As those of you reading know, I’m a big fan of Bitcoin and a big fan of the Raspberry Pi. It was only a matter of time until I decided to follow in the footsteps of many and setup a Raspberry Pi Bitcoin miner. In an unrelated Amazon search I noticed that the ASCIMiner Block Erupters had come down in price (they sell for $29.98 on Amazon’s main page but cheaper units can be had from other Amazon vendors) so I decided to order a couple.
Mind you, nobody is going to get rich off of a Block Erupter. My desire was to experiment with them. I’ve often wondered how much a somewhat decent miner could be built for. Combining cheap Block Erupters with cheap Raspberry Pis seemed like an excellent want to build an affordable miner (with the acknowledgement that the setup was unlikely to pay for itself). I followed the setup guide on Adafruit and was mining Bitcoin in minutes. What follows are some issues I ran into.
First, my Raspberry Pi wasn’t able to provide reliable power to both modules. This wasn’t unexpected. While the Pi could run one Erupter without any issue the second one would periodically die from loss of power. The mining application I used, cgminer, continuously notified me of hardware errors. Fortunataly, I have a second Raspberry Pi that runs my Tor relay so I unplugged the second Erupter from the first Pi, plugged it into the second Pi, and got it up and running without any trouble. The obvious solution to this problem is to purchase a powered USB hub.
Second, Block Erupters run hot. I learned this lesson when I went to unplug my second Erupter from my first Pi. If you’ve been running an Erupter make sure you give it time to cool down before touching it (or be impatient, like me, and grab some gloves). You will also want to invest in a small fan to keep your Erupters cool. This USB powered fan has been recommended by several people and costs all of $8.00.
Third, as I feel this needs to be pointed out, setting up a mining rig isn’t the most efficient way to acquire Bitcoin. Sites like Coinbase are better sources. The amount of Bitcoin you can mine with an Erupter isn’t going to pay for the hardware for quite some time (even before calculating in the cost of electricity, fans, powered hubs, etc.). I’m perusing this project for fun and to fulfill my curiosity. When I need to acquire Bitcoin in usable quantities I tend to buy from sellers.