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Bitmain unveils Antminer S3

BM1382 chips for the Antminer S3

Seven months after releasing the BM1380 ASIC, the Bitmain has finished testing the latest iteration of their chipset, the BM1382. The updated design is a 28nm chip measuring 8mm square, and packing an impressive 63 cores. Bitmain claims the chips can deliver 15.75 GH/s at 0.59 J/GH.

The new chips will power the latest update to the company’s popular Antminer line. The Antminer S3 contains 32 BM1382 chips in a blade-style design, providing roughly 504 GH/s at 390W from the wall. The new design includes an improved heat sink and a two-fan cooling system, a clear improvement over the old open-air system seen in previous models.

Bitmain noted that the MB1382 chips are fully compatible with older S1 and S2 Antminers, allowing existing customers to upgrade at a reduced cost.

Pre-orders of the S3 are expected to ship in July. No shipping timeline has been released for the second batch, and at the moment Bitmain doesn’t even have public pricing data for the S3. The S3 appears to have similar specs to Rockminer’s RK-Box (460 GH/s), it may be aimed at a comparable price point of around $650.

KnCMiner announces launch of 20nm Neptune chips

After months of build-up, KnCMiner announced today that their new line of 20nm Neptune ASICs have arrived at their facility in Sweden. The chips are currently being tested, and units are expected to begin shipping later this week. The Neptune boasts five 1440-core chips, and KnCMiner claims that it can deliver more than 3 TH/s at 2.1 KW. If accurate in real-world use, this 0.7 watt per GH/s represents a 30% reduction in power cost versus the current KnCMiner heavy hitter, the Jupiter.

The company also claims that the Neptune system will increase in performance as future software updates maximize the new chips’ potential.

The Neptune puts KnCMiner in a small club of next-generation mining hardware makers, although many other developers are expected to have equally powerful hardware on the market in coming months. Early adopting miners can expect to pay $5995 for the third batch of the Neptune hardware, slated to ship early in Q4. The first two batches of Neptune rigs are already sold out via pre-order.

Hosting mining company HashPlex raises $400k in venture capital

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Barry Silbert clearly sees potential in Seattle-based cloud-mining company HashPlex. The SecondMarket CEO and noted bitcoin evangelist recently joined a seed round investment of $400,000 in the company. Unlike other cloud-based bitcoin mining systems, however, HashPlex doesn’t sell set amounts of hash power to customers. Instead, the company manages your existing mining equipment for you, reducing the hassle and expense of running a small cryptocurrency mining operation.

It works like this: You send your mining hardware to HashPlex, along with the details of what pool the miner will point at and what wallets it will pay out to. They provide the host computers, passive cooling, internet connections, start/stop/control scripting and any basic maintenance on the hardware. You pay $99 per kilowatt used each month, with at $10 discount if you use more than 30 kw.

For even a semi-serious miner, those numbers are already looking pretty good. It’s easy to see why Silbert thought the idea was worth investing in. Senior Facebook engineer Jason Prado also contributed to the seed round.

Should HashPlex’s “1MW HashCenter” in central Washington prove successful, the company expects to open other sites in the region. Silbert has hinted that HashPlex may also develop its own “vertically integrated mining pool” for its customers.

Spondoolies-Tech claims new 2.1 TH/kW bitcoin ASICs

Promo image for the Spondoolies-Tech Yukon

Big claims are nothing new in the bitcoin mining world, but if the leaked specs for their SP-30 “Yukon” miner are accurate, Spondoolies-Tech may just have a breakout product. The Israeli bitcoin mining hardware maker claims that its new miner will have an effective hash rate of 5.4-6.6 TH/s at 2500W.

The Yukon is built around a new line of 28nm RockerBox ASICs, packing 30 chips into each unit. Each chip runs at 200 GH/s, with a voltage range of 0.63V – 0.8V, resulting in about 0.34W per GH/s. At standard clock speeds, the Yukon miner is expected to deliver 2.1 TH/kW, with overclocking and downclocking available as needed.

Spondoolies-Tech expects the Yukon to ship in late summer. At a launch price of $5,095, the Yukon would be one of the most cost-effective mining rigs on the market. That said, even if the leaked specs are accurate and the rig lives up to the hype — both pretty big “ifs” — there is still some reason for frugal-minded miners to hold off on buying the Yukon. Spondoolies-Tech claims to have an even more efficient ASIC nearing tape-out, which it expects to debut in Q4.

Scotland-based Novello Technologies seeks $4.2 million to launch new miner line

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Novello’s concept part for their NOVA-S USB Miner

If nothing else, Scottish mining hardware startup Novello Technologies is ambitious. The company recently announced a $4.2 million fundraising campaign to develop a “family of ultra efficient and affordable Bitcoin mining systems.” The extremely optimistic plan calls for a mid-August tapeout, with packaged prototypes available by October and standard deliveries by December.

With even the most experienced ASIC makers experiencing massive delays in chip production, the Novello plan seems destined for problems on that timeline. As a startup with little more than an idea and a release timeline, there’s reason to doubt that Novello’s plan is realistic.

But what about the hardware itself? Well … there’s not much to say.

The company’s proposed NOVA-S USB Miner exists at the moment as a concept illustration, and the company does not provide any hard specs on their website. The estimated speed of the proposed lowest-end USB stick model is 128GH/s, representing a 10-fold increase over the closest comparable real-world equivalent, the 12GH/s HexFury. Exactly how Novello plans to achieve such a massive increase is still unclear, although the company has stated that their “custom 40nm technology”  can “easily outperform a gate or standard cell based 28nm design.”

Another hard-to-swallow claim is that Novello will retail these miners starting at $59.

Thus far, investors have been skeptical of Novello’s claims, and the company has only raised about $4,000 of their $4.2 million goal.

Missouri Secretary of State shuts down Virtual Mining Corporation over “deceptive tactics”

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Fast-Hash One Platinum Edition Bitcoin Mining Machine

Springfield, Missouri,-based bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer Virtual Mining Corporation (VMC) was ordered to halt operations yesterday by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander. According to Kander, VMC CEO Kenneth Slaughter “used deceptive tactics” to fund the development of their mining hardware, promising returns as high as “2,812 percent” on the investment and failing to warn investors of the associated risks.

According to the press release from Kander’s office:

Instead, Slaughter allegedly said that Bitcoin was “highly regulated” at both the state and federal level. In reality, as an investor alert from Kander’s office noted, Bitcoins are not issued by banks or the government, and various federal regulators are still assessing how to approach the digital currency.                                                                                                         

The release also notes that Slaughter’s company failed to advise investors of relevant complaints against his previous company, Active Internet Communications. The report says that Slaughter’s company raised more than $200,000 worth of bitcoins from investors.

VMC claims to be working on a new generation of 28nm ASIC mining chips for their Fast-Hash One Platinum Edition miner. The company said the full version of the rig would provide up to 24.5 TH/s via 96 ASIC cards.

It is not currently known what the next steps are for VMC, although the company currently faces fines and additional legal action from Kander’s office.

TechCrunch gives HexFury ASIC USB miner a thumbs up

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HexFury ASIC USB Miner

In recent months, USB bitcoin miners have seemed increasingly like curiosities from a more innocent age. With the massive growth in mining difficulty (10,455,720,138 at the time of writing, and rising fast), a 1 or 2 GH/s USB stick simply can’t compete with a dedicated ASIC mining rig running in the TH/s range. If they’re profitable at all after the retail price and the cost of electricity, it’s usually a matter of pennies per day. While this can be a fun, low-cost way for hobbyists to play around with bitcoin mining, the era of commercially produced USB miners appears to be drawing to a close.

If HexFury has its way, however, low-cost USB miners might just be making a comeback. Powered by six current-generation BitFury ASIC chips, the HexFury runs at a respectable 11 GH/s. TechCrunch’s John Biggs got his hands on one, and reported that it consistently hit about 12 GH/s.

He also noted:

"It looks like an overgrown thumb drive with exposed innards, which should give owners of inquisitive cats pause."

The HexFury is theoretically hashing fast enough to generate about 0.018 BTC per month at current difficulty. That’s about $10 at current prices, meaning you’d need a little over a year and a half (at stable difficulty) to break even on the $200 miner. While that’s a hard sell to an experienced bitcoin miner, it might be just the thing for a hobbyist. As Biggs noted:

Home mining, at this point, is more about the experience of mining than any real money making. … As these things catch up with higher-powered units, it’s only a matter of time before we can all make a few BTC a month with something the size of a stick of gum.

Poland’s Tax Authority says mining profits are subject to whopping 23% VAT

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/darus214/

In a recent statement from the Polish Tax Authority, profits from virtual currency mining would be subject to the country’s 23% value-added tax (VAT), creating a huge negative incentive for Poland’s bitcoin miners. The interpretation came as a response to a question from a bitcoin miner asking for clarification of Polish tax law as it relates to the largely unexplored topic of mining profits.

The applicant claimed that the sale of bitcoin was not subject to the VAT, as those taxes are reserved for commodities and services. Given bitcoin’s unclear categorization, and the international sales of mined bitcoin, the applicant said that bitcoin itself wasn’t subject to the tax because it wasn’t a physical object, and that mining bitcoin did not qualify as a service.

The Tax Authority disagreed, ruling that “in principle” profits from selling “mined cryptocurrency” constitute an activity that would be subject to VAT in Poland, with an imposable rate of 23%.

With most miners already operating at razor-thin profit margins, a 23% tax on profits could effectively end voluntary reporting of bitcoin profits in Poland. The country’s bitcoin community is small, and is seem by many as being somewhat connected to the European black market. The Polish Tax Authority’s move does little to encourage Polish miners and bitcoiners in general to move into the country’s commercial mainstream.

Litecoin faces first 51% pool, miners urged to leave Coinotron

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Image source: https://www.litecoinpool.org/pools

As the second largest cryptocurrency in terms of market cap and the second-highest valued virtual currency, it’s hardly surprising that Litecoin is known as the “silver to bitcoin’s gold.” As a result, almost every Scrypt-based miner has dabbled in Litecoin. Unfortunately, many of those who mine Litecoin have stuck to the same mining pool, and that’s becoming a real problem for the network.

The Coinotron mining pool is fast approaching 51 percent of the total Litecoin hash rate, which could all-too-easily result in a much-feared “51-percent attack.” Virtually impossible with a widely distributed amount of hash power, such an attack would leave the entire network open to double-spend transactions, reverse transactions, blocked confirmations and complete network corruption.

In other words, it would be very bad news for Litecoin. Confidence in the network would falter, and prices would almost certainly tumble from today’s $10.55.

Miners have been relatively quick to respond to this call, dropping the hash power of the Coinotron pool from 48% this morning to a less-terrifying 43% at the moment. With 94 GH/s power, Coinotron still has more than four times the hashing power of its closest rival pool, WeMineLTC.

Although tempting to single out Coinotron as a problem pool, the problem is likely more complex. With a new range of high-powered Scrypt ASIC miners hitting the market, the network hashrate is rapidly expanding. As one of the largest and most successful pools in the Litecoin community, it’s hardly surprising to see Coinotron’s total share of the network surge forward. With most miners having little interest in risking the value of their Litecoin holdings by threatening the overall network, expect to see other pools grow in size and power in coming months.

Mining In Mineral Oil

In an era of rapidly rising difficulty for almost every cryptocurrency, YouTube user Tio Dave decided to that he wasn’t getting the right level of performance out of his six Radeon R9 280x GPUs, Instead of investing in a new miner with top-of-the-line ASICs for his scrypt-based system, he decided to make his current system a little more efficient.

How? By employing an idea used by the overclocking community for decades: He submerged his cards in mineral oil. Not only is mineral oil non-conductive, it’s also a proven coolant, being used in high-powered electrical transformers. All it needs to work is a reasonably powerful radiator system to remove the heat.

Will we see a rise in mineral oil-cooled mining systems? Not likely. As “cool” as this DIY solution is, it’s not a solution compared to the next generation of low-powered ASICs. It may extend the effective lifespan of rapidly aging mining technology by a few months, but with all of that electrical power (processing power, really) being lost to heat, it’s simply no competition for more advanced, energy-efficient systems.