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PS3 Client for Folding@Home Debuts, ATI GPU Version Soon 177

Posted by timothy
from the fwip-fwip-fwip dept.
eliot1785 writes "Stanford's Folding@Home project is reporting that Sony debuted a Folding@Home client for the PlayStation 3 today in Germany. Researchers hope to use the power of the PS3's Cell processor to greatly expand the number of FLOPS of which their network is capable. F@H also announced today that they will release a client capable of running on ATI graphics processors. With these two new developments, F@H hopes to raise the total power of their distributed computing network to 1-10 petaflops. At the upper end of that target, the network would be faster than any current supercomputer, at least in terms of FLOPS." Reader TommyBear points out a collection of papers showing scientific advances made by the F@H researchers.
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PS3 Client for Folding@Home Debuts, ATI GPU Version Soon

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  • by PeterJK (592822)
    Nice news. I'm sure Sony will make lots of PR capital out of this ala the subject ;) Will this run on PS3 Linux or natively on the regular OS?
    • by GundamFan (848341) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @08:35AM (#15968825)
      Naw... the PS3 is already panned for having too many features... if it cures cancer people are just going to throw up there hands in frustration and go buy a Wii.

      All kidding aside... if you had a PS3 would you run this in down time?
      • by grazzy (56382)
        It needs to be transparant as a screensaver or something. Also, I'm not sure I'd want my PS3 on all the time either unless it handles heat extremely well. Something we've learnt from history that not all consoles do. Even the old Super NES (NES16) used to choke after a couple of days... I've got friends that fried theirs after heavy-duty playing sessions.
      • if you had a PS3 would you run this in down time?
        I'm running folding@home at 2 PCs that runs all night (using electric power at night is more cheap than during the daytime). And it's installed on other 3 PCs, so when I'm only browsing the Internet or so, it uses the unused processor.
        So if I buy a PS3, or a Cell personal computer, I'm sure that it is going to run folding@home.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by jhembruff (996103)
        Not only does it cure cancer, if you run Folding@Home on your PS3 24/7, you can also heat your entire house!

        That $800 price tag starting to pay for itself already!
      • For no reason other than because I'm evil, I present to everyone the following back-of-the-napkin/sources-from-wikipedia analysis:

        There was an article a while back about game console power consumption, but rather than dig that up, I'll assume a PS3 will average 200 Watts while cranking away on proteins. It's a good, round number. And I'll assume that I'd spend an hour per day actually playing games. Electricity in my area costs about $0.08/kW-hr.

        0.2 kW * 23 hr/day * 365 day/year = 1679 kW-hours/year
  • by MikeRT (947531)
    That's like... 10,000,000,000,000,000 instances of taxpayers dollars being wasted! How many more times does this have to flop before it's canceled?
    • by Macthorpe (960048)
      Well I found this funny, but mod points are never around when you need them...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by crazyjimmy (927974)
      Actually PETA refers to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, so you're actually just looking at 10 protesters flopping... most likely outside a KFC.

      Mmm...chicken.

      --Jimmy
  • Diebold (Score:5, Funny)

    by Halo1 (136547) <jonas@maebe.elis@ugent@be> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @08:30AM (#15968806) Homepage
    Imagine what would happen if they could also harness Diebold's [slashdot.org] flops...
  • Give Me! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 24, 2006 @08:32AM (#15968816)
    x86 continues to get left in the computational dust.

    I have a friend who is a very senior engineer at NVidia who has talked about how sick and tired they are of having the boat anchor that is x86 tied to their hardware. And that they would love to just cut out Intel and just run Windows/Linux right on their hardware. Microsoft obviously felt the same way when they dumped Intel and switch to PowerPC with the 360.

    The PS3 is supposed to completely support keyboard and mouse, have a full version of Linux sitting on the harddrive, and support homebrew development. If you can download and install normal Linux apps...a graphics programmer dream come true. Even cooler are the plans of Sony coming out with higher end PS3 models with more RAM or Cell chips. A Linux box with a couple gigs of RAM and dual or quad Cells, oh baby.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by the_humeister (922869)
      I don't get it. Run Windows/Linux on Nvidia hardware? What general purpose CPUs does Nvidia make? Besides, if they're really so adamant about supporting other architectures, how come the only non-x86 drivers they make publicly available are for Itanium?
    • Re:Give Me! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DrXym (126579) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @08:55AM (#15968922)
      Exactly. IBM have been using Linux as the development platform for the Cell processor so it's not as far fetched as it sounds. Sony could have Linux running on the PS3 from the get go. It remains to be seen if they do though or what it looks like... It would be awesome if it did. At that point the PS3 *is* a computer (not just for tax dodging purposes), as well as a kick ass console, media jukebox. When you think of it from that perspective, the price really isn't unreasonable, especially compared to the Mac Mini (for example).
    • by BenjyD (316700)
      Is there even a mainstream CPU that uses the x86 ISA any more? They're all RISC internally.
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        ISA means the instruction set. I seems all desktop computers currently being manufactured use the x86 ISA, even if they differ internally in the implementation.
    • I'll bet you a million bucks the ps3 has something similar to what tivo uses..

      in fact i'll bet you one of the coprocessors on the cell is just like microsoft's custom xbox360 processor, with on-die signing and encryption keys.

      Yeah, it'll run linux.. a "signed" distribution of linux which will be the only thing ps3 will run.

      why do you think Sony announced it rather than the folding@home coordinators at stanford?

      Sony probably only offered the signature because the project submitted everything and assured sony
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by imsabbel (611519)
      Short answer:no
      Longer answer: you are a attention whore
      logest answer: please read around a bit, and know what the fuck you are takling about, becasuse right now you dont.
    • Re:Give Me! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @09:14AM (#15969006) Homepage
      Huh?

      1) a video card does not contain a general purpose processor and is not capable of running an operating system. It contains a GPU, which is very fast for certain subsets of mathematical calculations, but that is all. It can't effectively branch, doesn't offer memory protection, etc. There are the biggest parts of a modern general-purpose CPU

      2) Video cards are not tied to x86: A video card communicates with a bus like PCI or AGP. The system could be running an PowerPC chip, or a cell chip, or an x86 chip. nVidia has cards that run on all three of these environments.

      3) You talk about the cell processor and the PS3, but that doesn't have anything to do with x86 being left behind. The cell processors are a massively parallel processor designed for running video games and computational problems. It will probably be inefficient (per watt and per cycle) to run a normal desktop OS on it. Not that it isn't possible, but that isn't what it is for.

      4) You point out how x86 must be bad because Microsoft switched to PowerPC for the 360. So why did Apple switch to x86 from PowerPC, and suddenly everything is faster and lower power?
      • 1) a video card does not contain a general purpose processor and is not capable of running an operating system. It contains a GPU, which is very fast for certain subsets of mathematical calculations, but that is all. It can't effectively branch, doesn't offer memory protection, etc. There are the biggest parts of a modern general-purpose CPU

        You know, I was kind of wondering about that. The current crop of GPUs is now considered Turing complete. So doesn't that mean that someone could theoretically write and

      • by DrYak (748999)
        1) The whole thread is not about having an OS running ON a bare naked GPU, but the fact that modern GPU are massive and parallel floating-point units that could be harnessed to do wonderful specialised calculation (things that can be parallelized without too much precision needed, some thing that some BOINC projects like Folding @ home to nicely), and on the other hand nVidia complaining that while they have all this interesting opportunities, they are forced, due to market share, to spend most of their tim
    • Re:Give Me! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday August 24, 2006 @09:27AM (#15969083)
      If you think for a second that Sony is going to "open up" the PS3 and just let you put whatever homebrew software you want on it, considering their record with the PSP, you're living in a dream world. Sony are control FREAKS. Their media-producing divisions are so scared at even the HINT that the system could be used for pirated games/media that they would rather take a financial loss than risk conceding even the slightest BIT of control of their system to homebrew coders.

      If you want to see the kind of "Linux" you'll get on the PS3, look no further than the "Linux" they gave us on the PS2.

      -Eric

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mongoose (8480)
        Ah... the PS2 Linux 'kit' wasn't locked down really at all from a software standpoint. Hell, I don't even run the default distro on mine. All the cool kids run the debian based Black Rhino on theirs. It's not like the limits of the DMA access DVD drive mattered in the end. I just used the hdd, usb, and network personally. It was fun to port my little fps game engine over and play net games with PC clients. No signed binaries -- the main control feature was how you boot into OS, and I will admit there
    • by Ilgaz (86384)
      MS XBox or Cell Power arch CPUs are specialised processors. E.g. the MS Xbox 360 CPU has 3 cores. They have problem with desktop application usage.

      I know the Intel or AMD duo-poly has huge impact on personal computing but it is not the case here.

      For example a monster CPU named Power6 will ship in months which will have max speed of 5.7 Ghz. If you remember it is a RISC CPU , you can imagine the huge power. The problem is, it is not cheap, not suitable for home computing and needs very advanced coders.

      So sad
  • by the_humeister (922869) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @08:37AM (#15968839)
    There aren't much details on the ATI version. I'm guessing there's no Nvidia version yet because of the lack of IEEE 854 compliance in viedo cards, so they'd have to create a special version for each video card. But it's pretty neat what you can do with video cards these days besides play video games.
    • If you click through some of the links on the Folding@Home site, you'll find that they were originally using Nvidia processors; but, found they got much higher performance with their code on the ATI processors. Therefore they decided to concentrate their efforts on ATI.
      • You're right. I guess I missed that somehow. On the other hand, how much faster is the "slower" Nvidia version compared to the pure CPU version? Unless it's slower (or even if it is), I don't see why they wouldn't make that version available too. But, first things first I guess: finish the faster one and then work on the slower one.
  • The Cell processor is vastly superior to the "Emotion Engine" and yet, Sony doesn't seem concerned that it'll be used to build supercomputer networks by menacing countries...

    sarcasm here, please... ;)
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      I pointed out that this was an obvious PR stunt by Sony and got modded "troll" for the effort. I still can't believe people are falling for this kind of thing so many years after Sony pulled the EXACT same kind of stunts with the PS2.

      If anyone has seen any PS2 "supercomputers" running at their university, or read any reports of soldiers discovering stockpiles of missile-guidance-system-controlling PS2's in Iraq, please let me know.

      -Eric

      • by aminorex (141494)
        It wouldn't make much sense to stockpile missile guidance computers...
        WHEN YOU HAVEN'T GOT ANY FREAKING MISSILES, now would it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 24, 2006 @08:44AM (#15968872)
    The Broadband Engine in the PS3 has roughly 210 Gflops of power at 3.2Ghz. That is around an order of magnitude more than most people's current Intel desktop PCs. Although that isn't really the full story since it is the memory architecture that makes Cell chips so much more powerful than Intel chips, but that is a whole other, very cool, subject. If even a small percentage of the 100+ million PS3s Sony will sell over the next five years are added to computation pool, the results will be staggering.

    • by imsabbel (611519)
      Sorry, but the memory archtitecture is what makes cell suck, relatively.
      Its _extremely_ brain-swelled as a cpu (i.e. many execution units, relatively sucky bandwidth and latency).

      And if even a small number of those 100 million playstations will be added to the computation pool and thus needlessly be running 24/7 instead when games are played then you are going to need a few more powerplants just for them.
      • by mwvdlee (775178)
        Does power consumption of the Cell lower when not all the SPE's are used? There'll probably be quite a few games that won't use all the available processor power (think games like "Buzz" or dance games). If power consumption remains (relatively) stable, you might run F@H in the background during gaming sessions.
      • by Ilgaz (86384)
        Are you nuts? Sorry but I had to ask it.

        Memory on PS3 makes it state of the art. It is some maniacal configuration RDRAM (yes, Rambus) configuration which doesn't exist except some custom workstations.

        256MB XDR Main RAM @3.2GHz
        Main RAM -- 25.6GB/s
        http://www.rambus.com/us/products/xdr_xdr2/ [rambus.com]

        This is the memory archi making cell suck? Also your 100 million playstations running folding@home needing to build powerplants really shows some troll signs.

        Yes, people choose to run folding@home, a VALID STANFORD PROJECT
    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      I was hoping to find some numbers on the F@H site, for instance a comparison between a new Duo Core whatever compared to the Cell. Seems to me this would make for a good real-world comparison of the kind of tasks the Cell processor is ideally suited for.
    • by chudgoo (812186)
      It's very presumptuous to say that Sony *CAN* sell ONE-HUNDRED-MILLION units at US$600.00 each in five years.... wouldn't you say?
      • it won't be $600 for all those 5 years. more likely it'll drop the price substantially, like all consoles...
  • Stanford's Folding@Home project is reporting that Sony debuted a Folding@Home client for the PlayStation 3 today in Germany. Researchers hope to use the power of the PS3's Cell processor to greatly expand the number of FLOPS of which their network is capable.

    Gee, that's much better (and completely different) than when Saddam was supposedly using playstation 2's [theregister.co.uk] to test nuclear weapons. This isn't a planted story by Sony *at all*.
    • Re:been there (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @09:03AM (#15968949)
      This isn't a planted story by Sony *at all*.

      I found out yesterday that someone I knew last year died of liver cancer over the summer. She was 19. I think it's safe to say that there are plenty of people out there who don't give a flying fuck if Sony gets good press about this. If it brings us a cure to cancer a year, a day, an hour sooner, it's a damn fine thing. I just hope most PS3 owners find out about it, and maybe we can cure cancer. If a company makes an extra million or two in the process, good for them.
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Well, I hope this does turn out to be useful (I am VERY skeptical). But I'm still not giving Sony credit for doing the right thing, because it's for the WRONG reasons. If they were interested in REALLY helping, not just promoting their new console, why not start putting the client by default on all their laptops?

        -Eric

  • I haven't been following things too closely, but has Nintendo made any moves to make a dev kit available that non-commercial developers can use? If so it would be cool if a version for the Wii could be made for this project.
    • I thought that was part of the virtual console for the Wii, I seem to remeber hearing about a $200 dev kit but I can't remember for sure.
  • by gatkinso (15975) on Thursday August 24, 2006 @10:16AM (#15969462)
    when little Jonny's monther made him turn off his game and come upstairs for dinner.

    Oh well.
  • Finally! (Score:3, Funny)

    by dthree (458263) <chaoslite@ho[ ]il.com ['tma' in gap]> on Thursday August 24, 2006 @10:41AM (#15969631) Homepage
    Now you can use it for both! [youtube.com]
  • That's the sound of all those NDA's being lifted.

    Only about 150 still in effect now.

    Wait till you see what's next ;)

    .
  • I think it would be cool if Windows' screensaver were programmed to automatically join this thing, no matter which screensaver the user chose. That way, there would be zillions and zillions of petaflops available to this process, without having to do anything special to achieve it.
  • How nearsighted of them ;) No support for PPC64 at all? I even tried building Wine [winehq.org] on an 8-way POWER5 machine [uni-augsburg.de] to run the Windows 32-bit binary under, and that didn't work either.

    So how about it? When will we see a PPC/PPC64 Linux binary of Folding@Home? Where is the source, Luke? I'll build it myself!

  • I think submitter is a folding@home user like me and wanted to share these great news with Slashdot "technical community".

    You see the result as half of the posters say PS3 has a bad performance and other half says folding@home, a scientific project is sort of "fake" thing.

    Please don't "share" any folding@home news with this user profile from now on.

    As folding@home is a scientific computation , if people get wrong impression from these "know everything" geeks they will simply delete folding@home. That _is_

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