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back to article It's spade sellers who REALLY make a killing in a gold rush: It's OVER for graphics card mining

If you’ve been mining "low-price Bitcoin wannabe" Litecoins with a rig of graphics cards, now is the time to shuffle them off to eBay – unless you can find a better use for them. Chinese chip manufacturer Innosilicon is now selling its “A2 Terminator”, a 28nm ASIC for mining Litecoins. It follows on the heels of its A1 offering …

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I may be wrong but...

Aren't AMD cards used almost exclusively for mining?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I may be wrong but...

Yup - because they are nowhere nearly as good as Nvidia at most other things. Nvidia aren't _too_ bad at mining either. 780Ti is good for about 700KH/s at scrypt, vs. about 870KH/s for 290X.

But now that GPU mining days are over I rather expect a flood of ATI cards, mostly 7750 and above, on ebay. With that kind of supply pressuring the prices, AMD will find it very hard to sell any new cards. As they start dropping, Nvidia will find it difficult to justify an increasing price premium (they may be better, but not that much better for most people's single GPU single monitor gaming rigs).

I can't help but feel that Nvidia are going to be worse off here - at least ATI made some money on the extra sales in the past year.

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Meh

Re: I may be wrong but...

"Yup - because they are nowhere nearly as good as Nvidia at most other things."

Well, on price they're about as good as nVidia for gaming, which is the usual use for a graphics card. It depends if there's any deals on, and exactly which segment you look at (from cheap up to to of the line cards), but they're generally quite evenly matched.

I think currently nVidia make the fastest single graphics card, which is important for the few people who can afford to spend £500+ on one, but for the rest of us it's less clear cut.

(I tend to alternate between 'team red' and 'team green' each time I upgrade)

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Anonymous Coward

With that kind of supply pressuring the prices, AMD will find it very hard to sell any new cards

Yea, because everyone wants to buy an ex-mining card thats been thrashed to within an inch of it's life.

Unless they're super cheap most people with half a clue will steer well clear.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: With that kind of supply pressuring the prices, AMD will find it very hard to sell any new cards

That heavily exercised silicon is more likely to fail in the future is actually a complete myth. There is no evidence at all of that being the case.

Manufacturers cannot afford a warranty replacement rate of more than low single figure % points. If GPUs are nowdays significantly used for mining, then if they were more likely to fail under that load, the manufacturers would have reduced at least the default temperature/power/clock limits to compensate. This has quite evidently not happened and I have not heard of mass bankruptcies of GPU manufacturers.

Based on that I call FUD.

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Re: I may be wrong but...

"Well, on price they're about as good as nVidia for gaming, which is the usual use for a graphics card."

I am inclined to agree, if your use-case is a simple single-monitor non-virtualized setup which is what the vast majority of gamers use.

Having been up to my eyeballs in multi-monitor virtualized setups for the past year and a half, my finding is that the Nvidia drivers handle more complex configurations much better. They generally "just work", whereas AMD cards are problematic on most levels.

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Re: I may be wrong but...

>Yea, because everyone wants to buy an ex-mining card thats been thrashed to within an inch of it's life.

If it has been used almost continuously, then it will have been subjected to very little thermal cycling. This is in contrast to a gaming card which will probably have been through several hot/cool cycles a day.

Thermal cycling is more likely to cause mechanical problems with solder connections etc than a nice constant load. However, as another poster has observed, component designers better understand how to mitigate this these days.

There were some issues with the introduction of lead-free solder a few years back (some say it was the cause of the infamous XBOX 360 hardware failure dubbed the 'Red Ring of Death'). I have been told that a certain UK manufacturer of very advanced metrology equipment still uses lead-based solder, but only in kit that has been ordered by the Ministry of Defence.

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Re: I may be wrong but...

Aerospace still uses lead based solder, in fact it's normally a requirement that it has to as lead free solder doesn't work in that environment.

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Re: I may be wrong but...

For a good overview of the biggest problem with lead-free solder, google "tin whiskers". It is a major problem, especially for hardware that has to have a long live expectancy.

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Re: I may be wrong but...

"(some say it was the cause of the infamous XBOX 360 hardware failure dubbed the 'Red Ring of Death')"

That was actually just down to a really shit heatsink fitting. I had a gen-1 xbox360 which I fixed myself with a new set of screws and paste etc. and it has never missed a beat since.

It was a bitch cleaning off the old paste though.

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GPU Mining is not dead

It will simply shift to other ASIC resistant coins based on scrypt-N or other algos such as Vertcoin etc.

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Re: GPU Mining is not dead

Exactly this. YACoin, YBCoin and Vertcoin are all potentially profitable to mine with graphics cards. CPU mining can even be worthwhile.

Though I suppose we should thank El Reg for helping put people off trying GPU mining, more pool shares for us.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: GPU Mining is not dead

because everyone's getting super-rich of this mining malarkey.

Just switch to another, more odd type of coin that no-one really wants.

If Bitcoin's lost 60% of it's value in less than 6 months does that really bode well for other coins?

Are people still stupid enough to pour money into it all??

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Re: GPU Mining is not dead

There is a very informative video about Vertcoin and the impact of ASICs on Lite- and Bitcoin available here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAnxxWvzMP8

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Re: GPU Mining is not dead

Another altcoin to look out for is GBCoin - http://gbcoinfoundation.org/ got 7 x MSI 750 Ti OC GPUs hashing away on the gbc pools. I looked at these new ASIC miners for scrypt but all are pre-order and how long before they burn out or become obsolete? I'm in coin mining for the fun, if profit comes later then good.

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Re: Are people still stupid enough to pour money into it all??

You know what they say about the birth rate of suckers.

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re "unless you can find a better use for them"

In global (rather than personal greed) terms almost anything is a better use for a GPU. Spending all this computer power and the fuel to run them just to generate some data with no real (rather than arbitary) value has to be one of the craziest financial ideas since the Golgafrinchians burnt the forests to increase the value of the leaves in their wallets.

Such a waste. Running BOINC or Folding@home would be a much more worthwhile use of this hardware and electricity. Heck even playing games would at least keep someone harmlessly entertained for a few hours.

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Re: re "unless you can find a better use for them"

Is there not a sound case on banning these virtual currencies on environmental grounds alone?

And don't get me started on the ethics of high frequency trading ... sad to see IT exploited by the greedy with no thought to the consequences.

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... "just to generate some data with no real (rather than arbitary) value "

You might make the same point about the greenback. Spending all your day toiling away for a piece of paper without any inherent value (can't eat, can't use as a tool, ...) is equally absurd. Unless other people are willing to exchange said greenback / bitcoin for items with real value.

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Re: re "unless you can find a better use for them"

That is my first reaction, but compared to the energy, pollution and human fatalities associated with the mining of real gold, it appears to be the lesser of two evils.

Ultimately, there is a requirement to prevent Alice from writing as many "I, Alice, owe Bob $20" notes as she wants - 'double spending'. A public ledger is a good idea, but without a Proof of Work, there would be nothing to stop Alice from controlling 50%+ of the public ledger.

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Re: ... "just to generate some data with no real (rather than arbitary) value "

"You might make the same point about the greenback. Spending all your day toiling away for a piece of paper without any inherent value (can't eat, can't use as a tool, ...) is equally absurd"

Not the same thing. Its about the value of the work done to get the currency, not whether the currency itself has any intrinsic value. At least in that case you've (for most jobs) done something useful in order to be rewarded with that currency - built a house, grown some food, etc. With virtual currencies the 'work' done isn't of any use except to support the currency. Even then paper money can still be used as toilet paper or burnt for fuel if the banks ever collapse completely.

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Re: re "unless you can find a better use for them"

@Dave you are forgetting that somebody still has to dig for that gold (and rare earth and heavy metails, silizium etc.) in order to make your 'coin rig.

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Re: ... "just to generate some data with no real (rather than arbitary) value "

The point is not the worth of the bitcoin or the greenback. The question is, did you do any valuable work?

To earn a greenback at least you would have to persuade someone that the value of your work, entitles you to this greenback.

To earn a bitcoin you've solved a riddle.

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Re: prevent Alice from writing as many "I, Alice, owe Bob $20" notes as she wants

Unfortunately while bitcoin provides Alice with a finite number of bits of green paper and hides some of them quite well it doesn't stop her switching to notes on pink paper (litecoin) when she runs out of green paper or it just gets too hard to find.

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Anonymous Coward

@stucs201

You mean just like how I can switch between any number of paper currencies if I can't get enough of one, or could even create one of my own using some or all of the same methods as existing currencies (anything from the basic concept of writing "IOU" on pieces of paper to incorporating the same printing technology and infrastructure as existing currencies, just like how Litecoin is a modified version of the Bitcoin algorithm).

The obvious problem is what the value of those alternative currencies are to people, and (moreso) what the "value"- if any- of that newly-created personal currency is. Whether the notes are scribbled IOUs or more advanced, *that* currency is still unlikely to have much buying power if it's only backed by my happy smile. :-)

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Re: @stucs201

You're not wrong as such. I'm not saying that the problem didn't exist before, just that bitcoin and its derivatives aren't solving it (which seemed to be the suggestion of another poster).

The real problem is people valueing shuffling bits around in a computer over things of actual worth: resources to build things, energy to run things, scientific knowlege. All too often aquiring the real wealth is seen as an expense, not a benefit.

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Re: re "unless you can find a better use for them"

Yes whining on the Internet is such a better use of electricity.

This is no better than the people who think you save the planet by switching off the lights for an hour. Yes, the Bitcoin network has a cost, but unless you can show this is significantly worse than a equivalent method (banks, Paypal etc), this is not a fair argument, and falls under "I don't like this, therefore no one else should".

I'd have more respect if you were a green person criticising all kinds of energy use, but you're not - you're someone who thinks that as long as you turn off the lights for an hour, or criticise the use of things that you're not interested in, that makes you green even though you happily use energy-guzzling computers the rest of the time.

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Re: re "unless you can find a better use for them"

You think there is a sound case for banning anything that uses energy, if someone (who?) deems it not worthy?

There's a long list of things on that list, long before we get to virtual currencies. ("But this ATM requires electricity to run! How environmentally unfriendly!")

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Re: re "unless you can find a better use for them"

I've no problem with people using energy for whatever they feel they want to. If they've done sufficient real work to earn the money to pay for that energy then fine - thats their perogative. However being expected to be rewarded for running specialised hardware that doesn't actually do anything? There the money is flowing in the wrong direction. The only people crazier than those who expect money in exchange for meaningless bits are those actually handing over money for them.

Yes you're right there is a cost to all forms of currency exchange, but at least with more conventional currencies there should be a reduction in cost as technology improves and gets more efficient. These virtual currency things are desinged to consume ever increasing resources as time goes on.

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Re: ... "just to generate some data with no real (rather than arbitary) value "

"Even then paper money can still be used as toilet paper or burnt for fuel if the banks ever collapse completely." This has been tested, in Somalia. The value of the note drops until it is more or less what it costs to print and distribute it. Because everybody and their dog is free to try their hand at making their own.

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Re: re "unless you can find a better use for them"

Yes whining on the Internet is such a better use of electricity.

It's probably a much smaller use, at any rate.

you happily use energy-guzzling computers the rest of the time

"Energy-guzzling"? What do you think he's running, a UNIVAC 1?

My two laptops together draw 145W maximum. That's less than 1300 kWh for an entire year. A window A/C unit could easily use more power over the course of the summer, so by not air-conditioning my house I'm already ahead. (Of course, by not commuting to work in a personal car I'm already well ahead of the average IT worker in the US, in terms of personal power consumption. Not that I care - that sort of comparison is a fool's game.)

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Doesn't add up

Graphics cards are being sold because they don't make financial sense to use them for mining. Surely the same applies to mining machines upon first sale, whatever technology they're using, else the manufacturers could make more money using them themselves.

I suspect that most buyers haven't figured this out, or they don't plan to pay for the electricity.

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Re: Doesn't add up

What to do with all these GPUs?

I'd almost be tempted to go onto eBay and start building a render farm... except that renting the GPU cycles from the cloud is becoming a viable option.

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Re: Doesn't add up

Yes if a guy came up to me and said he could sell me a machine that would make gold from nothing...I'd be suspicious.

"Hmmm well why aren't you using it then?"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doesn't add up

The difference with physical mining is quite big, actually. Someone owns the physical land and would disapprove (sometimes legally, sometimes violently) to Caterpillar or whoever making off with a bunch of whatever mineral. That means that mining equipment can profitably be sold to people who can profit using it. Here the barrier to use is much smaller and so it does seem like a mugs game.

People are right that gold doesn't make more sense intrinsically but we're used to gold and the balance of it is in rough correlation to the balance of actual power and wealth, so it works as a good enough proxy. Bitcoins don't, at least not yet, and the disapproval from necessary institutions makes me doubt it ever will.

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Re: Doesn't add up

>...we're used to gold and the balance of it is in rough correlation to the balance of actual power and wealth, so it works as a good enough proxy. Bitcoins don't, at least not yet, and the disapproval from necessary institutions makes me doubt it ever will.

Fair enough, but most of us don't use gold as a currency, and the currencies we do use haven't been linked to it for decades.

The strength of currencies is sometimes seen as correlating with actual 'wealth' and power, except for when a financial crash reveals the convoluted games that have been played with it.

Maybe the skyscrapers of New York, the neo-classical architecture of many financial institutions and the ritual of a man with a red briefcase all play a part in the perception of currencies as 'real'.

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Re: Doesn't add up

"What to do with all these GPUs?"

I have some $orkplace projects which are waiting for the GPU pricing bubble to pop. Quite mundane stuff really - mostly chewing on planetary albedo data.

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Re: Doesn't add up

Once the GPU pricing bubble pops, I'm gonna buy myself a rig and mine some Vertcoin!

To each his own. :P Good luck with your project!

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Anonymous Coward

Granted that passing around little pieces of paper may look strange to the uninitiated observer

But Bitcoins and their ilk are seriously weird to any but hardcore techies.

How increasingly complex number crunching produces items that have currency-like properties is beyond my brainpower in the first place, but the fact that people persist in spite of institutional non-acceptance is even stranger.

Sure, the regulatory environment might get friendlier (though I doubt it, because national currencies give powerful countries a very useful policy tool that the US, China etc. would struggle to run their economies without) but even then the problems of fraud and online technical attack, which banks more or less insure you against most of the time don't exist here. I assumed MtGox would see a quiet winding down of the whole thing.

I'm definitely missing a lot of the detail because my brain doesn't work the right way, but I still think this is a bad idea that will go away fairly promptly.

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Boffin

Re: Granted that passing around little pieces of paper may look strange to the uninitiated observer

"But Bitcoins and their ilk are seriously weird to any but hardcore techies."

Nah, they are Tulips.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Granted that passing around little pieces of paper may look strange to the uninitiated observer

Actually I'd say tulips are even weirder, in that theyre perishable even without the lack of care required to lose money or Bitcoins.

But otherwise you're right and that's really my point. Bitcoin mania doesn't make much sense and is probably doomed to live on only as a cautionary tale in economics text books.

Like all good bubbles, though, I wish I'd got in early!

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Re: Granted that passing around little pieces of paper may look strange to the uninitiated observer

Fraud is very profitable and is probably the oldest profession around. The only thing you need for fraud are gullible people. And a few are born every second.

Gullible people are always looking for a quick fix, a short cut, an easy way to make lots of money without doing any actual work. The think they're smarter than us, and that makes them vulnerable.

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Re: Nah, they are Tulips

The less well known of these things aren't even Tulips. They're Flanian Pobble Beads.

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Re: Granted that passing around little pieces of paper may look strange to the uninitiated observer

Bitcoins have value for the same reasons gold has value: both are hard to fake, available in limited supply, and facilitate trade. Bitcoins are hard to fake because there is a public ledger recording who owns them. Anyone can write updates to the ledger, but no-one else will believe them unless they have all the right digital signatures etc. That makes it almost impossible to spend coins you don't own.

However, because Bitcoin is distributed, it's possible to get two versions of the ledger, both equally valid, but different. In that case miners effectively vote for which one wins. To prevent someone stuffing the ballot box, votes are made expensive, and that's where the "proof of work" comes in: the winner is the (valid) ledger that has had the most CPU cycles spent on it.

So part of the complex number-crunching is for validating digital signatures, but most of it is for achieving consensus about ordering of updates.

The regulatory environment isn't as hostile as you seem to think it is. Both USA and UK governments consider Bitcoin to be legal, and issue guidance on how to pay taxes on profits you make with it.

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Other uses?

Can we use these mining ASICs for anything else? Apart from trying to find passwords that generate exposed hashes on PCs / Servers.

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Re: Other uses?

The clue is in the name.... Application Specific Integrated Circuits.

You could massage code for other algorithms to work on a mining ASIC, but you would lose the efficiencies of the ASIC, which is their whole point.

Litecoin was supposed avoid the whole GPU (and later ASIC) game, because it was based on part of the Scrypt Proof of Work... it differs from the Bitcoin PoF in that it requires much more memory. The idea is that CPUs can compete, and that specialist hardware gives less of an advantage. However, this is not the case, due to the way it was actually implemented in Litecoin.

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So, how many

vultures to a Bitcoin? Is there a proper El Reg convertion rate yet?

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Not that a good a deal.

There is in the pipeline a 135Mhs for $4888 from silicon art in the CA.

As always its always pre-order and take delivery later,Why didn't Nvidia/AMS make a ASIC board that slots in like a GFX card the fools.

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Anonymous Coward

Nonces Getting In On The Act?

Unfortunate product name http://hashfast.com/category/golden-nonce-asic/

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FAIL

Re: Nonces Getting In On The Act?

Not really

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptographic_nonce

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