Category Archives: Blog

BCS Northampton: Blockchain Lecture

This evening I attended an interesting lecture on Blockchain at the University of Northampton, presented by Drs Ali Al-Sherbaz and Scott Turner. It covered the basics of blockchain, include hashing, mining, signing, creating blocks, and so on.

It then covered particular examples of blockchain projects within the University, including one on social interactions and one on network activity logging. Apparently Blockchain is one of the key topics the University will be addressing in its future development strategy.

What wasn’t covered, however, was Bitcoin and in general most comments were dismissive of cryptocurrency. I think that will prove to be shortsighted. Most of the criticisms and limitations levelled at Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies during the event were demonstrably false or at least incomplete and a more detailed discussion would have demonstrated that.

Personally I think cryptocurrencies are here to stay, with Bitcoin taking the role of the reserve cryptocurrency, and their positions will get stronger and stronger over time. Whether they will eventually replace fiat currencies is less clear, but I certainly wouldn’t dismiss the possibility.

For sure they will massively disrupt the banking and financial sectors (see, for example, Bank Of America: Our ‘Inability To Adapt’ Could See A Failure To Compete With Crypto).

Buy the Bitcoin Dip Part 2 – And How to Save on Coinbase Fees

I was right about the Bitcoin Dip – and have made a tidy profit. I bought half a Bitcoin at £5500.

Of course, it should have cost me £2750 but I bought it through Coinbase with my debit card which is a pricey, though convenient, way to do it. Coinbase charged me 4%, so about £110, making the total £2850.

Bitcoin was been rising in value since as I predicted, though in its usual erratic way. I had intended to take my money out when it passed £8000 and, as I watched it last night, it did just that.

I was hesitant to sell it directly through Coinbase again because of its fees. However, I had come across some advice about selling through Coinbase’s exchange, GDAX, instead at lower fees. Here’s an example video from the excellent Coin Mastery:

I followed the advice and it worked like a charm.

GDAX Exchange Trading Screen (Image: BIUK)
GDAX Exchange Trading Screen (Image: BIUK)

This is the process if you want to save a stack on Coinbase fees:

  1. Create a GDAX account if you don’t already have one (I already did).
  2. Transfer the Bitcoin to GDAX – on GDAX click the DEPOSIT button, then in the form choose your Coinbase Account -> BTC Wallet and set the amount. Click Deposit Funds. It will appear almost immediately on GDAX and there is no charge.
  3. Select LIMIT then SELL, then set the amount. Here you need to be a bit careful and set the correct price you are prepared to sell at (double check it, because if you set it low it will sell low). At the time Bitcoin was selling for about £8010. I wanted to make sure that, if there were fees, I would clear £4000 on my 0.5 BTC so I set the value to £8050.
  4. Since the price is volatile your price will likely be hit very quickly so long as you didn’t set it too high (mine too less than a minute).
  5. The BTC sells, the money appears in your GDAX wallet – and there’s no fee!
  6. Transfer the money back to Coinbase using the WITHDRAW button, set the amount and the destination (e.g. GBP Wallet) and click WITHDRAW FUNDS. It goes back to Coinbase – no charge.

So I have proved to my own satisfaction you can sell BTC, i.e. convert it to pounds sterling, for no charge this way – and at a price slightly higher than the current market rate

Note that selling Bitcoin is called a ‘Maker’ transaction since you are putting Bitcoin into the market. Note that moving in the opposite direction has a ‘Taker’ fee of 0.25%, still not a bad deal.

I sold my 0.5BTC at £8050 so I received £4025, and that’s all now sitting in my Coinbase account.

Since I only paid £2870 for the Bitcoin less than a month ago (a profit of about £1100), I’m rather pleased with that.

 

 

Experiments in Crypto Mining 6: The Beast Has Landed

After my initial experiments into mining for cryptocurrency with my own PC’s GPU and CPU, and even before acquiring my improved GPU, it was clear that good mining results were only possible with specialised and up-to-date hardware. Therefore about Christmas I ordered a new PC with a view to designing it for use in cryptocurrency mining.

We needed a new family PC for occasional use anyway (for children’s homework, etc.) as our previous one was old and had slowed down to the point it was almost useless. At the same time I knew it would be idle most of the time, when it could be used as a dedicated mining machine.

The Beast - High End Mining PC (Image: BIUK)
The Beast – High End Mining PC (Image: BIUK)

I took some time investigating the options before deciding on the specification I wanted. Although all our previous PCs had come from Dell, this time I ordered through Scan PC to get exactly what I wanted at an acceptable price:

  • A gaming motherboard with twin high speed GPU slots
  • A large, clear-airflow case with sound insulation
  • Two top-end GPUs – the NVidia GTX 1070 Ti
  • A high power (850W) power supply
  • High performance disks (an SSD for fast access, and a RAID array for backup)
The Beast - High End Mining PC (Image: BIUK)
The Beast – High End Mining PC (Image: BIUK)

In discussions with Scan I changed the spec a couple of times after ordering (e.g. increasing the memory) and was pretty happy with their service. It arrived in January and so far has shown itself to be a very powerful machine. It cost an eye-watering £2500, but then the two graphics cards alone were about £650 each.

I’ll blog about how I got on with it, including its mining capability, in the next few posts.

Next post: Testing the Beast.

UK Tax on Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies

In January I completed and filed my 2016-2017 UK self-assessment tax return, for which I had to consider the tax implications of my cryptocurrency holding and trading. While I was able to convince myself that there were no issues for that period, since I had sold no cryptocurrency (only bought) in that period, it was clear that I would definitely need to consider tax in detail for the upcoming 2017-2018 period.

My first step, back last summer, was to invest in a cryptocurrency accounting app known as CoinTracking.info. I have used it carefully since to record all transactions, but nonetheless it was clear that while it could help with tax filing, it was necessary for me to research and understand the issues myself.

Bitcoin (Image: Pixabay)
Bitcoin ‘Taxation is Theft’ (Image: Pixabay)

The tax situation in the UK for cryptocurrency is unclear so here I’m going to record my views on the current situation – if anyone knows otherwise, please detail any corrections in the comments.

The main guidance we have from HMRC dates back to 2014 and hasn’t been updated since. It is known as Revenue and Customs Brief 9 (2014): Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and I will give my interpretation of it here.

In a nutshell for an individual (not a company) with a moderate amount of cryptocurrency (less than £45k) it is as follows:

  • Capital Gains Tax (CGT): If you buy and sell cryptocurrency then you are liable for capital gains tax on the difference in value of the currency between when you bought it and when you sold it, valued in pounds sterling. Where this exceeds the CGT tax-free allowance (£11,300 for 2017-18) there is tax to be paid.
  • Income Tax: If you trade or mine cryptocurrency then you are liable for income tax on the value of the currency gained, valued in pounds sterling. Where this exceeds the income tax personal allowance (£11,500 for 2017-18) there is tax to be paid.
  • Value Added Tax (VAT): In virtually all circumstances VAT can be ignored (as with most conventional currencies).

While the guidance suggest that on a case-by-case basis some cryptocurrency transactions may be considered to be gambling or betting – and therefore not taxable – I will assume that the safest course is to assume that, if reviewed, all transactions will turn out to be taxable on the basis just described.

Note that, in my opinion, income tax is probably liable on any free gains of cryptocurrency, for example:

With regard to CGT, it looks like cryptocurrency will be valued in the same way as shares. If you have bought and sold lots at different times then the value of what you sell compared to what you paid for it can be difficult to calculate – how do you match which sold Bitcoin to which bought Bitcoin?

Following HMRC guidance for shares the process is basically:

  • Same Day Rule: If you buy and sell on the same day then the coins can be matched off against each other (even though you bought and sold at different values) and there is no CGT liability. You just have to consider CGT on any ‘left over’, i.e. if you sold more than you bought.
  • Bed and Breakfasting Rule: Any coins not covered by the first rule but bought and sold within 30 days can be matched against each other, and CGT is due on the difference between the buying and selling values.
  • All others: Any coins not covered by the first and second rules are considered to be held in a single pot (called a ‘Section 104’) and when some are sold they are valued at their proportion to the value of the total pot. That value is determined by adding up the bought price of the coins in the pot.

That’s the tax situation for cryptocurrency as I understand it so far, though of course I will look into it further in time for my next tax return. With that return in mind, I have decided to do some specific bookkeeping in advance (probably in spreadsheets) and if you own crypto you might want to consider doing something similar:

  • Track the buying and selling of all crypto coins to pounds, with dates, in order to determine the CGT liability as per the 3 rules just described.
  • Track the receipt of any free coins (including airdrops, forks and faucets) in order to determine the income tax liability – even if (particularly if) the coins ended up in the same account as those that were paid for.

 

 

Experiments in Crypto Mining 5: How to Use Nicehash on a Home PC

My recent attempts to mine cryptocurrency using CCMiner and MinerGate were disappointing dead-ends – I had really been sidetracked by accounts I’d read of people making these approaches profitable, even though they were not mainstream.

This time I’ve decided to cut to the chase and just use NiceHash, probably the most popular mining pool and supposedly the world’s ‘largest crypto-mining markeplace’. If I can’t make a profit there then I should probably just give up.

NiceHash Mining Marketplace Home Page (Image: BIUK)
NiceHash Mining Marketplace Home Page (Image: BIUK)

The process is straightforward; there’s a good background article here: How Much Money Can You Make Mining With Your Gaming PC?

Go to NiceHash.com and click on For sellers (with NiceHash you’re not directly mining, rather selling your mining power to other users to mine with). For a PC click on ‘I want to earn with my CPU or GPU‘. Download and install the NiceHash Miner software, choosing the version that’s appropriate for your graphics card.

When the software runs, accept the License Agreement and Risk Acknowledgement. It will then start setting itself up – note your virus scanner may give a warning (and even quarantine some files) so be ready for that; you may need to restart the installation if it appears to hang.

NiceHash Miner setting up (Image: BIUK)
NiceHash Miner setting up (Image: BIUK)

The miner launches a command window when it’s ready to run. It should show that it has found the graphics card and ‘initialized’.

NiceHash Miner command window (Image: BIUK)
NiceHash Miner command window (Image: BIUK)

Once it is happy it will show its main screen ready to start:

NiceHash Miner ready screen (Image: BIUK)
NiceHash Miner ready screen (Image: BIUK)

Click on the link at the bottom to ‘Set your wallet‘. If you don’t already have an account at NiceHash you will need to create one. Registering for a new account is straightforward, you just click on the Create New Account to go to NiceHash, there you enter your email address and a password. Then you will need to setup the account (language, currency, create wallet, etc.).

Once done, enter the email address for the account into the NiceHash miner and click Save. The previous link will have changed to ‘Benchmark your devices‘; click on it, then the Benchmark All button and the Standard button.

The miner will benchmark and optimise for your system; this took just over 10 minutes on my PC. When it’s done click back to the main screen and click on the Start button. The status will change to Active – Running and mining is underway. The amount earned so far will show as Balance and the amount you are predicted to earn per day is shown as Daily Estimated Earnings (about £1 for this system).

Clicking on View Stats Online will take you to your account on NiceHash.com to show you more details, including your total earnings so far (the current Balance on the app is reset each time you start it). The overview there is particularly useful if you have more than one PC mining at the same time.

I’ve just set the system running and will check in an hour to see the result. What’s impressive is how quiet it is running – there must be scope to overclock it significantly. To get a better idea of what’s going on I’ve run up MSI Afterburner as recommended before.

Here I can see that the GPU is running at a temperature of just 65 degrees C – hardly working at all though it’s at 100% usage – and the CPU is likewise at about 60 degrees. Again this implies lots of opportunities for overclocking.

It’s now been running for an hour and it has earned 0.000004 BTC, worth about 3.2p. Energy usage by the PC has been 0.2 kWh, costing about 2.8p so it’s made a profit of 0.4p in an hour. That’s equivalent to about 10p per day.

It’s not a great deal of money – but at least it’s a profit!

Experiments in Crypto Mining 4: Cryptocurrency Mining with an Upgraded Home PC

Having upgraded my PC with a new graphics card, but getting disappointing results mining Bitcore with Suprnova software, next I repeated my test of mining Monero (XMR) using the MinerGate software.

This time the benchmark score was 1998 with a message “You can make an extra 100 USD per year with only this computer” – both values being roughly double what they had been before the upgrade.

MinerGate's benchmark on a GTX 1050 system (Image: BIUK)
MinerGate’s benchmark on a GTX 1050 system (Image: BIUK)

For the best outcome I set the mining to use both the CPU and the GPU (graphics card). This produced about 3 times as much hashing power as before.

Mining XMR using the MinerGate app and a GXT 1050 card (Image: BIUK)
Mining XMR using the MinerGate app and a GXT 1050 card (Image: BIUK)

However, given the poor results from last time (about 15p of Monero/XMR mined for 50p in costs) it’s clear that even at 3 times the mining power it would still not be very profitable. This is therefore another dead end.

Experiments in Crypto Mining 3: Mid-range Graphics Card

The graphics card in my home PC died recently, probably related to me leaving the PC overnight which I don’t usually do (I guess it overheated). I woke to find that Windows had seen an error on it and uninstalled the driver, running it as a basic VGA card. I couldn’t fix it.

Anyway, I took the opportunity to buy a new mid-range graphics card, an Nvidia GTX 1050, to do some more experimenting with crypto mining. I didn’t want to go for a high-end (i.e. expensive) card since I have no plans to leave my PC running most of the time, or even to be mining while I was working at the PC, so a high-end card would likely never make its cost back.

A mid-range card, though, seemed like a good compromise – I needed a new card anyway, I could do some crypto experimenting, and I would get a benefit whenever I played 3D games. I settled on an EVGA card from Scan Computers as it was the cheapest version of the 1050 available – just £120 for a pretty powerful card.

Most impressive was that it didn’t need any additional power connectors to run, just making do with the power available from the motherboard slot. That implied it would use very little power – whereas the old (and relatively speaking slow) card it replaced had been using two additional power connections.

As an initial experiment I have rerun the test I did back last November using the GPU to mine for Bitcore. The procedure was much as described before (particularly following the embedded video) but with a couple of changes. Firstly, the mining app is no longer available on the Bitcore website so I downloaded it directly from the CCMiner code site. Secondly the batch file format has changed – however the download included a new Bitcore batch file so I used that, edited to include my Suprnova details as per the original post.

When CCMiner ran up the results were encouraging, showing a hash rate (mining power) of  8600 kH/s (8.6 MH/s), compared to about 1500 for the previous card.

CCMIner starting up on a GTX 1050 GPU (Image: BIUK)
CCMIner starting up on a GTX 1050 GPU (Image: BIUK)

Running CCMiner for two hours produced 0.0018 BTX, according to my Suprnova dashboard, worth currently about 4p (the equivalent of about 50p per day). The PC was using about 150W with the card running and 85W without, so the card was drawing 65W – or 0.13kWh for the two hours. At my evening rate of 14p/kWh that means the mining cost me about 2p.

Suprnova Dashboard while running a GTX 1050 (Image: BIUK)
Suprnova Dashboard while running a GTX 1050 (Image: BIUK)

So – unlike last time – mining with this card is actually profitable, though only at the rate of about 1p per hour. What was more impressive, however, was how it did it.

Firstly, the energy use by the card was much less than the old card even though it was much more powerful, and it was very quiet. Secondly, it appeared to be truly mining ‘in the background’ with no apparent slowness caused to the PC while using it for other things. So it could make a profit, with little downside to having it running in the background virtually all the time. Taken together, it would seem that there’s plenty of scope to overclock the card to improve the performance.

Nonetheless, the bottom line is that this approach is not going to make a great deal of money, so I’m moving on to try other mining methods.

Experiments in Crypto Mining 4: Cryptocurrency Mining with an Upgraded Home PC

Buy the Bitcoin Dip

Everyone following cryptocurrency knows we’ve had a big correction of late – some would say crash, but those of us who’ve been in crypto for a while know that it’s par for the course. Cryptos are volatile, get over it!

Earlier today I saw signs for a bottom in the market when the price dropped to £4300 and then hung there for a while. Following it for a few hours this evening I saw it gradually come back up and, although it dipped a few times, it never went down so low again. I think that was the lowest point, the dip.

Bitcoin price chart (Image: geralt/Pixabay)
Bitcoin price chart (Image: geralt/Pixabay)

They say ‘buy the dip’ so I put my money where my mouth is and bought from Coinbase – in fact by the time I had become sure things were going up it had already reached £5500 so that’s what I paid. As I write this it’s at £5600 but still jumping up and down. It’ll be interesting to see where it is tomorrow morning. I’m confident it will be the right side of £4300.

Meanwhile for a bit of light relief – one can spend too long looking at charts and agonising over price changes – here’s the Coin Bros with “Buy the F*#!ing Dip”. Enjoy!

Cryptocurrency Mining course

Following on the heels of January’s very sociable Milton Keynes Cryptocurrency Meetup, those who attended were invited to a Cryptocurrency Mining Course last weekend in Witney.

System & Solutions Cryptocurrency Mining Course (Image: BIUK)
System & Solutions Cryptocurrency Mining Course (Image: BIUK)

It was kindly put on, for free, by Kevin Ackland, owner of Systems & Solutions. He and Richard Owen, IT Manager, gave a broad and very interesting presentation covering cryptocurrency and Bitcoin in general, and mining on PC hardware in particular.

System & Solutions Cryptocurrency Mining Rig (Image: BIUK)
System & Solutions Cryptocurrency Mining Rig (Image: BIUK)

This was followed by a wide ranging discussion on cryptocurrency and mining. I found this particularly interesting as I am new to mining, having just dabbled in a little GPU and CPU mining. Some of the attendees have extensive experience so I learned a lot.

System & Solutions Cryptocurrency Mining Rig (Image: BIUK)
System & Solutions Cryptocurrency Mining Rig (Image: BIUK)

We then had a look at a mining rig in operation, including going through the processes of starting it up and operating it. This included monitoring the operation, and power usage, via smartphone apps. I was surprised, and impressed, at how quiet it ran (having seen YouTube videos of very noise dedicated Bitcoin miners).

System & Solutions Cryptocurrency Mining Rig (Image: BIUK)
System & Solutions Cryptocurrency Mining Rig (Image: BIUK)

My thanks go to Kevin and Richard for putting on the course and for being such good hosts. If you’re considering getting a mining rig, and you’d like one made to your specification, do consider Systems & Solutions.

Experiments in Crypto Mining 2: Cryptocurrency Mining with a Home PC

After my initial rather disappointing first foray into mining cryptocurrency (specifically the Bitcore coin using my PC’s graphics card) I didn’t pursue the idea further. It hadn’t been a great surprise as my graphics card was old and looking rather underpowered compared to the latest GPUs.

However, last week I heard about someone profitably CPU mining the Aeon coin and I decided to take another look. I followed the same process, starting by downloading the Minergate software.

I installed it (despite lots of warnings, presumably false alarms, about viruses), created an account and kicked it off. You need to create an account on the MinerGate.com website, and you then link to this from the MinerGate app.

Mining XMR using the MinerGate app (Image: BIUK)
Mining XMR using the MinerGate app (Image: BIUK)

The process began with running a benchmark. The result of this was a score for my PC of 927 – four stars! That sounded encouraging. However it then said “You can make an extra 50 USD per year with only this computer” which rather brought things down to earth.

Anyway, after running it overnight the results were that I made a few tens of pence in Monero/XMR in parallel with FantomCoin/FCN (the software chooses what it believes is the most profitable coins for you) but spent about 50p in electricity. So overall it was not profitable.

My conclusion therefore is not just that my old PC isn’t any good for GPU mining of cryptocurrency, it’s no use for CPU mining either!

My cunning plan now is to use a new, powerful gaming PC for mining that I ordered recently. Watch this space to see how I get on.

Experiments in Crypto Mining 3: Mid-range Graphics Card