I’m Back

Just over 4 years away from the blogging world and plenty has occurred outside of this little corner of the internet. Just a few major things of note, this website is on a new host courtesy of a local friend and other one that might have been noticed on the home page I am no longer in Sonoma County. This was a side effect of several personal events that happened in 2020 during the COVID pandemic that racked the globe. I have majorly upgraded both my workspace and collection to the point of busting at the seams. I am in desperate need of a large workspace at this point.

In terms of main workstations; I have long since upgraded from my Sandy Bridge i5 2500k and 1080Ti setup that carried me through the last half of the 2010s. Despite its continued reliability; it was getting long in the tooth, and I was giving an opportunity to upgrade for essentially free as long as I kept the source quiet. The new board was a GIGABYTE Z170MX with 32GB of DDR4 and a flashy new (to me, at least), Skylake i7 6700k. I very quickly tore down SerenityMfm v1; scavenging the drives, GPU, and power supply from it, and everything went in a very stout HAF 932 case. Everything went together rather quickly, and even Windows barely balked at the upgrade. I did get an opportunity to upgrade to a 3080 about a year after that upgrade and that’s where it currently sits. The Sandy Bridge board went into an ATX rackmount case for later use as I’m absolutely terrible about tossing out boards that still work, and work well for that matter. Sometime late last year I managed to source a ASUS ROG Strix B450-F for absolutely cheap, and found someone locally selling a 5900x. I have yet to install this on my main rig as I cannot afford the downtime while in school. (Despite what Current Machines says)

In terms of retro computing; oh boy buckle up– because so much has happened in 4 years. Last time I posted my collection was incredibly small, and had a few Silicon Graphics workstations and several Apple machines. Since then, this collection has ballooned into an amalgamation of a general year range of 1987 and 2005, with the only things not collected yet being minicomputers from the late 70s and early 80s, and incredibly rare or expensive systems. I have even owned a SGI Crimson in that time- a machine I thought I would never be able to call my own. It has since been handed off to a museum so they could give more care to it that I ever could (despite them killing it a few months after they set it in the museum, allegedly). I have also managed to secure multiple Amigas- a long time coming from the single 500 I owned in 2019. I am also now the owner of 3 network racks, something I said years ago I’d never do. Whats worse is that I’m in the market for a fourth. I have upgraded my repair skills from simple troubleshooting and software installations to being somewhat skilled in soldering and hardware repair and advanced troubleshooting. I have yet to have any clients beyond my friends and family; but that might change in the coming years as I am getting much better at trusting my skill level. I have also become a regular exhibitor at Vintage Computer Festival West, having displayed in 2021, 2022, 2023 and soon to be 2024. This collection is somewhat fluid, with plenty coming and going over the years as my interest in certain machines ebb and flow. The major common denominator between most has been a special interest in rackmount equipment and sbc based machines as of late. (Early 2024)

Profession-wise? Yeah I’m no longer a School Bus driver, after 10 years of transportation related jobs. I am now back in college to obtain a double major in Cybersecurity and Electronics. The eventual end goal would be a Masters in Computer Science- but that’s many years down the line.

Now back to this blog. I do plan to start documenting my projects so all of you can see the repairs and upgrades- both the good repairs and the cursed ones (as I’m a firm believer of “if it works, I’ll use it”). I will not give any kind of an update schedule at this time due to my proven lack of ability to stick to a schedule-they’ll come as I work through projects.

Antminer S3 ASIC Teardown #1

I obtained 2 Antminers this week from the local classifieds. They came without power supplies, and there was little to no information about how they function inside, so research was required into the chips themselves. I started tearing down one to see what made these machines tick. The most I could get from google is this little snippet: Model Antminer S3 from Bitmain mining SHA-256 algorithm with a maximum hashrate of 478Gh/s for a power consumption of 366W. That means its going through 478 Billion hashes every second, at 366W. That is about the same power usage as business class computer. They are also at 3 years old at this point so no longer profitable for bitcoin mining as of 2019

After a little more searching I found that the 2 boards in the system have the BM1382 chip. This a Bitmain produced Bitcoin mining ASIC chip with a core frequency of 250mhz. Take this number with a grain of salt, as this chip is built for mining bitcoins, and is extremely efficient at what it does. Each system board is market S3 Hash Board V1.3 and holds 16 of the ASIC chips. Each board also have direct power from a 2 6pin sockets, requiring 4 6 pin psu connectors to power the unit.

Each board connects to a controller board with a 20 pin cable. The controller board has a RJ45 jack for connecting the device to the internet, and obviously to configure it from a self hosted website, like a firewall or router. The controller board has a PIC32MX which is a mips based microcontroller that controls the ASICs and a ThinkPHY2 which is also a mips based processor, bu this one is featured for network. The ThinkPHY2 includes a MIPS 24K processor, five-port IEEE 802.3 Fast Ethernet Switch with MAC/PHY, one USB 2.0 MAC/PHY, and external memory interface for serial Flash, There is also a reset button on the board, and two unpopulated spots on the board, one for LAN and one for debug.(I might have to get a UART debug device and solder it to the circuit board.)