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Lee Hutchinson

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Original author: 
Lee Hutchinson

Apparently, I'm a Bitcoin miner now, and it looks like I'm actually pretty good at it. Ars is currently in possession of one of the elusive but very real Butterfly Labs Bitcoin Miners. It's a tiny little black box that fits in the palm of my hand, and it contains a specialized ASIC adept at chewing through SHA-256 cryptographic functions—exactly the kind of calculations necessary to bring more Bitcoins into the world. Turns out, it's very good at what it does: it computes hashes at the rate of about 5.3 billion per second.


The Butterfly Labs Bitcoin Miner. Lee Hutchinson


Close-up of the ASIC's heat sink and some of the motherboard components. Lee Hutchinson


The Miner disassembled. That 80mm fan gets pretty darn loud. Lee Hutchinson

I've got any number of computers around the house here to try the Butterfly Labs box out with, but I took the masochistic route and chose to try it out on OS X. This took quite a bit of back-and-forth with John O'Mara, creator of the popular MacMiner Bitcoin mining application. After several hours of troubleshooting, we eventually arrived at success. Here it is, happily churning away:


The Butterfly Labs Bitcoin Miner chewing its way through calculations at more than five billion hashes per second. Lee Hutchinson

According to my trusty Kill-A-Watt, the miner is drawing a pretty constant 50 watts at a similarly constant 0.73 amps. Its 80mm fan is whirring at what can only be described as "hair dryer" levels. According to MacMiner, the ASIC is generating a fair amount of heat, too—it's reporting a temperature of more than 80C.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher


The ArxCis-NV DIMM combines DDR3 dynamic memory with a flash memory backup.

Viking Technology

The server world still waits for DDR4, the next generation of dynamic memory, to be ready for prime time. In the meantime, a new set of memory boards from Viking is looking to squeeze more performance out of servers not by providing faster memory, but by making it safer to keep more in memory and less on disk or SSD. Viking Technology has begun supplying dual in-line memory modules that combine DDR3 dynamic memory with NAND flash memory to create non-volatile RAM for servers and storage arrays—modules that don't lose their memory when the systems they're in lose power or shut down.

The ArxCis-NV DIMM, which Viking demonstrated at the Storage Networking Industry Association's SNW Spring conference in Orlando this week, plugs into standard DIMM memory slots in servers and RAID controller cards.  Viking isn't the only player in the non-volatile DIMM game—Micron Technology and AgigA Tech announced their own NVDIMM effort in November—but they're first to market. The modules shipping now to a select group of server manufacturers have 4GB of dynamic RAM and 8GB of NAND memory. Modules with double those figures are planned for later in the year, and modules with 16GB of DRAM and 32GB of NAND are in the works for next year.

The ArxCis can be plugged into existing servers and RAID controllers today as a substitute for battery backed-up (BBU) memory modules. They are even equipped with batteries to power a last-gasp write to NAND memory in the event of a power outage. But the ArxCis is more than a better backup in the event of system failure. Viking's non-volatile DIMMs are primarily aimed at big in-memory computing tasks, such as high-speed in-memory transactional database systems and indices such as those used in search engines and other "hyper-scale" computing applications.  Facebook's "Unicorn" search engine system, for example, keeps massive indices in memory to allow for real-time response to user queries, as does the "type-ahead" feature in Google's search.

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CES is about technology of all kinds; while we're busy covering cameras, TVs, and CPUs, there's a huge number of products that fall outside our normal coverage. Austin-based startup TrackingPoint isn't typical Ars fare, but its use of technology to enable getting just the perfect shot was intriguing enough to get me to stop by and take a look at the company's products.

TrackingPoint makes "Precision Guided Firearms, or "PGFs," which are a series of three heavily customized hunting rifles, ranging from a .300 Winchester Magnum with a 22-inch barrel up to a .338 Lapua Magnum with 27-inch barrel, all fitted with advanced computerized scopes that look like something directly out of The Terminator. Indeed, the comparison to that movie is somewhat apt, because looking through the scope of a Precision Guided Firearm presents you with a collection of data points and numbers, all designed to get a bullet directly from point A to point B.


The view through the TrackingPoint's computerized optics. TrackingPoint

The PGF isn't just a fancy scope on top of a rifle. All together, the PGF is made up of a firearm, a modified trigger mechanism with variable weighting, the computerized digital tracking scope, and hand-loaded match grade rounds (which you need to purchase from TrackingPoint). This is a little like selling both the razor and the razor blades, but the rounds must be manufactured to tight tolerances since precise guidance of a round to a target by the rifle's computer requires that the round perform within known boundaries.

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Fifteen years ago, you weren't a participant in the digital age unless you had your own homepage. Even in the late 1990s, services abounded to make personal pages easy to build and deploy—the most famous is the now-defunct GeoCities, but there were many others (remember Angelfire and Tripod?). These were the days before the "social" Web, before MySpace and Facebook. Instant messaging was in its infancy and creating an online presence required no small familiarity with HTML (though automated Web design programs did exist).

Things are certainly different now, but there's still a tremendous amount of value in controlling an actual honest-to-God website rather than relying solely on the social Web to provide your online presence. The flexibility of being able to set up and run anything at all, be it a wiki or a blog with a tipjar or a photo hosting site, is awesome. Further, the freedom to tinker with both the operating system and the Web server side of the system is an excellent learning opportunity.

The author's closet. Servers tend to multiply, like rabbits. Lee Hutchinson

It's super-easy to open an account at a Web hosting company and start fiddling around there—two excellent Ars reader-recommended Web hosts are A Small Orange and Lithium Hosting—but where's the fun in that? If you want to set up something to learn how it works, the journey is just as important as the destination. Having a ready-made Web or application server cuts out half of the work and thus half of the journey. In this guide, we're going to walk you through everything you need to set up your own Web server, from operating system choice to specific configuration options.

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