Bitcoin mining continues to be a popular, albeit contentious topic.

On one hand, the mining process is conducted via a distributed network, which gives it a lack of centralized control. Yet on the other, the ASIC hardware required to perform the SHA-256 hashing needed for the Bitcoin protocol is becoming increasingly expensive.

Let’s take a look at the mining news stories that have made headlines in recent weeks:

Dreaming in bitcoin

 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s cover story for January 13, 2014. Source: MashableBloomberg BusinessWeek’s cover story for 13th Jan. Source: Mashable

 

In what may be the highest-profile piece on bitcoin mining to date, BusinessWeek’s recent cover article offers some new insight on the companies in the mining scene.

Butterfly Labs, HashFast Technologies and KnCMiner are just some of the companies featured in the story.

The most intriguing part of this story concerns the secretive Silicon Valley startup 21e6, which apparently plans to build mining hardware – and keep it all to themselves. 21e6 reportedly received $5m in venture capital last year, which made it one of the largest bitcoin-based venture investments of 2013.

HashFast is being sued

 

The Baby Jet: 400 GH/s for $2,250. Source: HashFastThe Baby Jet: 400 GH/s for $2,250. Source: HashFast

 

San Francisco-based HashFast Technologies is facing a lawsuit based on its failure to ship its miners on time.

The issue in contention is clearly the price of bitcoin since it has risen so dramatically since July. According to the Bitcoin Price Index, the aggregate value of bitcoin was quite low at that time, bottoming out at $66.34 per BTC.

HashFast had guaranteed Baby Jet miner shipments by 31st December 2013. Since it has apparently failed to do so, customers who pre-ordered in July are demanding refunds in bitcoin. However, the company is adamant that they have been shipping.

Butterfly labs at CES

 

The BitSafe hardware wallet for storing all of those block rewards. Source: Bitcoin OwlThe BitSafe hardware wallet for storing your block rewards. Source: Bitcoin Owl

 

Butterfly Labs is officially bringing new hardware to the market. The company’s products were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas at the beginning of the month. This included a 600 GH/s card that can be configured as either an external unit or a PCI express card.

The company was also showing off a hardware-based wallet, BitSafe. The device is able to store private keys securely and away from networked threats.

Check back with CoinDesk soon for more detailed coverage regarding Butterfly Labs’ new lineup of products.

KnCMiner making a mint

 

The KnCMiner Neptune. Source: KnCMinerThe KnCMiner Neptune. Source: KnCMiner

 

A representative from Stockholm-based KnCMiner recently told Forbes that the company has made $25m selling its bitcoin hardware in the last two weeks of December alone.

Interestingly enough, KnCMiner told Forbes that it names its products after planets because of its global customer base: planets translate easily into other languages.

The article also takes an in-depth look at KnCMiner’s Jupiter; currently Neptune is the only device available for preorder on its website, a whopping 3 TH/s for $9,995.

Cointerra testing Goldstrike ASICs

 

The TerraMiner IV. Source: CointerraThe TerraMiner IV. Source: Cointerra

 

Austin, Texas-based Cointerra recently put up a blog post updating their progress. They are currently in the process of testing their latest GoldStrike ASICs.

The testing process entails running the chips through its cooling paces, which uses a liquid-based system. The company writes that it has achieved 132GH/s on a single die.

Cointerra’s April batch of TerraMiners has already sold out. But the second batch of Cointerra’s TerraMiner IV will be available in May, and pre-orders are still available on its website. The units are 2 TH/s for $5,999 a piece.

Bitmain selling blades and USBs

 

The AntMiner U1 USB device. Source: BitmainThe AntMiner U1 USB device. Source: Bitmain

 

China-based Bitmain is a new hardware company on the scene, clearly leveraging Chinese manufacturing contacts to offer bitcoin mining products. The company appears to be shipping devices, as one customer has posted a Bitmain Antminer on YouTube.

The company has two different miners available right now. One is the AntMiner S1 dual blade miner that produces 180 GH/s for 1.9 BTC.

The other is a USB miner called the AntMiner U1. That unit performs at 1.6 GH/s – but the company has a minimum order quantity (MOQ) of 500 units for 22 BTC.

ASICMiner announces Generation 3 tapeout

 

Water-cooled ASICMiner Boards. Source: ASIC Miner Facebook pageWater-cooled ASICMiner boards. Source: ASICMiner Facebook page

 

One of the earliest ASIC producers, ASICMiner recently announced on the Bitcointalk forums that it has submitted its newest chip design to a manufacturer, known as a “tapeout”.

The company is utilizing 40 nanometer chips in this design – which is a middle-of-the-pack specification in terms of what other producers are now doing.

Yet it appears that ASICMiner’s future plans simply involve fabricating chips: the company says that it “will be moving more to pure chip distribution” going forward.

Wrapping up

The divisive nature of bitcoin is thus: yes, it’s decentralised – but in order to own a portion of the network infrastructure, one has to have powerful machines that can only perform one function: operate on Bitcoin or another SHA-265-based cryptocurrency network.

Should you mine BTC? That choice is yours, CoinDesk is simply here to inform and educate.

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