I Just Wanna BOINC! -- Part 1: The Pi Stack

in #gridcoin6 years ago (edited)


Do you suffer from low magnitude disorder? Are you tired of only earning 6 Gridcoins per day? I too was once a victim of this hideous malady. But I finally said “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” and chose to unleash the hidden power contained within my hard earned stacks of fiat, perhaps altering the course of my entire life.

Welcome to part one of the multi-part series, I Just Wanna BOINC!, where you can follow along with my transformation from a low-mag nobody to undisputed Gridcoin royalty! (or at least to a slightly higher-mag nobody)

Part 1: The Pi Stack

Pi’s are cute, right? So why not stack a few up and start crunchin’ some goddamn work units?!

Sure, no one seriously constructs workstations out of Raspberry Pis, so the price I’m paying on a per-mag basis would surely be beaten elsewhere without much effort. But, the truth is, (a) everything isn’t all about absolute value, c’mon guys (just ask my hero, the water-cooled GPU god also known as Vortac), (b) I didn’t do any research before I ordered them so please don't judge me too harshly, and (c) I ordered 8 Pis and received 9! Thanks Amazon! This will help out a little.

This project ended up being very straightforward. I’m not much of a command line kind of guy, so they’re all running Noobs with the full GUI. I just peek in from time to time with my laptop via RealVNC.

I had awful luck overclocking an older Pi (constant freezing, poor performance, and one incident that somehow fried the SD card), so these are all currently running at stock speeds. I may get in there and experiment later, but stability is important to me. I want these to crunch for months at a time without having to intervene.

To get a feel for the relative magnitude, I pointed 4 of the Pis toward [email protected] (which my old Pi 2 had already been crunching for over a month) and the other 5 toward [email protected] These seemed to be the only whitelisted projects supporting Linux on ARM that don’t compete alongside GPUs (if [email protected] makes a return to the whitelist we'll have a third option). After a few days, I found that [email protected] was returning more than double the magnitude as [email protected]; therefore they’re now all running the former (this was not an effect of the increased [email protected] competition during the BOINC Pentathlon).

[EDIT: There seem to be additional non-GPU projects that you can crunch with Raspberry Pis (and other single board computers); e.g. many of the projects that support Android.]

I felt a twinge of guilt while selecting the [email protected] project and clicking the "no new tasks" button (mostly because the admin is such a cool dude; go ahead and have a listen for yourself), so I decided to write a letter to help process my feelings:

Dear Yoyo,

I’m not saying goodbye forever, I’m only saying goodbye for now. I’ll never forget all we’ve been through. I know it's painful, but try to be strong.

With Love,
jimbo88 :'(

Picture Time!

I had to wait a while for the standoffs to arrive, so here's a shot of the temporary Pi Rack (9 Pi 3s in a row, with my old Pi 2 up top):


And here's a few shots of the Pi Stack in its final form:



SD cards are easily accessible.


It does its work in the corner, under a lamp, next to the lonely-looking Pi 2.

If you look closely you'll notice that the Pi Stack is a little bit taller than the fans. This is because I was planning for 8 Pis instead of 9. But it doesn't seem to matter very much as there is still some air movement over the topmost Pi. To fasten the Pis to the base, I drilled holes and threaded machine screws into the underside of the first layer of standoffs. The USB hub and the fans are stuck to the base with Velcro, so they're secure but still easily adjustable.

Without fans, these were running just north of 80°C (green numbers):

fans off.png

With a few cheap fans, they are running much cooler:

fans on.png

Note the whacky CPU usage on Pi #1. I think this must have been the extra one that Amazon threw into the box. Maybe instead of throwing away a bad batch, they decided to give them away for free. I put this ugly duckling on the very top of the stack because its lower performance results in lower temperatures. Also note, Pis 6, 7, 8, and 9 were running Yoyo at the time of this screenshot. [email protected] seems to literally be the cooler of the two projects (by 5-10°C).

Here's the BOM:


The $80 USB hub was a bit of a torch. I could have gotten by much cheaper with a few power strips and the standard micro usb wall plugs. Or, if I actually knew what the hell I was doing, I could have powered them through the GPIO pins. No matter how you slice it, I definitely didn't get the maximum value out of my money.

And finally, here's a look at some quick and dirty ROI math:


Frequently Asked Questions (that no one has ever asked me)

Q: You know that mining some other coin might actually make you a profit, right?
A: As of right now (given my power cost) it actually is profitable to mine GRC!! But, I'd continue BOINCing even if all of GRC's value evaporated overnight. Science is cool!

Q: How many computers are too many computers?
A: I’m not really sure yet. Everything will need to fit into my tiny apartment and not be very loud, so I can’t go too crazy with this new hobby.

Q: Why must you destroy BOINC by monetizing it with your fake money crypto thing?
A: I’m always perplexed when I come across bitter comments directed toward Gridcoin from (a tiny minority of) long-time BOINC users. I’m fairly new to both of these communities, but every Gridcoin development discussion that I’ve come across seems to hold the long term success of BOINC as a core value (e.g. improving BOINC security, promoting BOINC to new audiences, brainstorming new BOINC projects, developing relationships with the BOINC admins, etc…). When it comes to the topic of decentralized currency, whether you think it’s awesome or think it’s a scam, you have to admit that it does indeed exist. There are hundreds of these currencies and the vast majority of them (Bitcoin is the best example) piss away huge amounts of computing power on pointless tasks. The goal of Gridcoin is to divert these wasted resources toward BOINC, i.e. science wins. What’s not to like?

Q: I live in Reno and I have way too many Gridcoins, can you help me?
A: Yes, I'd like to buy (with cash) another ~$1,000 worth of GRC. The Coinbase fees and delays are kinda ridiculous and the exchanges don't exactly inspire feelings of trustworthiness, though I will use them if I have to. It reminds me of the early days of online poker; you keep the absolute minimum funds on their websites because you expect to get screwed at some point, and if something bad does happen you have zero recourse.

Q: What is your crypto investment strategy? Do you have any hot tips?
A: I think that drawing shapes on graphs to try to predict the future is silly. Find a project that you believe in and buy (and mine) and hold. I would sell some (so I could sleep at night) if the price happened to go way up and the value of my GRC represented a significant portion of my net worth.

That's all for now, thanks for tuning in. The next installment of I Just Wanna BOINC! will feature a Dual CPU Z620 Workstation (and me fumbling my way through ubuntu for the first time)! You can follow along with my Gridcoin statistics here.


man, I'm having a hell of time getting grc to compile on centos 6.7. Seems like everything on ubuntu is in order for it...but centos has so many older packages. Might just have to bite it and spin up a second server.

hey @jimbo88!

Thanks for doing this! I just dumped a good chunk of change into gridcoin the other day, pretty excited about it. I think I might set up a PI to stake them.

Your welcome! And welcome to Gridcoin! There's a lot of good people around that can help if you have any issues setting up your wallet.

Thanks! I have a webserver already, decided to try setting it up on that. It's running Centos 6.7 though, I've been at it for a few hours so far, had to upgrade GCC, and now recompiling boost manually. There's no accurate documents that I could find for doing a gridcoin on Centos, so maybe that will be my first post =)

also @jimbo88 why can't I see any of your posts on your profile, only this latest one shows up even though it says you have 8 posts?

This is my first actual post. The other "posts" are just comments that I've made on other people's posts. Your profile says "7 posts" but they're comments, not blog posts. Make sense? :-)

Upvoted, followed and resteemed! Im a long time BOINCer and have been into Gridcoin for a few years. I have a Pi2 and a Pi3 on Universe as well.

Do you run your Gridcoin wallet on one of the Pis? I do and it keeps me staking 24/7 which is good for the network (I can send you a compiling guide if you like?). I agree about those horrid exchanges, I hope if we can get Gridcoin on Lykke we will have an easy to use exhange with secure coins.

Hi, thanks for the note, nice to meet you. I followed you as well.

I started with BOINC and GRC in March and at that time I had two computers. One was an older gaming laptop (windows 10) and the other was a Pi2 that was just collecting dust. I have the wallet running 24/7 on my laptop, but due to poor thermals I can only crunch BOINC with 1 or 2 of its cores (out of 4) when the wallet is running. Maybe it would make sense to move the wallet over to the old Pi 2, or maybe one of the Pi 3s. Please do send the compiling guide, I'll give it a try.

Regarding the exchanges, I've only ever used c-cex and polo. I know customminer always suggests other options that aren't centralized, so maybe there are better places to do business that I just haven't tried out yet. Yeah, Lykke's model seems really cool, a lot better than polo.

Actually you have a few options, if you make one of your Pis run Ubuntu there is a Gridcoin PPA that should be very easy https://launchpad.net/~gridcoin/+archive/ubuntu/gridcoin-stable . I didnt use it myself.
Another option is whats going on over at https://github.com/Steffov/GRC-Scripts . I didnt use it myself.
The compiling guide I wrote is pretty long, see about the others first and if they are no good for you perhaps I'll publish it on my own GitHub

An excellent post, thank you. My son and I love PI projects. He's working on something currently with a new PI3, I think it's a masternode setup.

Thanks! Yeah, the Pis and other single board computers are good for a lot of different applications. They're so cheap and useful, it's crazy.

Informative.. looking more posts related to Rasberry pi

They're pretty nice little machines. Here's a link to the low voltage thread on GRC's main forum: https://cryptocurrencytalk.com/topic/46991-boinc-low-voltage-porn-rigs/

Great article, capturing the essence of BOINC and Gridcoin! Hear the call of science, ye all PoW miners!

Following, upvoting, resteeming, promoting and putting you on my Steemvoter bot list :)

Vortac!! That means a lot to me, thanks for the support! Your series on GPUs was what inspired me to share my own stories with the community.

Gridcoin has the best community there is! This CPU path you've taken provides a completely new perspective, thanks for providing us with such a detailed insight.

I'm running 15 PI's at home and some other single board computers. In Germany the ernergy costs are much higher and you don't get profit, but thats not my aim by using BOINC.

I have a few more SBCs coming soon in the mail: http://imgur.com/fwBEfqj

I visited Germany last fall with my dad. It was a lot of fun! My favorite area was the south (Bavaria) near the mountains.

Hello my friend

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Happy day my friend and always
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ty for the poem

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