Our recap of hardware news for the past week follows-up on plans to RIP somebody -- but we're not sure who that should be just yet -- in a Folding @ Home points-chasing competition. To a similar tune, Folding @ Home has now surpassed the top 7 supercomputers in compute power totaled, something that NVIDIA, F@H, and the PCMR sub-reddit all drove together. Other positive news has Razer turning production lines toward N95 mask production for Coronavirus/COVID-19 use in hospitals and elsewhere. Bad news includes hits to the economic side of computer hardware, with motherboard sales falling 30-50%.
Computers have come a long way since their inception. Some of the first computers (built by the military) used electromagnets to calculate torpedo trajectories. Since then, computers have become almost incomprehensibly more powerful and accessible to the point at which the concept of virtual reality headsets aren’t even science fiction.
In gaming PCs, these power increases have often been used to ensure higher FPS, faster game mechanics, and more immersive graphics settings. Despite this, the computational power in modern PCs can be used for a variety of applications. Many uses such as design, communication, servers, etc. are well known, but one lesser known use is contributing to distributed computation programs such as BOINC and Folding@Home.
BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) and Folding@home (also sometimes referred to as FAH and F@H) are research programs that utilize distributed computing to provide researchers large amounts of computational power without the need of supercomputers. BOINC allows for users to support a variety of programs (including searching for extraterrestrial life, simulating molecular simulations, predicting the climate, etc.). In contrast, Folding@home is run by Stanford and is a singular program that simulates protein folding.
First we’ll discuss what distributed computing is (and its relation to traditional supercomputers), then we’ll cover some noteable projects we’re fond of.
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