All basic knowledge about FPGA environment

8 min read

Q: What is FPGA Mining?

FPGA mining is a very efficient and fast way to mine, compared to GPU mining and drastically outperforms CPU mining. FPGAs typically consume small amounts of power with relatively high hash ratings, making them more viable and efficient than GPU mining.

Q: How about pro and cons FPGA vs GPU vs ASIC?

Let’s take a look at the following comparison table:

HardwarePowerAdaptabilityPriceAvailabilityUser Friendly
ASICβœ”οΈ--βœ”οΈβœ”οΈ
GPU-βœ”οΈβœ”οΈβœ”οΈβœ”οΈ
FPGAβœ”οΈβœ”οΈ---

Looks like FPGAs have an advantage over GPUs and ASICs in only 2 of the 5 categories, but some consider these to be the more important in current market situation. If you can switch between different algorithms and mine the most profitable coins, you can guarantee yourself a high ROI.

The problem is with the other two categories, user friendly and availability. To map designs on an FPGA an engineer uses a Hardware Description Language (HDL), the most popular being VHDL and Verilog. What programmers do is they write a Bitstreamβ€Šβ€”β€Šprogram that tells the FPGA what to do and then load it on the FPGA board.

Q: What is Bitstream, Miner, Pools, and Shell?

  • Bitstream
    A .bit file that contains mining algorithm. Which needs to be programmed to FPGA through Vivado/NextJTAG/Minerator in order to start mining. Currently, there are three developers that have released their bitstreams to the public. They are, πŸ”₯whitefire990, πŸ‘ΎDigitalCruncher, ⛏Allmine.
    You can download their bitstreams on Downloads page. Also, check out the top bitstreams that currently most profitable on πŸ†Top Bitstreams Page.

  • Miner
    A binary file or a source code that is used to communicate between pool and FPGA. Similar as miner program for GPU, but instead of talking to GPU the miner program here is talking to FPGA.

  • Pools
    As more and more miners competed for the limited supply of blocks, individuals found that they were working for months without finding a block and receiving any reward for their mining efforts. To address the variance in their income miners started organizing themselves into pools so that they could share rewards more evenly.

  • Shell
    The shell that people are referring to is the ⛏Allmine.co shell which is a combination of bitstream/miner/web configurator which allow you to swap bitstreams by reconfiguring over PCIe. It's an open dev environment where devs can port their bitstreams to and get fee collection, autotuning and PCIe drivers and stuff like that from the already built infrastructure.

Q: How to get started?

You can visit our πŸƒQuick Start Page to find out which hardware to get and which bitstreams to use. For the installation process, we are currently working on an article which will be published on our News page. We will announce when that article is published through our newsletter, so make sure you subscribe to our site to get the latest updates!

Q: Where can I find bitstreams for my FPGA?

Currently, there are three developers that have released their bitstreams to the public. They are Whitefire, DigitalCruncher, and Allmine. You can check more details and download their bitstreams here.

Q: What is water block for? How to install it?

Water block is a tool for FPGA to help the heat control. You can read more on how to install the water block : πŸ‘‰Heat Control - VCUs & BCUs - Part 1, also we wrote another article on the recommended setup system: πŸ‘‰Recommended Water Cooling System.

Q: What is DC1613A Cable Adapter for?

DC1613A Cable Adapter is use for πŸ”ŒLower Vcc. Before using a DC1613A cable, we recommend reading one of our articles, πŸ‘‰How to Modify FPGA's Voltage Using DC1613A. You can buy one at πŸ›’FPGA Guide Shop.

Q: What is Riser?

Riser is used to connect the video cards to the motherboard. It allows optimal use of existing hardware. It requires some extra power connections from the power supply. You can buy one at πŸ›’Squirrels Research Store.

Requirements
PCIe 3.0 x1
Riser
Riser

Q: What is QSFP28 Cable?

It's a cable that you can use for connecting multiple BCU-1525 or VCU-1525 cards together to handle large algorithms such as x16r. You can buy one at πŸ›’Squirrels Research Store.

QSFP28
QSFP28 Cable

Q: What is the most profitable coin for FPGA?

It depends on what algorithm you use. Check out the table below!

βš’οΈ AlgorithmπŸ’° Most Profitable Coin
Keccak-ZPZen Protocol
0xToken0xBitcoin
Lyra2zGentarium
TribusDenarius
KeccakMaxCoin
NexusNexus
CryptoNightV7Monero

But still, no one can predict when markets change constantly and with it the profitability. It's a speculative investment that you have to weigh the risks of on your own. Right now no one is really sure what the future is going to bring for FPGAs, various people are working on various bitstreams that will all over varying return rates.

Q: Are there any FPGA Community?

Q: How to cool your FPGA?

Heatsink
πŸ’§Water Block costs approximately $150-200 USD. Some advantages include less noise and full board coverage cooling. However, you will need to spend even more money purchasing compatible components such as pumps, fittings, reservoirs, tubes, radiators, etc. With a water block, your FPGAs can mine while staying on a stable temperature of 30-50 C.
Heatsink
The Upgraded Active Heatsink is for those of you wanting to use a setup with cards more spaced out, the active heatsink will be required to sufficiently cool your card. The active upgrade costs $50 USD and includes an ultra-high static pressure fan. Your FPGA will have a stable temperature of temperature of 70-80 C while mining.
Heatsink
The Upgraded Passive Heatsink has no added cost (so far), but requires more powerful high static pressure fans at the front and back, and need more length inside the case, while still requiring you to maintain little to no space between cards. It can be mining on temperature 70-80 C, but you need a delta fans.
Heatsink
Stock BCU Heatsink is capable of cooling 280W using medium static pressure fans when enclosed in a server case with very little space between the cards and fans on each end to push/pull air.

Also, for more details, check out our article πŸ‘‰Recommended Water Cooling System!

Q: How to getting started with Acorn?

1️⃣ Install your Acorns in a Nest or available M.2 slot
2️⃣ Download Your Drivers

Operating SystemDriversVirus Scan
WindowsAcornDriversWin-1.0.0.msiβœ…Clean
LinuxAcornDriversLinux-1.0.0.tgzβœ…Clean

3️⃣ Install Drivers
Windows: Double click MSI and follow prompts
Linux: Extract the .tgz files, and then run πŸ‘‡

chmod +x sqrldma.run
sudo ./sqrldma.run

Q: How to getting started with Nest?

1️⃣ Install your Acorns, or any other M.2 m-key SSD or adapter you wish to use with nest using the included M.2 screws.
2️⃣ Optionally, connect a micro-usb cable to your nest for advanced power and performance monitoring and plug the other end into an available port on your PC.
3️⃣ Install your Nest in an available PCie slot (PCIe 3.0, x8 or better recommended for best performance).
4️⃣ Nest X4 only - Optionally connect a PCIe 6 pin AUX connector the your Nest X4.

⚠️ WARNING!
🚫 Do not power the Nest X4 from a 12v supply that is different than your PCIe slot supply.
🚫 Do not power the Nest X4 via PCie AUX without installing Nest X4 in a PCIe slot.