How can we help fight COVID-19

The blog entry should probably appear around one year earlier. But it is better to be later than never. :) Anyway, back to the topic.

General information

Probably the most of us have enough the pandemic. Not only due to lockdowns but also, because we are bombarded with information about it in every place. Even here. :) And that situation can take some more time. One of the most obvious answers on the question in title of the post is to obey medical recommendations. But we can do even more to ends the pandemic faster.

One of the biggest problems with the current situation is lack of the information about the virus. We meet something completely new, and we just started to collecting data about it. Of course, the most of us don't have enough medical education to join the efforts, but we have something other what can help scientists better understand the problem: our computers and smartphones.

The most research today require a lot of computer power to analyze, very often gigantic amount of collected data. And probably in every country in the world, research require much more computer power than it have available. Fortunately, here exist a few projects which can help both sides: the scientists who need to analyze data and people who want to help with research. These projects allow share unused resources of volunteers' computers to work on the selected scientific projects. Something like this is called volunteer computing. The general idea is that volunteers download a special program which allow them to connect to servers owned by scientists, download a small part of data and analyze it on the local computer. After work, a computer again communicate with a server by sending it a result of work. More detailed and better explained information about that idea, you can find at Wikipedia

Below I will present a few of that projects. But before you start anything, please remember. When any of these projects works on your computer it may work a lot slower. Thus, the best option is to use them only when you are not using directly your computer. Additionally, because your computer may work with bigger load than usual, unfortunately, your electrical bills can be a bit higher too. At least now, during the winter, you will have additional, small source of heat around self :) But don't worry, these programs if used with default settings or lower, they will not damage your computer in any way.

Desktop

[email protected]

Website

[email protected] is the volunteer computing project created at Washington University in St. Louis. Its main goal is to help scientists develop new therapeutics for a variety of diseases by the means of simulating protein dynamics. Or in a bit more simple way: the project is looking for various medicines for treatment many diseases. Since start the pandemic, the main goal of the project is to help understand how virus works and affects our bodies. At this moment, it is one of the fastest computing systems on the world.

You can join the project by go to its Start Folding page and download the proper client for your operating system. The project doesn't require registration. It is completely optional. Thus, after downloading you can start the program and begin to contribute to various research projects. The default settings should be good for the most of the people. But, if you will need any help with it, please look at FAQ, there you can find also detailed information about the program installation and running.

[email protected] is the proprietary software, even if build on a top of Open Source various libraries and programs.

BOINC

Website

BOINC is short for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. It is also volunteer computing project but created at University of California, Berkeley. It started as the support for the project [email protected], but growth over time to support any type of research projects. By the most time, BOINC has opinion of a program directed to the more advanced computer users. In last few years it slowly started changing, but it is still more complicated to start and using it than [email protected]. I will describe here a simpler way to join the project. Later, if you want, you can read the project documentation how to set it for your needs.

The easiest way to join is to use special Account Manager page called Science United.

  1. In this project registration is required, thus please create an account there.
  2. After account creation, you will be redirected to the download page where you can download the program for your operating system.
  3. Next, when you start the program, you will need to connect the computer to your Science United account. How to do it, is described on next after download page.
  4. The final step is to select the type of science to which you want to contribute. If you want to help fight COVID-19 you should select Biology and Medicine -> Disease research -> COVID-19 and virology.
  5. Now you can start the program and begin to contribute to various research projects.

As you see, the whole set up process is much more complicated than in [email protected]. We even not described the process to configure the program, but default configuration should be good for the most people too. More documentation about the project you can find at its page.

BOINC is the Open Source software, not only the client but the server either.

Notes

Mobile

DreamLab

Website

DreamLab is application for Android and iOS created by Vodafone Australia Foundation and Imperial College London. It was designed to help scientists research cancer and COVID-19. The application works only when a smartphone is charged. It is even impossible to start it on battery. DreamLab same as the desktop projects, connects to the server, takes some data to compute and run them on the smartphone. From all these three projects, this one is probably easiest to use. It is also the youngest from all projects.

To start computing, just download application from the proper store, install it and run when the smartphone is charged. Select from the list on which project you want to work, and start the application. DreamLab will stop working if temperature of your phone battery reach higher level (around 40-50 Celsius degrees), thus it shouldn't cause any problems for the smartphone.

DreamLab is the proprietary software.

Final words

As you see, here are a lot of ways to join efforts in fight with the pandemic. Any help, even the smallest count, and can speed up the end of problems. There are some results from these projects are used in medical research or treatment.

Of course, one short blog entry can't give all needed information to everyone. If someone will be more interested in this topic, feel free to contact with me.

Come, join us, especially that all of these things don't require too much attention after setting up.

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