HDMI color processing board used as an FPGA dev board to mine Bitcoins


The blue board seen above is the guts of a product called the eeColor Color3. It was designed to act as a pass-through between your television and HDMI source device. It boasts the ability to adjust the color saturation to suit any viewing conditions. But [Taylor Killian] could care less about what the thing was made for, he tore it open and used the FPGA inside for his own purposes.

The obvious problem with this compared to a proper dev board is that the pins are not all broken out in a user-friendly way. But he got his hands on it for free after a mail-in-rebate (you might find one online for less than $10 if you’re lucky) and it’s got an Altera Cyclone IV chip with 30k (EP4CE30F23C6N) gates in it so he’s not complaining. The first project he took on with his new toy was to load up an open source Bitcoin mining program. The image above shows it grinding away at 15 megahashes per second while consuming only 2.5 watts. Not bad. Now he just needs to make a modular rack to hold a mining farm.


  1. Yarr says:

    Oh look, it’s Hack-A-Day’s weekly bitcoin-shilling article. How’s Roger Ver doing?

    • Leithoa says:

      So repurposing a pass-through graphics adjuster to run your own software isn’t a hack? No one’s forcing you to mine or accept bitcoins as a currency. I’m sure they could put up something with an Arduino if you’d like.

    • lilozzy says:

      Eh, I know what you mean about the Bitcoin stuff, but this is a cool and legitimate hack, so I think it has a place on Hackaday. See it for the hack, not for the Bitcoin.

    • vpoko says:

      Would you rather they ignore a cool hack because the creator chose to demo it using bitcoins?

    • The whole mining thing is a good argument against the currency to me*, so its hardly pushing bitcoins to mention it.
      This is still a nice hack, mind.

      *I mean, honestly, wasting cpu power (and thus real power) to make something which amazon or google could devalue hugely overnight if they diverted there own servers to it.

      • poodle says:

        From what I understand servers are terrible at bit mining. I wonder what would happen if they did this.

        • roboman2444 says:

          This little guy is actually rather bad at mining also.
          2.5 Mhash is something that an average dual core can push out.
          I have seen custom asic chips that can push out 2.5 Ghash at the same wattage.
          Ofc, its not as cool.

          • ehrichweiss says:

            Dual core what? My quad core CPU only pushes out about 2kHash/sec per core. I’m guessing you’re referring to GPU’s

          • roboman2444 says:

            (cant reply to a comment that deep)
            @ehrichweiss I dont think you are running a very efficient miner then.
            Also 2.5 Mhash for a gpu is rather terrible. modern day graphics cards can push out over 500 Mhash, but ofcourse, for 200 watts.

        • Alex Rossie says:

          My GPU crackes out 150Mhash :( it’s not modern I guess,

      • airmansnuffy says:

        Bitcoin doesn’t work that way.

        The block creation (i.e. “mining”) rate of the entire Bitcoin network is constant, no matter how much computing power is present – the problem gets more difficult with more computing power. So unless they’re planning a 51% attack (which is a whole ‘nother thing and rather unlikely), all they can do is make mining more difficult for individual miners.

        • twdarkflame says:

          Which is the exact same as making your own worth more isnt it?
          If they have a large share of the server power, they have a larger share of whats produced…..even if, in absolute terms, the total mined is the same.

          • dave says:

            not the same. the quantity of bitcoins grows at a constant rate. the value is determined based on supply and demand. It does not depend on who holds the bitcoins. so, Amazon could dedicate enough resources so that they are the likely party to solve the hash and be awarded the new bitcoins instead of someone else, but they cannot cause the supply to increase at a faster rate than it would have increased in their absence.

          • openmakersdaily says:

            dave: no. The quantity of new mined bitcoins decreases with time.

            The TOTAL amount of bitcoins is known and fixed. Mining is more and difficult.

            Think of a gold mine.

          • dave says:

            right, the rate changes with time but only a certain number of new bitcoins can be mined for a particular timeframe.

      • Amazon and Google are not set up to do this, as mining specific ASIC hardware is now available, and Amazon/Google’s servers can’t possibly compete with that.

        Even if they could, directing a ton of computation power at the Bitcoin network does not increase the long term rate of supply. The mining difficulty self-adjusts every 2016 blocks mined, to maintain a rate of 25 bitcoins per 10 minutes. Besides, ultimately only 21 million coins can be mined, no matter how much compute power you spend on mining, and 11 million are already mined.

    • @Yarr
      Post a link to your site so I can make obtuse comments there.

    • John Locke says:

      OH yea, don’t talk about bitcoin! It messes up my world view! ;)

  2. rogier21 says:

    I wonder if the board is standard or custom made by the company from the eeColor. Because this would make an awsome ambilight hack!

  3. aisdjaiosdj says:

    Has anyone mined Bitcoin on the “Digilent Spartan-3 Starter Board”? I’m lazy and I don’t know VHDL. (I should learn, I suppose, since I own an FPGA board.)

  4. rasz says:

    Great hack.
    I frickin love re purposing heavily discounted hardware from failed startups.

    • Ren says:

      Yes, I like it too, it fits well with, refilling inkjet cartridges, expanding the features on a Fluke DVM or whats-its-name oscilloscope, turning a child’s electronic toy into a Linux machine, its a nice David v. Goliath scenario, turning tables on companies that follow the Gillette paradigm of “giving away the razor and making a huge profits on the blades”.
      Or anything related to $ony. B^)

      • Greenaum says:

        Still, the razors are just cheap bits of plastic. Whereas the blades…. er…

        • andarb says:

          I’ll give you that the refill heads are finely engineered tools, a pack of double edged safety blades is a couple bucks at CVS. The blades aren’t rocket science.

          • Montaray Jack says:

            The Tool & Die I used to work at made a die to stamp out scaple blades once. It’s trickier than it sounds. The idea of how it works is simple enough, you coin the cutting edge inbetween two anvils ground to the appropriate angle. Unfortunetely, you need near zero clearance between them in a multi-ton high speed press. Did I mention how brittle Tungeston Carbide is…

            We also made stuff for the US military that went in warheads of missles. Real rocket science

          • Montaray Jack says:

            To elaborate on this a little more, I’ll take the example of the old double edged razor blade for a butterfly razor. The material is around 0.004″ thick (0.102mm) Without knowing the shear strength of the steel used I’ll go with a standard 5% clearance between punch and die, that equates to 0.0002″(0.005 mm). What happens is the punch enters the material being stamped, plastic deformation untill the shear strength is exceeded, then it fractures. Ideally the die size should be the same size as the fractured material being forced through, You end up wth a straight section and the break tapered larger looking at the cut. Too much clearance and it will drag the stock down with it and tear, you end up with a burr on the downward side, too little clearance and the force needed from the press goes up and could possibly crack the die block and punch.
            The pilots and leader pins for the die should have a clearance less than half that, If the press has slop, or the die and punchplate get out of alignment any more than that you have shattered a lot of expensive tool-steel and carbide and production will have to stop untill a replacement tool can be built. Shouldn’t ever really happen, that’s what the parabolic points on the pilots and leader pins/ TR Jones are for.

            As far as the coining of the cutting edge, I think the idea was to increase the life of the grinding wheels, diamond grinding wheels are expensive and they do wear out.

  5. Bravo!! Just snagged 2 for $15 apiece on eBay from diff sellers, still a few left last I checked. Have a “prototype” board from Altera with only DVI in but have wanted to dabble with manipulating/compositing HDMI signals on an FPGA and this looks like it *may* work for that.

  6. jayemel says:

    For those who can’t get the rebate, a Terasic DE0-nano may be a cheaper and more versatile option, particularly for students! http://www.terasic.com.tw/cgi-bin/page/archive.pl?No=593

    • David says:

      Definitely not cheaper. If you read the blog, the Color 3 is $15 or less, and a USB Blaster is another $15. The DE0-nano is $79, or $59 for students.

      • Tom says:

        Correct on the cheaper. However, for the pure and simple fact that it has a /shedload/ of I/O, and a suite of on-board goodies (Accelerometer and DAC in addition to what’s on the Color3), it might be somewhat more appealing if you want to do anything hardware-based.

        I’ve got a DE0 somewhere at the office. Something of an impulse buy for an upcoming Uni module next year. Does anyone know of any decent “FPGAs for electrically-proficient Dummies” sort of guides? Am itching to jump into this area!

      • nephroth says:

        *Was* cheaper. Everywhere I’ve checked, they are going for around $50 used.

    • hardcore says:

      It is all a waste of money ,because 15 MH/s is not going to pull you out of bed.

      ROI is going to be about 382 days at current difficulty& price and that is not accounting for the time he spent reverse engineering an under-powerd PCB.

  7. Hugh says:

    He COULD care less? He COULD care less?! That makes no sense! It’s “he couldn’t care less”.

    • twdarkflame says:

      I know, sadly its pretty common to say it that way.

      • Patrick Dent says:

        I partake in an epic double-facepalm whenever I see someone say it that way. ‘Couldn’t’ denoting that there is no possibility for caring less. Damn ‘muricans screwing up our grammar!

        • andarb says:

          My wife ‘corrected’ me the other day when I said it this way. I said “Yes, I COULD, indeed, care less. But I don’t because it would require more energy than caring as little as I already do.” :D

          • Joe says:

            “Couldn’t care less” might be grammatical, but it’s still illogical.

            If the speaker’s level of caring is exactly zero, then the statement is a contradiction; if you cared enough to comment on it then obviously your level of caring is non-zero.

            If the speaker’s level of caring is non-zero and positive, then by definition they could care less, because the well-ordering theorem guarantees the existence of an even smaller level of caring. Therefore the statement is still contradictory.

          • twdarkflame says:

            ““ Couldn’t care less”” is a exaggeration – but its what people mean. It at least infers a very very low level. A level so low they cant conceive of lower.

            “Could care less” is utterly meaningless, as the level of carrying is anywhere between infinitesimal, and infinite.

          • mrerak says:


            This was a new one! Didn’t think people could come up with more bad examples why the “couldn’t”-version is wrong.

            The thing is, we live in world where just standing silent in a conversation is rude, and also confusing. Therefore, the sentence is logical to use. Sorry to break your bubble.

        • dave says:

          irregardless, he could care less. ;)

    • KP says:

      Haha, I was just about to comment on that. I HATE this >_<

    • Jack says:

      It’s the shorthand version of “I could care less, but i wouldn’t know how”

      • mrerak says:

        If you remove the meaning of a sentence, then you didn’t shorten it correctly. It’s still pretty short if you add “n’t”, and then it would still be logical.

    • Ren says:

      When someone once said, “The least they could’ve done was…”
      My cousin countered with, “The least they could’ve done, is what they did!”

  8. D says:

    how much would an FPGA like that cost if you bought it separately?

  9. spinningcog says:

    This looks absolutely perfect for a HDMI based ambilight clone!

  10. morbo says:

    That’s an interesting hack. Someone should keep a website of failed HW projects where an FPGA is harvestable.

  11. hardcore says:

    If you are going to do it ( re-commission scrap from Ebay)……..
    then DO IT PROPERLY…

    Dual 50A power-supply

    24 slots…… $400USD

  12. Joe says:

    According to this calculator, he’s looking at $0.07 per day with that rig given its low power consumption.

    For a mere $10K investment and farm he could be making $70/day!


    • Nova says:

      There’s a few more factors that go into this. These look to be about $20 everywhere now since most of the cheap/free ones have been snatched up. Also there is limited stock as it’s a discontinued/failed product. So good luck reaching those figures with even a 20K investment. Still a nice board for the price though, perfect if you need FPGA/HDMI.

  13. Drake says:

    Wonder what else out there contains a FPGA waiting to be nabbed

  14. John P says:

    I looked these up on amazon, and they were about $25. Then I took a nap, and when I woke up they were at $45. I hate amazon’s dynamic pricing sometimes…

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