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Author Topic: What else can our FPGA mining boards be used for?  (Read 6374 times)
ShadesOfMarble
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June 17, 2012, 09:55:58 PM
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...that's what I'm wondering for quite some time now (as the time FPGAs can be used for mining seems to be quite limited now with ASICs showing up).

What I usually read is something like "these boards cannot be used for anything else because they are stripped down to the minimum".
But ztex for example also mentions "Monte Carlo methods" and "Bioinformatic calculations".
I'm studying physics so I'm interested especially in MC, or quantum MC. I don't know much about FPGAs (yet!), but I would love to learn a HDL and write a QMC algorithm.

So... What dou you (FPGA-)guys think? Are the "bitcoin mining boards" really limited to bitcoin mining or can they be used for other stuff?

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BR0KK
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June 17, 2012, 10:07:55 PM
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Quote
...that's what I'm wondering for quite some time now (as the time FPGAs can be used for mining seems to be quite limited now with ASICs showing up).

Nothing showed up atm Smiley


BTT:

Im new to FPGAS too and I'm also wondering what we can do if that "so called miracle overhyped" ASIC hits the ground.


For Ztex boards there's already a whole wiki (by Ztex) aviable.

 

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June 17, 2012, 10:14:15 PM
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Doorstop, bookend, paperweight, coffee table ornament... the options are limitless.

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ShadesOfMarble
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June 17, 2012, 10:15:51 PM
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Nothing showed up atm Smiley
Sure, but please don't make this yet another BFL-topic Wink I think there is a very high probability that by the end of the year we will see the first ASIC miners, combine that with reward cut and using GPUs or FPGAs for mining will be a waste of resources or have a ROI of, what? 10 years?

If they can be used for other applications: Fine, I'll buy one or two, mine until the end of the year, get something like 30-50% ROI and then use them for other "fun" stuff, like QMC, if that's possible (and that's what I'm asking)

@ckolivas: Do you feel my question was stupid enough to answer like you did?

Review of the Spondoolies-Tech SP10 „Dawson“ Bitcoin miner (1.4 TH/s)

[22:35] <Vinnie_win> Did anyone get paid yet? | [22:36] <Isokivi> pirate did!
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June 17, 2012, 10:18:02 PM
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U could write your own password hasher (cracker for them).

Maybe someone invents BIONC for FPGAS?

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June 17, 2012, 10:24:06 PM
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@ckolivas: Do you feel my question was stupid enough to answer like you did?
It was a random troll and you should have recognised it as one.

On the other hand, there is a half-serious warning in it. I DO think they are realistically useless for anything else because the real market for such a board in the hand of a hobbyist is zero in my humble opinion. Just because there are other uses for these boards does not mean you're likely to find anything useful to do with them yourself.

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June 17, 2012, 10:27:36 PM
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Those skilled in FPGA can reprogram them to do a few other things, where you are asking it to do a very high frequency of relatively simple task.
While I've not done it myself, my father is in the telecommunication and general semi-conductor industry, thus worked with FPGA's.
He's used them on more than one occasion in his line of work, I don't understand all of what he does, but he's done a lot in the field of top tier communication hardware, servers, routers etc. Building a bitstream is my latest thing to attempt, and is still a totally new thing to me, but their is some potential to reprogram them, but realistically it would be hard for most to re-purpose them.

I've heard of FPGA's been reprogrammed to work along side relatively normal webservers, to aid in doing repeated tasks, searches and fetching. They've been doing it with GPU's for a little while now, so I don't see why not.

If however you don't have any means to really reprogram them yourself, then yeah it's just a bit of a paper-weight that will done nothing much else.

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June 17, 2012, 11:11:11 PM
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Nothing showed up atm Smiley
Sure, but please don't make this yet another BFL-topic Wink I think there is a very high probability that by the end of the year we will see the first ASIC miners, combine that with reward cut and using GPUs or FPGAs for mining will be a waste of resources or have a ROI of, what? 10 years?

If they can be used for other applications: Fine, I'll buy one or two, mine until the end of the year, get something like 30-50% ROI and then use them for other "fun" stuff, like QMC, if that's possible (and that's what I'm asking)

@ckolivas: Do you feel my question was stupid enough to answer like you did?
Even if he or you don't think so, I certainly feel that his answer is reasonable.

Simple example: the BFL device.
Yes they have said they will Open Source their device if BTC tanks.
But does that really mean you will be able to do anything with it?
How far will they go with the information they will provide - will it be enough? Will they do it at all? They are supposedly a company with 10 years of experience in FPGA/ASIC technology, so why would they be giving away this information?
If BTC tanks tomorrow, the BFL is a door stop until (unless) these issues are overcome and someone comes up with a use for it.
And just an FYI - I have 1 BFL (paid for with BTC and received 4.5 days after payment)

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ShadesOfMarble
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June 17, 2012, 11:44:27 PM
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I'm not talking about BFL, should have made that clear. But what about all other FPGA hardware? ZTEX boards have a good documentation, for example.

I'm not talking about resale either. If FPGA mining is "over", *I* would like to do other stuff with that board.
My question was:
Am I limited by my knowledge about FPGA/HDL? Then there's a "simple" solution: I need to learn about these topics.
Am I limited by the hardware? I.e. how the FPGAs are connected, how much bandwidth is available to tx and rx data from/to the FPGAs etc... e.g. all bitcoin boards lacking external RAM. Is that a problem for only a small subset of problems or is that a problem for most algorithms except hashing?

Review of the Spondoolies-Tech SP10 „Dawson“ Bitcoin miner (1.4 TH/s)

[22:35] <Vinnie_win> Did anyone get paid yet? | [22:36] <Isokivi> pirate did!
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June 18, 2012, 02:27:04 AM
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I'm not worried about what you can do with FPGAs (the fact that Bitcoin miner boards don't have RAM would be a problem for some kinds of work though), the problem is that the tools to build a bitstream seem quite costly and out of reach for any hobbyist.

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June 18, 2012, 03:13:01 AM
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gyverlb: the tools are not out of reach to the hobbyist. As a matter of fact, the first FPGA bitstreams (plural) for Bitcoin mining have all been developed by hobbyists on these very forums.
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June 18, 2012, 04:42:22 AM
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I plan on converting my BFL singles into ASICs

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June 18, 2012, 05:54:11 AM
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gyverlb: the tools are not out of reach to the hobbyist. As a matter of fact, the first FPGA bitstreams (plural) for Bitcoin mining have all been developed by hobbyists on these very forums.
From what I read and could collect by looking for information, you need to pay several hundred (thousand?) dollars to get the Xilinx tools and the bitcoin miner bitstreams seems to need 10s of gigabytes or RAM to build. I don't know about others but my hobbies usually start smaller than that...

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June 18, 2012, 06:00:12 AM
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FPGAs are classical computers. They can be simplified to a Turing machine and thus cannot run quantum calculations.

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June 18, 2012, 06:18:00 AM
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From what I read and could collect by looking for information, you need to pay several hundred (thousand?) dollars to get the Xilinx tools and the bitcoin miner bitstreams seems to need 10s of gigabytes or RAM to build. I don't know about others but my hobbies usually start smaller than that...

Xilinx ISE has a free version available. And if you can afford a $400 FPGA board, you can surely spend $80 for 16GB RAM...
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June 18, 2012, 07:27:54 AM
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FPGAs are classical computers. They can be simplified to a Turing machine and thus cannot run quantum calculations.
You are completely wrong.
1) I was not even talking about quantum computing. I was talking about quantum monte carlo, which is nothing more than solving some kind of equations.
2) You actually CAN run quantum algorithms on a "classical computer". You usually just don't want to do it because this requires an immense ammount of resources. E.g. you need to track the state of the system in every time step, which means you need TB of RAM even for small systems... If you run a quantum algorithm on a quantum computer that's not needed, because quantum physics already does that for you. But that's not even why quantum computers are faster than classical computers. They are because they can compute all solutions of a problem AT ONCE (ok, that's a bit simplified), u just have to pick the right solution.

Review of the Spondoolies-Tech SP10 „Dawson“ Bitcoin miner (1.4 TH/s)

[22:35] <Vinnie_win> Did anyone get paid yet? | [22:36] <Isokivi> pirate did!
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June 18, 2012, 09:00:50 AM
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FPGA's can do many things. They are programmable devices. You can for example made an "inteligent home" controler. Only obstacle in purely mining boards is lack of I/Os. But if you choose wisely there are boards with reasonable amount of I/Os. Then only you imagination will be limation factor.

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June 18, 2012, 09:20:11 AM
 #18

FPGA are good for "number" crunching. and can be highly optimized to perform certain tasks.

mining boards lack IO that means that you can't make I/O heavy operations with it(ram, harddisk, network, ...).
mining boards are only good for computations, you could use it as a signing device for ecdsa or rsa, or make it a password cracker.

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June 18, 2012, 10:30:30 AM
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FPGA are good for "number" crunching. and can be highly optimized to perform certain tasks.

mining boards lack IO that means that you can't make I/O heavy operations with it(ram, harddisk, network, ...).
mining boards are only good for computations, you could use it as a signing device for ecdsa or rsa, or make it a password cracker.

MiniRig as a password cracker would be quite good Smiley so long at it matches the performance of 50 x HD7970s as it does with mining.
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June 18, 2012, 10:44:16 AM
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I'm actually repeating the OP but ...

Yeah I see this often around here and other places on the net ... "Password Cracker"
But seriously why? What use is there to this except hacking into other stuff you aren't supposed to be hacking into?
... and by use I mean something that you would do night and day and pay $600 for a device to do it.
i.e. like BTC mining where there is a financial return.
Password Cracking seems like a complete and total waste of time IMO

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