Will Ethereum Adopt ‘ProgPoW,’ the ASIC-Resistant Mining Algorithm?

After Ethereum core developers expressed broad support in January for ProgPoW—an ASIC resistant upgrade to the Ethereumnetwork—the Ethereum community raised concerns that the highly anticipated patch may cause the same problem it was intended to solve. Now the future of ProgPoW is in question.

ProgPoW is short for Programmatic Proof of Work. The proposed upgrade would extend Ethereum’s existing Proof of Work algorithm, slightly altering the structure of math problems that mining nodes are tasked with solving. The change is meant to substantially improve the odds for GPU miners over ASIC miners.

Ethereum’s Pledge of ASIC Resistance

ASIC is short for “application specific integrated circuit.” In the context of Ethereum, it’s a highly specialized computer designed to be mass produced for the sole purpose of mining Ethereum. However, this issue existed before Ethereum. The original Ethereum white paper called attention to the proliferation of ASICs in Bitcoin mining. Seen as a cause behind the centralization of the Bitcoin network, the Ethereum white paper set an intention to avoid the same fate:

“This means that Bitcoin mining is no longer a highly decentralized and egalitarian pursuit, requiring millions of dollars of capital to effectively participate in.”

ASICs built for Ethereum have anywhere from a two to four-fold advantage over GPUminers. Multiple Ethereum ASICs hit the market last year with the Antminer E3 from mining hardware giant Bitmain at the high end of the performance scale. The ProgPoW update is engineered specifically to slightly alter the problem that miners are asked to solve in a way that will reduce or eliminate the advantage ASICs have over GPU miners.

Why Ethereum Prefers GPU Mining

The Ethereum community generally agrees in ASIC resistance, believing that GPUmining leads to a more distributed network and that the more distributed the network is, the better. While the mass manufacturing of ASIC miners provides a cost-saving advantage per hash, these miners are generally purchased in large quantities for mass-scale mining operations that consolidate ownership of the network. In addition to centralizing the network, the homogeneity resulting from running all of the same mininghardware at scale leaves the network at risk when a security vulnerability is discovered in a popular line of ASICs.

Alternatively, GPU miners are generally custom-built entirely from personal computing hardware already available in the consumer market. These machines use computer chip architecture common in deep learning and animation rendering that combines a series of 3D video cards with high-end GPU chipsets in a single machine.

The high level of accessibility of the hardware required to build these machines creates an opportunity for more people to participate and a more distributed network. As the markets change for 3D video cards, new mining machines use different combinations of hardware from different manufacturers in an attempt to fine-tune a better machine. The multi-purpose nature of the hardware also means that if markets change and miningbecomes less profitable, GPUs can be removed from the network and used in other ways. Meanwhile, ASICs serve no other purpose when they are no longer profitable to run.

The ProgPoW Debate

At the Jan. 4th core developers meeting, progress on ProgPoW was reportedly on track and running on the Gangnam test network. Since then, the Ethereum community is reporting that the ProgPoW update may lead to more centralization of the network, rather than less.

GPU miners tend to utilize hardware from one of two primary chip manufacturers, AMD and Nvidia, both of whom have reviewed the ProgPoW code. However, according to a variety of reports, the ProgPoW patch seems to provide a significant advantage to Nvidia based GPUs over AMD counterparts. To add to the controversy, one of the three team members working on the patch worked previously as a hardware engineer at Nvidia, leading to rumors of Nvidia’s involvement in the patch.

Others have been quick to follow up with claims that the patch isn’t really needed to begin with and have questioned the wisdom of altering the mining algorithm if the intention is to move to a Proof of Stake alternative soon. Just last year, Ethereum’s creator Vitalik Buterin downplayed the ASIC threat.

Fearing that the community reaction would lead to ProgPoW not being released at all, one member of the Ethereum community is threatening to hard fork Ethereum to enable ProgPoW.

The team working on ProgPoW, known online as IfDefElse posted a public response to the controversy in the form of an FAQ. In the FAQ, the team openly describes their collaboration with both Nvidia and AMD. The post goes on to clarify—in extreme detail—a technical explanation of the change and why the community experienced the variance in results.

“It was designed to have as level of a playing field as possible.… Performance of a GPU for ProgPoW in mining workloads will reflect the average gaming performance of that GPU.”

The team also addressed the possibility that ASIC manufactures will create another series of machines and the cycle will start over. The team believes that, at best, a new generation of ASICs would not be able to achieve more than a 1.5x advantage over GPUmining systems. Combined with the looming switch to Proof of Stake, this may dissuade manufacturers from attempting to challenge the team’s estimate.

ProgPoW Continues to Progress Without Clarity

Even though testing is already underway, it is still too soon to know when, how, or even if ProgPoW will be released. Despite the heated online debate, the ProgPoW patch continues to progress as planned. That said, as demonstrated by Ethereum’s recent hard fork delay, development schedules are always subject to change.

At the Ethereum Core Developers February meeting, the lively discussion explored concerns ranging from test coverage and specification readability to how to make a decision on releasing the patch. Some of the developers felt the team was ready to make an implementation decision. As embodied in a comment by core developer Greg Colvin, “we can just make it, it’s our job!”.

Meanwhile, other developers suggested that the decision to upgrade may ultimately rest with the community itself. The team put a lot of emphasis on doing the right thing for the mining community. Another core developer, Piper Merriam said:

“I’ve largely stayed out of the discussion…. It’s a decision that, frankly, I’m not excited about making for the network… but I also acknowledge that it’s potentially our responsibility to make it.”

Without complete details on how the patch will proceed, the team has agreed to organize a third-party audit to verify the fairness of the new algorithm while development on ProgPoW continues as planned. Whether Ethereum will make the switch to ProgPoW or focus on implementing PoS is still highly uncertain.

Author: Scott Dudley
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Opinion: Nvidia Says Crypto-Mining Boom Is Over For Now

The extra boost Nvidia Corp. received from selling its graphics chips to cryptocurrency miners appears to be over, at least for now….

Nvidia Chief Financial Officer Colette Kress surprised investors — who had already been anticipating lackluster crypto sales — with an even more downbeat forecast for crypto-mining sales Thursday. Nvidia released second-quarter earnings and noted a shortfall in crypto sales in addition to the forecast.


“Our revenue outlook had anticipated cryptocurrency-specific products declining to approximately $100 million, while actual crypto-specific product revenue was $18 million,” Kress said in prepared remarks. “Whereas we had previously anticipated cryptocurrency to be meaningful for the year, we are now projecting no contributions going forward.”

Cryptocurrency was clearly a small part of Nvidia’s overall revenue, which grew 40% in the second quarter to $3.1 billion, led by its gaming business. But as Nvidia’s graphics chips and cards have been used in the past year for mining digital currencies, its stock became popular as an alternative to cryptocurrencies for some investors.

Nvidia had experienced stronger sales earlier this year by those seeking to mine for cryptocurrency like ether, but most investors expected crypto revenue to decline after Chief Executive Jensen Huang predicted a drop while announcing first-quarter earnings results. The value of bitcoin, the largest digital currency, has lost almost half its value this year as a bear market emerged for crypto.

“We did almost $300 million in crypto, and next quarter we expect it to be down by two-thirds of that,” Huang [said] in May.


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Author: Therese Poletti
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Facebook poaches top Google engineer

Facebook has hired one of Google’s lead chip developers, Shahriar Rabii, to help the social network in its ongoing effort to design its own silicon, according to a report from Bloomberg. Facebook hopped on the chip-developing bandwagon earlier this year, when they started to build a team that could design custom chips to power server and consumer hardware. Rabii’s new role at Facebook will be as a vice president and head of silicon, according to an updated Linkedin bio.

It’s a move that’s on trend with other tech giants, many of which are bringing chip design in-house rather than relying on big-name suppliers like Intel and Qualcomm. Apple has been creating its own custom processors for iOS devices for nearly a decade, and it has designed custom single-purpose chips for artificial intelligence and other tasks in recent years. The iPhone maker is also reportedly planning on using its own chips to replace the Intel processors for their Mac computers by 2020. Earlier this year, Amazon reportedly embarked on a new initiative to design its own chips, specifically to help power AI features for its Echo line of smart speakers.

Google produces their own custom Visual Core chips for the Pixel smartphones — and Rabii, Facebook’s recent hire, had previously led the team that developed them. In his new role, Rabii isn’t likely to be developing chips for Facebook-branded smartphones, but the company is working on several types of hardware that could use a custom processor.

Earlier this year, Facebook-owned Oculus VR launched the standalone Oculus Go virtual reality headset that currently relies on a Qualcomm-branded chip. Future models may use custom Facebook chips instead. The company is also reportedly developing its own series of Echo Show-like smart speakers with AI features, and a custom chip may give Facebook a competitive advantage in the home.

The custom chips could also be used to better train the AI algorithms that Facebook has patrolling its site for hate speech, fake accounts, and potentially dangerous content. Right now, the company uses modified third-party GPUs from companies like Nvidia. Designing its own AI training servers with proprietary chips, as Google does with its Tensor Processing Units, could help with the very tricky problem of using AI instead of human eyes to police its ever-growing platform.

Here at Dollar Destruction, we endeavour to bring to you the latest, most important news from around the globe. We scan the web looking for the most valuable content and dish it right up for you! The content of this article was provided by the source referenced. Dollar Destruction does not endorse and is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy, quality, advertising, products or other materials on this page. As always, we encourage you to perform your own research!

Author: Shoshana Wodinsky
Image Credit: Alex Castro / The Verge

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