Decred Infrastructure Interviews: feeleep, Operator, coinmine.pl

The Decred Project has recently launched Politeia, the proposal system for discussing and voting on changes to be introduced to Decred; seeing as this is no small milestone I thought it appropriate to celebrate this event with a series of articles. In this series I ask people connected with Decred on the infrastructure level all things Decred. Today’s guest is feeleep, the operator of coinmine.pl mining pool.

Artikozel: Feeleep, thank you for agreeing to sit down with me today. It’s a pleasure to speak to someone with such a technical background. To begin with, maybe you can tell us a bit about your foray into the world of cryptocurrency? How and when did it all begin?

Feeleep: Well, it all began when I checked out very early releases of Bitcoin and I even mined a few, but I may have misplaced them somewhere (laughter). My second approach proper was in May of 2013 when cryptocurrencies started making noise. At first I tried my luck at mining, but the more I read the more my interest in mining pools grew. After dozens of hours spent poring over my virtual machines and running tests I was ready to launch my first Litecoin mining pool (under a different domain then) and later things kind of took on a life of their own (laughter).

A: Since as far as I can remember, and I arrived at the Decred scene around April of 2017, which was a little over a year since mainnet had been launched, your pool had already been offering DCR mining. Can you tell us how you learned of Decred and what made you include it in your business model?

F: In this environment cryptocurrencies appear and have been appearing by the truckload, but important and interesting projects stand out. Since the very beginning Decred appeared intriguing and extraordinary to me, and so I spent many days getting the pool ready (at that time still in getwork version) and at block height 68 I began my contribution. Later on collaborating on the stratum protocol proved to be a bit challenging, but I can’t really recall when it happened exactly (laughter).

A: Entering the environment of the then-relatively low-profile project such as Decred it was interesting to see a Polish accent, that is your pool, right from the word go. What does the Polish Decred mining community look like, if you happen to know some of them personally?

F: To be honest, the biggest challenge running a pool is interacting with users and after a few years I had come to the conclusion that I couldn’t handle communications on so many scattered channels, so I focused on English-speaking customer support only. Of course, there are times when someone writes to me in Polish, but I treat everyone just the same. As for personal contact with Polish miners I’m afraid I don’t have any.

A: You have recently launched a stakepool, currently more often called a VSP (Voting Service Provider) to match your mining pool and in the blink of an eye there are several dozen (if not hundreds by the time this comes out) tickets under your care. Was this a grassroots initiative by your users or maybe part of an overall master plan of becoming more involved in the Decred ecosystem? Can you tell us something about your possible expansion plans?

F: Running a pool is just like any other business where you need to worry about securing funds for everyday operation expenses. In recent years or months the mining load for serious projects has moved to China, mostly due to ASIC manufacturers. This means lower income and a necessity to look for alternative sources of funding. I thought that since I have quite a user base perhaps some of them would be interested in joining. The low commission is due to the fact that I run my VSP on servers that already host my mining pool. I’ll admit that I had thought about contribting to Decred more, but so far nothing has really panned out.

A: What does your overall involvement in crypto look like, apart from providing mining infrastructure for many altcoins? Do you attend meetups? Can you be found visiting Internet forums? Is the spark of initial fascination still there inside, or is it now just business as usual after so many years?

F: As I’ve already stated, so far I have only thought about playing a bigger role. This is mostly due to factors such as family, work, etc., so it’s difficult to spend additional time on forum discussions. Some weariness has definitely set in, mostly due to hundreds of new currencies and the whole scene going downright opaque for the average user, especially since most of these projects are typical get-rich-quick scams. But I promise to rethink my role, you know, as a New Year’s resolution. The most immediate thing on my mind is, however, my skiing trip (laughter).

A: Your mining pool supports mining of many currencies. What factors made you choose exactly those? Do you have any favourites amongst them, and if so why?

F: Well, many of the projects that I used to run are now defunct, so my gut is hardly infallible. As I’ve mentioned before a project’s innovation factor plays a huge role, but I also take the mining pool situation into consideration, because the market reality is such that if there are already two or three established mining pools that support a given project then the profit margins are not worth investing my time into. My favourites are Decred, Dash, and Lbry, chiefly due to my pool contributing to achieving PoW stability. Also, I have to say that from a technical standpoint Decred is the only daemon which has never experienced any stability or syncing issues in my entire business history.

A: By the way recently, in the last year or so, the number of cryptocurrency projects has gone to the moon because of ICOs (laughter); although this phenomenon appears to be slowly losing steam it has had a lasting effect. Where do you stand on ICOs, project-wise and as a model of raising funds?

F: I’m going to be harsh here. I my opinion ICOs would make a lot of sense if the amount of money raised didn’t exceed a few hundred thousand dollars, just so you could pay several months’ salary for a couple of developers. Sadly, in crypto as well as in fiat, we have seen an unprecedented inflation in virtual bucks, and when I look at projects raising up to several millions worth of dollars I think to myself ‘who signs up for this?’ How can an anonymous group of people raise so much dough riding on (mostly) empty promises? I mean, this is the valuation of serious businesses employing dozens of people, and most importantly, delivering real goods and services. So no, this is not my cup of tea, although I’m fully aware that one could have made a killing on many an ICO (laughter).

A: Many of our users would be interested to learn about the amount of time running services like a mining pool or a VSP requires. Is this a full-time job, a hobby, or something that a competent sysadmin does in their sleep?

F: At the scale at which I do things and after several years of optimisation, monitoring, backups, and other scripts it’s a matter of 3–4 hours a day. But before I had gained the necessary experience spending 24 hours in front of the monitor was no uncommon sight. Some forks, attempts at circumventing my security or exploiting backend code holes happened a couple of times, and this always spells hard work, but mostly because of hard work that I had put into the software I haven’t had any such problems for over a year now.

A: When GPU mining was king coinmine.pl was the undisputed champion in terms of DCR mining, not going below 50% of the hashrate for the longest time until the arrival of ASICs. How has the DCR part of your business changed since then?

F: GPU mining mainly came together with efficiency issues on the stratum and connections number end of things as well as on the backend side. This contributed to me tightening up and improving my code, but necessitated the addition of extra servers (laughter). Now the trend is the reverse of the above, but all the optimisations have remained, so I’m saving a lot of time (laughter).

A: In July of 2017 a change in the ticket pricing algorithm took place. Before that day users had to pay more and more fees to the miners so they would include their tickets in blocks, which was a headache for the stakeholders, and a windfall for the miners. How did it affect your operation? Did you even see the change take effect, and, what is more important, were you aware of the new algorithm being set for a vote, or maybe even you yourself took part in it?

F: I had heard about that change but it didn’t affect the miners’ interest one bit. Currently, transaction fees still constitute but a fraction of the block reward.

A: (tongue-in-cheek) Having had this undisputed supremacy in DCR mining hashpower were you ever tempted to bend the Decred network to your will in any way, shape, or form?

F: Decred is not the only coin that I, at times, had more than even 70% of total hashrate, but I was never tempted to act to anyone’s detriment, especially since in the mining world stability, honesty, and the miners’ opinion are the name of the game. What I care about deeply is the market developing thanks to and due to what I do.

A: Decred has recently launched Politeia, a proposal system for introducing changes into the system. As the owner of part of the Decred infrastructure do you intend to be active in governing the project in such a way? What changes would you like to see discussed and voted on the most as a DCR operator and user?

F: To be completely blunt I just simply haven’t had the time to familiarise myself with it, so in such a case I’m going to do the opposite of what people do these days and hold my tongue on the matter.

A: Beside operating a mining pool and a Decred VSP are you also involved in Proof-of-Work mining yourself?

F: No, I myself don’t mine. I only own one GPU for test purposes.

A: You are active on your Discord and in the Decred comm channels, mainly in your professional capacity. What has been the biggest challenge you had to face as a Decred ecosystem service provider, technical, or otherwise?

F: The problem has always been the lack of official documentation pertaining to the stratum protocol and I remember the commotion that a change in the block header that had not been included in the pool and miner code caused. This echoes all the way into today because ASIC manufacturers often interpret pool data in their own way…

(…) Decred is the only daemon which has never experienced any stability or syncing issues in my entire business history.

A: Feeleep, our users are intrugied by your domain of operation and would like to ask some burning questions.

EM shielding. Yes or no?

F: A fascinating question, albeit a bit too cryptic…

A: What does communication between you and your users look like? What problems do they come to you with?

F: Quite a few questions revolve around the mining pool itself and reward calculation. People can’t wrap their heads around what mining is, what PPLNS is, etc. The other most common mater is transactions, but most often any fault lies with the wallet or exchange, and not the pool.

A: Do you run on own hardware or virtual servers? How was your experience with cloud providers (Amazon, Digital Ocean, etc)?

F: I have approached services like VPS or cloud computing many times, but ultimately I always ended up going back to dedicated servers. At the moment all my machines are physical and not virtual.

A: What piece of advice would you give to people considering launching their own VSP service for Decred?

F: You have to think about security first and foremost, because in my 5 years of running services people have been trying to break (into) my stuff several times, including via DDoS attacks, exploiting holes in publically-available code, stolen or published databases from other mines, and last but not least utilising social engineering techniques. The other things to consider is really sound and stable infrastructure (laughter).

A: Feeleep, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions and showing us what the mining backstage of code and machines that carry the Decred network on their shoulders looks like. I wish you plenty of success in mining and developing your projects.


Originally published at medium.com on the 8th of November 2018.

Translation by @artikozel.

Random mining operation, somewhere on earth