- Vic Laranja started crypto mining after being locked out for over a year.
- He started out using his work computer and running it overnight when he wasn’t using it.
- He eventually built a separate GPU mining rig that would mine Ethereum and reward it with BTC.
About a year after the lockdowns began, Vic Laranja found himself struggling with “Covid boredom”. He was working on social media content for marketing campaigns and wanted an extra hobby. So, in October 2021, he decided to try his luck with crypto mining from his home in Sarnia, a city in Ontario, Canada. Since he likes to build things, he thought this might be a fun project to pass the time.
Crypto was nothing new to him. He had consistently invested in bitcoin, ethereum, and XRP since April 2020. A year later, the 2021 crypto bull run occurred, prompting Laranja to sell all of his ether, XRP, and the majority of his bitcoin to record levels.
“I’ve only reinvested in it since because I had a pretty profitable move,” Laranja said. “I really wanted with my mining rig to create a mid-dollar cost machine where every day I could pay for my electricity and hardware and convert it to crypto. So it’s less for me as a source of income and it’s more of an investment automation vehicle.”
By mining cryptography, Laranja offered the power of their computers to help maintain a blockchain or protocol network. He and other miners do this to be rewarded in crypto, although it may take them a while to recoup equipment costs, and their electricity usage has been a source of controversy.
How it started
Laranja started with equipment he already had and a good base of technical knowledge. As the founder of a digital marketing agency called Social Gravity, one of his main tasks was editing videos. This meant he kept a very powerful gaming PC close at hand. Gaming PCs have higher quality graphics cards which can often be used to mine different types of crypto.
Additionally, Laranja said he took a computer hardware class in high school where his teacher took PCs apart so students could put them back together. Those who finished early were able to play a video game against each other. From this course, Laranja learned basic PC functions and how to create and diagnose problems in one semester.
These skills would eventually help him build his mining rig. However, his first approach was to test the waters by mining a crypto called ravencoin (RVN) as it only required a software download. This meant he could use his work computer and run the software overnight when he didn’t need his office computer.
Ravencoin is a peer-to-peer blockchain based on a fork of the bitcoin code. On Monday, RVN was trading at around $0.05.
Around the time it started, in October 2021, RVN was one of the most profitable coins to mine after Ethereum, based on its trading price. He felt his single
wouldn’t be able to handle ether mining. He told Insider that he followed an online tutorial and soon after was up and running.
He downloaded an open-source software called NB miner via Github, but recalled that the earnings were quite low, around $1 per day. The desktop he was using only had an AMD RX 570 8GB graphics card, so it only ran for a few weeks.
Scaling a mining rig
Laranja later learned that his friend had also mined RVN, but using three different mining rigs. So he decided he wanted to try to evolve. He started by using recycled parts from an old PC, taking the motherboard, RAM, and
. They would become the bare bones of his platform.
“It’s just a computer with a bunch of different graphics cards,” Laranja said.
Other parts he added included a power supply, as well as PCIe power extension cables to power graphics cards and PCIe splitters to connect more cards, both of which cost less than $25. He also bought risers for the GPUs which add more card space on the motherboard and can cost around $40.
“I knew I could probably spend a lot pretty easily, especially with the way the market is and the price of GPUs,” Laranja said. “So I wanted to get away with spending as little as possible while still having something profitable and good.”
The biggest challenge when building a GPU mining rig is the graphics cards themselves. As they are in high demand, they can be expensive and rare. Laranja’s friend advised him to try and get Nvidia’s RTX 3060s at near retail value. It was because they got what they paid for. They are less expensive than the newer 3090 models, but have good performance.
One thing Laranja noticed was that scalpers, middlemen who arbitrate graphics cards by buying them from the retailer and reselling them at steep margins, were flooding the market. To stay profitable, he needed to find cards that weren’t too expensive.
He spent two weeks messaging vendors online and recalled seeing about 10 new cards posted per day. But about 90% of the people he messaged wouldn’t respond because they would sell out quickly. The whole process, including research and building the platform, took him about a month.
“That’s why all my cards are different because back then it was so hard to get,” Laranja said.
Here are the prices he paid for his cards in Canadian dollars. He used the eBay and Facebook marketplaces for his purchases.
$360 for GeForce GTX 1060 6GB ($281 USD)
$350 for GeForce GTX 1060 6GB (US$273) used
$400 for a GeForce GTX 1660 6GB (US$312) used
$840 for GeForce RTX 3060 12GB ($656 USD)
$850 for GeForce RTX 3060 12GB ($664 USD)
One obstacle he encountered was that his two RTX 3060s had a Lite Hash Rate (LHR). It is the rate that measures the speed at which calculations are solved for a block. Nvidia added the feature to make the cards less appealing to miners in an effort to combat the shortage of chips caused by mining.
In response, Laranja downloaded open-source software from GitHub called T-Rex miner. The new version of this code has an LHR unlock version. While he doesn’t think this removed the card limit completely, he recalled that it increased the hash rate per second (MH/s) by about 10 MH/s per card, from around 22 MH/s to more than 30 MH/s.
At the time he was all-in, Laranja estimates he spent around C$3,000, or roughly $2,343.
One of the biggest challenges in building a rig isn’t frying the hardware, he noted. This can easily happen when the rig is pushed to capacity, running lots of graphics cards 24/7.
One way to avoid material burnout is to provide good air circulation. Laranja hangs his cards on a rack and spaces them out. He also keeps the rig away from walls, while adding simple PC fans he salvaged from old computers.
A second hurdle was learning how to overclock the cards to maximize their performance beyond what the manufacturer intended. This is done by changing some variables in the mining software, which for him was T-REX. He came back to YouTube and his friend’s advice to figure it out. The downside to doing so is that it could void the manufacturer’s warranty.
As for the mining pool, Laranja used 2minors who can pay in ethereum, bitcoin or nano. He chose bitcoin because he didn’t want to pay ethereum fees and he never bought or used nano. Based on its latest four-month moving average, from December 2021, it received 0.01487789 BTC, which equates to around $562 or $140.50 per month.
In terms of electricity costs, its monthly costs fluctuate as rates vary throughout the day based on usage. This can range from about 0.08 kW to about 0.17 kW in Canadian dollars. He recalls that it costs between $30 and $50 Canadian or $23 and $39 per month.