Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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.



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

On Watching Chess…

I recently found myself with a case of the flu which kept me home from work for a week. Most of the week was wasted, with episodes of round-the-clock napping. When I was starting to feel recovered I checked in on my games. I had several games going when I became ill, and needed to make a move soon (or else, lose on time). 

When I navigated to, I saw an alert on the video tab. I never see these. So, curiousity prevailed and I clicked on it. The alert said that round 9 of the US Chess championships was being broadcast online. With the exception of the 2015 World Championship (that I watched on a Russian web site while I was in India), I haven’t watched a chess tournament since the last time I lived in Seattle. When I did watch them, I enjoyed the commentary a lot. 

Back then, you had your browser tuned to, while you watched the board on Internet Chess Club. Now, its different. This was like watching Sportcenter for chess. There were two GMs, Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan, sitting at a studio desk, discussing the games and positions, while a third GM, Maurice Ashley, was standing in front of a large board like a chess meteorologist. This led to some robust discussion and positional debates between the three GMs.

What really made it interesting, was that Maurice Ashley would often refer to “the engines” during the conversations. Back when I used to play and watch chess, there were alway articles about how chess computers were going to ruin chess. This was a case where the engines enhanced chess. With several engines and three GMs, the broadcast team usually saw things that the players didn’t. They’d discuss a line and then wait to see if the players would see the optimal line. This amped up the drama of the broadcast. All of the sudden, as a viewer of a game between 2 players that see the board differently than most of humanity, you were able to see the dynamics of the game as they played out. 

On rare occasions, there were surprises. But, when they happened, they were something special, as several engines and 3 GMs didn’t see them coming. Wesley So’s win in round 9 was a good example of this.

At the end of the weekend, I was excited about chess again. I really want to play again, like enough to start working on my game again.