All posts by Dan Gregson

My Mining Experiment

A while back, I was talking with a friend of mine who pointed out a podcast episode called, “The Ceremony.” It was about the launch of a new cryptocurrency. It reminded me of 2013 when I’d experimented with Bitcoin mining. I had some mining gear laying around, albeit old technology, and thought it might be fun to play around with some alt-coins.

I poked around online looking for a coin that I could mine without being outgunned by some of the monster ASIC mining rigs that were mining Bitcoin and other popular coins. I was amazed to see how the cryptocurrency world had changed. When I tried this a few years ago, the mining was all done with the original algorithms that started with Bitcoin. Since then, Bitcoin had suffered some criticism for not being as anonymous as it was originally thought and had its mining dominated by miners with a large enough investment to buy expensive hardware (the aforementioned ASIC mining rigs). As a result, new coins with different mining algorithms designed to make mining “fairer” and make spending more anonymous had been created. The number of coins had exploded as different groups were competing for their coins to be the next Bitcoin.

I found Z-cash (ZEC) which was based on an algorithm called Equihash. Equihash requires a lot of memory making it easier to do with a computer than with an ASIC. It had also originated as a Linux only miner, which gave an advantage to people with Linux skills. My Linux machine was a hyperthreaded dual quad-core Xeon machine with 48 GB of RAM, which I thought would be moderately better than what most miners were using. Lastly, ZEC was trading for over $200 per coin, making it a worthwhile return.

I found a set of instructions for setting up a CPU miner and set up a Z-cash mining node. It ran for a long time but didn’t find anything. I wasn’t part of a pool and mining on my own, even with good hardware, didn’t compete with the other miners out there. I decided that I would find a better mining software, and maybe a GPU (basically, using the computing power of a graphics card to mine).

While I was looking for better mining software, I found a set of installation and setup instructions that showed how to configure the miner for Nicehash. I thought to myself, “what is Nicehash?” Sure enough, Nicehash can be found at www.nicehash.com.

After a little reading and a couple of Youtube videos, I learned that Nicehash is a service that sells mining computing power. If you want to run a 5 megahashes per second miner. You pay a fee to Nicehash, declare where you want to mine, and they do your mining for you. Where do they get that computing power? They are also a site where people with mining software and hardware can sell their computing power. In simple terms, they buy computing power from me and sell it to someone else. The best part is this: whether I find a coin or not, no matter what coin the buyer is looking for, I get paid Bitcoin for my efforts.

This quickly became something that I had to try. I had given up on bitcoin a while back because I was frustrated with not finding anything. Now, I could create a stream of coin. The challenge now was to maximize that stream.

I downloaded the Nicehash miner, which is a windows program that can use your graphics card or CPU or both to mine coin. I started running on my two Xeons.  Doing this brought in about $.67 cents a day. It was fun. I finally had some small amount of Bitcoin. But I wasn’t going to have any real income in this manner. In fact, with the minimum required amount to receive withdrawals being 0.001 Bitcoin, I could only get payouts once a week. I wanted at least a nightly payout.

For the next phase of the project, I bought a pair of GTX1080TI Graphics cards. They were listed as the best GPUs that I could get for NiceHash. Essentially GPUs are computing cores on a graphics card that the computer can ask to do mathematical tasks like hashing algorithms (which is most of the mining work). I built a computer to house the GPUs. This is a lot like a typical computer, but needs to spread the cards out wider for air flow, and isn’t as powerful, in terms of processor or RAM, because the GPUs do most of the work. Once the hardware was assembled, I started mining with the GPUs.

The GPU solution netted me around 0.0012 Bitcoin per day. This was enough to get me a daily payout of $5.00 per day. This doesn’t sound like much; however, I could earn $150 per month at this rate, which could buy something meaningful. I was happy with this, but still wanted to experiment with an ASIC miner.

I had played with some older ASIC miners that are cheap buys on eBay. This was fun, and allowed my to stock up on alt-coins. It wasn’t much good for Nicehash, because the pricing structure rewards speed. The speed of the pools on Nicehash is driven by other people with ASIC miners. So, to maximize payouts, I needed something big.

I settled on an L3+ miner, which is the miner that Nicehash shows as its most effective miner on their profitability calculator. These are simpler to set up: buy a miner, buy a power supply, plug them in, point it at Nicehash, and start mining. Once I got this going, it churned out ~ $20/day. The following chart illustrates the difference in mining equipment.

Screenshot 2017-10-23 at 08.51.28 - Edited

The first red line segment with the modest slope is the aggregated total of the CPU miner. It is a steady churn of coin with payments spread out over weeks. You can see this in the blue line where the two points on this line are just above 0.001 bitcoin (on the right scale). At the third point on each line, you see the effect of switching to the  GPU miner. There’s a big spike on the blue line (as there was some residual from the CPU added to the first GPU payment), followed by a daily total over 0.001 bitcoin. This slope continues until late October when the slope turns upward and the payout line goes up to ~ 0.0035 per day. This is the payout from the ASIC miner. Lastly, the nearly flat line segment in the center was due to me switching the GPU over to another mining site, to experiment with Z-cash mining. The line isn’t flat, because the CPU miners were still running on Nicehash.

I’ll report more, as I learn more.

 

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Pop, Poof!

Last weekend, I went driving around the Puget Sound. I paid cash for a lot of things, which left me with a lot of pocket change. While I was getting ready for work on Monday, I decided to put all of this change in my bank.

I have a really nice “piggy bank,” which is an actual pig dressed like Superman. It was a birthday gift from my wife. I think she was tired of me using old peanut butter jars for a coin stash. The pig has a slot in the top of his head, for inserting the coins, like a normal bank.

I have this bad habit of inserting many coins at once. It saves me time. I never thought that it could go wrong. But it did. As I was adding many coins at once, a penny missed the slot. It rolled off the pig, landed on its edge and rolled off the back of the dresser. Behind the dresser was a 6-gang electrical plug adapter. The penny fell perfectly behind it on the two prongs that settled in the plug behind the adaptor.

I remember my grandmother telling me once that, back in the days before circuit breakers,  people used to replace fuses with pennies when they didn’t want to spend money on fuses. A penny is a perfect size for the fuse socket, was made of copper (a great conductor), and was thick enough to carry more current than the fuse. My grandmother ended the story with the fact that, since pennies don’t blow like fuses, people often had fires that a fuse would have prevented.

This penny, despite being newer and no longer made of solid copper, was still a decent conductor. It provided a loud POP! The sound was so loud (especially with the expletive that I yelled) that I didn’t even hear the breakers trip in the box next to the plug. It pulled so many amps that if flipped the main breaker for the entire house, along with the bedroom breaker.

After I had retrieved the penny, I turned the power back on and took some pictures.

There are soot marks on the wall.  I replaced the outlet and the cover. IMG_7582

The Penny. You can see where it made contact with the plugs. The short had so much force that it was actually thrown on top of the 6-gang plug.IMG_7584

The 6-gang plug. There’s some melted penny on each of the prongs. This is probably still usable, but I didn’t want to chance it. I replaced it with one that screws into the wall socket so that there’s no space for a penny to slide in. IMG_7585

Backpacking Trip

This past weekend Sunny and I used our driveway as a trailhead. We loaded up our backpacks at the kitchen table and walked to Fay Bainbridge Park (about 3.2 miles away). Once we arrived in the park, we camped overnight, packed up camp and returned home. We called it a “test trip.” We had built up two backpacks with a lot of new things. I had been collecting a pack, a moderately light tent, a small and light sleeping bag and some lightweight cookware. It was also a test for Sunny, who hadn’t camped in a couple of years and had never backpacked, to see if she would like backpacking.

I found it difficult to pack gear for Sunny. On the one hand, I didn’t want to go out and buy a bunch of top-of-the-line backpacking equipment for her, only to find that she didn’t like it and never use the equipment again. On the other hand, I didn’t want her to hate backpacking because she had a heavy pack with substandard gear. I packed the gear so that she had a lighter load, about 15 lbs (compared to mine at 31 lbs).

I brought my APRS tracker to test it out for walking pace. I’d run it a few times in the truck on a magnetic mobile antenna (which is why I use the car icon on the APRS map), but hadn’t yet run it in my pack with the little rubber antenna that came with it. Also, while the beaconing pace that I’d set was insufficient for a car, I felt that it might be the right pace for walking. I didn’t need a tracker for this trip but felt it might be necessary if Sunny didn’t like backpacking and I decided to hike alone on more harsh terrain.

Building a fire was a challenge. It was like the wind was only blowing while we were trying to get the fire going. We had this fuel cube that you dice into powder and then set aflame. Sunny was able to do this with the flint and steel set that was in our packs. The problem was, the wood supplied at the campground was only tinder and fuel. Without kindling (which you aren’t supposed to collect in the park), this cube didn’t burn fast enough to burn the wood. I used three cubes of fuel. After we got the fire burning, the wind died down. The weather was enjoyable, although the wind blew heavily later. We didn’t let the fire go out until bedtime, with some wood that Kelley brought by from the house (Ok, yeah, that was cheating).

We tuned into the 9 o’clock net. Sunny was going to work the radio. At the last second, she asked me to check-in instead. The net lasted for over an hour. Sunny went to bed while I tended the fire and listened to the net.

Sleeping didn’t go well for either of us. The tent was a $17 sellout deal on Woot.com. It is a two person tent with a weight of just over 3 lbs. It rolls down to a small size so that it doesn’t dominate my pack. It would be a great tent if I were on a solo trip. For the two of us, on a rainy day, it was a pretty close situation. The lack of a vestibule area had us trying to sleep around our packs. A miss on the instructions for the sleeping pads, had us become one with earth (ok, a euphemism for sleeping on hard ground). At 3 am, I climbed under my sleeping pad and blew it up. After that, I slept for a couple of hours.

In the morning, around 5 am, I got out of the tent and drank a couple of cups of coffee. Sunny was still sleeping. Making breakfast would have to wait a little while. So, I walked down to the end of the beach access boardwalk. While I was taking a few snapshots of the city, I noticed something moving in the water. It was a sea lion. I tried to get a picture of it. It went underwater. Then I checked my original picture and saw that I had accidentally captured it in my last photo.

While I was doing that, I saw dolphins off to my left. Swimming dolphins don’t make good photos if you’re above the water. They make a good video. So, I changed the camera into video and recorded the two dolphins in a short clip.

Then I went back to the campsite and grabbed the water bottle to refill it. I went up to the pavilion on the hillside. From there, I could see most of the lower park. I snapped some pictures and noticed that Sunny was awake.

We cooked breakfast, packed up camp and walked home. When we got home, Kelley asked me if the trip was a success. In the “See if Sunny likes backpacking” category, success. In the “See what equipment works” category, success again.

And now, on to planning the next adventure.

CampingSelfie