I’ve got to admit, it’s been a while since I last posted on this site. Things have been really busy. Cryptocurrency mining is a difficult job, especially at the moment with energy prices the way they are. I feel like since my first post about building open-air, water-cooled mining rigs I’ve (had to) step up my game in a big way.
With Summer here, and energy prices skyrocketing, I had a have a good long think about my strategy. What to mine has largely been dictated by how hot everything gets (even the water-cooled rigs begin to struggle in 30c ambient temps because my mining room can shoot up to 36c!) So, the key issues I’ve been tackling are largely based on cooling the room, and the maintenance required as a result of such heat. A subject I’ll address in another article.
Another big issue for me is power efficiency. As you can see from all of my previous posts, I learned to mine in Windows. I started with Nicehash’s Quickminer / and the NH Miner platform but, I became frustrated with Afterburner and the older version of OCtune. Mainly, my problem was the amount of power OCtune allows the cards to use and Afterburner really isn’t suitable for stable, long-term mining use. Neither is Windows, frankly. A quick look at Task Manager tells you everything you need to know; Windows is running hundreds of apps and services, but hardly any of them are relevant to the task of mining.
Clearly, Windows is not optimised for mining. I’ve long suspected that Windows is unnecessarily power hungry when pure mining applications are more efficient. Windows is excellent for checking emails, playing games, and surfing the Internet, of course!
A shift to HiveOS
I began getting interested in HiveOS but for a long time I’ve been reluctant to make the change. Perhaps through fear of the unknown. Looking back today, I wish I’d moved over sooner. In the end, it was the need for better cooling with less noise that led me to the Octominer platform.
As an aside, I own two Minebox 8Ls. While they were cheap (and easily available on Alibaba, FYI), they were somewhat underpowered for Windows and needed an SSD and memory upgrade.
Worse, the fan noise is crazy on those things.
Minebox 8Ls sound as though a jet airplane is taking off. The case fans are loud but the server PSU whines with a very high-pitched sound. You could never have one in a domestic situation, you’d never sleep.
Frustration with these cases led me to conclude I’d been stupid not to buy Octominers in the first place. To be fair, they’d be far better running HiveOS, but still just as noisy!
Minebox vs Octominer
You really can’t compare the two. For another few hundred Euros/Dollars/GBP the Octominer build quality, components and design are superior in every way. They come supplied with refurbished and tested HP/Dell power supplies which are so, so much quieter in comparison to the one that comes with the Minebox.
Octominers have Bosch temperature and environmental sensors that automatically control the fan speeds, but you can set these yourself to make the rig quieter. There’s an integration with HiveOS that can look after all of this for you. While I’m sitting here writing this post I have an Octominer running in the same room, nice and cool and critically, pretty quiet!
HiveOs comes pre-flashed on the SSD supplied, there’s a nifty B85 ULTRA INTEL PCI motherboard which is mounted vertically to save space.
This controls all of the ancillary functions and of course, runs the mainboard with 8 PCI-E slots spaced 65mm or so apart.
Firstly, you’ve got to be able to power the rig. Octominers come with a 4-way IEC mains cable (C14 Type, British 3-Blade) – “kettle lead” with a single C19 female adapter. That bit isn’t supplied, so you’ll need this or the US equivalent:
As I mentioned, Octominer comes pre-installed with HiveOS. If you’re new to HiveOS, no problem. The first thing you need to do is set up a HiveOS account. Here’s the how-to guide from HiveOS themselves. Opening the account is easy and there’s heaps of content on the subject. A lot of folks say flash HiveOS onto your SSD. SATA SSD – with an Octominer that’s not at all necessary.
Instead, remove the SSD from the Octominer case. You’ll need a Sabrent SSD to USB adapter. All you have to do is download the rig.conf file you’re provided with after opening your HiveOS account. Save it to the root of the SSD, return it to the Octominer, and power it up. The rig will just appear on your farm on HiveOS. It’s astonishing!
After you’ve booted the rig for the first time you’ll see if there are any HiveOS updates to do. It’s as simple as clicking a link and the machine self-updates. No lengthy flashing procedure is needed!
Octominers come with plenty of PCI-e power cables pre-installed. The only tiny challenge is untangling them and working out, by length, which power cable should power which GPU.
There are plenty of cables to go around. Each 3090 in the eventual build gets two separate PCI-E power cables. Only one 3080 (added later) uses a single power cable. That’s really good going.
I wish that the PCI-E power cables were bunched together by PSU, that way for GPUs with lower TDPs you could avoid using all 4 PSUs, without too much thought. As it stands, you start with a bit of a mess and slowly sort things out cable by cable.
Finally, once all the GPUs are plugged in, make sure you’ve left your spares in the right positions in case you add more GPUs (which I intend to later). I tie wrap the cables together and do my best to make sure none of them are in the way of the fans potentially making airflow less effective:
And that’s the installation done. You may notice that the 3080s are super close to the CPU and the right side of the case. These are both running well within the recommended temperature range after a comprehensive refurbishment using my favorite MX5 paste and thermal pads from GPUrisers. No copper modding, I’ve given up on that (again, a follow-up post is needed).
Why I’m a fan
Firstly, the Octominer is by far the best experience I’ve had so far. Bought from Octominer.eu both cases have arrived before the expected delivery date. I needed a little support on one of the cases as the exhaust temperature sensor wasn’t working. They were very good at helping me resolve the issue by email within about a 24-hour period.
Secondly having full control of fan speed and GPU by GPU overclock settings is awesome. With HiveOS you can update these settings individually and in real-time.
No more closing T-Rex miner, making a change, and waiting to see how the stability changes:
There’s such granularity and control available in the OC settings section, which you can save as a template. As all my rigs are a little different, I save each OC setup as a template. This also makes it far simpler to migrate to ETHash or ETChash which I mine too!
Finally, Flight Sheets. Flight Sheets bring together your settings: OC, mining pool stratum, miner (I use T-Rex), and your Wallet address. Switching to another coin is as simple as selecting your OC template and selecting another saved flight sheet. It’s amazingly efficient!
If I could go back in time to the day I started mining, I would shout at myself to go immediately to Octominer. Watercooling is great fun as a hobby but totally inappropriate for any at-scale mining. As my Farm has grown I have a collection of machines on ETHash running Windows and a set of boxes running on HiveOS. My immediate plan is to migrate the remaining rigs to HiveOS. The Mineboxes have now been replaced, and as an interesting project I’m considering modifying one to accommodate a water-cooled system, but again, that’s for another post.
For now, all I can really say is that I absolutely love these cases and if you’re a Windows miner, all I can say is get yourself on an Octominer with HiveOS now!