Sony has just released full details of the Folding@Home software that’ll be available for the Playstation 3 from the end of March. Folding@Home is a distributed-computing project that uses a computer’s or console’s idle-cycles to process chunks of data relating to the behaviour of folding-proteins related to forms of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntingdon’s, cystic fibrosis, and various cancers. Once processed, the data is sent back to a central server for collation. It’s a very cheap, very efficient form of supercomputing.
That said, there are two problems with having it run on the PS3. First, a PS3 is not a PC. It shouldn’t have idle-cycles. There is no reason to leave your PS3 running while you’re not using it: its boot-times are fast; apart from downloading there are precious few applications that need to run when the machine’s unattended; and F@H won’t run if the PS3 is doing anything else.
Second, the PS3 is a massive power-hog. It sucks up 380W, around twice the wattage of an Xbox 360 and more than five times the consumption of the PS2. According to VNUnet, that means four hours of PS3 play will cost almost a quid in electricity. So will four hours of letting the machine run Folding@Home. That’s not counting whatever your TV drains, and saying nothing about the carbon emissions.
So the question has to be asked: is Folding@Home on the PS3 a genuine piece of altruism on behalf of Sony, or a cynical attempt to pump up the console’s feelgood factor at the expense of customers’ fuel bills and the environment? Put it this way: Sony doesn’t pre-install Folding@Home on its less-fuel-hungry but not-in-need-of-a-PR-boost Vaio PCs.
Categorised as: Uncategorized