Bitcoin Mining, a bit of a Detour From the Usual

If you thought this site was automotive focused you’d be right. But being a constant tinkerer and tech geek I have to share another project/hobby. Cryptocurrency, yep, pretty much everyone has heard of Bitcoin lately with it surging wildly in price and people debating if it’s even a real currency vs. some sort of scam. Personally I believe in it, I think Bitcoin and all the other associated coins and technologies are the future. Privacy, decentralization, etc., etc. are very real.

**However** before we go any further I want to preface this post with two items.

1. I am purposely keeping my explanations at a very high conceptual level, so I might lose some of the fine grain tech detail, but I’d rather do that than lose you in an overwhelming firehose blast of information. So if you’re a techie bear with me.
2. Also I am not going to include detailed setup instructions in this post, it would be too long and tedious of a read. But I do plan on diving in much deeper in individual follow-up postings.

With that said, what intrigues me most about Bitcoin and the plethora of other coins out there is mining. What is mining? Good question, the most basic explanation is that mining supports the coin’s network. It also discovers new coins (hence the name), but the main function is to verify transactions as they fly around the world from one person or business to another. Let’s say you decide to send me a Bitcoin (woot! That’s like $14,000.00 at the time of this writing). That transaction along with many others gets bundled up and put on the network. Miners then download those bundles run through very mathematically intense calculations and return the results. Once a certain number of miners submit matching results that transaction is confirmed and my receipt of the Bitcoin is verified. Here’s a jumping off point in your journey to understand what the hell I’m talking about. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin#Mining

Because different digital currencies use different algorithms hardware to mine these coins has evolved and diverged. Bitcoin and a few others for example use the SHA-256 algorithm, so to mine (support the network) you need SHA-256 equipment. Early on basic PCs could perform this task, but the network size and “difficulty” have risen exponentially resulting in the switch to GPUs and presently purpose built ASIC based mining machines. Not to worry though, you can still use GPUs (computer graphics cards) to mine some “alt” coins, there are also a few where you can still mine with your CPU. I’ve used several different pieces of mining hardware and software and that is what I’d like to report on in this first post.
I’ll talk a bit about each of the methods, CPU, GPU, and finally ASIC mining. Note: there’s others, but these are most popular.

CPU Mining

CPU mining, the most readily available, and arguably cheapest way to get going. After all most everyone has a PC or laptop sitting around doing nothing most of the day. So how do you get started? First you need to pick a coin, keep in mind this can be the toughest part. I like using http://cpucoinlist.com/ as one resource, but you can also find a coin by something you are interested in. I chose AEON , its main philosophy is to be a lightweight mobile friendly privacy based coin.

Initial Setup

OK, now that I’ve chosen a coin I have to get two things going. 1) The software to mine it with my CPU and 2) A wallet to hold the currency. Wallet? Yeah all this way in and I am still throwing new things at you! Basic concept of a wallet is that it stores the private keys of your digital currency https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin#Wallets these private keys are unique to your currency and must be very well protected. If they are lost, stolen, or destroyed so are your hard earned coins!! Generally the coin you choose will have wallet software on their website. The difficulty in setting up these wallets varies greatly so use this as a determining factor of what to mine as well. In addition to running a piece of software on your PC there are other wallet options as well. For my “mainstream” coins like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, and Ethereum personally I like the Ledger Nano S it is a type of wallet known as a hardware wallet.

Let’s Mine!

With all of that out of the way I can now get going on the main task, CPU mining for coins. Choosing AEON meant that I had to find software that matches the coin’s algorithm. AEON uses the CryptoNite-Lite algorithm to verify its transactions (there’s so much more to it, but let’s keep this high level). I chose xmrig as my AEON mining software. It’s not for the faint of heart to set up, but once you do it works really well. As mentioned at the start I will published an in-depth setup guide for this at a later date so keep checking back! Below is what the software looks like in action.

cpu mining

Notice there’s something called a pool in there, a pool is again at a basic level, a group of miners putting their resources together to increase luck and profitability. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin#Pooled_mining

GPU Mining

Up next is GPU mining, GPU mining has exploded in popularity. Graphics cards can be immensely powerful tools in certain applications, and cryptocurrency mining is one of them. The most popular coin being mined with GPUs is Ethereum. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethereum Just like CPU mining you’ll need to find software that will use your computer’s graphics card to perform mining actions for the coin you chose. One very popular piece of GPU mining software is Claymore’s Just like CPU mining you’ll also want to use a wallet to store your Ethereum and find a mining pool. I use the previously mentioned Ledger Nano S hardware wallet and https://ethermine.org as my mining pool. Here is a sample screenshot of Claymore’s miner in action.

gpu mining

ASIC Mining

Next up is mining with purpose built devices known as ASIC miners https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/ASIC. These are full on single purpose industrial miners. I use the term industrial as they are incredibly loud, power hungry, and produce an immense amount of heat. The Bitmain S9 is currently the king of available miners. It uses roughly 6.4A (1400 watts) of power on a 220V circuit, produces about 5,000 BTU of heat, and is approx. 78 decibels loud when standing next to it. While the other forms of mining can easily be done at home, ASIC mining poses unique challenges given the information above. So if you plan on trying this at home know that you’ll need an area well away or insulated from the rest of your house. You’ll need a sufficient 220v 20A circuit and a way to evacuate a large amount of hot air. So be prepared and do your research!

s9

That is a very quick high level overview. Stay tuned for detailed write ups of all 3 forms of mining I have mentioned. Having done all 3 I will dive deeper in to each method.

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