Ah, cryptocurrency. The dream of a digital asset that is based not on paper money backed by gold or silver but built on secure transactions and a decentralized network that is open to all. Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that and in the year 2021, there are more cryptocurrencies than any sane person can keep track of. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Bitcoin which is widely considered the first-every cryptocurrency and also birthed the blockchain technology behind most cryptocurrencies. I’ll spare you the long, drawn-out details of how it works because honestly, I’m really not that well-versed in the technology myself. To dumb it down, many cryptocurrencies are built on blockchain tech that utilizes various types of computers and networks to confirm digital transactions. In the process, digital coin, or crypto, is mined as a reward to the miners confirming the transactions. These are called mining rewards. Again, there’s way more to it than that but you can go to Wikipedia or a million other sites to find out more details on how it all works.
While cryptocurrencies offer the promise of decentralization and security with many boasting anonymous online transactions, there is no good without some bad, and crypto has its fair share of negatives. For starters, the anonymous nature of many cryptocurrencies has led to digital tokens being the currency of choice for a lot of dark web activity and other nefarious practices. That said, anything that involves money has the potential to be used for evil and cryptocurrency is in no way the first asset to be used in an unsavory manner. The bigger, more obvious problem with most cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Monero is that they require intense amounts of computing power and electricity to be profitable. When the Bitcoin blockchain first launched over a decade ago, users could easily mine large amounts of Bitcoin from personal devices. Of course, back then Bitcoin was nearly worthless at less than a penny per coin until a significant price bump to $0.08 per coin in 2010. Fast forward a decade and Bitcoin is now priced at more than $57,000 and even broke the $60K mark earlier this year. Mining even a single Bitcoin in 2021would take years using a powerful GPU like the NVIDIA GTX 3090. It would take more than a year just to recover the cost of the GPU before you actually made a profit and that’s not taking into consideration the cost of electricity. This is the main reason it is nearly impossible to get a good GPU at a decent price right now. It is also the reason for the birth of mining-specific hardware known as ASIC miners. These are powerful, energy-hungry rigs that do nothing except mine currencies. Because of the cost involved, mining has become completely impractical for hobbyists and general consumers.
Anyway, that’s enough on the history lesson. If you follow any crypto news at all, you’ve likely seen a lot of reports on a little digital asset known as Dogecoin. With its signature Shiba Inu mascot, Doge was created in 2013 by a couple of software engineers as somewhat of a joke. The goal was to create a coin that was more accessible to the masses with faster transaction times and lower fees than Bitcoin. Until recently, Doge has been worth less than a penny and yet, it has a massive – almost cult-like – following on the internet. As of late, more and more big names have jumped on the Dogecoin bandwagon and the broader acknowledgments from major companies, expanded listing on major exchanges and billionaires like Elon Musk heralding the coin have driven the price of Doge to record highs. In the past year, Dogecoin has risen an astounding 24,000% from a fraction of a penny to over $0.60 per coin. Like Bitcoin, Doge is mined mostly by miners and farms with hardware designed solely for this purpose. However, there are still some that mine from home using gaming PCs or GPU rigs in the hopes of cashing in on the Doge phenomenon. This has led me to a user request asking if it is possible to mine Doge (or other cryptos) on a Chromebook.
Mining Crypto on Chrome OS
If you take a quick poke around the web, you’ll find that most agree that mining cryptocurrency with a CPU-only PC is 100% unprofitable and, for the most part, they’re right. There are some altcoins out there that can still be mined with a CPU and with some luck, you might make enough to pay for your week’s coffee but don’t hold your breath. Still, you know me. I’m willing to give anything Chrome OS-related a try just to say I did it. So, I found a Linux-based mining software that installs easily on Chrome OS and I gave it a try. If you’re a tinkerer like me and you want to give it a go, here’s how you can actually mine Dogecoin on a Chromebook or Chrome OS device that has Linux app support.
There are numerous miners out there that will work on Ubuntu and Debian systems. Some have graphical interfaces and that does make it easier for the beginning users. However, the Linux container on Chrome OS often struggles using GUI apps because of the nature of the container and VM it uses. Plus, a GUI takes up CPU power and you want all the power you can get for your mining software. For this, we are going to use a CLI miner that runs in the terminal and you can track the progress on the back end of the mining pool where you and other miners “pool” PC power to mine blocks and gain rewards in Dogecoin. This particular miner is built off of the cpuminer-multi used by many CPU miners for a wide variety of coins. I found that it requires the least amount of hoops to get up and running on Chrome OS and it only takes a few commands to get started. Once installed, we’ll look at how to start and monitor your miner.
Before you get started with mining, you’ll need a place to store your earnings. For this, you need a wallet. There are many types of wallets out there. Some can be installed locally on your machine while others can be used on mobile devices. There are multi-wallets that can be used to store, exchange, and even purchase various cryptocurrencies and there are wallets specific to Dogecoin only. The one you choose is up to you but for this experiment, I chose to go with the online Doge wallet from Block.io because it is fully encrypted and you can access it anywhere that you can get online. Also, the wallet isn’t custodial. You own the coin and you alone have access to your privately encrypted wallet. To set up a new Doge wallet, head over to Dogechain and create a new one. Be sure to save your private wallet ID and password somewhere offline for security’s sake. Once you’ve set up your new wallet, navigate to the “receive” tab and get your unique Dogecoin address. You will need this for the miner’s script. Don’t worry about the safety of the address. Crypto addresses are generally used for only sending or receiving, not both. No one can access your funds or your wallet with this receiving address. On to the miner.
To get started, you will need to make sure your device is set up and ready to use Linux applications. You can learn more about that in this getting started article here. Up to date? Great. Here we go. Before you install the miner, you will need to download a couple of dependencies not present in Debian 10 by default. These are simply Linux packages that are used to compile and build other packages. You can install them all at once by pasting the following command in your Linux terminal and hitting enter. At the prompt, press “y” or simply hit enter to confirm the installation.
sudo apt-get install build-essential automake libssl-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev libjansson-dev libgmp-dev zlib1g-dev git
Next, we’ll clone the miner from Github, move to the miner’s main folder and run the build script. Once complete, your miner will be ready to user and you can test it out. To clone and build the miner, use the following commands in your Linux terminal one at a time.
git clone https://github.com/JayDDee/cpuminer-opt.git cd cpuminer-opt ./build.sh
That’s it. Your CPU miner is now ready to run. Keep in mind, this is going to put the spurs to your CPU and all or your cores will likely be maxed out while the miner is running. Don’t plan on using your device for anything else while the cpuminer is running and you should also be aware that this will be very taxing on your hardware. The CPUs are going to run hot and long-term use of this miner could result in damage to your device. This is just an experiment. If you don’t feel comfortable with it or don’t know how to manage your thermals, DON’T DO IT. Okay, that’s out of the way. To start your miner, you should be in the “cpuminer-opt” folder. If not, use the cd command to get there. There are a number of pools where you can mine Doge or mine other coins that can be automatically converted to Dogecoin. We’re going to use Zpool because it is easy to use and you don’t have to create an account to hook your miner up and monitor your mining. To get your miner started, run the following command replacing “wallet address” with the receiving address you created for your Dogecoin wallet.
./cpuminer -o stratum+tcp://lyra2z330.eu.mine.zpool.ca:4563 -u <WALLET_ADDRESS> -p c=DOGE -a lyra2z330
There you go. You will be able to see your current hash rate and accepted shares in the terminal. To keep an eye on your earnings (which will be very little) you can paste your wallet address into Zpool for real-time stats. I fired up this miner on a Core i5 Chromebox with 8GB of RAM right before I started writing this post. In roughly two hours, I have earned about .016 Doge or roughly one cent. Needless to say, a Chrome OS device shouldn’t be your first pick if you’re looking at getting into mining crypto at home. Maybe the Tiger Lake devices on the way can leverage some GPU power and do a bit better but I’d guess it won’t be worth the price of the hardware or the electricity it takes to mine. I’m not here to give investment advice and I’m certainly not telling you to purchase cryptocurrencies. However, if you are wanting to hop on the Doge train, you will be better served to purchase some coin from a trusted exchange like Binance. If you already own some digital currency and you want to swap it out, you can quickly exchange a number of major cryptocurrencies for little more than the network fee at ChangeNOW and you’ll have your Doge in just a couple of hours. For all you Shibes out there, see you on the moon.