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Confessions of a Crypto Miner: Storing Your Coins

Welcome back to Confessions of a Crypto Miner, my bi-weekly column about a crypto miner from 2013 trying to get caught up with the latest standards. I'm presently mining and reporting to you from a dual-GTX 1080 based rig mining zCash.

As requested by many readers, today, we are going to talk about safekeeping your digital currency, and particularly, how to do it safely. Crypto has gotten a bad rap as of late for being insecure, due to numerous hacks of exchanges - but the cryptography in it is actually very strong and solid, and nearly all hacks have been related to centralized services or bad practices.

The focus of this article will be how to hold coin safely for the purpose of investment. I will go over the types of wallets, and their pros and cons. It may seem a bit more technical than some of my usual works but it is very essential information that everyone considering crypto should know. I've done my best to boil it down to basic, easy to understand principles for you.

US and UK Government Websites Infected with Crypto-mining Malware

Potentially thousands of websites operated by various government ministries, departments, and statutory agencies, of the United States and the United Kingdom, could be infected with crypto-currency mining malware. The already infamously slow government websites, often crippled with bandwidth and hosting deficiencies, not to mention webpage design that's often behind web standards, are now embedded with crypto-miners thanks to outdated accessibility software.

Most government websites implement a web-based text-to-speech software called Browsealoud. Outdated versions of the software can be surreptitiously infected with crypto-mining scripts, by exploiting a vulnerability in the way the software dials home to the text-to-speech server. The scripts slow down computers by forcing them to mine crypto-currency for unauthorized people. Browsealoud has been developed by British software company Texthelp, which is reaching out to all its customers to update to the latest version of their software. It's always handy to have mining script blocking browser extensions.

"Most Cryptocurrencies' Value Could Hit Zero", Warns Goldmann Sachs Analyst

Adding yet more tinder to the fire is usually the way for some players in the industry - and this isn't any different (one could even say this is exacerbated) by investment gurus and finance groups. Steve Strongin, Goldmann Sachs global head of investment research, said in a February 5th report that most digital currencies are unlikely to survive in their current form, and investors should prepare for coins to lose all their value as they're replaced by a small set of future competitors. Steve Strongin is particularly worried on account of "The high correlation between the different cryptocurrencies," adding that "because of the lack of intrinsic value, the currencies that don't survive will most likely trade to zero."

This is a trend that can usually be seen in the crypto market, as most alt-coins tend to follow Bitcoin's pricing trends, with their value being seemingly pegged to the current cryptocurrency king's value - and some might say credibility. There have been some instances of drifting pricing trends where some cryptocurrencies actually cease being pegged to bitcoin's value in their own valuation, but these events are usually few, far between, and tend to regress to their previous state.

Full Stop: South Korea Not to Ban Cryptocurrency Trading After All

Remember the revived pressure on cryptocurrencies on account of news that South Korea might halt trading in their territory? Well, the country's finance minister, Kim Dong-yeon, who previously said that shutting down exchanges was "a live option but government ministries need to very seriously review it," came on the record this Wednesday to, let's say, set the record straight, clarifying that "There is no intention to ban or suppress cryptocurrency (market)." The minister, then, added that the government's immediate task is to "regulate exchanges". Those two statements certainly leave a lot of space in-between, since the shutting down of some exchanges while some others are left operating would not, in fact, result in an outright ban. Let's call it pruning, shall we?

The intention, it seems, is to be able to cut out the unregulated parts of the market, that take the form of unregulated exchanges, where the country's customs earlier announced it had uncovered illegal cryptocurrency foreign exchange trading worth nearly $600 million. This, it seems, is the real target for South Korea's newfound steam.

Samsung Enters Volume Production of a Killer Crypto-mining ASIC

One of the world's largest SoC, DRAM, and NAND flash makers, with its own semiconductor fabs, Samsung, is eyeing itself a large slice of the crypto-currency mining craze. The company reportedly entered volume production of a highly efficient crypto-currency mining ASIC, for an unnamed client from China. The client has placed a gargantuan order for crypto-coin mining ASICs contract-manufactured by Samsung, which appears to be targeted at Bitcoin, for now.

China's largest mining ASIC solutions providers, Bitman and Cannan, have similarly contracted TSMC to manufacture mining ASICs. An ASIC (from a mining context) is a single-chip solution that combines a CPU, a SIMD parallel-processing component tailored for mining, memory, and storage. It has infinitesimally smaller PCB, power, and thermal footprints compared to PCs with GPUs, and can be deployed in extremely large numbers for mining on an industrial-scale.

Lesson from the Crypto/DRAM Plagues: Build Future-Proof

As someone who does not mine crypto-currency, loves fast computers, and gaming on them, I find the current crypto-currency mining craze using graphics cards nothing short of a plague. It's like war broke out, and your government took away all the things you love from the market. All difficult times teach valuable lessons, and in this case, it is "Save up and build future-proof."

When NVIDIA launched its "Pascal" GPU architecture way back in Summer 2016, and AMD followed up, as a user of 2x GeForce GTX 970 SLI, I did not feel the need to upgrade anything, and planned to skip the Pascal/Polaris/Vega generation, and only upgrade when "Volta" or "Navi" offered something interesting. My pair of GTX 970 cards are backed by a Core i7-4770K processor, and 16 GB of dual-channel DDR3-1866 memory, both of which were considered high-end when I bought them, around 2014-15.

Throughout 2016, my GTX 970 pair ate AAA titles for breakfast. With NVIDIA investing on advancing SLI with the new SLI-HB, and DirectX 12 promising a mixed multi-GPU utopia, I had calculated a rather rosy future for my cards (at least to the point where NVIDIA would keep adding SLI profiles for newer games for my cards to chew through). What I didn't see coming was the inflection point between the decline of multi-GPU and crypto-plague eating away availability of high-end graphics cards at sane prices. That is where we are today.

Japanese Crypto Exchange Coincheck Hacked, Biggest Heist in History of the World

In what amounts (for now) to the biggest heist in the history of the world, Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck, which handles about 3% of the total cryptocurrency transactions, has apparently been on the receiving end of a $500 million hack to its crypto vaults. The heist, which seems to have particularly over the NEM cryptocurrency, took some $532 million worth of the cryptocurrency from the exchanges' coffers. This news comes after Coincheck halted all NEM transaction on its exchange starting this morning, without previous warning, which raised red flags on the NEM investor community and Coincheck users. Additionally, it's being reported that there was an additional $123 million worth of Ripple cryptocurrency taken, as well.

For now, Coincheck has only issued an update saying that "Depositing NEM on Coincheck is currently being restricted. Deposits made to your account will not be reflected in your balance, and we advise all users to refrain from making deposits until the restriction has been lifted", so, there's no confirmation of the heist as of now. However, Nikkei is reporting that Coincheck has reported the theft to the local Financial Services Agency and the police. If confirmed, this is easily the biggest heist in the world's history, and not coincidentally, the biggest in crypto history as well.

Confessions of a Crypto Miner: Efficiency

Welcome back to Confessions of a Crypto Miner… my bi-weekly column about a crypto miner from 2013 trying to get caught up with the latest standards. I'm presently mining and reporting to you from a dual GTX 1080 based rig mining zCash.

In the last entry, I got my hardware & software set up and started mining. If you were monitoring the miner via the stats link, you may have noticed a few offline moments 2-3 days ago. This was due to me installing a nice new power monitoring setup and taking some measurements at different settings, all with the goal of finding the most efficient way to run the miner long term, to maximize profits. We now have all the data on hand and can now draw conclusions from it. There are two things I'd like to investigate with this article: 240 VAC's impact on power draw, and how the graphics card power limit setting affects profit margins.

Confessions of a Crypto Miner: The Setup

As I have mentioned on the forums here at TechPowerUp a few times, I was an active crypto-miner during one of the most tumultuous times in crypto history: The period between 2013 and 2015. Rather than tell you a long and sad story, I will say just this: I ended up with a net loss by the end of this era, and it wasn't a good time to be an investor if you didn't like roller coaster rides. The reasons I lost money are many, but I think I can attribute them to primarily a lack of experience, a lack of written records, and really, a complete lack of a plan.

My New Plan
Yes, I'm planning on mining again. I've always been drawn to the tech, and I am in a much better position to do so now. Ironically, this time around, I'm not really in it for the money. I've already been there, done that, and it's too stressful for me. Having no end goal of riches doesn't set me up for failure. I think it is a more realistic mindset for taking on this project. It also gives me a chance to document my endeavor to the world, and to you, dear reader. I hope we all learn something here.

"You Hold It!" - Cryptocurrency Pricing Plummets as South Korea Revives Pressure

Cryptocurrency value has begun a tumultuous plummet since yesterday, in a market shrinkage that's being mostly correlated with an announcement by South Korean finance minister Kim Dong-yeon that a ban on cryptocurrency trading could still happen, pending a government review. South Korea is one of the world's most relevant economy and technology players, so a ban there could certainly start a domino effect in other countries.

""There are no disagreements over regulating speculation," minister Kim Dong-yeon specifically said - a move that would include a ban on anonymous cryptocurrency account, thus spelling doom for some privacy-focused cryptocurrencies like Monero and ZCash from being traded in the country, for sure. The minister also places a heavy value in being able to tax the income made on virtual currency, and added that shutting down the exchanges was "a live option but government ministries need to very seriously review it."

Bitcoin's Lack of Wallet Privacy Leads Criminals to Look Towards Other Cryptos

"It is used for criminal, illegal activities" is one of the most oft-mentioned reasons for users to reject Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. However, it seems that this argument is losing weight as we speak when it comes to Bitcoin. In the wake of much increased interest and awareness regarding the fledgling, currently leading cryptocurrency, which has seen institutions and states renew their interest and attention towards regulation or stricter control of the virtual currency, users that would use Bitcoin for nefarious purposes have started to migrate to other cryptocurrencies. You see, the reality of a distributed, transparent ledger is great for a system's transparency; however, transparency and easily identifiable - and traceable - wallets and transactions go against criminals' interests. Law enforcement agencies, such as Europol, have already issued warnings and established protocols towards the adoption of software tools to monitor people using bitcoin. As such, criminals are looking towards other less "transparent" cryptos to use as escape routes for their criminal ways.

The most viable alternative for criminals has apparently been Monero, the cryptocurrency that has also been in the world's mouth because it's usually the one being mined in web browsers, absent of users' consent. Monero has been developed with privacy as a main design criteria from the start, encrypting the recipient's address on its blockchain and generating fake addresses, obfuscating the real sender, but going one step further by also obfuscating the amount of the transaction. This means Monero is currently "one of the favorites, if not the favorite" for usage in ransomware attacks, said Matt Suiche, founder of Dubai-based security firm Comae Technologies, said in a phone interview to Bloomberg.

BIOSTAR Unleashes Radeon RX Vega Series for 4K Gaming and Crypto Mining Pros

BIOSTAR officially releases its AMD Radeon powerful value packed graphics cards based on the RX Vega architecture - the BIOSTAR Radeon RX Vega Series: BIOSTAR Radeon RX Vega 56 (VAVAL5VM88) and top-end BIOSTAR Radeon RX Vega 64 models which is available in air-cooled edition (VAVAT5VM88) and liquid-cooled edition (VAVAX5VM88). The BIOSTAR Radeon RX Vega graphics cards are great for 4K gaming and one of best graphics cards on the market for crypto mining.

4K Gaming Performance
The BIOSTAR Radeon RX Vega Series graphics cards are AMD Radeon's most powerful graphics to date with smooth 4K graphics for gaming with optimization for DirectX 12 and Vulkan game titles. It also supports Radeon FreeSync Technology that eliminates image tearing giving you smooth and fluid gameplay. The BIOSTAR Radeon RX Vega Series also features AMD XConnect which supports external GPU enclosures that transforms notebooks and mini PCs into high-performance gaming machines. Virtual Super Resolution offers superb gaming graphics that rivals up to 4K.

We Need a Lost Cryptocurrency Crawler: 4 Million Bitcoins Lost in the Ether

Cryptocurrencies as they currently are implemented are one of the most divisive subjects among the tech and economic communities in recent years. No, really; it's reached a kind of "Hayek vs Keynes" level of argument in the later. But one thing can't be denied: some early adopters of the technology have cashed in thoroughly and profoundly on the leading cryptocurrencies. The fact that Bitcoin has appreciated some 340% in the last six months (around $7,300 value increase in a single coin of the cryptocurrency) means many people more will see unbelievable surges in their net worth. Today, a single Bitcoin is trading for around $9,530 - and this is a cryptocurrency that, in its infancy, was being used to trade at rates of thousands of Bitcoin per pizza.

However, as with every currency, there's inevitable losses; paper money has seen its fair share of that, and galleons and caravels filled with gold up to the mast used to sink in oceans all around the world. But cryptocurrency is a digital currency; it's impossible for it to deteriorate away, to be lost with your wallet, or any other exceedingly sad case of lost value. Right? Well, not so; it's encryption algorithm ensures that for users to be able to access the contents of their digital wallets, they have to know the password. And many passwords have been lost and forgotten. Some users have even thrown away HDDs with wallets containing thousands of Bitcoin, and some have even lost their hardware wallets.

Cryptojacking: Over 2,500 Websites Out There to Steal Your CPU Time

Cryptojacking is a new phenomenon, which was popularized by ThePirateBay embedding its website with a Javascript-based crypto-currency miner. It quickly sprung up the debate on whether crypto-currency miners hidden into web-pages could become the revenue model of the future, replacing online advertising or paid subscriptions. Some commentators argue that it's fine as long as users are made sufficiently aware that a website is embedding a miner, and is presented with a choice between ads and the miner. Others were steadfast against the idea as heavy Internet browsing (across multiple tabs), could bring down computers to a crawl, and have a more than tangible impact on electricity bills.

According to an ArsTechnica report, there could be at least 2,500 websites out there, with embedded crypto-currency miners that are hidden from the users. Willem de Groot, an independent cybersecurity researcher told the publication that he estimates JS miners may have proliferated to 2,496 websites, and its adoption is on the rise. Some dishonest websites embed miners as a revenue source in addition to ads and sponsored content. At the heart of the controversy is Coinhive. This company sells easy-to-integrate crypto-currency miners that can be embedded into websites as a revenue source. The company is on a marketing overdrive, writing to siteops and bloggers to spread their miners.

Graphics Cards Vendors Increase Orders in Wake of Expected Mining Sales Increase

DigiTimes is reporting that graphics cards vendors and AIB (add-in board partners) to both AMD and NVIDIA are increasing their orders for GPUs. Citing sources from the upstream supply chain, the report says that the reason for this is an expected increase in sales due to higher demand for cryptocurrency mining workloads. Most cryptocurrencies are mined on GPUs today, and there are miners that leverage both AMD and NVIDIA's architectures for increased mining performance. Whereas before mining was somewhat of a strictly AMD business, NVIDIA's architectures have also been developed for in most recent cryptocurrency mining efforts, which means that no one manufacturer is the sole source of mining GPUs.

As such, and counting on continued economic support for current cryptocurrency pricing (or even increase), Asustek, Gigabyte Technology, Micro-Star International (MSI), TUL, Colorful and Galaxy Microsystems have increased their orders from respective manufacturing partners. Since graphics cards pricing has stabilized and even decreased somewhat in recent weeks from their selling points just some months ago, this might mean that we'll finally see some graphics card models from both AMD and NVIDIA finally being retailed for their MSRP again. However, demand for mining-efficient GPUs is expected to increase alongside cryptocurrency value, so don't take this increased supply for granted - demand could spike at any moment, and with little warning.

Retailers are Buying AMD RX Vega 64 at $675 Each

The Radeon RX Vega series launch has been particularly disappointing for gamers and PC enthusiasts because their otherwise interesting price-performance ratios at $499 for the RX Vega 64 and $399 for the RX Vega 56, were quickly stripped away by dwindling stock and sky-rocketing prices, with the RX Vega 64 even going above $1k in some places. We are not even sure if the miners are to blame or whether supplier-level pricing has been adjusted after the launch to a higher price point that makes AMD's promised pricing impossible to achieve.

It turns out that retailers might not be the ones making a quick buck at this madness. Leaked invoices show that distributors (entities that supply inventory to retailers) have inflated prices even at their level. A San Jose-based distributor, Ma Laboratories Inc., is quoting USD $675 per unit of a reference-design (not Limited Edition), Radeon RX Vega 64 SKU to a computer store. The $499 price AMD launched the RX Vega 64 at, is supposed to be the end-user price (minus government taxes). The retailer we're in touch with confirmed that they were offered no volume pricing discount due to low stock at the distributor itself. A distributor should ideally sell the product to a retailer at a much lesser price than $499, so the retailer can make their margin. The higher up the supply-chain, the more control AMD gets. The company is in a better position to rein in on distributors than retailers. If distributors are inflating prices with apparent impunity, it wouldn't surprise us if this goes even higher up.

BIOSTAR Offers Intel Crypto Mining Motherboards - Full ethOS Mining OS Support

BIOSTAR proudly announces an exclusive partnership with ethOS, a 64-bit Linux OS; giving miners the simplest possible way to set up a mining rig. This comes as great news for anyone who wanted to dabble with mining, but was not sure how. With the ethOS mining OS, there is no need to install drivers, configure Windows or compile software, while BIOSTAR crypto mining motherboards are tried and tested with the ethOS mining OS, making it as simple as boot and mine. Get ready to collect your Ethereum, Zcash, Monero and many other gpu-minable coins.

BIOSTAR Mining Boards with Intel B250, B85 and H81 Chipsets
BIOSTAR crypto mining motherboards (including previous generation chipsets in B85 and H81) continue to win high praises for easy-to-use, long-term stability under heavy usage and high return on investment. BIOSTAR mining boards with Intel chipsets supports 12 to 6 graphics cards, the models currently available are: BIOSTAR TB250-BTC PRO, BIOSTAR TB250-BTC+, BIOSTAR TB250-BTC, BIOSTAR TB85 and BIOSTAR H81A. Whether you are a pro, mainstream or newbie to mining, one of these will fit the bill.

No End to GPU Supply Woes: Germany Supplier Hit by Shortage, Pulls Cards

There seems to be no end in sight for current high-performance, discrete graphics cards' supply constraints. If you've been looking for a specialized graphics processing unit to push eye-candy on your favored 3D experiences to the max, you've probably been having trouble for a while now. It all stems from a crazy, dizzying wave of cryptocurrency mining. And the fact that this mining spree has already taken global mining power consumption to levels close to a 17 million population country, as one of our editors puts it, kind of has a human problem. And it would seem that not even NVIDIA and AMD's partners' attempts to sate current miners' appetite for profit-generating graphics cards has put a dent on demand.
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