カテゴリーアーカイブ: mining

Slush Pool Operator Braiins Set to Rollout Upgrades

Braiins

Braiins, a cryptocurrency mining pool operator based in Prague, is rebranding its company’s operation and bringing all of its products under a single umbrella.

Updates Are Coming

Braiins is the company behind Slush Pool, the original cryptocurrency mining pool with a hash rate of 5.32 Eh/s, per its website. After operating in the mining sector for some years, it appears to be set for a brand makeover and it’s pushing out some upgrades for its popular products — Slush Pool and Braiins OS.

According to Braiins Creative Director Luboš Buračinský, Slush Pool customers should expect upgrades on the payout processes and the inclusion of more tokens.

“For Slush Pool, we are about to release a completely reworked payout section,” he told Bitcoin Magazine. “The new features allow for much more in terms of payouts settings when it comes to frequency, destination, payout conditions, etc. Furthermore, we will add support for more coins. And of course, we continually keep adding tweaks to the product UX.”

Braiins OS, on the other hand, will include a feature that allows users to install it from a memory card onto a flash memory.

Braiins launched Braiins OS in 2008. At the time, Jan Čapek, the company’s CEO, was driven by the need to create an open-source alternative to the closed-source mining firmware being used with Slush Pool. The initial release was targeted at mining devices only, but it has evolved since then.

“Retail miners should find this especially useful, now that certain hardware manufacturers decided to permanently restrict access via [cryptographic network protocol Secure Shell],” Buračinský said.

Speaking on the rebrand, Čapek praised the company’s efforts in recent years.

“We have continuously worked to redefine the mining industry and set new standards throughout the past six years,” he said. “Slush Pool, Braiins OS, and any future products we might release require unified and smooth branding that will tell the world who built them.”

Braiins has undergone several changes since taking control of the mining pool, expanding its product portfolio significantly to meet the demands of an ever-increasing customer base.

Holding Its Own

While a number of mining companies have closed shop thanks to the recent crypto winter, Braiins has been able to weather the storm and come out stronger.

“We suppose a lean operation and generally crypto-neutral local environment makes it a little easier for us,” said Buračinský. “As for the growth, I think it’s fair to say we saw certain growth following the BTC exchange rate improvement. Not to forget, the user churn typically also reflects the decrease thereof.”

Indeed, Prague is one of the most crypto-friendly cities in the world. It currently boasts over 150 venues where bitcoin can be used as a means of payment including bars, hotels and restaurants. The Czech government is relatively liberal when it comes to cryptocurrency policies. The Czech central bank even published a document in 2017 called “Don’t Be Afraid of Bitcoin,” in which it noted that crypto doesn’t offer any threat to conventional banking.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Exploring Illegal Mining Camps in Western China

This article was originally published by 8btc and written by Vincent He.Although China has shut down bitcoin trading platforms and deemed them illegal, its attitude toward bitcoin mining is still ambiguous. Now, …

Hut 8 Mining on Sustainability, Expansion and Surviving Crypto Winter

Hut 8

Hut 8 Mining (named after Hut 8 in Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing broke the enigma code and accelerated the end of World War II) has just filed its audited financial statements for 2018, detailing a tight but still profitable bitcoin mining business.

For most mining companies, 2018 was a difficult year. But Hut 8 hung in and, despite having to do a write down, was able to post a small profit.

According to Hut 8, it is currently the largest bitcoin mining company operating in North America (with Hive a close second). In an exclusive interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Hut 8 CEO Andrew Kiguel described how his company withstood crypto winter and progressed while many in the industry were making cuts or closing down.

“Last year was not profitable for many miners,” Kiguel said. “It was a tough year for us too, especially the end of the year. Our goal is to remain lean, operate efficiently and be able to withstand any short-term changes in price and make it to the next positive bitcoin pricing cycle … Hopefully, we are starting that now.”

In 2018, Hut 8 recorded a $18.2 million profit with revenues of $36.6 million and a net operating loss of $8.2 million. It has reported a gross mining profit margin of 50 percent for the year. Since beginning its operations in December 2017, Hut 8 has mined over 8,800 bitcoins.

Mining in Canada

Hut 8 has two mining sites in Alberta, Canada, which leverage 85 BlockBox AC centers — 56 in Medicine Hat and 29 in Drumheller.

Like some other Canadian provinces, Alberta is courting new information technologies and data centers like those used for bitcoin mining, as traditional resource industries decline and available energy supplies increase.

Why Alberta? Kiguel said that Hut 8 gets one of the lowest, if not the lowest, energy rates in Canada and that the Alberta government is positioning itself as business friendly.

A Bitcoin Only Business

Kiguel credited much of Hut 8’s success to a fast start in 2017 and a decision to focus on bitcoin only.

“I was an investment banker for over 20 years before co-founding Hut 8, where I helped raise the initial equity capital,” he said. “I knew that investors were looking for a simple and secure way to get exposure to bitcoin in their existing portfolios without going through the complexities of a crypto exchange and setting up a crypto wallet. As a publicly-traded company, Hut 8 delivers this exposure in a safe and easy-to-manage way.”

Kiguel also credited its success on immediately partnering with mining equipment giant Bitfury.

Partnering With Bitfury

Partnering with Bitfury, which now owns 47.6 percent of Hut 8, allowed the young startup to get out of the gate quickly as the bitcoin price heated up in 2017.

“To eliminate the technology risk associated with most startups, we partnered with Bitfury, who already had mining expertise and manufactures their own ASIC mining chip,” Kiguel said. “Through their equipment availability and operational know-how, we established our operations in Alberta.”

We asked Kiguel about Hut 8’s relationship with Bitfury. He described it as mutually beneficial.

“Bitfury plays a large role in our operations as they manage our sites and we leverage their expertise,” he said. “Key decision making is left to management and the board of directors at Hut 8. We act independently but in partnership with Bitfury. Decisions are made collectively and in the best interest of shareholders. Our objective is to be the largest bitcoin miner in the world. ”

For its mining centers, Hut 8 utilizes the Bitfury BlockBox AC data centers.

The Importance of Sustainable Mining

Hut 8 is very aware that potential investors are looking increasingly at the environmental sustainability of a mining company.

Much of Hut 8’s energy comes from natural gas, which is often vented as a by-product of oil production. The company reported that 77 percent of its energy use comes from renewable sources.

“We are exploring several sites in North America [for expansion], with a focus on seeking out clean energy sources,” Kiguel said. “Ultimately, we will look to expand in regions that offer competitive energy prices and clean energy.”

The Importance of Miners

When asked about what motivates him to work in a field like mining, Kiguel noted the critical role these operations play in the Bitcoin ecosystem.

“Miners play the key role in validating transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain,” he said. “We believe that bitcoin is the future of digital money and that our work is crucial. Our goal is to remain lean and operate efficiently to withstand short-term changes in price so that we can maximize profits during the next positive bitcoin pricing cycle, which we’re hopefully in the midst of now.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Canadian Provinces Compete for Attention of Bitcoin Mining Businesses

Quebec mining.jpg

In Canada, individual provinces are responsible for energy issues, and their interest in Bitcoin mining is growing as several provincial governments have already offered low-cost energy incentives to attract mining operations to their provinces.

Quebec, the largest Canadian province, wants in on the action and has overruled its energy provider Hydro-Québec’s request for a rate increase for Bitcoin businesses, in order to allow Bitcoin miners to have the same hydro rate as the largest industrial customers.

Bitfarms, the only major Bitcoin mining company in Quebec, will continue to be billed at the LG industrial rate (for high-power customers) of around CAD $0.05 per kWh.

Bitfarms founder and president Pierre-Luc Quimper told Bitcoin Magazine:

“This decision helps to secure our long-term operations in Québec as we enter a new era of operational growth. We are excited to continue our collaboration with Hydro-Québec, municipal energy distributors and municipalities.”

Quimper added, “With green hydroelectricity at a competitive price, innovative universities and this recent decision by the Energy Board that clearly supports the industry, Québec has all the ingredients to become a blockchain hub,”

The Energy Board decision ordered Hydro-Québec to set aside an extra 300 megawatts for the crypto industry, on top of 368 megawatts already committed, and rolled back Hydro-Québec’s plan to make crypto businesses compete in an auction.

As with some other parts of Canada, a cool climate and abundant hydroelectric power make Quebec a natural fit for Bitcoin mining.

Bitfarms operates one of the largest vertically integrated mining operations in North America and has four computing centers located in different locations in Quebec: a head office in Brossard, a microelectronics laboratory in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and an electrical contracting company in Bromont (Volta électrique), in addition to an expansion currently underway in Sherbrooke.

The company told us they have built 36 megawatts of capacity, with another 125 megawatts in their pipeline, and have approximately 220 PH/s of installed hash power. The new Sherbrooke facility will add another 30 megawatts to their capacity.

Wes Fulford, CEO of Bitfarms, told us:

“The LG rate remains one of the most competitive in North America and will allow Bitfarms to continue its expansion in Québec, particularly Phase 1 and Phase 2 of our new modern computing centre within the municipality of Sherbrooke.”

A Sustainable Approach to Mining

On their website, Bitfarms emphasizes the importance of green, sustainable energy use, saying, “We prioritize a sustainable approach just as much as a healthy bottom line.”

Bitfarms president Pierre-Luc Quimper was an active participant in government energy hearings held in the summer and fall of 2018 and has been a leader in proposing green energy solutions, including load-shedding agreements during peak consumption periods.

The company is also working on a project evaluation grid to determine hydro use and economic spin-offs.

Jonathan Hamel, a Bitcoin technology consultant with the Montreal Economic Institute and founder of Académie Bitcoin, told Bitcoin Magazine:

“The decision of the Quebec Energy Board is a major victory for Bitcoin miners in Quebec but also for Bitcoin in general. It’s a clear demonstration that Bitcoin-related businesses are operating within the scope of the law of the land.”

He pointed out that, initially, Hydro-Québec was in favor of accommodating the demand of large-scale mining operations, but they reversed course when the situation got political.

“The former provincial government (defeated in October 2018) imposed a decree forcing the Bitcoin mining industry to accept a 300% rate increase and a potential price auction for future energy block allocation. This ruling is promising because it legitimizes the Bitcoin mining industry on a national scale.”

Reacting to the Hydro Quebec announcement, Francis Pouliot, a Quebec native and Bitcoin entrepreneur, expressed his disappointment with the previous government:

If Quebec had kept electricity rates low for Bitcoin miners 5 years ago with clear regs/guarantees (it’s the now) we’d currently be top 3 Bitcoin producers and perhaps top exporter of bitcoins worldwide. With gas, hydro and cold Canada🇨🇦 is poised to become the Bitcoin El-Dorado.

— Francis Pouliot 🐂 (@francispouliot_) April 30, 2019

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Will This Vulnerability Finally Compel Bitmain to Open Source Its Firmware?

Will This Vulnerability Finally Compel Bitmain to Open Source Its Firmware?

As if Bitmain’s year hasn’t been rough enough, having posted big losses and laying off entire departments, its flagship product now has a firmware vulnerability.

A few weeks ago, Bitcoin Core contributor James Hilliard discovered an exploit in Bitmain’s S15 firmware. The pseudonymous Twitter user 00whiterabbit, also known simply as “john,” subsequently wrote exploit code based on Hilliard’s findings. A video proving that the exploit code worked was shared on Hilliard’s Twitter account last week.

Hilliard is offering to disclose the vulnerability to Bitmain but under one condition: Bitmain would have to comply to the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), the popular open source license that the Chinese mining giant is currently breaching, and open source its firmware.

“Bitmain firmware is very buggy in general,” Hilliard told Bitcoin Magazine, “and it’s important for the health of the Bitcoin network that users be able to fix the bugs Bitmain introduces.”

The Exploit

Hilliard, who is perhaps best known for proposing BIP91, discovered the vulnerability several weeks ago by auditing a firmware update file on Bitmain’s support site. While details have not yet been disclosed, the exploit was found in firmware of the S15, the company’s most powerful SHA256 miner in store. Hilliard thinks the same vulnerability almost certainly exists in all of Bitmain’s mining firmware.

“I’m also quite sure there are many other vulnerabilities in the firmware,” he added. “It is very poorly designed when it comes to security.”

When exploited, the vulnerability gives users root access to the machine — which is supposed to be impossible. In theory, this can be done remotely using just the IP address of the miner, and means the machine can be reprogrammed to do just about anything. This includes mining to a different Bitcoin address or having it stop mining entirely. The firmware could also be replaced by different firmware altogether (such as Braiins OS or Dragonmint firmware).

In practice, however, it’s unlikely the machines can be remotely exploited at all. For one, as long as the miner is properly firewalled and/or protected with a strong username and password, it cannot be broken into. And second, without access to the firmware’s source code, it’s difficult to make compatible custom firmware. As such, this specific vulnerability is perhaps not the main issue. “The bigger problem is that Bitmain firmware is generally quite buggy,” said Hilliard.

Indeed, this is not the first time a vulnerability has been found in Bitmain’s firmware. In early 2017, an anonymous security engineer found that almost all Antminer machines could be shut down remotely. Dubbed “Antbleed,” this previous vulnerability could have probably knocked about half of all hash power on the Bitcoin network offline. It was arguably not just a problem for Antminer owners, but a security risk for the entire Bitcoin network.

The License

Hilliard and 00whiterabbit have not released the exploit code — but they are developing a version of it to be released eventually. The two are also willing to disclose the vulnerability to Bitmain, allowing the hardware producer to patch their firmware and fix the vulnerability. But only if Bitmain stops breaching the GNU GPL.

Bitmain’s firmware is built on the Linux operating system as well as cgminer: open source mining software developed by Hilliard and others. Both Linux and cgminer are licensed under the GNU GPL. This widely used open source license allows anyone the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software — under the condition that the resulting software is free, too.

“Legally, therefore, Bitmain’s firmware should be open source as well,” Hilliard explained. “But Bitmain doesn’t seem to care about following copyright law. Unfortunately, closed source firmware is not a good thing to have on the Bitcoin network, as stuff like Antbleed can be hidden in it. It’s a centralization risk.”

It is not very clear why the mining giant is breaching the GNU GPL. Hilliard suspects it is “probably to prevent users from overclocking their machines and support costs associated with that.” Others have suggested Bitmain may prefer to keep its firmware closed source because this makes it harder for attackers to find vulnerabilities.

So far, Bitmain has not commented on the exploit at all, and its firmware is still closed source. As such, there is little reason to believe the company will change its ways now — though Hilliard remains hopeful Bitmain will comply with the GPU GPL and encourages users to file a request to have the code open sourced.

“In the past they have released what appeared to be the real source, presumably because there was public pressure to do so,” Hilliard said. “So, maybe?”

Bitroin Magazine reached out to Bitmain to ask what the company knew of the vulnerability that Hilliard found and if it had plans to fix it. We also asked if they had any intention of complying with the GNU GPL. In response, a Bitmain spokesperson issued the following statement:

“We are truly grateful to the open-source community in identifying potential vulnerabilities and we are actively investigating the matter. We will continue to do what is necessary to ensure the best and safest possible mining experience for Antminer customers.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitmain Unveils Its Latest Energy-Efficient Mining Chip for Bitcoin

Bitmain Unveils Its Latest Energy-Efficient Mining Chip for Bitcoin

China-based mining giant Bitmain has announced a new mining rig that uses less power. The hardware mining manufacturer has launched a 7nm application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) processor dubbed the BM1397.

Beyond energy efficiency, the new mining processor promises to achieve faster performance for mining cryptocurrencies that use the SHA256 algorithm for their proof of work (PoW), including Bitcoin and its hard forks.

Like the BM1391 chip that came before it, the BM1397 will be powered by the advanced semiconductor manufacturing technology called the 7nm FinFET process, integrating more than a billion transistors and “optimized for maximum efficiency.”

A statement from Bitmain on its blog reads:

“The new BM1397 chip requires lower power and can offer an energy consumption to computing ratio as low as 30J/TH. This is a 28.6 percent improvement in power efficiency in comparison with Bitmain’s previous 7nm chip, the BM1391.”

Since the market crashed last year, cryptocurrency miners have been shutting down operations across the world as it has become less profitable to mine bitcoin with falling prices and fixed energy costs. Bitmain, which has had operational issues of its own, touts its BM1397 as a solution for miners who want to improve the performance of their mining operations. The new 7nm bitcoin mining processor will feature in Bitmain’s soon-to-be-released Antminer mining rigs — the S1f7 and T17.

Bitmain also unveiled a mining rig for the Equihash algorithm used by privacy-centered crypto Zcash and an Ethereum-focused ASIC miner last year.

At the time, the development of ASIC miners prompted Ethereum’s core developers to agree to implement a new ASIC-blocking algorithm, programmatic proof of work (ProgPoW), which restricts the mining hardware on the network.

Security lead of the Ethereum Foundation, Martin Holst Swende, had noted at the time that implementing the code change would hasten the network’s eventual transition to a proof-of-stake algorithm, where ether is mined by staking coins, not by burning energy.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

BloqLabs Introduces Cryptocurrency Mining Management System

Titan bloq mining.jpg

BloqLabs has opened up the beta waitlist for Titan, a fully integrated software suite for managing cryptocurrency mining. The project was introduced by Bloq CEO and co-founder Jeff Garzik onstage during a brief speech at Binance Fair in Singapore in an overview discussion of BloqLabs.

Cryptocurrency mining can be profitable but optimizing and managing devices manually can be a pain-point for miners. From tweaking the power limit of the GPU to fixing the downtime problem at the moment it happens, these are just some of the difficulties crypto miners have to contend with when mining cryptocurrencies.

In an email correspondence with Bitcoin Magazine, principal blockchain engineer at Bloq and CEO of Titan, Ryan Condron, said Titan is the result of years of developing tools to manage their company’s mining farms. Along with Titan’s CTO, Kyle Howlett, the team believes they have found a way to help businesses maximize their ROI on mining.

“In the process of developing tools to manage our mining farms, we’ve gotten very good at fingerprinting various types of mining devices once they are plugged into a network,” said Condron. “Then, given our understanding of what makes these devices function optimally, we’ve written ways to interface with the device’s firmware. Pull all of that into a single interface, and you have a very powerful tool.”

The Titan software is free to download, and it can be installed and set up immediately on a network of mining devices. Once configured, the developer said Titan would balance the entire mining variables needed to deliver maximum profitability to the miner.

“This means adjusting for mining difficulty, coin prices, electricity costs, and so on. And, yes, it learns as it goes,” Condron explained.

Coupled with machine learning capabilities, Condron claims Titan can increase or decrease the hash power of mining farms by double digits, if configured correctly.

One way is by overclocking the GPU, where the internal clock rate is increased so that the chip can run faster. According to Condron, Titan can also leverage other factors like “maximizing uptime across the entire mining farm, temperature (internal and external) optimization, and smart electricity throttling” to optimize the mining devices.

The crypto market downturn has dragged with it some heavyweights of the crypto mining sector. One such example is China-based mining giant Bitmain, who has whittled down its activities across the world, shutting down several of its overseas offices and restructuring its operations. This unsettled mining environment could pose a conundrum for Titan, whose product is coming at a time when the mining morale is low. Condron, however, sees an opportunity.

“Titan has a powerful value proposition for miners who have scaled down their operations during the market downturn. Titan will help them ensure they are mining the most profitable coin, as well as maximize the useful life of their capital equipment and manage both fixed (e.g., headcount) and variable (e.g., electricity) operational costs,” he explained.

Titan’s beta version is targeted at a specific market of miners — medium– to large-scale miners who still rely on a manual process to manage the performance of their mining equipment.

The current software can work with devices that mine bitcoin, litecoin, ether, zcash, dash and monero. Additional crypto tokens should be rolled out before the beta release. The Titan software suite of products will be free to use, but Titan will receive a percentage of the proceeds derived from Titan-optimized hashrates.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.