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PS3 Downtime To Fight Disease 289

Aerenel writes, "CNN reports that Sony has teamed up with Folding@home to use the PS3 to study how proteins are formed in the human body and how they sometimes form incorrectly. From the article: 'Donating [a gamer's] PS3's down time to researchers could help cure Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or mad cow disease.' PS3 users will be able to download a software package that tracks when the PS3 is not being used. While gamers are in school, at work, or asleep, their system's Cell processor can be used to perform simulations for research organizations. The PS3, due in November, has gotten serious negative press in the past few months, and this refreshing good news may win back the hearts of gamers still undecided about purchasing the system."
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PS3 Downtime To Fight Disease

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  • Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by urbanradar ( 1001140 ) <> on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:18PM (#16132581) Homepage
    This definitely seems like a good thing. But I wonder, will gamers really let that influence their purchasing decisions? Honestly, I have my doubts.
    • It probably shouldn't influence a gamer's decision to purchase the PS3, but it's a lot more interesting to me than the tilt functionality of the new controller, or Blu-ray for that matter.

      I won't buy a PS3 this year (or next, unless something magical happens with PS3 pricing), but I don't think there's any way to spin this as a negative. Nice job, Sony...for once. :)
    • by Bishop ( 4500 )
      It may not be a major influence on their purchasing decisions, but it will give bragging rights. Think of something along the lines of "...well the Cell is so powerfull it can be used to find a cure for cancer..." I think this will influence less savvy gamers. The ability to run Folding@Home makes the computer seem more powerfull then the competition.
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by adam31 ( 817930 ) <adam31@gmail.cLIONom minus cat> on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:53PM (#16132970)
      Well, it all depends on how it's marketed, it could have a huge snowball effect.

      If you award people 'hero points' and display a leaderboard showing how many lives each gamer has saved... or break it down by institution-- like college or business. Especially if the interface is really cool. Maybe have a hall of fame of cool-looking protein folds you could download.

      It could become quite a competition to not play your PS3, particularly if launch titles turn out to be as good as launch titles typically are.

    • by neoform ( 551705 )
      Dunno if i'd buy a PS3, but that's just because this is probably the only good thing i've read about a PS3..
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by honkycat ( 249849 )
      Probably not much, but that's not really the point. It's good publicity that can't hurt. People won't go out and think "wow i can help fold proteins," they'll just give a little thought to Sony and the PS3 when they read the articles about it. It's all about marketing, and subliminal marketing is the best kind.
  • In other words, your PS3 uses network bandwidth and electricity you paid for with your money to calculate who knows what and send it God knows where when you're not using it and anyone who tries to stop their PS3 from doing this is a horrible person who supports cancer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yincrash ( 854885 )
      Don't forget shortening the useful life of the PS3 itself!
    • by urbanradar ( 1001140 ) <> on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:20PM (#16132604) Homepage
      RTFA. It's on a voluntary basis. If you don't like it, don't do it. But it certainly is nice to have the possibility, and, as it seems, officially approved by Sony.
    • by timster ( 32400 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:22PM (#16132632)
      Well, to be fair, the bandwidth is probably minimal and, in cold seasons, the power consumption will just turn into heat and make itself slightly useful.

      From the summary, it sounds like this will be something you can download if you want to, just like it is on the PC. I don't think people who don't run Folding@Home are often attacked for being horrible people who support cancer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not quite. But it's a good way for kids to convince their parents to shell out all that cash for a shiney new PS3.
    • "to calculate who knows what and send it God knows where"

      And that is exactly why I don't run those programs. I am not smart enough to know if they are looking for a cure for cancer, run nuclear bomb simulations, search for ET's, develop biological or chemical warfare agents... etc.
    • by Ilgaz ( 86384 )
      I really want to meet with the guy who modded you Insightful. "God knows where" is, Sony doesn't force people and I am sure you were never in their potential customer list.

      Go play with some command line and turn off that tungsten bulb you forgot on, it possibly eats more than a PS3 without doing anything.
  • Pity (Score:4, Funny)

    by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:19PM (#16132590) Journal
    Well, I guess when all else fails, they can always go for the pity angle. "Oh!! Please help us ingrain Blu-Ray! We're fighting DISEASE!"
  • That definitely changes my mind about paying $600 for a gaming console! Why didn't they do this from the start? The option to run F@H on my PS3 DEFINITELY makes up the 200+ difference between it and my other next-gen options.
    • Wow, are you being sarcastic? You'd pay $200 just to add a node to a gigantic distributed computer? I think this is a nice feature for those who are already considering to buy it, but I doubt it'll turn haters into lovers like it did for you.
  • by OSS_ilation ( 922367 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:21PM (#16132624)
    Do I have Alzheimer's, or did I read about this last month?
  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:21PM (#16132626)
    The PS3, due in November, has gotten serious negative press in the past few months, and this refreshing good news may win back the hearts of gamers still undecided about purchasing the system."

    If I'm already ambivalent about spending that much money on a game system, the question "What will the game system, which I bought to play games, do when I'm not playing games on it?" is not likely to be a significant influence on my decision.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No kidding. Most gamers who would care about this are already running F@H on their computers.

      But alas, we are not their target market. This is a ploy aimed squarely at a certain type of parent who wants to feel they are being proactive in finding solutions to the issues that plague all humanity, while also providing their little precious angels with something to do while they are busy watching Tele and/or sending email to the interweb.

      Really, there are people like that.
    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )
      Agreed. All things being equal, it might be a deciding factor but I doubt that. It's not like people buy their PC based off of how well it runs SETI/Folding/etc, it's very doubtful that consoles would be any better off. Based off of how hot my PS2 and XBox become after long period of use, I'm not sure if I would want to leave my shiny new $600 console on 24x7 doing computationally intensive activites.
  • Double dipping? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So if we BUY a PS3, and we allow Sony to use the free cylces of my processor, does that mean that if there is a cure found for Alzheimers, other genetic diseases or stupidity, that we as a public will be able to access this new found cure for free? OR do we get our cut? For some reason I think not.

    Please, be a Philanthropist. Let a large megacorporation or partnering pharmacuetical company benifit from this.

    Or save the energy that would have been used for a much more worthwile cause. Powering a megahuge C
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by boingyzain ( 739759 )
      Uh, you aren't allowing Sony to use your spare cycles, you're allowing Folding@Home (or more broadly, Stanford University's Pande Group) to use your spare cycles. And they are a non-profit organization who releases their findings for free []. So, yes, you as part of the public can access the information you helped discover for free.

      Even if Sony WAS a scientific conglomerate trying to find a cure, would you really want to put a hamper on reducing millions of deaths just because you don't want them to earn mo
    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      Who "owns" the results? What will happen to them? Unlike other distributed computing projects, Folding@home is run by an academic institution (specifically the Pande Group, at Stanford University's Chemistry Department), which is a nonprofit institution dedicated to science research and education. We will not sell the data or make any money off of it.

      Moreover, we will make the data available for others to use. In particular, the results from Folding@home will be made available on several levels. Most imp
  • I guarentee that it will be shipped on by default but have an option in the PS3 BIOS to use it during downtime or not. Besides, who leaves their consoles on at all times?
    • You didn't RTFA, did you?

      You need to actually download the app and install it and allow it to run.

      It's just that Sony is making this an easy process and is endorsing it as a good thing to run on your PS3.

      Don't want to do it, because you think it's a tinfoil hat defeater being installed by the gubmint, then don't install the software.
    • You really think the PS3 will have a BIOS? Isn't the BIOS just some leftover from the 80s that some computer manufacturers still use because people insist on using outdated software that still requires it? I can't remember the last time I sat in front of a computer that had BIOS, although I guess I've probably used one remotely.
      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Well, it's not really a BIOS but the PS2 has a GUI bootloader that comes up if you power it on without a disk in the dvd drive. This allows you to change system settings, launch a browser, or check the drive for a newly inserted disk.

  • is that this might be a good idea, if the program doesn't contain a rootkit.
  • I don't know how much power a PS3 pull at full whack, but I reckon it's got to be along the lines of 500W. If they get 10 million people running this during the day, that's an addition 5GW of load on the electrical system. If you own one, and let it run 18 hours a day for the year, then at 20c per kW/h you're looking at $750 on your power bill.
    • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:37PM (#16132800)
      I guess you are exaggerating to illustrate your point but the power consumption of the PS3 is unlikely to be 500 watts (50 to 100 watts is more likely) and your power cost of 20 cents is two or three times what most people pay (I pay 10 cents in California). Your estimate is probably 10x to 20x too high.

      Yes, it would cost electricity but most likely only a few dollars a month, not $750 a year and most likely wouldn't burn out the electricy grid.

    • 500W? I don't think so! Maybe if Sony wants to sell it as a combination game console/TOASTER. High-def Blu-Ray English muffins are teh bom!

              50W would be pretty reasonable, 100W would surprise me a bit.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      500W is enormous for a console. How in the world do you expect them to keep it cool? The whole thing isn't all that big. If it pulls more than 120 I'll be surprised, and even that's pretty high. Once you get above 100W just cooling the box becomes a major problem--not that Sony hasn't had cooling problems with their v.1 Playstations in the past or anything, but that would be excessive.

      Hopefully the F@H client won't use the Blu-ray drive, and will have an option to disable the graphics (the TV will be
  • ... but this doesn't affect my opinion of the PS3 at all. It will be late and wayyyy overpriced. I guess it's nice that Sony is doing this, but anyone can do the same thing without spending $500+ on a gaming console.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      anyone can do the same thing without spending $500+ on a gaming console

      Exactly how would you get this level of performance/watts ratio without spending the few hundred dollars? You'd need to run your current PC much longer to perform the same calculations. From TFA the performance is roughly 100x current capability.
  • Even I know that this is a dupe. []

    I don't think I would buy a PS3 for myself unless it was going cure someone I knew of an ailment

  • OK. The other items make sense. However, Why do we need to "cure Mad Cow disses"?

    This is an ailment which only arises when cattle is fed body parts of previously slaughtered cattle. After several generations of meat fed cattle eating meat fed cattle Mad cow disease pops up. This is why after an "outbreak" which the local authorities respond to by burning entire herds the disease seams to disappear for several months or even a couple years before popping up again in another location.

    Cows are not like peo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      Well, you're right and we shouldn't be feeding cows to other cows. However, I'm inclined to say that it might be nice if the unfortunate souls who have the disease, you know.... wouldn't die a horrible death. I know it's rare, and should become more rare if we start showing some sense in raising cattle, but, you know... if they could maybe cure it along the way to finding a cure for another disease, I wouldn't consider it a waste of time.

    • Well, perhaps because "mad cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is closely related in its effects to a non-beef-consumption-related disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease [], not to mention the other disorders mentioned which are also being traced to "bad" proteins.

      Whatever the source of the disease, curing it would be a good thing. We know the transmission vectors of HIV and yet that disease still spreads. Maybe we shouldn't try to cure that, either?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Forge ( 2456 )
        OK. Let's try to cure Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. If Mad Cow disease is cured as a side benefit, great.

        As for the comparison with AIDS. The behavior modifications required are of an entirely different nature. You see, the "culprits" now are individuals, the majority of who are impoverished and under educated with little communications equipment available to begin with. So even getting condoms and the message of responsible sex to them is tough.

        As if that wasn't bad enough the victims are usually the same pe
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Forge ( 2456 )
          As a further clarification. The Wikipedia page on Mad cow disease [] lists the countries with infected cattle and/or infected people.

          Interestingly the poorest country on the list is Thailand [], with a GDP per capita of $8,300.00 (Middle income).

          Strangely enough they only made the list for the human form of the disease, suggesting that it came from imported beef.
  • by RetlawST ( 997563 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:27PM (#16132687)
    ...will be built using a cluster of PS3s.
      This cluster will be able to help cure cancer AND allow Madden 2007 to play an entire season in three minutes.
  • The Plot thickens. Now we have a better idea of why the price is going to be so high! We're paying to cure cancer! Well, it must be worth it then! Here sony, take my $600 dollars and my CPU time!
  • Pass (Score:5, Funny)

    by mac123 ( 25118 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:31PM (#16132725)
    I'm waiting for the project that will have me use all of the spare time for my incredibly overpowered home CPUs (and with it ample amounts of electricity) to 'fight global warming'!
    • One group is actually modeling climate change using the BOINC [] distributed client. I don't participate myself, as most of my home computers are old and too slow to run the client-- and I'd rather just switch off the box. []

      What is is the largest experiment to try and produce a forecast of the climate in the 21st century. To do this, we need people around the world to give us time on their computers - time when they have their computers swi
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Isao ( 153092 )
      That would be the BBC Climate Prediction Project [].

      You may sign up now. Arrgh.

  • new slogan (Score:4, Funny)

    by Darth Maul ( 19860 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:34PM (#16132758) Homepage
    It's only a matter of time until they reveal their new slogan: "PS3. Won't somebody think of the children?".
  • To participate, users will just download a program into the PS3's hard drive. Then they just need to leave the machine on when they're not playing. The Folding@home team will divide their complex calculations into manageable chunks and then send it to the participating machines. The program and data will take up 10 to 20 megabytes - or about the size of a handful of MP3 files, Pande said.

    Well, at least it isn't a default, but it significantly reduces the number of people that are likely to use it, especi
  • You can also use your PS3's downtime to help Sony convince regulators the PS3 is a "computer" and not a "game console" so they get a tax break!
  • This isn't going to directly cause anybody (or at least a measurable number of people) to purchase this system as opposed to a competitor. But what it will do it cause the mainstream media to oooh and aaahhh over it a bit more which will help indirectly. It will get mentioned on CNN and such and contribute to a positive feel surrounding a story.
  • There are investors who think that the times when everyone is positive that things are in the shitter for sure is a great time to invest money. Reading this thread, it seems that nearly everyone thinks that the PS3 is going to flop, bit time, and be the next betamax, etc etc. With that being the prevailing wisdom, even a mild success will be great news for Sony. The bar has been set extremely low for the company that had the PS2. Yes, the console biz has a history of colossal failures, but how often has
  • by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @03:48PM (#16132915)
    If so, buying a PS3 could pay for itself over time. Seriously, I would signup, have them e-mail me CPU usage statistics muliplied by an industry standard rate as a reciept. They're happy to have CPU cycles, I'm happy to have the tax deduction.

    Now if that's the case, can something similar be done with other CPU cycle donations to other projects? I have a multi-core server that spends most of its time idle. Might as well put to some use, eh?
    • I do wonder if you could calculate the excess eletricity used for the process and take that as a tax-deduction ... you'd have the power receipts and the f@h stats (a non-profit) to show the usage.
  • Do what I do. Plug every home entertainment item into a power strip and turn it off when you're at work. Turn it off when you're in bed. Do the same with your computer set up. Save some power bills. Save a bit of the environment. If I'm not home, my games, TV, stereo, everything is unpluged. Even my power adaptors. I started saving a good $5-10 a month doing that.

    Sure, it makes it harder to do protien-folding calculations and the possibility of curing mad cow disease, but it'll save you a good deal

  • If this was on by default and ran in the background while your games were doing non-CPU-intensive stuff (playing cut scenes, paused, selecting your character, etc), I bet they could get a huge amount of processing time just from the people that never even realized this was going on.
    I think any corporation with the kind of market share of Nintendo, MS or Sony should consider doing this kind of thing. A tiny bit of spare cpu-time from a huge number of consoles adds up.
  • Pro: down time helps fight diseases
    Con: increased polution, from increased coal burning, increases disease risk

    So not sure whether to be happy or not.
  • Yea..but all those fully powered up PS3's (that would be turned off) are using electricity.....

    ----slams troll on head-----

    Quite frankly. If it helps keep my brain from becoming a pile of useless jello I'm all for it!
  • It's not novel. Any net-connected game system is just a new platform for any of the @home projects. They can build a client for download via xbox live or the wii as well.

    The only really good reason for this (besides curing cancer ;) ) is that sony's finally found an app that can effectively exploit the parallel nature of the cell processor. So if clients are released for the other systems, it will look like the ps3 has technological superiority.
  • Is this kind of stuff driven by Sony's PR dept? I remember before the PS2 was released, there were stories on the evening news about the dangers of them being used for missile guidance systems by other countries, because it was SOOOOOO POWERFUL!OMGZ! Obviously everyone is all anti-war, so now they're playing the "PS3 IS SO POwerFUL IT cUrEZ DISEASES SO FAST!" route. It all seems a little odd to me.
  • (yes I know folding can help work on cancer)

    Imagine the new ad campaign "600 dollar donation to cancer research, just plug this in!" Anything to avoid having to discuss the games in the first year.
  • Let's search for those SETI signal bogies! :)

    Cancer! Pffft!

  • A Better Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ffejie ( 779512 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:45PM (#16133444)

    A better idea... Buy a Xbox 360 or a Wii. (Buy em used after a couple of months!) Save yourself anywhere from $200-$400 and donate the money to cancer research, or the F@H project if you really like that project. No, you don't get to have the PS3, but, your $200 will go a lot further for research than your cycles will over a couple of years. Also, take the $25-$100 you'll save on electricity (or whatever people in this discussion have been calculating) and donate that. With the $500 or so you'll give to research over the next 3 years, you'll be able to say for sure that you helped out. And, you get to cut out the middle men (Sony getting cash on the hardware and the Electric Co for providing the electricity).

    Added benefit: Tax write-off! I want to see you try to write-off the additional ~$100 in electricity you're donating.

  • What sort of applications would benifit from being distributed, and also being made to use Graphics/3d chip power for their calculations?

    If this is a selling point for PS3; could something like it be a selling point for Physics chips, or that new AI dedicated processor?

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