Pine64 Skyminer

Pine64 Skyminer
Skywire is Skycoin’s vision of a new internet, which is private, fast and without censorship. During the testnet, which is fast approaching, Skywire will run on top of the current internet. After that test phase, the Skywire mainnet will be launched, which means that Skywire will run as an independent mesh network. To realize this vision, Skywire needs to run on top of a multitude of servers, spread all over the world. These servers can either be bought directly from the Skycoin Project, who aim to develop the best hardware possible for Skywire or they can be built by users themselves, who want to participate in the network. I chose the second option and created a so-called DIY miner.

Official and DIY Miners
The first generation of Skyminers, that were built by the Skycoin Project, contain eight Orange Pi Primes.1 In the first batch of production, only 300 Skyminers were built,2 due to bottlenecks in the production process.3 The demand is certainly higher, by the end of March 4000 people have already registered in the official mailing list to purchase a Skyminer.4 Fortunately, you can participate in the Skywire network with your own custom-built miner.5 However, there is a manual whitelisting process for DIY miners, if you want to be eligible for rewards.6,7 The only requirement for the DIY miners seems to be, that they need to use solely 64 bit processors, since this is a core requirement of Skywire’s underlying programming language Golang.8

Pine64 Miner with Sopine Modules
So, since I registered way too late in the official mailing list, I sat together with a friend and we decided to create a DIY miner. We wanted to create a more compact version of the Skyminer, which should be equal in terms of computing power to the official Skyminers. The PINE64 clusterboard suited perfectly for that.9 We could use it as a basis for the miner and just plug seven modules into it, with each of them powered by a Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 64-Bit Processor with 2G LPDDR3 RAM memory and an integrated MicroSD slot.10 Therefore, each module possesses the same computing power as the Orange Pi Primes used in the official Skyminer.11 However, in our miner there are just seven processors built-in, while eight are used in the official Skyminer. We also bought seven SanDisk Micro SD cards with 16 GB storage capacity, that were plugged into the modules. As a case, we chose the Chieftec IX-03B-OP, which fitted perfectly. As operating system, we used Armbian for SoPine64. If you are looking for pre-configured images for the Pine64 Skyminer, Skyguy from has something for you. With just a size of 22.0cm x 19.7cm x 6.3cm,12 we created a very compact custom Skyminer. Take a look:
3D Printable Case
A few weeks after the first release of this article, Edoardo started with the build of a 3d printable case for the Pine64 miner. At first, he measured the clusterboard and combined that information with a general scheme of a Mini-ITX motherboard. Then he made a few test prints, until he had found the perfect size for the case. As material, he chose high temperature plastic, that can endure temperatures up to 80 degrees Celsius alongside 4 woodscrews. Since the case and the hardware itself should be able to endure high temperatures, he didn’t include a fan. Speaking about the design, Edoardo included the Skycoin logo and the term ‘Skyminer’, written with the Skycoin font, on top of the case. Since each SoPine module on the clusterboard itself signals its execution for the outside world through constant blinking, he placed the numbers 1-7 directly above the blinking indicators to make it visible from outside the case, if everything is running correctly. And that’s about it! The final result is an absolute beautifully designed case! If you want to print the case yourself, just download the source file on Thingiverse. Take a look at a picture of the case below, you can also find a video about it on YouTube:
With thousands of people in the official waiting list for purchasing an official Skyminer, we realized it would take months until we were eligible to buy an official one. Since we wanted to participate in the Skywire testnet, it was necessary for us to build a custom miner. After looking at the specification of the official first-gen Skyminer, we went on to build a more compact one with the use of Sopine modules on top of a Pine64 clusterboard. Except for one node less, our miner contains the same computing power than the official Skyminer and can therefore definitely compete with other nodes in the network.

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Parts List
Pine64 CLUSTERBOARD With 7 SOPine Compute Module Slots
Mainboard, ~100$
SOPINE A64 compute modules
Modules, ~29$ (each)
SanDisk Ultra 16GB microSDHC
Storage, ~12$ (each)
Chieftec IX-03B-OP
Case, ~40$
Ethernet LAN Cable
Cable, ~10$
Clusterboard Power Supply (depends on your region)
Cable, ~16$
Armbian for SoPine64
Operating System, free
Sources – Official Skyminer
“Yes. Actually 8. And they are orange pis. They are 64 bit processors, not 32 bit like raspberry pi.”
Synth; Telegram; Skycoin main channel; 10.07.2017
“Shipping schedule: – 50 miners are available for shipping immediately- 250 miners should be available by the 2nd week of February.”
Steve Leonard; Telegram; Skycoin main channel; 10.01.2018
“We are trying to launch the Skycoin Skywire miner, which is the hardware platform for doing this decentralized internet. We are trying to ship the first units within a month. We have a supplier and we want three thousand CPUs, but they only have one thousand CPUs so we have to wait three weeks for the factory to produce more. So we are dealing with supply chain and how do we ship it and things like will customs reject it because they are electronics.”
Synth; YouTube; Coin Interview with Skycoin; 30.10.2017
“we are past 4000 people on the skyminer mailing list”
Steve Leonard; Telegram; Skycoin main channel; 27.03.2018
Sources – DIY Miner
“While Official Skyminers will be on the whitelist by default (upon submission and receipt of their public keys), DIY Skyminers will be allowed to join the whitelist based on the benchmark set by the Official Skyminer’s hardware configuration. DIY Skyminers will be required to provide detailed specifications and photos, submitted to the corresponding team for review. Qualified DIY Skyminers will be added into the testnet whitelist.”
Skycoin; Official Blog; Skywire Testnet FAQ; 05.04.2018
“Note that any computer can become a node on the network, however, only whitelisted Skyminers (all Official and selected DIY) will be participating in the economic model testing program, and eligible for rewards.”
Skycoin; Official Blog; Skywire Testnet FAQ; 05.04.2018
“the purpose of the whitelist is to stop 3000 nodes from joining the network before we have scaled up the backend and testing it”
Synth; Telegram; Skycoin main channel; 17.02.2018
“its not just orange pi, but is orange pi prime; but yes you can build your own cluster and for technical users we will register theri public keys etc for the test net – it has to be 64 bit processors that can run 64 bit linux because golang garbage collector does not work well on 32 bit”
Synth; Telegram; Skycoin main channel; 15.10.2017
Sources – SOPINE Miner
“The PINE64 clusterboard can host up to 7 SOPINE A64 compute modules, expanding its functionality as a fully featured cluster server. The clusterboard has and inbuilt 8 Gigabit Ethernet port unmanaged switch.”
PINE64; Official Website; CLUSTERBOARD With 7 SOPine Compute Module Slots; 31.01.2018
“SOPINE A64 is a compute module powered by the same powerful Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 64-Bit Processor used in the PINE A64 with 2G LPDDR3 RAM memory, Power Management Unit, SPI Flash and integrated MicroSD Slot (for bootable OS images microSD card). SoPine module has 5 years LTS (Long term Supply) Longevity: committed supply at least until March 2022. There is one year warranty period for SoPine Module.”
PINE64; Official Website; SOPINE; 08.04.2018
“CPU | H5 Quad-core Cortex-A53 – Memory (SDRAM) | 2GB DDR3 (shared with GPU)”
Orange Pi; Official Website; Orange Pi Prime; 08.04.2017
“Dimension (DxWxH): 220mm x 197mm x 63mm”
Chieftec; Official Website; IX-03B-OP; 08.04.2017