microMining bitcoin for research purposes

Like many tech dorks, I’d been following Bitcoin for a while although I didn’t necessarily understand all the working pieces.  After a few runs at the idea I figured the best way to learn would be to get a tiny bit (ha!).

Because I am cheap/poor/stubborn buying coin outright wasn’t appealing.  Plus when I tried to do it in pre-MtGox times the process was laborious.  International bank wires, etc.

I picked up a used Gridseed (aka “5-chip”) off eBay for $20 shipped.

This is about 1/10th of what they cost in Jan 2014 so you can see the hardware race is fierce.  The little beastie is/was famous for two things:

  1. mining Scrypt at only 7 watts.  It does this well;  mine is running ~400kH/second at 850MHz.
  2. mining both Scrypt and SHA256 at the same time.  It does this, but not efficiently.  Power jumps to 70w and hashing is split between the two algorithms.

[Bitcoin is mined with the SHA256 algorithm and Litecoin with Scrypt.  Two different ways of achieving the same outcome, though bitcoin is the dominant currency.]

Anyhow, older gear like this is dumped for cheap because the cryptocurrency difficult rises quickly.  This means at some point (like now) the gridseed costs more to run in electricity than it yields in mined coins.  I run it off my little solar install so the cost of power is immaterial.

This is how I am collecting tiny pieces (“dust”) of a few different coins to play with.  So far I’ve mined Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin.

Right now the gridseed is attached to the WeMineAll pool, which

Faucets

You can also get tiny amounts of bitcoin with zero hardware or $$$ outlay at so-called faucets.  They were originally donation based sites — people would donate bitcoin for the faucet to dribble out to newbies so they could learn.  Now they are mainly ad-supported.

Two of the most commonly recommended to newbies  are: FreeBitco.in and FreeDogeco.in.

The wallets themselves are free and open source.  I’d say Electrum is probably the easiest for beginners, and the Core wallet is for folks who want the full experience (with full blockchain).

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