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The era of Bitcoin mining on the GPU is dead. A year ago, a single Radeon graphics card could crank out a reasonable fraction of a Bitcoin in a single day. Today, that same GPU earns a thousandth of a Bitcoin in 24 hours, generating little value while consuming a substantial amount of power. The shift to ASICs for Bitcoin mining mirrors the shift from CPUs to GPUs, but the market isn’t content to just turn those mining rigs off — not when there’s an alternative currency available for which ASIC miners do not exist.
That alternative is Litecoin — and there’s reason to think that buyers have emptied the shelves of AMD’s Radeon hardware to build mining platforms. First off, there’s the fact that you can’t find a high-end Radeon in stock at the moment. Newegg and Amazon are both out of stock, while over at Amazon, the lowly AMD Sempron 145 — a single-core, 2.8GHz chip with a $29.75 price — is the 5th most popular CPU.
Further proof of this trend is the Litecoin network hash rate, is shown here:
Clearly Litecoin miners are coming online, and they’re coming online en masse. Many of these are undoubtedly Bitcoin miners switching over now that GPUs are no longer cost effective, but some of these systems are probably driven by new miners.
Litecoin confirms transactions faster (every 2.5 minutes, rather than every 10 minutes for Bitcoin) and it contains more coins — 84 million coins will be found in total under the LTC protocol, as opposed to 21 million for BTC. Bitcoin and Litecoin prices tend to move together; Bitcoins stratospheric leap over the past month (it’s down from a high of $1200 but trading at $873 as of this writing) has created an odd situation where it’s easier to mine Litecoin and then convert LTC to BTC then it is to just mine BTC to start with.
Why bother installing CPU-mining malware on thousands of machines, when you can just break into someone’s Amazon cloud computing account and create a well-managed datacentre instead?
This week, a software developer discovered someone had done just that, and made off with a pile of litecoins on his dime.
Melbourne-based programmer Luke Chadwick got a nasty shock after receiving an email from Amazon. The firm told him that his Amazon Key (a security credential used to log on to Amazon Web services) had been found on one of his Github repositories.
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Litecoin vs. Bitcoin, who win? It is more like a comparison between gold and silver. These are the top two cryptocurrencies by market cap if you don’t include Ripple (XRP). Recently Bitcoin (BTC) had a market cap of $8.48 billion and Litecoin (LTC) was at $485 million.
Litecoin is based upon the Scrypt hashing algorithm and Bitcoin is based on SHA256D. Miners are incentivized with bounties. For each Litecoin found the current reward is 50 LTC and the maximum number of coins in exisitence is capped at 84 million. For each Bitcoin discovered, the reward is down to 25 BTC and will continue to be halved on a regular basis until 2040 when the maximum supply is reached capped at 21 million.
Mining cryptocurencies is a post in itself. Briefly, it involves using freely dwnloadable software run on dedicated hardware or cloud computing power to solve complex calculations. The calculations get harder over time and the rewards get reduced as well. Miners are rewarded or discovering blocks which are added to a block chain every 10 minutes. Currently it may make more financial sense to try to mine LTC rather than BTC.