Many S9s still don’t utilize AsicBoost. How can Braiins OS help?

Why are miners recklessly burning unconfiscatable money?

Since we discovered that Antminer S9 is capable of overt AsicBoost and Bitmain rushed to enable support shortly after, the number of blocks mined using AsicBoost has steadily risen. However, to our surprise, not as high as we had expected.

It is estimated that Antminer S9s accounts for approximately 60 % of the Bitcoin network hash rate, however, the number of blocks mined on overt asicboosted hardware has reached only ~46% (¼ of the version rolled blocks cannot be distinguished from blocks mined by non-asicboosted hardware. Therefore, the number from AsicBoost.dance has to be normalized to account for these blocks. E.g. 35 % / 0.75 = 46.6 %). With at least 5 % to be attributed to other devices from other manufacturers, we are looking for ~19 % of the total hash rate that is running non-upgraded non-asicboosted firmware.

the share of Bitcoin blocks mined using AsicBoost (source: AsicBoost.dance)

This puzzled us somewhat because it is hard to imagine that someone would pass on 13% savings enabled by AsicBoost, especially in the bear market we are experiencing right now.

In the grand scheme of things, we are looking at about 35 millions of dollars a year collectively wasted by using outdated firmware, assuming 0.05$/kWh electricity rate, half of the network hash rate generated by S9s, and using the energy consumption data provided by this handy auto-updated sheet by Jonathan Bertrand (@KryptykHex).

Upgrading Antminer firmware? Too risky

So we did some research, spoke to a few larger miners and learned that they are simply unable or too worried to upgrade their devices. They told us that when running an older (~2 years) version of the Antminer firmware, upgrading to the latest one can be challenging and can quite often results in a bricked device.

While smaller hobby miners might have the time and space to resolve the issues, this is something you don’t want to happen on a large scale, with thousands of miners in a large warehouse.

Therefore, we focused on making sure that this cannot happen with Braiins OS, no matter what the hardware or firmware version is. Mainly, we tested some rather uncommon setups and made Braiins OS handle all the nuances and exceptions. For example, we discovered that older firmware has four NAND partitions instead of three.

Now we are fairly confident that we have covered all the S9 hardware/firmware variants with Xilinx control boards*. That said, if you happen to have some kind of exotic, unrecognized variant of S9, the script will prevent you from installing Braiins OS so you won’t potentially hurt your device.

(* A small portion of S9s have Altera Cyclone V control boards. Those are a tough nut to crack and even Bitmain has not released firmware with AsicBoost for them. Since they are quite rare, we are not actively working on providing support for them.)

After our January update, bOS has everything you need

Four months after the initial release, Braiins OS has all the major features you asked for, including the advanced overclocking and full fan control. Of course, all those things are optional. You can also simply install Braiins OS just for the peace of mind of running an open and auditable piece of software with AsicBoost enabled.

Does that mean we are finished? No! :) Some parts of the cgminer software stack are really outdated and deserve a rewrite. Together with adding support for other devices (mainly Antminer S15/T15 and Whatsminer M10), this is our goal for the months to come

Stay tuned and Take Back Control!

— Jan Čapek (@janbraiins), Braiins CEO and Braiins OS architect