Disclosures at the end, as usual
A few years ago, a turnkey desktop container/VM platform from Antsle came along, and I thought “this is cool, but I bet I could make one myself.” You can read about that here on rsts11.
Earlier this month I saw a low power Pi-based project similar to the Antsle Nano (which I did build on my own) come out for Chia farming. The project, Evergreen Miner (evergreenminer.com), is the brainchild of a young geek named Dylan Rose who’s worked with Amazon and other companies and has begun an interesting forward-looking Chia project to really bring Chia farming to the masses.
I’ve written about building your own Chia system, and lots of people (tens of thousands at least) have done so. But some people aren’t up for the space, expense, time, tuning, software building, and so forth to make a node and farm.
However, a lot of people could benefit from the technology and platform and even more into the future as the ecosystem matures. So the idea of a turnkey platform that’s relatively easy to build and maintain and expand, even without plotting on your own, sounds pretty good.
Think all of the functionality and potential of Chia, with the ease of setup and management of a typical mobile app, and of course the power draw of an LED light bulb or two. No hardware or Linux or filesystem or SAS knowledge required.
Chop down this evergreen tree for us
I’ll talk more about this later, but the Evergreen model has two classes of “hub” based on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 and carrier boards.
There’s a $150 “Lite Edition” which has a lower grade CM4 module (1GB RAM), and an upcoming Pro Edition with higher specs.
The Lite Edition conveniently runs Flexfarmer by Flexpool, so you don’t need to run a full node. Using the included app, you just set up a wallet and roll forward, so you can be actively farming within minutes of plugging in. (I have not tried this yet myself on Evergreen, but I’ve done it on Pi before.)
The Pro Edition (pictured above) would have more storage built in, more RAM, and the ability to sync and run a full node locally. This likely means longer time to full functionality, but there’s a workaround for that as well (and it’s not as likely to offend Chia purists).
Evergreen is offering pre-loaded storage (6TB, 12TB, 18TB) drives in the same form factor, as shown above. For people who want to provide their own USB hard drives, you can buy pre-plotted plots for 50 cents each and download them to your local storage.
I expect you’ll be able to mix the two, and probably even plot your own plots if you have a machine capable of that (you can’t, and really shouldn’t, plot on the Pi Compute Module or any Raspberry Pi).
And for very passive farmers, you can subscribe to a monthly pre-plotted drive offering at about $20/TB inclusive.
But you’re going to make one of these yourself, right?
Obviously. I still plan to get the official one when available, but what’s the fun in just waiting?
Of course, having a ton of hardware around me, my first thought was “wonder how I could build something like this.” I went looking for the 8x USB single board computer in the mockups. Turns out it’s not really available on the market, so I had to do some improvisation.
Conveniently enough, I recently bought a USB 3 hat for Raspberry Pi. I had just put a Chia full node onto a Pi 4b 4GB (the minimum targeted architecture for Chia Network software), to test sync-from-scratch performance. (In case you’re curious, 7.5 days on a good network connection with an external USB 3.x 1TB SSD with NTFS.)
So I’ve put the Waveshare USB 3.2 Gen1 HUB HAT onto the Raspberry Pi 4b, got a pack of plastic covers for unused ports (and to protect the GPIO ports from accidental shorting), and have my full Chia node with 5 USB 3 ports and two USB 2 ports available… plus the USB-C if I were to work around the power requirements.
The obvious downsides to this configuration are that no pre-built enclosure is going to fit the form factor. Some open-air cases or stacking cases would work, whether it’s a Cloudlet Case from C4 labs, a dogbone stacking case from GeeekPi, or the fancier fan-endowed GeeekPi cluster case (which I got for Christmas last year), but the problem with these is that they are all open-air and subject to getting pet interference, dust, and lower partner-approval-factor.
That being said, you can build a compact Chia farmer with expansion capabilities for about what the Evergreen Miner will cost (if you can find a good deal on the Pi board itself), but as with Antsle a few years ago, you’ll miss out on the integration, polish, and software enhancements.
What do I need, if I don’t want to wait for Evergreen Miner?
Here’s a basic bill of materials. I would note that Raspberry Pi 4b boards and kits are much more expensive today than last time I bought them ($80 locally for the 8GB board a year ago). Check your local retailers and other sites for other options.
- Raspberry Pi 4b 4GB kit ($150) or 8GB kit ($180)
Alternately, get a power supply, MicroSD card, and heatsinks elsewhere and choose a vendor from https://www.raspberrypi.com/products/raspberry-pi-4-model-b/
- Waveshare USB 3.2 Gen1 HUB HAT ($29 at Amazon). I intend to try stacking two of these to reach 7+2 USB ports.
- A non-powered USB hub (if you have a powered one, just don’t plug it in) if you need more drives up front
- Some external storage, including a USB 3 SSD with at least 128GB of space for your OS and full node (or less if you use Flexfarmer).
Depending on your aesthetics, you could use something like the Sandisk Extreme Pro 128GB flash drive ($43) or a cabled drive like the Samsung T5 500GB USB 3.1 drive ($90). I’m using the Samsung T5 1TB ($110), which is overkill, but I had it in hand.
- You could also look at the Geekworm SATA board ($30) and use any 2.5″ SSD. Or get a Geekworm combo for under $100 and just use external USB hubs instead of the hat. This lets you use a pre-made case.
What if I do want to wait for Evergreen Miner?
As of this writing, the next batch of Lite Hub ($150) is due in earlyish 2022. The Pro Hub ($250) will be after that, as there are still some design and configuration details to work out.
Where do we go from here?
I should have a video of building and launching the homebuilt equivalent to Evergreen Lite Hub early next year. I’m also giving some thought to putting one of my Pi Zero boards to work with one of the USB hubs (possibly the Ethernet one for $35). If you’d like to push me toward doing this, or even doing a Compute Module-based Evergreen “clone,” feel free to drop a tip in my Ko-Fi tip jar and mention what you would like to see.
After the final incarnations of the first generation of Evergreen Miner come out, I hope they do a software-only offering like Antlse did (to layer the DeFi and wallet management layers on top of what I’ve already done myself). If so, I’ll plan to come back with a post about it (maybe even on the machine I described above) in 2022.
I’d also recommend checking out the video below, where Rose talks with a vlogger about his project and his view for the future of Chia and Evergreen.
Disclosure: I work for Flexpool, the maker of Flexfarmer (the farming software used one of the Evergreen Miner models). However, this post is not related to my work or affiliation with Flexpool, or in any way representative of any interactions between Flexpool and Evergreen. I’m a regular member of the public in this relationship. I did ask Dylan to review the post for accuracy before it went up, but neither he, nor Evergreen or Flexpool, have endorsed or approved the post.