As the total hashrate of the Bitcoin network continues to rise mining for Bitcoins using GPUs is quickly becoming obsolete. In order to stay involved in Bitcoin and continue mining without losing money on electricity I decided to order a few of the ASICMiner USB Block Erupters.
BTC Guild recently started reselling the Block Erupters as individual units eliminating the need to participate in a larger group buy which has made it much easier to purchase these tiny ASICS. You can also purchase them directly on Amazon, or you can buy some Bitcoins and buy them directly from BTC Guild, or on the Bitcoin auction site Bitmet as well.
Adafruit recently posted a guide explaining how to use the Raspberry Pi and PiMiner as a headless controller for Bitcoin ASIC miners. This seemed like a cool use for the Pi and reason to get the soldering iron out so I decided to order the parts and put it together.
Below is a list of all of the parts I used for this project. You don’t necessarily need a model B Pi, the model A would work just fine if that’s what you happen to have on hand. You don’t need a very big SD card either but if you need to purchase one you might as well buy an 8GB card since the prices are so cheap now.
|Raspberry Pi Model B||$39.99|
|Adafruit Pi Box Enclosure||$14.95|
|Adafruit RGP Positive 16×2 LCD Keypad Kit||$24.95|
|Edimax Nano Wireless Adapter||$9.99|
|D-Link 7 Port Powered USB Hub||$25.18|
|Arctic Breeze USB Powered Fan||$7.99|
|SanDisk 8GB SD Card||$7.54|
|ASICMiner USB Block Erupter||$8.99|
ASICMiner USB Block Erupters
The Block Erupters are one of the few ASICs that you can purchase without having to wait for a pre-order. With a power requirement of only 2.5 watts each these are a good option for anyone looking to stop mining on their GPUs and move to a more power efficient mining rig.
The three ASICs below are from the saphire batch and produce about 330 mh/s each. I ordered these from BTC Guild and received them in about a week.
If you don’t have any Bitcoins to use for the ASIC purchase on BTC Guild’s store you can easily acquire some through Coinbase.
The Block Erupters use a passive heatsink for cooling. After running for a few minutes the heatsink gets extremely hot, you can easily burn your hand on them if you are not careful. While using a fan isn’t required doing so keeps the error rate low and will probably extend the lifespan of the miners.
The Arctic Breeze fan works good for this project since it has an adjustable gooseneck that allows it to be pointed where it is needed. This fan is almost completely silent too, I can barely even notice it when is running.
This image shows how far you can bend the fan, it keeps my miners nice and cool.
USB Hub Compatibility
When I first looked at doing this project I was planning to use an Anker 10 port USB 3.0 hub that would allow the ASICS to sit vertically into the hub. As I started researching this hub I found that many users reported issues with using the Raspberry Pi with the Anker hub. As I began reading I discovered that the Pi has several known issues with USB 3.0 hubs in general. More specifically it seems that the Pi has issues enumerating USB 1.x/2.x devices on 3.0 hubs. Since the Block Erupters are USB 1.1 devices they fall into the scope of this bug.
Several people were reporting success with the D-Link DUB-H7 hub, and it is also listed on the RPi verified peripherals wiki page. I decided to purchase this hub to avoid any potential compatibility issues and I can confirm that it does work well with the Pi.
Why I Like The Adafruit Pi Box Enclosure
There are quite a few different enclosure available for the Pi but the Adafruit Pi Box is a good fit for this project since the top portion of the case can be removed providing easy access to the GPIO pins on the Pi. If you happen to have access to a 3D printer or a Full Spectrum Hobby Laser you can download the SVG file and make your own case.
If you purchase this case from Adafruit it comes as a kit that can be assembled very easily.
Here is what the case looks like after it has been assembled.
This video shows how the Pi Box is assembled.
Adafruit LCD Kit
Adding the LCD to this project is optional but besides being very cool it gives you an easy way to check on the status of the ASIC miners. Adafruit provides some python code that displays several screens of information on the LCD such as hash rate, errors, current Bitcoin prices, and network difficulty.
So if you plan to run these miners without a monitor connected to the Pi then the LCD makes perfect sense. I also enjoy soldering electronics so the fact that the LCD comes as a kit adds to the general fun level of the project for me.
Here is what the Adafruit kit looks like.
The picture below shows what the entire board looks like after assembly. The soldering difficulty level was pretty easy, the entire board took less than 30 minutes to build.
The main screen shows the number of accepted shares, rejects, and average hash rate.
Displaying the current BTC price, and the daily high and low price.
Listing the number of devices and the hardware error rate. When using a fan the error rate remains below 1%.
I’ve been running my ASIC mining rig for about a week now with very few issues. The cgminer monitoring script seems to occasionally crash which results in the LCD locking up. The monitoring script runs as a separate process so it does not stop cgminer from running when it dies. Aside from debugging the python script a simple solution would be to setup a cron job to periodically restart the script.
Are you using the Pi to control your Bitcoin mining system? If so do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment below to assist other miners.