A good friend lives in an apt that includes utilities in his rent and I'm going to lease a desk space in his pad to mine bitcoins. I have a few questions before I get started. All of the mining hardware I am considering connects via USB to a computer. does the specs (beyond power supplie) matter of the host computer? could i just toss together and old crappy p4 system and expect it to work well?

I have a Bitmain AntMiner S2 1000 Gh/s on the way, and I'm considering ordering 10 to 20 of these little USB Block Erupter's. Will the processing speed of these devices stack together?

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    Will the processing speed of these devices stack together? Yes, it does. – Nick ODell Apr 30 '15 at 3:44
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    I hope you are aware that you are in essence stealing money from the landlord/all renting parties, as they'll pick up your energy bill in the long run. – Murch Apr 30 '15 at 8:44

The specifications of the computer between the internet and the miners has to be fast enough to handle all the communication between both, but other than that, any extra capacity will remain unused by this host computer. A Pentium 4 might be enough if you run a Linux OS, but if you plan on using Windows 7 or higher, it will not be fast enough. Using a Windows version older than Windows 7 is not recommended due to sercurity risks in Windows. A miner (having a referral key / public bitcoin address) is a target on the internet, so I'd recommend having a well protected operating system.

The speed of miners does stack together, so having more miners does mean you get a bigger piece of the pie.

Having antminers with ethernet connections, means you can hook these up to the internet directly without using a host computer that needs to be powered on 24/7. So consider getting more miners with ethernet connections and avoid USB miners, since these do not stack that well. A computer only has a limited amount of USB connections and USB hubs do not offer enough power, unless you invest a lot in special USB hubs, which defeats the point, since you might as well just get a standalone miner with an ethernet connection.

Off topic: Most renting contracts where utilities are included in the price have a 'Fair Use Policy', bitcoin mining definitely goes outside of fair use. Most real estate professionals already have experience with people running secret server centers in office spaces with free electricity, so most contracts include a clause where the fair use of the utilities is described.

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