Computing for COVID

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging throughout the world, there are many ways to assist in the effort to find solutions to this worldwide problem. One of the ways to help in this effort is to donate some idle CPU time towards research projects such as [email protected] which is a distributed computing project that operates on the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (or BOINC for short) – BOINC is open-source and funded primarily by the National Science Foundation.

The [email protected] distributed computing project powering research on COVID-19 at the UW Institute for Protein Design and other universities.

Joining in on this computing power is as simple as downloading the BOINC app for Windows/Mac/Linux or Android and then select [email protected] as your preferred project and your idle CPU time will automatically start crunching numbers towards COVID-19 along with cancer, HIV, and other medical research needs.

Digging a bit deeper into BOINC, it’s possible to set up your own teams that collectively contribute towards the preferred project. I remember years and years ago when my team members and teamed up to compete towards the [email protected] project combing through radio signals for signs of intelligent life in the universe – we loved each having our own teams of servers and competing to see who could throw the most CPU power towards that goal.

One of the teams contributing towards [email protected] is TEN7, a web design firm based out of Minneapolis, MN. TEN7 has sponsored a new Marketplace app on Digital Ocean that makes it incredibly easy to fire up a Digital Ocean droplet based on Ubuntu 18.04 which, when created automatically attaches itself to the [email protected] project as part of the Computing for COVID team – and that’s it! It immediately starts to download the work to be done and starts working without any further user intervention. The Computing for COVID DO Marketplace app is fully open source and lives on GitHub. But you really don’t need to know anything about it other than creating the Digital Ocean droplet – and then you’re contributing automatically once it’s created.

To get started, log into Digital Ocean – if you don’t have a Digital Ocean account, you can sign up HERE – please note that is a referral code for Digital Ocean which gets everyone who uses that referral code $100.00 in credit over 60 days. We appreciate any referrals that we receive!

Once signed up and logged in, click the green Create button in the upper right-hand corner and click ‘Droplets.’

Next, click on the Marketplace tab and search for COVID. You should see the ‘Computing for COVID’ app pop up in the search results – click on it, and then click on the ‘Computing for COVID 2’ app to make sure it’s selected.

For the plan, choose ‘Standard’ and then pick a Droplet size. TEN7 recommends at least a $15.00/mo. tier server, but certainly, the more CPU power, the more you are contributing towards the project. I am selecting the $20.00/mo tier for this example.

Next, choose a datacenter region – any region is fine, but I’m going to choose San Francisco 3 since it is closest to my geographical location.

The next step is to choose your authentication method – secure keys is the best and most secure option available, but you can also choose password authentication if you don’t have or don’t want to deal with SSH keys. I am going to select one of my pre-existing keys in this example, but you can also create a new public key – clicking New SSH Key allows you to do so, and also gives instructions to make it easier.

Finally, give your droplet a hostname, or take the default name and then click the green Create Droplet button at the bottom of the page and that’s it! You are now helping to further COVID-19 research.

You can just let your droplet run, but if you are interested in what it’s doing exactly, you can connect to it via SSH using your secure key or password (depending on which authentication mechanism you picked). I use PuTTY for connecting on SSH.

Once connected to your Computing for Covid droplet via SSH run this command:

boinctui

Which I assume stands for BOINC Text User Interface. This info screen will be displayed:

boinctui output

Here we can see that both of my CPU’s on this Droplet are contributing towards the [email protected] application, and we can see the percentage complete on the current processing tasks as well as some user stats on the right-hand side of the output.

That’s it! If you enjoyed this quick and easy tutorial, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below – let me know what size droplet you’re running towards the project! If you would like to buy me a beer, head on over to https://ko-fi.com/crosstalk – I’m always down to share a cold one with friends…cheers!

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