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How you can use your computer to help fight COVID-19 coronavirus

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The other day, news came out that the distributed-computing search for extraterrestrial life SETI@home project was coming to an end after 21 years. But if you like participating in distributed-computing, you can now put your computer’s unused time to work looking for cures to coronavirus/COVID-19.

But don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert — you just download and install the client program, and then the program does the rest.

Folding@home is a distributed computing project focused on disease research, and volunteers donate their computers processing power to the project — when not in use — to do useful tasks such as search viruses for potential drug targets. This is work that needs huge amounts of computer power, but rather than rely on a single supercomputer, Folding@home breaks down the tasks and sends them to computers running the Folding@home client. The client then waits for the computer to be idle, and then goes to work on processing the data it has been sent.

Must read: Coronavirus, flu and other nasties: What if your job involves handling other people’s dirty gadgets?

The data processed by Folding@home is, according to the project, “openly disseminated as part of an open science collaboration of multiple laboratories around the world, giving researchers new tools that may unlock new opportunities for developing life-saving drugs.”

Folding@home has clients for Windows, macOS, and Linux. I’ve run Folding@home on several systems over the years and haven’t had any issues with it. Yes, it will keep a computer that would otherwise be idle working, but the workloads are manageable and I’ve not come across a problem where systems have experienced overheating or any other kind of degradation as a result of running the Folding@home client.

More information about the project can be found here, and you can download the client appropriate for your computer here.

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I'm a 50 year old PLC programmer from Burnley, UK. I severed my time as an electrician in the baking industry and soon got involved with the up and coming technology of PLC's. Initially this was all based in the Uk but as the years went by I have gradually worked my way around the globe. At first it was mainly Mitsubishi with a bit of Modicon thrown in but these days the industry leaders seem to be the Allen Bradley range of PLC and HMI’s.

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