The Gridcoin 4x4x4 Challenge

in gridcoin •  last year 

This is my first steemit post, so please be gentle :)

Introduction

Coming in contact with Gridcoin, or any cryptocurrency/blockchain project, goes (as everything else in life, if you believe google search) through 5 stages:

  1. Enthusiasm - this new tech/coin/getting rich opportunity is AWESOME!!!
  2. Discovery - and here is how it all works
  3. Doubt - but is it going to work FOR ME ?
  4. Denial - damn it, that's way too complicated and confusing, I'll never be able to make it work!!!
  5. Acceptance - yeah, it kind of works


  1. Enthusiasm - I'll get rich in no time!!
  2. ...

Ask anyone, they will say steps 3 and 4 are the hardest and most time consuming to go through. But you also learn the most, and if you keep at it you will get to step 5 eventually. 

Where am I, you ask? Well, I'd say I'm almost out of stage 4, and working hard to fully unlock stage 5.

The 4x4x4 challenge

To that end, I am challenging myself to a month (4 weeks) of Gridcoin Research to prove that even a normal human being, with exactly one old-ish laptop and no access to server racks, NVidia Radeon XX999 Ultra Super GT, ASICs (OK, I admit, I have some running shoes by that name) can at least have fun, get some science done, and cover some of the electricity costs without having to kill their 3rd degree auntie to inherit her beloved solar panel.

To keep things fun, I selected 4 BOINC projects to run in parallel, all with equal shares. I know, I know, the only comment this post will ever get will be about how wrong and inefficient that is. More on that later.

The above-mentioned laptop is equipped with an i7 3517U CPU. That's a 2 cores, 4 threads, an awesome 5 generations old mobile beast running at a whopping 2.8GHz in Turbo mode while sipping a maximum of 17W of power (17W is the TDP, it probably burns slightly more watts). You can stop laughing at any time you wish, you 16 core Xeon schmucks!

Thus, the 4x4x4 empty marketing nonsense is born.

The Projects

Remember the 5 stages? Last month I quickly went from 1 to 3, then spent a lot of time in stage 4 while discovering that my machine was not fit for many of the BOINC projects available. That said, I did learn that with my machine anything other than CPU-only projects is a waste of grcpool's and BOINC's resources to keep stats with such low numbers.

For some reason, VBox projects also seem to be rather slow for me, and tend to make the system less responsive for daily use. 

So after some rather empirical testing I ended up choosing:

  • Latin Squares (ODLK) - the most productive for me
  • SRBase - second most productive
  • World Community Grid - my first number crunching love, even before the BOINC days, and the one doing the most "serious" research. If it proves to be efficient enough, I might keep this as my only/main project after this challenge
  • [email protected] - I needed a 4th one, seemed like a good candidate, we'll see how it goes

So why run 4 projects at a time? 

First because 4x1x4 wouldn't sound so cool ;)

But on a more serious note, I'd really like to see which of them is more efficient over a long-enough period of 4 weeks, and if there are any quirks that would make me choose one over the other in the long run.

I plan to also compare with February data, to see if the total Mag from 4 projects could match or surpass the Mag from a single project.

The Setup

I'm using grcpool.com as my account manager, both because of the awesome site and statistics and, to a much lesser extent, because I'm cheap and don't want to invest enough in GRC to go solo (yet).

I have all 4 projects added with equal share (100) and no gpu checks in place (not really needed, but in case they add GPU WUs in the future).


Since I had some work done in the past on some of the projects, I waited a while for the Mags to settle and become almost equal, while low enough to have room to grow. In the process I also got my payment so the owed amount starts nice and clean from 0. This is how things looked Wednesday morning, March 7th:

![2018-03-07 17_28_17-Gridcoin Pool start from 0.png]()

Just to get a glimpse of the glorious past we're up against, the total Mag graph looked like this:

![2018-03-07 17_29_12-Gridcoin Pool total mag graph.png]()

The spike you see is from Sourcefinder, which I had sitting idle with no WU's for 2 weeks, until one day before blacklisting it decided to spit 3 WUs in my direction. I'm not proud of it, but it was a nice bonus

The middle of February also marked a 10-days holiday for me, so the Mag slowly dropped from there to the start of the challenge

Finally, the per-project Mag graph shows that ODLK was the most efficient project when running solo (no other projects in parallel). Let's see if that will still happen when it has to compete for CPU with 3 other hungry projects.

![2018-03-07 17_29_35-Gridcoin Pool mag per project.png]()

Wrap-up

That's it for the start. The plan is to have one post/week to check how it goes. Thank you for reading or at least scrolling all the way down here. Any comments, votes, STEEM, GRC, kWh, NVidia GTX1080 or beer donations are most welcome. Happy crunching y'all ! slowminer
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The i7 should work well as a BOINC cruncher even though it is a few generations old. The amount of RAM might be a bigger issue for running multiple all threads at once when you compute some of the more memory hungry projects.
I try to be part of a few BOINC projects at once to buffer against work shortages and also to have a spread of GPU and CPU projects.
VirtualBox with BOINC needs a bit more user intervention and micro-management so it is best to leave those projects until you have been on step 5 for a while and want to spice things up a bit.

I hope you enjoy the ride.

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Thanks for the detailed reply.
RAM does indeed seem to be needed (task manager doesn't really help here, showing very small values, but I estimate up to 2GB of RAM eaten by the 4 BOINC tasks in various project combinations). Fortunately I have 10GB so I'm good even with a lot of other stuff running on the system.

Can you please give me any links where I could start reading up on VBox projects optimizations? Perhaps there's a second 4x4x4 challenge in there somewhere :)

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  ·  last year (edited)

10GB should be plenty for a combination of most projects but VirtualBox does complicate task management because each virtual machine allocates memory using a kernel-mode driver. Memory used by the virtual machines will not be displayed in the task list and BOINC Manager will not be able to enforce memory limits.
The total amount of RAM used by the system can be seen in the Performance tab of Task Manager program. The value for "committed" memory includes processes in RAM and the system page-file (the page-file is often referred to Virtual Memory but is not actually part of the virtual machines), if your committed memory is much more than 10GB then it is likely your computer will have a performance reduction as data is frequently moved from RAM to and from the disk (known as paging).

In my personal experience, the best way to manage over use of RAM by virtual machine projects is to manually set a limit on the number of instances that BOINC can run simultaneously for each project. Each project can be configured using the app_config.xml file located in the project's sub folder of the Boinc Data Directory.
eg; the default folder location for SETI would be C:\ProgramData\BOINC\projects\setiathome.berkeley.edu.
Information about use of the app_config.xml is available in the BOINC Wiki pages

You can restrict individual applications but I like to keep it simple and restrict the whole project with a file like this:

<app_config>
   <project_max_concurrent>2</project_max_concurrent>
</app_config>

NOTE: If the app_config.xml file already exists in the project directory just insert the <project_max_concurrent> tags somewhere between <app_config> and </app_config>.

After changing the app_config.xml file you will have to force BOINC Manager to read the file.
There is a menu item for this in the Advanced View: Options->read config files.

If you use your laptop for work or play as well as BOINC you will need to experiment with the number of virtual machines you can run without impacting the system performance. Even if you are within 10GB of committed memory the virtual machines will not always be the lowest priority process so you can expect some latency in high performance programs.

On my desktop i7-3770 I run BOINC processes in the background on 5 cores (62.5% cores) and allow up to 3 virtual machines without a noticeable reduction in performance. Results will vary for individual circumstances.

Don't forget to check the message boards of your projects, there will probably be some good advice specific to their applications.

Welcome to steemit!

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Welcome to Steemit, @slowminer. For more visibility and larger reach, you can use #beyondbitcoin, #science and #boinc tags for your quality Gridcoin posts.

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Thanks! #boinc seems appropriate.
As for #science, I find it a little too self-appreciative. The real science is done by the people developing BOINC, the research projects and Gridcoin itself, I'm just a humble app-runner and observer.

Welcome to Gridcoin and Steemit.

Running 4 projects is fine, you will earn a bit less GRC, but you will do more varied scientific research, we can all respect that, its why Gridcoin + BOINC exists :)

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Thanks! At least it might help me and maybe others to decide on one or two of the projects to keep in the long run. I still don't believe running 4 of them on the same system is a completely sane approach :)

Hello man, nice introducing ! I will follow your 4x4x4 challenge, it's a great idea to report your activity here from 0.

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Thanks for the kind words. I do plan to keep reporting.

hi, @slowminer
Thank you for writing good.
I will follow you and I hope to write better in the future.

Follow me ( @wonsama ), I'll providing korean realtime news every 1 hour.

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Wow, that's the nicest thing a korean bot ever said to me ! :D
Just kidding, I would definitely follow if I could read the language.

I love this post. Your enthusiasm and the funny style you use in your descriptions are very enjoyable. Thank you for defining the 4x4x4 measure which seems to be a good one.

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Thank you for the encouragement. Who knows, maybe you others decide to follow the same approach and do a report of their own.
I'd love to see a similar posts series on a more powerful setup (for example GPU-only projects to keep it differentiated enough) or from a more experienced researcher that could provide more valuable insight.

Great idea. I'm waiting for the next update :)

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Me too, to be honest :)
I find writing about this to be surprisingly addictive, my fingers are already itching to start typing the end-of-week 1 report. See you in a couple of days.

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Haha, it sounds familiar to me. :D

getting rich opportunity is AWESOME!!!

It could be that you are into wrong coin if getting rich is an opportunity you are looking for. The coin side (GRC) is just a way of satisfaction for donating to science (BOINC). It's more abut donating then taking.

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  ·  last year (edited)

I'm sorry, it seems that steemit has this bug where sarcasm tags don't work correctly [/s]

Well, if my joke wasn't obvious in the first place, it will become evident when I publish the results. I might get an entire GRC by the end of the week! $$

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Sorry, I obviously did not paid enough attention :)