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Author Topic: [Review] Apollo BTC - Full Node + Miner in a box  (Read 632 times)
n0nce (OP)
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June 19, 2022, 12:22:52 AM
Last edit: June 19, 2022, 12:33:28 AM by n0nce
Merited by ABCbits (22), Welsh (10), dkbit98 (10), DaveF (6), hugeblack (6), Pmalek (5), NeuroticFish (4), BlackHatCoiner (4), PawGo (4), BitMaxz (2), Husna QA (2), DdmrDdmr (1), tadamichi (1)
 #1

Apollo BTC (full package) review

Futurebit Apollo BTCThe built-in controller (Orange Pi 4), 1TB SSD and microSD card

What is it? (TL;DR)
  • It's a very, very compact 'node in a box' with a hashboard.
  • The hardware can power a full Bitcoin node, Electrum server, Core Lightning and the ASICs, but it's not going to break even quickly.
  • The creator's forum topic about this device is here; and jstefanop has a support thread here.
What is it not?
  • It's not a money printing machine.
  • It's not the cheapest node you can build and you do overpay on the Orange Pi 4 & SSD.
  • It's not a supercomputer (or Desktop computer).
  • It's not really quiet unless you clock it down (which I don't think makes a lot of sense - more later) or add more fans.

Hardware:
  • Orange Pi 4 (Rockchip RK3399, 6 cores, 64-bit; 4GB DDR4 RAM).
  • 1TB Kingston NV1 NVMe SSD.
  • 16GB SanDisk Industrial microSD card.
  • Hashboard with 44 ASIC chips and beefy heatsink + industrial fan.

The Pi and SSD are cooled by air coming in through the open bottom.

Orange Pi 4 back IO, hashboard microUSB and PCIe 6-pin connectors.

CD for size referenceArduino Uno for size reference

Backstory and price:
I preordered this Apollo BTC (batch 3) 'full unit' late summer 2021, paid it in full and received it pretty exactly 6 months later. I got the 'full unit' that includes the Orange Pi 4, compared to the 'only hashboard' option that looks the same, but has void in that spot. The price difference (right now) is $300 and for that you get the Orange Pi 4 and the 1TB SSD. I'll purposefully repeat the SBC's model name often here since until I got it I wasn't sure what it was. Their webpage always just speaks of 'our controller' and that it's faster than a Raspberry Pi 4, but never mentions that it's not 'theirs', but rather an off-the-shelf Pi 4 alternative.

At the core of our revamped Apollo Platform is a supercharged Single Board Computer (SBC). This is not your typical Raspberry Pi. Our board features [...] [emphasis mine]
This is nearly 10x faster than our closest SBC Full Node competitor, and is nearly as fast as a dedicated desktop computer.
At the heart of the new Apollo BTC product is a revamped SBC (Single Board Computer), that is as powerful as any consumer grade desktop system and can run almost any Bitcoin Application natively on the device 24/7. [emphasis mine]
The Apollo BTC Miner Unit with our latest controller built in [emphasis mine]

Make your own judgement (maybe let me know what you think about this), but to me it appeared it's something custom, maybe even tailor-made for this application. Instead, it's the Orange Pi 4, which has less software and community support than a Raspberry Pi, and has unnecessary hardware like a GPU.

I must say that $300 for adding this SBC and SSD is steep. The 'hashboard only' option can be acquired for $524.99 right now, whereas the 'full unit' runs you $824.99. Buying an Orange Pi 4 and the exact same SSD right now, runs you pretty exactly $200, so it's a 50% premium. I'm not sure if you can just buy those yourself and mount them into a 'hashboard only' unit, or if there are missing mounting spots or holes on those. But from pictures, they look exactly the same. Just throwing an idea out there.

Setup and first impressions
  • I had my own PC PSU with over 500W and just used that; no issues with that, and it's quiet.
  • Setup was very easy through the Web UI (no HDMI needed) and I was mining + blockchain syncing in minutes.
  • Blockchain sync and mining at the same time are discouraged, but it worked in my case. I wouldn't do it again after I experienced overheating when building Bitcoin Core. The CPU's cooling solution doesn't have much overhead.
  • The hashboard performes exactly as advertised: ECO mode (~125 watts 2TH/S), Turbo mode (~200 watts 3TH/s). On their website, it says it can do 3.8TH/s, right after explaining how Turbo mode pulls 200W, so it may appear that Turbo mode equals 3.8TH/s, but that's incorrect. To go above 'Turbo' 3TH/s, you will need to overclock manually and noise will be very loud. It makes no sense to pull over 300W for that extra 0.8TH/s.
    Hashboard: 2TH/s to 3.8TH/s* SHA256 Mining Performance
    Power: 125 watts in ECO mode to 200 watts in TURBO mode
    [...]
    [...]
    [...]
    *Our FutureBit 200W power supply is limited to ~ 3 TH/s, 3.8 TH/s is only achievable with an external > 300 watt power supply
  • The blockchain sync was pretty fast, as advertised, but took a few days (pretty confident it was over the claimed 48h, but not by much).

Long-term usage
  • I ran the device as-is for around 4 months prior to this review.
  • I've expressed in their threads how pleased I am with the uptime; there were no crashes at all and it recovered by itself after internet outages, without interaction.
    For a change, since this is also an image thread, I want to chime in with something other than a support request, and instead speak out a big thanks for this nice little machine to jstefanop and his team. I've restarted it a few times to change settings and such, but it never stopped on its own, crashed or anything like that.

    There are few things more pleasing than a system with weeks or months of uptime that just chugs along tirelessly.
  • In terms of profits (more on that later); I've mined a bit on NiceHash, which thanks to Lightning integration lets you withdraw starting from 0.00002BTC (right now ~$0.40USD) with no fees.
    |Coin / Token / Currency|Withdrawal option|Amount to withdraw|FEE|
    |Bitcoin (BTC)|Lightning Network|0.00002 BTC (min)|FREE (*)|
  • Most of the time though, I pointed the miner to https://kano.is/ and unfortunately this little pool found no block in this time; so I got no payouts from there. I'm fine with it though, since the consumed electricity, when running 200W is just 144kW per month, which costs me around 30-40 bucks on expensive EU power. If you pay 5cents per kWh, it's going to be less than $10 or 10€. I'm not saying you should do this, but in some offices you can surely run an Apollo without anyone noticing a dent (or actually uptick) on the power bill. It's just that I happen to know people who do this (with permission). It may have something to do with offices paying flat rates on power until a certain limit.

All in all, it's a pleasant companion; it doesn't take up a lot of space, doesn't make too much noise (*more later) or draw too much power. However: it's pretty useless if you use it the way it ships. It has no real daily utility. All the applications they claim you could or can run on the Apollo, do run, but you have to do it yourself and there are no instructions. Out of the box, it has no local block explorer (not even that useful for me), no Electrum and no Lightning on it. Add the fact that it's recommended against updating (or installing) anything, because it may break stuff; it's kind of a paperweight (if you use it as it comes out-of-the-box). More on the software below.

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n0nce (OP)
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June 19, 2022, 12:23:07 AM
Last edit: June 19, 2022, 08:42:41 PM by n0nce
Merited by ABCbits (4), hugeblack (4), Husna QA (2), dkbit98 (1)
 #2

More technical and in-depth information:

Controller
As I found out when making my [Custom Linux install guide for the Futurebit Apollo], it was hard to find OS binaries for this SBC. It comes with Debian Armbian, and that's what I ended up using for my custom install (see below), as well. It's not OrangePi's fault, but the community support is also much worse than anything from RaspberryPi (less discussions, forums, and support sections), so if you're a newbie and want to tinker with it, you can't really find ready-made instructions for anything online. Well, of course now, there are mine. Wink

I do have to say I find it a bit dishonest (as I alluded to earlier) how Futurebit claim it's their controller, purposefully cease to mention the SBC used and even claim it's as fast as any(!!!) desktop computer. Such a claim can be refuted by pointing out a single desktop computer that is faster, so I'd be very careful with absolute claims. Even if they claimed it was as fast as a desktop computer, it would be wrong. They probably refer to the chip having 6 cores, which is not too shabby by today's home computing standards, but core count alone doesn't paint the whole picture.

In my experience, it feels around as fast as a Raspberry Pi 4, and definitely much slower than any of my nodes, even easily beat by an upgraded laptop node. I think I paid around $150 for that whole node since I upgraded to a 1TB SATA (NVMe has no real-world performance benefit for a node) SSD and 8GB of RAM. But the processor is a super old Celeron dual-core.
Compile times on the Orange Pi are so long that I resorted to pulling a compiled binary for Bitcoin Core.
The CPU even overheated after a while and I had to reboot and retry. After two attempts, I just got the binary release.

It's important to point out (as seen in the pictures), that the fan cooling the SBC is pulling in air from below the hashboard. It works fine in normal operation, but I would personally have turned it upside down so it can get fresh air instead. The fan is also not silent - it's a 40mm, pretty cheap looking fan and for silence I'd replace it. Especially when it's not mining (more on noise later).

All the critiques out of the way though, the controller does run the 'whole Bitcoin software stack' that it's advertised to run, even though you have to manually install everything and there's been no offical guide, until I made my own, even after repeated questions in the support thread ........
Full Node Info
The Apollo Full Node runs the latest release binaries from bitcoincore.org, and is automatically configured and setup at the system level. It will start syncing a clean chain state from block 0 on your nvme SSD on first boot, and is capable of downloading a full unpruned node on its 500 GB drive with a 1-2 year buffer. This is the core that will enable us to release additional apps and services in the coming months and years (solo mining, block explorer, Lightning network all planned in the short term), and allow you the user to verify your own transactions and chain state without needing to trust anyone else.
This message is around 13 months old now; there is no block explorer, LN or solo mining so far and since it's included in the quote I'd like to point out that batch 1 and 2 shipped with a 500GB drive, which was obviously too small and did not have a 1-2 year buffer at all. I recently switched a node from 500GB to 1TB, even though I already had pulled indexes and chainstate off the 500 gig drive. So I'd say the time where 500GB was enough for a full node, has passed less than 1 year after that message.

Of course, the blockchain is not yet over 500GB, but with chainstate and additional files, the Bitcoin directory is now at almost (or over) 500GB. It's good that they now ship these devices with 1TB drives; that's enough headroom for all the extra software, too.
Code:
orangepi4:admin:# du -ch /media/nvme/Bitcoin/blocks/blk*.dat | tail -n1
385G total
[Theoretical blockchain size: 385GB]

Code:
orangepi4:admin:# du -ch /media/nvme/Bitcoin
109M /media/nvme/Bitcoin/blocks/index
437G /media/nvme/Bitcoin/blocks
4.7G /media/nvme/Bitcoin/chainstate
442G /media/nvme/Bitcoin
442G total
[Practical Bitcoin blockchain folder size: 442GB]

Noise / is it quiet?
The subject of noise is pretty important to me. It is my main motivation for getting pod and stick miners instead of industrial ones. I like the cooling design of the hashboard. But if you've got some experience with CPU wattages and what heatsinks are required to cool 200 or even 300 Watts, it will be no big surprise to you that a single 95mm fan can't silently cool off +200W of energy.
  • There is a large heatsink on top of the 44 ASIC chips with slender poles sticking upwards. On top we have a static-pressure fan that pulls air through the heatsink and ejects it up top. It wasn't clear to me prior to buying it and it makes a lot of sense.
  • If you run the unit in ECO mode, it's pretty quiet and you can have it in the same room you're working in, without really noticing. However I don't like the idea of 'leaving performance on the table'.
  • Even in balanced mode, it's pretty loud (to me). I tried to sit it on something rubbery and even sound-absorbing foam, to no avail.
  • The way I managed to run it silently (!) in balanced and quiet in turbo mode was to sit the whole unit on top of a 140mm PC fan, blowing air upwards, as well as a 120mm PC fan just sitting on top of the unit, blowing upwards as well. I hooked them up to one of the Pi's USB ports (5V), so these 12V DC fans run at just below half speed. They are really quiet at this speed and help the builtin fan so much that it tunes itself down automatically. It's easy, cheap and quick to do (if you already have the components) and in case your solder job is bad or for something catches those external fans, the internal one can still rev up and cool the unit down, so not to melt your place. I'd be very cautious about other modifications, such as changing the internal fan's fan curve or replacing it. This way you always have a potent fallback.
Software
  • The web GUI works fine. It was easy to get up and running quickly.
  • I noticed that even though I changed the GUI and SSH passwords, somehow I couldn't log back in after a few months; it was back on the default (futurebit123). No idea why, but a little scary.
  • As mentioned above, you get Bitcoin Core and the miner + web GUI - that's it. I really miss Electrum and Lightning on this, because that's what I use daily and gives me a tangible, real-world benefit. If you just want to mine, get the 'only miner' option (you can 'help the Bitcoin network' for $50 if that's what you're after).
  • jstefanop recommends not to update the operating system (sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade), because it may break stuff. This is pretty unacceptable to me, as the easiest way that hackers get into a network / system is looking for outdated packages and misconfigurations. It's definitely easier than looking for 0-days yourself!
    • Using the built in system update function will brick your system DO NOT UPDATE USING THE SYSTEM UPDATE we will periodically post updated images that have the latest system updates
  • That's why I recently made some time and threw together a full install guide on how to install stock (up-to-date!!) Armbian yourself. Right now, it runs the miner (even through the internal GPIO pins ), Core, electrs and Core Lightning. The web GUI had some issues building and I don't think I recommend using it, as it requires nodeJS 9.x (very outdated!).
    |Release|Status|Release date|Maintenance end|
    |9.x|End-of-Life|2017-10-01|2018-06-30|
    |[...]|[...]|[...]|[...]|
    |18.x|Current|2022-04-19|2025-04-30|
  • I'm not sure who michelem09 is, but he seems to be a Collaborator on the Apollo UI GitHub, and I got no other reply from jstefanop, so I assume you do need to install this nodeJS version that is 4 years past its expiration date.
    Try to use Node version 9
    This is a pretty ballsy, very very risky statement:
    By now it's the only way, you won't be hacked or similar if you install that.
    There are plenty of CVEs that should work on nodeJS 9. In fact, there is at least one user who might have got hacked; as his miner settings were repeatedly changed after multiple hours of uptime (not to the default username).
    update on my end.    i thought i had it figured out.   but i woke up this morning and was wrong.....   so i reflashed, setup a totally different vlan than it was on, added it on a totally different wifi network instead of the same ether connection it was on before, setup the pool and password on startup, clicked on settings and users and changed the main password to one that is different from default and different than my dashboard login, fired it up, working great, temps around 45 and 62, ran great for 5-8 hours, woke up, changed back to slushpool and topminer01.........(i have tried using multiple pools, keeps reverting back to topminer01 on slushpool)    is there something i'm missing?  is there a different system password that someone could be accessing to get into it and change everything?  i'm at a loss at this point.....  

    Where did you buy it?

    from futurebit.  one full node and 3 standard units.  
Profitability
As noted earlier, I mostly mined on https://kano.is/. It's a PPLNS pool, so you only get paid if the pool finds a block and you get rewarded for the last 3 days of shares.
We use PPLNS (Pay Per Last N Shares)
PPLNS means that when a block is found, the block reward is shared among the last N shares that miners sent to the pool, up to when the block was found.
The N value the pool uses is 3 days.

At the time of writing, Kano's last block was #706643; just shy of 236 days ago. Therefore I got no payouts from Kano.

CoinWarz estimates a 3TH/s miner to get roughly 0.00001246BTC per day, so just over 1,000 satoshis. This is roughly the performance I got on NiceHash, as well. It's not much, and therefore I don't think running this device on any level below Turbo (3TH/s) makes any sense. At that point (if you don't care about a somewhat meaningful hashrate), USB stick miners might be more interesting. I own some Compac F sticks and they can give you a silent operation, less upfront cost and better efficiency than the Apollo hashboard.

Custom Linux
There's a reason this point is the last one and follows directly the 'profitability' topic. A big selling point for the Apollo BTC (especially in conjunction with the price) is that it's not just a pod miner, but that you get a full node and can run a 'full Bitcoin stack'.
As mentioned earlier; having this unit mine on kano pool with the stock OS, feels like a bit of a paperweight. No daily payouts, no Electrum server for your SPV wallets and no Lightning. The good news is that it it can run those things. It's just that there are no OS images or instructions provided by jstefanop.

Ever since I went through the whole manual install process myself (honestly I procrastinated that for a couple months), it instantly became so much more useful. We talked about this in the support thread and assumed that a custom install will require a short USB cable going from the hashboard to the Pi, but I'm pretty glad I got it working through the internal GPIO; so there's no external / visible changes at all.

In case anyone's still looking for it, here's the link to my guide. https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=5401729

Unfortunately, I couldn't get openSUSE to run on the Orange Pi, so I resorted to the most reasonable, officially supported OS which was DebianArmbian.
OS Support:
Android 8.1
Ubuntu 16.04
Ubuntu 18.04
Debian 9



I'm generally quite worried about the security of the stock OS. I honestly see it as just a of proof-of-concept and to check that the hardware works right; other than that it's pretty risky to use it as-is; the Armbian version is outdated, the software packages are outdated and you have to keep nodeJS 9 on it to have the web UI, which people will inevitably port-forward it to the internet to be able to access it remotely. Just a disaster waiting to happen.

The web GUI, which is admittedly pretty useful, doesn't work without installing outdated nodeJS. I did install it though, and it gave me angry warnings.


I left instructions for installing it in my guide, but opted out of doing so myself. On the miner side, you honestly don't really need more insights than what the pool website tells you, i.e.: 'is my hashrate where it's supposed to be?'. The Bitcoin Core node you can easily check on using bitcoin-cli getblockchaininfo and for your Lightning Node there's no web GUI provided by Futurebit anyway, so you'll use Ride-The-Lightning for that.



There's no real conclusion since that's in the TL;DR already, but I again do think it's a potent, little machine, with a tiny size and it can run everything you need at a reasonable noise level. I'd just repeat that it's infinitely more useful once you do install that stuff yourself, onto a fresh, up-to-date, secure Linux distribution. And remember you pay $100 premium on the off-the-shelf parts; so do consider buying those separately and connecting via USB to a 'hashboard-only' Apollo unit.

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n0nce (OP)
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June 19, 2022, 12:23:14 AM
 #3

Reserved

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DaveF
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June 20, 2022, 04:50:14 PM
Merited by n0nce (1)
 #4

I had a batch 1 full node and sold it on eBay last year for a very nice profit. I was going to keep it but the inability to update it and running outdated software (even back then) just made me skittish.
Like you I never had any issues running it, but leaving that many gaping security holes on 1 little box was not something I wanted. I have picked up the base unit since then and have a nice USB cable running to it from a machine that is up to date.

NOW, I also know that the old bitmain gear I have running here is also running possibly vulnerable OSs
BUT the old versions of Node and Armbian have known vulnerabilities. I have not seen that much about the bitmain stuff.

Had you put out the how to guide last year I might have tried it. But since there are other ways to run it, that is how I went.

-Dave

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June 20, 2022, 06:53:01 PM
Merited by n0nce (1)
 #5

I preordered this Apollo BTC (batch 3) 'full unit' late summer 2021, paid it in full and received it pretty exactly 6 months later.
One thing I don't like about preorders is possible long waiting time and uncertain delivery date, but I guess you used to it with Apollo and Passport hardware wallet  Cheesy

It's not really quiet unless you clock it down
I think it can be done even without clocking it down.
Maybe replacing fan with some Noctua quiet alternative (I think someone managed to do it with Apollo), and adding additional layer of isolation box would do wonders, for people who love DIY stuff.

I am interested to know whats your opinion and experience with Orange Pi 4 compared to Raspbnerry Pi 4?
I heard they are usually stronger and faster than Rpi's but they are also heating more.
Good thing is that you can always use most components for some other projects, if one day you decide not to use it for Bitcoin full node anymore.


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June 21, 2022, 02:01:37 AM
 #6

Had you put out the how to guide last year I might have tried it. But since there are other ways to run it, that is how I went.
Totally fair call. As I said: if you don't yet have a node and you're looking for a decent, compact hardware bundle that doesn't look or feel hacked together; this is not only the only option available, but a very good one, too.

However:
[1] If you're not ready to do a custom install, don't get it due to security issues and limited capabilities out of the box. Get the miner one instead and hook it up to any PC.
[2] If you're not ready to spend at least $100 more for getting it all in one box, and especially if you already have a Bitcoin full node and just don't need a second one, a 'only miner' unit will make much more sense, too.

I preordered this Apollo BTC (batch 3) 'full unit' late summer 2021, paid it in full and received it pretty exactly 6 months later.
One thing I don't like about preorders is possible long waiting time and uncertain delivery date, but I guess you used to it with Apollo and Passport hardware wallet  Cheesy
I did, I did! Wink I should mention that my latest information was that the waiting time should be reduced to around 30 days by now. Don't quote me on that though; better ask jstefanop.

It's not really quiet unless you clock it down
I think it can be done even without clocking it down.
Maybe replacing fan with some Noctua quiet alternative (I think someone managed to do it with Apollo), and adding additional layer of isolation box would do wonders, for people who love DIY stuff.
I don't think Noctua has a quiet 95mm fan. I've had great results with Noctua products in the past, but some of them are less silent than people think. For instance, their industrial fans have good static pressure and whatnot, but they're not nearly as quiet as the consumer stuff and actually pretty loud.
Keep in mind the Apollo comes with a high-pressure fan that revs up to over 3,000 RPM.

Also, honestly just putting another fan on top did wonders, without putting yourself or your home at risk (e.g. by a bad replacement fan or bad installation of it). Since if that secondary fan fails, you still have the one that the unit ships with and which can cool it well enough (just louder).

I am interested to know whats your opinion and experience with Orange Pi 4 compared to Raspbnerry Pi 4?
I heard they are usually stronger and faster than Rpi's but they are also heating more.
I haven't done any research on the topic, but it sounds plausible. It has a pretty large (and pretty loud - when it's not overshadowed by the miner's fan) 40mm fan on a heatsink, whereas passive cooling cases exist for the Raspberry Pi 4. My biggest complaint is that there is little to no real online community around it and you just get Armbian as a precompiled OS; so very limited software support.

It doesn't feel very fast either; since it's slower than all of my computers, nodes, and servers (even the laptop node upgraded to 8GB of DDR3 RAM and upgraded SATA SSD), I feel the claim of it being 'comparable to a desktop computer' (or even higher claims) questionable and misleading. It overheated when building Bitcoin Core (probably still had some heat from the hashboard which was just shut down).
All in all, it doesn't feel like a significant upgrade in speed over a Raspberry Pi 4, it costs more and has less support.

If you don't mind the size and higher energy consumption, I'd probably recommend to spend those $100 on a used x86 machine of some kind (desktop or laptop), but if you insist on SBC, I prefer the Raspberry stuff.

Good thing is that you can always use most components for some other projects, if one day you decide not to use it for Bitcoin full node anymore.
It will be much more profitable flipping it; usually you can get a bit more than what you paid for in the 'ASIC miner' market due to limited availability. But it's possible, yes.

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June 21, 2022, 02:12:48 AM
 #7

If, and that's a big if they can really get these stateside for $99

https://www.gaminghunt.net/2022/06/04/n6000-x86-single-board-computer/

I think it's going to be very interesting to see how many things that are now RPi based will go in this direction. Yes it's more then a Pi and you still have to add memory, but it's got a lot more power to do a lot more things. AND it's a lot more expandable.



Just checked on my Apollo, now been running for close to 5 months. I took it down the end of January when I was stuck at home after surgery to clean it been running ever since I started it again.

-Dave

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June 21, 2022, 11:31:48 AM
 #8

If, and that's a big if they can really get these stateside for $99

https://www.gaminghunt.net/2022/06/04/n6000-x86-single-board-computer/

I think it's going to be very interesting to see how many things that are now RPi based will go in this direction. Yes it's more then a Pi and you still have to add memory, but it's got a lot more power to do a lot more things. AND it's a lot more expandable.
That looks interesting; kind of like a laptop motherboard without the laptop around it, and the price seems incredibly cheap for what it offers.
On the other hand, it seems like ARM chips are somewhat on the rise with the new Apple stuff; however those are much more powerful ARM chips than what we get in SBCs. So maybe it's not the architecture's fault, but just that these little experimentation boards are not meant to be used as high-uptime mini-servers and / or 'Desktop replacements' (looking at you, Futurebit advertising.. Wink).

Just checked on my Apollo, now been running for close to 5 months. I took it down the end of January when I was stuck at home after surgery to clean it been running ever since I started it again.
That was my experience too; these units are solid and run for months without hitching. No arguing about that.

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June 21, 2022, 04:47:26 PM
Merited by n0nce (1)
 #9

I don't think Noctua has a quiet 95mm fan. I've had great results with Noctua products in the past, but some of them are less silent than people think. For instance, their industrial fans have good static pressure and whatnot, but they're not nearly as quiet as the consumer stuff and actually pretty loud.
Keep in mind the Apollo comes with a high-pressure fan that revs up to over 3,000 RPM.
I know that not all Noctua fans are that quiet like people think, but they are still representing synonym for quiet fans.
I think they don't have 95mm fans, only 92mm and bigger 120mm fans, but I guess you could make custom mod that fits anything, and bigger fans are usually more quiet and they cool better.
They have one industrial 92mm fan with 2500 RPM and two 1200mm fans with 300 RPM's, but I think there ae other manufacturers like Gelid and Zalman.

I haven't done any research on the topic, but it sounds plausible. It has a pretty large (and pretty loud - when it's not overshadowed by the miner's fan) 40mm fan on a heatsink, whereas passive cooling cases exist for the Raspberry Pi 4. My biggest complaint is that there is little to no real online community around it and you just get Armbian as a precompiled OS; so very limited software support.
Best thing you can do to cool them down is to use something like Raspberry Pi 400 is doing with massive passive metallic heatsink cooler.
It's totally silent and temperatures are reduced a lot, they are even better than regular Rpi with fan.



If you don't mind the size and higher energy consumption, I'd probably recommend to spend those $100 on a used x86 machine of some kind (desktop or laptop), but if you insist on SBC, I prefer the Raspberry stuff.
Yeah I know.
I could buy very good used Thinkpad T series laptop for $50 to $100 and it would be much faster than Raspberry Pi or Orange Pi.  Smiley
Some of them can even run Coreboot open source firmware, instead of stock BIOS, and can be used to ran Mac OS in them.
What I like about Rpi 400 is total silence element, and very low energy spending (only few wats).

If, and that's a big if they can really get these stateside for $99
This looks interesting, and I didn't find it before when I looked for other Rpi alternatives.
I still would never install wiNd0ws OS in device like this.

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June 21, 2022, 08:44:47 PM
Last edit: June 21, 2022, 09:23:40 PM by n0nce
Merited by dkbit98 (1)
 #10

  • The hashboard performes exactly as advertised: ECO mode (~125 watts 2TH/S), Turbo mode (~200 watts 3TH/s).
Their miner isn't efficient. You barely earn profit even with $0.05/kWh and i don't even consider other overhead (cost of this hardware, pool fee, tx fee, etc.).
Yes, it's not very efficient by today's standards. If my math checks out, in Eco mode it should have an efficiency of 62.5J/TH and in Turbo it's 66.67J/TH.
For example, an Antminer S19 Pro (110Th) is roughly twice as efficient, only requiring 29.5J/TH (since it pulls 3250W and achieves 110TH/s).

That's what I like about the Compac F: It uses an S17 chip. The S17 Pro sits at around 40J/TH and the Compac F, overclocked to 0.3TH/s at just below 15W, of course means a similar efficiency of ~45J/TH. Unfortunately since it's a single chip on a stick, you pay more 'overhead' (board, circuitry, packaging, shipping) than if it was a pod miner like the Apollo. I'm still eagerly waiting for a pod miner by sidehack.. Wink

  • jstefanop recommends not to update the operating system (sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade), because it may break stuff. This is pretty unacceptable to me, as the easiest way that hackers get into a network / system is looking for outdated packages and misconfigurations. It's definitely easier than looking for 0-days yourself!
    • Using the built in system update function will brick your system DO NOT UPDATE USING THE SYSTEM UPDATE we will periodically post updated images that have the latest system updates
I wonder what their OS based on? I don't expect stuff break easily if it's based on conservative OS (such as Debian and Rocky Linux).
No need to wonder! It's Armbian. I will boot my 'stock microSD' later to check again what exact version it is and add it in the original post. I think it's even the latest LTS version, but just a lot of packages are outdated.
I would guess that maybe if you do a full system upgrade, the device tree will be reset. As we can see in the custom install guide, to get the internal GPIO connection to the hashboard working, there are some custom tweaks to the device tree.

I know that not all Noctua fans are that quiet like people think, but they are still representing synonym for quiet fans.
I think they don't have 95mm fans, only 92mm and bigger 120mm fans
Actually, now that you mention it, it could be 92mm. I only roughly measured and don't believe 95mm is a standard fan size. 92mm with 2500 RPM sounds like it should fit. But then again, you'll be looking at sinking even more money into an already expensive and not really ROI'ing device.

but I guess you could make custom mod that fits anything, and bigger fans are usually more quiet and they cool better.
To fit a larger fan inside the chassis, you would need to cut the chassis, though.. Huh

Best thing you can do to cool them down is to use something like Raspberry Pi 400 is doing with massive passive metallic heatsink cooler.
It's totally silent and temperatures are reduced a lot, they are even better than regular Rpi with fan.


That only works if the SoC is efficient / produces limited amounts of heat. I don't think the Orange Pi 4 can be passively cooled like that; from what I can tell it is rated to 5V, 4A input, while the Raspberry is sold with a 3A power supply

This page also suggests it pulls much less power in typical workloads:
With 4 cores being busy, it consumes 6.0 W.

If you don't mind the size and higher energy consumption, I'd probably recommend to spend those $100 on a used x86 machine of some kind (desktop or laptop), but if you insist on SBC, I prefer the Raspberry stuff.
Yeah I know.
I could buy very good used Thinkpad T series laptop for $50 to $100 and it would be much faster than Raspberry Pi or Orange Pi.  Smiley
Some of them can even run Coreboot open source firmware, instead of stock BIOS, and can be used to ran Mac OS in them.
What I like about Rpi 400 is total silence element, and very low energy spending (only few wats).
Coreboot is a great addition to a trust-minimized node setup. It's questionable if that's needed for someone installing nodeJS 9 and a proprietary miner binary, though.. Wink
As you mention the 400: it sounds like a cool idea for a standalone node. I'm still dreaming of an off-grid full node that uses some sort of long-range wireless network, a solar panel, battery and maybe even a small hashboard for times of excess solar power. The 400 would be perfect in that scenario since it wouldn't have an internet connection to SSH into it, and of course it uses little power. Argh. I digress!

Little extra nugget of information for you guys: the miner binary I found in the OS is the same one provided in the download section in the Apollo's forum topic.

Furthermore, the binary is not stripped, so some basic security analysis can be done - just in case someone is into binary analysis (for finding exploits or verifying it's safe to use). Anyhow, in my custom linux install guide, I tried to sandbox the process a little bit through systemd, though I'll be the first to admit that it could be much better and if you recommend some improvements, let me know. Keep in mind I need hardware access to /dev/ to access the hashboard and internet access for receiving block templates and submitting shares.

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June 22, 2022, 01:39:57 PM
Merited by ABCbits (3)
 #11

I wonder what their OS based on? I don't expect stuff break easily if it's based on conservative OS (such as Debian and Rocky Linux).
No need to wonder! It's Armbian. I will boot my 'stock microSD' later to check again what exact version it is and add it in the original post. I think it's even the latest LTS version, but just a lot of packages are outdated.

Could you check the exact version and variant? From armbian page for Orange Pi 4[1], their latest OS is either based on Debian Bullseye. Ubuntu Focal and Ubuntu Jammy. NodeJS version on those OS are 10.19.0[2], 12.22.5[3] and 12.22.9[4]. I find it's hard to believe Armbian more conservative than Debian.

[1] https://www.armbian.com/orange-pi-4/#kernels-archive-all
[2] https://packages.ubuntu.com/focal/nodejs
[3] https://packages.debian.org/bullseye/nodejs
[4] https://packages.ubuntu.com/jammy/web/nodejs

Sure, so on my custom install, I used the latest available Armbian:
Code:
  ___                             ____  _   _  _
 / _ \ _ __ __ _ _ __   __ _  ___|  _ \(_) | || |
| | | | '__/ _` | '_ \ / _` |/ _ \ |_) | | | || |_
| |_| | | | (_| | | | | (_| |  __/  __/| | |__   _|
 \___/|_|  \__,_|_| |_|\__, |\___|_|   |_|    |_|
                       |___/
Welcome to Armbian 22.05.1 Bullseye with Linux 5.15.35-rockchip64


It ships with outdated nodeJS, interestingly. It had EOL in April, but since I have no nodeJS services running on the custom install anyway, it should be fine. In any case, as soon as you install something that runs on node, all install guides tell you to update nodeJS, so it will be fine.
Code:
~:% node --version
v12.22.5

But if I boot the latest Futurebit OS - released over half a year ago (12/17/21) - I get this login screen. It's 5 releases behind on the Linux kernel and behind by one major Debian version.
Code:
_____      _                  ____  _ _        _                _ _
|  ___|   _| |_ _   _ _ __ ___| __ )(_) |_     / \   _ __   ___ | | | ___
| |_ | | | | __| | | | '__/ _ \  _ \| | __|   / _ \ | '_ \ / _ \| | |/ _ \
|  _|| |_| | |_| |_| | | |  __/ |_) | | |_   / ___ \| |_) | (_) | | | (_) |
|_|   \__,_|\__|\__,_|_|  \___|____/|_|\__| /_/   \_\ .__/ \___/|_|_|\___/
                                                    |_|
Welcome to Armbian 21.05.1 Focal with Linux 5.10.35-rockchip64

Code:
~# node --version
v14.16.1

Interestingly, it comes with nodeJS v14, but then I don't understand why on GitHub, I was told that
Try to use Node version 9
By now it's the only way

Compilation on the latest nodeJS version didn't work; hence I went on GitHub to ask.
I will try again with nodeJS 14, which is by the way the oldest LTS version of node ('Maintenance LTS' phase) and will be updated for just another 10 months.
It would be much preferred to have ApolloUI be able to run on 16.x or 18.x, though.



I'm not very familiar with Ubuntu, but this version history page suggests that 21.04 with Linux kernel 5.11 is EOL since 2022-01-20. The system says it's 21.05 with a 5.10 kernel.
Code:
uname -a
Linux futurebit-btc 5.10.35-rockchip64 #21.05.1

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dkbit98
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June 22, 2022, 01:45:46 PM
 #12

Actually, now that you mention it, it could be 92mm. I only roughly measured and don't believe 95mm is a standard fan size. 92mm with 2500 RPM sounds like it should fit. But then again, you'll be looking at sinking even more money into an already expensive and not really ROI'ing device.
I don't know the place you are holding this Apollo device in your house, some different room or basement, and maybe you don't have problem with noise that is creating.
For my devices I am always trying to reduce noise by doing some modification, but I am silence freak and I don't recommend this to anyone else.
If you are ok with setup you have now, don't cut or change anything Wink

That only works if the SoC is efficient / produces limited amounts of heat. I don't think the Orange Pi 4 can be passively cooled like that; from what I can tell it is rated to 5V, 4A input, while the Raspberry is sold with a 3A power supply
I am not sure about Orange Pi, but I know that I can overclock Pi400 and it would still run cool and stable.
It might be different story with Orange Pi especially if GPU is used for anything.
Interesting thing is that they are working on their new OS that is Arch-based Linux distribution, unlike Raspberry that is using modified Debian based linux OS.

Coreboot is a great addition to a trust-minimized node setup. It's questionable if that's needed for someone installing nodeJS 9 and a proprietary miner binary, though.. Wink
My point was that I can use those laptops for multiple use cases, for anything related with Bitcoin.
I am much more limited with Rpi devices.

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n0nce (OP)
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June 22, 2022, 01:52:01 PM
 #13

Actually, now that you mention it, it could be 92mm. I only roughly measured and don't believe 95mm is a standard fan size. 92mm with 2500 RPM sounds like it should fit. But then again, you'll be looking at sinking even more money into an already expensive and not really ROI'ing device.
I don't know the place you are holding this Apollo device in your house, some different room or basement, and maybe you don't have problem with noise that is creating.
For my devices I am always trying to reduce noise by doing some modification, but I am silence freak and I don't recommend this to anyone else.
If you are ok with setup you have now, don't cut or change anything Wink
I do like my silence, but usually just buy devices or computers that are pretty quiet as they come out of the box.. Smiley But you can surely tinker with this, if that's your thing. As I said though, there's only so much you can do when facing 200-300W and trying to cool it with a single fan. Just consider gaming PCs (at least a few years ago) pulled barely more than that; often shipping with 500W PSUs, and using chunky tower coolers and multiple fans in the system.

Coreboot is a great addition to a trust-minimized node setup. It's questionable if that's needed for someone installing nodeJS 9 and a proprietary miner binary, though.. Wink
My point was that I can use those laptops for multiple use cases, for anything related with Bitcoin.
I am much more limited with Rpi devices.
Sure; totally agree! Especially fast compile times make it much easier to try different software, install / uninstall / reinstall; whatever you need to do when setting up a whole new system. I just don't have the time to sit around a whole afternoon waiting for e.g. 30 minute compile time of Bitcoin Core, 30 minutes for electrs, even more time C-Lightning and all the other stuff.

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BlackHatCoiner
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June 22, 2022, 07:01:10 PM
 #14

I had seen that the thread had some activity, but didn't get involved into the discussion. Nice review! I'm glad you have the time, money and passion to buy these and show them to us.

So, to summarize, it's a full node, lightning node and ASIC miner, all-in-one? It, sure, looks cool, but is there an essential benefit I don't see? If you want to mine, which is required otherwise you wouldn't buy such thing, doesn't it get cheaper if you purchase the ASICs directly from the company that makes them?

Bitcoin is a Royal Fork.
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June 22, 2022, 11:59:04 PM
Merited by BlackHatCoiner (2)
 #15

I had seen that the thread had some activity, but didn't get involved into the discussion. Nice review! I'm glad you have the time, money and passion to buy these and show them to us.
Thanks for your time reading it and for your comments! I really consider selling it due to current market conditions and buying a 'miner only' unit later when Bitcoin is at a higher price. If that works out, I won't have paid much (if anything for it).. Wink But it was definitely an investment, almost 1000 bucks and waiting 6 months is not something I often do.

So, to summarize, it's a full node, lightning node and ASIC miner, all-in-one?
Yes, that was pretty much my TL;DR. Wink And a very compact all-in-one; compare to the CD in this picture.

It, sure, looks cool, but is there an essential benefit I don't see? If you want to mine, which is required otherwise you wouldn't buy such thing, doesn't it get cheaper if you purchase the ASICs directly from the company that makes them?
Okay, maybe this should be clarified; I didn't explain this in detail indeed. The hashboard is a custom creation by jstefanop and uses 44 Bitfury ASIC chips.
You can neither buy these chips directly from Bitfury, nor can you get this hashboard from anyone stand-alone. Well, you basically get just the hashboard (with the casing and heatsink around it) if you get the 'miner only' unit from Futurebit.

If you want to get a cheaper ASIC, the only route is industrial miners; but those are not suited for the home.
Basically:

  • Highest efficiency, totally silent (but expensive in $/TH/s): Compac F (for same efficiency, but loud: top-of-the-line industrial miners S17 to S19 category)
  • Middle ground (a bit expensive, a bit inefficient, pretty quiet): Futurebit Apollo
  • Best price per TH/s (but lowest efficiency and loud): classic industrial ASICs like Bitmain S9


is there an essential benefit I don't see?
For me there is also a bit of a philosophical aspect. This one little tiny box combines all of the integral parts of the Bitcoin network (if you do the custom install); what sets it apart from any other node-in-a-box is that it has a capable hashboard. It won't really ROI, but it gets you satoshi at basically market value, without KYC.

Also keep in mind: if enough people ran such hardware and there were sudden mining bans, these little guys could take up some of the slack while the industrial miners are relocated. In case the 'powerful gear' were to be banned (confiscated?) altogether, these home miners could effectively keep the whole thing running in a super decentralized manner. So more people running Apollos (or other home miners) would be extremely helpful for Bitcoin.

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nullama
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June 23, 2022, 01:24:14 AM
 #16

~snip~
Yeah, I also noticed michelem09 in the webui repo. My guess is that jstefanop hired him to create the Apollo Web UI. He created minera, a popular miner dashboard that is now deprecated.

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n0nce (OP)
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June 23, 2022, 10:36:28 AM
 #17

Yeah, I also noticed michelem09 in the webui repo. My guess is that jstefanop hired him to create the Apollo Web UI. He created minera, a popular miner dashboard that is now deprecated.
That's a sensible guess; in any case I'll try to compile the UI again with 14.x, but honestly it's really not needed. I used to check it regularly but now that I run the Apollo without web GUI, I don't really miss it either.
It was also sometimes dodgy; like not saving a changed pool config. If you just SSH into the device instead, make your changes to the service file and issue a quick sudo service miner restart, such issues don't happen.

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June 23, 2022, 01:16:21 PM
 #18

That's weird decision. In such case, i would try to run ApolloUI on Docker container which has NodeJS 9.
Sure; there are all sorts of ways to run insecure software in a 'it's probably fine' way - sandboxing, virtualization, dockerization -- with the assumption that it will even work in such a restricted scenario, as it will need access to the different files and processes to pull the information to be displayed.

You're correct, Armbian 21.05 is based on EOL OS[1]. The kernel (5.10.35) has LTS support until 2026[2], but we know the developer ask you not to perform apt upgrade Grin.
Yeah; I'll try my best with another attempt at running it on updated nodeJS versions, but honestly it's just fine without the UI and all the benefits you get from the custom Linux install heavily outweigh missing out on the web GUI.

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June 26, 2022, 01:12:40 PM
 #19

Forgetting the mining part, if someone would like to have own node, electrum server, rcp browser and even maybe something like btcpay server, why not to buy „tiny dektop computer” like for example Lenovo M72e? I see you may get one on ebay for around $50 (+ probably better disk).
I think I will try to buy one and to configure as a personal node.
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June 26, 2022, 10:30:46 PM
 #20

Forgetting the mining part, if someone would like to have own node, electrum server, rcp browser and even maybe something like btcpay server, why not to buy „tiny dektop computer” like for example Lenovo M72e? I see you may get one on ebay for around $50 (+ probably better disk).
I think I will try to buy one and to configure as a personal node.
Absolutely; a SBC gives you the advantage of size and power consumption, but I'm a big fan of x86 nodes.

You may be aware of it; but I encourage to build such nodes, especially on used hardware, in [Guide] How to run a Bitcoin Core full node for under 50 bucks!.

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