How I became a miner, Part 2

Author's note: This article is part of an ongoing blog about my adventures in the world of alternate currencies.

There is a good reason that cloud mining is attractive for a lot of people, and why it was attractive to me. You buy your shares in the operation and then you just collect the payouts. You don’t have to be bothered with details about how to properly connect the miners to their power sources and their controlling computers, nor what sort of drivers need to be downloaded and installed for the rigs to run in the first place. One of the things I didn’t realize was that it takes more than just the mining rigs to mine. But Zen Cloud allowed me to start mining within days (and after the launch the wait time reduced to hours if not minutes) of purchase with nothing more than the mining rigs themselves.

There was only one catch. I could choose any pool I wanted to as long as it was one of their five carefully preselected multipools. Mining in the VirtaCoin pool or the D-Notes pool or any other individual Scrypt coin pool was completely out of the question. I quickly lodged my protest through the Zen support system as well as the forum that GAW Miners and Zen Cloud share. I want to be able to choose my pool, I said. The entire reason I bought mining hardware in the first place was so that I could mine in a couple of specific pools. They responded by saying that wasn’t the clientele that Zen Cloud was targeting. They were geared towards people who wanted to get the quickest return on investment for their hardware. To reach ROI the fastest, the most important factor was up time. Some pools don’t work as well as others and go down. If they were to let their clients mine in those pools, then they couldn’t guarantee 99.9 percent uptime. I retorted with “I thought that’s what back up pools were for.” Mining Rig Rental strongly urges all renters to set at least two pools so that they don’t suffer from down time in the event that the first pool fails. So I already knew all about that. But that was not a direction Zen Cloud was interested in pursuing. The multipools they had carefully selected and partnered with are good and all. I just didn’t want to mine in a multipool. I started to use my Zen Cloud mining rewards to pay for rig rental fees on Mining Rig Rental so I could continue mining and dumping VirtaCoin. I also requested to be switched over to GAW Miners’ original hosting service, which I eventually got.

That’s when I learned at least one reason why GAW Miners was so excited about delegating its hosting to Zen Cloud. GAW hosting was not what I was hoping for either. I tried to point my miners to first the VirtaCoin pool, then the D-Notes pool, and I couldn’t get any kind of consistent hashing power in either one. The best I could do was keep one of my Furies in the D-Notes pool. For a while I couldn’t get it to stop mining in the D-Notes pool. I found that practically speaking, I could successfully mine in any one of the five multipools that Zen Cloud worked with. I even tried to point my miners to Mining Rig Rental. Not only could I not get them to consistently hash anywhere, but the four rigs interacted in very strange ways on the platform. I would find that Fury 1 was pointed to the address I assigned Fury 2 and vice versa. When I’d try to switch them thinking maybe I’d made a data entry mistake, they would switch again. In retrospect I think they were acting a lot like four rigs hooked up to a single computer and functioning not as four separate rigs, but as one rig with divided hashing power. But I didn't know about such details back then. When I started talking to other people about my experience with GAW Miners hosting I found that my experience was not unique. People shared stories of how they couldn't get optimal hashing power in any pool they chose, and in the four weeks or so that my rigs were hosted there I received at least four automated emails related to separate instances involving several hours of down time. “It's pretty bad,” one data center operator I chatted with on IRC-freenode said. That about summed it up. No wonder GAW Miners claimed so many of their existing hosting customers were begging to get switched to Zen Hosting!

Mining Rig Rental has a beautiful interface which allows people to point rigs to a pool of their choice. I'd experienced this first hand as a renter, and I thought, wouldn't it be great if they offered hosting. I opened up a support ticket just to ask them if they'd ever thought of it. I got a quick reply saying that MRR wasn't going to get into the hosting business but they know someone who operated a data center who did offer hosting. I emailed the data center owner and we ended up having a nice chat on IRC-freenode. He gave me some good information about some of the technical details behind mining including some of the other hardware you need. For example, each miner needs its own power supply and a computer to control it. After all, they are composed of chips and fans, but don't have any actual brains. I'd have to buy a Raspberry Pi and a power supply at the very least. The Raspberry Pi is this cool Linux based micro-computer which many cryptocoin miners now use. It costs around fifty dollars, is about the size of a credit card, and can do all the things an older computer can do. It has less storage space and RAM than a current laptop or desktop, but enough to command an entire army of mining rigs.

Since I'd already bought the miners it didn't seem like too much to ask to get the Raspberry Pi and the power supply unit. I told the data center operator that would be fine and please give me a quote. He told me he would start working on one.

And then weeks went by and I never heard from him again. Phone calls and emails were not returned. I figured that for whatever reason that particular data center did not need my business.

I started looking around. I sent emails requesting quotes to a number of data centers, some of which even advertised as specifically catering to Bitcoin miners. I was actually surprised by how difficult it was to find a good data center–to get anyone to even respond. I think part of it was that I had a very small amount of equipment, and perhaps many saw it as not even worth their while.

One data center, Omnis Network, emailed me back right away, and before long the sales rep and I were talking shop on cryptos like old friends. He was actually fairly new to the cryptosphere and very impressed with my knowledge. I have learned a ton in the past year and a half. He quoted me a price that was a bit more expensive than the first data center operator I'd connected with, but reasonable, and based on the various prices, I knew it would be quite possible to pay that expense and still make a substantial profit.

I decided to become a customer.

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