Sunday, April 6, 2014

Adventures in Bitcoin

Part 2
Over the last few months, I decided to try my hand at mining Bitcoins\Cryptocurrency. Recently, I found the best way to get started is to mine what are called Altcoins. Bitcoins and a few others are based on SHA256 hashes which are easier to verify transactions and therefore there are ASIC or Application Specific Integrated Circuits that can mine very fast. Because of this, the network difficulty becomes very high and therefore takes more power for the same reward. Basically you get a reward for mining which is providing processing power to verify transactions. Once the network agrees that a transaction is valid, it then confirms the transaction. Altcoins are based on Scrypt mining which is more memory intensive, so using your GPU to mine is still profitable. Profitability meaning you receive enough to cover your cost of hardware, power usage and a little extra for the wallet. Covering your cost of hardware can take a few weeks to a few months depending on how much you invest and your hash rate. One thing to keep in mind is even if you are not receiving very much, you are also mining for future profits. The idea being that the few Bitcoins/Altcoins you acquire now, will be worth much more in the future. (Some people have become wealthy due to mining Bitcoins a year ago.)  In most cases I wouldn't have any expectations of getting rich or anything but it is a fun learning experience.

The most popular and probably the best way to mine is to be part of a pool. Mining alone is much more difficult so you can team up with others and combine hashing power. Most Altcoin pools will take care of converting Altcoins to Bitcoin and once you have mined enough, it will exchange it for Bitcoin and then pay you out once you hit a set minimum. Each have their own algorithms, trying to be the most profitable. Currently, some of the most popular are:

Hashcow shows a graph of each comparing daily profitabilty per 1Mh/s.

I started with Middlecoin, tried Multipool and now I'm using Clevermining. So far, Clevermining has been great. They provide detailed stats of the pool and individual miners. Here is my stats page if you want to see what it looks like:

Once you pick a pool all you need is a Bitcoin wallet which becomes your username on most pools. You can use a mobile phone wallet or desktop, but obviously a desktop would be more secure. Just make sure you have your wallet address correct. You can search the web to find the best settings for your video card with CGMiner which works on Windows\OSX\Linux. You should also try varying the settings to squeeze the most hash out of your card since it can vary even on the same model. For GPU mining you want CGMiner 3.7.2 which is the last version with support. There another version by Kalroth with some tweaks. Along with CGMiner, I use CGWatcher which has a lot of features and will restart CGMiner if it crashes, drops hash rate, and so forth.

Mining on Avg 830Kh/s

You can get started with very little hardware. My desktop already had an XFX Radeon HD5750 which was able to achieve a modest 160khs/s. Granted it will take you awhile between payouts but it is enough to play around with and get the feel for it. Once you get your first payout, you will be hooked and want more hashing power. After working with my friend and researching some builds, here is what I am using at the time of this posting.

2x Sapphire R7 240 2GB - 108kh/s ea. - $39 (eBay)
1x Sapphire R7 250 1GB - 163kh/s (Mounted to a 1x to 16x riser) - $53 (eBay)
1x Sapphire R9 270x  4GB - 460kh/s $239 (Was able to get locally at this price)

With this setup on Clevermining I am getting about 0.01BTC every other day or so. Currently that is about $6-7USD, not bad. At least if I cover the hardware that will nice.

Right now I am using my daily desktop but I may breakout the hardware to a separate computer using an open air case. Running overclocked at 100%, they get pretty toasty. The R7 250 is outside in a plastic bin and runs much cooler, so an open air case would really help.

At this point it has been quite fun to stop, so I plan on continuing. Maybe getting another R9 270x which seems to have the best bang for the buck or for low power a GTX750Ti. Something to also note which many miners forget, is that power usage can quickly eat up any coins you make.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of Bitcoin and may get you to try mining or at least using Bitcoin. It's fun and well worth a try. I had looked into Bitcoin a year or more ago, but I never took the time to try it. Now I wish I had. But it's like most new things, who knew?

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