This is the first in a two-part series exploring Butterfly Labs and its lineup of dedicated Bitcoin-mining hardware. In part one, we look at the company and the experiences customers have had with it. In part two, to be published on June 29, we share our experiences running a Bitcoin miner for a couple weeks. Spoiler alert: we made money.
The more I dig into Bitcoin, the stranger it gets. There’s gray-market online gambling and Russian-operated futures markets—to say nothing of the virtual currency’s wild ride over the last several months. It’s full of characters with names like “artforz” and “Tycho,” supposedly two of the largest Bitcoin holders out there. Of course, like most things Bitcoin, it’s nearly impossible to know for sure.
While reporting on a Bitcoin-based gambling story earlier this year, I interviewed Bryan Micon, who works with a Bitcoin-based poker site called Seals With Clubs. (To continue the lack of information, Micon won’t say who owns the site.) Micon has taken it upon himself to investigate what he believes are Bitcoin-related scams—such as the ill-fated Bitcoin Savings and Trust online bank—and he makes public pronouncements about them.
The Getty Images and Chris Hondros Fund Award, named for a photographer killed in Libya, is given to photographers who not only make strong images but commit to their subjects and colleagues.
CowboyRobot writes "Two researchers at San Francisco State University has successfully implemented hardware acceleration for realtime audio using graphics processing units (GPUs). 'Suppose you are simulating a metallic plate to generate gong or cymbal-like sounds. By changing the surface area for the same object, you can generate sound corresponding to cymbals or gongs of different sizes. Using the same model, you may also vary the way in which you excite the metallic plate — to generate sounds that result from hitting the plate with a soft mallet, a hard drumstick, or from bowing. By changing these parameters, you may even simulate nonexistent materials or physically impossible geometries or excitation methods. There are various approaches to physical modeling sound synthesis. One such approach, studied extensively by Stefan Bilbao, uses the finite difference approximation to simulate the vibrations of plates and membranes. The finite difference simulation produces realistic and dynamic sounds (examples can be found here). Realtime finite difference-based simulations of large models are typically too computationally-intensive to run on CPUs. In our work, we have implemented finite difference simulations in realtime on GPUs.'"
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Bitcoin mining takes a lot of computing power—so naturally someone created a piece of malware to mine on other people's computers.
Writing in Bloomberg News, Gimein notes that mining Bitcoins—performing the computationally expensive calculations needed to define new Bitcoins—uses power. A lot of power. (Read our 2011 Bitcoin primer for more details.) He writes:
About 982 megawatt hours a day, to be exact. That’s enough to power roughly 31,000 US homes, or about half a Large Hadron Collider. If the dreams of Bitcoin proponents are realized, and the currency is adopted for widespread commerce, the power demands of bitcoin mines would rise dramatically.
If that makes you think of the vast efforts devoted to the mining of precious metals in the centuries of gold- and silver-based economies, it should. One of the strangest aspects of the Bitcoin frenzy is that the Bitcoin economy replicates some of the most archaic features of the gold standard. Real-world mining of precious metals for currency was a resource-hungry and value-destroying process. Bitcoin mining is too.
Gimein draws on the stats provided by Bitcoin-focused site Blockchain.info. The numbers fluctuate a bit with each day of calculations being tracked. According to Blockchain's stats this weekend, the last 24 hours of worldwide mining activity burned through 928.24 megawatt hours of power while miners calculated 59,502.6 gigahashes per second. Total power bill: $139,236.07.
An anonymous reader writes "A new piece of malware propagating across Skype has been discovered that tries to convince the recipient to click on a link. What makes this particular threat different is that it drops a Bitcoin miner application to make the malware author money. While malware has both spread on Skype and mined Bitcoins before, putting the two together could be an effective new strategy."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
littlekorea writes "Mining companies are developing new systems for automating blasting of iron ore using the same open source physics engines adapted for games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. The same engine that determines 3D collision detection and soft body/rigid body dynamics in gaming will be applied to building 3D blast movement models — which will predict where blasted materials will land and distinguish between ore and waste. Predictive blast fragmentation models used in the past have typically been either numerical or empirical, [mining engineer Alan Cocker] said. Numerical models such as discrete element method, he noted, are onerous to configure and demanding of resources — both computing and human — and are generally not appropriate for operational use at mines. 'The problem with empirical models, by contrast, is that they tend to operate at a scale too coarse to give results useful for optimizations,' he added, noting typical Kuz-Ram-based fragmentation models (PDF) (widely used to estimate fragmentation from blasting) assume homogeneous geology (the same type of materials) throughout a blast."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
“[In nature] we may even glimpse the means with which to accept ourselves. Before nature, what I see does not truly belong to anyone; I know that I cannot have it, in fact, I’m not sure what I’m seeing.” —Emmet Gowin
The allure of the American West has captivated photographers since the earliest days of the medium. Photography was used as a tool to decipher the vastness of the new and unknown frontier. One can see a rich photographic form of manifest destiny stemming from pioneering documentarians like Timothy O’Sullivan in the 1800s to preservationists like Ansel Adams in the 1960s. Although the intentions of these photographers have shifted over time, the landscape has provided consistent inspiration for our deepest desires. In more recent history, our concerns about our footprint on the environment have led photographers to investigate deeper than what’s easily accessible.
David Maisel is a photographer of the current wave of contemporary artists concerned with hidden land — remote sites of industrial waste, mining, and military testing that are not yet indexed on Google Maps. His latest book, Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime (Steidl), observes the land from a god-like perspective of the sky and with an obsession with environmental destruction.
“The original impetus for the work was informed by looking really closely at 19th-century exploratory photography,” explains Maisel, “and then, an arc through the New Topographics work of the 70s.” He cites the work of iconic black-and-white image makers like Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams — photographers who focused on man-altered landscapes — but felt inspired to “push it further.”
This epic project began almost thirty years ago in a plane over Mount St. Helens. Maisel, a 22-year-old photography student, was accompanying his college professor, Emmet Gowin, with his work. “That experience of being at Mt. St. Helen’s was really formative,” says Maisel. “I don’t even know if I’d be a photographer. It was an essential moment for me.”
Flying in to view the crater of the volcano formed by the extreme force of Mother Nature, he photographed a large swath of deforestation, something the young photographer had never seen growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, N.Y.
“As a kid at that point who had grown up in the suburbs of New York, I just never had seen a landscape put to work in that way by industry. Especially on that scale,” says Maisel. The phenomenal destruction revealed a conflict in modern life that he’s been fixated on since.
Courtesy of David Maisel
In the 1980’s, talking about the environment through art seemed out of step with the dialogue that was happening around Maisel as a young art student. Looking back, his formative work now stands somewhere between classic documentary and abstract expressionism. “Just bringing up Robert Smithson (the pioneering land artist) makes me remember. When I first got interested in him in the early 80′s, that’s not where the art world was at all. And it’s not where this society was at all. This idea of looking at the environment and changes to the environment, was like, ‘oh, that’s ecology, that died in the 60s, we’re done with that.’”
In no way did that attitude derail his fascination in the environment — instead, he began creating an artistic dialogue in nature as the inspiration. But it’s Maisel’s distinct intentions and conceptualization that separates the photographer from your average eco-activist, who’s motivation to shoot may be based in a desire to preserve natural spaces or reveal the evils of industry.
The work in Black Maps, unlike more polemic natural disaster photography, relies on abstraction. He creates full-frame surrealist visions of toxic lakes and captures the maddening designs of man-altered landscapes. In the abstract series The Lake Project (slide 15), viewers are overwhelmed by alien colors, allured by frame after frame of man-made destruction. The repetitive nature of viewing this destruction from a distance creates a sublime beauty in a classical sense. In less abstract work such as Oblivion (slide 7), which looks at the cityscapes of Los Angeles, the images become scorched black and white metaphors for the complete obliteration of a natural state.
Over the years, Maisel published a few of these projects as separate volumes, but in Black Maps, the intention is to see their power as part of a dialogue with each other. “I think the feeling of being kind of overwhelmed is almost part of the aesthetic of the work,” he says.
“There are just certain real conundrums on how we are developing the planet and changing the planet, and I think that’s what I still want to pursue,” says the photographer. But where Maisel could accuse, he instead becomes reflective on these issues, providing evidence of what he’s seeing and crafting in his printing process.
“I was also really conscious that these sites were American,” says Maisel. I was making a book about the country that I live in and that I know the best.”
He’s also keenly aware of the ethical contradictions of making photographic work in this way — with chemicals, computers and papers. “On that first excursion out West, I came back and I processed all my film and made my contact sheets and then I thought, ‘what the hell am I doing? How can I? — I can’t,’ I was paralyzed. And it took me a while to work through that, to realize that I’m embedded in this. At that moment in my life, I was living on the coast of Maine in this renovated barn that we heated with a wood stove, and it was about as far off the grid that I have ever gotten. I just realized I can’t remove myself from the society I live in and from my own way of wanting to communicate. But yes, I’m as guilty as the next person and I am complicit and I think that we all are complicit. This work isn’t meant to be a diatribe against a specific industry or industries.”
With that understanding of the interconnectedness of man and industry, and the conundrums involved in being a human in this era, Maisel’s work becomes a meditation on ourselves and what we’ve done to the planet. He say’s, “I think that these kind of sites correspond to something within our own psyches.”
“I think that … maybe these are all self-portraits. There’s something — we collectively as a society have made these places, that’s my take on it. And so, they really do reflect us. And so, it’s not ‘them’ making these places, it’s us.”
Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime is published this month by Steidl. The work is on view at the CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder, February 1 – May 11, 2013, and will travel to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, June 1 – September 1, 2013.
Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulmoakley.
New submitter jhantin writes "The Bitcoin blockchain has forked due to a lurking backward-compatibility issue: versions older than 0.8 do not properly handle blocks larger than about 500k, and Slush's pool mined a 974k block today. The problem is that not all mining operations are on 0.8; blocks are being generated by a mix of several different versions of the daemon, each making its own decision as to which of the two forks is preferable to extend, and older versions refuse to honor or extend from a block of this size. The consensus on #bitcoin-dev is damage control: miners need to mine on pre-0.8 code so the backward-compatible fork will outgrow and thus dominate the compatibility-breaking one; merchants need to stop accepting transactions until the network re-converges on the backward-compatible fork of the chain; and average users can ignore the warning that they are out of sync and need to upgrade." Turns out there's an approximately 512K limit to atomic updates in Berkeley DB which were used by versions prior to 0.8. 0.8 uses a new database, allowing blockchains that old versions won't accept to be created.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.