Balena's Fold for Covid Makes Participating in COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 Research as Simple as Possible

Dig out your Raspberry Pis, NVIDIA Jetsons, old laptops, and more, and get them crunching numbers for the fight against COVID-19.

Balena's Fold for Covid makes distributed computing as easy as possible. (πŸ“·: Balena)

IoT fleet management expert and COVID-19 Detect & Protect Challenge partner balena has turned its attentions to assisting in the fight against COVID-19, releasing a tool which allows for otherwise unused hardware β€” including the Raspberry Pi and other single-board computers β€” to participate in the Rosetta@Home distributed computing effort.

Built atop the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Networked Computing (BOINC) platform, Rosetta@Home allows interested parties to donate otherwise-unused computing resources to scientists working on a range of problems β€” but, most recently, with priority given to projects investigating the coronavirus spreading throughout the world. Initially, Rosetta@Home only supported x86-based hardware β€” until earlier this month, when community contributors worked to port the software to Arm-based platforms including the Raspberry Pi family and other single-board computers.

Actually getting started with the project was still a relatively technical effort, however, which is where balena's contribution comes in. Based on its popular cross-platform storage imaging utility Etcher, balena is providing downloadable images which can be quickly written to microSD cards, USB flash drives, or other storage and inserted into a variety of old and new hardware to boot into a dedicated operating system already set up for COVID-19 research on Rosetta@Home - no technical knowledge required.

"At balena, we love open source initiatives that try to make the world a better place. After learning about the Rosetta team’s great work, we felt we could help make an impact by allowing folks to easily add their spare computers and devices to the platform," the company explains. "Lending our engineering expertise to streamline the process, including fantastic community support, we created the Fold for Covid project to help promote the project and try to get as many people involved as we can, so that scientists and researchers can start to identify potential treatments for COVID-19 as quickly as possible."

Balena has provided pre-prepared operating system images for the Raspberry Pi 4 and Raspberry Pi 3, plus other single-board computers including the Google Coral Dev Board, NVIDIA Jetson, Compulab MX8M, and more. Downloads are also available for AMD64 desktops, laptops, and servers, either as a dedicated operating system or a set of instructions for installing the BOINC platform and Rosetta@Home inside an existing operating system.

Interested parties can find out how to get involved at the Fold for Covid website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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