disease, it is probably the scourge we fear the most. And as they say, few lives, either directly or indirectly, are unaffected by it. Cancer is pervasive.

So when a project comes along enabling anyone with a computer to participate in the battle against this dread disease, it is surely worth noting.

Sunday's Star ran a story about The World Community Grid, an IBM network of 676,000 businesses and individuals globally who have volunteered about 2.9 million computers of varying capacities to help run scientific studies. The fact that cancer, with its vast array of genetic mutations, is a complex disease means that huge computational power is now needed to do some sophisticated number crunching of data.

Because access to actual super computers is so limited, the World Community Grid, by linking home computers together for projects, becomes a virtual super computer.

Igor Jurisica, a Princess Margaret Cancer Centre scientist, began the Mapping Cancer Markers project last November. He has been granted access to about one-third of the machines worldwide, which gives him some 258 computer processing unit (CPU) years worth of power to run his data each day.

That means a typical computer would have to run continuously for 258 years to process the data the network can work through in 24 hours.

In aggregate, the full grid can generate more than 400 CPU years each day, which would rank it among the world’s 15 largest supercomputers, said Viktors Berstis, the senior IBM software engineer who runs the network.

I have installed the program's software and have been running it for the past two days. It can be run while working on the computer, or you can just leave the computer on when you are not using it. The program can be suspended at any time. As well, it seems to make minimal demands on both processing power and bandwidth.

You can learn more about the project here, or watch the video below. Should yoiu decide to participate, click here to obtain the software.

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