Is it alright that my Helium Hotspot is taking forever to sync?

So, you’ve got your Helium hotspot set up and it has started to sync, then you find that it is taking days to weeks to sync. You’ll likely question if it is normal to take this long?

Short answer is, likely ok. But let’s not assume and figure out how to be certain about it.

Why sync? What is it syncing?

If you are not interested in the inner workings, you can skip to the next section.

When Helium started, the network is primarily made up of hotspots. Each device will participate in the blockchain, and so needs to have its own local copy of the blockchain. That sync, is basically what the hotspot is doing, downloading the blockchain and then start to keep up with the progress of the blockchain.

At the point of writing this post, hotspots have transitioned to light hotspots. However we are still in the transition period and all hotspots are still syncing the blockchain. It is the plan to eventually remove the blockchain from all hotspots.

As a result of this time of transition, there are hotspots which are being shipped from manufacturers and are with the firmware that is unaware of the light hotspot operations. So, initial set up will still need the blockchain sync to happen, until it catches up to block 1,350,664. That block is when the variable was set to flick hotspots to light hotspots.

Eventually, when the blockchain is removed from the light hotspots, they will no longer need to sync, and their daily data consumption will also reduce significantly.

The true source of truth on sync status

Almost all of us rely on the Helium Explorer, and rightfully so. However, it was notoriously terrible in being up to date about a hotspot’s status. For example, a hotspot may be in “syncing” state for many weeks, even though it could have completed within a few hours of coming online. This leads to many unnecessary questions on how to speed up the sync, when it is not required.

Having personal experience of setting up and observing several hotspots, I can be certain to say that even when a hotspot is “syncing”, it will already start to participate in PoC and getting some rewards. So, being fully “sync” isn’t a critical factor. Furthermore, with light hotspots, being in sync is no longer a requirement, so much so that even the Explorer is no longer showing sync status.

Now, you are here, perhaps you are new owner and is doing some due diligence to make sure things are healthy. I have experience with Kerlink and Nebra models, and they have something in common. Both have status/diagnostic pages to look up, so you can at least get some fundamental details about the status of each and every hotspot.

Kerlink has it on their onboarding page, which is exactly the same place where you initially set up the miner.

Nebra has it on the device itself.

Below is a screenshot from my Nebra hotspot. The part that is essential for you to look at is the Height Status. Both Kerlink and Nebra represents them differently, and I’m sure the other makers have their own uniqueness too. However, the same key metrics are there, the current height your miner has sync up to, and the actual height the entire blockchain is at. You won’t always see the numbers to be the same, and more oftehn the current height is typically trailing behind by a few blocks.

Since we are not in light hotspot mode, the only number you’ll really want to pay attention to is that the miner’s height to be equal or bigger than 1,350,664. Beyond that number, the miner should be operating as light hotspot, and blockchain on the hotspot becomes irrelevant.

Wrapping up….

thank you for reading this far, and if you have recently started your journey on Helium, welcome to the community!

I will wrap up this post with one little tidbit. With my experience with Kerlink and Nebra, the nice thing is that you’ll should never really need to do any firmware updates yourself. The hotspot makers will be pushing the firmware over-the-air to your devices. If there is anything you want to keep watch on, is just the Firmware version. You’ll normally see new versions announced on the Helium discord, and in typical fashion, within a few days to a week, your hotspot will be running on the newer version.

With this, I with you good luck, lots of witnessing and HNT to the moon!

Alternate way to setup a Nebra Rock Pi Helium Miner

Finally, after 13 months, me and my friends’ order of Nebra Helium miners have been delivered. Sure, we aren’t happy that we waited so long, but we are after all victims of the pandemic. The fact that Nebra survived the years and still delivered in the end speaks for itself. Thank you team Nebra!!

Now, it is May 2022, and have the Nebra Rock Pi miners on hand. Eager to setup, but the included steps just don’t work. So, after some googling, and testing with the first 3 miners being set up, we are feeling good about the steps to be outlined below.

Follow the included steps first

If you are here, it’s likely you have already tried the steps provided on the quick start sheet included with the device. In the off chance that you haven’t followed it, give it a try first. In case Nebra has already fixed it. Online version is https://support.nebra.com/support/solutions/articles/24000075252-rockpi-hotspot-quick-start

So, the setup guide states to assemble the device, power up and wait for 5 minutes. Then eventually the green LED will flicker. The problem is that you don’t need to wait 5 minutes, and the green LED doesn’t really do a slow flash, but a quick flash. If you see the quick green LED flash, you are likely going to need to follow the steps below.

If you don’t see any green LED flash, then you probably should wait. Don’t power off the device if the green LED hasn’t started to blink.

VERY IMPORTANT

I’ve read several reports of various miners from different manufacturers burn (damaged) because the antenna was removed while powered on. As a strict precaution, I will caution you to never power up a hotspot if the antenna is removed; and never to remove the antenna if the power is on. Always power off the hotspot before you remove the antenna, for example you are trying to replace it.

The alternate steps

So, if the included steps didn’t work, you can try the following. It will take several reboots (via power cycles), but you should get there eventually. If all goes well, you’ll be good in 30 minutes.

As a preparation, you must have :-

  • Helium app installed and wallet created
  • Nebra app installed and linked to your Helium app

I will start the process with the Nebra app first, but if it fails, you can fall back to the Helium app. Both works, but since it’s a Nebra hotspot, it’s just my suggest to try with the Nebra app first. Within the app, start the process to add a hotspot and let it scan.

  1. Antennas are attached
  2. Power off device
  3. Switch it on
  4. Once you see the green LED flashing, you’ll want to initiate a rescan in the app
  5. When your device shows up, tap on it and follow the wizard to do the set up

Now, the wizard will hang several times, almost like every step of the way. If you don’t see progress, just return to step 2, power off. Interestingly, you’ll get to resume the progress in the wizard. Eventually, you’ll get to specify the height of the antenna and location of the hotspot.

  • Height of the antenna – just an estimate of the elevation off ground level. Doesn’t have to be very accurate.
  • Location – you should, and I encourage you to specify the location accurately. This is to do the right thing by the network. There are those who fake their location to get a better Transmit Scale, but don’t do it. It does not affect your earning, but the earning of others who witness your hotspot’s beacon. If you are caught for it, your hotspot will be put on a blacklist, and it’s game over. So, since it doesn’t really hurt your earnings, there’s no point in doing it.

What’s next after the wizard

At this point, nothing much else to do. As of writing this post, your device should have been shipped with an older firmware, in the pre light-hotspot era. Your device will still be syncing to the Helium blockchain. I will expect it to go through a few firmware updates, and when it syncs till the block that switches it to the light hotspot mode, then mining will begin.

Light hotspot was activated on 11th May 2022, that was a major update for the entire Helium network. It was an amazing feat that the Helium team pulled off. I didn’t expect it to be 100% smooth, and indeed it wasn’t. There was some trial and errors on the change, but I am grateful the team was prepared to deal with most of the hiccups, and we never had to roll back.

The nice thing with Helium hotspots is that you should almost never need to do much management. Even more so now with light hotspots. Firmware updates are automatically done over the air by the hotspot manufacturers. You just need to make sure the device is powered, sitting in a good location and wait for it to make you some passive income.

There are some tools you can get in to, but there is no need to sign up for anything paid. If you have a big fleet and want something to aid management, please go ahead and get a paid service. That’s a post for another time.

Final words….

So for now, I’d say just monitor the sync progress of your hotspot. Just figure out the IP address your hotspot has, and navigate to it using your browser. There is a field that says the block chain sync progress. Eventually, the block chain will be turned off for hotspots. Until then, you’ll want the first sync to complete, as it is the first stage to know it should have transitioned to light hotspot mode.

How do we earn mining $DPR with Deeper Network

in my previous post, I introduced the idea to consider mining $DPR, and you can potentially recover your cost in a little over 66 days. Now, let me show you the math on how that works.

To avoid any confusion, here is the CoinMarketCap link to it https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/deeper-network/

Earning Rates mining $DPR

Mining with Deeper Connect devices is following a unique mechanics called Proof of Credit (PoCr). It is not like any Proof of Work, or Proof of Stake, and it’s not doing any power hungry hashing like PoW Ethereum and Bitcoin. All we need is to keep our Deeper Connect devices online for as much as we can.

Earnings are linear, and so are pretty predictable. How much you earn though, depends on the credit score your device has. The details are known up front, and below is the reference table. Source. There is a slight inaccuracy with the source, and I’ve fixed it in my table below. I have also added in the US$ equivalent, but of course it will vary. I created the table based on the token price of US$0.0319, at the time of this writing.

In order to mine and earn tokens, your device needs to have at least a Credit Score of 100. Earning rate goes up each time you hit additional 100 points. There are 2 ways to increase the Credit Score,

  1. Organic growth – keep the device online 24×7, and share 10MB of traffic everyday. Every 2 consecutive days this happens, your device will earn 1 point. (It has been announce this is about to change, that 2 days requirement will be reduced to 1). Until it gets implemented, let’s keep to the 2 days calculation. It means every 200 days (without missing a day) your credit score will go up by 100, and your earnings goes up.
  2. Stake DPR – Buy some DPR, and stake it. Starting at 1000 DPR to simply get the device on the blockchain for Organic Growth. You won’t earn any DPR, but you will get awarded 10 Credit Score. (It’s stated on Deeper Network’s medium post, that there is 0 credit score. That is incorrect, and I have validated with personal experience and cross checking, that you will get 10. Additionally, you will be given 2 DPR in your Deeper Wallet.) Now, if you are in this for mining, you will likely want to get ahead, and not just wait to grow the score organically. Then you’ll want to consider buying from 5,000 up to 100,000 tokens. The higher you stake, the better APR you get. The current program, known as Basic Mining, pays up to 60% APR with the highest tier at 800 Credit Score.

How much to stake is very much up to you, whatever you can afford to lose.

DYOR, I’m not qualified to give financial advises.

Also, be aware of this, for your first time staking, let’s say to bring the device to a score of 200, you will need 11,000 DPR. The first 1,000 DPR is always needed to bring a new device on to the blockchain, and add on 10,000 DPR to bring credit score immediately to 200.

You can follow Deeper Network’s post to get the staking going. While it is titled for “PC”, it works for me on the Mac too. After you have completed the staking, you will need to give your device a reboot (or power cycle) for it to take effect on the device.

About Basic Mining

Basic Mining is the name of the original mining program that started with the Deeper Connect devices. All devices so far are capable of mining. I personally have the Mini and Pico, and both earn equally well. The v1 program (as I call it), will change from 1st June 2022. Deeper Network calls it Basic Mining 2.0, and you can read more here.

There will be some differences, but essentially the idea remains the same, bring your credit score up to earn more rewards. Let me cover about Basic Mining 1.0 first.

  • Mining begins in under 72 hrs from staking, experience will vary, most of mine happened within 2 hours.
  • Reward period is 270 days, and you get a fixed payout everyday, around the same time.
  • After 270 days, you have the option to un-stake, or re-stake
  • If during the time, your credit score hits the next tier, your earning goes up
  • Credit Score can be increased by natural organic growth, or more staking

All rewards are paid to your Deeper Wallet, which is tied to your device. You are allowed to withdraw from the Deeper Wallet to your own Hot/Cold wallet, using Deeper Network’s bridge. There are 2 bridges, one to Ethereum, and another to Binance Smart Chain (BSC). Most will pick BSC, as it has a much lower gas.

Be aware though, each BSC wallet is limited to receive up to 3000 DPR tokens per day.

You can withdraw your rewards from your Deeper Wallet to your BSC Wallet, then use it to increase your stake. I’ve done it and it works pretty well.

What is changing with Basic Mining?

Essentially, what is changing includes the following :-

  • Staking period from 9 months will be reduced to 6 months
  • You can unstake anytime, and it can be done from within AtomOS. Reportedly from version 1.1.16.
  • For non-genesis miners the mining APR will change every 3 months. 01-Sept-2022, 01-Dec-2022, 01-Mar-2023, 01-June-2023, 01-Sept-2023, and 01-Dec-2023.
  • For those devices that staked before 01-June-2022, they will be grandfathered in to the v1.0 program and APR will remain for the individual 9-months period.

A question most will have is, what happens after 9 months to those devices that have made it to v1.0 program? I haven’t come across a firm answer yet. I can imagine 2 possible outcomes :-

  1. they either stay on the v1.0 program for as long as they keep re-staking
  2. they will follow the v2.0 program once their 9-months have run out

What Did I do?

With my very first Mini, I started with a credit score of 200, and I staked 11,000 DPR. At that time $DPR was about US$0.13. After running it for a few weeks, and having done more research, I felt more confident and increased my score to 500. Why 500? What’s my strategy?

At that time, I couldn’t afford to stake all the way to a credit score of 800. I plotted the chart of Stakes versus Rewards, and found that with 50,000 DPR staked, is the point where the reward curve increases the most. That was also about the point where I was comfortable to invest more in. Hence, that’s the number I picked.

Fast forward to the crypto crash in May 2022, as DPR price dipped, I bought more and increased my stake to 700. I didn’t go for 800, as my device is a few weeks away to hit 800 by organic growth, so I could save myself 20,000 DPR tokens, and wait.

If I have multiple devices, should I distribute my stakes, or concentrate on one?

This is a common question. The answer is simple, and based on the v1.0 rewards rates.

Concentrate mostly on one device first. Each incremental investment in the first device will earn you more DPR rewards every day. Nevertheless, do get every device at least the first 1,000 DPR to get them on the blockchain. Use the time they are online to grow the organic scores.

Wrapping up…

The Deeper Connect devices have the expectation that each network will only have one device. When more than 1 device exists, only 1 will earn the credit score, and it is random. More specifically, each public IP on the Internet is allowed to only host 1 Deeper Connect device that will earn organic score. If ALL your devices are staked to 800 credit score, then this is not a concern.

Some have worked around this by attaching the Deeper Connect Mini/Pico to a 4G mobile router with success, but still keeping only to 1 device per Internet IP.

If this gets you interested, please consider using my referral link or coupon code love_jasonyzs when you purchase your device from the Deeper Network store.

DYOR – Do your own research. I’m a tech guy, not a financial advisor. Hope you enjoy learning about some tech from my posts. I am not qualified to write about financial advices, and please make your own decision. What I will say, only spend what you can afford to lose. Things are way too unpredictable in the cryptoverse. Have fun and good luck!

Mining $DPR has better ROI vs ETH

I’ve been GPU mining ETH for over 12 months, and DPR mining with Deeper Connect Mini for 6 months. I can say hands down DPR has a much better ROI than ETH.

If anyone has tried to set up their own ETH mining rig, it is clear that is it not a simple task. You’ve got to have good knowledge and experience in building Intel PCs, and even for a myself with 20 years experience, it was the first time I had to build one with 6 GPUs. That’s the first step, and the next is to keep it cool and run nicely 24×7.

Trying to keep ETH rigs running non-stop is another challenge.

The mining rig can hang in multiple ways and you’ll have to give it a reboot. So monitoring and reacting to issues is key to maximise your mining potential. It can hang in the middle of the night, and you’ll lose hours of mining rewards.

The learning curve to set up a mining rig, and to operate it well is not for everyone. Let alone that the threat of Ethereum moving to Proof-of-Stake is eventually going to happen. Sinking S$10K into a mining rig that makes like maybe S$10 a day is going to take over 2.5 years to breakeven.

In other words, if you want to start ETH mining now with new investment, think twice.

Mine $DPR instead of $ETH

Consider this as an alternative, join Deeper Network’s DPN. In a nutshell, it is a VPN solution, that has no subscription. DPN is short for Decentralised Private Network. You put a device on the Internet, sharing your home internet connection and at the same time you get to earn a passive income.

Low barrier of entry – To get started with mining DPR you will need a specialised hardware, but it is so much cheaper to buy than a decent GPU like the RTX3070. As of this post, there are 2 options, the Deeper Connect Mini (UP US$349), and the Deeper Connect Pico (US$248). I have both, and if you are a serious miner, I strongly recommend the Mini. It is very stable, and you can almost set and forget. Use my referral links to get 5% off the purchase. (Or coupon love_jasonyzs when you check out)

Easy to set up – Both the Mini and Pico are really easy to set up, there are two main steps, first is to get the device on to your home network, and second is to enable mining. Both steps are relatively easy, and I’ll have subsequent posts to take you through. The good news is the Deeper Connect is going to make the second step even easier in coming firmware releases.

Earn between $0 and US$5.24 a day – US$157.31 per month (30 days). These numbers are based no today’s price where each DPR is US$0.0319. That is pretty good returns, and your ROI with the mini is in just over 66 days!! (I’ll go into the details in an upcoming post, it does require staking to the max with 100,000 DPR).

Sustainability – crypto projects are very much like any startups, there will always need a start for quick adoption, and then move towards sustainability. I’ve been following the project since Dec 2021, and they definitely have the right ingredients to make this successful. They have positioned themselves to be the web 3.0 platform, and the roadmap looks very good. The team have proven themselves to be able to execute and to bring their vision to fruition. I’m so ready for what they will dish out next.

DPN is after all the primary use case

The primary purpose of the device is to give you “VPN Service” for life. I’ve used it myself and it works pretty well. So if having access to say an upcoming sports event stream from a different country is something you fancy, this can be a good solution for you. Nothing like being able to catch your favourite shows and have a passive income with the same device!

Order your units now

Deeper Network is running a campaign for almost 7 days more. You can win yourself a Mini, Pico or NFT. Please join using my referral https://wn.nr/UEYDqL and I with you good luck!! Campaign ends on 23rd May (Mon) at midnight UTC.

If you are eager to get started, buy your units ASAP!! Here are my referral links.

DYOR – Do your own research. I’m a tech guy, not a financial advisor. Hope you enjoy learning about some tech from my posts. I am not qualified to write about financial advices, and please make your own decision. What I will say, only spend what you can afford to lose. Things are way too unpredictable in the cryptoverse. Have fun and good luck!

Earn US$500 per month with Deeper Network

Deeper Network is an interesting decentralized VPN solution. Instead of being tied to a VPN provider, every running Deeper Network device, can essentially be a VPN end point. As a user, you’d just need to pick the country you want to be virtually in, and surf away.

It’s a cool solution to use if say you want to watch specific streaming programs only available in a different country.

My primary interest with Deeper Network is crypto mining. We earn a fixed rate of tokens daily just by leaving the device running. From the view of earning consistency DPR would be the best I’ve experienced.

This is what you’ve got to do to get started.

  1. Purchase a Deeper Connect device. There’s currently an Indiegogo campaign and you can order a Deeper Connect Pico. If you appreciate what I’m sharing, consider buying a Deeper Network unit with my referral link https://order.deeper.network/product/deeper-connect-mini?affiliates=2484 or use the coupon code love_jasonyzs
  2. You can have multiple devices, but they must be on different network. E.g. a typical household only has one Internet connection, so we can only have one. But if you have multiple locations and multiple connections, you can set up 1 device per location.
  3. To earn, you need to buy some DPR tokens and stake them. This part is necessary, and your ROI depends on how much you stake. As of this writing, DPR is about US$0.10 each, so if we stake the max of 101,000 DPR, it costs US$10,100. Sounds like a lot, but the earning rate of 60% per year is fantastic! Best part, you get paid out every day!

I have started my journey since Dec 2021, and am seeing the returns for the 2 units I have. This is real stuff, and am quite pleased with how things are going.

Yes, there are some caveats, like staking means locking away the stake for 9 months. Looking at the rate of return, it’s quite worth it. As with any investment, there’s always risk. Seeing how DPR had gone up before, with token price at about US$0.10, it’s a reasonable entry point.

Have a read more into Deeper Network, I’ll share some links here. If there’s some up take from my referral, I’ll be happy to share more and what’s my strategy. (Hint: I didn’t stake 100k DPR). Leave me a comment if you’d like to find out more.

Deeper Network website – https://deeper.network
Deeper Network on CoinMarketCap – https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/deeper-network/
Staking and Rewards Rates – https://deeper-network.medium.com/deeper-network-basic-mining-rules-and-rewards-57dce89e34d6

Getting Start with Chia Farming

One of the latest interest in the crypto mining scene is Chia. It is easier to start, and many people are keen to get into it, hoping to get good early rewards. As I write this, we are already into the second week of May 2021, and Chia mainnet has been live for nearly 2 months. Unless you have a pretty powerful plotting set up, it’s really hard to catch up.

What is Chia Farming?

Chia Farming, pay attention, the term here is Farming. It’s not mining, unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum. Chia is based on Proof of Space and Time, rather than Proof of Work, which Bitcoin and Ethereum are based on. Proof of Work, simply put is having a good amount of compute power, mining blocks for the relevant networks. Hence it’s common to see GPU and ASICs being used in the PoW type mining, and they do consume a fair amount of electricity.

Chia Farming on the other hand, is designed to be “green”, eco friendly. It ought to take a lot less power to farm, and it does. Where it hurts more is burning through your SSDs. More on that to come later in this post. So how farming works is this, your computer system will have generated plot files, and the Harvester process will constantly listen in on the Chia blockchain for challenges. The harvester will then scan the local plot files to any hash that matches the challenge. If a successful proof is found, and the harvester is able to report in time, it earns a coin.

The above is a highly summarised version, if you’d like to know more, do read up the Chia FAQ section.

The rate of winning depends on how many plot files you own. The more plot files you have, the higher your chance. However, the winning chance is also relative to the overall size of the network, meaning all the plot files across the entire network. The network grows, and your plots don’t, your winning chance will keep declining.

The plot files have pre-defined sizes. The common and accepted ones now are known as the k32 plots, and are about 100GiB each. So, to store 10 of these files, you’ll need 1TiB of disk space. The more space you have, the more plots you can have, and your chance of winning is better.

Generating your first Chia Plot

So, how do you generate your first Chia plot. If you new to crypto mining, or not an advanced computer expert, I’d suggest just follow the installation guidelines for Windows or Mac.

First immediate tip here, avoid plotting on your primary SSD based OS drive. Repeated plotting (which you will likely do), will quickly wear your SSD, and can eventually affect your OS. Always try to plot on secondary SSD, dedicated ones will be good, and certainly not on those which you have precious data on.

What resources are needed to plot?

So, you’ve noticed I started describing with the end process, which is farming the plot files. That is the goal, to have as many plot files as you can afford to store.

The point now, is how to generate all those plot files, quickly. This we’ll talk about the plotting process.

Plotting involves 3 key elements of your computer, the CPU (processor), RAM (memory), and Storage (fast SSD). In order to to multiple plots in parallel and without compromising on speed, you want a good amount of all these 3.

A plotting process by default will need the following:-

  • CPU – 2 threads (default), this means you need at least 2 cores dedicated for each plotting process. You can increase this to 4 threads (and hence 4 cores), with marginal improvement. I find that it’s more worth while to dedicate the additional 2 cores to a second plot process instead.
  • RAM – 3390 MiB (default), this is the maximum RAM a plotting process will use. The highest useful value you can increase to is 6750 3400 MiB. (update: looks like the value has been adjusted here)
  • Storage – the location for your temp folder would be your fastest drive. Go with SSD if you want speed, otherwise a regular spinning disk will work too, just take more time. For k32 plots, you’ll need 300GiB + of usable space. During the whole plotting process, there will be significant amount of re-writes, amounting up to 1.5TiB. Which means for each plot generated, your SSD will go through 1.5TiB of writes. For a device with say, 150TBW, it means after 100 plots, your SSD becomes out of warranty. Hence, the warning about the SSD wear. How well it performs from this point on varies with manufacturers and model.

How I am plotting?

Let’s start with the SPECs of my computer.

  • CPU – Intel i9-10900K (10 cores / 20 threads)
  • Memory – 32GB
  • Storage – 1x PNY 1TB M.2 NVMe (C:), 1x PNY 500GB M.2 NVMe (D:), 1x PNY 2TB M.2 NVMe (E:), 1x 14TB HDD (F:)

With this, I will run 5 plots in parallel. Each plotting process with the following settings.

  • Threads – 2
  • Max Memory – 6750 (3 plots), 3390 MiB (2 plots) 3400MiB
  • Temp Folder – either in C:, D:, or E:
  • Final Folder – F:

I know I said not to plot on C:, so I’m monitoring carefully how much I’m burning through, and stopping when I’m 50% there. This is my personal risk I’m taking, and if I’m to recommend, don’t plot on your C:. My D: and E: are fully reserved for plotting, with no data on it.

All my plots are stored on my F:. The plots do not need to be stored on SSD, speed doesn’t matter that much here, just a lot of space. Eventually I’ll need to add more HDD.

I have 3 plots running on parallel on my E:, the overall performance does take a 10% hit, but it does allow me to maximise the number if plots I can generate a day.

How to plot fast?

I didn’t build my computer specifically for plotting, hence the mixed bag of components. If I am to build one now specifically for plotting, here is what I will do.

Decide how many plots you want to do in parallel, then you can calculate how much CPU, RAM and SSD you need. So, let’s say like mine, I’m doing 5 in parallel, and let’s use that as an example

CPU – As each plot process needs 2 cores, I’ll find something with 10 cores. Buy the fastest and with the most cores you can accord. I generally don’t count on hyperthreads. That’s how I arrived with my i9-10900K.

RAM – my system already had 32GB of RAM, and I stuck with that. However, If I want to maximise plotting speed, I will need at least 3400 x 5 = 17,000MiB. This is easily satisfied with 32GB of RAM, which I will go with either 2x 16GB or 4x 8GB DIMMs. Never go with an odd number of DIMMs.

Storage – have 3 SSD devices. Each with at least 1TiB of space. These are just for temp spaces. Add on 1 more SSD for your OS if you like. For final storage, as many large HDD as you can afford.

Wrapping up…

The other critical component you’ll need to pay attention to, of course, is the motherboard. You’ll need one that can fit all these together. I am using the MSI Meg Z490 Ace.

There’s a lot more to farming, but this should hopefully give you a good start. If you like what you read here, or have any comments, please let me know.

How to get started with crypto investments in Singapore?

Crypto has without a doubt become a hot topic since end of 2020. All thanks to the surge in Bitcoin making several all time highs (ATH) since then.

Many are drawn into crypto in the hope to make some good money. For me, I got drawn in a little earlier, during the 2020 COVID-19 circuit breaker. (That’s the Singapore term for what was similar to a lock down.)

There are two main avenues to make some money with Cryptocurrency. Either to participate in the network as a “miner”, or investor buying and selling coins on the exchange. I am both, and in this post, I share more about investing, and how to get started.

Disclaimer, I’m certainly no financial advisor and I share based on my personal knowledge and experience. You shall be responsible for your own actions. Crypto prices can move rapidly in either direction and certainly not for the faint hearted.

Alright, let’s get to it.

Step 1 – if you don’t yet have it, install the Google Authenticator. It provides 2FA protection to a number of accounts you will be setting up next.

Quick links for you below if you need to get them installed first.
Google Authenticator on Apple App Store
Google Authenticator on Google Play

Step 2 – set up a few accounts with crypto exchanges. All these accounts are free, so don’t worry about having to pay any fees. All account opening process involves some validation of your identity, it will take some time. So please do not wait till the moment you need to make transactions to start the account, you will likely miss the opportunity. Hope you appreciate what I share here and you will open your accounts with my referral.

Coinhako – this is a Singapore based crypto exchange. You want to open an account here as it allows the cheapest and quickest option to move money in and out of crypto via bank transfers. Credit cards are also accepted for immediate purchase, but there is a small credit card fee that will be charged. Very handy for those critical moments where you need to enter but the cash balance in your account isn’t sufficient. There are some coins you can buy here, but not all coins. For that you need to open up accounts in other exchanges which I’ll cover below. Please use my referral link below to open your Coinhako account.
If asked for Referral Code, please use 132524_3863569
https://www.coinhako.com/affiliations/sign_up/132524_3863569

Coinbase promo

Coinbase – this is another crypto exchange with Singapore presence. It went IPO in April 2021 and that sparked a rally in the crypto market. Coinbase is a larger exchange than Coinhako and offers more selection of coins. The best thing with Coinbase in Singapore is that you can set up automatic recurring purchases. For example one nice strategy is to dollar cost average your position with certain coins and say do a weekly buy of a fixed dollar amount. This is a good long term strategy and you can set and forget. Purchases are done with credit cards only. The challenge though is you need to earn your purchase limit Coinbase. The highest is SGD 750 purchase limit per week. So it may not be a great option if you want to put in SGD 1000 in one transaction.
Sign up with Coinbase with https://coinbase.com/join/zishen_j?src=ios-link

Binance – is one of the largest Crypto exchange in the world. The services offered goes beyond simple buy and sell of crypto. Limit trades, interest bearing fixed deposits, Coin Staking are a few examples of the added services you can experience. They even have good tutorials to explain about crypto and the functions within the platform. Purchases for us in Singapore tend to be a two step process. (Unless it is a popular coin.) First step is to buy an intermediary coin like BUSD or USDT with credit card, then do a coin swap to the desired coin you want. Sometimes credit card transactions may need a few attempts to go through. So it may be a good idea to keep some BUSD or USDT on hand for that moment of opportunity. (BUSD and USDT are stablecoins, which have a fixed value where 1 coin is worth 1 USD.) There are two sites for Binance, binance.com and binance.sg. The one I’m writing about here is binance.com. Other way to fund the Binance account is with bank transfers via SWIFT.
Sign up with Binance with https://www.binance.com/en/register?ref=Y0XLS9A3 My referral link specifically offers you some rebate.

3 Exchanges should be a good start. At this point, you should have some idea why the different exchanges. There are a few more, but let’s leave them for another day. For myself these three serve all I need.

Step 3 – consider joining Celcius Network. Yup, another account to open. I think this is a must for anyone who plans to hold on (HODL in crypto lingo) to their coins. Celcius Network is made possible by the person who pioneered VOIP, Alex Mashinsky. Have a look at his profile and you can sense the genius level here. The idea behind this company is essentially to encourage HODLing. They incentivise you by giving interest on the coins you park with Celcius Network. I am going very long term with my coins, and rather than just have them laying around the digital wallet in the exchange, I’d rather have them earning more for me. Celcius gives different rates fo each type of coin, e.g. ETH today is 5.05% p.a., and is paid every Monday. You can choose the reward to be in the same base coin, or CEL which is Celcius’s own token. You can pick either and switch back and forth. Personally pick CEL to diversify my positions and also it has the potential to increase in value. If you are following, you’ll probably be thinking now, so how does Celcius, as a business, make money to survive. Simple, they offer loans. Loans at very low interest rates, and you’ll use your coins as collateral.

So, HODL with me, and join Celsius Network using my referral code 1167086ba5 when signing up and earn $40 in BTC with your first transfer of $400 or more! #UnbankYourself #HuatAh
https://celsiusnetwork.app.link/1167086ba5

Step 4 (optional) – purchase a hardware wallet. This is for those who want to HODL, but not leave it on any exchange on the Internet. Some follow the mantra “Not your keys, not your coin“. What that means is that for each location that is storing your coins, it is protected by a private key. So, if you have opened up the 4 accounts as I suggested, you would have 4 different wallets, one with each exchange. Every wallet will have it’s own private keys, which are held on to by the exchange. You do not have access to it. In earlier days, you’ve heard about exchanges being hacked, one of the goals of hackers will be to steal those keys. The “scary” part about crypto is that anyone with access to your private key essentially have access to all coins in that wallet. So, if you don’t trust your exchange to safe keep your keys better than yourself, you can invest in a hardware wallet. I personally own a Ledger device, and I find that it is very well designed and implemented. I do feel safe with it. Bear in mind though, if it’s in your Ledger, it’s not going to be earning you any interest. It’s one or the other.

Ending off…

Thank you for reading this far, and I hope you have got yourself set up for some Crypto trading. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is how to transfer coins between wallets. That’s important, especially you want to move coins to Celcius. Though you can buy coins directly on Celcius as well, it hasn’t worked for me. What I typically do is buy on one of the exchanges, and then do transfer. Be aware though, Coinhako is not able to send and receive all the coins on the platform.

I wish you good luck with your Crypto adventures, together we HODL!

The rise of Helium

It is Apr 2021 as I write this, and like many other folks, I got interested with Crypto in 2020. Needless to say, it was during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A couple of days ago, two of the crypto Youtubers (Red Panda Mining & VoskCoin) whom I follow shared about mining with Helium. It is of a very interesting concept, using Proof of Coverage (PoC) method to earn mining rewards. Link to both videos are below. VoskCoin shared his setup of two Helium miners making a total of US$50 a day. That’s really good, with relatively low barrier of entry, and good rate of return. Of course, the earnings will vary.

  • Red Panda Mining’s video on Helium – here
  • VoskCoin’s video on Helium – here

Unlike Bitcoin and Etherum mining (which use Proof of Work) and are heavy with power consumptions, mining Helium (helium.com) is far less demanding in terms of hardware and electricity.

I quickly jumped on and ordered my first Helium HotSpot produced by Nebra. It is one of two models which have support for Asian frequencies. Specifically for Singapore, you want the AS923 model. Due to the large demand, delivery is currently estimated to be at June 2021. Please use my referral link here and above if you are keen to order a Nebra Hotspot.

So, how does Helium work? I haven’t had a thorough read yet, but this is my quick summary of it. Start by watching the short video by Helium.

So we are essentially participating in The People’s Network by deploying hotspots. Though the miner is a HotSpot, it is not providing WIFI service like your home network. It provides LoRaWAN wireless service, so it’s not a replacement for your home wifi. What I plan to do is to simply find a spot near the window of my apartment, set it up and leave it to mine HNT coins. Very much fire and forget.

For better earnings, you would want other hotspots to be near your area. So the hotspots can validate for each other. Hence, spread the word, get your neighbours interested, and start The People’s Network up in Singapore.

There is also a Discord server setup for SG Helium enthusiasts, the link is https://discord.gg/KKSsMMNHgb

Of course, Helium has it’s own official discord https://discord.gg/helium

I’m looking forward to starting with HNT mining. Will write another post as I receive my unit in a few months.

Disclaimer: I’m sharing information to the best of my knowledge, and it’s not intended to be investment advise. Do your own research and be responsible for your own actions. As with all investments, only use money you can afford to lose. Hope for the best but always prepared for the worst. Good luck, have fun!!

How to set up your own FlightAware Ground Station

This interest of mine developed as I’ve been using flightaware.com since around 2011. I discovered that it has a piece of software which we can run at home, and with the right pieces of hardware, will be helping to scan for planes and send the data to the main site.

The idea is that planes broadcast their details, location, etc. over ADS-B. These are not encrypted and anyone with a 1090MHz receiver can pick up those signals. That’s pretty much what we will build. A Raspberry Pi running Piaware, and using a SDR dongle to receive the 1090MHz signals.

List of components required

Here are the things you’ll need, I’ll share my config. You can refer to the Piaware official post for other details.

  • Raspberry Pi – minimally a Raspberry Pi 2. Newer is better. I started with the first generation Pi B+ and the CPU is too old to deliver good performance.
  • Boot media for your RPi – likely a MicroSD (a.k.a. transflash) card. At least 8GB will be good.
  • A SDR USB dongle – SDR is Software Defined Radio, which is a device that is able to tune to a huge range of frequencies. I am using the Nooelec Nano3 purchased from Amazon.sg. The package came with antennas.
  • [Optional] A band pass filter – This is to clean up the received signal to the range of frequencies we want. Though outside of the USA we pretty much only need 1090MHz, this filter I am using, made specifically for Flightaware includes 978MHz. It is another signal used by planes in the US. I can see that with the filter Piaware is able to pick up more messages.

My specific build (Raspberry Pi 3)

  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ – I have this Pi for many years, and in terms of performance it looks to be more than enough for Piaware. I built a second FlightFeeder with a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 8GB that I purchased from Cytron.
  • Raspberry Pi Enclosure – the one I bought is no longer available on Amazon, but it looks similar to this.
  • 3.5″ LCD screen – the one I bought is no longer available on Amazon, but it looks similar to this. This has a great purpose from Piaware 4.0. The recommended screen by Piaware is the Waveshare 3.5″.
  • MicroSD Card – I’m a long term Sandisk supporter, and have a 32GB card in my Raspberry Pi 3.
  • Power – using a good power adapter for the Raspberry Pi is important. I’ve learnt the hard way, and am now only sticking to the original adapter from Raspberry Pi. The others I’ve used can’t sustain the voltage at higher power draw. One exception is a higher rated multi port Anker charger which I use for my phone charging station. That is an overkill for one Pi though.
  • SDR – Nooelec Nano 3 that I ordered from Amazon.sg.
  • 978MHz & 1090MHz Band Pass Filter – I do find that my set up is receiving more messages after adding the filter. It is optional for sure.

Software Installation Process

I won’t go into the details to assemble the components together. I will write about the software aspect. When I did this, it was still Piaware 3.x and there are a few steps to go through. You’ll want to connect your keyboard, mouse and HDMI monitor to the Raspberry Pi for the set up. When you are done, you should not need these any more, and the device can

  • First up is to get hold of the Raspberry Pi Imager from raspberrypi.org. Use the latest Raspberry Pi 32bits OS. Instructions from the official website is pretty good to get you past this point. If you have an existing Pi, make sure you are at least on Buster release.
  • Boot up your Raspberry Pi – configure the following
    • password for the user pi (if you want to change a username, go ahead)
    • enable ssh – use raspi-config
    • configure networking – use raspi-config as well for wifi settings
  • Get the SDR working with Raspberry Pi
    • These are the steps I followed from Nooelec website.
    • Check that your SDR is detected by Raspberry Pi OS
      • pi$ lsusb
    • Check that the default dvb drivers have been loaded by Raspberry Pi OS. As long as some lines are returned, drivers are loaded
      • pi$ lsmod | grep dvb
    • Blacklist the SDR dongle so that Raspberry Pi OS does not load the default drivers.
      • pi$ sudo echo "blacklist dvb_usb_rtl28xxu" >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist_dvb.conf
    • Reboot the Raspberry Pi
      • pi$ sudo reboot
    • Login again when it has come up, and check once mode to make sure the default DVB drivers are not loaded, the follow command must not yield any output.
      • pi$ lsmod | grep dvb
    • Next we install the required drivers for Nooelec Nano 3
      • pi$ sudo apt-get install rtl-sdr
      • if there’s a continue [Y/n] prompt, choose Y to proceed.
    • When the installation is completed, we can do a quick test
      • pi$ rtl_test
      • watch the output for about 5s-10s and then press CTRL-C to quit
      • You want to make sure your SDR dongle is detected and there are no lost samples
    • The drivers for the Nano3 are ready, and we can stop at this part of the Nooelec instructions, as we do not need the Gqrx software for Piaware.

Installing Piaware

The following steps are taken from the PiAware manual installation page. I the initial paragraph may mention about dump1090, it is not a pre-requisite at this stage. If you follow the instructions, it will also lead to installing the software.

At this point, the assumption is that the Raspberry Pi is connected to the network and has access to the Internet. Additionally, the SDR dongle is already set up in the earlier steps above.

  • Download a copy of the PiAware installation package, refer to the official page for any updated versions. Run the below in the home directory of the pi user.
    • pi$ wget https://flightaware.com/adsb/piaware/files/packages/pool/piaware/p/piaware-support/piaware-repository_4.0_all.deb
    • pi$ sudo dpkg -i piaware-repository_4.0_all.deb
  • Download updates and dependencies for Raspberry Pi OS
    • pi$ sudo apt-get update
    • pi$ sudo apt-get install piaware
  • Now, piaware is installed, and we will make a couple of config changes to allow auto updates of piaware. If you like to have manual control, then skip this step.
    • pi$ sudo piaware-config allow-auto-updates yes
    • pi$ sudo piaware-config allow-manual-updates yes
  • Next is to install dump1090 and dump978, each of these can take a little more time
    • pi$ sudo apt-get install dump1090-fa
    • pi$ sudo apt-get install dump978-fa
  • All installation has completed, we’ll need a reboot
    • pi$ sudo reboot

Register the FlightFeeder to your FlightAware account

If you’ve been following the steps since the start of this post, at this point, you should have a fully functional FlightFeeder. If the thought hasn’t crossed your mind yet, let me jog it now. How do you associate the new FlightFeeder with your FlightAware account.

First and foremost, if you haven’t created an account on FlightAware.com you have to do it now. It should be a typical sign up process which I hope you are familiar with.

Once your account is ready, hit up the URL https://flightaware.com/adsb/piaware/claim. Once you get there, you’ll see a page with the below.

It is a seemingly smart process. I think the key is that the computer you are using to hit the URL is on the same network as your Raspberry Pi. My guess is that the FlightAware website is able to recognise that both the RPi and your computer are sharing the same public IP address, and there is currently an unclaimed instance. It will just associate that instance with your account.

You are pretty much done. There are some settings you can play around with on your ADS-B Feeder Statistics page. The settings I touched were, and in sequence:-

  • Site Name
  • Receiver Location
  • Precision on Coverage Map
  • Outage Emails
  • Nearest Airport
  • Height

Wrapping up…

This was a fun experience and got me to be more familiar with my Raspberry Pi. While doing this, the PiAware 4.0 release came out and it includes a built in support for the 3.5″ LCD screen. This is great as I have this screen for a couple of years now, but never had a good use for it.

I hope you find this useful. I’ve added in some details that were not clear with the original instructions. I’ve repeated these steps a few times now while I built and rebuilt my FlightFeeders, I hope it is clear enough for anyone else who wishes to give this a try.

In a future post, I’ll share my experience rebuilding to PiAware to 4.0.

Unboxing the Baseus Super Energy Car Jump Starter

I’ve recently just received my unit of the Baseus Super Energy Car Jump Starter. I ordered it from Shopee.sg and it was shipped from China. As it is essentially a power bank, it had to take the sea route, and it took a little over 3 weeks to arrive.

So what is this device, and why it got me interested?

For anyone who owns a car, every 18 months or so, the 12V battery will eventually fail. It tends to happen at the worst time, well there’s never a good time. When that happens, the car will not start and we’ll have to bring in the mechanic. That’s one of the reasons I maintain an AA Singapore membership. I can call for the mechanic at no further charge, and they can diagnose, confirm the battery is faulty and replace on the spot. Now, the new battery will be for a fee.

In my most recent experience, after a 2 weeks+ vacation, I returned home to a depleted battery. Thankfully, it was just depleted and not a failed battery. A jumpstart from the good AAS mechanic did the trick. While the service was good, I had to wait for over an hour.

To better react to such events, here comes the Baseus Super Energy Car Jump Starter. I essentially have a portable jumpstart kit in the car. Anytime there’s a need, I can use it. It is essentially a super charged power bank. It is not a replacement of the 12V car battery, but just to deliver some power to start a car. Once the car is started, you disconnect the unit.

In the box, we have the power bank that is larger than an iPhone 11 Pro Max. A special power adapter with crocodile clips is what connects between the power bank and the car battery. I like the care taken to make sure the black and red cables are of different lengths, to avoid accidental short circuit. A micro-usb cable is provided to charge the unit.

So, what is so special about this that regular power banks can’t do? It has additional circuitry and special battery that can deliver very high current. This device is rated to deliver a Start-up Current of 400A, and Peak current of 800A. As comparison, a high speed charger for your smart phone delivers up to 3A, hence a regular power bank will not work.

A typical family car should be good with 400A of current to start the engine. It is fine if your car needs less. Current is delivered based on need. So, if the source can deliver more, that is fine. In fact, you do not want the situation where your device is draining more than what the source can deliver. The worst case scenario is your source overheats and melts/burns.

One thing to be aware of about this device, is that it takes a long time to charge. I tried searching, and something on Amazon wrote 4 hours for a full charge. It was more like around 18hrs for me. A friend of mine also confirmed that he had to leave it overnight to charge, and it’s only ready the next afternoon.

Maintenance wise, the manufacturer does recommend to charge up the battery at least every 5 months, to keep it at optimum health. I will be following that. Last thing you want is this battery back to be out of juice and you need that jump start.

Wrapping up…

While I haven’t tested jump starting my car, the device does look solid. I own several Baseus products, my first being another power bank that I bought to support my Nintendo Switch on the go. I have developed good confidence in Baseus products, and do trust that it will deliver the punch when I need. When the day comes to use it, I’ll update the post to share the experience.