An Insiders Take on CoinTerra & the Bitcoin Mining Sector
Having been involved in Bitcoin since 2011 and on the inside of one of the 28nm Bitcoin mining contestants for the past two months, here is my story. Feel free to skip the long intro to skip to the present: I added it because people might want to know where I'm coming from. My elevator pitch is that I discovered Bitcoin in 2011 while traveling in Argentina, and after doing research I started recommending it as an investment to the subscribers of my financial newsletter in early 2012. BTC was $5 back then, so we did well with that. Here are some links of the things that I've done in Bitcoin:
Since the beginning I've been thinking a lot about how I wanted to invest in Bitcoin. It has always made plain sense to me to begin with buying coins, as it is like an ETF on the entire Bitcoin economy. However, in early 2012, just the idea of buying bitcoins was a pretty scary prospect. I consulted with two core developers who actually tried to dissuade me from looking at Bitcoin as an investment. One said it was still very much an experiment, the other said (correctly so) that there were still substantial security risks. Eventually it was my experience in Argentina's difficult economy (rife with currency crackdowns and capital controls) that convinced me to take the leap - I decided that there was enough demand and enthusiasm for financial freedom in the world. Enough for some crazy people to keep funneling resources into Bitcoin, resources that would support the idealist hackers and maverick entrepreneurs to make the technology of cryptocurrency a success. So I started buying bitcoins, considering myself lucky because my friends in Latin America had it much tougher: they had to mine most of their cryptocurrency in their basement with graphic cards because of the harsh capital controls that prevented them from sending money abroad and buying them on an exchange. In all, 2012 was a difficult year for Bitcoin. The 'old' bitcoiners were still psychologically numbed from the huge decline in price, and the newbees were continually scared by new scandals: the Bitcoinica thefts in May and July, the BTC Savings and Trust-ponzi implosion in August, and the Bitfloor theft in September. The price of Bitcoin hovered between $5 and $13 all year, the mainstream media ignored or at best scorned Bitcoin, and I for one was mostly happy to still have an unscathed wallet. Throughout the year I wrote about Bitcoin practically every week in my email updates and every month in my printed investment newsletter. It was often a frustrating job, because my many of my subscribers are babyboomers or from an older generation who don't intuitively grasp the concepts of peer-to-peer, open source, online, etc. I received a good number of emails accusing me of promoting a ponzi scheme, and my publisher (who does all the promotion for the newsletter) was very sceptical and tried to persuade me to write less about Bitcoin and more about traditional investments like gold and stocks. I think this tension/struggle is part of what prevented me from exploring the investable side of the Bitcoin economy for quite a while, although I did buy a few Bitcoin mining stocks on the GLBSE. (Compliments to the miners that kept paying out dividends even after the wild ending of this stock exchange - COGNITIVE is one of them) Attending the Bitcoin London conference organized by Amir Taaki in late 2012 was definitely a turning point for me. Cryptocurrency suddenly became tangible and real, and I think that was the case for many people there. During Amir's conference, I made friends with Jim from MultiBit and Nejc from BitStamp. I likely missed an investment opportunity with BitPay (even though Tony Galippi was just as impressive back then as he is now), and I tried to persuade GLBSE's Nefario to start talking to a lawyer about the legal risks of running a Bitcoin denominated exchange. Josh from Butterfly Labs made an announcement there in London, and that was my first experience with the excitement and controversy that characterizes so much of the Bitcoin mining industry today. Meanwhile my investment newsletter kept doing well, and I decided to make a move to South America to expand my horizon. That's how it happened that I was with my friends in Buenos Aires when the March-April 2013 explosion in price happened: an exhilarating time, and I'm still grateful for their long term Bitcoin experience which helped me make the right decisions for myself during this period. Still I kept thinking about how I could invest some of my gains back in the Bitcoin economy. Chasing a dollar profit doesn't make sense to me, so I had to identify business models that gave perspective for making a multiple on my bitcoins. Bitcoin mining felt like an interesting fit, for several reasons. First, I spent the past few years studying the gold mining industry and the parallels and differences with Bitcoin mining are absolutely fascinating to me. Next, in the short run I am not at ease regarding the authorities ability to attack or destabilize the BTC network. Many will object by saying that the Bitcoin network has a hashrate that's currently 40 times faster than top 500 supercomputers combined. However, that is misleading because the equation would change dramatically if those computers were equipped with specialized ASICs that can be produced for a couple of million dollars. This is what Jim Rickards referred to when he said "technologists don't understand the world of power politics and malicious actors: there are people who don't care about the cost. (…) If they want to destroy a system, and they have to pay to do it, they'll do it. It's not necessarily more expensive than buying an aircraft carrier or building a submarine." This is the reason why I think it's crucial to push up the network speed as close to the physical limits as possible. Once the miners are working on the smallest node and with the most efficient chip possible, it will be much more difficult for a malicious entity to do a 51% attack on the network. (By the way, much respect to the small bitcoiners and basement miners for this: they are the ones that have been bankrolling the expensive development of ever more sophisticated ASIC chips. They are the ones that are slowly turning the once brittle skeleton of the Bitcoin network into an indestructible Adamantium shield.) Finally, it seemed obvious to me that the Bitcoin mining market was about to enter a consolidation phase, in which the market would increasingly sponsor the more reliable and technically gifted chip producers, which will eventually create a more stable environment for everyone. How exciting, to try and witness from the first row how an entirely new industry grows from childhood/adolescence towards maturity! Enter CoinTerra. I first met Ravi Iyengar and his team members at the San Jose Bitcoin conference, where they pitched for an angel investment in their company. I was immediately impressed by their passion, technical pedigree, and understanding of the workings of Bitcoin. I was definitely intrigued and after the conference we kept the communication lines open. Back in Belgium I met with two interested angels who happened to be Belgian, too. I then talked to different people with hardware backgrounds to verify whether Ravi's team really was that good judging by the industry standards. They were. I started getting excited. From there on, things began moving fast. The two Belgians got in and the more I talked to Ravi, the more I was impressed with his cogent reasoning, his decisiveness, and the speed by which he absorbs large amounts of new information. By mid July I finally made the decision to also come in as the third angel investor in CoinTerra. When I talked about the company to Timo Hanke (German cryptographer and author of the Bitcoin Pay-to-Contract protocol) he was intrigued, did his own due dilligence, and soon after became an investor in, and later a team member of CoinTerra. Other investors and advisors that came in on the angel round had reputable backgrounds in the software and hardware industries, precious metals, telecom, and law - all of whom shared a great and genuine passion for Bitcoin. I began feeling very fortunate to be able to follow this project from such a close perspective. After some days, because of Ravi's high energy and magnetic enthusiasm, the following turned into involvement. When I was invited to come to Austin, Texas to help out, I jumped in with both feet - I've been here for a week now. One thing I noticed when getting involved with CoinTerra more closely, is that the communications part of the equation needed improving. I can understand how the issue came to be. Ravi is in the first place an engineer and a team leader, and he started structuring his company from that same perspective. Even today most of his focus is directed to closely managing all the engineers (in Austin, in Raleigh, and also in India) to make sure that the risks involved are managed to the greatest possible extent. The engineering roots of CoinTerra are also reflected in the initial vision behind the company: to build large and efficient mining data centers, deploy them worldwide, and to then offer cloud hashing services to the public. However, the still uncertain legal repercussions of that lead to a change in strategy. Instead, CoinTerra is now working on providing chips and rigs for the general public, and leaves it for the customers to decide where and how to mine with them. Now, I understand and appreciate how very skeptical a large part of the Bitcoin mining community has become. People have invested a lot of resources in brave but often very inexperienced teams who have not always been able to deliver on their promises. It has been a road of trial and error, and the errors of some have proven painful to many. I can say that I understand what it means to have skin in the game of the mining market; I am an investor in a company that has announced but not released a manufactured product on the market yet. And I stand by it: I think CoinTerra is working on fantastic products and has great future potential as a company. Would I like to make a return on my investment? Of course, that will be the best proof that it fulfills the potential that I see in Ravi and his team. That said, even to just be involved in this technological arms race that is taking place in Bitcoin mining, where hyper competitive capitalism is miraculously creating a very pure public good, is a real privilege. I think the sector will further mature and that we will see more and more reliable companies emerge over time, and all the while the Bitcoin network will grow stronger and stronger. I'm happy to take questions if you are interested. Best wishes, Tuur
Halong Mining was a mysterious mining rig maker, whose DragonMint rig was shilled by Blockstream as the "Bitmain killer" in 2017. The DragonMint chips were supposed to use 7nm technology (which should be much more energy-efficient than Bitmain's 28nm technology), and would be manufactured by Samsung. However, there was a total lack of details about the company, even the most basic ones -- such as which continent it was located on. Recall that, shortly before the DragonMint announcement, Blockstream had unleashed a virulent smear campaign ("Antbleed") against Bitmain, because Bitmain's chips allegedly had an optimization feature called ASICboost that could increase throughput by (maybe) 10% or so. However, that feature was not enabled in Bitmain's mining rigs; the maker claimed that the gains would not be worth it. Eventually rumors came out that Halong Mining was in fact re-selling unannounced miners made by Innosilicon. IIRC the claim of 7nm technology could not be confirmed and was forgotten; they were only a few percent more efficient than Bitmain's, and -- surprise -- they had ASICboost enabled. Slush Pool, a longstanding Blockstream supporter, promptly announced support for ASICboost miners. Now we learn that Blockstream itself bought ~4000 rigs from Innosilicon, which were delivered to the US in Jul/2018. Those rigs should do 80 PH/s of hashing power (the total hashpower now is ~45'000 PH/s). I find this story fishy (ok, what bitcoin-related story isn't?). Here is a theory:
"Halong Mining" was conceived by Blockstream to exploit ASICboost in order to "kill" their enemy Bitmain, and they were quite pissed off when they discovered that Bitmain's chips already had it. Hence the fury of the "Antbleed" campaign.
The plan flopped because Samsung's 7nm chips would be too expensive. So "Halong" (Blockstream) bought some pre-release rigs from Innosilicon, using 28nm chips that were basically clones of Biytmain's (or even obtained from Bitmain), to satisfy the clients of Halong's pre-sale.
Eventually Innosilicon started selling the rigs under his own name. However, they would not sell because of the price slump and the non-impressive performance.
So Blockstream had to buy a shipload of Innosilicon rigs, to pay for their development.
Those rigs are still stored in some warehouse, waiting for the price to rise again.
https://obelisk.tech Sia is releasing a 28nm, full-custom ASIC. This ASIC will be a complete package, similar to an antminer. You will receive a mining box that includes chips, power supplies, etc. Minimal setup will be required to get the miner working. The miner is in early development already. We have begun the process of chip design, hardware design, and supply chain management. We have had conversations with previous ASIC manufacturers, and we have been warned about delays, unexpected costs, and myriads of pitfalls that throw off estimations. For this reason, we have set a conservative shipping date of June 2018. If the miners are ready sooner, they will be shipped sooner. If all goes well (and it rarely does, especially for first time manufacturers), we could see the miners shipping before March 2018. Following the presale, we will be posting a development roadmap on our website that includes all the major steps of development. We will be crossing off steps in the roadmap as we complete them, which will allow the community to follow our progress, have visibility into delays, and will be able to see the places where we are ahead of or behind schedule. The estimated hashrate is 100 GH/s. We will not know the exact hashrate until later in the development process, however we have confidence that 100 GH/s is a low bar to hit. We may end up shipping miners with a much higher hashrate, and will continue updating the estimated hashrate as we get more accurate estimates for how the chips will perform. The estimated power draw is 500w, though it may be significantly less. The price of the unit is going to be $2499. Chip manufacturing is expensive, supply chains are expensive, and there are a lot of single-time costs that go into making miners. Future batches will likely have lower prices, however they will also ship later. We will be selling the miners for Bitcoin. We expect the sale volume to be very large (in the tens of millions of dollars), and we feared that the Sia cryptocurrency would not have enough liquidity to handle all of that volume, resulting in the price rising quickly as people scramble to buy Siacoin for the ASIC, and then the price falling quickly as we convert the Siacoin to USD. This is the worst of both worlds - participants buy the siacoin at a premium, and then we sell them at a discount. Bitcoin has much, much deeper liquidity, and we can sell large volume of Bitcoin quickly without moving the price too much. We will be converting the Bitcoin to USD as fast as possible. If the price fluctuates by more than 5% before we are able to convert, we will need to request more coins to cover the difference, or cancel the order. If the price fluctuates upwards by more than 5% before we convert, we will return the difference. The sale and shipment of ASICs on the Sia network is going to dramatically increase the hashrate. When considering how much revenue you may get from a unit, please take into account the fact that we are selling enough units to potentially 10x or 100x the difficulty. If another ASIC manufacturer decides to start selling Sia ASICs, the hashrate may go up by more than just the number of units we sell. Please also consider that the block reward is decreasing. Today, the block reward is about 189,000 siacoins per block. By June 2018, our ship date, the block reward is going to be closer to 135,000 siacoins per block, decreasing by 1 siacoin per block (or 4320 siacoins per month). The presale will be open for 7 days. There is no rush - people who buy on the fourth day will receive the same treatment as people who buy on the first day. The sale will not close early, and while we reserve the right to deny purchases, we have chosen not to put a cap on the number of units sold. We may pre-sell additional batches before the first batch ships. The first batch will have priority when we begin shipping, and if the later batches will be shipping shortly after, those later batches will be sold at a higher price. People who buy in on the first batch will receive both price preference and shipping date preference as a reward for taking on the most risk. Obelisk is the company that will be producing these chips. Obelisk is a fully owned subsidiary of Nebulous Inc. Nebulous is the company that employs all of the Sia core developers. Obelisk has plans for growth in the future. None of these plans are finalized as we are primarily focusing on shipping this miner, but potential future products include:
A 16nm or 14nm ASIC for Sia
A mining card costing under $1000 that you can put into a GPU slot
ASICs for other PoW cryptocurrencies
Finally, we plan to introduce decentralized mining pools into the Sia ecosystem before we ship the miners. Hosts will have the option of running their own mining pool, and then miners can detect the hosts by checking the blockchain and the peer network, forming payment channel contracts with them and participating in fully decentralized mining. This should help alleviate the pool centralization that is seen in most PoW cryptocurrencies. We are very excited about our new company, and hope that you share in our excitement. Feel free to ask any questions.
What if we (Classic Supporters) could directly support KNC?
Instead of donating funds to the Classic Mining Fund, what if we were able to directly contribute to KNC. After all, they are obviously making a profit and competitive with other miners. Sending them funds to invest in new equipment should increase their profits and allow them to buy more equipment and further increase their share. By taking market share over time, by continued support from Classic supporters, this would hopefully start to cause some concern to other miners. Let's face it, the only guys that are solid in their support out of the whole mining community have been KNC. Wouldn't it be better that they have a bigger share? I don't have any association with them, I don't know their history. I only know I read a piece a while ago by a KNC miner and he seemed spot on in his assessment of what bitcoin should be. And I know that they have been the only rock solid support for Classic. There would need to be some sort of arrangement that the funds and profits are used to by more equipment (for the foreseeable future).
Since I penned the original Community Fork proposal, I felt the need to address the decision to fork and the medium post attempting to justify the radical departure from what the community sought. The italics are quotes from the post, the following text is mine. The first several statements are in regard to what happened in January. The core developers ultimately decided against forking. -- This statement sets the table by clearly laying out what happened in January with a statement the project is centralized as Nebulous went against the community in not forking then. The same holds true on today's statement. Decentralization is valuable because there is nobody in control, and we weren’t comfortable releasing an update that threatened to rip the community in half. -- In other words, we asserted control and made a highly centralized decision to protect the community. It is Orwellian in attempting to explain that war is peace. ironically the people leaving in the largest droves were those who most aggressively opposed the fork during the earlier debates -- Even if evidence existed to determine this, it's doubtful. The people most active against the fork were A3 purchasers and those people had ROI to meet. Even if they decided the Discord was a bit toxic, they still fulfilled a role securing the network. The author frequently makes assertions that cannot be defended with fact. Sia’s biggest supporters and believers were the ones that got hit hardest by the mining catastrophe, and despite this loss, they were also the ones who stuck through the hardest times. -- What did they lose? Obelisks wouldn't ship for another 9 months. How was it a catastrophe? Was the network ever at risk? The use of hyperbole here is indicative of the lack of a serious argument. They (innosilicon) have the only 14nm miner on the market, and as such they have the only rig capable of competing. Without competition, there is no price pressure, and it seems that there is close to, if not above, a 100% markup on their hardware. For every machine that gets sold, Innosilicon makes enough profit to produce a machine for themselves to mine. -- The suggestion is that a highly competent manufacturer fairly competing to create the best possible solution is somehow in the wrong. It then goes on to suggest that gaining a financial reward for being highly competent is somehow wrong and further intimates the profits must be reinvested into working the Sia chain. In fact, Innosilicon didn't have an overly large hashrate until the discussion of a fork seemed inevitable. It seems reasonable they dumped the totality of their inventory online because they would not be able to sell them once a fork occurred. Arguing against capitalism and the freedom to earn profits is a dangerous slope, perhaps revealing underlying political motivations of the author. For an ASIC that is going to obsolete existing hardware, margins can be anywhere from 50% to 100%. The story is different however for ASICs that intend to compete without being strong enough to become the new monopoly. For these machines, margins are likely to be less than 25% because the presence of competition heavily forces prices downwards. -- The argument here is to somehow seek to fight Moore's Law. Just as GPUs defeated CPUs and ASICs defeated GPUs, the strongest ASICs will prevail. There are several manufacturers that can be sought out to compete if the result is a single dominant model. More importantly, Innosilicon sells the majority of it's mining rigs to decentralize the hashrate. A single dominant manufacturer does not guarantee or even make more likely the hashrate will centralize. Finally, seeking to protect less than competent or financially competitive manufacturers runs counter to much of the Satoshi manifesto. When a manufacturer is also a miner, there is an incentive against manufacturing and selling more machines. -- The Bitmain financials clearly show the company makes the overwhelming amount of their profitability on miner sales, not mining. This is likely true for nearly all coins as mining quickly becomes close to breakeven. Even the author later admits the margins on hardware make for a lucrative business model. High manufacturer diversity is currently limited by the extreme barriers to entry...we like to see manufacturers that share the knowledge and encourage a vibrant competitive environment. -- In no industry that I am aware of is sharing of proprietary knowledge common and especially not in highly competitive and extremely capital intensive industries. It's beyond naive to believe this should be a goal. The post continues with other hurdles that no rational enterprise would accept without some sort of regulatory framework. It cannot be fairly policed as we are seeing here. The author has made several statements based on conjecture and formulated a punishment with the entities having no rights of appeal or even an advance guideline to follow that would have avoided the issues. For the Sia network, an important line was crossed when secret ASIC projects superseded a public project that had substantial community investment. -- This may be accurate to the author but such a line was never laid out for the public and as such, crossing it cannot be penalized unjustly. Sia did not fork initially because there was a lot of confusion, a lot of emotion, and a great fear that the heavy conflicts of interest would cause the development team to make the wrong decision. Since then, there has been time for emotions to cool, for level heads to prevail, and for a second community fork proposal to come forward. Unlike the first fork proposal by the community, this second proposal experienced widespread support and virtually no opposition at all from regular members of the community. -- This is accurate in stating the Community Fork proposal enjoyed widespread support. it is totally off base in suggesting the Dev Fork even resembles the CF. This is using the community as a human shield due to the overwhelming lack of an argument. My guess is that the Dev Fork would not meet with anything near the kind of support the CF enjoyed. Sia is forking today to reprimand the current ASIC monopoly for the damage it did to the Sia community, to make whole the supporters of Sia’s community ASIC project, and to send a clear message to all future Sia ASIC manufacturers: we will not tolerate an abusive ASIC monopoly. -- Which is sort of a heavy handed way of saying there is one final boss at Sia and you made him mad to the point that he must now "reprimand" you. The items characterized as abusive were never outlined in advance and are highly debatable as to whether they actually are abusive, but again, Final Boss. We fully expect that the 28nm Obelisk ASICs will be replaced by a 16nm chip from another manufacturer, who will become the new manufacturing monopoly for Sia... the Sia community is not afraid to take action a second time to break a parasitic or abusive ASIC monopoly. -- Hopefully any manufacturer understands the shifting sands that exist within the Sia leadership could decide virtually any action to be harmful as there has been zero harm done up to now. There have been no attacks, no overt centralization and plenty of supporters own/mine with these company's devices. Sia is an ungoverned blockchain. There is no built-in mechanism on the Sia network to change the consensus rules, and there is no mechanism in the software that the developers can use to force people to upgrade. The only way that Nebulous can encourage a fork is to release new code, and then encourage people to upgrade. This leaves people with the opportunity to reject the upgrade, and to instead continue using the old software and the old blockchain. If enough people rally around the old software, there could be a network split, and Sia could divide into two blockchains, in the same way that Ethereum split into Ethereum and Ethereum Classic, and in the same way that Bitcoin became Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. At Nebulous, we view these cryptocurrency splits as one of the most powerful innovations of the blockchain space. Under traditional governance structures, a single decision gets made and everyone has to live with that decision. But when the network is able to split, you can get solutions where two groups of people with incompatible demands can both get what they want. We will be structuring the Sia hardfork code to enable a group of dissenters to easily split off and be on a separate blockchain where the hardfork was never implemented. The hardfork will be released as its own release, v1.3.6, where the only code updated is a handful of lines of code + tests required to implement the hardfork. The code will be implemented in a way that easily allows a dissenting group to remove the hardfork code and yet continue merging changes that are made to the primary Sia repo. So long as the siafund ownership is maintained on this fork, members of the dissenting community will be welcome in the Sia community, on the Sia discord, on the subreddit, and will be able to receive support and help directly from the Nebulous support staff. Perhaps the most amazing thing about a potential Sia network split is that all users will be able to continue to use their current files that they have on Sia. Uploads and downloads will continue to work, no matter what side of the split you are on, and so long as the minority side of the split has enough hosts (50–80 is what most users will require), the repair mechanisms of the Sia network will be able to repair your files from across both networks and ensure that your files continue working into the future. If the minority side of the fork does not have enough hosts, users will have time (most users will have several weeks) after the split to download their files and find an alternative way to back them up. -- These paragraphs are simply amazing. The author appears to be goading people resistant to his iron control over the project to continue the legacy chain. While this makes sense if you are simply building a protocol and have no interest in marketing and selling the tech to say, Fortune 1000 companies, it is a terrible message if you do plan to. You are seeking community schism, making a competitive environment for hosting when hosting is already horribly unprofitable and seeking to sow chaos in how the network evolves into the future. The logical approach would be to let dedicated foes seek out the info on their own if there is a desire to work the legacy chain, not encourage it. It continues to show the author, while a strong technologist is a weak business individual. we like to see is low margins for miners and manufacturers. When there are high margins, at least one player (the benefactor of the high margins) is able to acquire hashrate more cheaply than everyone else, and therefore is able to more easily attack the network. -- What is the evidence and argument here? That people with more money are more able to attack? People with large trust funds are equally likely to be more able to attack. High profit margins simply indicate a competent agency, nothing more. ASIC manufacturers ultimately exist to serve the network, and specifically to protect the network against 51% attacks. -- ASIC manufacturers exist to serve their customers, full stop. They have no role or responsibility to the network at all. Increasing a circle of responsibility to an entity with no control over how their products are used is silly. Overall, I am disappointed the team chose to ignore the Community Fork proposal in order to run their own fork. But, this is a Nebulous project and ultimately they can do whatever they want. They cannot assert decentralization though and very little about this current action suggests there is a long term goal of decentralization. Decisions to exclude some faction today will most certainly arise down the road as the team concludes that certain storage customers or developers or vendors are unacceptable for various reasons. This hasn't even discussed the awkward part of the equation where Obelisk is owned by the author and stands to gain now and in the future when more powerful, 2nd gen ASICs can be created and no outside manufacturers wanting to risk losing on the Sia project. The point of the post is to attempt to continue to get Mr. Vorick to recognize the issues with his sole governance of the Sia project. Even the most ill-willed posts from various authors have a goal of improving the project. It is hoped that at some point, Vorick will recognize his project is stronger with community participation, even to the point of going along with community desires sometimes even if it runs counter to his own desires. There is value in learning to negotiate. You learn what to give away and what is sacrosanct. In the end, the project will grow much stronger and there will be copious numbers of supporters ready to do battle against the hyper-competitive world of cloud storage.
Lets take a few hypothetical scenarios: All ASIC's move from 28nm tech to 16nm tech. -More work is being done, therefore more security ASICBOOST is released for free and all ASIC's adopt it -Same amount of work is being done, security is the same ASICBOOST is patented and only specific miners can use it -Same amount of work is being done, but causes miner centralization.
Bitcoin's security is provided by work (proof of work). Actual work has to be done to increase security. "Shortcuts" do not increase security. ASICBOOST doesn't do more work, it lets you pretend that you did more than you actually did. It is not an efficiency gain, it is a shortcut. It is disenguous to compare it to other efficiency gains where more work was done. The correct terminology to describe ASICBOOST is that it is a cryptographic attack.
A cryptographic attack is a method for circumventing the security of a cryptographic system by finding a weakness in a code, cipher, cryptographic protocol or key management scheme.
The cryptographic attack used by ASICBOOST is colliding message blocks. This same cryptographic attack, colliding message blocks, was used by Google in February 2017 to decrease the security of SHA-1 from 2128 to 261. This allows anyone with a powerful computer cluster to produce full hash collisions for SHA-1, completely breaking its security. This means that an attacker can produce two files with the same hash if they execute this attack and compute 261 operations.
More about the SHA-1 attack here: http://shattered.io This page contains two different files with the same SHA-1 hash proving that SHA-1 is not secure and cannot be used to verify the integrity of files. Whitepaper on the colliding message block attack on SHA-1 that was used by Google: http://shattered.io/static/shattered.pdf
ASICBOOST uses colliding message blocks to reduce the security of SHA-256 from 2256 to approximately 2255.48. In practice, this is negligible. However, if a new attack similar to ASICBOOST was revealed that reduced the security to somewhere in the order of 261, Bitcoin mining would be completely broken. It would be possible to mine a block, no matter the difficulty, with 261 operations, which is very achievable with today's technology.
Calling ASICBOOST an efficiency gain is very wrong. Leaving cryptographic attacks unpatched sets a bad precedent that we don't care about these kinds of attacks. When a more serious cryptographic attack is found people will point to this one and say "why was that one allowed". It needs to be clear that we will patch any vulnerabilities on SHA-256
With a budget of 1000 dollars, how can I get into Bitcoin mining?
I'm pretty new to Bitcoin, and need some help getting started. I'd love to buy a miner for under $1000. Is that practical, or should I save up for one of the more expensive ones? What else do I need to buy? What are the best mining pools? Thanks in advance for the help! Edit: I guess it would be more profitable for me to stick to investing, especially with the halving this June. Thanks to all for the very helpful advice!
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