Cryptocurrency mining giant Bitmain has published a firmware update that allows bitcoin miners to activate “overt AsicBoost,” a technological upgrade that provides significant cost savings over conventional mining setups.
Bitmain Firmware Enables Overt AsicBoost
Bitmain released the patch just days after braiins, the software development group that operates Slush Pool, revealed that it had verified that Bitmain’s Antminer S9 hardware is capable of supporting overt AsicBoost, though the manufacturer had purposely disabled it by default. The group further stated that it would integrate overt AsicBoost support into a future firmware update for Braiins OS, the open-source ASIC mining system it launched in September.
Invented by Timo Hanke in collaboration with Sergio Lerner, the patented AsicBoost technology reduces the amount of work that SHA256 miners must perform to produce a hash.
AsicBoost can be implemented either covertly or overtly, with covert AsicBoost being more controversial as it incentivizes miners to produce small or empty blocks. It’s more efficient to implement the technology overtly, and overt usage also has the benefit of not incentivizing miners to produce empty blocks. However, covert AsicBoost has the benefit of making it difficult to identify which miners are using it, which would be attractive to miners who cannot activate it overtly for legal or other reasons.
Last year’s activation of Segregated Witness (SegWit) on Bitcoin made it much more difficult to use covert AsicBoost effectively. Critics accused Bitmain of employing covert AsicBoost prior to the fork, but the firm denied the allegation and a report from BitMEX Research said that it was “difficult to draw any firm conclusions” from blockchain data.