The past few weeks have not been incredibly positive for the bitcoin economy, to say the least. Yet it is important to stay cognisant of the fact that, although bitcoin exchanges will come and then go, mining is here to stay.
No regulator is going to be able to create a policy to get rid of the ASIC chips out there confirming bitcoin transactions. As Bitcoin Foundation Chief Scientist Gavin Andresen recently told American Banker:
“These chips will become ubiquitous. You might buy a box of Cracker Jacks and get a bitcoin mining ASIC unit.”
With that positive thought in mind, here’s a look at the best of the mining stories that have cropped up since the last round-up.
The profits of malware mining
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have been analyzing malware-based bitcoin mining.
Their study involved looking at over 2,000 pieces of malicious software. While some strains target bitcoiners’ digital wallets, many harness the host computer to undertake illicit mining activities.
Researchers say this activity has occurred over the past two years.
Dell SecureWorks recently said that it has only been able to identify 146 active strains of bitcoin malware, so perhaps the amount of bitcoin mining-related malware may be decreasing as the difficulty increases, which leads us to …
Standard servers ‘a waste of time’ for BTC mining
Online backup company iDrive runs automated nightly backups for its customers. So, during the day, while its systems were idle, the company decided to conduct an experiment.
iDrive set 600 of its quad-core servers to work to see how much bitcoin could be mined.
The results were conclusive: mining bitcoin with regular hardware is no longer profitable.
With the results of the test, iDrive calculated that running mining software on its 600 servers would earn approximately 0.43 bitcoin – per year!
iDrive’s Matthew Harvey told Data Center Knowledge:
“It’s a waste of time, so any other company thinking about mining with their infrastructure, learn from us. Don’t do it. You need custom machines to effectively mine bitcoins and generate a real ROI.”
Altcoin mining may be leading to AMD card shortages
As a result, AMD’s flagship Radeon R9 290X, which was designed as a high-end graphics card, is being snapped up by miners looking to cash in on scrypt mining while they can.
An example of this trend is the DopaMINE hardware chassis, which is built for the specific purpose of loading up with a number of these cards and hashing away
The result of this alt-mining craze seems to be that the cards are in very short supply, says Sam Mattera at Fool.com.
NewEgg appears to have them in stock, while Amazon sellers seem to only have them in limited supply. If you want to buy one, though, they will cost you an inflated $649 or more.
Nvidia takes on AMD in the mining race
It seems that AMD’s largest rival, Nvidia, is trying to up its game for scrypt-based mining via GPUs.
The company has just released a new technology it is calling Maxwell, which is aimed to compete with the Radeon R9 290X.
What Maxwell allows Nvidia to do is offer better performance, but at a lower price and with a lower energy output than AMD’s top-of-the-range offering. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 750 Ti, for example, only costs $149.99.
Forbes reports that Nvidia is able to offer these cards for so much less because it has better control of its supply chain.
Tom’s Hardware makes the case that four of the Nvidia cards should outperform the Radeon R9 290X, while still saving on electricity
CoinTerra announces shipment of its 1,000th miner
Texas-based CoinTerra has announced that its 1,000th ASICs miner has departed the company’s Austin facility.
The company has been ramping up production since the delays that previously plagued the company’s TerraMiner shipments.
CoinTerra stated in its release:
“TerraMiners already account for over 1.7 petahash of bitcoin mining performance, which is more than 6% of the entire bitcoin network.”
The company is once again taking orders for its TerraMiner IV – a 2TH/s unit, priced at $5,999 – that will ship June 2014.
Also due in June is the company’s water-cooled GSX I – a 400 GH/s card, costing $1,599. The GSX I can be daisy chained via USB using a PC host, and should go some way towards keeping small-scale miners in business.
Tidbit pressure leads MIT to establish legal resource
Tidbit was a project initiated by a group of MIT students to harness the power of PCs to mine bitcoin.
The idea was that you place a snippet of code on your website, which can earn you bitcoin using your visitors’ processing power.
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, however, issued a subpoena to one of Tidbit’s developers, and demanded that all of the project’s assets be handed over to law enforcement agencies.
An open letter was published by an MIT faculty member, imploring the university to defend the student in question.
MIT’s President L. Rafael Reif has now announced the formation of an independent legal resource as a result of this case, with the plan being to aid students ensnared in this sort of predicament.
“I believe we should provide our student inventors and entrepreneurs with a resource for independent legal advice, singularly devoted to their interests and rights.”
Standard computing technology has pretty much been rendered useless in bitcoin hashing. However, Tidbit was working on an intriguing distributed-computing concept before the intervention by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Alpha issues update on scrypt ASICs miner
Alpha Technology, a company based in Manchester, UK, has updated prospective customers on its progress in bringing the Viper ASICs-based scrypt miner to market.
The company aims to be the first with such a product, which is aimed at mining digital currencies other than bitcoin.
The unit’s node has been finalized at 40nm, the company stated, adding:
“Higher than advertised hashing power will also be provided to batch-1 customers.”
The company is currently taking 30% deposits for its initial line of Vipers. The device will be available in either $9,000 25 MH/s at 500 watts (approx.), or $2,250 5 MH/s unit at 100 watts (approx.) configurations.
Although others are rumoured to also be in the race to produce an ASICs miner for scrypt currencies, Alpha Technology appears to be closest to the finishing line.
HashFast upgrades miners amid complaints
ASICs miner manufacturer HashFast has announced that the company’s hardware is being upgraded.
Its next-generation Evo lineup, the company said, will offer more power, thanks to design improvements on the same 28nm chip that the company is already selling.
HashFast’s ‘batch-2’ Sierra Evo is available for $6,000 and hashes at around 2 TH/s. The company said that for “added flexibility” the units will not ship with power supplies. The Sierra Evo is expected to ship in May 2014.
HashFast is also currently taking orders for its Yoli Evo boards, providing 800 GH/s, with a minimum order of 10 for $19,000.
The company says it will start shipping its Evo products once it has fulfilled all previous model orders.
Many Hashfast customers are not happy about this announcement. Notable bitcoin developer Gregory Maxwell voiced his concerns publicly on the Bitcointalk forum after failing to receive a miner he ordered. He said:
“I urge everyone to provide HashFast with no further business until they make right by their past customers.”
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Disclaimer: This article should not be viewed as an endorsement of any of the companies mentioned. Please do your own extensive research before considering investing any funds in these products.
Mine wagon image via Shutterstock