Just over a year ago, graphics card behemoth Nvidia announced an unexpected software “feature”: anti-cryptomining code baked into the drivers for its latest graphics processing units (GPUs).
Simply put, if the driver software thinks you’re using the GPU to perform calculations related to Ethereum cryptocurrency calculations, it cuts the execution speed of your code in half.
This restriction isn’t meant to protect you from yourself, for example to limit hardware damage if you try to drive the GPU too hard and cause it to overheat dangerously.
This is all about managing supply and demand.
Unfortunately for keen gamers, who love powerful GPUs because they improve their gaming experience with faster and more realistic graphics, cryptocurrency mining syndicates love good GPUs even more.
That’s because GPUs greatly accelerate the mining of Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies, with calculation speeds (or hashrates, as they are known in the jargon) anywhere from five to ten times higher than a normal CPU from the same amount of electricity.
Even more unfortunately for gamers, who might buy one or two GPUs each at a time, mining syndicates use their purchasing power to buy up GPUs in bulk.
This, in turn, encourages scalpers to buy in bulk too, aiming to sell their “second hand” cards well above new retail prices when official supplies run out.
Nvidia decided to appease its many avid gaming fans – surely the company’s most loyal long-term GPU customers, given that they actually want graphics cards for doing graphics – by splitting its processor card line in two.
Mining XOR Gaming
As Nvidia said last year:
To address the specific needs of Ethereum mining, we’re announcing the NVIDIA CMP [Cryptocurrency Mining Processor] product line for professional mining. CMP products, which don’t do graphics, are [… ]optimized for the best mining performance and efficiency. They don’t meet the specifications required of a GeForce GPU and thus don’t impact the availability of GeForce GPUs to gamers.
The idea is that GeForce GPUs run at full speed if used for graphics, but if used for Ethereum mining are deliberately hobbled by Nvidia’s Lite Hash Rate system, or LHR…