Being part of the Magic community as a whole has been a positive experience for me. Going to events (the few times that I do) introduces me to a vast number of people I may have never met otherwise. The online community is just as interesting (shout-out to the Cardsphere Discord). Being a part of a community like the one centered around Magic broadens your horizons, introducing you to new places and experiences through the eyes of another. While there’s positives to this widening of horizons, there’s also some negatives. There are those in our Magic community that suffer from difficult diseases like Cancer and Parkinson’s. I sometimes felt helpless hearing about those suffering from them. That’s where the reason this article exists comes into play: Folding@home and the Carsphere Team!
Folding@home is a Stanford University project that uses the idle computer power of every day “donors” to perform intensive calculations. The calculations figure out how a given protein folds up into a more compact shape, and knowing said compact shape is greatly important for molecular biology and the development of drugs that treat these diseases. Currently, the project is in a push to increase their number of regular donors to 1 million. The best part of this is that it’s incredibly easy to become a donor. All you have to do is download some software to your computer (or even your phone) and all of sudden, you’re contributing to cancer research. After you complete a unit of work, you’ll earn some points. You can’t spend these or use them for anything, but they’re pretty good bragging rights; everyone is aiming to get higher and higher on the leaderboards.
Now, I’ll be honest, I haven’t been folding for very long, but I’ve always been passionate about distributed computing projects like this. My first project was SETI@Home, a project to aid in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. I spent some time searching for the next biggest prime number (which helps in even better encryption standards), but now I’ve moved onto Folding@home, because I think that helping people is the most important thing I could be doing with my spare computing resources. When I started, I asked in the Cardsphere Discord if anyone else was contributing and when others expressed their interest, I thought it would be a good idea to start a team. As of the time of writing, we have 11 people on the team and the team’s overall rank is in the top 3% of all teams.
If you feel I’ve convinced you, or you’ve heard about this before and finally figured it’s time to contribute, I’ve compiled a pretty easy list of steps to get you started.
- Navigate to https://foldingathome.org/start-folding/ and download the appropriate installer for your device. It should auto-detect, but if it doesn’t there’s a link to view other downloads.
- Run the installer. Express installation is fine (it won’t install any unnecessary bloatware), but if you want to step through the advance installation, feel free to, just know what you’re changing.
- If you’re on windows, it’ll put an icon on your taskbar near the date/time, and if it’s not there, it might be hidden. Click on the icon and you’ll see some options, click on “Advanced Control”.
- Now that you’re on the advanced control panel, click on “Configure” and then the “Identity” tab if you’re not already there.
- On this page (https://foldingathome.org/support/faq/stats-teams-usernames/) you can check to see if your username is taken. They don’t do any validation on the username, so that you can have multiple machines under the same username, so if yours is already taken, you won’t be able to distinguish how many points you’ve earned versus the other people using that name. Enter the name you’ve picked into the “Name” section. This is optional so that you may contribute anonymously, but you can still join a team.
- Enter the team identity in “Team number” to join the Cardsphere team: 235858
- Optionally generate and enter a passkey into the “Passkey” fields. You can get one by going to the link mentioned in the section. This links your name to an email, which helps the project manage users on the backend of things. Don’t lose this key.
- Now that you’re set-up to get points and contribute to the team’s leaderboards, it might be good to set some preferences on when your machine will actually contribute and by how much. Click the icon mentioned in step 3 and click “Web Control”. You’ll see a big slider labeled “Power” and some radio buttons labeled “When”. “Power” controls how much power your machine will use to contribute. These aren’t specific, but if you feel like your computer is too hot, you can turn it down to Low or Medium, but if your machine is just fine, you can turn it up to High. “When” controls when your machine will contribute. The options here are pretty self explanatory.
Now, you’re all set to contribute to Cancer research and you’ll be competing in the high scores of the Cardsphere Folding@home team! I hope to see more names on the leaderboards, all helping to research one of the worst diseases to plague not only our own Magic community, but the world at large. Feel free to reach out to me on the Cardsphere Discord (@Wesley | 100) if you have any questions about getting set-up. Check out the team’s stats here (https://stats.foldingathome.org/team/235858) and Happy Folding!
Editor's Note: Folding@home is also taking on the fight against the novel corona virus (COVID-19), and active pandemic spreeading across the planet, posing great risk to vulnerable communities. If you have always on computers, please do your part! Every little bit helps.