Three ways to build low profile Chia (and forks) nodes

This is another piece on a part of the Chia and cryptocurrency landscapes. See previous posts at https://rsts11.com/crypto


Many if not most Chia farmers run a full node on their farming / plotting machine. Some larger farms will use the remote harvester model, with a single full node and several machines farming plots on local storage. 

If you’re using Flexfarmer from Flexpool, or just want a supplemental node (maybe to speed up your own resyncing, or to supplement decentralization on the Chia network), you might want a dedicated node that doesn’t farm or plot. And for that use case, you don’t really need dual EPYC or AMD Threadripper machines. 

In fact, a well-planned Raspberry Pi 4B 4GB or 8GB system, with an external USB drive, will do quite well for this use. If you want to do a few forks as well, or another blockchain full node, a moderately-recent Intel NUC would do quite well for not much more. 

So here we’ll look at three builds to get you going. Note that any of these can run a full node plus Flexfarmer if you want, or just a full node. 

If you don’t already have Chia software and a full node installed, go ahead and install and sync the node on a full scale PC. it may save you five days of waiting. My original build for this use case was to test the blockchain syncing time from scratch.

Syncing from a semi-optimal Pi 4B from scratch took about 8 days, for what it’s worth. One member of the Chia public Keybase forum reported about 28 hours to sync on an Intel Core i5 12600k. 

Caveat: Raspberry Pi boards are a bit more challenging to find and even harder to find anywhere near the frequently-touted $35 price point, or even under $150. And for Chia nodes, you want a minimum of the 4GB Pi 4B (8GB wouldn’t hurt). So while it’s possible to run on older hardware, it’s not recommended.

 

You might also be able to run on a Pi400 (the Raspberry Pi 4B in a keyboard case, which is much easier to find for $100 or so, complete). I plan to test this soon.

 

Raspberry Pi with external USB SSD. 

This was my initial build, and today it’s running at the Andromedary Instinct providing an accessible full node for about 10-15 watts maximum. 

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Titanic, Hindenberg, and My Management Mindset

As some of my readers know, I’ve taken the last year off from the corporate world. I’ve done some things on my own, sold some things on eBay, and worked as a contractor for a mining pool. Now that I’m back into interviews, one thing I get asked more than ever before is about my management style.

I prefer to think of it as a management mindset, as the style would adjust to each minion’s needs and “work language” for lack of a better term. And despite relatively little formal management training, I’ve come to a coherent and occasionally appreciated position.

You can only be as good a manager as your manager is to you.

A large part of team management is proxying in both directions between the people who report to you, and the person or people you report to. Your reach and control is probably limited — you can’t usually spend more than the budget allows on salary, or eliminate 7am calls for your west coast team because a manager three levels up wants 10am meetings from his east coast office.

But on a more granular level, if your own manager isn’t supportive of what you need for your employees, there’s only so much you can do to make that happen. This is often because your manager’s manager is limited, and on up many levels.

This can be an uncomfortable maxim to present to a prospective or current manager, as some will take it as a personal affront. But good managers (leaders) will understand that it’s reality, and they can’t do more for you than their manager permits (generally speaking). They probably know it even if they haven’t specifically thought about it.

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It’s the most cable-tastic time of the year: Review some accounts you may be able to improve on

Today’s post comes with apologies to my international readers, especially my esteemed non-US Tech Field Day colleagues, who may or may not benefit from today’s quick take that ended up not being so quick again.

As my American readers will know, there are monthly expenditures that are painful and rarely decrease over time.

Some, like apartment rent and self storage, are downright predatory by design–try getting the advertised new tenant rate when you’ve lived in an apartment for a year or more. If you’re lucky, they’ll let you move into a different apartment, pay overlapping rent during the move, put a new deposit down and wait a month or two for the old one to be returned, and then get something close to the advertised rates. And in a recent self-storage experience, I was given two choices on upgrading a storage space: Pay full price (and expect a rent hike within 2-3 months of course), or get the advertised price for the new space as long as I paid full price for the old (soon-to-be-empty) space for three full months.

It’s not all bad though

But you can find unexpected opportunities to save, especially (in my experience) with cable companies, who have a suboptimal reputation when it comes to customer service. Some cellular providers can also work this way, although it can be a bit rougher.

It helps to do some homework first, so here’s what I’d suggest you do.

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Splash Mountain Syndrome – It’s not what you think

A couple months ago my friend Christopher asked his friends about getting comfortable with public speaking. I’ve told this story to small crowds from time to time, but never put it all out there… so here is how I contracted Splash Mountain Syndrome, and what it meant to my public speaking career.

Most of my readers are familiar with Impostor Syndrome, where you doubt you’re good enough to do your job or tell your story, or that there must be someone better out there. Most if not all of us in tech have dealt with this at one time or another, feeling like the turtle on the fencepost.

Image via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Splash_Mountain_at_Disneyland.JPG (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

We’re going to Disneyland

Well, to explain what I experienced in my speaking career at Cisco, we have to go back to spring 2003. I was between jobs, and had gone down to Southern California to spend a weekend with a lady I was interested in. We went to the grand opening of Amoeba Records Hollywood, and also made my first trip to Disneyland.

She stood in line for nearly an hour with me for the Winnie the Pooh ride, so when she wanted to go on Splash Mountain, I figured I shouldn’t start letting her down quite so early in the relationship. So we went to Splash Mountain. The line was faster there for some reason.

As we went up on the ride to the top, I wondered if it was too late to back out. Maybe hop out at the basketball court and walk down, and probably get kicked out of the park. As we got closer to the mouth of the mountain, it became clear that I had no option but to hold on for dear life and deal with it. And as we emerged into the light, my legs clamped on the log car, I closed my eyes, and dropped.

As we walked away, I asked my companion if she’d heard a noise like a small rodent being strangled. “Yes,” she said. “That was you.”

How this applies to public speaking

I can say that it was more distance than drop ride disappointment that kept that from being a long term relationship, but similar feelings happened almost every time I got ready to travel for a speaking engagement.

I’d be eager to sign up for an event, whether a partner conference or partner sales event, Strata+Hadoop World, or Cisco Live. But the closer it got, even if I already had my presentation pretty much committed to memory, I’d start to think I made a terrible mistake, that I would dread the whole trip, that I’d get my first heckler, or that I should just let someone in marketing handle it.

The dread would intensify as I was packing, probably because even after six years of work travel, I still sucked at packing efficiently (I’m still not that great, despite lots of YouTube videos). But I’d still finish up the packing, with a laptop bag heavier than my clothing and coffee bag, and head off to Seattle or Atlanta or Manhattan or Las Vegas or Denver or wherever.

Of course, I’d do fine, entertain people with the fairly unique mix of facts, experience, humor, cultural references, and sarcasm that I became known for, and get good feedback afterward. We’d find a good restaurant for dinner, and then move on to the next adventure.

But the next time a trip came up, I’d go through the same cycle. At least I didn’t make the noise again.

As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing

I think it was a good thing. I’ve seen speakers who are way too comfortable and lose their edge, their connection with the audience, or even their talk track. We’ve all been in sessions where the speaker is there because of title and clout rather than their scintillating message and delivery; I wonder how many of those people have lost Splash Mountain.

Splash Mountain Syndrome helped keep me on my toes, and definitely made sure that I didn’t get so comfortable with my content that I went into autopilot and lost audiences and credibility. It still led to an uncomfortable hour or more leading up to my trips, but I came out of it stronger and more confident.

Have you experienced anything like Splash Mountain Syndrome? Have any tips for people preparing for pulbic speaking? Share in the comments if you’d be so kind.

My three unfair advantages in the COVID-19 era

A lot of people have had to make a lot of adjustments to life in the pandemic era, from work to home life to eating and shopping.

I’ve had three serious advantages–some might even say unfair advantages–that made my transition smoother than most. Probably the most disruptive element of the shelter-in-place and travel restrictions for me would be the extra people in the house all day, and that’s still a bit unsettling at times.

But let’s take a look at the advantages, and see if they might help you as well.

1. I’ve worked from home for the past six and a half years.

This one is hard to do retroactively, of course, but in terms of remote access, working without coworkers face-to-face, and making my own coffee every morning (several times, most days), I was training for the pandemic since I started working for Cisco in 2014.

Before the pandemic, I did have opportunities to get out and see my colleagues in person, whether for our sales kickoff in Las Vegas or conferences or team gatherings at company headquarters. Those have mostly dried up, although I did see a partner engineer briefly a couple of months ago when dropping off a couple of pieces of hardware for him.

I have had to adjust the home environment for the new “coworkers,” including a high school student and a non profit program director who were doing their daily grind in the house, the latter in front of my “daily grind” machine farm… never quite got around to setting up a coffeemaker in my home office, but I did get a second beverage fridge set up.

I have to admit that I hadn’t really prepared for the letdown of virtual conferences, but I wasn’t entirely surprised. On the upside, almost all of the content from the half dozen conferences I’ve “attended” has been made available more promptly afterward, so I can go back and review a lot of it rather easily.

2. I’ve spent weeks in Las Vegas over the past decade

You might be surprised by this advantage, but it definitely prepared me for some of the personal hygiene issues that we’ve been asked to address to slow the spread and reduce risk of contracting the virus.

After the first time or two that I got sick after a trip to Las Vegas, I learned to wash my hands frequently and to never, ever touch my eyes or face unless I had just washed my hands or had a wipe to use.

As a melting pot of bacteria and viruses and just ordinary grime from all over the world, Las Vegas is an easy place to pick up something you didn’t want, whether from handrails, escalators, elevator buttons, door handles, and the like. Browsing through electronics and thrift stores could sometimes leave “weird stuff” on my fingers, but nothing like the handrails at Planet Hollywood or elevator buttons at Mandalay Bay.

So getting in the habit of washing my hands regularly (not just after going to the bathroom, although that’s one a lot of dotcom workers never quite figured out), and keeping my hands away from my eyes (one of the two easiest places to get things introduced to your bloodstream), helped reduce the risk of getting something in Vegas, or in conference facilities elsewhere, or partner offices, or just around town.

I’ve overused subscription services for several years

Note: This section contains affilliate and referral links. You can obviously search for the sites yourself if you don’t want to toss me a few bucks here or there, but I appreciate those of you who do.

There are usually cases of toilet paper and/or paper towels, and plenty of antibacterial wipes and sprays, on a shelf in the garage or in the front closet, thanks to the Amazon Subscribe and Save program. Some brands and products have disappeared from the program over the past few months, and others have popped up (including the “pick 8 scrabble tiles to name your brand” sort of companies), but between these offerings and the occasional sale at Target, we were pretty well positioned on paper and cleaning products from the start. Yes, there was one $1/roll toilet paper purchase, but

I also have to admit to keeping my breakfast/snack drawer under my desk stocked through this program as well (Clif nut butter filled bars, Kind bars, Belvita breakfast biscuits).

This program does mean that at the beginning of every month, I have to review what I’ve used as usual, and what I don’t need for another month or two. And I would recommend comparing the pricing and varieties to what you can get locally, as sometimes you’ll find a better deal at a grocery store or big box store. But as a backup in case you forgot to buy napkins or paper towels or car fluids or even underwear, it’s worth looking into the option.

Check your credit cards for Amazon promotions, or look into one of the Amazon branded credit cards. For example, Discover Card has 5% back on Amazon purchases for the fourth quarter of 2020, for example, and Chase Freedom has them sometimes as well. (These are refer-a-friend links, and I will likely get a modest reward if you sign up for a new card through them.)

And if you’re more inclined toward boutique cleaning and hygiene supplies, you may want to look into Grove Collaborative. They had toilet paper when other online sellers were running low, and they carry Mrs Meyer’s method, Seventh Generation, and their own house brands of various products for bath, kitchen, and general household cleaning.

They can be pricey compared to mass market stores and brands, but if you’re looking for uncommon products and environmental friendliness in your purchases, it’s worth a look. We’ve bought two large boxes of their supplies, and will probably look at restocking for the holidays, but we still mix these products with the more common brands.

Where do we go from here?

I’m hoping that things continue to stabilize, and I’m already looking forward to a careful visit to Las Vegas this winter, and a car club weekend run in the late spring. I’ve added disposable masks and hand sanitizer gel to my car club trunk bag, but we’ll see what else becomes relevant as normal comes back closer to normal.

What have you learned from the pandemic adjustments? Share in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.