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Free graphics card by earning bitcoins


Well, here’s the plan.

I’ve just bought a Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5770 for AUD$127 from msy.com.au in Ultimo, Sydney yesterday.

This is a good quality graphics card that is below the current 6000 series cards in terms of performance but cheap at the price.

What I plan to do is earn enough money from it to cover the cost within 2 months!

How is that to be achieved? By “GPU mining”.

With the advent of OpenCL support, the newer graphics cards can be instructed to use the onboard graphics chip (known as the “GPU”) to focus on intensive mathematical tasks and free up the main system CPU to do other things.  The GPU is designed for this sort of work so it’s an ideal way to get the most out of the hardware you have purchased.

Ok, here’s where the money comes in.  Bitcoin is a form of virtual currency that is managed by a network of connected computers on the internet that talk to each other at a peer level to manage the transfer of bitcoins from one party to another.  The transfer is anonymous in that you know the identifier of the party you are dealing with but not who they are. There are businesses that are accepting bitcoins as a form of payment. The computers in the bitcoin network belong to any individual that is interested in partaking in the bitcoin economy.

My computer is now one of them.

Every now and again, one of the nodes (i.e. computers) in the network creates some new bitcoins (50 at a time to be precise).  The more processing power you have, the more likely you are to create a block of 50. By adding this graphics card, I have increased my processing power for bitcoin generation by about 150 times and should create 50 within 8 days on average according to the bitcoin calculator. I am processing at 155 Mhash/sec now.

There are markets to swap bitcoins for USD through paypal transactions which at time of writing show that 1 bitcoin is near to USD$1.  I will earn USD$50 per week on that basis which will pay for the card in under a month but I’m being conservative by aiming for 2 months. There has been a significant rise in the relative value of a bitcoin in the past 6 months which is a critical factor in this plan.

In order to get things running on Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit “Maverick Meerkat”, I had to download and install the proprietary version of the ATI driver (10.11 is the best for performance currently) for my card.  It chose the radeon driver by default which does not provide the OpenCL support required. Also, I chose ATI since their performance for mining is far, far better than Nvidia’s.

It was necessary to also get the ATI Stream SDK 2.1 from here.  This provides the OpenCL libraries.

I also downloaded this to get the correct ICD files installed under /etc/OpenCL/vendors

This how-to for Maverick Meerkat and also this link were invaluable in getting to this point.

Having achieved that little success, now we need to get the bitcoin software and also the Diablo GPU miner software.

You should ensure that the bitcoin server is running rather than the actual user interface (see below).

In a terminal window, run the following

sudo gedit ~/.bitcoin/bitcoin.conf

and put in any values for rpcuser and rpcpassword

rpcuser=myself

rpcpassword=somethingsecret

Then you need to run the bitcoin server with

bitcoind -server

Now finally you need to run the Diablo miner making sure that it knows where the ATI Stream SDK OpenCL library is. (find it with sudo find / -name libOpenCL.so) and using the path to where you downloaded the miner along with the username and password you put into the bitcoin.conf earlier.

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=~/Downloads/ati-stream-sdk-v2.1-lnx64/lib/x86_64/

./DiabloMiner-Linux.sh -u myself -p somethingsecret -w 64 -f 10

This should then show the current processing in terms of khash/sec.  Mine is between 150,000 and 160,000.

Now to sit back and see if I improve on my free 0.05 bitcoins in the next 8 days (UPDATE: First 50 bitcoins arrived this morning, 27/02/11 4:14:49 AM, after about 15 days of processing)

Oh, and if you do manage to get some coins and fancy giving them away, my bitcoin wallet is 1Cfdc5DHMABv27eyQ9xcrnuynQmx9dRXTg

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  1. April 7, 2011 at 22:59

    Hi, I visited your site a while ago and it’s been almost two months already, wondering how is the bitcoin generation doing.

    • gurrier
      April 8, 2011 at 08:49

      Hey Luis,

      Well, I’m glad to say things have been ticking along nicely.
      In early April, I found my fourth block so the cost of the graphics card is now covered.
      🙂

      I have read that the difficulty in mining bitcoins has increased in recent weeks so I’m a little reticent to increase my investment to buying a HD 5870 for double the price and double the bitcoin mining.

      Have you done any mining?

      Cheers,

      gurrier

  2. April 9, 2011 at 17:59

    Gurrier, Good to hear that you made back your investment, since I read your post I got interested in generating bitcoins but life got in the way. Recently the idea of bitcoin resurfaced and decided to start putting that GPU to some use.

    I have an older ATI, HD4870 that only makes ~90 Mhash/s. With the current bitcoin network difficulty of 82347.22294654 ( http://blockexplorer.com/q/getdifficulty ) and the proyected ( http://bitcoin.sipa.be/speed-lin.png ) it’s going to take forever to generate any with my setup and I will most definitely end up losing money from electrical costs.

    Difficulty increased from around 20k since you got in, so I guess I was am too late.

    • gurrier
      April 10, 2011 at 01:24

      Luis,

      Shame to see the difficulty increase so quickly. I guess I just made it in time. 🙂

      I’ve got half-price electricity through a deal at work so I guess I’ll leave it ticking away in the background to see if I can pick up a few more bitcoins. It will be interesting to see if the exchange rate with the USD increases further which would make it economically compelling again.

      Cheers,

      gurrier

  3. Matt
    May 24, 2011 at 04:49

    I’m trying the same thing, although the size of the mining community has changed somewhat. Difficulty is now at 244k. On the other hand, the USD/BTC ratio is now around $7/BTC. So I’ll generate fewer coins but they’ll be worth more per coin. I wish I had started mining earlier.

  4. June 11, 2011 at 10:29

    How you doing NOW?!?!
    I am sure the current pricing bubble is simply due to the sudden popularity of the bitcoin, but what sort of cash are you making today? is it still worth getting into? (mining I mean, I think I can get a little rig going for around $500 so it would be interesting, if not I would simply have a sweet gaming machine)
    thanks.

    • gurrier
      June 11, 2011 at 14:09

      Doing well.
      I have two machines going now generating 610 Mhash/sec.
      It’s difficult to determine where the price is going but you can use the bitcoin calculator to estimate how much you will earn.

      • June 11, 2011 at 20:09

        I ended up buying a ATI HD5970 for around AU$400, did start mining in time to generate enough to cover expenses, and with the recent spike in price make a a nice profit, I would be weary to start now though.

        I’m currently going solo on 750Mhash/s and haven’t generated a block in 25 days and difficulty is only going to increase from current ~567358 to ~790540.

        Instead I would buy those $500 in bitcoins thru mtgox and speculate.

        Gurrier, are you in a pool?

      • gurrier
        June 12, 2011 at 00:12

        Hello again, Luis.

        So you did make it into bitcoin mining after all.
        I notice today a significant drop in the pool price at Mt Gox. It went from USD 26 to USD13 in one day which is the first real drop I have noticed.
        It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

        I have not bothered with pool mining and have been happily chugging along waiting for blocks of 50 bitcoins.

        Even with the difficulty and lower exchange rate, the calculator reckons I’ll earn over USD600 per month from my 5770 and 5870 which is pretty good.

        Think I will donate my proceeds to libreoffice (if you’re not already using it, you should be).
        If we can wean people off MS Office then GNU/Linux will get more corporate backing (and funding) as an enterprise desktop. I think the Office apps are the main obstacle that is left but the Document Foundation guys are doing a brilliant job of improving the suite since they ditched Oracle.

        Cheers,

        gurrier

  5. July 11, 2011 at 13:46

    Msy is the place to get everything. Mining is a good way to earn BitCoins if your looking to keep earning long term. But if you just want a few to try them out you can get them at iWantFreeBitCoins.com. Just an idea.

  6. Brandon
    September 16, 2011 at 09:11

    Keep in mind that the U.S. Government is against bitcoins. The FBI have done raids to undermine bitcoins, and considers using bitcoins as domestic terrorism.

    I am all for the use of something other that the dollar we have now, as it has no backing except for that of a faulty law system, and is being inflated non-stop.

    • gurrier
      September 16, 2011 at 16:28

      The USD is going down the toilet fast. The massive printing of new money known as “Quantitative easing” just makes every single thing an American owns worth less.
      Listen to Peter Schiff – buy gold, not to get rich, just to maintain what you already have.

      It will get a lot worse before it improves.

  7. frankie
    September 30, 2011 at 00:42

    hi im looking forward to start mining. i m new on pcs which means my knowledge is little. if i get a ATI Radeon HD 5770 and i work on windows will the hash/s be the same?

    • gurrier
      September 30, 2011 at 12:21

      frankie,

      I have not tried on Windows so cannot comment.
      For the record, the actual return on effort has markedly reduced recently.
      Checkout the online bitcoin mining calculators.

      Cheers,

      gurrier

  1. April 10, 2011 at 03:39

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