Before ASICs came along, issues of power and cooling were not as much of a priority. Now, even the new Radeon, the most powerful graphics card to date, is not the least bit exciting to those interested in mining.
But with data centres full of mining racks and malicious actors dropping cryptocurrency mining libraries into mobile malware, new and unexpected technological developments still crop up to make things interesting.
With that captivating information out of the way, here is what has been going on in mining since the last roundup.
Stockholm, Sweden-based KnCMiner has recently announced a number of updates. The company's Titan scrypt miner is getting closer to launch, with the 28nm chip getting 300MH/s out of 800W of power. The Titan costs $9,995 and is expected to begin shipping Q2.
The company has also made public plans to sell a Titan Mini model with at least 150MH/s of performance for $5,495. The company has not yet specified the power consumption of the Titan Mini.
KnCMiner is also selling upgrade units for its November model of the Neptune bitcoin miner, which appears to be an additional ASIC card for $350. Also, the company plans to sell a third generation model of the Neptune in a month at 3TH/s for $5,995.
HashPlex opens first HashCenter
Seattle-base HashPlex, founded by veterans of Google, Microsoft and Facebook, has announced that it has opened its own data centre called the HashCenter. Calling on people to join them "in the continuing fight to keep the hashing power of the bitcoin network distributed," HashPlex has a number of different options available.
Customers can utilize HashPlex's own mining gear, cloud-style, or mining gear can be sent to the company's data centre in the Seattle area – either mining units a customer already has or ones currently on order with mining manufacturers.
HashPlex's hosted pricing is based on kilowatts per month, and it has a listing at the bottom of its website of what typical mining equipment costs to be hosted in the HashCenter.
BitFury ASIC mining pool Ghash.io has announced that is now offers Multi Pool Pro, a scrypt multipool functionality for members of the pool. That means Ghash.io's software is now configured to mine the best possible scrypt coin for users, whether that be litecoin, feathercoin, auroracoin or any other scrypt-based coin.
Multipools are controversial, and have the ability to weaken a coin by shifting computing power on a whim, and, recently, litecoin creator Charlie Lee proposed merged mining with dogecoin to create a stronger defence for the two coins against the threat of a 51% attack.
Multipools might be good for miners, but bad for the future of scrypt coins as ASIC miners arrive, having the potential to make them unstable. One solution would be to make sure that retargeting is happening, often, as in the case of dogecoin where it is now set to retarget at every block generation.
Hex-Fury USB miner
Think that USB miners are worthless? What if you put six BitFury chips on one USB dongle? The Hex-Fury USB miner can actually pump out 11GH/s per stick at approx. 0.86W – which means that if you are able to cobble together enough of them they may be a good low-power mining solution when paired with a Raspberry Pi host.
It may not be as efficient as using something more data centre-friendly, such as a blade miner. But the small form factor Hex-Fury, at $282 per unit, may allow for some unique configurations that could involve more unconventional mining setups.
If space is an issue, USB miners may still provide a way to custom build an ASIC rig. The Hex-Fury stick does have a heat sink on one side, but cooling will still be an issue to contend with.
Amazon bitcoin miners
Hackers don't seem to care that regular computing power is practically worthless for bitcoin mining. If they can find a way into a system, they might as well try anyway. The case of one developer getting a $5,300 bill from Amazon because of a compromised account trying to mine BTC proves that to the unscrupulous, it doesn't seem to matter.
Although the developer in this instance got a refund because his story was made public, Amazon has "been seeing more and more of this", the company said.
It's important, however, to remember that it still costs more to mine dogecoin on Amazon EC2 and that the value of coins produced will be worth current prices – so these types of activities may not be worth it.
Transaction fees vs electricity cost
Electricity is becoming the single most important variable when considering the costs associated with a bitcoin mining operation. When BTC prices are high, miners obviously make a better profit.
But a lower price of late has meant that power consumption is cutting into costs. Understanding these speculative aspects of the bitcoin price is important, because the prospects of long-term viability for mining may rest on whether BTC can become a currency that is popular for transactions.
Mining's future may end up being all about transaction fees versus electricity costs. If miners aren't able to reap transaction fees that disrupt the $1 trillion-plus in annual revenue that the global financial industry brings in, then it's all just a game of power usage versus speculative price.
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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.
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