Category Archives: science

cure cancer with leftover azure credits

An azure window grid, reflecting clouds. Perfect fit isn't it?Maybe you have some Azure credits lying from a Visual Studio subscription you have from work, waiting to be spent on cool and nifty experiments, but don’t end up actually using them.
How about spending some of those dollars on cancer research? Or help find a cure against Zika? Fighting AIDS maybe?

Enter the World Community Grid, a vast grid computing network running on the Open Source BOINC client software, started as a philanthropic initiative by IBM.
Sounds good right?

All you need to do is create a WCG account, spin up a Linux machine on Azure, install the BOINC headless client on it and link it to your account. In about half an hour you’ll be computing cancer markers, folding genes or fighting some horrible disease. Well, the software will be doing that really, which is even better.

Here we go, step by step.

1. Setup your Azure Linux machine, I chose an Ubuntu 16 LTS machine. I pick the classic VM because its way easier to setup.
Depending on the type of machine you’ll have more compute power and thus turning out more results. Try a few out and see how you can maximize your Azure credits.

2. Once provisioned, log in using PUTTY or your favorite SSH client. Now it’s time to update the Linux packages and then install the BOINC client:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install boinc-client

3. Setup auto startup of the BOINC client, so if your machine reboots, you don’t have to go in and start it up yourself (automate all the things remember):

sudo /etc/init.d/boinc-client restart

4. Get your BOINC authentication key so you can hook up the client to your account:

boinccmd --lookup_account https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org

5. Now use the key to attach your selected projects from WCG:

boinccmd --project_attach https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org

Of course you want to check what’s going on, so you can check the BOINC client’s state like this:

boinccmd --get_state

This should give you a list of the tasks and their state. It might take a while before they start kicking in, but you’ll see results coming in after a day or so on the WGC website under your contribution history.

That’s about it. Your client is all set up. All you need to do is keep those VM’s running in the cloud, which normally takes non effort at all. Neat.

There are more boinccmd command line switches in the documentation if you’d need to troubleshoot or find out more.

What’s next? Well, you can set up more than 1 machine if you like, or a heavier one and see what gives you more bang for your buck.  You can also join my World Computing Grid team called “Team Azure” and see how many cloud bucks we can burn. It’ll be effortless fun, I promise! ;)

Credit goes to Joel Christian’s headless Ubuntu installation guide. His guide made my quest to setup BOINC on an Azure Ubuntu box a lot easier.

Photo by Dan, cc-licensed.

what drains your battery faster? 3G or WIFI?

So what drains your smartphone’s battery more you think? Using a local WIFI network or the 3G cell network to download stuff from the internet? I Googled it but I didn’t find any solid hardcore scientifically based evidence. Time for a small home-grown scientific experiment then!

So here it is *drumroll*, the WIFI vs 3G battery drainage challenge!

I fired up the Grooveshark html5 app (which is quite nice actually) to non-stop stream music for 20 minutes and checked the battery usage when repeating this for both types of networks. In the meanwhile I was keeping anything else down to a minimum (like activating the screen which is also a juice sucker). Checking the battery usage means simply writing down the percentage displayed in the top Android menu bar before and after the test, so it’s not that precise, but it’ll do.

The results after 20 minutes of non-stop music streaming where:

  • WIFI battery usage : 2% drained
  • 3G battery usage : 5% drained

WIFI beats 3G with more than half of the battery usage in this (not so inaccurate) test. But still, it gives a pretty clear idea of the winner here. So roughly speaking, on 3G you have about 6 hours of music to go and a whopping 16 hours on WIFI before your battery is dead, if you have a Sony Xperia. Taking mobile data costs into account, WIFI certainly seems to be the preferred option to stream anything over.

Heck, I’ll even trow in some pixelarty kinda infographic, to make all the numbers just look a bit more pleasing.

wifi vs 3g battery usage duke-out infographic (sort of)

feed your brain with some interesting podcasts

Eggs and Brains

Podcasts are a great way to pass the time while doing semi-automated and/or boring tasks like gardening, driving your car to work and back, or chores related to keeping your house nice and tidy. As long as the tasks don’t take up too much of your active grey-cell CPU you can devote those free cycles to processing some interesting auditory data making that boring chore less boring while learning something in the meanwhile. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Below I listed some of my main brain-food sources I keep going back to, which are mainly technology and science related. I listen to a lot of Microsoft .NET programming related items (guess what we use at work) and some more general programming related topics. There’s also some science stuff or generally geeky & fun things.

  • Hanselminutes: Microsoftie Scott Hanselman talks about interesting topics with a wide range of guests. Well worth the listen and not quite as Microsoftish as you’d expect. If you’ve seen one of his presentations before you know these are fun to listen to as well.
  • .NET Rocks, which is as stated mainly about .NET and related technologies. Still, Carl and Richard occasionally geek out on completely unrelated topics as well, like renewable power or flying to Mars. One of my favorites, because these shows are not only filled with knowledge but they are also great fun to listen to.
  • Herding Code: programming related podcasts about anything new & hip in the coding world. Low frequency updates.
  • Software Engineering Radio: again varied programming topics, not tied to any specific technology hosting some of the big names in the industry. Cherry pick away from their huge archive!
  • ITConversations: ICT/IT/science related. Great to pick & choose from for some brain-food variation.
  • Microsoft TechEd videos: more good Microsoft stuff. These are videos, but if you convert those to an mp3 file, you can just add them to your podcast list anyway.
  • TED videos: lots and lots of really nifty thought-provoking stuff there. Again something to convert to mp3’s or if you have an Android phone simply download the video’s using the free TEDAir app for off-line access.
  • In Our Time podcasts from BBC Radio. If you’re tired of the IT related stuff try this one to learn something new on philosophy, history, science, culture or religion.
  • Radiolab.org. Another really good podcast show about all sorts of topics. Excellent brainfood to trigger some new neural paths to form and extremely well produced. Pick up a few of these for a taste, and I’m sure you’ll be back for more.

To easily convert online videos to mp3s you can use snipmp3, video2mp3 or listentoyoutube, or install a tool from this Filehippo list. Plenty of other options out there that do the same though. I use VLC to do this myself, but it’s a bit tricky at times (read: too much to explain right here and now).

So what kind of awesome podcast do you listen to?
I’d be happy to find out and extend my brain-food diet.

Photo by Alesa Dam, cc-licensed.

about lemmings, drugs, portraits and stuff

Stuff we came across recently, not worthy of a full post but fun, interesting or sweet enough to get stuffed together in an orgy of hyperlink goodness.

  • Lemmings the oldskool computer game rewritten for the web. If this gets you excited you are probably old. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s probably something you won’t really get thrilled over. Move along youngsters, nothing to see here. (via Angelo)
  • The story of stuff is a 20 minute online video about how our consumer society is eating up the planet, and the people with it. You will have heard most of these facts before separately, but when the puzzle is put together it sheds a new light on the situation. Well worth the 20 minutes of your time IMO. Makes you think, or at least, it should (via Ine).
  • Another one, on a much lighter subject is The Nerd Handbook. If you have a nerd around, or are a nerd and feel like people might benefit from reading the manual, then this is something for you. The funny thing is that it’s actually quite accurate when it comes to nerdish interaction and logic. Hell, I can tell. (via Lifehacker)
  • Face On, a photo exhibition occurring in cyberspace and meatspace at the same time. Browse through the virtual exhibition room and check out the portraits or add your own to the mix. (via Pietel)
  • Rat Trap, an interesting article about drug addiction, and how the drugs are not the problem, but our enviroment. (via Jungletrain.net)

pictures on how we think

Besides being an interesting article on how the human brain works, the following section really got to me.

Greene believes that although cultural influences on morals are strong, an important genetic element is also present. “Much of what we think of as culturally learned or individually reasoned in moral judgment,” he said, “may turn out to be driven primarily by evolutionary forces.”

It’s all in our genes baby.

brains
Image by Kether