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March 29, 2014

Bitcoin mining with ASIC mining chips and Raspberry Pi with custom software

Carlson and his company MegaBigPower has to keep expanding and upgrading his Bitcoin processing power to remain at seven to 10 percent of the world's Bitcoin mining. Global hashing power is estimated at about 39.5 petahash, putting Carlson's 2.2 petahash at about 5.6 percent of the world's total. Carlson intends to add another petahash within a month, bringing his percentage up to about 8 percent. The current operations are fueled by thousands of mining rigs containing more than 1.4 million BitFury mining chips, while Raspberry Pis loaded with custom software direct traffic on each rig.

A new board MegaBigPower is designing will have 756 chips on each rig instead of 256.

"We are aggressively building out our mining facilities on both sides of the world, and we're shooting for keeping it level, but the reality is that difficulty rises exponentially, and it's hard to build out exponentially at that same rate," he said.

Right now, MegaBigPower can mine 7,000 to 8,000 bitcoins per month, he said. Bitcoin to dollar exchange rates go up and down all the time, but at a price of $585 per bitcoin, that's $4.1 million to $4.7 million. When Bitcoin prices topped $1,000 in January, the monthly yields were worth up to $8 million.



While CPUs, GPUs, and FPGAs (field-programmable gate array) have all been used for Bitcoin mining, they've been outstripped by ASIC, or application-specific integrated circuits. ASIC chips like BitFury's include "a mechanical design of the SHA algorithm," Carlson said. "The chip is able to do just that one function, but it can do it extremely well compared to other chips."

The chips still need help, though. While BitFury offers muscle, Raspberry Pi provides the brains. Carlson and his colleagues wrote their own mining software for the Pi, which communicates with the chips on each rig.


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