The price of bitcoin on the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) has declined in recent weeks on the news that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had released complex guidance for digital currency users amid growing uncertainty regarding exchange regulation in China.
In the mining world, these price fluctuations can cause ongoing profitability issues, as miners, hardware manufacturers and price are key factors that impact the difficulty.
The incentive for people to mine varies with the bitcoin price. A high price makes mining attractive and people invest in costly ASIC rigs. The mining manufacturers then ship newer, more powerful units which raise the difficulty and mean more capital expenditure for miners if they want to keep up with the mining Joneses.
Then the price plummets, leaving everyone mining at high difficulty without the ability to cash in their coins at a significant profit.
The mining industry is pretty much held hostage to these realities. Call them bitcoin economic factors, if you will. Now, with that unfortunate news out of the way, let’s see what’s been happening since our last roundup.
The worst bitcoin miner ever
Bitcoin mining in the form of SHA-256 hashing requires serious processing power, and the higher the difficulty, the more power needed. That’s why it seems counterintuitive to create ARM-based bitcoin mining malware.
Sure, recently discovered Linux-based bitcoin mining malware already seems like a bad enough idea, but the concept of ARM processor mining malware that can infect digital video recorders (DVRs) is just downright inefficient.
There is potential for lower-powered chips to mine bitcoin in the future, but that’s only going to happen on smaller nodes of silicon that are using ASICs designed for that specific purpose. Anything else is just going to be a complete nuisance.
Also to be filed under pointless mining malware is the one announced on 25th March, that gets your Android device mining for dogecoins – veeery slooowly.
City-sized electricity bill for miners
If anyone ever thought that bitcoin was a resource hog, take this comment from Athey as an idea of how much energy mining might use:
“So it’s just burning a lot of electricity, enough to power many, many homes. I’ve heard estimates as high as 3 million homes could be powered with the electricity that goes to bitcoin mining.”
Athey’s number for bitcoin mining’s electrical consumption is just an estimate, but given ever-increasing network power, it’s likely to end up being far higher than that.
As a result, technologies that can improve the efficiency of miners are going to become highly important, which brings us onto …
Spondoolies Tech now shipping power efficient miners
Israel-based manufacturer Spondoolies-Tech has begun shipping units of its new power-efficient miner.
Called the Sp10 Dawson, this rig should produce 2.1 TH/s per kilowatt of energy, claims the company – a figure that Spondoolies-Tech reached by reducing the toggle rate of its 40nm ASICs.
However, Neil Fincham from Mineforman reviewed one of these units and found that the miner hashes at 1.49 TH/s. The SP10 Dawson does draw at less than 1 Watt per gigahash, though – adds up to 1388W while running.
The unit weighs in at 14kg, which gives it the heft of a regular server and means it needs to be housed in a proper rack.
Solar-powered bitcoin mining
Some people try to locate miners in places where there they can find cheap prices for all that power their miners will eat up, but if you don’t want to move to Iceland or the US’s Pacific Northwest, you could opt to go green.
Solarminer is now selling a USB hardware product that the company says uses nothing more than sunlight in order to operate.
The device uses three 150W solar panels and 288Wh LFP batteries to harvest and store energy, and costs $889.
Solarminer customers do have to buy USB miners for the unit’s 16 slots. However, there are a lot of different USB mining options available, and using something like, for example, the BitFury RedFury USB miner you could hash at 40 GH/s from one of these, just with sweet sunlight.
The ‘Bitcoin Baron’
Wired recently ran a story on a couple of data geeks, Kai Chang and Mary Becica, that took the leaked Mt. Gox data and made a bunch of visualizations from that information. One user that stood out was referred to as the ‘Bitcoin Baron’ – a Mt. Gox exchange trader that mostly sold BTC at the top of every market peak.
The speculation is that the Bitcoin Baron might be a big-time miner, or perhaps a pool operator. Many (but not all) of those who operate large bitcoin mines or pools are hesitant to divulge any information regarding operations. But if this chart is true, it shows that big-time miners are always closely looking to make the best fiat profit that they can.
2.5 TH/s Bitfury Razz
BitFury, a chip manufacturer that claims it powers 20-30% of the bitcoin network, is now selling mining units.
The ecommerce site Bitfurystrikesback is offing the 2.5 TH/s ‘Razz’ unit, which sucks up 3kW of power for its hashing ability.
The Razz costs €7,250, or about $9,947. Interestingly, it is marked as a ‘used’ model, which would logically lead one to assume that BitFury has used these Razz units to mine prior to putting them up for sale.
When CoinDesk asked Bitfurystrikesback’s CEO Niko Punin about the used status of the machines, he offered no comment.
However, Punin did say that there would be another version of the Razz for sale soon with even better specs.
1.2MW, liquid-cooled, bitcoin mining container
For those inclined to study data centre architecture and design, the concept of the modular container has been considered one of the best ways to pack servers into a small area. Google did it in secret for a while, and then Facebook open-sourced it.
Allied Control, which is a startup partnering with 3M on a special type of cooling fluid, has written a paper on modular bitcoin mining design.
It involves immersion cooling using six 200-240kW flat-rack tanks and is designed so that ASIC boards can be easily swapped when they become obsolete.
Each of these modular units can support a whopping 1.2MW of power. That is a figure that even Allied Control admits would not have seemed fathomable in bitcoin mining a year ago, but has become a harsh reality.
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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.
Electrical lines image via Shutterstock