Economical Server setup for Chia Farming

I ended my cryptocurrency mining several years back because electricity costs were just too much and the big boys, with their data centers, no place in the market for the little guy to mine. So when I first read about Chia Farming and that it was about storage, not big processing or GPU power, it seemed like a good thing to jump into. So, I wanted to see if I could build up a low-cost Chia farm server and if that approach would yield any gains.

Recently, I set up a small personal NAS server using a used HP Microserver Gen7 or known as an N40L. It has been a rock-solid little server, was simple to update, and set up for a NAS. These are easy to find off eBay for around $80 each and so I have purchased three of them for $79 each, to set up my Chia Farm. There is lots of good info on this server at:

Once my eBay purchases arrived, my first step was to upgrade the BIOS and then the RAM from 2GB to 8GB. I am a big Mint 20.1 Linux fan and enjoy the Mint 20 GUI. Between my Mac computer and Mint Linux based servers I have, I do not even own a windows machine any more.

The used servers I purchased, all had the original BIOS from 2011 and HP did provide an updated BIOS for this server in 2013. The update fixes the SATA interface speed issue from 1.5 gb/s to 3 gb/s. To create a bootable BIOS fix USB, it requires windows. So I found a Windows 10 machine at the office and created a bootable USB that would auto-update the BIOS. I have successfully updated all 3 machines now and my NAS server. I will add a link soon for the image if you need to update your BIOS on the HP N40L and do not have access to a windows machine to create: (2013 N40L bios update image)

The RAM is older style 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM 1333 server memory and I had a few 4 GB stick from other upgrades. You can find 8GB of used versions of two sticks at 4GB each for $18 or less on eBay. The setup for Chia is a SSD and a larger hard drive for pilot storage. Think of the SSD are the field where you are growing your pilot data and the larger hard drive as the storage silo. Farming on the SSD can be very tough on them and while you need the speed of a SSD, there have been cases of SSDs failing in a couple of months. I have been reading about the SUN F40 and F80 Flash Accelerator Cards, used, and how almost virtually indestructible they are, so I thought this may be a better way to go than a conventional cheap SSD. The SUN F40 you can find for about $70 on eBay which gives you 400 GB. The PCI card is set with four solid state drives and they can be made bootable. So I configured mine with on bootable for Mint Linux and the three others in a mdadm raid0.

The SUN F40 install on the N40L motherboard

The software setup I am using is:

  1. Mint Linux 20.1
  2. gparted to format drives and RAID
  3. WEBMIN web and GUI interface for linux tools like mdadm
  4. mdadm – raid linux software
  5. hardinfo – system detail info
  6. Brave Browser – secure browser
  7. pSensor – system temps
  8. Chia Farm – Chia farming software

Also I found the drive caddies for the HP N40L are very hard to find, so I had a friend 3D print them for me.

They worked very well and happy with the fit and finish.

3D printed drive caddies and slid into drive cage correctly
3D printed caddy fit very well

Total investment:

HP N40L – $80

8GB RAM – $18

SUN F40 400GB – $70

8TB Seagate Drive – $105

3D print Drive Caddies – $8

total: $281

Performance: After 18 hours of farming, the HP N40L with a AMD Turion II 1.5 ghz dual-core processor, created 61 k32 pilots. The CPU has been running at 95% load the whole time and running a steady 48 C temp. The Sun F40 SSDs have a temp of 58 C steady.

Coinmine ITX Motherboard with AMD A8-4555M & Radeon HD 7600G – Web Server Build

II wanted to set up a simple low-power web server and found these used “CoinMine” motherboards for $35 on eBay. I added 8 GB of SODIMM ram ( two 4GB sticks) and the board booted right up.

I have installed the coinmine motherboard into a mini-itx case with a 60-watt power supply. I install Mint Linux, as I also will use the machine for desktop graphics (GIMP) on occasion. The Mint 20.1 Linux is booting off a 128GB mSATA drive and a second 1TB SSD drive is for the Apache website data that will run off this web server system.

The board fit nicely into the mini-itx case.
The Bios started right up and was able to make my settings without any fuss. Bios is dated 07/16/2019.
Mint Linux booted directly from the USB and was able to install on the 128 GB mSATA drive.
Ran a few CPU performance tests to check things out. All was good.

Next step is to set up the Apache web server and Word Press.


Crypto Currency Mining on 22 Pi computers

I had a pile of 20 older banana pi laying on my desk for well over six months, as I was not sure what to utilize them for.  The project they had been used for in Micronesia, Solar Powered Digital Libraries, was upgraded to Raspberry Pi3’s. By chance, I came across this article by NovaSpirit Tech using Raspberry Pi3s for CPU Crypto Mining.  I thought perfect, I will set up each of the Banana Pis for mining.  The NovaSpirit site:

This CPU based mining is for MagiCoin and looked quite interesting.

I had a stack of 4gb SD cards from a past project, so I reformated them with ApplePi Baker and burned the latest image:

Raspbian-lite-bpi-m1-m1p-r1.img 2016-07-12

Once the updates and upgrades were performed, I follow the NovaSpirit instructions.  It was not hard, with the only change in the compiler setting for the ARM cortex 7a processor vs the Raspberry Pi3’s cortex-a53.  So I used mcpu=cortex-a7 for the Banana Pis.

In my set up, I also used mining pool.    Once the bullmining account was set up, I added 20 workers.  The settings were straightforward for each of the Banana Pis.

./minerd -a m7mhash -o stratum+tcp:// -u Weblogin.WorkerName -p WorkerPassword

I also had two Orange Pi zeros and a Pine64 laying around and set the compiler for their ARM cpus and added two more workers to bullmining.

Now I am CPU mining away with 22 Pi computers!

Raspberry Pi 3’s in the Republic of Nauru

As a technologist promoting practical ICT in developing regions, I am still surprised that Raspberry Pi computers have failed to reach these regions of the world.  As an affordable, small, low power-usage computer that can help teach basic computer and programing skills, it seems a perfect fit to aid in STEM-related advancement in developing states.  In the West we know that over 8 million of these tiny computers have been sold and now there are +65 clone versions.  Including the clones, Banana Pi, Orange Pi, Beagle Bone, Pine64, Odroid, etc., the number must exceed 15 million devices to date.

Six Reasons Why Raspberry Pis are Perfect for Developing Regions:

  • Cost effective: all of the required hardware costs about $65 total.
  • Power efficient: Even with the WiFi running, total system power usage currently sits around 500mA: about the same as today’s smart phone, and it uses the same micro-usb charger as the phone.
  • Open source: Raspberry Pi runs a version of the Linux OS, it can use the free and extremely useful code already out there for LAMP stacks.
  • Robust Community Support: Raspberry Pi already has a large and amazing user and programing community supporting this hardware. They are always thinking of new ways to improve the hardware and software to better suit the needs of developing regions.
  • Improved Security: very low cost way to set up department and personal firewalls.
  • No Moving Parts: Fewer Parts and no spinning pieces means reduced chance of failure due to factors such as extreme weather and intermittent power.



Raspberry Pi 3 with clones and their different form factors. (SBC – Small Board Computer) These are SBC’s that I own and have tested.



Back to Nauru, I had the opportunity to hold a small Raspberry Pi introduction class to the government ICT office in April 2016.  The introduction included a short slide show and then hands-on setup of four RPi 3’s.  The hands-on portion focused on connecting and setting up the RPi first as a desktop then as a server.  The ICT office in Nauru often gets request for a small server to support the internal needs of another department.  The process creates a ton of paper work, from assessing user needs, to evaluating software skills/needs, and then making a formal request for quotes on a “data center class” server.  Many times the requesting department would just like to see an example of how a web server could be used to support their department, not go through a 6 month-long process and then wait 6 more months to get a server on island, set up, etc.

We were able to set up the Raspberry Pi 3 as a server with Apache in a LAMP stack, and add a sample web page, in 15 minutes. So, in a quarter of an hour it was possible to have a server set up, connected to the internal network, and show how a web site would look and work for a government department.  The two ICT department interns were amazed and were very excited to get a Raspberry Pi for their own use and experimentations.

The slides I used: An-introduction-to-the-Raspberry-Pi-1

Background Photos



Where is Nauru? Just about a five hour flight from Brisbane, AU






Photo from the plane, the small remote island of Nauru, you can walk around the island in about 4 hours on the ring road.




Calm ocean waters around Nauru.






The trifecta for micro-servers

Power, cost and space are the three main factors driving the design and operations from the smallest of server rooms to the giant football field sized data centers. Today’s modern server-centers continually hit power, space, and cost limitations and their ICT staff actively seek disruptive solutions at both the hardware and software levels to maximize computing throughput of systems within a given energy, monetary and/or volumetric budget. The explosive growth around the world of Raspberry Pi sized computers is starting to morph into the micro-server market. This has been in its embryonic stages the past 18 months, but with the recent 64-bit version of the Raspberry Pi coming to market at $35 USD, we are on the cusp of the micro-server revolution truly taking off. With the focus on optimized energy-to-solution, low cost, and space parameters, micro-servers will have a very rapid growth in the low end, entry level server marketplace. With a new generation of computer science students using Raspberry Pi for every type of computing project in and out of school, this will quickly bleed over into the commercial market when they hit the traditional IT job market. We are witnessing this now in a new hosting industry segment, which is based on Raspberry Pi’s. out of Arizona is a recent entry and shows how a few enterprising computer science students can really be on the leading edge of this minimum power, cost, and space revolution, by hosting only Raspberry Pi-type boards in a computer data center environment. When it comes to minimal power, space, and cost, these micro-servers are on the horizon and the 64-bit ARM processor based boards are leading the way.



The Broadcom 1.2GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU on the Raspberry Pi 3 board

Micro Data Centers

1n my ICT4D circles, everyone knows I am a fan of low power processors, the raspberry pi-style micro-computer movement, and solar PV-powered computing. My other major interest area is green data centers. More fascinating still, however, is the imminent convergence of all of these things.

I believe that in the near future, micro-computing will intersect with the data center industry. We will see the rapid emergence of micro-data centers (mDC & μDC) where system efficiency, very low power consumption, and edge computing are paramount. Microsoft Research distinguished scientist Victor Bahl predicts “As mDCs become popular, enterprise IT pros will most likely have to deploy them on premises as cloud accelerators for the services their users depend on.  As users come to expect and rely on the high performance and new applications enabled by mDCs, IT pros will be expected to monitor and manage these servers 24x7x365.” This is a very powerful statement, as it would see the data center market reversing years of the trend toward centralization and promoting the bigger-is-better ideal for data centers.

These new micro-data centers will take many shapes and forms, but I would argue that it is the Raspberry Pi style micro-computers that will shape and form what the micro-data center market will evolve into. This past summer, my organization, Inveneo, in conjunction with ARM, Ltd., ran a solar powered micro-data center design challenge, as a way to inspire computer hardware engineers to move into this micro-oriented space and direction.  Over 65 teams entered from across the globe with some very interesting designs.mserverThese micro-computers, or what I will now call micro-servers is a new segment for micro-computers, are the same Raspberry Pi sized boards with ever increasing memory, CPU cores, and yet very low power consumption—usually on par with the power usage of today’s smartphone. The next big leap, which is almost here, is the jump from 32-bit processors—the mainstay of today’s raspberry pi type boards—to 64-bit versions with 4 cores, 4gb of RAM, and dual port gigabit Ethernet. Now, does that not sound like the modern data center server? Once these 64-bit versions come online in mass production, they can be used just like today’s servers, and the server market will need to sit up and take notice—very quickly.

We are seeing ARM-licensed CPU semiconductor firms like Actions (CN), All-Winner (CN), Broadcom (US), Qualcomm (US), and Hisilicon (CN) racing to bring the new low power 64-bit CPU versions to market, competing for this market with the micro-server board design companies.  Interesting on a geo-political front is the design race here between China and the USA.  Recently at the 2015 Linaro Connect conference in San Francisco, I sat down HiKey_LeMakerwith Lemaker’s (CN) co-founder, Leo Liu, who shared their latest 64-bit reference board.  Their reference HiKey board was sporting an 8-core 64-bit ARM processor from Hisilicon, 2 GB ram, and 4GB eMMC Flash Storage.   I predict we will see many more of these 64-bit ARM based “micro-servers”, coming by year’s end.

The key difference with traditional servers vs. micro-servers will be the very low power footprint of the micro-server board.  We will be able to combine 10 of these boards in a single housing and still use less than 40 watts of electricity and be able to incorporate passive cooling.  Add a stack of SSDs and a switch and you have micro-data center.

Today, there are over 53 companies producing Raspberry Pi sized/style boards:  I expect some very interesting movement toward the end of 2015, as a few key companies will move from being just another Raspberry Pi knock-off to focusing on this new micro-server market, moving away from being a general Linux machine to having a high performance 64-bit server board with a very small energy footprint. Convergence is coming in the server market: low power consumption, server miniaturization, and edge networking are leading the data center industry to a small-is-beautful!