Mining at home appealed to me, but the price of the equipment put me off that idea. I pushed it to the backburner, and just dabbled in trading BTC and using it for money transfers.
A couple of weeks ago, while poking around the Internet, I came across reports and YouTube videos about the Gridseed Infinity 5-ASIC dual mining unit (at right), which debuted in 2014 with a pricetag of $200-300 each. Production of these units was apparently halted in spring 2014, but they are still available secondhand or NOS (new old stock) from several suppliers at much lower prices.
Since these units are (or were) made in China, I reasoned that Taobao.com — China’s eBay — would probably have one, and my hunch was correct. I bought one second-hand for the equivalent of $9 last week.
[Note: Buyers outside China can order NOS units from Taobao’s sister site, Aliexpress.com. Prices begin at $23 each, without shipping and handling.]
While it came with a USB cable and a pigtail power cable, there was no power supply. And, though the seller included a photo of the rather ineptly named Wiibox controller unit in his Taobao page, it was also not included. He was selling it separately.
So, back to Taobao. I found a suitable LiteOn 12V 5A power supply for $4.20 and also got the seller’s used Wiibox unit for $14.50 including shipping. Including a new power strip, my total investment was just shy of $30.
The Gridseed Infinity is a dedicated Bitcoin/Litecoin mining unit, using five ASICs (application specific integrated circuits) housed within a sizeable heatsink topped with a box fan. It can be connected directly to a computer, or through a USB hub if one wants to use several units concurrently.
[There are videos on YouTube by enthusiasts running up to a hundred of these units at once.]The Wiibox controller (pictured at left) is a small circuit board about two inches square. It eliminates the need for a computer, and also saves a lot of power usage. To use it, you need to have a router to access its web interface and give the Wiibox Internet access. The barebones interface is all in Chinese, but even without a translation, it’s pretty clear what information you need to enter to make the thing work. See below for details.
[There is also controller software available for the Raspberry Pi, which would offer the same energy savings.]
Gridseed (which merged with Wiibox to form Sfards.com) advertised that the Infinity could mine Litecoins at 300 kHash/second. I set my unit to operate at 850 megaHertz and in its first hour of operation, it was clocked at 345 kH/s. [See screencap below.]
After running it for two days, it’s now mining about 350 kH/s for a total of 0.00368 LTC.
Litecoins are trading at around $3.50 at this writing, so to recapture my initial investment I would need to mine about 8.6 LTC. At the rate I’m going, one unit would take about 7 years to mine that much Litecoin. So, I can see why Litecoin miners use multiple units! At this point, I’m just using it as a proof of concept.
I should note that I am not figuring in the electrical cost of running my single Gridseed Infinity, since the whole system uses barely 10 Watts and my electrical costs here in China are quite low. The setups I’ve seen on YouTube with 40 to 100 units would have commensurate power consumption, so I wonder how long their ROI would take. Someone has probably worked out a cost-benefit analysis of multiple units, or I would hope they have.
Now for some nuts-and-bolts stuff. Much of this is available elsewhere on the ‘Net, so I’m just providing the basics.
Materials required for single-unit operation without Wiibox/Raspberry Pi
- Gridseed Infinity mining unit
- 12V 5A power supply with 5.5 x 2.1 mm plug (center connection is +), LiteOn 387G or similar
- Mini-USB to USB data cable
- Mining software for your computer, such as bfgminer. (A modified version for Gridseed is available from www.eyeboot.com)
- Download and unpack bfgminer. Eyeboot includes a sample BAT file to edit.
- Get a pool mining account somewhere. I am using Litecoinpool.org.
- Connect the miner to the computer with the USB cable, but don’t power it up yet.
- Run bfgminer and edit the BAT file as needed.
- Power up the unit. Bfgminer should recognize it and begin mining.
Additional materials needed for running multiple units with a computer
- As above, plus
- Powered USB hub
- Each unit should have its own worker account at the pool mining site.
Or, you can replace the computer with a Wiibox or Raspberry Pi.
- Wiibox controller unit (also marketed as a Winbox) or
- Raspberry Pi
- USB to micro-USB power supply and cable (I’m using one for an old cellphone.)
- Ethernet cable
- Network router
- Connect Wiibox/Raspberry Pi to router with Ethernet cable.
- Power up controller unit.
- Using your router’s interface, find the controller unit’s IP address.
- With a browser pointing to the unit’s interface, enter the URL for the mining pool account and worker name and password. You can also set the operating frequency of the Gridseed miner. No more than 850 megaHertz is apparently safe.
- Connect the Gridseed miner.
- Power it up.
If its green LED is flashing, that means it’s working. You can verify with the controller interface, or by checking your pool mining account online.
The Wiibox can handle multiple units, and I presume so can the Raspberry Pi. Connect the controller and the mining units to a powered USB hub. As with PC use, each miner should have its own worker account. The Wiibox interface allows you to enter each account name, separated by a comma. I’m not sure about the Raspberry interface.
The Wiibox interface is all in Chinese, but it’s pretty obvious what you need to enter. The Gridseed can mine both Bitcoin (SHA) and Litecoin (Scrypt), but given the difficulty levels of BTC mining and the power requirements, it’s probably best just to stick with Scrypt mining. Here are screencaps of the most important part of the UI.
The first field is for the URL of your pool mining site. Next comes the worker account name and password fields.
You can select the operating frequency from a dropdown menu, and choose Scrypt alone or dual mining, as seen at right.
The big blue button labeled 保存设置 means “Save settings.”
The message after it 重要操作! 保存后请重启程序! means “after saving, please restart.”
The big red button labeled 重启程序 means “Restart program.”
The menu items along the top are
on the left hand side:
设置中心 Settings center (default page)
本地监控 local monitoring
远程监控 remote monitoring – links to www.wiibox.net, which redirects to www.bitstellar.com. This took a while for me, but eventually the Wiibox was detected.
自检 self-inspection (or status report — blue means joy, red means trouble)
On the right hand side
正在运行 Begin running
停止运行 Stop running
This message at the top 注意! 最佳设置是一个矿机对应一个矿工号！ [为什么?] 多个矿工号请用 英文半角”,” 隔开！ means “for best results, multiple units should each have a worker account, separated by commas, e.g., worker1,worker2,worker3, etc.”
For more details, you can visit eyeboot.com and watch their videos on YouTube. A price comparison for the miners as of mid-2014 is available at cryptomining.com. Some of those vendors may still have units to sell.
I hope this page was helpful. As for me, I’ll keep the miner running as is until further notice.