Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Miner

Mining bitcoins is becoming a fool’s errand, but there’s always some new piece of hardware coming out that allows those hard-core miners to keep ahead of the curve. One such piece of hardware are new custom ASIC devices that are just as fast as an FPGA while being much less expensive. A lot of these ASIC devices come in interesting packages that look just like a large USB thumb drive. Of course this is the perfect opportunity to show off what the Raspberry Pi can do by mining Bitcoins at rates comparable to the best graphics used in mining today.

The Raspberry Pi simply doesn’t have enough horsepower to mine bitcoins at any worthwhile rate. There are, however, USB ASIC devices that will mine for you at about the same speed as a high-end graphics card. Since multiple ASIC devices can be controlled through a USB hub, it’s simply a matter of plugging a USB hub into a Raspberry Pi, loading up CGminer, and letting your new PiMiner loose on a mining pool.

The Adafruit Pi Miner uses one of their really cool LCD character displays and keypad to display the current mining rate, accepted shares, and enough information for you to calculate how long it will take to break even with your Pi powered mining rig. How long that will be for this four device rig we’ll leave to the comments section.

85 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Miner

  1. Holy crap! 1.3 ghash?
    i was surprised by how fast this project can mine…

    Also, if i were him, i would probably have gotten a different ASIC.
    Im pretty sure you can get 1 ghash ones for under 500$ now.

    I would also love to see this thing be more expandable. 1 raspi connected to a 20ghash set of asic chips…

  2. Just think, if another BitCoin-like crypto-currency rears its head then the richest people will be all those who have serious number crunching rigs – just load the new mining software and make a small fortune.

    1. Actually, the most “promising” ones to take over after bitcoin is the ones that requires a lot of RAM to crunch, in order to thwart someone who can collect enough cheap ASIC/GPU devices.

          1. I’d feel better if bitcoin mining involved processing NASA data to find new earth-like planets or curing cancer or something, anything… even calculating the next number in pi or discovering primes would be more beneficial than the current set up – wasting electricity, clock cycles and mindpower.

      1. It’s not a bad idea at all. Every currency (even fiat currencies) are backed by something which is mined. When a country doesn’t produce anything of value and attempts to control its fiat currency you end up with hyperinflation.

        Bitcoin is not mined from nothing. It uses the economic penalty of electrical cost + the principle that coins get harder to mine to control inflation. The only people who really made a killing in bitcoins are those who started mining years ago.

        1. Bitcoin mining is necessary for the system to work. It uses controlled inflation (seignorage) in order to pay for a distributed network that verify’s transactions. A system that did not involve and inflation based reward would have to put in place fees for processing transactions. (someone has to pay to verify all these transactions)

    2. None of these ASIC ones will do, though, since the new currency will be different. GPUs are general enough that you could change the algorithm, but these chips are custom-tailored for this exact protocol.

    3. There’ve been a few that have attempted to “improve” on Bitcoin. Pretty soon people started making minor tweaks, mining a bunch of their own “currency” in advance, then launching it with plenty of hype. They then sell on their pile of newer, mintier, currency to any idiot who’ll have it, then retire to the Maldives, laughing.

      The amount of scams, some of them pretty facile, surrounding this whole business is immense. I hereby predict Bitcoin will go nowhere. Bitcoins will be worthless, and a few poor suckers won’t even have anyone they can sue.

      1. I’ve been mining bitcoins for a little over two years. In that time I have never had a month where I didn’t make money, sometimes it was a little thin, but most months were great.

        During that time the price of bitcoins has gone up /down but the trends has always been upwards, apart from a notable crash. My equipment, which consists of 3 machines with 5 graphics cards each, has long since paid for itself.

        Who would I sue, over what again?

    4. This doesn’t make sense — or at least it shouldn’t: all the cryptocurrencies re exchangeable, and they are all expendable for games. Thus their costs should go pretty quickly to the price of the cheapest game, and then roughly overnight to the price of electricity. In Iceland.

      Can anybody point me to a site that’s already done the homework on this? I assume that the insiders at all the exchanges have, but if I were them I wouldn’t be publishing my results all that tooty toot sweet.


  3. I do have to say, even though bitcoin isn’t really something that “helps” people, it has definitely pushed technologies for crypto ahead. In about 4 years, the efficiency of doing sha-like hashes (for an average computer savvy guy) has increased over 10000 times.

    1. That’s what I thought too, but then it turns out most of these ASICs can’t actually do a plain-Jane round of SHA256 on demand. Bitcoin uses 2 rounds of SHA256 back to back, so all these ASICs are optimized for that, making them effectively useless for any other cryptographic operations.

      AFAIK only the butterfly lab FPGA miner can do single round SHA256, due to it being reprogrammable.

  4. I still fail to understand how bitcoin mining is legal. “Hey look, we just guessed a sequence of numbers that allows us to claim a certain amount of money!”. (Thinking about it that sounds like the Lottery)

    1. Bitcoins are legal for the same reason rare baseball cards are legal. You could spend your time going through boxes and packages looking for the cards that people want and are willing to pay for, or you could spend your time looking through SHA256 hashes looking for the numbers that people want and are willing to pay for.

      1. Exactly. Bitcoins are premised in the labor theory of value, but their actual value stems from the fact that people believe they have value. The only differences between bitcoins and dollars are the number of people who’ll give you stuff for them, size and power of the organizations backing them up, and the number of guns backing those organizations up.

      1. Once upon a time tulips – yeah tulips – were the currency of fortunes in Holland. Amazing riches were had simply by trading in tulips. Then, one day suddenly – poof – no more market, fortunes lost. Bitcoin – hmm – even less tangible than tulips. It will be interesting what the future holds for this.

        1. Bitcoin is tangible in that it has scarcity. Anything which is scarce is typically valuable. Tulips got replaced by gold standard followed by a fiat currency backed by the economic production of countries for that reason.

      1. Please quote where I said I think it should be illegal. It really is not that hard to find tons of info in my post where I was asking why it is or is not illegal.

    2. not illegal. Its just the currency is rigged from the start to bias towards those with the most computer power – and time to waste. Its like having a currency based on who can burn the most wood :P

      1. Sounds about like the same as when steam-powered gold mining came about? Any mining is biased by resources of miner. You can pan for gold in a stream or go full-boat into mining equipment. same investment to payoff risk. If you pan, nothing to loose, but not much to gain. If you buy a big miner, you’ll likely make more, but you never know. It might go big or the currency might crash. I don’t really see mining bitcoin much differently from mining gold. Different methods and means, same idea. Tradeable for other currencies based on a varying rate based on supply, demand, and other factors.

      2. Or maybe burning oil? The mining protocol forces those doing the mining to keep a log of all bitcoin transactions, and the mining angle just gives them the incentives to maintain the system.

        That said unless BTC becomes more useful for buying stuff it may be in for an early grave. That said the third world may be moving toward BTC due to the inflation problem and we may be forced to move by weight of numbers when they abandown the USD.

    3. The law on what qualifies as a lottery is clear: It must have 3 things. Any less is generally referred to as a sweepstakes, and falls under far different legal jurisdiction.

      Those 3 requirements are:
      1. Selective Entry (This is why all those candy bar ones say “No Purchase Necessary”, and it is also lacked in bitcoins. Anyone can mine.)
      2. Random Chance (This is one thing bitcoins lack. It’s not random at all.)
      3. A Prize (This is why people care at all)

      I concede that you could argue the second, but the first is quite concrete: Bitcoins are not a lottery.

      1. A single found “real” hash will reel in 50 bitcoins. At the current rate, about $5000.
        But as there are thousands and thousands of people trying to find those hashes, the chances of YOU finding one are slim. If you’re trying to recoup say $250 investment in a GPU, and the average time to recoup that is a year, you’d have a 1/20 chance of “winning the lottery” and getting $5000, and a 19/20 chance of getting nothing.
        So there are “pools”. You join a pool, you try to find a hash for the pool, but you have to share it with the pool if you find one, but will share if someone else finds it. There are checks to keep everybody honest. (you can’t profit from your find if you do find it, and you can’t work for yourself but also submit to the pool).

        I don’t know what the current “earning speed” is for 1GH/s. I don’t know what his rig cost. So I can’t calculate the recoup time for you.

          1. I looked into mining coins without spending any money buying new hardware and just using what I got, turns out I’d spend more on electricity than I’d gain from the bitcoins, I’d earn more from walking the streets looking for real dropped coins!

          2. each of these usb blocks needs 2.5 watts of power, and the rpi not much more

            so in total, this will chew MUCH less power then a full desktop with a bunch of video cards

          1. A RPi is about 4W (http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5336), each of the 4 Block Erupter is 2.55W (according to vendor). So the setup need about ~14W (or 3A at 5v). A PicoPSU claims a 94% efficiency at this load from a 12v DC source (http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-80). A AC to 12v DC has about the same efficiency (http://www.mini-box.com/60w-12v-5A-AC-DC-Power-Adapter). Combined, that’s about a 90% efficiency. That’s about 16Wh of payed electricity.
            4 Block Erupter + shipping = ~950$
            Rapsberry Pi + shipping = ~50$
            PicoPSU + AC Adapter + shipping = ~80$
            Total = ~1080$
            Accodring to http://www.bitcoinx.com/profit/, using the default value except for price, hash rate and power consumption, hardware break even is 1 year, 33 days.

          2. That doesn’t take into account difficulty increases. Most estimates agree that the block erupter will never ROI even though the proce just moved down to .99btc

          3. Doesn’t that depend on the yoyo-ing relationship between Bitcoins and real money?

            I won’t go on, I’ll let buttcoin.org do that. But while the tech is a nice idea, the economic side looks a bit under-manned. Some of the richest men in the world are currency sharks. Even small-time hustlers seem to be fucking Bitcoin over day after day.

            If you want to somehow keep the whole concept unattached to actual real money, it might work, maybe on it’s own planet. But if you want to exchange it for real cash, or goods that have a dollar / Euro value, a bunch of well-meaning but blind and defenseless geekfish have to go swimming in the big nasty pond.

    1. Money is stupid, yet they are always printing more of it, and more of it, and more of it, and more …. until it will eventually be worthless when people eventually cop on to how much has been printed.

      1. That’s “quantitative easing” when they do that. And it is very stupid.
        But a currency can exist without it. Money as a token of worth isn’t stupid at all.

        With bitcoins you just replacing a centralized “generation from nothing” with one based on computing power and luck.

        1. “generation from nothing” money is backed by gold. bit coin is unbacked same as most game currencies like WOW or EVE. While the amount of gold a dollar will buy will decrees as more money representing that gold is printed it still has physical backing in a item existing in the real wold.

          1. Fiat currency has long stopped being back by gold, friend. The last time the dollar was pegged to the gold was 1934. Incidentally, this was the last time our gold reserve was audited. Now it’s mostly based on trust, ie. In Dollar We Trust, even though we owe more than 16 trillion and has 20 billion in gold reserve.

  5. I can’t help wondering if the bitcoin company is a clever front for ‘No Such Agency’ and bitcoin miners are in fact unknowingly helping the said agency to build a nice reverse hash dictionary at private expense …. :-)

    1. You would be even safer if you invested with with Madoff. The guy was a genius and your money would be safe with him. Look at how many years he manages to make it all last.

    1. Some reasons to want bitcoin:

      You want to pay or receive money anonymously. This doesn’t have to be some illegal activity, it could be donating to a political party.

      You want to transfer money to another country without paying excessive exchange /bank fees.

        1. Download MultiBit to create a wallet with an address, then buy some Bitcoins with USD/GBP/wahtever via various methods, then use MultiBit to send them to another wallet using its address, such as this one:
          Similar to sending an email, with an attachment of some money.
          Or you can keep them in your own wallet and access it from anywhere with da internetz.

    1. AIUI, no. It’s completely optimised to do Bitcoin hashing, and no other function at all.

      An FPGA can be re-programmed at will. But these are ASICs. Dedicated silicon that can’t be changed. The circuits are designed for specific Bitcoin operations and will only ever do that.

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