Our network provider has scheduled a maintenance window for 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM, PST, on January 31 for one of our primary server rooms. Access to parts of Folding@home may be interrupted during this period. This includes the stats, stats web page, and primary AS, although the main web page, backup AS and many work servers will not be affected.
We've been trying various server-side changes to improve the PS3 situation and have been in close contact with Sony. We have some ideas which we will be implementing. So far, the situation has gotten better (at least based on our statistics), but it's still not good, and we're working to improve it.
Our FAH servers for PS3's are getting hit pretty hard right now. We are looking into whether this is a client problem (failure to backoff correctly during high loads) or a server issue. We added a server last night to help and will add more this morning. We are actively working on this one right now.
We're updating the hardware of our backup assignment server. The switch over to the new hardware should occur today. Note that this involves a DNS change and so we expect it may take some time for the DNS to propagate. However, we will keep both servers up, so donors should not see any interruption in service. However, if you do see something strange related to this backup AS, please report it in our forum (http://foldingforum.org).
That server room that went down is back up and Del and Dan got all of the servers back up (no small feat). We have the servers running FAH, but often there is one or two that may have issues coming back up, and we're looking into that. If you find any problems, please feel free to post a report in our forum (foldingforum.org).
Here are some code development updates on some important client/cores
GPU core: we've got the GPU core running in house and we found and fixed some bugs in our QA stage. We're now continuing QA to see if we find any more bugs. Right now, the GPU core is running on all new ATI cards, so we're excited to roll it out. We are using CAL now (ATI's hardware abstraction layer) and that seems to make life a lot easier, and also should make running a GPU client a lot easier from the point of view of donors, as the driver issues and complexities should now be resolved. We are still looking into an NVIDIA client. The NVIDIA GPUs are very different to program, so a port isn't a simple thing to do. We are looking into this, though.
SMP core: right now, SMP on Linux and OSX is behaving fairly well, whereas Windows is giving some issues. This is perhaps not a surprise, since the SMP code must use MPI, which has its origins on UNIX and is a newcomer to Windows. We have been working with Windows MPI developers to improve the situation, but they tell us this isn't a simple fix. Since we are in the business of studying proteins, not writing MPI libraries for Windows, we will wait until the MPI experts improve the Windows MPI before we make any claims of improvement there.
Finally, beta clients will be expiring soon, and we are in the process of QA for new clients. We will also extend the expiration deadlines in the future clients to give some more time, and since the clients are appearing to be maturing.
There will be a planned power outage in one of our server rooms on this Saturday, starting in the morning (8am PST) and lasting likely until 5pm PST. This affects only one of our server rooms, so we will re-route around it for new assigns, and do not expect any problems. It is a bit annoying as this is exactly the same room which had to go down a few weeks ago to fix this very item, which could not be fixed completely then, so hence another shutdown down.
This one caught my eye due to the similarity in how we do our work. They ran 10,000 simulations of the Patriots v. Giants to come up with a prediction for who would win. Why run 10,000 -- why not just 1 simulation? Well, there can be lots of fluky things that happen just by chance in football, so one simulation might not be very predictive. In fact, there are so many possibilities that even 10 or even 100 might not capture the diversity (although I bet 1000 might be ok).
This is very similar to our work, as how a protein folds (or misfolds) can't be captured in a single simulation. We often run 10,000 simulations to capture the diversity and complexity. Also, there is luck involved here as well, as fluky things can happen in folding as well (something may fall into a trapped configuration or fold correctly early by chance).
It's neat how games (such as Madden 2008) are becoming more like full fledged simulations, with a lot of real-world detail, and real world simulations (such as the molecular dynamics we do in FAH) are running on game machines!
Folding@home has been honored as a Netxplorateur in France (see http://www.netxplorateur.org/ for details). This award has been given to FAH based on our work in developing a distributed computing network to address protein folding and misfolding related diseases. We'll post more information as time goes on.