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Frequently Asked Question: What's an ASIC, FPGA?

So you're sick of just mining on your GPU, and not a fan of the electric bill after a month of mining? There has to be a better option out there than your loud GPU in your gaming computer. There is!
Shortly after GPUs became popular for bitcoin mining, enterprising folks started looking at other things they can re-purpose to mine bitcoins more efficiently. Around mid-year 2011, the first devices sprang up that are called FPGAs or Field Programmable Gate Arrays. These are nothing new to the hobbyist community, they've been around for a while for crackers and other security-conscious folks looking at ways to defeat cryptographic locks. Hey! I know something that uses cryptographic calculations to secure its network! BITCOINS! Yep, so some miners developed their own boards and slapped some FPGA chips on them (most commonly the Spartan-6), and wrote specific firmware and "bitstreams" to more efficiently calculate bitcoin hashes. The first generations were sort of slow, but still they had better efficiency than a GPU. Some of the latest generation included the Icarus boards, Cairnsmore, x6500, and ModMiner Quad.
In early 2012(i think my timeline is right), Butterfly Labs(BFL) was selling their own FPGA miner that hashed at 800 Mhash/s using 80 watts and only cost US$600 amazing! These grew very popular, but people could see that FPGAs still weren't the most efficient way to hash their shares. BFL then announced that they would be designing their own chips that would be orders of magnitude faster than anything ever seen. These would be the ASICs (or Application Specific Integrated Circuit)everyone is raving about. ASICs are--as the name implies--specifically designed for one thing, and one thing only. Bitcoins. This is all it can do, and can't really be repurposed like an FPGA to other applications. Who wouldn't want a US$150 "Jalapeno" that hashes at 3.5 GIGAhashes/s using only power from a USB port?? Crazy! So summer 2012, BFL says they will ship before Christmas. Various things happen and we now still don't have any confirmed ship dates from BFL.
A few other companies have sprouted up, ASICminer which I believe is developing their own chips to mine themselves, but in a responsible way as to not threaten the network with a sudden influx of hashing. bASIC was a fiasco that was developed by the creator of the ModMiner Quad(which is actually a fantastic miner, I own one, and love it.) where he took many preorders, promised lots of people amazing ASIC performance, but in early 2013 the stress of the whole endeavour got to him and he gave up, refunded money(I think it's still being refunded now, or maybe it's been cleared up already.)
Avalon is the only company we know has ASIC mining hardware in the wild. It is not certain exactly how many are out there, but they have been confirmed by independent sources. The Avalon units are expensive(75 BTC) and have been in limited production runs (or batches) of a few hundred units that were pre-sold out very quickly.
All of this info is gleaned from the Custom Hardware forum over at over the past year or so I've been involved in bitcoin. I may have some facts wrong, but this is the gist of the situation and hopefully gives you an insight on the state of the hardware war against bitcoin
Thanks for reading!
submitted by purelithium to BitcoinMining [link] [comments]

some thoughts on litecoin mining hardware

I'm slowly learning about bitcoin and litecoin. I've thought a little lately about litecoin mining hardware. This is my analysis. I've only had tangential exposure to hardware design, so my estimates or assumptions might be off. Feedback welcome!
The scrypt litecoin hash function is dominated by an operation called a salsa: it runs 2048 salsas for each hash, and each salsa involves reading/writing a 128B block from a 128KB scratch buffer. The requirement to have a 128KB buffer for each running hash is what makes scrypt difficult to accelerate. The 128B blocks are written successively in the first phase of 1024 salsas (the output of each salsa), and then read randomly in the second phase of 1024 salsas.
I thought about implementing the salsa on a Xilinx FPGA. I implemented a few salsa building blocks to get an idea on timing. The Xilinx chips have 2KB distributed blocks of RAM, but there isn't nearly enough on-chip memory to support many concurrent hashes. One idea is to store every 64 salsa output in the first phase, and then recompute intermediate salsas as needed. This means you need to do an expected 32 extra salsas for each salsa in the second phase.
Based on my experiments, it seemed like a 32 clock (latency) salsa running at 200+MHz is possible (or better, but this seems like the right order of magnitude) on an Artix-6 which costs about $300. The Artix-6 has 730 2KB buffers. Thus, I estimate:
730 (number of concurrent hashes) * (200M (clock frequency) / (1024 (salsas per phase) * (1 + 33) (expected computed salsas per salsa) * 32 (clock cycles per computed salsa))) = 130.6KH/s 
This gives 0.44KH/$. A 7970 card gets 1.75KH/$. We're off by a factor of 4 in price/performance. This design might work in an ASIC. In a custom design, you can tune the trade-off between memory and computation, and probably improve the speed estimates above. I'm still trying to estimate the cost of such an ASIC design, but I'm a little out of my depth.
I started to wonder why a 7970 gets such awesome price/performance. The other options is to put the 128KB blocks in DRAM. You don't need that much memory: 1GB gives you space for 8K concurrent hashes. But now you need high bandwidth to feed the salsa units. Each salsa reads 128B. A 7970 has a 260GB/s GDDR5 memory interface. That's
260GB (memory bandwidth) / (2048 (salsas/hash) * 128 (memory/salsa)) = 992KH/s 
Actual reported rates are around 700KH/s. I think that is because of the random access patterns in the second phase of salsas. That's about 1.75KH/$.
So the other option would be an ASIC with the salsa units and a GDDR5 memory interface like a 7970 board. I estimate (from the cost of the 3GB of DRAM on a 7970 card is about $60. Let's say the ASIC is $20 (about the cost of the bitcoin ASICs, but it might be wildly inaccurate for a chip and package that can support a 384 bit GDDR5 memory interface). Then we get 8.75KH/$, or about 5x the GPUs.
Unfortunately, GDDR5 is a bleeding edge memory standard. An FPGA couldn't possibly manage that level of performance at this point. Designing a GDDR5 board and memory controller would probably be extremely difficult.
You could ask, what is the fatest DRAM interface supported by an FPGA? The Spartan-6 (approx $90 and up) can support a 64-bit DDR2 PC-800 interface. That's 1.6GB/s, so
1.6GB/s (bandwidth) / (2048 * 128) = 6KH/s. 
A DDR2 PC-800 DIMM is about $14. That's a pathetic 0.06KH/$. You can manage 1066 or 1333 in a faster part, but that doesn't help price/performance.
tl;dr: Trading memory for recompute puts FPGAs about 4x behind GPUs for price/performance in rough estimate. Same idea for ASIC is worth a closer look. GPUs are surprisingly efficient for scrypt! ASIC+GDDR5 memory is competitve, but design is out of reach for mere mortals.
edit: formatting.
submitted by mian2zi3 to litecoinmining [link] [comments]


The ModMiner Quad is a highly efficient FPGA Based Bitcoin Mining Device.
Price - 2 BTC each (Lowered Price) - Only accepting Bitcoins! I'm selling some FPGA Bitcoin miners due to me making room for my ASIC coming in, so I can work out the prices on these.
It features up to 4 Spartan-6 LX150 FPGA Chips that are Capable of doing up to 210Mhash each at 10 watts
For a total Unit Speed & Efficiency of 800+mhash @ only 40 watts
Compatible with the popular BFGMiner and CGMiner Bitcoin Mining Software
Also many other people have found other uses for this great device, it will easily load any Bitstream / firmware you load onto it and be used for a plethora of other applications including protein folding , DNA mapping and pretty much any distributed computer project / algorithmic application or any other thing you can through at it. A truly multi purpose Spart-6 LX150 Device, this baby is idea for all kinds of distributed computer applications, hobbyist password cracking and many other applications If you would like a powerful long lasting and multi-purpose FPGA calculation device the Modminer Quad is for you! Contents: 1x Backplane 4x Spartan 6 LX150 FPGA cards with heatsinks + fans 1x USB miniUSB cable Features: 4x Spartan 6's 800+mhash @ ~ 40 watts USB interface for configuration and communication 72MHz ARM Cortex M3 for USB interface Our own custom Firmware Super easy firmware updating for the ARM chip Temp sensor on each FPGA card Heatsink w/ cooling fan on every card 4x 3-pin headers to power standard fans Draws from the 12V supply with 5A fuse at the Molex connector LEDs to indicate that the FPGAs are configured properly Modular design for seamless FPGA upgrades and repair
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submitted by bitcoinguru to BitcoinMining [link] [comments]

Atlys Fpga Based Image Processing Spartan-6 Bitcoin Mining Accepted Share - YouTube Xilinx Spartan 6 ATLYS vga 800x600 demo Digilent Atlys Spartan 6 TFT Vmod screen saver Video Painting Project on a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA

Is there any documentation for that is generic or covers Spartan-6 LX9 board? The DCM is fully contained within the FPGA chip. So it doesn't matter what board you have. The documentation will be based on what chip you have. For the Spartan-6 family, see the Spartan 6 Clocking Resources User Guide. Is using this module is absolutely necessary in this example? Is that possible to do the same ... I have a Digilent Atlys Spartan 6 FPGA board which i use to design a custom processor. When I connect the board to power and turn the power switch on, the power LED comes on but no other LED comes I want to configure RS232 of an ATLYS SPARTAN 6 XC6SLX45 I want to configure the pin fpga_0_RS232_RX_pin on the board but I don't know how to configure the suitable pin for it.How can I do that? sy... The Atlys board uses TDMS inputs, so you'll need a HDMI decoder which takes those inputs and produces VSYNC, HSYNC, DE, and DATA. Xilinx details the DVI encoding and decoding process in a couple of application notes. These each come with example code, xilinx login required: TMDS Video Interface on Spartan 6; Source-Synchronous Serialization and Deserialization; The example code is in verilog ... We found the ATLYS Spartan-6 board to be astoundingly power-efficient, running at only 1.7 Watts. However, the board has two major disadvantages. For one, it can only generate 1.2 million SHA256 hashes per second. In terms of Bitcoin mining, this is incredibly slow. The other disadvantage is that the FPGA must be connected to a computer via UART connection in order to accommodate all the ...

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Atlys Fpga Based Image Processing

Ethernet interface implementation with Udp protocol ( 64 byte packets) Xilinx Spartan-6 LX45 FPGA Development Board. Semester project for ECE532 - Digital System Design at University of Toronto, Winter 2014. Video input, tracking, processing, and output done in digital logic on FPGA. Run on ATLYS Spartan-6 ... For the Love of Physics - Walter Lewin - May 16, 2011 - Duration: 1:01:26. Lectures by Walter Lewin. They will make you ♥ Physics. Recommended for you Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube. Little project using Atlys Spartan6 card Pong P. Chu -FPGA Prototyping by VHDL Examples ch 12, Listing12.5 VmodTFT Demo ht...