Question the Devs: ASICs and Issue 45

The emergence of CryptoNight ASICs

CryptoNight is the proof-of-work (POW) algorithm that Intense Coin and many other coins including XMR, AEON and SUMO, utilizes to generate blocks. One of CryptoNight’s long-running alleged strengths is resistance to application specific integrated circuit chip (ASIC) mining. ASIC mining allows significantly improved efficiency and throughput compared to conventional graphics card (GPU) or processor (CPU) mining. Recently, multiple mining hardware equipment manufacturer companies announced ASICs for the CryptoNight algorithm, primarily designed to target Monero (XMR) mining. Monero has the largest market cap ($3.4 billion at the time of this post) of all CryptoNight currencies by a tremendous margin.

As we have discussed in prior posts, our blockchain development team has decided to follow Monero for non-VPN blockchain developments. There are compelling reasons to heed Monero’s example. The Monero team has more collective expertise, active developer contributions, and overall resources than our young cryptocurrency.

Therefore, the Intense Coin blockchain developers will continue to follow Monero’s decisions related to anti-ASIC measures. The hash power provided by ASICs comes at the cost of network centralization and minimization of the efforts of small miners. Monero already has an ASIC thwarting hardfork scheduled for the first week of April that will revise the POW algorithm from classic CryptoNight to “CryptoNight variant 1”. This POW change is thought to render the upcoming ASICs useless. For the time being, Monero’s public stance to combat ASICs is to perpetually hard fork and revise its POW algorithm. It is not clear how effective this strategy will be in the short or long term. We will be closely monitoring Monero’s progress and success in employing this measure to combat the influence of ASICs on the network, and will likely adopt a similar or identical countermeasure if Monero succeeds. Intense Coin does not have a scheduled hard fork to adopt CryptoNight variant 1 at this time, but we will keep you updated as the situation progresses and we reach a decision.

Issue 45

An unprecedented situation occurred on the Intense Coin network on Friday, March 16. A miner successfully crafted a merge mining block on the Intense Network at block 146,466. The purpose of merged mining blocks is allowing coins across multiple blockchains to be mined simultaneously.

After block 146,466 was created, the beta/rebase versions of the command line client and GUI wallet were unable to sync. Legacy (pre-rebase) clients continued to function normally. The newer versions of the client were not able to properly interpret the merge mining block due to the unprecedented and previously unutilized nature of these special types of blocks. Thus, issue 45 in Github was born.

The developers spent significant time to properly understand the implications of the insertion of the new merged mining block into the ITNS blockchain. Ultimately, a few conclusions resulted:

  • Block 146,466 and further merged mining blocks can be adopted by the ITNS blockchain without interference or effect on the core chain. Merged mining blocks exist independently of standard blocks.
  • The emergence of merged mining was likely not malicious, although the initial merged mining block and data structures in block 146,466 do not appear to point to any real world blockchain. In other words, the merged mining data in block 146,466 is useless. It is possible a curious user was testing the possibilities of merged mining.
  • Merged mining may have a purpose on our chain in the future, but for now it appears to be underutilized and possibly improperly utilized. The data in block 146,466 and later occurring merged mining blocks do not follow merged mining conventions. The data structures are oddly assembled and seem to be incorrectly configured.
  • Merged mining is most likely on the chopping block for the next hard fork. There is no clear public support or efforts for merged mining, thus it is a vector for bloat and issues on our blockchain.

Issue 45 has been solved and new binaries are in the process of being posted to the Github releases page (CLI, GUI). The development team took two days to issue a patch for this, which was longer than we would have liked. Timing of the issue was a challenge as the weekend commenced and our developers were called to real life and prior engagements. Nonetheless, preventing and resolving any disruption in blockchain processing are top priorities for the Intense blockchain development team. In the future, we will do our best to keep the community more informed as we address and resolve issues.