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Author Topic: The Lightning Network FAQ  (Read 14056 times)
This is a self-moderated topic. If you do not want to be moderated by the person who started this topic, create a new topic. (18 posts by 15 users deleted.)
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June 26, 2019, 09:36:04 PM
Last edit: June 23, 2020, 11:16:20 AM by BitCryptex
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 #1

This thread is now self-moderated. The previous one got derailed. Please, don't discuss here whether or not the Lightning Network is a good scaling solution.

If you don't know anything about the Lightning Network, consider reading "Basics of The Lightning Network" first.

Table of contents

      1. General Information
      2. Running a node
      3. Concerns

General Information

How are bitcoins on the Lightning Network different from on-chain bitcoins?

They are exactly the same coins. There are no Lightning Network tokens. The only difference is that bitcoins are stored in multi-signature addresses and transactions are settled between two parties without broadcasting anything to the blockchain (except when opening and closing the channel).


When will merchants start accepting Lightning Network payments?

More and more merchants start accepting Lightning Network payments. The most popular payment gateaway - BitPay does not accept Lightning Network payments and is very unlike to introduce them anytime soon. Here you can find a list of merchants who accept LN payments.


How many times can we expect to be able to use a payment channel?

Every channel has a minimum amount of coins which has to stay unspent. Channels can be used as long as both parties continue to cooperate with each other. Channels do not have any use limit.


How fast and reliable are Lightning Network payments?

Depending on the route, Lightning Network payments can be instant. Every wallet tries to find the cheapest and the shortest route when you attempt to send a transaction. You can open a channel directly to a person who you are going to often trade with or depend on other channels which can route your payment for a small fee (usually under 1 satoshi). Lightning Network payments fail from time to time due to no route to the destination node or too high payment amount (not enough liquidity). The latter problem is mitigated by splitting the transaction into multiple smaller payments routed via different channels.


What are the upcoming features?

Dual funded channels - both parties will be able to fund a channel.

Splicing-In & Out - it will be possible to add and remove funds from existing Lightning Network channels without having to close them.

Channel factories- existing Lightning Network channels could be used for creating new channels without broadcasting anything to the rest of the Bitcoin network. Normally, a channel is opened to only one person. In channel factories, we have multiple people forming a group. Group members maintain channels between themselves. More interested users = higher savings. If one of the participants is uncooperative, existing channels are not affected - new channels can't be created, though.


Where can I find the latest news regarding the Lightning Network?

Telegram channel, Bitcoin Lightning, Cointelegraph, 1ml.com (Lightning Network Explorer), Lightning Labs blog.


Which wallet is the best one?

There are multiple implementations of the Lightning Network and most wallets have similar features. Eclair Mobile is the most popular wallet for Android but it is also available on Windows. The most popular implementations are: c-lightning, LND and eclair.


Running a node

How much money can you make on running a Lightning Network node?

In order to start making money on running a node, you have to open a few channels and encourage others to open a channel back. Keep in mind that built-in autopilot might not guarantee you the best connections. Don’t expect to make a lot of money. Everything depends on the number of connections and your fee policy. The less you charge, the higher your chances to route a payment are. Don’t set the fee too low. You have to save up money for future channel re-balancing. User Xian01 opened almost 200 channels and earned barely 15 satoshis after 2 weeks (Reference). Here's more detailed and recent data:

The data from my post mentioned by Rizzrack is not really relevant; I should change that answer. Take this article from 2018 as an example for that year.

There are currently 25 nodes owned by LNbig.com. They provide about 52,19% (497,2647581 BTC out of 952,86 BTC) of the whole network's liquidity. I can't find any data on their recent earnings, but their Twitter account shares the amount of transactions and BTC passed through their nodes in the last 24 hours from time to time. You can clearly see the surge of the transactions in the last few months. Starting from 100-800 transactions in March and going to over 4000 in May. That is a huge change.

I have tried to calculate the possible earnings using the fee formula (basefee + (amount * feerate / 1000000) and the data from this tweet, but my results were far too off.

The 3rd March seems to have been the most profitable day. 161 routed transactions worth 2.24602985 BTC paid in total 219484 sat (0.00219484 BTC) in fees. At the current price of Bitcoin ($9300), it is about $20! Still, don't forget about the amount of coins locked up in all the nodes and the cost of opening transaction all channels.

The 24th January is even more impressive to me. 186 routed transactions worth 0.60161437 BTC paid in total 172378 sat (0.00172378 BTC) in fees. It is about $16 now.

Alex Bosworth shared that his node charged 0.25% per transaction and routed about $10,000/month which translates to earnings of about $25/month. He didn't say which node he was referring to, but since he is the CEO of yalls.org, we can assume that it was this one. That is actually interesting because of the significantly smaller capital. 

Coming back to earth, you are not going to earn much if your node doesn't provide enough liquidity. However, it is also worth mentioning that multipart payments are now available in all implementations. Once more wallets start supporting them, the earnings of well-connected, small nodes might increase.

Note: Keep in mind that 952,86 BTC is the amount of the funds locked up in public channels. Private channels are... private so we don't know how many of them exactly there are and what is their balance (although that might not be the case [5.4.2]). Such channels do not route any payments.


How do channel owners get paid for routing payments?

Fees earned from routed payments are added to the balance of the channel. The total fee charged is basefee + (amount * feerate / 1000000), where amount is the forwarded amount. If you set both of these values too high, you won't route any payments.


Is running a Lightning Network node demanding?

You can run a Lightning Network node on both Linux and Windows. Even Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is capable of running a Lightning Network node. Check out RaspiBlitz for fast setup.


Is there any risk in running a Lightning Network node?

Yes, due to many factors. Lightning Network implementations are still in beta and might contain critical bugs which could be used to steal funds locked up in channels. Keep in mind that if you won't keep your node online 24/7, someone can attempt to cheat you by broadcasting an old state of your channel. An online node would normally broadcast a penalty transaction. This can be mitigated by using watchtowers.

Keep in mind that you have to keep your coins in a hot wallet which increases the risk of coins theft.


Does opening new channels help to increase the earnings?

No, it doesn't. There are many other things that you should take into account. Your fee policy, channels' capacity, connection to differently sized nodes. Here you can find an interesting comparison between Andreas Brekken's and Alex Bosworth's nodes. The node which had lower principal, made higher profit.


Do I have to run a full Bitcoin node?

No, LND supports neutrino; c-lightning allows using a pruned node. Eclair users are out of luck. Mobile clients obviously do not need you to run a Bitcoin node.


How do I set up a Lightning Network node?

The setup process varies for each implementation. Fortunately, detailed documentation makes it easy for inexperienced users to start their own Lightning Network node even on Linux. If you don't feel confident with any other operating system than Windows then take a look at this tutorial which will help to set up your own node.


What is the purpose of setting alias and color?

This information is often used by Lightning Network visualisers and explorers. It is not very important and has no impact on how the node works.


Do I have to generate an invoice every time I want someone to send me coins over the Lightning Network?

No, invoiceless Lightning Network payments are supported by LND and c-lightning. Most wallets do not support this feature, yet.


Can I refill my channel?

Currently, there is no way to refill channels without using third party services such as Lightning Conductor. Splicing will allow users to either top-up their channels or drain funds from them without having to reopen the channel. Channel balance will be updated once the transaction gets enough confirmations.


Why can't I receive coins?

In order to receive Lightning payments, some conditions must be met:

1. Nothing can be received immediately after creating a new payment channel, as ‘room’ for incoming funds has to be made by spending some funds first. A payment channel can be thought of as a full bottle of water: in order to pour something in one first has to pour something out.

2. Each channel implicitly contains a reserve which is unspendable and typically takes about 2% of the channel’s capacity. You must spend an amount matching that reserve to make receiving possible. Unspendable channel reserve is the reason you see a negative receive limit when a new channel is full. It indicates how much you need to spend before anything can be received through the channel.

3. Every payment request is disposable, they can’t be fulfilled twice. So you will need to issue a new individual payment request for every incoming payment you wish to receive.

4. Wallet needs to be online in order to receive off-chain funds.

Note that not every mobile wallet supports receiving coins because of the fourth point. There are some exceptions such as Bitcoin Lightning Wallet (Android), Eclair Mobile (Android).


How is the balance settled for values under 1 satoshi?

Example: let's assume that after deducting the fee of the closing transaction, node A is supposed to get 6049.4 sat and node B 10300.6 satoshis. Since Bitcoin blockchain supports only up to 8 decimals, we have to do something about milisatoshis. All such values are rounded down and the remaining 1 satoshi is added to the transaction fee.

It is also worth mentioning that if one of the parties' balance is under dust limit, it is added to the fee instead.


Concerns

Is Lightning Network centralized? Is it more centralized than Bitcoin? Does it make Bitcoin more centralized?

This topic has been brought up many times. The Lightning Network is a second layer scaling solution which has no impact on the Bitcoin network. It works independently and no one is forced to use it. The problem of large nodes should solve itself once network continues to grow.


Will casual users be able to accept payments and donations without having to run their own full node 24/7?

Both OpenNode (payment gateway) and Bitlum.io allow users to receive Lightning Network payments without having to run a full node. However, these wallets are custodial which means that they have a full control of one's funds.


What are the new limitations of scalability once lightning is fully functional?

Opening and closing a channel requires broadcasting a Bitcoin on-chain transaction. Increasing the blocksize might be necessary in the future; however, solutions like SegWit, Schnorr signatures can help to decrease the size of transactions. Lightning Network is a second layer protocol, it is possible to build more user-friendly layers on top of it.


What would happen if a large node disappeared from the network?

Recently, we were able to observe Andreas Brekken’s experiment (shitcoin.com node). He was in charge of a node whose capacity was around 43 BTC (more than 50% of the whole network’s capacity!). After its closure, some people started to experience routing problems.


Is Lightning Network more anonymous than on-chain transactions?

Lightning Network increases the level of privacy. The next node in the path doesn’t know if the previous one initiated the transaction. Every node which routes the payment doesn’t know the details of the transaction (final destination, sender). Multipart payments help to hide the total amount of coins sent.


What happens if some nodes go temporarily offline?

This problem has already been addressed. When a channel is being closed or any of the node's peers has gone offline, the rest of the network is informed that they are incapable of routing payments. It is also possible to create unadvertised (private) channels which won't route payments. They are widely used by mobile wallets.


What discourages from running big nodes and overtaking the network?

Large nodes could be targetted by hackers since the funds are stored in a hot wallet. Since multipart payments are already available, having large channels might not be worth it in the long run. Connectivity might be more important.

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June 26, 2019, 09:36:26 PM
Last edit: May 09, 2020, 10:27:55 PM by BitCryptex
 #2

I decided to re-post this thread without making many changes. I will focus on answering questions from the previous thread and keeping this one clean.

This thread is now self-moderated. Old thread got derailed. Please, don't discuss here whether or not the Lightning Network is a good scaling solution.

But I'm not sure if that's possible, until now the channel doesn't allow me to send my full balance. It varies a bit, so I'm not sure what the minimum reserve is.

Every channel has to maintain a reserve. It should be equal to 1% of the initial channel balance. Some wallets do not inform the user that such thing exists.

How do I choose which node to open a channel to?

I guess that you have already figured it out. The easiest way is to look for a well-connected node on 1ml.com and then copy its public key. Alternatively, users who run LND can take advantage of built-in autopilot which works quite well.

And: I expected payments to use both channels when possible, but until now that hasn't happened.

It's called payment slicing. Unfortunately, this feature is not available yet.

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June 27, 2019, 08:43:44 AM
 #3

Basic question. What kind of hardware specs, and bandwidth are recommended to maintain a routing node that has 100+ channels?

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June 27, 2019, 10:25:49 AM
 #4

Basic question. What kind of hardware specs, and bandwidth are recommended to maintain a routing node that has 100+ channels?

Running a Lightning Network node is not demanding. LNchat's node has 16 active channels and it uses less than 1% of available RAM (~300 MB out of 32 GB) and barely any CPU processing power. I don't monitor how much data is being used by the server since I also use it for a few different things.

Xian01 had been running a Lightning Network node (~200 channels) and posted some information which might be useful to you.

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June 28, 2019, 04:30:32 PM
Last edit: June 28, 2019, 05:04:19 PM by WhyFhy
Merited by LoyceV (1)
 #5

Basic question. What kind of hardware specs, and bandwidth are recommended to maintain a routing node that has 100+ channels?
Bandwith,Ram,Processor dont really hold any weight on hardware decisions,
 I would however recommend running Raid 1 and 2 new drives, with APC. *Edit Raid 1 (not 0)
You want to focus on stability over time to prevent the node from crashing.
Hope this helps.
If your just wanting to play with it google compute is offering $300 trials and have been stable for my projects.

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June 28, 2019, 04:56:29 PM
Merited by WhyFhy (1)
 #6

I would however recommend running Raid 0 and 2 new drives, with APC.

Wouldn't RAID 1 be better in such case? On-chain funds can be easily recovered using a seed but it won't restore the file which keeps channel state. Once you lose it, you have to depend on the other party. They might attempt to cheat. Using an old backup will be treated as a cheat attempt.

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June 28, 2019, 05:03:30 PM
 #7

I would however recommend running Raid 0 and 2 new drives, with APC.

Wouldn't RAID 1 be better in such case? On-chain funds can be easily recovered using a seed but it won't restore the file which keeps channel state. Once you lose it, you have to depend on the other party. They might attempt to cheat. Using an old backup will be treated as a cheat attempt.
Yes Raid one would be better, I got them mixxed up. But yes "Mirroring" is the best way,

*considering its page 1 I felt it critical to edit that mistake xD

I also wanted to add if your caught doing that you do get penalized as there are measures in place, I do not know the complexities behind the penalties though.
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June 28, 2019, 05:24:04 PM
 #8

I would however recommend running Raid 0 and 2 new drives, with APC.

Wouldn't RAID 1 be better in such case? On-chain funds can be easily recovered using a seed but it won't restore the file which keeps channel state. Once you lose it, you have to depend on the other party. They might attempt to cheat. Using an old backup will be treated as a cheat attempt.
Yes Raid one would be better, I got them mixxed up. But yes "Mirroring" is the best way,

*considering its page 1 I felt it critical to edit that mistake xD

I also wanted to add if your caught doing that you do get penalized as there are measures in place, I do not know the complexities behind the penalties though.


FYI:
Mirroring Increases Read Speeds, but decreases Write Speeds verses a single drive.
This can always be compensated for by using a high end RAID controller, that has Ram installed on it specially for Caching Reads & Writes.

If you want a professional designed system to stay up ,
you need to design a Server with Redundant Power Supplies running RAID 5 with hot swap able drives.
That way if 1 drive fails, you just hot-swap the new one and it automatically recovers the data, No Down Time.  Smiley
Also have a UPS ,that is connected to an alternative power source so if the normal power cuts off, your system stays up.
In addition, have two separate ISPs, with an automatic rollover if 1 ISP fails.

* I have seen companies do the above and even have redundant servers , if the motherboards failed for mission critical applications.*

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June 28, 2019, 05:37:58 PM
 #9

-snip

That's an overkill for a simple Lightning Network node. By default, one have 24 hours to bring back one's node online before forced channel closure (old channel state might be broadcast to the network).

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June 28, 2019, 05:39:45 PM
Last edit: June 28, 2019, 05:51:55 PM by WhyFhy
 #10

That would be a nice build Smiley go with a perc6 raid controller Smiley  slap on FOG snapshots to be extra
bit excessive for how beta LN is, surly opennode and eclair are using build like this though.

I know blockstream could be a viable option in the future on network/bandwidth redundancy, 1 way handshakes though even if LND got implemented. Unless we somehow get blockstream TRIA compatable (2 way LNB) blockstream would be something different entirely in that case if we could somehow get that to happen via BTC network fee's or something that would be sweet.

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June 28, 2019, 06:03:49 PM
Merited by LoyceV (1)
 #11

-snip

That's an overkill for a simple Lightning Network node. By default, one have 24 hours to bring back one's node online before forced channel closure (old channel state might be broadcast to the network).

Overkill is the point for a No DownTime Setup.

But even the simple setup need to be prepared for

Power Failures  , (Hurricanes or Ice Storms can have power off for weeks.)
ISP Failures    

All of which can still take you offline even if your PC is working perfectly.

I imagine at some point the watchtowers will handle all of the fail-over concerns.

Do you happen to know what specs & infrastructure the watch towers will be using?
TIA.



That would be a nice build Smiley go with a perc6 raid controller Smiley  slap on FOG snapshots to be extra
bit excessive for how beta LN is, surly opennode and eclair are using build like this though.


I always liked the PERC RAID Controllers.  Smiley
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June 28, 2019, 06:06:32 PM
 #12

If you want a professional designed system to stay up ,
you need to design a Server with Redundant Power Supplies running RAID 5 with hot swap able drives.
That way if 1 drive fails, you just hot-swap the new one and it automatically recovers the data, No Down Time.  Smiley
Also have a UPS ,that is connected to an alternative power source so if the normal power cuts off, your system stays up.
In addition, have two separate ISPs, with an automatic rollover if 1 ISP fails.

* I have seen companies do the above and even have redundant servers , if the motherboards failed for mission critical applications.*

Sounds good if we're talking about big merchant, exchange or anyone (whose business involves lots of money) who wants to run LN hub.

But for regular user (who probably don't route any transaction or often make transaction), set your own watchtower on $5 VPS (use pruned mode) is cheaper option.

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June 29, 2019, 01:10:36 PM
Merited by dbshck (4), bones261 (2), LoyceV (1)
 #13

How Is Milisatoshi In A Channel Is Shared When The Channel Closed?
And Who Pay For The Channel Closing Transaction Fee? Is It Shared Equally Between 2 Party? And What If One Party Has No Balance?

Example:
A Has 150000.5 Satoshi In X Channel
B Has 49999.5 Satoshi In X Channel
B Decided To Close X Channel, The Channel Closing Transaction Fee Is 20000 Satoshi.
How Much Did A & B Get In This Case?

Sorry If It Hard To Understand

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June 29, 2019, 04:06:20 PM
 #14

Great thread,happy to see that lightning network is here to solve micro transactions  Smiley
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June 29, 2019, 05:08:49 PM
Merited by dbshck (4), bones261 (2), Farul (1)
 #15

How Is Milisatoshi In A Channel Is Shared When The Channel Closed?

The amount is rounded down when the channel is closed. 1 msat = 1/1000 sat. For example, if you have 900 msat then you will get 0 satoshi on channel closure.

And Who Pay For The Channel Closing Transaction Fee? Is It Shared Equally Between 2 Party? And What If One Party Has No Balance?

The person who opened the channel covers the closing fee. Note that it's not possible to use up all funds that are locked up in the channel.

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June 30, 2019, 02:22:34 PM
 #16

How Is Milisatoshi In A Channel Is Shared When The Channel Closed?
The amount is rounded down when the channel is closed. 1 msat = 1/1000 sat. For example, if you have 900 msat then you will get 0 satoshi on channel closure.
i.e
Channel is Funded With 100 Satoshi
A Has 50.1 Satoshi
B Has 49.9 Satoshi
Assume That There's No Transaction Fee A Get 50 satoshi while B Get 49 satoshi.

Did That Mean The 1 Satoshi (Rounded Down Satoshi) Is Left Behind On The Multisig Wallet?

Isn't That Will Ended Up Filling Bitcoin Network UTXO, Which Bitcoin Node Should Store? #PotatoNodesMatter

The person who opened the channel covers the closing fee. Note that it's not possible to use up all funds that are locked up in the channel.
What If The Channel Opener [X] Had So Little Balance That Will Not Enough To Pay For Fee? Did [Y] Must Give [X] Some BTC So He Can Pay For The Closing Fee?

BTW I See That There's A Minimum Time Limit Before A Party Can Close A Channel(A Party Can't Close A Channel Before XX/XX/XXXX). Did That Achieved By Timelock or by The Lightning Protocol Itself?

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June 30, 2019, 03:16:08 PM
Last edit: June 30, 2019, 03:50:19 PM by Csmiami
 #17

I've reading trough the forum and some googling; because I'm considering opening a LN node with a raspberry, but there are some concerns I have and haven't really found any useful info out there (maybe I should have look further). Questions are the following:

  • Would I be able to run a dual node on the raspberry? (BTC+LN)
  • I understand that to run a node you don't need to have an open channel; am I right?

I'm sorry to ask if this has been answered before.

Thanks in advance


I'll give some more details, as I believe that will help resolve the doubts.

I'm planing on using a Raspberry PI 3 Model B+ plugged straight to the router, and with a 256gb flash card for the OS (Raspbian). Then I'll be using the Core client, then things start getting a bit fuzzy for  me; I'll use Lightning Network Daemon, then some port forwarding on the router and finally create an automatic reboot with a backup (I believe that's the order for everything)

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June 30, 2019, 06:53:10 PM
Merited by Csmiami (1)
 #18

@Farul I will answer your post tomorrow once I have more time to explain it.

Would I be able to run a dual node on the raspberry? (BTC+LN)

Yes, see the last answer for more details.

I understand that to run a node you don't need to have an open channel; am I right?

What node are you reffering to? Bitcoin Core? If so, then the answer is yes. Lightning Network node? You don't have to open channels but then such node doesn't do anything. In order to route payments, you have to open quite a lot of channels.

I'm planing on using a Raspberry PI 3 Model B+ plugged straight to the router, and with a 256gb flash card for the OS (Raspbian).

Raspberry Pi 3B+ is enough to handle Bitcoin Core and Lightning Network node (LND recommended). However, I would recommend you to synchronise with the Bitcoin network on your computer and then copy blockchain data to an external hard drive. Don't use 256 GB memory card. Most of such cards are not designed to handle constant reads and writes. If you haven't bought that model of Raspberry Pi yet then consider buying the latest model (4B) with some extra RAM.

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June 30, 2019, 07:14:55 PM
 #19

What node are you reffering to? Bitcoin Core? If so, then the answer is yes. Lightning Network node? You don't have to open channels but then such node doesn't do anything. In order to route payments, you have to open quite a lot of channels.

Understood, thanks!

Raspberry Pi 3B+ is enough to handle Bitcoin Core and Lightning Network node (LND recommended). However, I would recommend you to synchronise with the Bitcoin network on your computer and then copy blockchain data to an external hard drive. Don't use 256 GB memory card. Most of such cards are not designed to handle constant reads and writes. If you haven't bought that model of Raspberry Pi yet then consider buying the latest model (4B) with some extra RAM.

I have not bought yet the hardware, but my budget is quite limited.
I had thought about the flash card being a problem; and the only feasible solution I could find to that is to use an external HDD (or even SSD) rather than a flash card, connected on USB.

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June 30, 2019, 07:23:24 PM
 #20

-snip

Raspberry Pi 4's CPU is much faster than 3B+'s. 1 GB version seems to be priced the same as the third model, at least in my country. If I were you, I would buy 2 GB or 4GB model of Raspberry Pi 4 and HDD rather than 3B+ and SSD. The fourth model has USB 3.0 and gigabit Ethernet unlike previous models. Buy a small SD card only for the OS, either 8 GB or 16 GB one.

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