Weltenbummler

Globetrotting for a living.

Hej!

As life choices go, my job takes me all over the place, although the main focus is Europe and the US. I’m the guy passing you in the TSA-pre approved, frequent-flyer, fast-track lane at the airport, nabbing the upgraded hotel room without having to pay for it, grabbing the hire or rental car before you can choose one. I’m the Up In The Air guy with all the travel time, rituals, tricks and tip – although I don’t get Vera Farmiga, and I’m definitely no George Clooney. Plus I don’t get to fly business class unless I find an upgrade slot.

But, I do get the chance to see places – from the back of a cab, or out of a hotel or conference window., and of course, from high up above. And in some cases, if time permits, a little more. Which is what this about. I sometimes even get a few funny stories out of it – my favourite is still almost running down Roger Federer in a hotel in Zurich. And not recognizing him in the process; just mumbling my apologies as I continued to type on my Blackberry.

When I’m not running around, I’m close to Hogtown. Or T-dot. Whichever you prefer.

 

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dogecoin

Mining – Dogecoin

Curiousity finally got me on ‘mining’ a cryptocurrency. After a bit of research, I figured I’d give it a try. I had to decide on a ‘currency’ – bitcoin was out of the question due to difficulty, but others seemed interesting. Number one on my list was Dogecoin. I’ve heard it pronounced differently, either Do j (almost a sh sound) coin, or dog E coin – which makes more sense to me. Of course, all of this was to happen without spending any money and simply using the equipment I had.

I started with going to www.dogecoin.com and downloading the ‘wallet’ – the software used to store the information on your currency. There are online and offline wallets, the offline wallet is saved on your hard drive. The information on your coins is stored in a specific file attached to the wallet, aptly named wallet.dat, and this is the key point to your fortune. Lose the wallet.dat file and lose all coins. The software will also process all transactions (blocks) of dogecoin to verify all movement, including yours. Essentially you are helping process (or confirm) all transactions, which is what keeps the currency moving. The downside is your wallet needs to ‘sync’ with the network, which will take a little while. In my case almost a full day. But now I had a wallet and could get started with my experiment, and as mentioned, without spending any money on any additional equipment.

Unfortunately, that really didn’t work out very well. For one, being a complete noob, I had to figure out that there are different mining programs based on the different graphic cards. Which also meant I had to figure out that graphic cards (GPU) are typically used, and not your processor (CPU).  In that process, I realized I probably have the sh**tiest GPU you can have in a NVDIA GeForce 210.

I tried a website first that promised CPU mining – idigdoge.com; which I accessed on my laptop. That experiment lasted less than a night. I left the laptop running over night and it was shut down the next morning due to overheating. I let the mining program run on my PC instead, and after about two days I had one (1) dogecoin.  Ten Dogecoin are worth about a penny. So, not really the best way to go about it.

In fact, it’s much easier and more promising to ‘beg’ (my term) for coins through a ‘faucet’ (official term). Essentially there are websites (like http://freedogecoins.net/) that will give away free Dogecoins to promote the currency. You provide your wallet ID, enter a security code, and *voila* coins appear in your wallet. The amount can be anywhere from 0.01 to 10 dogecoin, with the latter obviously being a much better way of securing coins than CPU mining. These faucets depend on donations to keep handing out free coins, so a lot of them don’t survive for all too long and eventually dry up. Clearly not the way to secure a long-term fortune…

Enter GPU mining. As mentioned, my graphics card, being a NVIDIA, requires cudaminer as a program to ‘mine’. My graphics card is also extremely poor in processing power. Again, the noob in me needed several evenings after work to figure out how to properly configure the program to actually work. I ended up downloading several versions, watching youtube guides, reading blogs and posts, almost giving up and then finding individual tips on different websites and piecing the entire thing together. I’m sure there’s an easy way, but as the quote attributed to Thomas Edison says: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”.

You also have to decide whether to solo mine or pool mine. Solo mining has far higher rewards, i.e. more coins once you process a block, but the processing requirements and duration until you succeed are so high that it’s not worth it unless you really have processing power. It makes much more sense to join a pool and add your processing power to the collective’s, collecting shares of the mining results. I tried a few different ones to see how’d they’d go, and eventually stuck with dogepool.net. I tried dogepolis.com, but just ended up losing 5 days worth of coins.

Now that I’ve figured out how to make it work, I looked at the way it would work. The processing speed is shown/calculated in hashes per second. The more hashes per second the better. The GeForce 210 chugs away at an astounding 7 kh/s. On a good day, and probably with a lot of encouragement.

But, I got in running and pulled in an amazing ten (10) dogecoins in one day. Effectively I had my own faucet now and could look forward to a penny a day. Of course, my computer is running constantly with the GPU processing away. At 300W (and 18 amps I believe), and electricity costs of approx. 7 cts per kW-hr, this is not exactly a money-making endeavour. Essentially I’m making $3.65 per year, but spending $184 on electricity. Not really convincing so far…

Obviously if the GPU could process MUCH more without a massive increase in electricity consumption maybe we’d be on to something.  This would mean purchasing hardware, though – which I didn’t really want to do. If I did, however, a little research revealed the best bang for your buck in the AMD Radeon HD7950. There are faster and better GPUs available, but this one is under $400 and can process up to 600 kh/s. Unfortunately, this GPU is not the easiest to get at sticker price due to its popularity.  Power consumption is comparable, if not slightly lower, so the operating costs would be about the same. If I were to apply the 7 kh/s=10 dogecoins to 600 kh/s, it should result in about 850 dogecoins per day, or about 85 cents. That would be $310 a year. So investing $400 in the card and $183p.a. wouldn’t convince me either.

One could assemble a so called mining ‘rig’, but now we’re talking a much higher investment, requiring a dedicated system, i.e. motherboard, power supply, GPU, CPU, etc. It could be assembled fairly easily, but even the cheap version with a single GPU as shown above would run over $1200. I did find a version I liked and if I had the patience this is the version I’d choose.

Obviously there is an argument that the value of dogecoins could explode and then it would all be worth it. But I prefer to remain in current reality.

BUT….

I’m still curious. So, while continuing to read on GPU mining (and some really cool, but really expensive mining ‘rigs’), I also saw the next push in mining was ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit). Essentially this circuit/chip is designed specifically to mine coins (unlike a GPU which is multi-purpose) and can run much more efficiently at a far lower power consumption. There are, in my opinion, three levels of ASIC mining – single chip (basic), multi-chip (intermediate) and crazy-nuts (multi-massive-chips).

I took a look at the crazy-nuts version first. Why? Because they’re crazy-nuts. They also operate independently; you don’t have to tie it in to an existing computer or operating system. If I wanted to spend EUR5000 (about $6800) or more, this would be the place even though they’re only in a pre-order phase at the moment. We’re talking 50 Mh/s, with 3.3kW operating 24/7.  Electricity costs alone would be approx. $2000 a year. First year costs come to approx. $8000 (shipping included).  Same comparison as above has this rig mining approx.  72000 dogecoins per day (although an online calculator put the number at 229000). 72000 per day translates to approx. $72 per day,  Payback is now 110 days, or about 4 months. Not bad, and if I had $8000 to spare, I’d choose this over GPU mining any day.

And coming back to reality takes me to the simple version. A single ASIC mining chip with a USB connection. The power consumption for this is virtually non-existant. 0.5W on a hot day. The hardware cost on the other hand is anywhere from $75 to $150 depending on whether you buy individual cards or several at the same time. Their processing speed is about 70 kh/s. The math doesn’t work on the return here either, this should pull in approx. 250 coins a day, or 25 cents worth. That’s 600 days for to break even at $150 purchase price. But by this time I’m frustrated with just doing math and wanted an actual experience. So I bought into the dualminer (you could mine either for Litecoin/Dogecoin or Bitcoin), which has a built in program and is essentially plug-and-play.

dualminer

The set-up was as easy as described, the program worked right away and after entering the pool data, I was up and running. At an exciting pace (when compared to the GPU I have…).

miningpool

This has me now pulling in about 270 coins per day. Still really pretty weak, but buying more of the individual USB chips is simply too expensive for the limited reward.

Enter the Gridseed 5-chip miner. This is effectively 5 of the chips that are part of the individual USB chip, so the processing speed is five-fold. I could expect 300 kh/s without changes to my hardware. These do require an additional power source – the W aren’t the problem, but they do require 5A. A common 12V 5A adapter (as used with most laptops) will do, though. The cost of a gridseed is about $250-$300, so the equivalent of $50-$60 per chip.

gridseed

 

At an expected $1.25 per day, the ROI is about 220 days. Much better than everything except the crazy-nuts solution. I’ve already ordered one for testing, so I hope to have an update in a couple of weeks.

 

 

 

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Roll Up The Rim

Time flies… Timmy’s RUTR is already back upon us and my annual challenge with the colleagues can begin again.

My stats so far on

Mar. 4

Wins: 4

Cups: 31

Payout: 4 cups of coffee

 

However, as before, my colleague has a massive lead with 5 wins in 15 cups (Mar. 4), including this one:

Ouch

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airplane

Hotel Experiences

With the amount of travel I do, I do get to experience a fair share of hotels, both (and mostly) their good sides, but in some cases the bad side.

For the longest time, I wouldn’t review a hotel. I stay up to 150 nights in hotels, so it just seemed too much to write about after every stay. I have a few chosen hotel brands that I know (or better: assume) are good and stick with them. This has come out of years of various rooms, smells, sounds, scratchings, hearsay, recommendations, etc.

I’ve even stayed in a converted barn (very inexpensive, good breakfast, friendly owners, decent room with bare minimum – near Celle, Germany), a converted convent (good price, very good rooms, breakfast – also near Celle, Germany), an old aircraft (interesting experience,  I recommend paying a bit more for the cockpit – at Stockholm Arlanda airport).

airplane

I’ve stayed at motels with two inch gaps under the door letting snow into the room, motels with lots of creepy crawleys and interior decorations from the 1970s. I’ve had a number of motel and hotel rooms that have had porn magazines hidden underneath the mattress, making me feel very comfortable in using the bed at all…

I’ve stayed in a hotel (actually repeatedly, it’s not bad at all) where people were murdered. Very recent ones, actually. As in that week. Which explained the police presence. And the sirens. Apparently the guy was hiding IN THE BED for two days.

I’ve been in a very posh hotel in Switzerland where I almost ran down or into Roger Federer. I didn’t notice though as I was too preoccupied with my Blackberry and emailing. I mumbled an apology to the person I had just about bumped into after exiting the elevator and moved on, barely registering the face. I noticed the person had stopped and was looking at me, but I figured that was because of my rather rude behaviour. A few steps later as my mind was just piecing together any kind of facial recognition, I stopped in front of a life-size cutout or poster of Roger Federer. The hotel had some kind of Swiss Tennis Federation event and he was there for that. Facial recognition now kicked in and I turned to see Roger walking away. Oops.

I’ve tried bed and breakfasts, shared accommodation (not doing that again) and shared bathrooms (also not doing that again).

All of this has led me to selecting the Holiday Inn group and Radisson group as my primary choices, then the Best Western and Hilton hotels as a back up. This covers pretty much 80% of everywhere I go. The balance is the experience.

But an actual review – well it took the experience described here to make me actually want to write a review. I still won’t write about every experience, but some will be described – using tripadvisor, then copying to here…

 

 

 

 

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Travel Funnies

As travel goes, I come across a number of situations, signage, translations, etc. that are just plain funny (to me).

Years ago, I was in Guangzhou and very much wish I had taken a picture of the sign in the bathroom of my hotel room. I was staying for a few days in the Holiday Inn Shifu Guangzhou and was in the area for a conference on environmental issues related to air quality.

In any case, the sign read “Water not potable. May contain fecal matter”.

Now try brushing your teeth without grimacing. Or taking a shower. I was on bottled water for the next few days for just about everything, and could only hope that the sealed bottles I was buying were actually sealed. Getting back to Hong Kong was a great relief…

Since then, if I come across something I deem funny, I’ll take a picture and file it – you never know when you need to whip out that picture of fecal-mattered water…

 

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