PiMiner Bitcoin mining machine

Email arrived from LadyAda on Friday. In between the usual advice about good Korean barbecue technique and pointers to cool things that just happen to be conductive, she mentioned that Adafruit have been on a real roll this week with Pi projects. You’ll already have seen Adafruit’s Onion Pi, a Pi-based wireless Tor proxy. Staying within a topical theme, here is Adafruit’s newest Pi undertaking: a Bitcoin miner.

If you’re not sure what a Bitcoin is or why this is interesting, head over to read Gizmodo’s explanation (which offers a nice simple breakdown), or look at the Bitcoin Wiki before you go any further.

The Pi on its own isn’t an efficient Bitcoin miner; some people are using it as one, but more as an example of how mining works and a bit of a novelty than as a genuine way to raise funds. (If you’re going to be mining Bitcoins, you’ll fall into one of two groups: people who do it for fun and who don’t mind whether they make money or not; or people who take it very, very seriously and approach it as a business.) What you really need if you’re trying to make money out of the enterprise is a custom ASIC device, which has a much higher hashrate than something like the Pi. And it turns out that the Pi is a very cheap and efficient way to control and monitor devices which are better suited to mining Bitcoins – like the new, thumb-drive-sized ASIC Bitcoin miners that have started appearing on the market recently, which mine at a similar rate to a fast graphics card. Enter the PiMiner.

Adafruit have a detailed tutorial on setting up the Pi to act as a headless controller and status monitor for your mining devices, with information on uptime, hashrate, error rate, share data, and network difficulty displayed on an LCD screen attached to the whole device.

I know several of you are already using Pis to mine, and that others are building FPGA mining platforms with the Pi. We’d love to hear more about how you’re getting on – please let us know in the comments!