Chia is a waste of its potential

This article is written by the numbers available on Wednesday 19 May 2021

If there is one coin is in the news, the last weeks, it’s Chia. This coin is unique in comparison with the other cryptocurrency. Instead of doing calculations non-stop, you’re making bingo cards. When your bingo cards have the winning combination. You get two coins. One coin is worth around 900 dollars. ($ 1500 couple of days ago) To have a better chance to win the coins you need to have more bingo cards. Here is the downside. One bingo card is 108 gigabytes big. The creators of Chia bring it as a green coin. You don’t need to run energy-burning powerful computers 24/7 to mine new coins. You only need to have a lot of bingo cards. But as of today, you need to have 40 TB of bingo cards to have the chance to mine coins in a month. This is an estimation. And this chance is going down by the day because more people are jumping on this wagon. Tomorrow that same 40TB can be two months.

Why was Chia in the news? It’s now known as the SSD killer. The fastest way to make one bingo card is to use an SSD. You can use a conventional HDD. But that takes twice longer to make a bingo card. To make one 108GB bingo card the software has to make 1800 GB (1.8TB) of writes. The cheapest 480 GB SSD I can find is rated at 120 TBW. This means that the SSD can write around 120TB before its end of life. In other words, the SSD can make around 66 Chia bingo cards before it dies. (120 TBW / 1.8 TB = 66). To hold those 66 cards we need eight terabytes of storage. For Chia to work every bingo card need to access by the software. You can’t keep them offline on an external hard drive in a drawer. 

After one week of playing with the Chia software, I have formed an opinion. This coin is even more fucked up than all the other crypto cryptocurrencies.  

  1. You still need a powerful computer to make the bingo cards. 
  2. Using a conventional hard drive is slowing down the process of making bingo cards. But using SSD’s is also a waste because you are killing your writes.
  3. The space you are using for the bingo cards is lost. You need to present all cards on live storage to the Chia software. If you delete bingo cards you will lower your chance to win the coins. 

You still need to compute a lot.

Let’s call the bingo cards by their real name. They are called plots. Every plot is 108GB big. To make a chance to get Chia coins. You have to prove you have plots. The more plots you have. The faster you can win the coins. To make a plot isn’t just to write some random data to a disk. They need to be created by a special process, called plotting. With your unique key, the software starts making one plot. Here comes what I noticed. You need 4GB of memory to make a plot. My laptop has 8 GB of ram. But this doesn’t mean you can plot two plots at the same moment. I tried. It works well. The problem is I don’t have enough memory. My machine started to swap gigantic. The internal SSD lost around 4 TB of writes for four plots. Yes. If you have 8GB of memory. You also have an OS that needs memory. So my machine was using 12 GB of ram. 8 GB physical and 4 in the swap file. The laptop wrote 200MB/s to the swap file while plotting. I use my laptops for many years so I was not in the mood to destroy my daily machine for this experiment. 

Not only memory is a limitation. You need too CPU power to plot the files. I have only four cores on my laptop. The chia software uses the first stage of plotting multi threats. But the last 75 percent of plotting the software switches to one threat. To use all four cores in my machine I should have 20 GB of ram. It helps to have a really powerful machine that can run every threat at full speed. My machine isn’t that powerhouse. For my daily work, I don’t need all that power. Four cores, 8GB of ram and a fast SSD is all I need. 

On youtube, I saw the solution. Buy and build a dedicated machine with lots of powerful cores and memory. Stick a professional SSD on the mainboard with 1800TBW and start plotting. But those videos were all before the Chia popularity skyrocketed. In a time that you only need a 4 TB hard drive to make thousands of dollars a month. Now the chance to win a coin with 4TB is over a year. If order the parts today and start plotting tomorrow. The moment I have 4TB of plots the chance can even be 2 years. 

If you don’t have powerful hardware. You can’t plot fast enough to fill you hard drives.

The space you are using is lost. 

This is true and not true. All the plots you make have to by online to the Chia network. You can delete plots if you need the space to store something else. However, the Chia software will lower your chance to win. To have a bigger chance to win Chia coins. You need to have the files presentable to the Chia software. Do I want to have to buy six hard drives with 10 TB capacity each to hold bingo cards. I don’t need this amount of space for other things. If I stop plotting Chia, should I data-hoard 60 TB of anime? In my opinion, the concept of green with Chia is not true. You are destroying SSD while plotting. You need to have tens of TB to hold meaningless bingo cards. Something isn’t right. 

How to improve Chia

Years ago I used a Qnap NAS. It had 6 TB of space. More than enough space for my needs. I never needed more than 4 TB of space. So I had 2 TB to spare. To back up my data I was using a great third-party software made by Symform. The principle was simple. You could reserve space on your NAS in exchange for back upping your data to other NAS users. A distributed smart system. It worked a little bit like a smart BitTorrent. Watch the video for a quick explanation. 

For unknown reasons, this service was shut down in 2016. Maybe a viable revenue model was missing. I never paid a subscription fee. I was offering my free NAS space to Symform as a payment. If too many people do this you have a hard time making money. 

Chia and the idea behind Symform should make a love baby. Instead of plotting meaningless bingo cards. They will use real data from existing users to make plots. Super secure with private keys. You get coins for hosting data and other users are paying coins if they want their data to be backup in the cloud. You can still win coins. But you will also receive coins just for storing other people’s data. What gives you a better rest of mind. That you have 60TB running in your basement storing random bingo cards or you’re hosting backups for other users. Don’t you worry about the reliability of the data? The data is spread to many other computers. If one hard drive is taken offline(failing). The data is automatically rebuilt on other hard drives in the world. 

Imagine that the Chia coin was green and all that space that is now used for bingo cards was used to store the chia users’ data. A big distributed backup system. With a fair system that decided who gets coins and who is paying coins.  

Last words

Two days ago I saw the chia network has passed the 6 exabytes marker. Tomorrow of the day after tomorrow we will cross the 7 exabyte marker.

7EB / 18TB = 388.888 18 TB hard drives.  

I can’t believe that the Chia network is using all that storage space for storing numbers without any meaning. Worldwide we are wasting hard drive space with bingo cards.

To look at my personal situation. I’m too late to participate in this hype. I don’t want to invest money in a coin with too many questions and it isn’t convincing me that the coin is green with this amount of space wasted. 

I don’t mind too use my unused space for plots. But I don’t want to buy TB’s of space just for bingo cards. Even if I do buy a box full of hard drives. I don’t need all that space if I stop mining chia coins. I’m not a data hoarder.

I have told myself that I won’t invest any money in buying any hardware for this coin. All the hardware I’m using is hardware that was just laying in drawers. And old laptop and some unused hard drives. The price is fluctuating too much. I don’t want to compete against people who are betting all their savings on buying hard drives. In the CHIA Facebook groups, I see posts from people who are disappointed that they have bought a bunch of disks to find out that it still takes years to win a coin. Don’t put all your savings on what the Chia calculator shows you with the numbers of today.  If a lot of people give up in the next weeks that means I will have a higher chance. But I have the freedom that I can also stop without any consequence.

Maybe I’m still running my small mining rigs next month. Maybe I will find a new interrest to use that hardware for.

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