Things change fast in the GPU mining world! Last week I finished building 10 mining rigs, each with 6 RX470 or RX480 GPU’s on them. At the urging of one of my readers (thanks Zij!) I decided to give EthosDistro a try.
This is a purpose built version of Linux that is optimized for GPU mining. It works really well, better than running Windows or Ubuntu for mining…but there are a few tricky things in the initial setup to get past. The support from the EthosDistro team is fast and accurate, and it appears they have technical people manning the IRC, so they give nice and direct answers to questions 🙂
What I really like about EthosDistro is how it has settings for adjusting power, fans, core clock speed, and memory clock speed. This allows for overclocking and (I think) undervolting, although I have not tried either of those yet. You can also set up a single configuration file on a webserver, and by changing one file on your miner, have it go to that configuration file on bootup and start mining. It even checks the file every few minutes while running, so it’s possible to reboot the miner to have it accept new settings.
Finally, if you pay for your copy of EthosDistro, you get a web panel with realtime statistics for every miner at your location. This is a copy of mine from the 10 miners I just put together at my medium size mining location:
And here is the link to the current page http://a127f5.ethosdistro.com/. You can probably see that one of my miners is not running. I talk about that further below.
The price for EthosDistro is very reasonable, especially compared to the rest of the rig – $39 for a 16GB SSD with the system already installed, or $29 for a digital download with the digital promo code. That price is a no-brainer, and paying it keeps the system going.
The AMD RX470 and RX480 have come down so much in price, I was able to buy them for $170 and $180 each on Newegg when they go on sale. Ordering from Newegg, I don’t pay sales taxes, which is a bonus. So this is kind of a low priced build.
Bill of Materials
Equipment list – Links are to Newegg or Amazon or Parallel Mining product page
- Motherboard, processor, and memory used in this build:
- SSD – EthosDistro 16GB with operating system and application pre-installed.
- Case – ParallelMiner BAREBONE – ALL ALUMINIUM 6.1 GPU OPEN AIR MINING CASE – $120
- Power Supply – Antec High Current Pro 1300W ATX12V/EPS12V Power Supply HCP-1300 Platinum 94% efficient – $260
- PCI-E Risers – ITHOO USB3.0 PCI EXPRESS 1X TO 16X EXTENDER RISER CARD ADAPTER W/ 24″ CABLE from parallel miner – Qty 6 – $54
- GPU’s – I recommend RX470 or RX480 from XFX, Sapphire, or MSI. Purchase qty 6:
- ATX power switch – PC Case Red Green LED Lamp ATX Power Supply Reset HDD Switch Lead 20″ – $10 (optional)
- Case screws:
- Motherboard to case – PC Mounting Computer Screws M3 x 1/4-Inches Long – qty 50 – $2
- Risers and GPU’s to case – Maxmoral 200pcs Toothed Hex 6/32 SCREW 6 – 32 Computer – qty 200 – $9
Total Cost for Bill of Materials: ~$1700
Alternate Motherboards, processor, and memory using newer processors and chipsets (currently untested by me). You may have trouble finding stock of the older motherboards. You should be able to use motherboard with the B250 chipset as long as there are 6 PCI-E ports and only one long one is X16 with the other at X4:
- Biostar TB250 motherboard
- Asrock B250 Gaming K4 motherboard
- Intel Celeron in the LGA 1151 processor
- Kingston HyperX FURY Black 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 2133MHz DDR4 Non-ECC CL14 DIMM Desktop Memory
I always forget something when I build the machine. Here’s some basic instructions for the most efficient order of operations. The idea is to get a basic computer built, troubleshoot any potential issues, install the operating system and application, then build the rest of the machine.
- Assemble the Case
- Put the CPU, CPU fan, and memory on the motherboard. Plug in the CPU fan.
- Attach the ATX power switches and LED’s to the power header.
- Plug the SATA cable into the motherboard.
- Put the motherboard in the case and screw it in with the smaller screws.
- Attach the Antec power supply to the right side of the case. Use the screws that came in the box. Attach power cables from the Antec power supply to the Motherboard, CPU power, SSD.
- Screw in one of the PCI-E Riser cards, plug it into the PCI-E slot closest to the processor, and plug in power from the power supply.
- Put a GPU into the PCI-E riser card, screw it into the case, and attach PCI-E power cable to it.
- Attach a keyboard to the motherboard and HDMI monitor to the GPU card.
- Plug the power cord into the Antec power supply, turn on the power switch.
- Press the ATX power button. The machine should boot.
If it doesn’t boot, this is the time to do basic troubleshooting. Don’t add any more graphics cards until you get at least one working.
If it does boot, set up the BIOS, connect an ethernet cable to the network that can get to the internet, and reboot.
First off, there are some EthosDistro Video Guides. I have not watched them, so let me know if you like them.
There are instructions on the EthosDistro website on what BIOS settings are going to work the best for mining. These are the same BIOS settings that should be used for any 6-GPU mining rig. These are the settings:
- set VTd INTEL VIRTUALIZATION to DISABLE.
- set ONBOARD AUDIO/SOUND (AZALIA) to DISABLE.
- set IEEE1394 to DISABLE.
- set PCI-E SUBSYSTEM/LANES to x8/x4/x4
- set ONBOARD GRAPHICS to DISABLE.
- set PCI-E GENERATION to GEN2.
- I also like to set PCI bus speeds to 96 instead of 32.
Seems kind of cryptic unless you have been messing around with PC’s for a while. I took some pictures this time as I changed the BIOS settings, and put these in a separate post called BIOS Settings for GPU Miners on Intel Motherboards.
After setting the BIOS, connecting ethernet, and rebooting, EthosDistro boots to a screen that is more user-friendly than just a command line:
This shows one GPU is successfully mining Ethereum. I assume it is mining to the EthosDistro address. That needs to be changed. I recommend not using this screen for making changes, and instead using SSH from your PC. Here are some options for SSH on different operating systems:
- Linux – use the command line
- Mac – use the command line
- PC – use the Bash command line, or download and use Putty
If you don’t know the first thing about Linux…you need to learn at least the basics. Get started here.
Now get the miner working with all 6 GPU’s. I like to plug them in one at a time and reboot every time, so I can figure out if I have a bad riser or card…but sometimes I just go for it and plug the other 5 cards in and see what happens. This is what it looks like as you are doing that:
Setting up EthosDistro to Mine for You
The screen shows the IP address. SSH to the IP address like so:
ssh [email protected] (enter password live)
The system is designed to download a file from a website and run. If you don’t want it do that, edit remote.conf with nano or vim, and make it a blank file.
Then edit the local.conf file with nano or vim to configure the miner to work for you. Here is an example configuration for mining Ethereum. Put this at the beginning of the local.conf file:
maxgputemp 85 stratumproxy enabled proxywallet 0x0bdC4F12fB57d3acA9C3cF72B7AA2789A20d27f2 proxypool1 pool-usa.ethosdistro.com:5001 proxypool2 pool-eu.ethosdistro.com:5001 flags --cl-global-work 8192 --farm-recheck 200 globalfan 85 # uncomment the powertune 7 setting for AMD RX470 and RX480 GPU's #powertune 7
Here is what I configured to start mining Zclassic to my own Zclassic mining pools to my own Zclassic address on RX470 or RX480’s.
globalminer claymore-zcash maxgputemp 85 stratumproxy enabled proxywallet t1J17KZKuVEekb5hWxLvZJnVqiVu3PaH3Ts proxypool1 stratum+tls://zpool.blockoperations.com:3033 proxypool2 stratum+tls://zpool2.blockoperations.com:3032 flags --cl-global-work 8192 --farm-recheck 200 globalfan 85 autoreboot 12 # uncomment the powertune 7 setting for AMD RX470 and RX480 GPU's powertune 7
I mine Zclassic right now because of the Zen launch that is coming up, but that’s a different story. You probably want to get yourself a Zcash wallet or a Zcash deposit address on Poloniex or a hardware wallet and mine to that wallet address on Flypool or a similar mining pool.
You can do the same thing with Ethereum or Monero. Just do everyone a favor, and if you mine to a hardware wallet or exchange, change your pool settings so it only deposits once a day. More than once a day into a hardware wallet or exchange can cause issues. And perform maintenance on your hardware wallet!
There are two main sources of documentation for EthosDistro. The first is the local.conf file. A working example of the pool.txt for ethereum is posted online, with all the comments and examples. The pool.txt and local.conf file documentation is dense, so it takes a few times reading it through to figure it out. I had to read it through about 10 times before I understood how to change the settings to make it work. The second source of documentation is the EthosDistro Knowledge Base.
If you have more than one GPU miner, or want to be able to make changes remotely, you can create a text file and post it on a web server. How to do that is beyond the scope of this article. But if you do create a text configuration file and post it on a web server, it looks like this: blockoperations.com/ethos/ethos_block.txt
globalminer claymore-zcash maxgputemp 85 stratumproxy enabled proxywallet t1J17KZKuVEekb5hWxLvZJnVqiVu3PaH3Ts proxypool1 stratum+tls://zpool.blockoperations.com:3033 proxypool2 stratum+tls://zpool2.blockoperations.com:3032 flags --cl-global-work 8192 --farm-recheck 200 globalfan 85 autoreboot 12 #powertune 7 claymore-zcash=proxywallet t1J17KZKuVEekb5hWxLvZJnVqiVu3PaH3Ts claymore-zcash=proxypool1 stratum+tls://zpool.blockoperations.com:3033 claymore-zcash=proxypool2 stratum+tls://zpool2.blockoperations.com:3032 # individual miner configs #miner e73874 optiminer-zcash reb 675c1b 2 reb e3bf30 2 pwr 675c1b 20 20 20 20 20 20 pwr e3bf30 7 7 7 7 7 7
That link is the actual configuration file I am using at my smaller location. This allows for individual setting for multiple miners. The reb is for rebooting remotely, and the pwr settings are for the power. The 675c1b is the name of a miner that has AMD R9 Nano’s and the e3bf30 is the name of a miner with RX480’s.
After you create that web file, put that url into the remote.conf file on the mining rig. Just the url, nothing else, in the file. The first time I did this I left in two comment lines, then the url, and it did not work. My remote.conf file looks like this:
Undocumented EthosDisto Information
Just like with all software, there is a lag between what the current users are doing and the documentation. Here are some things I found out in the last week:
- Don’t mix and match GPU’s on a mining rig. EthosDistro does not like that and will not boot nicely.
- AMD RX470 and 480 cards should have their powertune set to 7, not 4.
- Optiminer does not play nicely with EthosDistro. My rigs would shut down daily using Optiminer. I switched to Claymore and they have stayed up and running. Not what I expected, but hey, whatever.
- There is a big focus on preventing thermal overheat of the GPU’s. I like that. I hate having to send GPU’s back for warranty repair.
I’m sure there is more to find out. But so far, now that I figured out how to set up the remote configuration, things are running well.
Converting to EthosDistro
I have about 20 GPU mining rigs I am going to convert over to EthosDistro. These rigs already have SSD’s. To convert these over, I downloaded the ethosdistro distribution, put it on a USB, then copied it to a machine running ubuntu Linux. From there I used the dd command to write the operating system onto the SSD. There is a description of the process here, and this is the Windows process:
Writing ethOS to SSD on Windows
NOTE: ethOS should only be written to a 16gb+ SSD (not an HDD or USB drive).
Download and unzip the downloaded file with 7-zip, it will extract into approximately a 7.5gb image.
Use Raw Copy Tool (available at http://hddguru.com/software/HDD-Raw-Copy-Tool/ ).
Plug in the destination SSD to the sata power cable first, then to the sata data cable. Raw Copy Tool will recognize the drive and allow you to clone the ethOS iso onto the drive, sector for sector.
Problems we ran into building 10 GPU miners
These things don’t just go together and run. I had the help of my business partner Chris to put these 10 machines together, and my son Grant to troubleshoot and fix the hardware. Here is the list:
- System would not boot. Bent pins on motherboard processor socket. We bent them back, and the system booted.
- System would not boot. Removed and re-seated processor and memory. Started working. (3 systems like this)
- System would not boot. Motherboard power cable was not fully plugged into power supply. Fixed it, and it booted.
- System shut down after running for a day. Gave lots of strange messages on boot. Reformatted SSD with new copy of EthosDistro, worked for a day, same problem again. Replaced SSD with new one, ran fine.
- Currently, one system won’t boot. I’m out of town, so I don’t know what the problem is. I suspect another SSD issue. Ordering more SSD’s.
- One thing I did not have problems with? Every single riser worked and every single GPU worked. Very happy about that.
Be careful with those motherboards – it sucks when you have to throw away a motherboard because the pins are bent!
Here they are running on the shelf. I bought the larger shelves at Home Depot this time, and they fit perfectly. This picture only shows 5 – I’ll take another one soon that shows 10: