Folding@Home: Whitepages Donates Computer Power

At the end of our 2017 fiscal year, our Engineering and Infrastructure teams successfully completed a massive data migration — three months ahead of schedule! More details to come in a future post, but for now, we’re highlighting how Whitepages took all that work and donated it to a good cause. Below is a blog from Jeff, a Senior Software Engineer, on how we use idle computer servers to save lives with folding@home.


I’d like to share a side effect of this migration that I think was pretty awesome, but not very well circulated.

As we migrated services from the data center to AWS this year, the Operations team raised the question: “What do we do with the increasing number of idle servers in our data center?” I wasn’t there for this conversation, but I imagine it went something like this:

OPS: “So we have all these idle servers, what should we do with them?”

SOMEONE: “Uh… mine bitcoin?”

ACCOUNTING: “I’m not figuring out the taxes for that.”

OPS: “These servers have lots of CPUs, but all the good bitcoin mining is on graphics cards these days so that wouldn’t have worked very well anyway. Other ideas?”

SOFTWARE ENGINEER MANAGER MIKE: “Uh… cure cancer?”

OPS: “YES. THAT.”

If you’re not familiar, the folding@home project is a distributed computing project developed by Stanford to run simulations on how human proteins behave. This research goes to trying to find cures for diseases like Cancer or Alzheimer’s. These kinds of simulations require a ton of computing horsepower, and folding@home farms this work out to volunteer computers so people can donate time their computer would have otherwise been idle to help with this research.

There are several projects in this class of donating computer time to big problems if you’re interested, but folding@home is one of the oldest.

So that’s what we’ve been doing.

As we migrated services to AWS and freed up servers in the data center, we immediately put those servers back to work donating CPU time to the folding@home project. It’s personally been really fun to put some work into migrating some service, and watch as the Whitepages team ranking goes up as a result. For the last few months, we’ve been consistently in the top 20 teams worldwide in terms of donated computer power, even beating out teams with names you might recognize like “Reddit” and “Google”.

Among all the move-the-needle work we’ve been doing, I think it’s been a little under the radar, so I wanted to make sure we shared the good news.

 -Jeff W.

Here is a graph showing November’s spike in activity once we officially migrated data servers:

 


As of today, Whitepages has achieved the following two milestones:

(Note: “points” are folding@home’s attempt to normalize the fact that some Work Units are harder than others. We are currently ranked #58 out over a million teams!)

We are so proud to continue using our Data For Good and streamlining our systems to better serve our customers. Thank you to our Ops/Infrastructure and Engineering Teams for their efforts!

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April: A Month in Names

April-Names-Post

April is a month that often gets forgotten as it falls between the cheer of the holidays and the excitement of the warmer spring and summer months. To many, April is just the “rainy” month that brings “May flowers.” All of this may be true, but we found some fun facts about the month of April, many of which are so secretly popular that people have named their children after them.

Read on to see how many people are named after some of April’s most memorable facts and features!

 

Fun Fact: The name “April” Originally comes from the term “Aprillis,” meaning “to open.”

It is believed that the term “to open” was associated with April due to the fact that April is the month when buds open and flowers begin to appear. So here’s the question… how many people are actually named Aprillis? The answer is… Three! All of whom live in New York.

Fun Fact: Remember the saying “April showers brings may flowers?”

The popular poem “April showers bring May flowers” originally comes from the the proverb “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers,” recorded in 1886. Well, It looks like April might be the more popular month after all! 41 people in the U.S. have the name April Showers whereas only 6 people have the name May Flowers.

Fun Fact: Did you know the Diamond is the birthstone of April?

12,038 people have the first name of Diamond. Another fun fact? The District of Columbia has the most people named Diamond per capita. You may be hearing less of this name nowadays though, Diamond marked height of it’s popularity back in 1999.

Fun Fact:  The birth flower of April is typically the Sweet Pea or the Daisy.

Though we found no one in the U.S. with the first name of “Sweet” and the last name of “Pea,” we did find “Sweetpea” as a first name. 28 people have Sweetpea as a first name and many of them reside in Hawaii. Infact, Hawaii has the most people named Sweetpea per capita.

Daisy however, seems to be the more popular of the two April flowers to name a child after. There are 79,403 people named Daisy. Daisy, a popular name marking it’s height in 1910 is now most popular in California with a whopping 13,452.

Fun Fact: George Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789 as the first president of the United States of America.

How many people in the US named their kids after the famous president we see on the one-dollar bill? 1,513! Now that’s a lot of George Washington’s.

Fun Fact: Last but not least, one of the most common terms revolving around “April” has the most uncommon name. This is no joke, we are are talking about April Fools.

Guess how many people are named April Fools in the U.S.? Just one, out in Ohio.

Are you interested in seeing how many people you share your name with? Discover for yourself on Whitepages Names.