back to article Nvidia cripples Ethereum mining on GeForce RTX 3060 to deter crypto bods from nabbing all the kit at launch

Nvidia announced a family of GPUs solely for mining cryptocurrencies on Thursday – and that it's halving the cryptocurrency mining efficiency of forthcoming GeForce cards that go on sale next week. Specifically, if the driver software for the GeForce RTX 3060 cards detects certain proof-of-work algorithms used in the mining of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old school

    Selling shovels to fools. Silicon Valley's favorite biz model since the roaring 1840s. You do all the mucking around in the mud, we skim the lions share of the profit from the few lucky enough to make one, and leave them holding all the worthless capitol hardware in 6 months time.

    My play is to sell deluxe bespoke organic earplugs to quiet the wails of the Cryptobros. 16 tulip bulbs to get in on the ground floor.

  2. FILE_ID.DIZ
    Facepalm

    Ugh. Sounds like a new cat and mouse game with video drivers. We have this already with AV software.

    And while I don't follow etherum specifically, I would have to imagine that if this hardware is superior to everything else out there, then there will be highly motivated people trying to circumvent this software restriction.

    1. Mark192 Silver badge

      "Ugh. Sounds like a new cat and mouse game with video drivers."

      Yes, but if the miners take a few weeks or months to get around the restrictions, then the cards will not be bought up by miners at launch.

      If they succeed in making the cards unattractive to miners in the long term, they can sell more of the cheaper-to-produce but higher margin mining cards AND when those cards get retired from mining they don't lower the price of second hand gaming cards.

      1. FILE_ID.DIZ

        Not sure what you mean by "long term". Weeks or months really isn't long term.

        And why wouldn't big miners still go out and acquire the cards en masse? If you're big enough or wallet deep enough, hedging your operation that the newest and best piece of cheaper hardware might be a software fix away, that seems like a good idea.

        And at the end of the day, if you can't defeat the driver, however unlikely that is, you can still unload the cards on eBay. I'm no expert by any stretch on video cards or video card drivers. But I know that software is mutable and physically having your hands on a computer is king. Time is, after all, on the miner's side.

        Nvidia can't alter the hardware once it's in the hands of the miners.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          > Not sure what you mean by "long term". Weeks or months really isn't long term.

          Looking at the area under the graph of units sold, weeks often *is* long-term. As he said, making these cards unattractive to numbers *at launch* by hobbling the drivers will free cards up for gamers.

          Why is Nvidia favouring gamers over miners, when they all pay the same retail price? Likely because nVidia sees gamers as a more predictable and longer term market (Bitcoin already uneconomic on GPUs, Ethereum eventually transitioning to Proof of Stake) and seeding goodwill is sensible. Pushing miners towards specialised cards won't hurt nVidia, either.

          1. PhilBuk

            The miners don't really want the mining cards - part of their business model is to sell the used video cards on to gamers when the current-gen are no longer useful.

  3. sreynolds

    Excuse my cynicism

    I await the announcement of a whole new line of crypto mining cards, which are lower spec than the gaming cards, but with different firmware, at the usual 200% markup.

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Excuse my cynicism

      Having custom firmware only for mining would make them more efficient I guess?

      1. sreynolds

        Re: Excuse my cynicism

        I don't know what ethereum does exactly but I think that it looks for a pattern in a 4g+ random data that has been generated from a hash. What are they crippling is unknown to me. It would nice to know what exactly is being done, before someone releases a patched firmware that undoes whatever it is that they have tried to do.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Excuse my cynicism

        It would appear that @sreynolds comment was more a dig at nVidia's previous policy regarding Quadra and Geforce graphics cards. They often didn't differ much if at all in the hardware, only in the drivers and the price tag.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. bazza Silver badge

    Hmmmm, well I hope they do something robust in fixed silicon to enforce this. If its drivers only, then I would not be surprised if someone somewhere hacks the driver to remove the limit...

  5. Qumefox

    This is a stupid idea on Nvidia's part. Their heart might be in the right place, but it's not going to work.

    Even if the mining only GPU's are cheaper than normal cards (which they are unlikely to be.) Miners have no incentive to buy them because they'll have zero resale value later on, because once they're worthless to miners, they're worthless to everyone, and actual miners factor that in to their profit model. So you're going to see miners loading up on 3060's anyway and running hacked drivers, because then, they'll still be able to resell them once they're done since they're still normal GPU's.

    1. Mark192 Silver badge

      "This is a stupid idea on Nvidia's part. Their heart might be in the right place, but it's not going to work."

      - grabs some nice headlines, helps generate brand loyalty

      - helps with availability of cards at launch and maybe for a few weeks (days?) after

      Nvidia have a massive incentive to push miners into needing the easier, quicker and cheaper to produce mining cards so there's a chance this isn't just firmware level.

    2. Steve K Silver badge

      Older drivers?

      Is there anything to stop miners using a previous RTX-compatible driver version before this limit was introduced?

      1. TeraTelnet

        Re: Older drivers?

        Those may not support the about-to-be-released 3060 though?

  6. Martin Howe
    Joke

    Lisa Su says: "Thanks guys, check is in the mail"

  7. David Pearce

    The last few weeks several mining syndicates have had their hardware confiscated after being detected stealing electricity where I am.

    My thoughts are that at the current prices paying for power may be economic, so this could be inter gang warfare going on.

    Would you buy a second hand graphics card that had been run at 110% 24x7 for years, the MTBF has been eaten away.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > Would you buy a second hand graphics card that had been run at 110% 24x7 for years, the MTBF has been eaten away.

      Depends on how much money it's being sold for. And that price is dictated by demand - perceptions of unreliability will lower the price. MTBF is only a single point - it doesn't tell you about the shape of the graph. It might be that a card used continuously will last a long time because it hasn't been subject to thermal cycling. It might be that continuous use shortens the life of its onboard RAM.

      More data required.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Over the long term, you could even see miners taking care of their cards with a view to maximising the resale, and cultivating a good reputation for customer service (i.e, testing used cards before shipping, and refunding or replacing cards that slip through. Such a reputation would allow them to charge a little bit more for their used cards, and to sell their stock more quickly than competitors).

        There is enough discussion online about the reliability of used mining cards to suggest it's far from straightforward. Some mining card are overclocked, some are underclocked for efficiency, some just have their VRAM overclocked. Since miners themselves don't benefit from having a broken card, many are careful about good cooling, perhaps more than a teenager trying to maximise their frames per second in Death Kill Auto 3.

      2. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

        "Would you buy a second hand graphics card that had been run at 110% 24x7 for years, the MTBF has been eaten away."

        Yeah, if the price is right. I've had a $20 SSD wear out (in less than 6 months; I was running extremely heavy write load on it though) and a few cheap SD Cards. But, GPUs, CPUs? If they're run under the temperature limit, I've never had one fail. (Most likely, for me, the price would be too high for me, they'll want too much for them. But I'm just saying, MTBF would not be the reason for me not getting one.)

  8. Schultz
    Stop

    "GPUs for mining cryptocurrencies" -- Evil

    Let's just agree that "mining cryptocurrencies" is evil, it burns our energy resources, and we should simply stop doing it.

    Currencies have their value based on trust (i.e., people accepting your money). Bitcoin can't have runaway inflation (probably), but that doesn't mean it has inherent value. If people loose trust in bitcoins (maybe interest wanes, or there is too much hacking and stealing going on, or environmentally conscious people like me manage to turn the world against bitcoin), they will be worthless. Same as dollars, gold, seashells, or Pininfarina trading cards. Can't we just agree to Not Be Idiots and stop the whole bitcoin madness?

    Evil person poisons the river with mercury to mine gold.

    Evil person poisons the atmosphere to mine bitcoins.

    See the parallels?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: "GPUs for mining cryptocurrencies" -- Evil

      Good points. And yes, I think we can all agree that the high energy requirement of Proof of Work cryptocurrencies lies somewhere between inelegant and evil.

      What do you suggest in place of gold, proof-of-work cryptocurrencies, seashells or fiat currency?

      Do you have any money invested in a Proof-of-Stake cryptocurrency? Okay, I ask this last question tongue in cheek, as a nod to the issue of trust on the internet. (The logic is that anyone who wants the value of a PoS crypto to risecis motive to highlight the 'evil' energy requirements of Proof of Work). :)

    2. Binraider Bronze badge

      Re: "GPUs for mining cryptocurrencies" -- Evil

      The only inherent value in crypto, as far as I can tell, is that it is anonymous therefore useful to money launderers. And then the whole world and dog has invested a lot of hard cash behind it.

      Bubble. When the "next" tech comes along that's cheaper and better at facilitating this same need comes along; "Bye Bye". Lot of spilled milk and upset investors that didn't really know what they were getting into.

      Not saying you can't profit off it but it's ethically bankrupt compared to conventional commodities and fiat currencies that have controls against money laundering (however inefficient).

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: "GPUs for mining cryptocurrencies" -- Evil

        > The only inherent value in crypto, as far as I can tell, is that it is anonymous therefore useful to money launderers

        The morality of money 'laundering' depends upon the state in which you live - much like the definition of 'criminal'. When Jewish people wanted to leave Germany in the 1930s, they wanted to take their assets with them. Jewellery was more portable than art, art was sold at a big loss. Some Iranians emigrating after the fall of the Shah converted their assets to heroin - a portable commodity.

        More data and analysis required.

        1. Ian 55

          Re: "GPUs for mining cryptocurrencies" -- Evil

          Yeah yeah, but you can melt down jewellery or find someone who thinks the craft in making it makes it more valuable than the raw gold / silver / gems / whatever.

          The only possible way to get your money back from Bitcoin et al is find a bigger fool to pay real money for it.

  9. Paul 87

    Makes you think though

    If they can do this, what other things can they have done with framerates or "tests" on specific games / test suites to manipulate the output?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Since many gamers look at 3rd party benchmarks for specific games before buying, where's the harm?

      Anyway, it's easier to make fast things go slow than it is to make slow things go fast.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I remember one case in the 90s (not Nvidia/GPU related) where a low-cost version of a standard CPU had a smaller cache than it's bigger brother. It was found that a well-known benchmark was much slower than the relative power of the chips would imply because the benchmark no longer ran completely from cache on the cheaper CPU.

      The solution was to tweak the compiler to recognise when it was compiling the benchmark code, and emit optimised machine code that did all fit in the cache on all the CPUs in that range.

  10. Def Silver badge

    26MH/s on a 30HX? Seriously?

    I get a slightly higher hash rate than that from a single GeForce 1070. (I have four of them in a machine right now helping to keep my house nice and toasty.)

    Also, they're kinda late on this. Ethereum mining will be a thing of the past when the network switches to v2 (which is a proof-of-stake system). Unless you want to switch to mining other alt coins, of course.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 26MH/s on a 30HX? Seriously?

      That's what I thought those hash rates are garbage, I can get 60 on my 3070 at 120 Watts with the right undervolt.

  11. Binraider Bronze badge

    This is an awkward one for the industry as a whole. Crypto obviously has it's uses, but it doesn't make sense to be using ludicrous pounds cards to produce it - whereas a stack full of more moderately priced cards makes a world of sense. Now whether you regard those uses as legitimate is a whole other world; the main advantage of cryptocurrency is anonymity; therefore it's inherent value comes from service provision to money launderers!

    That hasn't stopped what little supply there is all being gobbled up anyway. If nVidia really wanted to break the back of the crypto "problem" they'd work on ASICS dedicated to it instead of general purpose units; for in principle a more efficient ASIC miner would render a GPU obsolete in this world.

    Let's just say that scenario did play out. All those cards that are currently being ragged to death on crypto would suddenly flood the 2nd hand market.

    If this isn't the definition of a Bubble, I don't know what is. The trick is knowing when to get out.

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      You almost dodged my downvote with that last line.

      You would do well to study the actual market--including things like processor & card design cylces--before making such comments.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Sorry, Nvidia, tweaking your driver is not the solution

    The solution is simple : only allow the purchase of one card per credit card number.

    Gamers generally only buy one card, it's the miners who buy them in stacks of four.

    Of course, the miners could manage getting four credit cards, but if you had announced the move on the day the sale started, that would have them flummoxed and the gamers would win.

    It's impossible to get three more credit cards in a day, and once the gamers had gotten their legitimate share, the miners would have wasted a lot of time.

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: Sorry, Nvidia, tweaking your driver is not the solution

      I have four cards in my wallet right now, and some banks let you generate single use card numbers at will.

      And the last time I checked, there's more than one shop selling video cards.

    2. Amentheist

      Re: Sorry, Nvidia, tweaking your driver is not the solution

      You already can order only one Founders Edition per household from Scan who are the UKs distributor for FE. They still go out of stock in minutes.

    3. Falmari Silver badge

      Re: Sorry, Nvidia, tweaking your driver is not the solution

      I run 3 cards in my gaming PC. Restricting to one is no good.

  13. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    FAIL

    Fears

    of a screw up with Nvidia releasing a new driver for my 3060ti that cripples its performance* rather than some random coin miner....

    *Not that I'd notice at first....... KSP runs fine on my old rig...

  14. Sparkus Bronze badge

    Cue the...

    open source third party drivers.......

  15. Marcelo Rodrigues
    Devil

    Go AMD! This is the new low hanging fruit!

    I don't know where the AMD GPUs are, in terms of mining efficiency, but I see this as an opportunity for them.

    Just sell the blasted things, and let anyone who wants to get one. Crank up the forges, and sell them by the buckets. It's all good money, right? :D

    NVidia is getting too big for its shoes. It is high time to knock them down two pegs or more.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Go AMD! This is the new low hanging fruit!

      Crank up the forges? It depends upon their contracts and options for capacity with their foundry partner. Do bear in mind that automobile production has slowed due to a shortage of semiconductor fabrication capacity - it might be that a car maker will pay more for their chips if the alternative is not being able to sell their cars.

      Also, I don't know where the bottleneck is in the PlayStation 5 production, but it is early in the life cycle of this generation of AMD-powered games consoles.

  16. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Older drivers?

    Wouldn't you just run older drivers if you wanted to mine?

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: Older drivers?

      I expect that NVidia has been planning this for some time. In that case, drivers will only work if the GPUid is on the whitelist.

      Actually, that's not a bad policy for completely legit reasons. You want freedom to design new cards to do whatever without worrying that some old driver might send a command sequence that blows up the new card.

    2. 9Rune5 Silver badge

      Re: Older drivers?

      I doubt older drivers will support the new GPUs. Your objection is probably the main reason they aren't pursuing this for already released 3080 and 3090.

  17. Elledan Silver badge
    Meh

    Holy E-Waste, Batman

    I think I'm siding with Linus (from Linus Tech Tips) on this one. This whole undertaking is a terrible idea. Even ignoring the futility of 'software locks', NVidia would still end up shuffling a large part of their (scarce) RTX30xx ASICs towards these new cards. Right now those are likely to be dud ASICs which got downbinned, but give it a few months and suddenly perfectly good ASICs are being used in products that will have a what, 6 month to 1-year lifespan as a mining card?

    After they're no longer useful for mining, what will one do with a 'GPU' that has no video outputs, requires special drivers and cannot be used for anything one would normally use a GPU for. At least with a regular GPU that got used for mining, you can pick them up for cheap and probably still get a lot of useful life out of them.

    Did NVidia just propose tossing a lot of their GPUs away rather than make them available to gamers (second-hand)? From here it sure looks like it. Not that NVidia's shareholders would mind. Gamers buying used GPUs doesn't make NVidia money, after all. Only new cards do :)

  18. spudmasterflex

    Green mining

    I run 4x3090s to mine eth, each one gets around 110MH/s and draw 330 watts each plus 100 wats for the cpu etc. This generates around £55 a day profit and as I run mine all of PV and battery storage I’m not contributing to the crypto energy crisis, and the cards were essentially free which was nice.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Goldilocks pricing...

    It's really an effort to flog the same device at different prices to different markets.

    They appear to be creating a substantial incentive to reverse engineer their drivers though. This could backfire badly.

  20. Annihilator Silver badge

    Couple of thoughts

    1) It'll be a week at most until someone figures out how to remove the limitation - bear in mind people take the reference designs and build crypto-specific cards (no graphics output on the board at all), it's no small industry.

    2) Would it count as insider trading if someone at NVideo bought eth? Imagine that the price will start to tick up higher than it would have if the mining rate is about to slow.

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