Tiny Bitcoin Miner Plays The Lottery

Usually when we think of Bitcoin miners, we imagine huge facilities of server racks doing nothing but essentially wasting energy, all for the chance that one of those computers amongst the rows will stumble upon the correct set of numbers to get rewarded with imaginary money. The idea being that the more computers, the more chances to win. But just buying one lottery ticket is the only thing technically required to win, at least in theory. And [Data Slayer] is putting this theory to the test with this Bitcoin miner built around a single Raspberry Pi.

This tiny Raspberry Pi Zero does get a little bit of support from an Ant Miner, a USB peripheral which is optimized to run the SHA256 hashing algorithm and solve the complex mathematical operations needed to “win” the round of Bitcoin mining. Typically a large number of these would be arrayed together to provide more chances at winning (or “earning”, to use the term generously) Bitcoin but there’s no reason other than extreme statistical improbability that a single one can’t work on its own. The only other thing needed to get this setup working is to give the Pi all of the configuration information it needs such as wallet information and pool information.

This type of miner isn’t novel by any means, and in fact it’s a style of mining cryptocurrency called “lottery mining” where contributing to a pool is omitted in favor of attempting to solve the entire block by pure random chance alone in the hopes that if it’s solved, the entire reward will be claimed by that device alone. In the case of this device, the current hash rate calculated when it was contributing to a pool means that when lottery mining, it has about a one-in-two-billion chance of winning. That’s essentially zero, which is basically the same chance of winning a lottery that pays out actual usable currency.

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Mine Bitcoin With An ESP8266

With all the hype surrounding cryptocurrencies and the current high not quite so high but still pretty eye-watering price of Bitcoin, there are some things which might once have been pure folly that could now be deemed worthy of pursuit. There is an excavation mission being considered to unearth a hard drive containing an early Bitcoin wallet in a Welsh landfill, for instance. But a more approachable task for you may be the possibility of mining using minimal hardware.

Take [Merlot Machina]’s project for example, implementing a Bitcoin miner on an ESP8266. Part of this is the timeless pursuit of answering the joke question: “Will it mine Bitcoin”, and the other part is looking at this like a lottery ticket. Is it a worthwhile punt at a prize for a minimal investment?

He gives us a rundown of some of the statistics involved, and comes away with the conclusion that it is something like a not-very-good lottery ticket. The ESP performs 1200 hashes per second while the entire Bitcoin community manages about 1.2 exahashes per second. This he calculates gives him a 1 in 1016 chance of mining a block every ten minutes, which for the tiny cost of an ESP and its relatively frugal power budget is a chance he sees as worth taking.

So far he has implemented the hashing algorithm and verified it against a known hash on an already-mined block. At this point though he’s hit a roadblock in the need to run Bitcoin core on a server to keep the ESP supplied with new block headers, so the ESP miner remains a proof of concept. The write-up is still an interesting read though, and given that many readers will have a few spare ESP boards it’s possible that one of you may take it to the next level and Win It Big. If that’s you, you’ll be able to sit on your private island sipping a cool drink, and laugh at the commenters who said it would never happen. Meanwhile here at Hackaday we’ll stick to tried-and-trusted revenue generation strategies, such as bringing you the latest hardware hacks.

This might seem a peculiarly slow miner, but it’s not the slowest we’ve seen by any means. The ever-prolific [Ken Shirriff] has tried it on an IBM 1401 mainframe and a Xerox Alto, and you can of course do it the old-fashioned way.

Astronaut Or Not — Voter Lottery Tomorrow!


Fair warning, if you haven’t voted on Astronaut or Not you may come up short tomorrow. [Brian] will once again draw a random hacker number at 10am EDT (GMT -4).

If that hacker has voted in this round (we’re still in the first round of voting) they will win this fabulous oscilloscope. If they haven’t voted… no fancy scope for you!

We’re hoping to close this round of voting early next week at which time we’ll award prizes to the projects that received the most votes and start another round with a different theme.