Category Archives: Mining

Experiments in Crypto Mining 9: Paying Attention to Cooling

Although my mining PC, The Beast, is capable of mining cryptocurrency profitably I was concerned about the amount of heat it produced, and consequently how noisy it was (because of the graphics card fans running hard). My conclusion was that it was not set up well for running the graphics cards continuously because most of the cooling airflow bypassed the cards.

That can be seen in this photo where I have tried to illustrate the airflow route – it comes in the front of the case via the fan in the middle, then gets pulled through the CPU heatsink via the CPU fan then exits out the far corner through the outlet fan. This makes sense for a PC where the CPU is running hard. It’s pretty useless for crypto mining where the graphics cards – whose positions are ringed in red – are doing all the work and generating all the heat.

The current airflow largely bypasses the hot graphics cards (Image: BIUK)
The current airflow largely bypasses the hot graphics cards (Image: BIUK)

The main change I have implemented therefore is to install a second inlet fan, nearly opposite the graphics cards, powered from the same connector as the current fan (so they match speeds). I have also removed two expansion card blanking plates between the graphics cards so there is more space for the hot air to exit after it has passed the graphics cards.

This is the ‘after’ picture:

After the addition of a second front fan (Image: BIUK)
After the addition of a second front fan (Image: BIUK)

The result is that the graphics cards are running cooler most of the time, and significantly cooler if I manually increase the speed of the inlet fans. The main issue now is that they are set to automatically react to the CPU temperature, which of course stays relatively low, rather than directly to the GPU temperature. My next step in cooling will therefore be to look into slaving the fan speed to the GPU temp.

That is not a standard feature on almost any motherboard or fan utility, but is apparently something that can be done by a third party utility called SpeedFan. But that’s for another day – for now I’m happy to keep mining with the system as it is with the extra fan.

Experiments in Crypto Mining 8: Initial Performance

Following my initial attempts at mining I had decided to stick with NiceHash on my old PC as a good compromise between mining performance and convenience. Therefore it was natural to move straight to mining with NiceHash on The Beast.

Earnings

Initial results have been largely encouraging – as might be expected given its impressive performance. Certainly it can mine profitably: as I write this it has Daily Estimated Earnings of about 0.0004 BTC, currently worth about £2 per day.

Nicehash Mining with The Beast April 2018 (Image: BIUK)
Nicehash Mining with The Beast April 2018 (Image: BIUK)

I have a screenshot from back in February showing a slightly greater Bitcoin earning rate of 0.00048 BTC:

Nicehash Mining with The Beast February 2018 (Image: BIUK)
Nicehash Mining with The Beast February 2018 (Image: BIUK)

But because of the volatile nature of Bitcoin value we can see that only two months ago that was worth nearly £3.50 per day. Because of this volatility I try not to focus too much on the fiat earnings but instead on the Bitcoin earnings, since I think long term that’s what matters.

I use a Kill-a-watt style meter to see how much electricity the PC is using – and currently it’s 400W. Though that’s not all spent on mining, since the PC gets used for other things (like this blog) it’s a good enough approximation. So in the worst case, over 24 hours this PC will use 24 x 0.4 = 9.6 kWh. At about 15p per kWh that would cost £1.44 – so definitely I’m into profit.

In fact it’s much better than that:

  • During the daylight hours our roof generates a lot of solar, so in that period the electricity is effectively free.
  • For seven hours during the night we run on Economy 7 electricity at approximately half price.
  • I recently had a home battery installed to power the house from our solar once the sun has gone down (one of these: PowerBanx).

So in practice I’m definitely paying less than half the maximum, and probably less than 50p per day.

Downsides

That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are downsides beyond just the cost of electricity. Specifically The Beast runs hot – I’m monitoring it with MSI Afterburner and in less than an hour after starting mining the graphics cards hit their default maximum temperature of 83° C.

MSI Afterburner showing high graphics card temperatures during mining (Image: BIUK)
MSI Afterburner showing high graphics card temperatures during mining (Image: BIUK)

The results of this are:

  • The PC generates a lot of heat, much like having a fan heater running in the room.
  • The graphics cards are temperature limited and could probably generate more money if they weren’t so hot.
  • The PC gets noisy as all its fans are running flat out.

The upshot of this is that I’ve bought an extra fan to go into the PC case low down where the graphics cards are. Currently the case has most of its air flow going along the top where the CPU is, but that’s hardly used during mining. I think this is a case where Scan made a mistake in the system design, despite me making it clear the PC was intended for cryptocurrency mining.

I’ll install the new fan as soon as I can and then report back on the results.

[Update: Experiments in Crypto Mining 9: Paying Attention to Cooling]

Experiments in Crypto Mining 7: Testing The Beast

Once my mining PC (‘The Beast’) had arrived it unfortunately sat around for a while as I was busy on other things (particularly getting my tax return done). Once more time became available the first thing I did was to check out The Beast’s performance.

Having paid out for a high end system I was hoping for great things. I ran two particular suites of tests: 3D Mark  and PassMark.

3D Mark

The 3D Mark software is used for evaluating specific 3D graphics card performance – the most crucial element in cryptocurrency mining.

3DMark Home Page (Image: BIUK)
3DMark Home Page (Image: BIUK)

3D Mark works primarily by running the latest version of the Time Spy benchmark at high resolution and with a range of graphical features enabled to determine how well the graphic card(s) can keep up. The benchmark is impressive to watch run with highly complex and challenging scenes running through at an impressive speed.

I’m pleased to say the Beast showed itself off well, with an overall 3D Mark score of 11,589.

3DMark Results (Image: BIUK)
3DMark Results (Image: BIUK)

Comparing this to all the PCs logged against 3D Mark shows The Beast’s score to be better than 97% of all results.

3DMark Comparison (Image: BIUK)
3DMark Comparison (Image: BIUK)

PassMark PerformanceTest9

The PerformanceTest9 benchmark by PassMark, in contrast, is for bench-marking general PC performance, including CPU, disk and memory speed – although it does also include some graphical tests.

PassMark PerformanceTest Screen (Image: BIUK)
PassMark PerformanceTest Screen (Image: BIUK)

Again The Beast acquitted itself well with 5/5 scores for CPU, 3D Graphics, Memory and Disk (though only 4.5/5 for 2D Graphics).

PerformanceTest Scores (Image: BIUK)
PerformanceTest Scores (Image: BIUK)

It achieved an overall score of 6736:

PerformanceTest Score (Image: BIUK)
PerformanceTest Score (Image: BIUK)

And individual results putting it in the 99th Percentile, against other PCs testing with the same benchmark, for CPU, 3D Graphics, Memory and Disk (though only 90th Percentile for 2D Graphics):

PerformanceTest Comparison (Image: BIUK)
PerformanceTest Comparison (Image: BIUK)

Summary

Overall I was very pleased with the core performance of The Beast, particularly its raw 3D performance which is the key to cryptocurrency mining.

Next I tried it out mining to see if it would live up to the potential it clearly showed on paper – results are here: Experiments in Crypto Mining 8: Initial Performance.

Florida State Employee Arrested for Allegedly Mining Crypto at Work

A state employee at Florida’s Department of Citrus (FDoC) has been arrested for allegedly using official computers to mine cryptocurrencies.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has jailed Matthew McDermott, IT manager for the state government agency that oversees Florida’s citrus industry. He is reportedly being held pending trial, with bail set at $5,000.

Cryptocurrency Mining Farm (Image: M. Krohn/Wikimedia)
Cryptocurrency Mining Farm (Image: M. Krohn/Wikimedia)

The FDLE alleges that McDermott used computers in the department to mine cryptocurrencies including bitcoin and litecoin, and has charged him with grand theft and official misconduct, according to the report.

An investigation further indicated that the utility bill of the department had surged by over 40 percent from October 2017 to January 2018, as cryptocurrency mining requires significant amounts of electricity due to its high processing demands.

Read more: CoinDesk

Cryptocurrency Mining at Home Heats Up With Eco-Friendly Miner

Proof of Work (PoW) mining operations, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, use a tremendous amount of energy and generate a tremendous amount of waste heat.

Qarnot is one of a number of growing companies that has found a way to turn that waste heat into controlled heating for the home or office.

The new Qarnot QC-1 “crypto heater” takes advantage of an obvious synergy: It makes use of the waste heat generated by mining crypto in the guise of an attractive space heater.

Qarnot Crypto Mining Heater (Image: Qarnot)
Qarnot Crypto Mining Heater (Image: Qarnot)

Spec wise, the QC-1 contains two GPUs: NITRO+ RADEON RX 580 8G 60 MH/s at 650W. Local electrical costs and climate are key determining factors with regard to recouping costs and making a profit; for example, if you are in a cold northern environment with cheap electricity like Quebec, then your costs to run it should be low enough (about $0.03 KWh USD) that the mining revenue should pay for the device in a few years.

The device mines Ethereum by default but can be configured to mine various other PoW-based cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin. A mobile app is available to monitor your account and configure the unit. The lack of fans or hard drives leads Qarnot to claim the system is “perfectly noiseless.”

Read more: BitcoinMagazine

Australian IT Employees At Bureau Of Meteorology Suspected Of Illicit Crypto Mining

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are investigating two employees at the Bureau of Meteorology for allegedly using the bureau’s computers to mine cryptocurrencies, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports today, March 8.

Bitcoin mining (Image: Pixabay)
Bitcoin mining (Image: Pixabay)

The AFP appeared at the Bureau of Meteorology last week, Feb. 28, with a search warrant and questioned two IT employees, one of whom has since gone on leave. ABC reports that no charges have yet been filed, and both the AFP and the Bureau of Meteorology have declined to comment pending the ongoing investigation.

Read more: CoinTelegraph

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.

Bitcoin Mining Costs More Electricity Than Houses, But it’s a Non-Issue

Analysts are concerned that Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining centers are spending too much electricity, and that the process of verifying cryptocurrency transactions could worsen the global environment.

Justification of mining in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies

In December 2017, several analysts criticized the electricity consumption of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining centers, calling the mining process an “environmental disaster.” Earlier Cointelegraph reported that cryptocurrency mining will likely exceed electricity consumption of households in 2018.

Cryptocurrency Mining Farm (Image: M. Krohn/Wikimedia)
Cryptocurrency Mining Farm (Image: M. Krohn/Wikimedia)

Smari McCarthy of Iceland’s Pirate Party stated that excessive consumption for Bitcoin mining is not practical because the main use case of Bitcoin is for “financial speculation.”

“We are spending tens or maybe hundreds of megawatts on producing something that has no tangible existence and no real use for humans outside the realm of financial speculation. That can’t be good.”

If environmentalists and analysts perceive the main use case of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to be financial speculation, the consumption of a massive amount of electricity could be considered impractical. However, the main application of Bitcoin is not financial speculation. In countries wherein the underbanked struggle to gain access to financial services, Bitcoin operates as an efficient currency.

In Venezuela, for instance, local residents are using Bitcoin to order food, basic goods and medicine from outside of the country because the Venezuelan bolivar, the country’s national currency, has lost almost all of its value, and has become virtually worthless.

Read more: CoinTelegraph

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.