My previous series of articles on crypto-currency covered Bitcoin mining on OS X. This series will focus on mining Litecoins. While Bitcoin has been getting the lion’s share of media attention lately with its recent bubbles and crashes and growing adoption, Litecoin has been slowly growing in popularity among alternative crypto-currencies (known as altcoins).
What is Litecoin you may ask? Litecoin is a fork of the Bitcoin project with three important changes:
- The hashing algorithm uses is Scrypt rather than SHA-256
- Blocks are approved four times faster than Bitcoin blocks
- Litecoin is setup to produce 84 million Litecoins, versus Bitcoin’s 21 million target
Proponents of Litecoin argue that Litecoin should be regarded as silver to Bitcoin’s gold: easier and faster to transact smaller amounts. Proponents also argue that, by basing the proof-of-work on Scrypt rather than SHA-256, Litecoin mining will remain in the realm of consumer hardware, rather than limited to mining-specific hardware (like Bitcoin with FPGA’s and ASIC’s). While SHA-256 benefits from massive, parallel processing, Scrypt is built to be very memory-intensive. This means that, for the time being, mining Litecoins using your CPU (which is no longer profitable with Bitcoin) is still possible. You can also use your GPU to mine Litecoins, which gives me a 5x performance boost over CPU mining.
One popular setup seems to be using your GPU’s to mine Bitcoins and use spare CPU power to mine Litecoins. This article will cover how you can use Mac OS X to mine Litecoins using your CPU. If you’re interested in harnessing your GPU’s power to mine Litecoins rather than Bitcoins, a future article will cover that topic.
To get started with Litecoin mining on OS X, download the official Litecoin wallet application – Litecoin-QT – from the Litecoin website. With the Litecoin wallet you can actually mine from within the UI. Download the DMG file and drag the Litecoin-QT app to your Applications folder.
Now, I didn’t cover wallet setup in my Bitcoin series as it was outside the scope of mining. However, as Litecoin CPU mining is generally done within the wallet application (though it can be done at the command-line), I want to make two things clear. First, encrypt your wallet. Second, double-check that the encryption phrase you’ve recorded is correct and works before you start making deposits. The same thing goes for your Bitcoin wallet.
As stated above, the Litecoin wallet UI is capable of showing and controlling mining. While the Litecoin wallet has built in support for solo mining, pooled mining requires another download (see my first article for a brief overview of mining pools). The download is from a project called cpuminer. The cpuminer project was originally a CPU miner for both Bitcoin and then for Litecoin, when CPU mining for Bitcoin was still sensible. These days it’s been replaced in the Bitcoin world by cgminer and bfgminer, and is used in the Litecoin world for CPU mining. You can download the OS X binary for this cpuminer fork directly from the project’s GitHub downloads (32-bit, 64-bit).
Once you’ve downloaded and extracted the cpuminer binary, called minerd, place it alongside the Litecoin-QT app in your Applications folder. This makes it possible to use the pooled miner from within the Litecoin wallet.
UPDATE: The Mining tab has been removed from the Lightcoin-QT wallet. Skip down a couple of paragraphs for details on mining from the command-line.
Now you’re ready to start mining. Switch to the Mining tab in Litecoin-QT. Change the Type to Pool Mining. Set the Threads value to the number of cores you have (double that if you have Hyper-threading). You can leave the Scantime value. It is only used if the mining pool doesn’t support long-polling, which is rarely the case these days. For the Server, Port, Username and Password, enter your mining pool information. Using P2Pool mining pools is fairly popular with Litecoin. You can use p2pool.org or any number of alternatives.
Once you’ve got your mining pool information filled in, click Start Mining to get started.
The Litecoin-QT UI will display the output from minerd and a running total of accepted and rejected shares, as well as average hashes-per-second.
Now, if you’re the kind of gal (or guy) who prefers to do your work at the command-line, it’s not required that you use the Litecoin wallet app. While mining from within the app is nice as it gives you running totals, you can just as easily mine from the command-line with the following command:
./minerd -o http://host:port -u username -p password -t thread-count
In the follow-up to this article I’ll discuss the utilities, steps, and tweaks necessary to mine Litecoins on OS X using your GPU. While this doesn’t give the same magnitude of increased performance found when mining Bitcoins on the GPU versus CPU, the increase is still enough to make GPU’s the preferred way of Litecoin mining. However, that also means dedicating GPU cycles to Litecoins rather than Bitcoins, which is a decision you’ll have to make. Litecoins aren’t nearly as established as Bitcoins, so they could be poised to gain in value like Bitcoin has. At the time of this post they trade at around $4 versus Bitcoin hovering around $125). Others call into question Litecoin’s benefits over Bitcoin, seeing it as a doomed clone.
Only time will tell.
UPDATE: If you need to connect the CPU miner to a pool that doesn’t support Getwork, have a look at this post for a solution.