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Raspberry Pi $25/£16 PC article

I saw this article today and it looks like a really interesting development in budget computing.

It's a $25 barebones computer that runs Linux, and can play games like Quake 3 Arena with no problems.

My question is would we be able to run GPUs/FPGAs with it?

I'm guessing FPGAs are feasible since there are USB ports to connect them to, but what about GPUs?

NOTE: The Raspberry Pi would only getwork and pass it to the FPGAs/GPUs. I didn't mean mining directly on the Raspberry Pi itself!

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    Good clarification – Gary Rowe Dec 23 '11 at 23:19
  • Yeah I thought I best put that before people start posting saying "this won't even get 1Mhash/s" – Sean Chapman Dec 23 '11 at 23:27
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Yes and no.

As far as FPGAs are concerned, I see no reason why you should not, technically, be able to handle a getwork on one of these and pass the work units to one or more FPGAs via USB.

These units do not, however, have a PCIe slot nor do they have any connectors which, to my knowledge, are capable of connecting to an external PCIe enclosure box, so GPU mining is out of the question.

The real problem you're likely to run into is software. The Raspberry Pi uses an ARM processor and runs on a custom-compiled version of Debian. All software running on the device will have to be compiled from source (since most projects don't just release ARM-compatible executables) and even then some software simply might not work. I'm not an FPGA expert by any means so I've got no idea what kind of software is required to speak to that particular hardware, but I do at least know that software is required and you'll probably have to do some tweaking to make that hardware work.

So yes, it's technically feasible, but don't expect it to be easy (or done for you).

  • This is what I thought also. I really hope they release a PCI-e breakout for it, but that really is wishful thinking. The project is already amazing as it is. As for recompiling programs, I think you're right that it is completely feasible to run a FPGA since most FPGA/Bitcoin related projects are open source :) – Sean Chapman Dec 24 '11 at 0:07
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    Agreed, I just wanted to make sure folks were prepared for the amount/level of crazy they're about to be in for grabbing their first ARM platform. You start off thinking "Oh, I'll just compile Bitcoin from source" and then it relies on library X, which relies on Y Z and Q, which each have 7 libraries they rely on none of which have ARM binaries and all of which have to be compiled from source. Total culture shock for those whose primary Linux experience was Ubuntu on i386-compatible hardware. – David Perry Dec 24 '11 at 0:15
  • Yeah, I admit I'm not looking forward to recompiling everything... But it's possible! I don't actually own a FPGA yet sadly. – Sean Chapman Dec 24 '11 at 1:13
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Doing it that way for an FPGA or ASIC would be very easy, once you have the FPGA or ASIC. All you need to talk to an FPGA or ASIC is a USB port and the software required is very simple. You would need a PC somewhere to act as the mining controller. Of course, if you're mining in a pool, the pool provides the controller, so no issues there.

Using a GPU is a bit harder -- you need a PCI-e interface. PCI-Express interface cores with Linux support are available for Linux -- they're used by some routers to interface to PCI Express mini WiFi cards. Xilinx also has an ARM-to-PCIe core with Linux drivers available. Unfortunately, at least as far as I can tell, there's no sane way to connect these to a Raspberry Pi board. You really want the PCI-Express controller combined with the ARM core or the interfacing gets difficult, ugly, and expensive.

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Reading this in 2017 with a chuckle. The Pi is pretty much the defacto controller due to its low cost and energy use. I have one running an ASIC over USB with cgminer, compiled on the Pi.

Some of Bitmain's Antminers use Beaglebone Blacks (TI?), I'm not sure why. I'm in a Debian ARM mailing list and there are more little ARM machines than I can count. Odroid comes to mind off the top of my head. What the Pi has going for it is mostly a large userbase (over 8 million last time I checked) and the fact that Raspbian is almost perfect, I'm using it to write this. I'm fixing to move my ASICs to a Zero since they both just need USB connections. Cloned my SD card, set up the /boot/config.txt for the old monitor I'll use on it, I don't expect any problems. The trouble with a Zero is that you need a mini HDMI adapter, an OTG cable, a USB hub, plus a USB to WiFi or LAN adapter. More practical to just buy another Pi, but for $5 I had to try one. This will be the first use I've found for it.

  • back in my day...! ;) – Sean Chapman May 17 '17 at 8:20
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Great summary here:

https://www.electromaker.io/blog/article/cryptocurrency-mining-on-the-raspberry-pi-60

Also includes a step-by-step guide on how to mine crypto currency on the Raspberry pi

  • 1
    Welcome to Bitcoin! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – Andrew Chow Apr 6 '18 at 15:17

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