Primecoin Mining on DigitalOcean Postmortem

Update: I've started mining primecoin again using a pool. For instructions go here.

Now that most primecoin mining is presumably done on dedicated hardware, I'd like to discuss my experiences using virtual instances on EC2 and DigitalOcean during the first few days of the coin's launch.

Primecoin proposes an entirely different proof of work from bitcoin's. Bitcoin uses rounds of SHA-256 as the measure of work, whereas primecoin generates chains of prime numbers. These chains are easily verified, but difficult to find.

The initial mining implementation provided with the client was CPU only, so finding cheap processing time was a low risk way get started with this new coin.

I wrote up the steps I went through to get it going on DigitalOcean here. Apparently someone decided to automate the signup process because within a few days I had over received over 1000 referrals. DigitalOcean's referral program is quite generous, $10 per signup that spends $10.

I was contacted directly by DO regarding this matter. They let me know that I wouldn't be paid for accounts signed up illegitimately, and that DigitalOcean had no express policy for, or against, mining on their service, though that might change. This seemed fair to me, and I looked forward to hearing whether they would be changing their ToS.

Jack Clark, writing for The Register, published a piece regarding DO outages:

Virtual currency speculators shut down cloud

"We've actually never seen anything like it before," Mitch Wainer II, DigitalOcean's head of marketing, told El Reg via email. "This increase in usage was the equivalent of our normal growth that we would do in 90 days, now in 2 days. We temporarily disabled NY1 and AMS1 for only new customers. SF was always available for everyone."

I wouldn't be surprised if some folks are still mining using DO, or EC2, especially on free instances. However, to operate at scale, a miner is taking on too much risk. In essence, it is now cheaper to buy coins than to mine them this way.

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