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NSF Researcher Suspended For Mining Bitcoin

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the probably-shouldn't-do-that dept.

Bitcoin 220

PvtVoid (1252388) writes "In the semiannual report to Congress by the NSF Office of Inspector General, the organization said it received reports of a researcher who was using NSF-funded supercomputers at two universities to mine Bitcoin. The computationally intensive mining took up about $150,000 worth of NSF-supported computer use at the two universities to generate bitcoins worth about $8,000 to $10,000, according to the report. It did not name the researcher or the universities."

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Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (5, Insightful)

Shadowmist (57488) | about 6 months ago | (#47199811)

This is pretty much at the lowest of the low category, Someone who takes up taxpayer funded computer time to mine Bitcoin, should essentially be barred for life form the facility... and that's for starters.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1, Insightful)

Xicor (2738029) | about 6 months ago | (#47199845)

well, most likely the computers werent being used for anything else at the time. he was probably only running it in spare time.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199859)

well, most likely the computers werent being used for anything else at the time. he was probably only running it in spare time.

Using close to 100% of processing resources would definitely increase overall power consumption for the computers in question. This would result in increased overall cost of operation.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (3, Insightful)

lagomorpha2 (1376475) | about 6 months ago | (#47201741)

well, most likely the computers werent being used for anything else at the time. he was probably only running it in spare time.

Using close to 100% of processing resources would definitely increase overall power consumption for the computers in question. This would result in increased overall cost of operation.

And yet still less wasteful of money and resources than the vast majority of university administrators.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 6 months ago | (#47202029)

Yes, but that waste isn't malfeasance.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 6 months ago | (#47202993)

"Spare" processing time doesn't exist anymore, computers aren't that horrendously inefficient these days. They only use what they need. And this jackass made them need a lot more.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

kmoser (1469707) | about 5 months ago | (#47215411)

He was performing a sophisticated CPU performance and RAM burn-in test. He should be congratulated.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (4, Informative)

MiniMike (234881) | about 6 months ago | (#47199895)

Many of those systems have no (or minimal) idle time. Also, this misuse caused them to consume more power, and increased the wear on the systems components. There was a real impact from this. The $150k indicates a lot of cpu time was consumed for this, but TFA doesn't indicate how much- certainly more than would have been 'spare time'.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199927)

$150K for computer time for a "supercomputer" that can't mine more bitcoin than it costs to operate? I kinda doubt it.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199995)

Where is it written that a "supercomputer" must be efficient and cheap to run?

FWIW, at this point, any "general use" computer is not efficient to mine bitcoin - it only makes sense to use custom-designed ASICs. Unless you get free power, then use as many CPUs and GPUs as you want, but even the cost of the hardware components is going to be pricey compared to your return.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 6 months ago | (#47200077)

A computer in your parents basement doesn't require dedicated facilities, cooling and maintenance staff.

Costs are not comparable.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#47201305)

The number probably comes from the fee schedule for using the machines.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 6 months ago | (#47200195)

look, if you could by computing centre supercomputer time for mining bitcoin at cost efficient price now then everyone would be doing it and it would no longer be cost efficient(increased pricing).

the only way it would have been cost efficient would have been to speculate with the pricing, in which case you could just have bought the bitcoin and speculate that way.

what the guy should have done would have been to do some test research that just happened to run some calcs that mined bitcoin.......

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200325)

$150K for computer time for a "supercomputer" that can't mine more bitcoin than it costs to operate? I kinda doubt it.

Have you actually given this any thought? To make your money back with bitcoin these days you pretty much need ASICs [wikipedia.org] and/or cheap or free energy.

ASICs designed for bitcoin mining are pretty much useless for any non-coin mining type of work, so they wouldn't be used for scientific computing. In fact, if a supercomputer were really good at mining bitcoin, I'd wonder if it was improperly designed, or if someone made some amazing algorithmic breakthrough that would push out of the market everyone using those particular ASICs. And then when the new algorithm was translated into new ASICs, they'd crowd the market again.

Free nonspecialized hardware and free energy also work, but are less efficient. This researcher essentially stole the use of hardware, energy, and time used to do the work. It makes complete sense that the result was inefficient.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

Ed Avis (5917) | about 6 months ago | (#47201353)

The thing is that mining bitcoins is not really a supercomputer task. It is an "embarassingly parallel" problem - you could get some PCs and connect them over 9600bps serial ports, and it would hardly be any different to using the fastest network to connect them together. There is not that much communication needed between the parts of the cluster. A true supercomputer usually has fast, specialized interlink hardware between the compute nodes so it can work on problems which are somewhat less parallelizable, requiring more communication between the nodes. That is why it is expensive, and expensive to hire computing time on it, and yet it doesn't perform any better at bitcoin mining than a simple-minded farm of commodity hardware. (And for bitcoin mining, either of those will be blown out of the water by specialized ASICs.)

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201695)

Mining bitcoin on CPUs hasn't been power-efficient for a long time.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1, Insightful)

pete6677 (681676) | about 6 months ago | (#47200033)

The $150k is in "government numbers", ie total fantasy.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (5, Insightful)

iroll (717924) | about 6 months ago | (#47200053)

...because you buy time on modern supercomputers all the time, and can give us the real scoop, right?

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200129)

I may not buy supercomputer time, but I sell to the good ole' US of A's government quarterly. I promise, the OP is probably closer to the truth than you think. That 150k may have been only a day of sporadic use in total.

I know the radio portion of our software we sell for iOS, we charge over $800/yearly for per device license... Not including the support contract, the server software, the database software, the server support contract, the database support contract, the web ui software and matching support, the sharepoint connector and matching support, the Microsoft Lync connector and matching support....

I'm not saying the government pays a lot of money, but, my Porsche is blue.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200223)

The university I work at regularly has students assembling small clusters, using either used computers or new nodes to test out performance of new, off-the-shelf parts. A large part of this is for educational reasons, giving a small test bed for both hardware and software that the students have hands on experience before dumping students into a project that has limited time on large supercomputers. The cost of the equipment is not much more than what gamers spend on hardware, except for occasional esoteric interconnects, and the student's wage is essentially free compared to some higher ups. If we could simply scale this up instead of using the large supercomputers, and gotten more bang for the buck, we would have already done that (and for some smaller research projects, that is what they did as they didn't need larger computers).

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 6 months ago | (#47200339)

"That 150k may have been only a day of sporadic use in total."

That would make sense to me. Hell, 150K sounds more like a few hours.

Super computers are EXPENSIVE. A super computer is not just a tower with 30 gigs of ram and 10 processors, this is a building full of wires and computer components. I can just imagine the power draw on one. Hundreds of leading scientist crowd around them to hopefully get 30 minutes to run some computations.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

nabsltd (1313397) | about 6 months ago | (#47201933)

Super computers are EXPENSIVE. A super computer is not just a tower with 30 gigs of ram and 10 processors, this is a building full of wires and computer components.

At this point, you can get a "supercomputer" in a rack for around US$500K, and it uses about 20kW of power.

Sure, it's not going to set any records, but with 500-1000 cores and 5-10TB of RAM, it's a lot more than most users will ever see. Heck, we have 40-core systems with over 2TB of RAM that fit in 2U. Again, not a supercomputer, but certainly a lot more power than in most single systems.

Based on TFA, I suspect the "cost" of $150K was what the time on the computer might sell for if somebody outside the project wanted to use it, not actual cost of electricity used. Most of these projects (like where I work) have computer resources that are free to use for all researches directly associated with the project, but could have a charge back for others. And, as others have stated, general purpose computers are pretty bad at mining, so it might have taken a lot of CPU-hours, and that's what the accountants are looking at. Here, we do have systems that would do fairly well at bitcoin mining (8 nVidia GPUs per 2U box), but they (like the other systems) are so busy doing actual work that nobody could possibly get enough idle cycles to do anything. That's why I put "cost" in quotes...if a system that is supposed to be used for research isn't doing enough that somebody could find that much idle time, then the system was either overbuilt or under-advertised.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

rmstar (114746) | about 6 months ago | (#47202433)

Sure, it's not going to set any records, but with 500-1000 cores and 5-10TB of RAM, it's a lot more than most users will ever see.

Can you provide any links? I'm interested. Thanks.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | about 5 months ago | (#47211275)

Cray CS series [cray.com] .

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201859)

What sort of fucking wanker buys a Porsche?

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (4, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | about 6 months ago | (#47200729)

...because you buy time on modern supercomputers all the time, and can give us the real scoop, right?

It's a fantasy in as much as the police reporting the "bust" of 4.8m worth of pot, actual street value probably 80k. Or the MPAA/RIAA saying that piracy costs 70 trillion* in lost revenue every year.

*may or may not be true based on how well we can massage and fudge the fuck out of the numbers.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#47200869)

fudge the fuck out of the numbers.

As opposed to fucking the fudge out of the consumers.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (-1, Redundant)

Mashiki (184564) | about 6 months ago | (#47200941)

As opposed to fucking the fudge out of the consumers.

That comes *later.

*may or maynot include a reach-around, lube not provided.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

manicb (1633645) | about 6 months ago | (#47205251)

I don't buy it, but I do use it. The UK academic supercomputer ARCHER has a handy cost calculator:
http://www.archer.ac.uk/access/au-calculator [archer.ac.uk]

150,000 USD is about 90,000 GBP; playing with the numbers here that would buy a non-partner research council about 1200 hours of 3072-core jobs; about 3.7 million core hours on 2.7 GHz 12-core Ivy Bridge CPUs with 64GB of RAM per 2-CPU node. A non-trivial amount of computer time!

Given that this is what would be charged to national and European and academic research projects, and is run by a UK research funding council which will have taken some national funds to set up the facility in the first case, I doubt the pricing is wholly unreasonable. It's a shame the article is not clearer on this point, but the most obvious assumption would be that they are talking about $150k at research council rates. In which case the 'fantasy' is in the form of ignored subsidies to capital costs.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

iroll (717924) | about 6 months ago | (#47205329)

I wish I could mod this up! Thanks!

Re: Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 6 months ago | (#47200189)

Well, a supercomputer is definitely not anywhere near as power efficient for mining bitcoin as a graphics card, let alone profitable mining hardware like ASICS, so at a minimum, he blew much, much more in taxpayer funded power/hardware wear than he profited.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200681)

No, not really. It is lost opportunity cost for the system - the user burned up CPU and I/O, likely, that exceeded the allocated budget for his group or department or research project. He just as easily could have been running a blitz Empire server or few, too.

the costs for the server are very real, but they're abstracted & billed out in a fashion much like AWS is billed out for EC2, etc.

Those servers are more or less running 24x7 at some degree of load, not a lot of idle time on them, so there is not really "increased wear and tear", just wear and tear that can't be charged back or billed to someone's budget now.

--source - used to work with academic computing systems.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201081)

There is also the little detail where he did this entirely for personal monetary gain - (assuming the $150k is right) he stole $150k and bought himself 8k worth of hookers and blow (or whatever).

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202607)

Now wait a fucking minute! Scientists are pure, always tell the truth, and work completely for free! Just ask Al Gore.

Power is a real concern too (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 6 months ago | (#47201127)

The amount of power supercomptuers take is IMMENSE. Like let's say he was using Stampede, the supercomputer at University of Texas. That thing draws 3 MEGAWATTS when fully spooled up. That is just what it draws, not what its cooling system takes, which could easily be another half a megawatt. Now we dunno what they pay for electricity precisely, but looking at industrial rates in Texas with the PUC it runs somewhere around the realm of $73/MWh. So running this thing for just one hour spun up costs $250ish. Just the raw power cost is a lot.

Now I'll grant you, it uses some of that at idle. However even if all the systems just drop to idle power, and it doesn't shut down unused nodes, it'll still easily be 10% of that based on what our Dell servers use (the system uses a bunch of Dell servers with Sandy Bridge Xeons in them).

So never mind CPU time costs, maintenance, wear, other research getting delayed, etc, which is all very real, pure power usage is a lot for a big supercomputer.

Power costs is something many coin miners never seem to factor in. They'll crow on about their "profits" but if they deduct anything, it is just hardware costs. They don't seem to bother to analyze how much power their computers are using to do the mining, and then further how much power is being used to cool those computers, if applicable.

Re:Power is a real concern too (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 6 months ago | (#47202009)

The article points out that it was $150,000 over 6 months. So roughly $25,000 worth of time each month or at your costs about 100 hours of supercomputing time each month. Now I have no idea how long it would take a supercomputer to mine 12-15 bitcoin but it's certainly a valid question to ask if these numbers seem reasonable.

Re:Power is a real concern too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47203793)

Those costs mentioned were just for the raw electricity. No wear, no maintenance, no portion of the cost of the hardware factored in.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201203)

I'll buy "consume more power", and I'll buy "eats up cpu time better used for something else", taking into consideration that these things are indeed scheduled to have minimal idle time, but "increase the wear"? If we're talking Babbage's Difference Engine, or another steam-driven contraption, then maybe. But for a few disks? They'd be spinning anyway. Likewise cooling. They're basically given running costs, so need to be properly amortised over the whole thing, and then the numbers for damages suddenly make a lot less sense.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

rmstar (114746) | about 6 months ago | (#47201495)

Many of those systems have no (or minimal) idle time.

In my experience, this is true only for the top machines in terms of reputation of the institution where they are run. Many more supercomputing facilities actually idle around a lot if not most of the time. They were bought to confer bragging rights and are embedded into a context that makes them unable to operate effectively.

A lot of these machines are hard to program for, and the institutions that own them hard to deal with (often universities with bad bureaucracy and ridiculous internal rules) which means few bother and even fewer get to run code on them. Of course that is something that is rarely admitted in public.

I think the guy did wrong and should be punished. OTOH, I think he also deserves an award for showing (again) how ridiculous the whole HPC thing actually is. Here we have these supposedly super-high-end machines (in terms of running benchmark software) which just aren't competitive by a hilariously large margin with what is out there mining bitcoins. How embarrasing.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

leonardluen (211265) | about 6 months ago | (#47202963)

HPC computing has never been efficient on a cost per performance basis. you pay a large premium for the extra performance. but then certain problems can't be solved with simple commodity hardware.

Heck you can even see this in pricing for consumer level hardware. a certain processor may cost you $x but if you want to upgrade to another one that is just 10% faster it will cost you $2x. do you really need that extra 10%? some people certainly think they do.

as for the guy that stole $150k in computing time to make $8k in bitcoins, i am sure he wasn't paying for the running time on the computer, so why does he care how efficiently it is mining?

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

sacrilicious (316896) | about 6 months ago | (#47202005)

I remember when the RIAA had some pirate place raided years ago, and the coverage of the raid said that they'd found "thousands" of dvd burners. Turns out the actual number was lower by an order of magnitude, and that the numbers had been inflated on the pretense that a 16x speed burner was "equivalent" to 16 dvd burners.

Do not -- by any stretch -- put it past the interested parties to thusly lie.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 6 months ago | (#47203409)

It doesn't matter who, anyone trying to get you will exaggerate the numbers.

Years ago I once ran an unauthorized MUD on one of the university's servers, and a friend wrote something in LPC which had a bug in it (which caused the MUD to fill the partition my home dir was on to fill up overnight). When the sysadmin was trying to make me look like the biggest monster to have logged onto the university's Sun box, he was pointing out that the system had to support over 10,000 users and I had singlehandedly denied access to all 10,000 users with my antics.

The problem was (and the sysadmin well knew this) this number was grossly exaggerated. To start with the discs were partitioned so each course was in its own separate filesystem, so I only filled up the filesystem for those on my course. Out of my course perhaps only 5 people used the central Sun system. Secondly, there may have been 10,000 users in /etc/passwd, but 9000 of them had never logged in (and never would log in). After he unlocked my account I was going to rebut his angry email by mentioning this and running a shell script to show how few users had ever logged in, but for some reason 19 year old me had a rare flash of good judgement and decided to let sleeping dogs lie.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

davmoo (63521) | about 6 months ago | (#47199907)

Electricity for the machines is not free. And supercomputers take a lot of that. Unless you have free electricity, bitcoin is at the point where its almost impossible to mine it and break even in less than 9 months to a year or so.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199987)

Yea, for example he could have been using that electricity to do global warming climate simulations!

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200063)

There are others who posted it, but free CPU on a large machine isn't free:

1: Electricity is a given.
2: Cooling, as the CPU use causes heat.
3: Denial of other tasks to run. I've seen use of "free CPU" before, but things like I/O channels can get saturated without a way to throttle it like CPU cycle usage.

The problem is that when people get nailed for stuff like this, it only causes problems in the future. It just means a H-1B will be hired next, because they are perceived as that they don't do sabotage or misuse resources.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

Camael (1048726) | about 6 months ago | (#47200121)

Considering the great lengths he went to to mine bitcoins, I wouldn't bet on that.

From the report:-

The researcher misused over $150,000 in NSF-supported computer
usage at two universities to generate bitcoins valued between $8,000
and $10,000. Both universities determined that this was an unauthorized
use of their IT systems. The researcher asserted that he was conducting
tests on the computers, but neither university had authorized him to
conduct such tests -- both university reports noted that the researcher
accessed the computer systems remotely and may have taken steps to
conceal his activities, including accessing one supercomputer through a
mirror site in Europe.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 6 months ago | (#47200711)

Supercomputing clusters generally have sophisticated job queues for handling job request by thousands of users. In my experience (in NERSC and TACC), utilization is pretty high, and it can take hours or days for a job to make it through the queue, depending on many factors. I doubt ze was running only on truly spare nodes, since someone can usually find a use for them.

Re: Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 6 months ago | (#47200995)

Bingo. He was using a quota which said 'you can use X many nodes for this'. If he hadn't been using them, then they would've been allocated to finish other queued jobs faster (and its not like we're running out of protein folding work anytime soon).

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201061)

"intensive mining took up about $150,000 worth of NSF-supported computer use"

Are you an idiot?

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

meerling (1487879) | about 6 months ago | (#47199853)

Now if he was doing research into bitcoin and the mining of bitcoins, there might be a reason for him to have done that.
Of course the remote access and use of a mirror site in Europe rather points to it being illicit.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 6 months ago | (#47200081)

The bitcoins would then be the property of the university and he'd be charged with theft, not getting in trouble for misusing university resources.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 6 months ago | (#47200979)

Embezzlement sounds a reasonable charge to me but we don't have all the details of what was considered. Maybe he bargained the charge down to the equivalent of a "dishonorable discharge". $150K is about 2-3 man years of research wages, which sounds like a lot but is little more that a rounding error in the bigger picture, ~0.01 cents per American. He may also have personal problems, gambling/drug addiction, neither side would have much to gain from criminal proceedings unless the practice was rampant and they wanted to set an example.

"Research"? (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#47201905)

Now if he was doing research into bitcoin and the mining of bitcoins, there might be a reason for him to have done that.

"Research into bitcoin"? Seriously? They were mining bitcoins and doing so at taxpayer expense. What legitimate "research" could they possibly have been doing?

Re:"Research"? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47202311)

"Research into bitcoin"? Seriously? They were mining bitcoins and doing so at taxpayer expense. What legitimate "research" could they possibly have been doing?

To see what each one tastes like? My bad, that only works with whales.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199877)

It wouldn't be so bad if the guy was dumping the money back into the system to lower the burden on taxpayers. I am guessing that was not the case.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199921)

I'm just curious how much electricity he burned cpu mining bitcoins? Hopefully he was mining a cpu algorithm altcoin and converting that to bitcoin & not mining bitcoin directly. CPU,GPU, and FPGA mining bitcoins(directly) hasn't been profitable for like: over a year(once cost of electricity is considered). I mined scrypt coins on my employers cad machine for awhile(a couple days) but at 150kh/s it wasn't worth the hassle. I eventually bought a bunch of 7970s and made a super-cad/gaming computer. Altcoin mining paid for the graphics cards so I got several TFLOPS of GPUs for near free. Altcoins have gone all sorts of sketchy since the scrypt ASICs hit the market. I don't even bother any more. Scrypt-N, Darkcoin, etc. It's too much of a pain in the ass to liquidate the profits before the pump and dump scheme collapses.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1, Troll)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 6 months ago | (#47199985)

Seems no worse than what politicians do with our money.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200171)

Yet he'll be punished much more severely...

give them probation.... maybe felony if necessary (1, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47200025)

I suspect you're joking but either way i hope they don't tag them w/ felonies just for this...the DA will surely pull some ridiculous damages figure but there's no reason to cripple good engineers forever w/ a felony for this

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200239)

In this economy, I would be surprised if they don't. There is a push for DAs to throw the book at even the smallest charges by the private prison lobby, and if the DA doesn't tag felonies, he or she will be out of a job, replaced by one that will.

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (2, Insightful)

iroll (717924) | about 6 months ago | (#47200247)

This is a felony. It's fraud and theft. Good engineers don't get fired for stealing 10% or less of what good engineers in the prime of their careers are making.

He didn't download a movie. He didn't copy that floppy. He appropriated a taxpayer resource to line his pockets.

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 6 months ago | (#47200669)

Given the low takings in relation to salery for someone in such a position, I suspect it may have been motivated as much by bragging rights or enthusiasm for bitcoin as direct profits. Sometimes you just want to impress people with your mining rig.

when Wall St. gets theirs... (0, Flamebait)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47200781)

This is a felony. It's fraud and theft.

boo fsking hoo

when the 1000s of asshats who caused the financial crisis are held accountable...all of them...THEN...your question would be valid

you're a pedantic shit

Re:when Wall St. gets theirs... (1)

iroll (717924) | about 6 months ago | (#47200829)

>somebody got away with something so nobody should get prosecuted for something different

GJGE

Re:when Wall St. gets theirs... (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#47200897)

Are we supposed to ignore all "lesser" crimes while there are greater ones (even metaphorical ones) outstanding?

THEN...your question would be valid

GP didn't ask a question.

been saying so all along (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47203821)

in my original comments I said what he did was a crime and should be punished

I said he should be punished

i said it was criminal

punishment warranted

its a crime

it was in my original comment

Wall street is irrelevant here (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#47201975)

when the 1000s of asshats who caused the financial crisis are held accountable...all of them...THEN...your question would be valid

Two wrongs don't make a right. Just because the scumbags in the financial world haven't been brought to account doesn't excuse what this guy (allegedly) did. If he committed a crime and it can be proven in an appropriate court of law then he deserves to be punished. We don't excuse people just because there are other criminals doing worse things.

Re:when Wall St. gets theirs... (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 6 months ago | (#47202125)

I am going to steal money from you. Since I am stealing less than the financial crisis, I should not be charged.

Re:when Wall St. gets theirs... (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47203837)

that's not at all the logic I used and you know it

you know exactly what I meant...

it was about the *felony*

when the 2008 financial crisis perpetrators are in prison, ***THEN*** we can legitimately ask if we should be harder on these criminals

as it stands our criminal justice system is egregiously broken and putting people like this in prison won't help

Re:when Wall St. gets theirs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47205721)

when the 2008 financial crisis perpetrators are in prison, ***THEN***

We read what you wrote. Stop whining. boo fsking hoo.

your lack of self-agency (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47206409)

Stop whining. boo fsking hoo.

right...love how you have a login but post as AC when you troll

if you can't post it logged-in, then you shouldn't post it

i'm not "whining"...see, you got picked on too much as a child and have a skewed idea of what "whining" is...

when a test or system is unfair or unbalanced then the **ONLY RIGHT THING TO DO** is speak out and act to **FIX THINGS**

speaking out to fix things and conctradict idiots is not "whining"

when the bullies called you a "whiner" they were really exploiting your lack of self-agency

speaking out in the moment is "sticking up for yourself".....saying to others after the fact how unfair things are when you consistently refuse to "stick up for yourself" is "whining"

Re:your lack of self-agency (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 5 months ago | (#47217925)

That wasn't me. I log in when I troll.

Also I try to make a point when I troll. Even if I did intentionally take the argument to the limit of reasonableness.

Re:when Wall St. gets theirs... (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 5 months ago | (#47217909)

If I steal enough money from you it will be a felony.

Hey, I am totally on board with the bankers getting their asses tossed in jail instead of getting bonuses for wrecking our economy.

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202727)

More importantly, he did it very poorly. Seriously, $100k of computer time for a $10k profit? Buttcoin is not economically viable to produce.

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (4, Funny)

ultranova (717540) | about 6 months ago | (#47202879)

He appropriated a taxpayer resource to line his pockets.

So basically, he's the very model of a good capitalist, sharing the costs and keeping the profits. Why should he be punished for his entrepreneurship? Why do you hate freedom so much?

Bald eagles cry tears of blood, red like the flag of Soviet Union, over your post.

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47203967)

This is obviously a troll post, but I feel like pointing out that even Ayn Rand who's basically the poster child for taking pro capitalist philosophy further than it's logical conclusion uses exactly this as sort of behavior as the cause of the downfall of the world economy in the novel Atlas Shrugged.

Hell probably a good 50% of Francisco d'Anconia's rants are about how failing business getting the government to prop them up with laws and taxes that kill their competition and force people to buy from them, is stupid and doomed to failure.

Anyone who tells you socializing rick/losses and privatizing profits is capitalism is lying (or is a gullible idiot who's been lied to). It's actually a degenerate form of socialism (similar to what ran the Soviet union into the ground).

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47205907)

Anyone who tells you socializing rick/losses and privatizing profits is capitalism is lying (or is a gullible idiot who's been lied to). It's actually a degenerate form of socialism (similar to what ran the Soviet union into the ground).

It's actually existing capitalism, as in how it actually works, not some unicorns shitting rainbows ideal

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47207281)

No, he would've be the model of a good capitalist if he staked his own money and time on it.

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (1, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 months ago | (#47200301)

there's no reason to cripple good engineers forever w/ a felony for this

Yeah, there is a reason to cripple a "good"* engineer forever with a felony for this - he committed a bloody felony.

*Presuming he's "good", something neither you nor I know... but misuse of someone else's property indicates that he has significant ethics problems, which argues against him being "good".

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200535)

So what if instead he was "human-mining" huntercoin (bitcoin spinoff that lets you mine coins by playing a game) on his desktop? Lets say he was just playing a normal game? How much is the supercomputer aspect of this important vs the profit aspect?

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 6 months ago | (#47200895)

First what-ifs are useless because they didn't happen.
Second it is not a profit issue. It is about stealing time that could be used for real research. Supercomputer time is a scarce resource and he misused it.

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201119)

It seems it is not really a matter of "misusing someone else's property" that upsets you, rather it is misusing a scarce resource. Also, at VA hospitals it is a felony to use the email system to invite people to a birthday party.

Banks can't be homeless (0)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47200807)

you're an idiot

look at you, using italics to make your point

he committed a **FELONY**

you're just arguing for a word b/c you're a social darwinist who gets off on other's suffering

when the US criminal justice system punishes the 2008 financial crisis and LIBOR perpetrators I'll entertain teh notion of this being a serious crime, even though I don't see it that way

people stealing from a bank...yes criminal but not **nearly** as harmful to society as a BANK stealing a HOME from a FAMILY

fsking idiot

Why pick and choose? (2)

Camael (1048726) | about 6 months ago | (#47200959)

when the US criminal justice system punishes the 2008 financial crisis and LIBOR perpetrators I'll entertain teh notion of this being a serious crime, even though I don't see it that way

I agree that the perpetrators of the 2008 financial crisis and LIBOR scandal ought to be severely punished for all the human misery they caused, and personally I would be comfortable with sentences including capital punishment.

But that is that, and this is this. Are you seriously advocating that lesser crimes should be forgiven if there are bigger fish to fry? That people who misuse $150,000 of public funds to line their own pockets with $8,000-10,000 should get away with it because others have stolen millions/billions?

Quite frankly I don't see why it should be an either or proposition. Why not go after all of them?

I will also add that from the report, the miner doesn't sound like an angel worth defending at all :-

The researcher misused over $150,000 in NSF-supported computer
        usage at two universities to generate bitcoins valued between $8,000
        and $10,000. Both universities determined that this was an unauthorized
        use of their IT systems. The researcher asserted that he was conducting
        tests on the computers, but neither university had authorized him to
        conduct such tests -- both university reports noted that the researcher
        accessed the computer systems remotely and may have taken steps to
        conceal his activities, including accessing one supercomputer through a
        mirror site in Europe.

Re:Why pick and choose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202535)

Are you seriously advocating that lesser crimes should be forgiven if there are bigger fish to fry?

No, I believe that the above poster is advocating that a justice system which fails to prosecute known perpetrators of severe abuses is one which lacks legitimacy.

There is a reason why people say "Justice must be blind" and that's not because they're endorsing the idea of Justice stumbling its way through the world, possible though that interpretation may be from a literal standpoint, but because they want justice not to pick and choose those who are weighed on the scales.

Re:Why pick and choose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202753)

Not to mention, if you just need something to run the CPU at full tilt, they could have just dumped BOINC on it and joined a distributed computing project. Bitcoin mining is never for "testing purposes".

Why ask that quesiton? (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47203867)

Are you seriously advocating that lesser crimes should be forgiven

no...NO>>>NNNOOO

I ***NEVER*** said "it's not a crime"

of course he should be punished...but not a felony and not prison

stop putting words in my mouth

You're so full of shit (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 months ago | (#47201177)

Good job there mate, caught wrong in your assumptions and unable to refute the facts - you resort to personal attacks and blowing smoke.

Re:Banks can't be homeless (0)

soccerisgod (585710) | about 6 months ago | (#47201497)

Calm down, Rumpelstiltskin. Otherwise, someone will probably come and repeatedly kick you in the ass until such time that you agree that every crime should be punished regardless of how it relates to what some Wallstreet assholes did or do.

Re:Banks can't be homeless (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 6 months ago | (#47201609)

I'm sorry, but your post makes you look like an idiot. You're criticising him for using italics (as emphasis) when you seem incapable of using capital letters in the usual fashion.

Formatting issues aside, your argument is somewhat weak if I am understanding it correctly: don't punish people for a lesser crime if there's a greater crime being unpunished. There's so many problems with that idea that it's not really tenable.

In general, if non-desirable behaviour is considered a "felony" then anyone performing that behaviour should be prosecuted with the appropriate law. If there's a problem with the laws being badly written (which is probably what you actually think here), then that's a separate issue.

Also, relax - your post seems to be a little bit on the angry side.

always said it was criminal, you fsker (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47203901)

don't punish people for a lesser crime if there's a greater crime being unpunished

again, you're purposefully misunderstanding

you know full well that I objected to the notion of "throwing the book" at this guy

NOWHERE DID I SAY HE SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHED

I said the punishment should allow him to keep his career

**and that to complain that my solution is a "light sentence" is wrong, b/c of the hypocricy over prosecution the financial crisis**

you people are bloodthirsty social darwinists who love to find something wrong with others

your problem is schaudenfreud...that's where you're at here...your taking joy in doling out punishment

Re:always said it was criminal, you fsker (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 6 months ago | (#47204591)

Nope, I'm not purposefully misunderstanding you, but I just misinterpreted your post. I do happen to think that the justice system in the US is very unbalanced and a light sentence would be appropriate in my opinion.

Would he necessarily lose his career? I'm not familiar with the sentencing guidelines for felonies nor what his likely punishment would be. Probably giving him a fine would suffice, but it does seem like any kind of "computer" crime attracts incredibly harsh penalties so you've got a point.

I've never considered myself a social darwinist. Maybe bloodthirsty (I do enjoy watching Game of Thrones) and I do get a sense of satisfaction when nasty people are punished for their crimes, but that doesn't apply to this case. He was just greedy and foolish.

well ok then fsker (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47206429)

Maybe bloodthirsty (I do enjoy watching Game of Thrones)

haha well I watch it too, in spite of my good taste

thanks for taking my harsh language in stride...glad you agree b/c this really is a problem and we all need to do our part, even if it's just a few posts online

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 6 months ago | (#47200713)

Minor thing, but it's more likely a scientist than an engineer.

Engineers are not saints (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#47201949)

the DA will surely pull some ridiculous damages figure but there's no reason to cripple good engineers forever w/ a felony for this

If it was indeed a crime then after due process takes its course then they absolutely do deserve to be tagged with a felony. There are plenty of engineers who are corrupt just like any other profession. If they committed a crime then they deserve the punishment. While innocent until proven guilty and all that, if they did what it appears then the absolutely deserve to go to jail and pay restitution.

Re:give them probation.... maybe felony if necessa (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47202339)

Of course there is a reason. You fuck other people around in the workplace for your own profit and you should get penalised as if you were stealing their equipment and selling it.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | about 6 months ago | (#47200151)

Not sure what world you think you live in, but this is the same with goverment anything. I know plenty of people that don't work IT for any goverment contract, too boring. No body works, everyone stands around the water cooler and gossips all day. I am saddened that you think that goverment anything wouldn't waste money.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 6 months ago | (#47206531)

That doesn't sound like my experience working for government. We got things done.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200365)

Politicians are the lowest of the low who misuse taxpayer funds. They should be barred from life.
  But they get away with it because the police are cowards when it comes to prosecuting them.

Blame the cops. How convenient. (1)

Camael (1048726) | about 6 months ago | (#47200983)

Politicians are the lowest of the low who misuse taxpayer funds. They should be barred from life. But they get away with it because the police are cowards when it comes to prosecuting them.

Bit convenient ain't it, pushing all the blame to the police? It's their job to keep politicians clean, not your problem? What about the voters who keep electing the same dirty officials into office term after term? Not their fault, I'm sure.

Politicians elect their buddies to become police commissioners who then control the pay, promotions and advancement prospects of cops on the force. Cops are regular joes who have families to feed, mortgages to pay, retirement funds to worry about.

Do you know what happens to clean cops who try to expose corruption? They get shot at [wikipedia.org] . Watch the movie "Serpico" for the gory details. Think about what you are asking them to sacrifice, and what you have done before you mouth off about cowardice.

Re:Blame the cops. How convenient. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201729)

Never mind that it's not the cops job to prosecute anyone in the first place - that is the job of the prosecutor's office.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 6 months ago | (#47201407)

1. you don't know if he actually wasted anything (the computers could have been idle otherwise)
2. perhaps he intended to donate the money, or he needed it to help a relative, etc.; you just don't know anything about the situation.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 6 months ago | (#47201799)

1. you don't know if he actually wasted anything (the computers could have been idle otherwise)

An idle computer consumes less resources to operate then one processing some task. Not only electricity to run the computer, but the considerable amount of heat that is generated that has to be conditioned. The article and the report don't go into details so we're just left presuming the cost to operate the supercomputers during the mining was $150,000.

I would imagine that there isn't too much idle time on a supercomputer. It's not like this was some student computing center tech installing SETI@home to run as a screen saver.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47203147)

I would imagine that there isn't too much idle time on a supercomputer. It's not like this was some student computing center tech installing SETI@home to run as a screen saver.

And you would be wrong. This is almost exactly like some student tech installing SETI@home on the cluster to run while idle. Been there, done that. Didn't get fired and it hurt absolutely no one and cost not a dime more in expense.

This would have been perfectly fine back 10-15 years ago when idle computers took pretty much the same amount of power as computers running at 100%. Unfortunately for him, that is far from the case these days (unless this cluster is old and still operating on Netburst architecture or something). I highly doubt he burned $150k of electricity though. The proper course of action here is to fire him, and hold him accountable for the *actual cost* of the additional electric. It's not hard to figure out in a professionally managed datacenter - power graphs will easily show the spike, and it will be less than you'd expect. I manage a 12MW critical load facility, and the peak vs. idle times of the day isn't as apparent as one would think.

Road to hell and good intentions (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#47202049)

1. you don't know if he actually wasted anything (the computers could have been idle otherwise)

Not relevant. Even if the computer was idle that doesn't give him the right to utilize it for his own enrichment. Furthermore even an idle computer costs money to operate and maintain, so if he did what he is accused of then it was certainly theft on some level.

2. perhaps he intended to donate the money, or he needed it to help a relative, etc.; you just don't know anything about the situation.

You're going to use a Robin Hood defense? You don't get permission to steal things just because you "intend" to donate the money to someone needy. I could point out that you don't know anything about the situation either. You have no evidence that altruistic motives were at work here. But it doesn't matter. Based on the available information it appears that this person tried to use a computer to enrich themselves or others unjustly at the expense of others. That is a crime regardless of intent. I cannot walk into Walmart and steal something just because I intend to give it away to someone needy.

Re:Road to hell and good intentions (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 6 months ago | (#47203139)

I cannot walk into Walmart and steal something just because I intend to give it away to someone needy.

Of course you can. It breaks the law and makes you a criminal, but you can make that choice. It may or may not be a good choice, but pretending it isn't a possible course of action is self-delusion.

Re:Road to hell and good intentions (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#47203475)

Of course you can. It breaks the law and makes you a criminal, but you can make that choice.

Ok Captain Pedantic, are you really that stupid that you cannot figure out that the word "legally" was implied? Since that was too difficult, "I cannot LEGALLY walk into Walmart and steal something...". Happy now?

Re:Road to hell and good intentions (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 5 months ago | (#47211539)

Ok Captain Pedantic, are you really that stupid that you cannot figure out that the word "legally" was implied?

Historically, Captain Ignorant, "cannot legally" and "cannot" have been sometimes confused with unfortunate results [wikipedia.org] . Such delusions do seem to become accepted truths if repeated often enough. Also, I cannot know if you're an authoritarian, now can I?

Since that was too difficult, "I cannot LEGALLY walk into Walmart and steal something...". Happy now?

Ecstatic. I knew you could do it!

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

manicb (1633645) | about 6 months ago | (#47205577)

Hi, I use research supercomputers. There are rarely many idle cores, as they use queue systems to allow many researchers to simultaneously submit multiple jobs with different requirements. Scheduling software attempts to manage the parallel job sizes to minimise unused nodes. When there are idle cores it is usually for a reason (i.e. running down certain queues at certain times to support certain patterns of use) and it wouldn't be possible to easily squeeze in a little bitcoin crunching.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201969)

The researcher obviously reads Slashdot, so perhaps he or she is not completely without redemption.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 6 months ago | (#47202021)

Well if you look at it a different way... If the Computer is Idle then it is just wasting everyone money. So use the spare CPU Cycles to mine Bitcoins, and make a few bucks.

I don't agree with that way of thinking, however way things get budgeted it is often hard to share your resources with other groups so the system seems to encourage computational inefficiency. He could run Seti-at-home, but he chose to mine bitcoins.

This really should be a slap on the hand type of punishment. Just like if you got a supercomputer and used it to play games on it during the computational off times.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47202421)

That's a pretty big assumption which is unlikely to occur on many systems that go under the name of "Supercomputer". From what I've seen it's like telescope time for astronomers - if there isn't a long queue to use the thing then it mustn't be working properly at the time.

Just like if you got a supercomputer and used it to play games

I think this is probably where we get to see the divide between the "never give a sucker and even break" people and those that see such an attitude as amoral. Yes, perfectly fine to screw others over to fill your own pocket - just like playing a game is it?

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 6 months ago | (#47203279)

Ethics is a learned trait not a natural ability.

However the details which I didn't bother RTFA about really helps draw the line.
a 150k isn't really a Super Computer just a high end server. So it may just be sitting there 16 hours out of the day.

So if it is the case the guy really isn't "screwing people over" by bit coin mining during off hours. Then it isn't that bad. A slap on the hand and a firm warning should be enough to get most people realize what they did is not appropriate uses.

If there is a Line for access to that computer and he is jamming the line up with his "Hobby" then yes he should get stricter punishment. As he is more willfully hindering others at his own expense.

Mining a Bit Coin and Playing Games is in essence the same thing. You are taking CPU Time and using extra power, so the damage is the same. However you are applying a non-universal moral line that states making money is more immoral then just for your own enjoyment.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47205845)

a 150k isn't really a Super Computer

Not only did you not read the article, you didn't even read the summary correctly. You really shouldn't have participated in this thread.

Rapaciousness (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#47210229)

You are really going out of your way to justify making money at the expense of other suckers that didn't see it coming. I know that some people see it as "the American way", but that is just so that they can wrap that turd up in a flag and feel that it is OK to take advantage of others.
Sadly we are learning more about the faults or secret desires of other posters than about the actual topic :(

Like how Bill Gates kicked out of Harvard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202389)

Sounds like how Bill Gates got kicked out of Harvard for using government funded computing resources to launch his company.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

hey! (33014) | about 6 months ago | (#47203621)

I agree with you on this one, but it does raise interesting questions.

What if the researcher were running SETI@Home? That would still be wrong. But would it be *as* wrong? As in "fired and barred for life* wrong?

What about someone who uses his office computer to do some Christmas shopping, or to check movie times? That seems to me to be a judgment call. There are behaviors which in moderation are harmless to the employer and which benefit the employee, but when taken to extreme are abuse.

This stuff is worth thinking about, because the simple answers are going to be too restrictive, and too restrictive is, for practical purposes, the same as too permissive. People don't respect rules that don't make sense, they find ways around them. That inflates the cost of enforcement too.

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47204333)

Lowest of the low? I think you need to be more dramatic because I didn't get a boner from your fantasy justice punishment. Maybe if you declared the researcher was really more depraved than Satan, and that the cpu cycles were actually murdered...

I, on the other hand, would at worst seek a wage garnishment for a time and print a taxpayer-funded sign up (the perma ban and firing squad I'd get would be worth it). The sign would say not to run programs on institution computers and detail the bona fide, totally not made up costs in doing so, and that "they'll come out of your paycheck!"

Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (1)

trb (8509) | about 6 months ago | (#47206339)

I think it's a form of money laundering, turning $150k of grant money into $10k of bitcoin.

$150,000? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199839)

Is that figure just based on some arbitrary appraisal of the the machine's time or what?

Re:$150,000? (1)

NeumannCons (798322) | about 6 months ago | (#47199933)

One would hope that the cpu time cost of this supercomputer has been calculated. I.E. How much people are willing to pay for CPU time on similar machines. Or even how much the facilities cost to house and run this computer (power, cooling, operators, building costs, etc). How about total costs amortized over the expected lifetime of the machine?

Of course, we don't know how the cost was calculated and it was probably a number arrived at after appropriate hand waving. And then someone transcribed some numbers when jotting it down, and this is the "amount worth" published.

$150,000? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199951)

It's based on the rate that the owning entity (typically a university or the DoE) charges for time on it, which is (at least in theory) correlated with the machine's electric, AC (i.e. more electric) and ISP bills, the hardware manufacturer service and support contracts, and the price of the highly paid technicians and sysadmins who keep it working. All of these are nontrivial.

Re:$150,000? (1)

swillden (191260) | about 6 months ago | (#47203225)

It's based on the rate that the owning entity (typically a university or the DoE) charges for time on it, which is (at least in theory) correlated with the machine's electric, AC (i.e. more electric) and ISP bills, the hardware manufacturer service and support contracts, and the price of the highly paid technicians and sysadmins who keep it working. All of these are nontrivial.

OTOH, the cost of central computer time is systematically overestimated, often by multiple orders of magnitude, and no one really pays the inflated costs.

25 years ago I was doing a lot of calculations on my campus mainframe, generating pretty pictures of the Mandelbrot and Julia sets. After doing this for a few weeks, I was confronted by the administration with a bill for over $30,000. After they let me freak out for a few seconds they said really it was no big deal, that the usage costs were just for internal accounting purposes (though they were based on the cost of the machine plus power, maintenance, etc.), but they needed me to stop slowing down other jobs. We agreed that I could run my jobs during the evening, at idle priority (during the day there was supposedly some impact on other jobs, even at idle priority, which still doesn't make any sense to me). From then on I occasionally looked at the bills for my usage. They eventually topped $100K, but it was all funny money.

I've talked to a lot of people in organizations with big central computing infrastructures and without fail heard the same story. There is a cost accounting for CPU time, but it's insanely high, and not real -- even though it really is related to the cost of the machine, nearly all of it is sunk cost, and often there's significant unused capacity just sitting idle at least some of the time. The marginal cost for using that idle capacity is low, but gets accounted at the full rate.

So... it's entirely likely that this $150K is quite a bit higher than the real cost of his mining.

Re:$150,000? (1)

pla (258480) | about 6 months ago | (#47199983)

Is that figure just based on some arbitrary appraisal of the the machine's time or what?

This counts as a good question, why did it get modded out of existence?

$150k counts as a lot of electricity. Even at the current difficulty, I find it hard to believe someone could have used that much power to mine only $8k worth of BTC.

So how did they get that number? Prorated over the expected useful lifetime, so quite possibly one or two days of CPU time at 500 million dollars total depreciated over 18 months?

This doesn't change the shittyness of the crime, but let's not call a spade a "garden tool of mass destruction" here.

Re:$150,000? (1)

batkiwi (137781) | about 6 months ago | (#47200017)

He was likely doing CPU based mining. That would be expensive and inefficient compared to ASIC or even GPU mining.

Re:$150,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200051)

Many modern supercomputers are based on large numbers of GPU-like coprocessors with a relative few CPUs to coordinate them all. What he was doing was probably closer to GPU mining than any of the others.

Re:$150,000? (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 6 months ago | (#47200139)

Even so, GPU-mining Bitcoins in 2014 is just pure lunacy.

Re:$150,000? (0)

rtb61 (674572) | about 6 months ago | (#47200585)

Here is a neat little story that explains it all and why individuals buying bit coin lottery machines are just plain nuts http://guardianlv.com/2014/04/... [guardianlv.com] . Crazy thinking along the lines of "Bitcoin enthusiasts believe Bitcoin will become the worldâ(TM)s reserve currency, replacing the dollar as the international medium of exchange, making them Bitcoin millionaires." often is promoted to hide the typical pyramid scam, which of course is the reality of bitcoin, early comers win and the later comers pay for it.

Re:$150,000? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201247)

This article contains a few factual errors and misconceptions, but the basic point - that it is close to impossible for individual Bitcoin miners to make a profit these days - is probably correct.

To profit out of Bitcoin mining in the current environment you need to either produce your own mining ASIC (and you need it to be very power efficient) or you will need the Bitcoin price to rise quite a bit.

Far back in the mists of ancient time, when a Bitcoin was worth about $0.30, I calculated that mining Bitcoins would probably pay for the cost of power and some GPUs - any profit would be made by offloading the used GPUs on eBay. Obviously, I was seriously in error because the Bitcoin price went up and up and down and up and up and down and up and up... so I ended up with a significant profit.

It is not impossible that the Bitcoin price will go up some more, and there are people who are willing to bet on this, so mining might just be profitable. On the other hand, if you believe that the Bitcoin price is going to go up, it is simpler to just buy some Bitcoins and hold them.

Re:$150,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201867)

Please donate BTC: 18awryFxpSG2C1PRHWCteoak94HfdFbnfD

Re:$150,000? (1)

supremebob (574732) | about 6 months ago | (#47201853)

Yeah... if this dumbass had half a brain, he would have mined a script based coin like Litecoin or Dogecoin instead. You could mine those profitably with a GPU up until recently.

Re:$150,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47204075)

Thank you, I came here just to say that. He's double stupid - getting caught stealing CPU time, and using it inefficiently.

Obligatory bitcoin pedant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47205361)

Litecoin and Dogecoin are both Scrypt based. All cryptocurrencies support scripts.

Re:$150,000? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47202447)

Well so if the Bitcoin pyramid scam now that tax departments around the world have all noticed it so what's a little more lunacy?
Don't worry - nobody can catch them with this digital pretend currency made up of detailed list of all the transactions that have been carried out on it - or so they think for some very strange reason.

Re:$150,000? (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 6 months ago | (#47200747)

Not really. In the systems I have used, the supercomputers are composed of a cluster of nodes, with each node containing several compute cores. Each compute core is basically equivalent and fully capable of general tasks.

Re:$150,000? (1)

swb (14022) | about 6 months ago | (#47201493)

I got in trouble in high school for "stealing" timesharing time at the local University (early 80s) and back then at least the time was valued based on some "retail" cost of the computing time based on operational costs.

Back then it was really bullshit, because unless you kept other jobs from running the damn system was up anyway and really didn't use any less resources if nothing was running. The same overpaid fulltimers and grad students still worked at the computer center, etc.

It's probably mostly still the same bullshit, but I would imagine the energy efficiency of modern systems, especially clustered ones where whole nodes get shutdown, is much higher.

Re:$150,000? (1)

rvw (755107) | about 6 months ago | (#47201653)

Is that figure just based on some arbitrary appraisal of the the machine's time or what?
$150k counts as a lot of electricity. Even at the current difficulty, I find it hard to believe someone could have used that much power to mine only $8k worth of BTC.

So how did they get that number? Prorated over the expected useful lifetime, so quite possibly one or two days of CPU time at 500 million dollars total depreciated over 18 months?

I guess they hired a RIAA lawyer, and he tries to copyright those bitcoins!

Real costs + opportunity cost (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#47202127)

$150k counts as a lot of electricity. Even at the current difficulty, I find it hard to believe someone could have used that much power to mine only $8k worth of BTC.

Electricity is just one of the costs involved and probably not even close to the biggest one. You have to consider the cost of the computers and other gear amortized across usage, rent/facility cost, support infrastructure, staff, insurance, maintenance, and more. Furthermore you have to consider the opportunity cost [wikipedia.org] if this guy used the system when it could have been put to other more productive use. Opportunity cost is probably where much of the $150K comes from. It was the price they could have sold the computer time for. I run a very small manufacturing company and it costs us around $60K per month just to keep the doors open even if we never produce a single product. The $150K number doesn't mean much out of context but it wouldn't be hard for me to believe a number in the tens of thousands of dollars.

(disclosure I'm an accountant)

Re:$150,000? (2)

Khashishi (775369) | about 6 months ago | (#47200727)

No. This figure is probably based on the actual rates that the supercomputing facility charges to research projects. For example, look at:
http://www.nersc.gov/users/acc... [nersc.gov]

Re:$150,000? (1)

Xyrus (755017) | about 6 months ago | (#47201831)

It's not just machine time. It's also personnel time, electricity, possibly wasted time for others since resources were being used, etc. It seems that the machines he was using didn't have GPUs so it was CPU only mining. This would have consumed a fair chunk of time and resources to generate that $8K-$10K.

This guy is incredibly stupid. I can't imagine what was going through his head when he tried to do this.

Re:$150,000? (1)

Enry (630) | about 6 months ago | (#47202083)

It's probably not arbitrary.

As background, I used to run a cluster at a Major New England University and got involved in some of the chargeback models that were set up. Some of the money for the cluster came from federal funds so I learned some of the high level rules associated with this.

You take all the charges associated with putting a cluster together - the hardware, software licenses, maintenance, system administrators, storage, storage administrators, network hardware and network administrators, data center floor space/power/cooling, pretty much anything that touches the hardware - and you space that out over the expected life of the hardware (usually 3-5 years). As you can imagine, this winds up being a pretty big number. You then divide by the number of cores and CPU hours to get a per-CPU hour number (or you can do wall time since it's fairly rare when jobs are 100% CPU efficient). Once users start using the service, the queueing system can track usage per job and give you some really detailed information on who used what and for how long. If you know this user ran this job for this amount of time, it's not too difficult to figure out how much money was spent.

Why stuff like this is tracked is somewhat important. If federal funds were used to put together a resource like an HPC, federal funds from e.g. a researcher's grant can't be used to pay for access to the resource - the government would be paying twice for the same resource. There are a few ways around it using direct and indirect costs and making large changes to how the resource is set up and managed. In the case of the system I managed it was more trouble than it was worth.

Anakin (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#47199857)

I would've liked to take first the high ground,

but since that ship has sailed,

wasn't this bound to happen once the electricity costs of bitmining begun to damage profitability? Perhaps even before the Peak Coin event, using electricity and the resources of others was attractive to a certain type of miner...

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47199915)

How could someone smart enough to be paid to work on supercomputers be stupid enough to think that the admins won't notice someone submitting 'mpirun -np 1024 mine_bitcoins.exe' or whatever equivalent this dirtbag did?

There was a reason I LOLed when my clueless parents asked me if I could run a bitcoin miner on our local supercomputer resources.

Small potatoes (0)

Patent Lover (779809) | about 6 months ago | (#47200007)

The NSA and defense contractors go through that kind of waste in milliseconds.

whoops (1, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47200011)

I used to do funded networking work and this is one of the *first* things I thought when I heard about BTC...a friend who is a router R&D now and I talked all about it of course...never actually **did it**

I would have definitely put a miner bot in a broom closet next to a computer lab in a freshmen dorm or something...nowhere near our program's stuff, for alot of reasons

we just talked though...if my friend had took the time he'd be litterally rich right now...at least 6 figures b/c we were in school from 2008-2010

now, i sure hope they don't "throw the book at them"...I hope they don't get felonies unless unavoidable and either way no prison time...get them on a hardcore probation for 5 years....they can make your life hell now w/ electronic monitoring...let's keep these people out of prison if possible

Re:whoops (2)

mysidia (191772) | about 6 months ago | (#47200069)

now, i sure hope they don't "throw the book at them"...I hope they don't get felonies unless unavoidable and either way no prison time...get them on a hardcore probation for 5 years....

I think it should be a civil matter..... bill the researcher for the computer time intentionally misappropriated for non-work-related activities

This is really no different from an office worker abusing employer equipment for personal gain; e.g. long duration international calls to family placed on the employer's dime.

Re:whoops (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 6 months ago | (#47200797)

And why shouldn't an office worker embezzling from an employer be subject to criminal penalties? What is your distinction between a civil and criminal matter?

Proportionality and criminal intent (1)

Camael (1048726) | about 6 months ago | (#47201021)

And why shouldn't an office worker embezzling from an employer be subject to criminal penalties? What is your distinction between a civil and criminal matter?

Proportionality and criminal intent. In the case of the bitcoin miner, he stole the use of $150,000 worth of computer resources to make $8,000-$10,000 for himself. Most people will agree that these are not small sums and should be treated seriously, hence criminal penalties are due. In the example of the parent post of an office worker making long duration international calls to family paid by his employer, the sums are likely in the small hundreds at most and there was no intention to make money for himself.

You seem to be advocating a strict interpretation of the law, where all crimes are judged by the book. Most people would have a problem with that and instinctively understand that criminality is not a black or white matter. A child who steals a piece of gum should be treated differently from a hobo who steals bread to fill his stomach from a billionaire who steals from his employees' retirement fund, although technically all three acts are theft.

Re:whoops (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 months ago | (#47208605)

And why shouldn't an office worker embezzling from an employer be subject to criminal penalties?

They should, but an office worker embezzling cash has no authorization from their employer to take cash, which is what makes embezzlement of funds not a mere abuse -- it is plain theft, pure and simple.

It's really easy.... if you break into a piece of employer property you had not been given any permission to touch and take possession of it, then you commit a crime. Fudge the books or take cash and lie about it, and you commit fraud. Misuse of property you were authorized to touch --- for example: Surfing slashdot.org on an employer workstation, or staying in your office after hours using your employer owned workstation or laptop to do some "side work" that generates a profit for you, or slipping a personal domain as an extra onto a company server [to take free hosting for your ecommerce site], is something fundamentally different.

They may be abuses worthy of termination, and a civil tort, but no crime.

Also..... Researchers and academics who have been provided access to NSF supercomputers have permission to the use the computers for educational, academic, or research pursuits germane to scientific inquiry, and they often have some wide latitude from their institutions to use resources to run some experiments --- after all, that's what the supercomputers are there for.

There might even be a germane legitimate scientific question or two regarding how effective certain supercomputer hardware is at 'mining', and Bitcoin is so new.... there probably wasn't any rule banning using supercomputer resources to study BTC or experiment with BTC mining specifically.

Furthermore... it's not 100% clear that their intent was personal profit. And the evaluation that they mined "$8,000 worth" of coins..... implies they got coins from this that they sold or intend to sell for cash, but it's not clear that was the case.

CPU based mining... even from a GPU or supercomputer has been ineffective for quite some time.

The NSF note indicated the researchers' access was suspended government wide. There is no mention of criminal charges or the researchers' employment being terminated. Although: it may just be, that investigation continues.

Restitution vs punishment (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#47202173)

I think it should be a civil matter..... bill the researcher for the computer time intentionally misappropriated for non-work-related activities

Restitution is certainly warranted but whether it is a civil or criminal matter depends on the laws and whether he broke any. The fact that he took pains to hide his identity seems to indicate awareness that what he was doing was wrong. If the dollar amount of what he took is high enough then it becomes a criminal matter. If one of my employees stole company resources I would certainly fire them and seek restitution and if it was more than a pad of post-it-notes I'd probably call the police as well.

Re:Restitution vs punishment (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 months ago | (#47211045)

Restitution is certainly warranted but whether it is a civil or criminal matter depends on the laws and whether he broke any.

Overt activities which permission was not obtained for that caused them damage by reducing the performance of their computer system $150,000 worth, due to interference with their business activity.

In order for them to take civil action; it is not necessary for there to already be a specific law addressing the researcher's actions.

Of course if they are intent on pursuing criminally; there is always some crime that could be charged --- even if just "disorderly conduct" for failing to adhere to computer use regulations, or CFAA - for 'fraudulently' accessing the computer system remotely from a mirror site.

Very bad analogy (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47202487)

long duration international calls to family placed on the employer's dime.

Personal profit so more like charging people to use the employers phone system and pocketing the cash while the employer pays the bill.

Re:Very bad analogy (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 months ago | (#47210377)

Personal profit so more like charging people to use the employers phone system and pocketing the cash

No... what you're suggesting is a different crime.

How about Making international calls to business associates on the employer's dime, many of the calls for legitimate business, but then suddenly on some days a massive number of calls during working hours which are actually used by the employee to work on a a side business or other professional activity (such as personal training) that benefits the employee and is a business associate only marginally related, if at all, to any kind of business the employer is doing, AND these calls have disproportionately high cost; however, these calls are also interleaved with very similar legitimate business.

And.... also... the employee may install an automatic machine at his desk to place some of these calls as robocalls. In other words: a telemarketing business on the side.

The employee is indeed wasting the employer's money, AND abusing a resource that they had permission to use and that their job requires them to use -- not in 'excess' of their authority to use the resource, BUT in a manner that is not acceptable, AND they have personal profits tied to their intentional waste of the resource, AND they probably have little idea what their usage costs.

Re:Very bad analogy (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#47210949)

Yes, that is much better and you may notice that just like this case such a thing is considered as a criminal matter when discovered.

Anyway, pushing people back in the queue and driving up the costs which are ultimately paid for by the taxpayer to make tokens for a pyramid scheme is IMHO something worth discouraging as a criminal matter and not a civil dispute.

Re:Very bad analogy (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 months ago | (#47218435)

driving up the costs which are ultimately paid for by the taxpayer to make tokens for a pyramid scheme

He was just doing something with Bitcoins, not making tokens for a pyramid scheme. The bitcoin protocol may or may not turn out to be something that people ultimately find useful in the real world, but either way it's not a pyramid scheme.... It's not even like a pyramid scheme.

In fact: the protocol is open source, so all its details are readily knowable.

It can be no more a pyramid scheme, than the Linux kernel is a pyramid scheme.

Re:Very bad analogy (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#47219841)

Looks like I hit a nerve. It makes sense then if you are part of this scheme that you would wish a lack of criminal penalties for people taking resources to profit from this scheme.

really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200251)

I hope they don't get felonies unless unavoidable and either way no prison time...get them on a hardcore probation for 5 years....they can make your life hell now w/ electronic monitoring...let's keep these people out of prison if possible

~$150,000 worth of computer time/resources was stolen. This isn't a 'whoops, my bad': the researcher also made deliberate efforts to conceal his/her activity, according to the article.

Imagine if a bank employee had just taken an equivalent out of the universities' accounts and spent it. Would that not be enough for a felony, in your opinion?

NO (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 6 months ago | (#47200763)

Imagine if a bank employee had just taken an equivalent out of the universities' accounts and spent it. Would that not be enough for a felony, in your opinion?

it's **not analogous**

to answer your question (even though your analogy is hilariously tilted)...NO...IF IT IS AVOIDABLE

you assholes want to pass out felonies like candy...it's BS

Re:whoops (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 6 months ago | (#47200453)

now, i sure hope they don't "throw the book at them"

Would you feel the same way if he'd walked off with six figures worth of hardware rather than "computer time?"

Re:whoops (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 6 months ago | (#47200479)

The difference between talking about something and doing it is the difference between amusing talk and a crime. We've also talked about putting bitcoin miners in all the high power FPGAs we use for real time feedback. The thing is that we DIDN'T.

As far as the penalty - this is like any other theft of materials. There must be applicable laws.

Araron Schwartz put computer in MIT closet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202385)

To bypas the MIT firewall. And was arrested with some serious charges.

Re:whoops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47203333)

Seize the bitcoins, then make him pay the remaining $140k back plus damages. If he makes a lot, then great, if he makes minimum wage (assuming he could spend his whole salary on repayments) it would take him roughly 10 years.

Seems fair to me.

Villain? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200013)

NO. This man is a hero for disrupting those rigged climate simulations confirming AGW. He wasn't in it for the money per se, it's just that mining bitcoin was simply the best way to do it. Plus, mining bitcoin had the added social benefit of further cracking the Rothschild edifice. Power to the people!

How awful!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200109)

I can't believe he used these supercomputers to make a profit! Those computers could have been put to an IMPORTANT use, like developing yet another model that proves Climate Change is 100% definitely destroying the planet and thus everybody's taxes should go up 15%.

Re:How awful!! (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 6 months ago | (#47200167)

He spent $150,000 to make $10,000. What profit?

Re:How awful!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200249)

He'll make it up in volume.

Re:How awful!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200269)

He spent $150,000 of other people's money to make $10,000 for himself. Pure profit. Its like congress setting their own salary: its free money.

Make profit; Get ahead (1)

RuffMasterD (3398975) | about 6 months ago | (#47200367)

This wouldn't even be news if it was the other way round, if he wrote an efficient algorithm and spent $10,000 to make $150,000. "Lets keep this one between us shall we. Which office do you want? Tenure? Sure, why not...". Lesson learned: make profit.

Re:Make profit; Get ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201149)

Well, he would not have initially broken the law in that case. which is kinda what this case is about. Lesson learned: do not break the law.

whose money was spent? (1)

l2718 (514756) | about 6 months ago | (#47200665)

This guy spent $150K of other people's money to make $10K for himself.

Re:whose money was spent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200731)

Don't see that as a valid complaint.

It's the same maths politicians do with your tax money ?.

Re:whose money was spent? (1)

Camael (1048726) | about 6 months ago | (#47201051)

Don't see that as a valid complaint. It's the same maths politicians do with your tax money ?.

When politicians spend public funds so that they receive money from third parties for themselves, its called receiving bribes. Most people would complain about it, and it can lead to criminal convictions [wikipedia.org] .

The problem is catching them with their hand in the cookie jar. Its hard to use the law to catch these guys when they have the power to change the law.

Re:whose money was spent? (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 5 months ago | (#47208595)

That's not profit, that's theft.

Re:How awful!! (2)

Bert64 (520050) | about 6 months ago | (#47200859)

He spent 150k of someone else's money to make 10k for himself... Personally he spent 0 to make 10k, plenty of profit.

Re:How awful!! (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 6 months ago | (#47200893)

He stole $150k to make $10k profit.

Objective of supercomputing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47208101)

Supercomputers are generally used to cure disease, by discovering new drugs and new targets for drugs, to catch new drug-side-effects before they happen, to optimize away side-effects from existing classes of drugs, etc. To name a few of the projects that I've personally seen.

Supercomputing literally saves lives.

Welcome to Washington, D.C. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200233)

Your tax dollars at work...

And then used it for Piracy (5, Funny)

high_rolla (1068540) | about 6 months ago | (#47200259)

And then imagine if he used that $8000 to buy a computer and an internet connection and downloaded a few pirated songs doing literally $trillions in damage.

My estimates are that he could easily have downloaded enough pirated content with that much internet to cause enough damage to bankrupt the entire world.

question (0, Troll)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | about 6 months ago | (#47200277)

Why is "mining for bitcoins" worth anything? Does the mining do anything like help SETI or share processing to crunch real world stuff?

If it has an intrinsic value, then I'd support helping the guy in the OP, but if it's seriously just a ponzi scheme - then I'd support law enforcement on taking it down.

Re:question (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 6 months ago | (#47200363)

Bitcoins are just like any other currency, no intrinsic value. And the onyl think that happens when you make new currency is use up resources.

Re:question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200483)

You clearly can't bother to do any reading on these things, and instead just resort to the "it's a ponzi scheme!" nonsense, even though that has been beaten into the ground already, so why should anyone bother wasting their time explaining it?

Re:question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200625)

The math for bitcoins is literally just wasting power trying to find a random number that gives you the results you are looking for.

Specifically, you combine the actual record of the bitcoin transactions with an arbitrary number and hash and check the result. You are looking for a result that is below a threshold. If you got a result below the threshold, congrats you just mined a bit coin. If not trying different arbitrary numbers until you get one that gets you below the threshold or someone else beats you to it. The way they make mining harder is by lowering that threshold so it will take more guesses.

This is still a simplification of things but is close enough. The following article covers it pretty well with out being too horrible technical.

http://www.michaelnielsen.org/ddi/how-the-bitcoin-protocol-actually-works/

Re:question (2, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 6 months ago | (#47200671)

It has exactly as much intrinsic value as the dollar: None. It has value only because people are willing to trade for it.

Not many people though, which is why the value fluctuates so wildly.

Re:question (0)

Khashishi (775369) | about 6 months ago | (#47200777)

Wrong. I can wipe my ass with a dollar. I can't do that with bitcoin.

Re:question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201171)

Wrong. I can wipe my ass with a dollar. I can't do that with bitcoin.

Good because that's the only thing Dollars can be used for once bitcoin reaches mainstream

Re:question (1)

Andtalath (1074376) | about 6 months ago | (#47201821)

You mean where $flavoroftheyearcryptcurrency gains acceptance and has been stable for several years in the public and value has stabilized?

It's worse though (0)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 6 months ago | (#47201151)

Because it costs a non-trivial amount of real resources to "produce". Dollars cost little and less to make and move. Even physical dollars don't take that much, and most dollars are just accounting entries in computers. So there isn't much resources spent on shuffling them around, no more than any of the myriads of other data we shuffle around.

However bitcoins require energy, lots of it and an ever increasing amount, to "mine". So creating them, and moving them around needs energy to be spent playing math games with no benefit. However it still needs real resources to generate the power to do it. It is an extremely wasteful idea, particularly if it were ever scaled up to the massive worldwide economic scale the BTC proponents want (it can't scale that high for a lot of reasons, but then logic isn't their strong suit).

Re:It's worse though (1)

gsslay (807818) | about 6 months ago | (#47201355)

Well this is my main problem with bitcoins.

Mining bitcoins is like mining gold (which is naturally I suppose where the term comes from). You are digging up something that is essentially useless in itself other than it has some rarity. But the big difference is that gold does have some use unrelated to its value as a medium of wealth. If we are going to devote time and energy to "mining" a fabricated and virtual object, could it not at least be something that has some other use or value ?

Constructing meaningless strings of numbers that are nothing except "complicated" seems like a poor use of resources.

Re:question (1)

Peter Kowalchuk-Reid (3484611) | about 6 months ago | (#47201457)

I agree that mining seems like a waste of resources, it woulld be interesting to see if a similar crypto currency could be devised that centers around protein folding , or some other usefull distributed computer simulation.

Re:question (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 6 months ago | (#47206617)

I'm not all that knowledgeable, but this is what I've gathered.

"Mining for bitcoins" helps the bitcoin system. In order to prevent double-spending bitcoins, and to keep track of who owns what, there's a big transaction record that has to be cryptographically secured. People who secure these transactions (by finding hashes that meet certain criteria) are rewarded by getting some bitcoins, and so that's called "mining".

So, if you think it's worth supporting bitcoin as a system, there is some intrinsic worth in what he did, although not nearly as valuable as the resources he used. Otherwise, no.

What a Noob. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200281)

Supercomputers are so last year. Do you even ASIC, bro?

Unethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200331)

This guy is a piece of crap. He wasted so much taxpayer money with this little scheme, and for what? Less than 10% of the money actually spent. He belongs up there with the government officials that throw Gatsby-esque parties on someone else's dime.

Other than profit, difference from SETI@home? (1)

Shag (3737) | about 6 months ago | (#47200455)

I remember a decade ago when we'd install the SETI@home screensaver on every computer we could get our hands on. (Putting it on a Power Mac G5 and setting the machine to not go to sleep bumped my electric bill at home up 50% for a couple months.) I guess the difference here is that a profit is being made.

Re:Other than profit, difference from SETI@home? (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 6 months ago | (#47200755)

Another difference is that we are talking about supercomputers [nersc.gov] here.

None. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200801)

I'm going to assume you mean your personal machines.

Installing SETI@home or any other such software on hardware you don't own and aren't paying for is just as reprehensible as mining for Magic Internet Money.

I suspect the dude's going to file for moral bankruptcy, so he doesn't have to cough up the feels to his debtors.

Re:Other than profit, difference from SETI@home? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 6 months ago | (#47201421)

Next up: using your spare cycles to mine bitcoins for a good cause.

Jeeze (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200519)

Give them a warning, put a clause in the terms of use. Let everyone agree about it.

Re:Jeeze (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47201197)

He already agreed not to misuse the resources (im 99% sure he didnt get access without an agreement on terms of use) and he tried to hide said misuse too. let him rot.

BTC 2.0 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200629)

Why we need BTC 2.0 ? For example BC (energy-efficient, Blockchain Security, Fast Transactions, Low Inflation)
http://www.blackcoin.co/

ON THE OTHER HAND (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47200715)

I've walked through American Express' server farm (thus the AC) and saw the stupid Linux screen-savers, so they could be earning the idiotic BitCoin "loser-award for power consumption" award...

$150k? (1)

Orp (6583) | about 6 months ago | (#47201737)

I do most of my research on supercomputers. "Servcie Units" (SU's) are the currency on these machines. They are usually either node hours or core hours. Typical allocations are in the hundreds of thousands to millions of SUs.

I don't know what formula they used to come up with a dollar value. It would be nice to know, however, as I am in academia where real dollar grants get all the attention since they come with that sweet overhead. I'm sure my dean would appreciate the symbolism of getting the college overhead in SU's (and converting them to dollars).

But seriously, these machines are up 24/7 (unless down for hardware fault or maintenance) and while I'm sure they draw more current when the CPU is pegged if this guy was mining bitcoins with his allocation then really all he did was go against the terms of his allocation. Those SUs would have either been wasted or used up anyway. But you just don't mine bitcoin on federal supercomputers, man. Dick move.

I hope he at least used GPU accelerators with his code, the bastard.

How about insider trading by the NSA? (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 6 months ago | (#47201839)

There must have been a ton of the that going on, but I suppose it was only management doing it so that is OK

Compartmentalization and ethics (1)

Theovon (109752) | about 6 months ago | (#47202225)

The abuse of the supercomputer is an extreme case. But there are other less clear-cut areas. For instance:

- What if I bring my own computer to the university and use their electricity to generate bitcoins?
- What if I bring university-owned equipment (that I have control over) home and use it to mine bitcoins on my electricity?

In either case, something that doesn’t really belong to me (even if I’m in charge of it and have the right to relocate) is being used for profit in a way that is (a) most likely against policy, and (b) not ethical in the first place.

The latter category is the really tempting one. Nobody would catch me, because all the network traffic and electricty usage is at my own home. Any impact on the longevity of the equiment is moot because it would probably go obsolete long before it suffered hardware failure. And of course, I can claim that I’m taking it home for official purposes (nobody would question me anyhow). This is one of those cases where you have to let your sense of right and wrong take precedence over the fact that you're clever enoug to not get caught.

Re:Compartmentalization and ethics (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47202519)

In both cases you are not hogging a scarce resource of others for your own profit so I don't see how it can be compared at all.

Re:Compartmentalization and ethics (1)

Theovon (109752) | about 6 months ago | (#47202847)

They can be compared in that there are ethical considerations in both cases. As I said, abusing the supercomputer is a much more extreme case. In many ways, my examples are victimless crimes, while the supercomputer case had a far more tangible impact. In a relative moral scale, the supercomuting case was much more severe and would therefore have a more severe penalty. My whole point, I guess, is that even victimless crimes are cases where an ethical person should think twice before taking action.

I do feel compelled to point out that “victimless crime” is a loaded term that is abused by some people who want to poke their noses where they don’t belong. Some people would, for instance, want to say that growing your own weed and smoking it is a “victimless crime.” I’m not sure what the current laws are, but since this doesn’t involve interstate commerce, it’s not a crime at all, and it might be called a crime in the first place only because someone objects in general to smoking pot. Even if it were a crime, technically, I think the ethics in this case depend on the broader impact. If smoking pot improves your over-all wellbeing and doesn’t negatively impact your functioning in society, then it’s probably a good thing. If you’re neglecting your kids because of it, then it’s wrong. The ethical failure, however, is not in smoking pot but in failing to moderate the impact of your choices — it’s just as bad to neglect your kids playing video games online.

In the case of abusing equipment that was bought by tax-payer money, even if it’s “victimless,” it’s still unethical because you’re acting beyond your rights with respect to this asset that you have been trusted wtih. In other words, the ethical failure is not in the use of the equipment, per se, but rather in a breach of trust with respect to how you’re expected to use it. It’s one thing to borrow the company truck to go grab lunch. It’s entirely another to borrow company A’s truck to go do consulting work for company B, even if you’re not on company A’s clock at the time and you use your own money to fill the gas tank.

Re:Compartmentalization and ethics (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 6 months ago | (#47206663)

In most states, having a sufficiently large amount of pot is a crime. Lots of things are against state law and not Federal law. Now, I think these are stupid laws, but violating a stupid law is still violating a law (and lots of these stupid laws are vigorously enforced).

Re:Compartmentalization and ethics (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 5 months ago | (#47210203)

I do feel compelled to point out that “victimless crime”

As pointed out above you are diverging wildly from the situation - making a profit by reducing the resources of others and driving up the costs of others is not a “victimless crime”.

Compartmentalization and ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47209311)

The university lets people (students) bring their own computers, plug them in at the student union/ mess hall, and check facebook. I think if you brought your own laptop and mined bitcoin all day, it would not be a problem. If you carted in a full rack, there might be issues.

#2 means depriving someone else of the opportunity to use that device. (during that time-period.)

Bottom of page 29 (1)

LanMan04 (790429) | about 6 months ago | (#47202315)

It's at the bottom of page 29 of the report (page 30 of the PDF).

Just FYI

I was there (2)

suso (153703) | about 6 months ago | (#47202355)

I was actually at one of these supercomputer facilities a day or two after it happened and found out then. Too bad they didn't release more information so I could talk about it. :-( Someone in our group amusingly noted though that it was probably the first time that supercomputers had been used to directly make money. *snicker*

He should go into politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202463)

Spending other people money - Check
Getting a kickback for doing so - Check
Little to no accountability - Check
He would do great in DC

On Par For NSF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202589)

But on the bright side it might just be the best use of 'Climate Models' to actually do something useful instead of churn out ridiculous 'climate' predictions, er forecasts, er projections, er scenarios er well ... it's all in the numbers.

Way to go NSF.

Just another pothead researcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47202821)

Wasting federal money to get his fix.

I'm glad the public is quickly catching on to the fact that Bitcoin is the currency of choice for criminals and drug addicts.

It takes one idiot (1)

Sergo1331 (1609741) | about 6 months ago | (#47203001)

to do something stupid to screw everyone. I wonder if all our data production codes will have to go through some audit in the near future. Considering how these codes are often written ("domain science" beginning graduate students) and supported, it will be a disaster.

Include incompetence in the charges (1)

steak (145650) | about 6 months ago | (#47203171)

This the scientific equivalent of a heisman quarterback stealing $25 of crab legs from the grocery store.

Re:Include incompetence in the charges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47203959)

This the scientific equivalent of a heisman quarterback stealing $25 of crab legs from the grocery store.

Very nice analogy....

For the rest of the /. "whack-a-doodles" that don't see anything wrong with what this supercomputer geek did....re-read the quoted comment over and over again.

Simple solution (1)

stabiesoft (733417) | about 6 months ago | (#47203179)

He keeps his bitcoins and is charged 150K as any other customer would be. He is also fired.

Priority of the bitcoin task? (1)

MonsterMasher (518641) | about 6 months ago | (#47203771)

.
what was the task priority on the machines? If normal or below (hopefully) then no big deal.. also, what other work was prevented?
.

Priority of the bitcoin task? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47208431)

That's not how supercomputers work. You get exclusive control of N CPUs (and their RAM) until your script ends. You can't "fire up something in the background", there is no "nice". (Well, there is "nice" but it's only meaningful between your own threads, since you have exclusive control of the machine.)

Not everyone knows what NSF stands for! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47228313)

Do you guys have any statistics on how much of Slashdot's readership is not from the US? Just curious..

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