Every Little Bit Counts: Helping Out While Working From Home

With many of us being in a “work from home” situation these days, it’s had all sorts of crazy impacts. Up in my neck of the woods, gas hasn’t been this cheap in a long time … possibly since the olden days of the 1990s. Pollution has also been shown to be clearing up in parts of the world. And it has finally become the year of VDI.

All kidding aside, the World is going through something that we have nothing in living memory to compare it to: COVID-19. I’m not going to turn this into a “what you should do to stay safe” blog, as there are some great ones out there. (Spoiler Alert: stay home / stay away from others). But aside from staying home, I wanted to offer a couple of other suggestions of things to do that may help out the overall fight against COVID-19.

FOLDING AT HOME

f@hLots of us geeks probably are familiar with the [email protected] project from quite a while back. If you aren’t familiar with it, SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) came up with this crazy (for the time) idea. They designed software that anyone could download. This software would run on your PC and use your CPU to crunch data. Essentially, it was a way for them to build a distributed computing grid but defer the costs.

[email protected] is a similar project, whose goal is to crunch data to help scientists understand how proteins function. This has direct impact on fighting diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s. Recently, COVID-19 has been added to the mix (just select “Any” disease – it has been prioritized).

So how do you get started? My employer, VMware, has some truly awesome people who work for the company. In a span of just under 3 days, a new “fling” was developed. This fling is an OVA file, which once imported and turned on, automatically connects to the [email protected] servers and starts crunching. There has never been an easier way to use spare CPU cycles to start helping fight disease.

I would highly recommend checking out these blog posts for additional info:

3D PRINTING FACE SHIELDS

This is another really cool initiative that I found out about late last week. Prusa (a 3D printer company) has some designs to print face shields that front-line works can use. I found out about this from a company in Waterloo, Canada called InkSmith. They realized that they could help manufacture these. Initially, they were able to provide the elastic band for the mask, as well as the actual face shield. However, they were running into issues printing the headband and bottom reinforcement. It’s not that it was hard, it was that they only had four 3D printers available.

They reached out to the community and offered to accept any and all prints that folks could donate. Personally, I fired up my 3D printer and had it going as often as I could. Since Sunday evening (after one failed print), I was able to produce six sets. Kudos for them to only have a drop off box behind their building – up until today, you could drop prints off without needing to interact with anyone. Going forward, they will only be accepting mailed prints. Latest numbers (as of 9 PM on 2020-03-24), they have over 1000 face shields. This is 1000 new, and reusable (they can be sanitized) pieces of potentially life saving equipment for front-line workers.

If you have a 3D printer, I would highly encourage you to reach out to your local health care facilities to see if they can be assisted by devices such as these.

1000 DROPS IN A BUCKET

All in all, I’m just a drop in the bucket. 6 sets out of 1000 is a pretty low number. But you know what, 6 here, 20 there, 7 over there … it all adds up. The same with the Folding @ Home project. In both cases, it hasn’t cost me anything. 3D printer filament is relatively cheap, and I have plenty of stock. I’ve got a home lab as well as a desktop, all which are usually on and running anyways. Adding some additional compute crunching to it has zero impact on me, but when everyone does it, it adds up to a big difference.

If you are looking to do more than stay home during this pandemic, consider seeing if you can help a cause out.

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