Ethereum’s Byzantium hard fork is imminent

Just a quick heads up that the Ethereum network will experience a planned hard fork at some point early tomorrow. A few of you have emailed me with questions about what you need to do to prepare, and the short answer is that no action is immediately necessary if you’re primarily worried about the continued operation of your miners. Your rigs will continue mining after the fork, and your mining pool will continue payouts to your wallet address (most large pools, including ethermine and nanopool, have already announced readiness for the fork).

You will need to make sure to update your wallet software before creating new transactions (e.g.: sending your ETH to another address) on the Ethereum network post-fork. You don’t need to do this immediately—just make sure that you update before sending coins from your wallet. The latest release of Mist (the official Ethereum client, and the wallet I generally recommend) can be found here. If you use another wallet, make sure that you grab the latest update from your wallet provider.

If you followed my mining guide and installed geth to generate your initial wallet address, there is no need to update it unless you want to use geth to perform manual transactions (which I really don’t recommend!).

Burger King creates their own “Whoppercoin” cryptocurrency in Russia

If you’re looking for evidence that pretty much everyone is jumping onto the cryptocurrency bandwagon, look no further—Burger Kings in Russia are now offering customers promotional “Whoppercoins” with the purchase of every Whopper. Yes, really.

The Whoppercoin tokens were reportedly issued using the Waves Platform, and the value of each token isn’t yet clear—though speculation indicates that Whoppercoins will eventually be redeemable at Burger King restaurants for food.

Russian Burger Kings are also slated to start accepting Bitcoin as a payment method this year.

Amazon Alexa: now with more CryptoBadger!

If you have an Amazon Echo or other Alexa-enabled device, you can now use it to ask CryptoBadger to fetch the latest cryptocurrency prices. Just say “Alexa, enable CryptoBadger skill” to install my simple plugin, and then you can say things like “Alexa, ask CryptoBadger: what’s the current Bitcoin price?” Prices come from Coinbase, and Ethereum and Litecoin are also supported.

This was my Sunday coding project, and the skill isn’t especially unique or robust—I’m a fan of Amazon’s Alexa and simply wanted to see what was involved in creating a skill. If there is interest, I may expand it to support features like historical prices and wallet balances—feel free to leave ideas and/or feedback in the comments below!

If you don’t already have an Echo, I absolutely recommend one—they’re fantastic devices. Amazon currently has them on sale for $80 off the normal price. The smaller (& less expensive) Echo Dot is also great if you plan to use your own speakers.

Asus to release mining motherboard with 19 PCIe slots

Asus has announced plans to release a motherboard aimed squarely at cryptocurrency miners. The new mainboard will be dubbed the B250 Expert Mining and features a whopping 19 PCIe slots. In addition to theoretical support for up to 19 GPUs, the board features a unique power setup and diagnostic tools designed to make troubleshooting initial setup easier. Sounds like ASRock’s H110 Pro BTC+ board will have a short reign as the top pick for rig builds looking to maximize GPU count.

Anandtech posted an preview of the upcoming board this morning; head over there for some more details and photos.

Asus hasn’t yet specified pricing or a release date, but are expected to shortly.

PSA for Bitcoin holders: it’s a good time to extract your forked Bitcoin Cash!

If you were holding any bitcoin in a private wallet on August 1st, an equivalent amount of Bitcoin Cash (BCC/BCH) was created under your control during the hard fork. You don’t need to rush to do anything to claim or secure it—assuming you control the private keys to your BTC, those same keys will access your forked BCC whenever you get around to it.

If you have a significant amount of BTC, it’s probably worth the minor headache to look into how to extract your forked BCC now. The price of BCC has risen ~200% over the past 48 hours, reaching nearly $1,000 yesterday (it’s trading around $800 now). If you have a few bitcoin, then you also have a few thousand dollars worth of BCC available to you!

If you believe the new currency has a future, then you might be content to just let it sit. If you’d rather trade your BCC for another cryptocurrency (or simply sell it), read on for the basic process.

New AMD Vega GPUs yield disappointing mining performance out of the box

Reviews of AMD’s new Vega GPUs are starting to become available from reputable sources, and early mining test results don’t look great. Tom’s Hardware posted a first look of a Radeon RX 64 Vega (8GB) card yesterday, and only managed to hit 30.9 MH/sec on the latest version of Claymore’s miner. That’s comparable to performance of BIOS-optimized RX 4xx/5xx cards, and they draw considerably less power.

Keep in mind that these are out-of-the-box results, and no doubt higher speeds will be achieved once miners are able to experiment with clock speed and BIOS settings. But even if modders are eventually able to coax 40 MH/sec from Vega GPUs, they’ll probably never be a top-tier choice for miners, given their power consumption and high up-front cost ($599+ MSRP, although they’re currently selling for over $1,000 on Amazon).

Recent Ubuntu release causing issues with AMD 17.x drivers

Update 8/27: Reports are coming in that this issue has been resolved with the latest AMD drivers (17.30-465504).

Reader Zelda brought this advisory from AMD to my attention: it describes some serious issues with Ubuntu 16.04.3 and the latest (17.x) versions of AMD’s GPU drivers. Some of you have written in recently describing black screens after installing AMD’s drivers when following my Linux mining guide, and it looks like this is the culprit.

If you’re running into issues while trying to get your Linux-based rig up and running, make sure that you stick with 16.04.2 for now. I recommend Xubuntu 16.04.2 in my guide, and that’s safe to use—just skip the “sudo apt-get dist-upgrade” command at the end of step 3 to avoid updating to 16.04.3.

If you already have a Linux rig running AMD GPUs in operation, make sure that you hold off on OS/security updates until after this issue has been resolved! If you’ve already upgraded and are now experiencing problems, you can try downgrading your AMDGPU-PRO driver to version 16.x, although I haven’t been able to confirm that non-17.x drivers will definitely work on 16.04.3 without issues (edit 8/22: at least one reader has tested and reported that 16.x drivers result in the same black screen issues with 16.04.3).

Hopefully AMD and Canonical can work out a fix quickly.

Bitcoin soars past $4000 to new all-time high

Bitcoin is currently trading at over $4,100 on Coinbase and most other major exchanges, after climbing nearly $500 over the past 24 hours. The current price represents a ~600% increase compared to just one year ago!

The relatively uneventful hard fork on August 1st, combined with the recent consensus to lock in SegWit (which paves the way for the Lightning Network) must have investors feeling bullish. Successful activation of SegWit (and later, Lightning) should remedy many of Bitcoin’s recent scalability issues, at least in the short term.

Coinbase reverses position; will support bitcoin cash after all

Coinbase just published an update that details an apparent change of heart on bitcoin cash: they’re working on supporting it by the start of 2018.

This means that if you have any bitcoin that you left in Coinbase’s hands during the hard fork a couple days ago, you’ll get your fair share of created bitcoin cash after all. Eventually, anyway—your bitcoin cash will be available to you whenever Coinbase officially launches support for the new coin in the coming months.

This is good news—Coinbase’s previous position no doubt left many of their customers feeling as though the popular exchange was openly stealing from them.

Reminder: get your bitcoin out of Coinbase before August 1st!

If you have any bitcoin stored at Coinbase or any other online exchange, it’s probably a good idea to move it into a private wallet that you control ASAP.

On August 1st, the Bitcoin network will likely fork into two separate blockchains—which will create a new currency in the process. Everyone that owns bitcoin will automatically receive an equivalent amount of the new currency, called “Bitcoin Cash” (BCC)—but this is only guaranteed to happen for you if you control the private key to the wallet address where your BTC is stored on August 1st. In other words, if you leave your BTC on an exchange during the fork, you’ll be at the mercy of the exchange as to whether or not they decide to give you the BCC that is created from the split.

Coinbase has already publicly stated that they’re taking the ethically questionable stance of not transferring the newly-created BCC to customers that trust them to hold their BTC during the fork. Other exchanges, such as Bittrex, have explicitly told their customers that they’ll be credited with whatever BCC their BTC generates. If you want the BCC that you’re entitled to, and have any doubt as to where your exchange stands, make sure that you transfer your BTC to your own private wallet at some point before Tuesday!

Given that the futures price for BCC is currently hovering around $400/coin, and many people expect it to end up somewhere between 10-20% of BTC’s value after the fork, there is potentially a lot of money at stake for people with sizable bitcoin holdings.