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Author Topic: If you're thinking buying mining hardware, read this first  (Read 88678 times)
JJG
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April 26, 2011, 04:20:42 PM
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If you've used one of the generic bitcoin profitability calculators, you've probably been surprised by the projected income from Bitcoin mining. The profitability numbers can be shockingly high for just buying a video card, putting it in your PC, and running a program 24/7.

But all of the online calculators I've seen omit the biggest hurdle: Difficulty increases.

The bitcoin network is designed to produce approximately 2016 blocks every two weeks. With high performance hardware becoming cheaper and more widespread and more users jumping on the mining bandwagon, the only way to keep the block production rate constant is to make it harder. Thus, every two weeks the difficulty adjusts to slow down or speed up production to match this 2016 blocks / 2 weeks target rate. This almost always goes up.

In fact, it goes up at an alarming rate. Sipa maintains some excellent charts of the increasing difficulty over time here:
http://bitcoin.sipa.be/
Notice how difficulty is increasing rapidly. (The link is very flaky, so check back often if it doesn't load right away).

If you're going to make any long-term projections about the profitability of mining hardware, you must take periodic difficulty increases into account. Right now, the next difficulty increase is predicted to be about a 15% jump at the next increase. This means a rig that pulls in 29 BTC per week right now (typical for an OCed 5870 running phoenix) will only be making 25.5 BTC per week. Add another 15% difficulty and that drops to 22.2 BTC per week. Six months from now (at 15%) that drops to 6.3 BTC per week.

On the other hand, the exchange rate has been increasing lately. If you believe this will continue, then the numbers above don't look as bleak. However, it also means that you'd be better off purchasing BTC rather than mining hardware. If the exchange rate really does increase, your BTC will increase in value. Meanwhile, your hardware will only depreciate and produce less BTC over time.

There are some other costs and hurdles that miners tend not to consider when calculating profitability:

1. Downtime - This isn't just the 100% downtime when you're rebooting your computer or updating your miner application. Using your desktop will slow the miner down somewhat. Perhaps a lot if you're gaming or watching a video. Even dedicated mining rigs will have to contend with periodic pool outages or network hangups bringing production down from 100%.

2. Frictional mining costs - Unless you're solo mining (in which case you'll be dealing with variance) you're going to give up some small amount to whatever pool you join. Fees, stale shares, etc. Figure 3% or so of your output.

3. Frictional conversion costs - Unless you're going to be buying things strictly in BTC (not likely for a miner) you're going to have to pull the money out into your native currency. Conversion costs on small amounts will be painful. Conversion costs on larger amounts won't be as bad, but you'll still lose at least 1% and probably more.

4. Cooling costs - Summer is fast approaching in the northern hemisphere. Cooling a house or apartment is difficult in many regions, and even more so with computers pumping heat into your room. If your computer consumes 1000W, then it is ultimately dumping 1000W of extra heat into your room. If you don't think this is significant, go run a 1kW hairdryer in a small space for a few minutes and see how much warmer it gets.

5. PSU Inefficiencies - Any power supply won't be 100% efficient. The only semi-accurate way to gauge power consumption is to use a Kill-a-watt or equivalent at the plug and measure the power directly. If your video cards + mobo + CPU draw 1000 watts from your power supply, it's probably drawing 1200 watts from the wall. Your electricity costs are 20% higher than you expected.

Bitcoin mining is a race to the bottom, and if you don't already own a capable computer then you've probably missed the boat. You will always be up against people with lower (or no) electricity costs, and people who are buying hardware cheaper than yours. If you're counting on the increasing exchange rate to buoy your mining rig profitability, then you really should be investing directly in BTC, not buying mining hardware. Increasing exchange rates will only drive more people out of the woodwork who are willing to mine for meager profits. Even worse, there are plenty of people who don't grasp the concept that electricity and heating aren't free, and will mine for negative profits.

So before you drop cash on a new mining rig, think long and hard about whether or not you'll find it useful for anything other than heating your house in the winter.
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proudhon
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April 26, 2011, 04:56:07 PM
 #2

If you've used one of the generic bitcoin profitability calculators, you've probably been surprised by the projected income from Bitcoin mining. The profitability numbers can be shockingly high for just buying a video card, putting it in your PC, and running a program 24/7.

But all of the online calculators I've seen omit the biggest hurdle: Difficulty increases.

The bitcoin network is designed to produce approximately 2016 blocks every two weeks. With high performance hardware becoming cheaper and more widespread and more users jumping on the mining bandwagon, the only way to keep the block production rate constant is to make it harder. Thus, every two weeks the difficulty adjusts to slow down or speed up production to match this 2016 blocks / 2 weeks target rate. This almost always goes up.

In fact, it goes up at an alarming rate. Sipa maintains some excellent charts of the increasing difficulty over time here:
http://bitcoin.sipa.be/
Notice how difficulty is increasing rapidly. (The link is very flaky, so check back often if it doesn't load right away).

If you're going to make any long-term projections about the profitability of mining hardware, you must take periodic difficulty increases into account. Right now, the next difficulty increase is predicted to be about a 15% jump at the next increase. This means a rig that pulls in 29 BTC per week right now (typical for an OCed 5870 running phoenix) will only be making 25.5 BTC per week. Add another 15% difficulty and that drops to 22.2 BTC per week. Six months from now (at 15%) that drops to 6.3 BTC per week.

On the other hand, the exchange rate has been increasing lately. If you believe this will continue, then the numbers above don't look as bleak. However, it also means that you'd be better off purchasing BTC rather than mining hardware. If the exchange rate really does increase, your BTC will increase in value. Meanwhile, your hardware will only depreciate and produce less BTC over time.

There are some other costs and hurdles that miners tend not to consider when calculating profitability:

1. Downtime - This isn't just the 100% downtime when you're rebooting your computer or updating your miner application. Using your desktop will slow the miner down somewhat. Perhaps a lot if you're gaming or watching a video. Even dedicated mining rigs will have to contend with periodic pool outages or network hangups bringing production down from 100%.

2. Frictional mining costs - Unless you're solo mining (in which case you'll be dealing with variance) you're going to give up some small amount to whatever pool you join. Fees, stale shares, etc. Figure 3% or so of your output.

3. Frictional conversion costs - Unless you're going to be buying things strictly in BTC (not likely for a miner) you're going to have to pull the money out into your native currency. Conversion costs on small amounts will be painful. Conversion costs on larger amounts won't be as bad, but you'll still lose at least 1% and probably more.

4. Cooling costs - Summer is fast approaching in the northern hemisphere. Cooling a house or apartment is difficult in many regions, and even more so with computers pumping heat into your room. If your computer consumes 1000W, then it is ultimately dumping 1000W of extra heat into your room. If you don't think this is significant, go run a 1kW hairdryer in a small space for a few minutes and see how much warmer it gets.

5. PSU Inefficiencies - Any power supply won't be 100% efficient. The only semi-accurate way to gauge power consumption is to use a Kill-a-watt or equivalent at the plug and measure the power directly. If your video cards + mobo + CPU draw 1000 watts from your power supply, it's probably drawing 1200 watts from the wall. Your electricity costs are 20% higher than you expected.

Bitcoin mining is a race to the bottom, and if you don't already own a capable computer then you've probably missed the boat. You will always be up against people with lower (or no) electricity costs, and people who are buying hardware cheaper than yours. If you're counting on the increasing exchange rate to buoy your mining rig profitability, then you really should be investing directly in BTC, not buying mining hardware. Increasing exchange rates will only drive more people out of the woodwork who are willing to mine for meager profits. Even worse, there are plenty of people who don't grasp the concept that electricity and heating aren't free, and will mine for negative profits.

So before you drop cash on a new mining rig, think long and hard about whether or not you'll find it useful for anything other than heating your house in the winter.

This is an excellent analysis, and considerations like the ones you raise here have caused me to reconsider expanding my hardware beyond the single 6990 I already own.
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April 26, 2011, 05:01:52 PM
 #3

And I would like to add:

7. Being on-call. Every time something upsets your mining rig, you have to go fix it because every minute it isn't running, you are losing money.

It was very hot over the weekend. My wife noticed that there was a beeping noise coming from the attic where the mining rigs live. The temperature up there was unbelievable... so I had to spend some time contriving some airflow through the attic.
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April 26, 2011, 05:08:15 PM
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And I would like to add:

7. Being on-call. Every time something upsets your mining rig, you have to go fix it because every minute it isn't running, you are losing money.

It was very hot over the weekend. My wife noticed that there was a beeping noise coming from the attic where the mining rigs live. The temperature up there was unbelievable... so I had to spend some time contriving some airflow through the attic.

You put it in the attic?  Be careful you don't start a fire.  I'm serious.  If you're trying to get it out of your house, then you'd probably be better of putting it in your crawl space, if you have one, where you can take advantage of the average ground temperature for your area (probably in the 50s).  An attic in the summer is basically where all the heat from your house is going to end up, plus it's affected more by the temperature outside.  So, in the summer you could easily have ambient temperatures of 45C or more.  Seriously, a mining rig in an attic is a horrible idea.
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April 26, 2011, 05:15:46 PM
 #5

And I would like to add:

7. Being on-call. Every time something upsets your mining rig, you have to go fix it because every minute it isn't running, you are losing money.

It was very hot over the weekend. My wife noticed that there was a beeping noise coming from the attic where the mining rigs live. The temperature up there was unbelievable... so I had to spend some time contriving some airflow through the attic.

Yes it soon becomes problematic when 24x7 mining, as our homes suddenly start to feel and sound like data centers, my closet is sounding liking a small replica of a data centre minus the dedicated AC.

I wonder adversely will the difficulty also decrease as the summer temp increases leaving just those of us who will endure to no end to keep mining leaving the casual miners to switch off.
JJG
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April 26, 2011, 05:24:06 PM
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...
Yes it soon becomes problematic when 24x7 mining, as our homes suddenly start to feel and sound like data centers, my closet is sounding liking a small replica of a data centre minus the dedicated AC.

I wonder adversely will the difficulty also decrease as the summer temp increases leaving just those of us who will endure to no end to keep mining leaving the casual miners to switch off.

Don't forget that the southern hemisphere is entering winter as the northern hemisphere is entering summer. That could balance things slightly.

I'd actually be more concerned about the kids in their parents' basements, for whom electricity and cooling are 'free'. Same goes for those running mining operations in their offices.
proudhon
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April 26, 2011, 05:30:46 PM
 #7

...
Yes it soon becomes problematic when 24x7 mining, as our homes suddenly start to feel and sound like data centers, my closet is sounding liking a small replica of a data centre minus the dedicated AC.

I wonder adversely will the difficulty also decrease as the summer temp increases leaving just those of us who will endure to no end to keep mining leaving the casual miners to switch off.

Don't forget that the southern hemisphere is entering winter as the northern hemisphere is entering summer. That could balance things slightly.

I'd actually be more concerned about the kids in their parents' basements, for whom electricity and cooling are 'free'. Same goes for those running mining operations in their offices.

I doubt those kids will be running their rigs for too long once daddy discovers that his electricity bill has increased by ~$100 a month or more.
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April 26, 2011, 05:42:19 PM
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I doubt those kids will be running their rigs for too long once daddy discovers that his electricity bill has increased by ~$100 a month or more.

There are plenty of places in the US where running a machine with a single 5870 at full tilt 24/7 will only cost you $20/month.
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April 26, 2011, 05:46:39 PM
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I doubt those kids will be running their rigs for too long once daddy discovers that his electricity bill has increased by ~$100 a month or more.

There are plenty of places in the US where running a machine with a single 5870 at full tilt 24/7 will only cost you $20/month.

Sure.  I had a 5970 or 6990 in mind when I wrote that and I was taking into account the second watt problem that vlad mentioned.
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April 26, 2011, 05:49:48 PM
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I doubt those kids will be running their rigs for too long once daddy discovers that his electricity bill has increased by ~$100 a month or more.

There are plenty of places in the US where running a machine with a single 5870 at full tilt 24/7 will only cost you $20/month.

Sure.  I had a 5970 or 6990 in mind when I wrote that and I was taking into account the second watt problem that vlad mentioned.
if 5870 costs 20$ than 5970 would cost 60$, but nowhere near 100.
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April 26, 2011, 05:57:42 PM
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As a college student, I pay no electricity bills living on campus, therefore all of those points are moot. Over the past month I have broken even on my two 5870s, which I can easily sell back on eBay if I need the cash. From here on out running my PC 24/7 is pure profit for me, regardless of if I make 1 BTC per day or 10 BTC per day.

Bitcoin mining should NEVER be seen as a viable source of income, but if you can make it slightly profitable, it might pay for your lunch once a week. That's good enough for me, but people with grand schemes of making tons of money mining have missed the boat completely at this point. Personally I believe the BTC/USD bubble will pop soon as well, as soon as people realize that there aren't that many advantages to using this currency.
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April 26, 2011, 06:03:12 PM
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I doubt those kids will be running their rigs for too long once daddy discovers that his electricity bill has increased by ~$100 a month or more.

There are plenty of places in the US where running a machine with a single 5870 at full tilt 24/7 will only cost you $20/month.

Sure.  I had a 5970 or 6990 in mind when I wrote that and I was taking into account the second watt problem that vlad mentioned.
if 5870 costs 20$ than 5970 would cost 60$, but nowhere near 100.

Depends on your electricity costs.  At full load a 5970 system will probably end up pulling ~500W from the socket (remember that PSUs are not 100% efficient).  During the summer, and taking into account home AC and the second watt problem, at $0.12/kWh you're looking at $86 a month.
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April 26, 2011, 08:28:51 PM
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Depends on your electricity costs.  At full load a 5970 system will probably end up pulling ~500W from the socket (remember that PSUs are not 100% efficient).  During the summer, and taking into account home AC and the second watt problem, at $0.12/kWh you're looking at $86 a month.

Wrong. 5970 system shows for me ~350W power consumption cause I tried to be the smart half in the relationship between electricity bill-my wallet.
proudhon
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April 26, 2011, 08:38:07 PM
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Depends on your electricity costs.  At full load a 5970 system will probably end up pulling ~500W from the socket (remember that PSUs are not 100% efficient).  During the summer, and taking into account home AC and the second watt problem, at $0.12/kWh you're looking at $86 a month.

Wrong. 5970 system shows for me ~350W power consumption cause I tried to be the smart half in the relationship between electricity bill-my wallet.

If ~350W is really the full system draw at the socket then at standard US rates you're looking at ~$60/month.
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April 26, 2011, 08:52:10 PM
 #15

I don't think the post was to completely say its pointless to mine, in fact this is the wrong message to send as the network needs miners to work, just don't run down the shops thinking these cards will get you rich quick or at all but the return on investment will be slow or not at all depending on operational costs. But if you have some mining capable hardware why not mine while its on contributing to the network and getting a little something out of it.  

I think there is a magic formula to calculate price per mhash based on power consumption / initial purchase cost and each person should do so before raiding the electronics store.

imo buying the 5870/5970/6990 and running it even in a college dorm/office leaves you with 2 problems ignoring the cost of electricity

1) heat
2) noise these things can get bloody noisy, and in fact can become an audible pain in the butt. i'm sure my work colleagues would not appreciate a mining rig under my desk running all day.

However for the more extreme of us and where this blurs between passion and hobby, I'm currently looking at mining using oil based cooling solution, however that ain't cheap either in fact to have a real benefit to offset cooling costs you need to have a large number of cards immersed in the same solution, but is supposedly more efficient than air based cooling although to mine through a hot summer you will still need a good radiator/heat exchanger.

The ultimate goal, is low watt, high hash, low noise, low temps, i have yet to see the solution for all these components.
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April 26, 2011, 08:57:13 PM
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I don't think the post was to completely say its pointless to mine, in fact this is the wrong message to send as the network needs miners to work, just don't run down the shops thinking these cards will get you rich quick or at all but the return on investment will be slow or not at all depending on operational costs. But if you have some mining capable hardware why not mine while its on contributing to the network and getting a little something out of it.  

I think there is a magic formula to calculate price per mhash based on power consumption / initial purchase cost and each person should do so before raiding the electronics store.

imo buying the 5870/5970/6990 and running it even in a college dorm/office leaves you with 2 problems ignoring the cost of electricity

1) heat
2) noise these things can get bloody noisy, and in fact can become an audible pain in the butt. i'm sure my work colleagues would not appreciate a mining rig under my desk running all day.

However for the more extreme of us and where this blurs between passion and hobby, I'm currently looking at mining using oil based cooling solution, however that ain't cheap either in fact to have a real benefit to offset cooling costs you need to have a large number of cards immersed in the same solution, but is supposedly more efficient than air based cooling although to mine through a hot summer you will still need a good radiator/heat exchanger.

The ultimate goal, is low watt, high hash, low noise, low temps, i have yet to see the solution for all these components.


Meh... I don't think it matters.  If we get more miners, great.  If we don't, mining will be profitable and established players will expand their capacity.  Either way, the network is secured.

As we slide down the banister of life, this is just another splinter in our ass.
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April 26, 2011, 10:52:24 PM
 #17

Also, to people who aren't running your dedicated rigs in a large space with open airflow and/or in a climate controlled space.

You're going to experience instances of hardware failure that are higher than average.

Worst case scenario (in my experience with hardware) the Power Supply gets affected by the heat first and dosen't just die in one fell swoop, but slowly starts to fluctuate voltage outputs high and low where it shouldn't be.

Not only can this be incredibly difficult to diagnose, but it can slowly degrade your video card to the point where even when you pull it out and put it in a new system, it'll still have rendering errors.

If you're going to go (past a certain point), go all out. IMHO
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April 28, 2011, 12:09:25 PM
 #18

If you've used one of the generic bitcoin profitability calculators, you've probably been surprised by the projected income from Bitcoin mining. The profitability numbers can be shockingly high for just buying a video card, putting it in your PC, and running a program 24/7.

But all of the online calculators I've seen omit the biggest hurdle: Difficulty increases.

The bitcoin network is designed to produce approximately 2016 blocks every two weeks. With high performance hardware becoming cheaper and more widespread and more users jumping on the mining bandwagon, the only way to keep the block production rate constant is to make it harder. Thus, every two weeks the difficulty adjusts to slow down or speed up production to match this 2016 blocks / 2 weeks target rate. This almost always goes up.

In fact, it goes up at an alarming rate. Sipa maintains some excellent charts of the increasing difficulty over time here:
http://bitcoin.sipa.be/
Notice how difficulty is increasing rapidly. (The link is very flaky, so check back often if it doesn't load right away).

If you're going to make any long-term projections about the profitability of mining hardware, you must take periodic difficulty increases into account. Right now, the next difficulty increase is predicted to be about a 15% jump at the next increase. This means a rig that pulls in 29 BTC per week right now (typical for an OCed 5870 running phoenix) will only be making 25.5 BTC per week. Add another 15% difficulty and that drops to 22.2 BTC per week. Six months from now (at 15%) that drops to 6.3 BTC per week.

On the other hand, the exchange rate has been increasing lately. If you believe this will continue, then the numbers above don't look as bleak. However, it also means that you'd be better off purchasing BTC rather than mining hardware. If the exchange rate really does increase, your BTC will increase in value. Meanwhile, your hardware will only depreciate and produce less BTC over time.

There are some other costs and hurdles that miners tend not to consider when calculating profitability:

1. Downtime - This isn't just the 100% downtime when you're rebooting your computer or updating your miner application. Using your desktop will slow the miner down somewhat. Perhaps a lot if you're gaming or watching a video. Even dedicated mining rigs will have to contend with periodic pool outages or network hangups bringing production down from 100%.

2. Frictional mining costs - Unless you're solo mining (in which case you'll be dealing with variance) you're going to give up some small amount to whatever pool you join. Fees, stale shares, etc. Figure 3% or so of your output.

3. Frictional conversion costs - Unless you're going to be buying things strictly in BTC (not likely for a miner) you're going to have to pull the money out into your native currency. Conversion costs on small amounts will be painful. Conversion costs on larger amounts won't be as bad, but you'll still lose at least 1% and probably more.

4. Cooling costs - Summer is fast approaching in the northern hemisphere. Cooling a house or apartment is difficult in many regions, and even more so with computers pumping heat into your room. If your computer consumes 1000W, then it is ultimately dumping 1000W of extra heat into your room. If you don't think this is significant, go run a 1kW hairdryer in a small space for a few minutes and see how much warmer it gets.

5. PSU Inefficiencies - Any power supply won't be 100% efficient. The only semi-accurate way to gauge power consumption is to use a Kill-a-watt or equivalent at the plug and measure the power directly. If your video cards + mobo + CPU draw 1000 watts from your power supply, it's probably drawing 1200 watts from the wall. Your electricity costs are 20% higher than you expected.

Bitcoin mining is a race to the bottom, and if you don't already own a capable computer then you've probably missed the boat. You will always be up against people with lower (or no) electricity costs, and people who are buying hardware cheaper than yours. If you're counting on the increasing exchange rate to buoy your mining rig profitability, then you really should be investing directly in BTC, not buying mining hardware. Increasing exchange rates will only drive more people out of the woodwork who are willing to mine for meager profits. Even worse, there are plenty of people who don't grasp the concept that electricity and heating aren't free, and will mine for negative profits.

So before you drop cash on a new mining rig, think long and hard about whether or not you'll find it useful for anything other than heating your house in the winter.

I've been from time to time following the discussions here but never registered on the forum. But after getting more and more irritated by clearly people trying to actively discourage others from mining i couldn't resist and had to register to get this out.

I suspect that JJG and one or two others are just puppets created by Vladimir. If you follow their posts and anything which has to do about starting your own mining operation they'll jump on it and try to push it to the ground. It's possible that JJG and other puppets are all and the same person which might be Vladimir himself. It is an INSULT to the community to keep up this theatre and believe that the community is stupid enough not to see your games. Perhaps business is going bad for Vladimir aka JJG aka .. so they resort to these low tactics and discourage as many people as possible.

But it is disgusting to see always the same puppets jump on threads whenever some one has an initiative to mining or setting up shop. Especially newbies with a few posts showing up with the same tactics and at some point Vladimir popsup to add his two "bits".

Anyway, that's my opinion, and i hope others can see the pieces of the puzzle they're playing and draw their own conclusions.


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April 28, 2011, 12:41:54 PM
 #19

I very much doubt Vladimir is "that big" or that he can really discourage the majority of new wannabee miners.

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April 28, 2011, 12:45:53 PM
 #20

I very much doubt Vladimir is "that big" or that he can really discourage the majority of new wannabee miners.

I agree, in my opinion he's more hot air than anything close to what he's trying to project to the community. Jus like his random posts of capacity and selling out quickly. If it was that easy
others with the resources would have been flocking here much sooner. But point is, it annoys the hell out of me to see these type of figures polluting the community with disinformation or pulling things out of their context.
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