Photos and videoPrior posts included photos. No video was taken. And the machine is performing its intended function -- receiving bitcoins to validate data -- so it will not be ripped apart for further pictures (however I want to see that, just as much as you). It is expected that upcoming press events and other third parties will provide this.
Shipping and packagingThe unit was packed very tightly and securely, with multiple layers of packaging, bubble wrap and Styrofoam. No instructions or wifi antenna were included, and the included power cord was for a Chinese outlet. These seem like excusable oversights, given the special shipping procedures and rush to get out The First Package. Yifu notes here that US customers will receive a US power cord and other accessories.
ExteriorNo precise measurements were taken, but the unit is as heavy as a desktop tower machine. The metal case is very solid, with precise CNC/mill cuts. A modular, six-piece design that is easily assembled or disassembled. No logos or other decorations. The outer shell was enclosed in protective clear plastic, similar to how display screens are shipped. Air flow is unobstructed, flowing from rear intake to front exhaust.
The only negative was the small bolts securing the side to the case. When not tightened, the bolts rest loosely on the lower casing via a small slot. These bolts are an interesting design, but made re-securing the case-side difficult.
Grade: B. People looking for something super-stylish with dragons on the side would give it a C, due to boring exterior appearance.
InteriorVery clean. Cables neatly tie-wrapped. The three (3) ASIC modules are mounted securely. Plenty of room to add a 4th ASIC module. Avalon describes their design as highly modular, and it is. All components appear easy to upgrade, and Yifu has indicated that many improvements are planned.
Because much importance is placed on using this unit, very little poking and prodding was done under the cable bundle. The PSU displays an Antec logo. One board was labelled "PDU v1.2 by ngzhang" and a normally-external USB cable was observed inside the case, connecting the wifi antenna block at the rear to a controller board inside. A bit ad hoc, but the cable was glued to the controller's USB port, as an added precaution against movement during shipment or use.
Grade: A. Great modularity; obviously built to be upgraded over time.
User InterfaceThe software is a modified version of cgminer 2.10.4, on top of OpenWRT "Barrier Breaker r35097" and Linux 3.6.11 w/ Avalon-specific device drivers. The primary user interface is via web browser, though SSH is also supported. It is the standard OpenWRT web interface, with two additions:
- cgminer configuration: supports three (3) pools, for which you supply URL, worker username and password.
- cgminer status: example output
PerformanceThe only thing that really matters, in the end, is the amount of power used and the amount of shares submitted upstream. Unfortunately my Kill-A-Watt is missing in action, so we only have half the picture, output.
Performance is much higher than announced. 60 Ghps was announced. The unit's cgminer self-reports 67.5 Ghps. mining.bitcoin.cz reports between 65 Ghps and 67 Ghps (see previous post). This is a significant increase over the announced speed. When you consider that it is possible to add a 4th ASIC module, it is even more impressive.
After 20 hours of mining, the unconfirmed + confirmed rewards equal 14.98832170 BTC. Note that slush's pool was very lucky recently, in addition to some blocks with abnormally high TX fee income, so that number skews much higher than expected.
Grade: N/A Want to write A+... but we cannot judge fully without power numbers.
ReliabilityThe miner is currently running on an already loaded residential house power circuit, while sharing a Back UPS ES 550 with another desktop machine. The small office/lab in which it resides is poorly ventilated, and in the winter time, prone to being overly hot. In other words, not ideal conditions.
After 30 minutes or so of mining, the lights in my room flickered, UPS's beeped and complained. Because of some stupidity (plugged into 'surge-only' side of UPS), the miner restarted as well. After some reconfiguration, this problem was solved.
Nevertheless, the unit has seen several cgminer restarts, and a few full machine restarts. Machine restarts seem to happen every 4-6 hours. Even ignoring more obvious means of restart detection (login and look at uptime, or ping-monitoring etc), a restart is a clearly audible event: At startup, the fans race at full speed for a few seconds, before "calming down" to a more moderate pace.
One of the temperature monitors consistently reads close to 50, and "temp_max" is often 100-125, so it is possible or even likely that temperature is playing a factor in these restarts. Yifu stated that this machine has several failsafes, where it will restart upon abnormal events.
Grade: N/A Need to investigate non-miner problem sources, but warrants watching. Given evidence, it is highly likely that external factors are adding unwanted heat.
Feb 01 Update: Laying the machine flat, and adjust heat/air flow in my office seems to have helped significantly. No problems or restarts seen since that change, though as of this writing, it is too soon to tell for certain.
Pool testingPool testing is ongoing. More will receive their units before this unit gets around to testing your favorite pool, but this unit will be rotated through several pools.
Slush's pool with Stratum works great. No problems seen.
p2pool was tested. After some very helpful advice from p2pool's author and #p2pool channel, it appeared to start working. Then Strange Things Happened. The miner and p2pool both started reporting very odd values for everything from hardware fan temperature to software share difficulty on the pool side. Cannot rule out hardware or software at this point, but the miner seems quite happy on slush's stratum pool.
Update: Eligius was also tested. Saw issues with duplicates that were similar to p2pool issues. These issues disappeared when switching to Stratum mode.
Customer SupportFirst, a story. Apparent Yifu was quite surprised when I received the unit on Wednesday. It sounded like there was a carefully planned PR campaign to coincide with the arrival of the units on... Thursday or Friday. That was the expected arrival of my unit. Then, surprise! This crazy American is already posting pictures of an ASIC unit. Suddenly all my mobiles, emails and IRC windows were lighting up with "oh crap! please call me!" messages.
After connecting on the phone, and talking about fun bitcoin projects, he made sure all my questions were answered, and made sure I was happy with the unit. Yifu was clearly excited to finally get the ASICs out into community hands.
Grade: It is not fair to give them a grade here, because it was a highly unusual situation, and the CTO was phoning personally to provide support. It is unlikely that most customers will get that kind of star treatment simply out of fiscal and employee-bandwidth necessity.
Disclaimers and disclosuresMy mining unit was a full price unit, ordered and paid for during Batch #1's order window. Unsolicited, at the time of ordering (months ago), Yifu returned 25 BTC back to me, as a thank you for core development.
On the day of release (Jan 20), also unsolicited, Yifu bumped me to the front of the line for receiving units. I learned of this via private email at the same time forum participants learned that ASICs had shipped. Yifu requested (but did not insist) that I write a review, in exchange for receiving the first unit. That is the extent of any special treatment or private communication (though see phone call, below). Everything else has been publicly disclosed, primarily through BitSyncom posts or this Bitcoin Magazine interview.