My longtime friend, K3tan rejoins me on the show to chat about various things but importantly, we chat about why Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Nodes are bad. We chat:
- Reliability & Performance of Raspberry Pi’s vs other options
- What you can use instead
- Bitcoin node packages
- Electrum server comparison
- HDD & SSD requirements
- Separating bitcoin from non-bitcoin apps
- Twitter: @_k3tan
- Ministry of Nodes Nodebox guide: Ubuntu Node Box Guide 2022 Edition
- Ministry of Nodes Consulting
- Article: My Home Lab
- Craig Raw’s blog post on electrum server performance
- Prior episode: SLP315 k3tan – Networking For Bitcoiners
- Swan Bitcoin
- Unchained Capital (code LIVERA)
- CoinKite.com(code LIVERA)
Stephan Livera links:
- Follow me on Twitter @stephanlivera
- Subscribe to the podcast
- Patreon @stephanlivera
Stephan Livera – 00:00:08:
Hi and welcome to Stephan Livera podcast, a show about bitcoin and Austrian economics. So I’m just back from Baltic Honey Badger, had a fantastic time, and just before that I was over in Austin for Block Boom, also an excellent conference. So today I’m speaking again with my friend K3tan, and we’re talking about why Raspberry Pi bitcoin nodes are bad. We talk about a range of reasons why, and I know I’ve previously promoted this way of running your bitcoin node, but we get into why and how certain circumstances have changed and various other factors have come. Now, that mean maybe we should be focusing more on performance, reliability and other considerations. This show is brought to you by Swan Bitcoin the easy way to buy bitcoin and also learn about bitcoin. Swan makes various resources free, such as young Pritzker’s inventing Bitcoin or GG’s 21 lessons. Now, Swan is organizing a conference in LA. It’s called Pacific Bitcoin. It’s going to be on the 10th and 11th of November. There will be a mainstage, a swan dome and a bitcoin lab. These conferences are also a great chance to meet people in the space, get some networking, meet the right people, and you will find all kinds of opportunities might open up. Over at pacificbitcoin.com, you can get your tickets and you can also check out the line up there. There’s an awesome lineup of speakers and there’ll be a whole bunch of bitcoiners who are really great to chat with. I’ll be one of the hosts of the show and I’m looking forward to seeing you there. So go to pacificbitcoin.com. Use code “Livera” to get a discount on your tickets. This show is also brought to you by bitbo.io. This is a dashboard that you can use to just keep an eye on the overall bitcoin ecosystem. You can see the price, you can see the stats per dollar. You can see a feed of articles over Bitcoin magazine. You can see the blockchain statistics and how big the chain sizes. So for example, as I’m recording this, it’s 484 gigabytes. You can see the mining stats, you can see closed end funds and the GPTC premium premium as an example. can see all kinds of statistics and things like the inflation rate as well as the forward annual inflation rate. So that website is bitbo.io. It’s a great one to bookmark and periodically check in during your day. Mempool.space is the bitcoin explorer, built by bitcoin is for bitcoiners. So if you have a transaction you need to look up, you can use mempool.space. And don’t forget, you can also host mempool.space in your own instance using your full node distribution. And so that way you can help preserve your own privacy. Now, mempool.space is really awesome because they’ve got all kinds of statistics and as they just recently announced in Baltic Honey Badger over at Riga, they have a Lightning explorer. So you can now search Lightning nodes. You can also see bitcoin transactions that are actually Lightning channel opens and closes and they’re marked on their site. So this is a really great benefit that you can get. Over 1 million people use mempool.space every month. It’s operated freely for the benefit of the bitcoin community without ads or third party trackers. Now you can go and try this out over at mempool.space onto the show with K3tan. K3tan, welcome back to the show.
K3tan – 00:02:59:
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Stephan Livera – 00:03:01:
I mentioned you on stage at the Hodl Hodl Baltic Honey Dadger. So while Warren was on stage and he was attacking some of the raspberry pi nodes, and then he had to go off for a little bit, and I was like, yeah, my mate K3tan, he’s also very bearish on raspberry pi bitcoin nodes. And I thought, you know what? This is now the time to chat about it. Obviously, you and I have spoken about bitcoin nodes and we’ve been putting it out there. And you’ve made content on this. I’ve made content on this, we’ve been putting it out there, but perhaps it’s time to reconsider. But let’s get your view as well. So why are raspberry pi nodes? Why do they suck?
K3tan – 00:03:38:
Okay, let me paint some context around why I think raspberry pi’s aren’t the best suited for bitcoin nodes here in 2020 at least. Sorry, 2022. Now, just to give you some context, raspberry pi’s, when they first came out, they marketed themselves as these cheap $35 computers for kids to learn how to program and do little projects and hack about with them. And I think what bitcoin has wanted to prove was just how little system resources were required to run a bitcoin node, right? And that would mean that it is accessible to everybody, and it was therefore somewhat decentralized because anyone could then verify their payments as well as broadcast transactions onto the bitcoin network without being censored by somebody else’s node, for example. Right? So these were, I guess it was a great thing that you didn’t need a huge server, you didn’t need lots of wealth, a cheap 35 pound raspberry pi. Everyone could do this in a relatively affordable way. And so I think that still is the case. However, I just think that there’s better ways of going about it. And when you fast forward to 2022, there’s now a shortage in raspberry pi’s. And the ones that you want to get, like the raspberry pi 4 with 8GB of Ram. I had a look on Ebay, and you’re looking at Australian dollars, three to four hundred dollars with the good power supply, with maybe a case and other peripherals like a micro SD card, and you’re looking at about $3. And that’s not including the 1 TB solid state drive that you’ll also need to run or to store the blockchain on. And so I thought, wow, that’s changed significantly. And whether that changes in the future to more positive or negative, who knows, right? Hopefully they do come back down, but at this point, we’re looking at a serious shortage. I know guys who are messaging me on Twitter saying, hey, do you know where I can get a Raspberry Pi in Australia? And I’m like, Mate, I have no idea. I haven’t been able to get one. And so people are generally being basically either priced out of the market or just unable to find them. They’re just not available in stock. And so that was one, I think, hurdle that we’re now seeing with Raspberry Pi’s in 2022 at least, is that there isn’t enough of them. But I think there’s also other so aside from the availability, I think there’s also reliability concerns on them. So processor speeds are quite slow on Raspberry Pi. They’re slow and clunky. I know guys who have taken two weeks to do an initial blockchain download now with obviously the chain growing pretty much every day, every ten minutes. So to sync up to the chain tip is taking longer and longer. Ram is also becoming a bottleneck. So system resources, like, for example, an Electrum server which needs to index at that time Ram is being used, and sometimes that can it’s very slow and painful. There are obviously ways to sort of somewhat mitigate these, but you have to be a bit more technical to do that. And then I’ve heard other issues like USB cable issues like the cable to plug in from your Raspberry Pi into the solid state drive that’s a bit flimsy. I know guys who have had power supply issues where they’re just not getting the right power supply to be able to put enough voltage into the Raspberry Pi. So they’re getting voltage leaks, and so after a while, it just sort of cuts out. It doesn’t recognize or underpowers itself. And then there’s overheating issues. So some guys aren’t putting in a heat sink or they’re not using a fan or something to cool this Raspberry Pi down. So three days into their two week initial blockchain download, the whole thing parked itself because it’s overheated. So these are some of the challenges that I’m seeing, and there are many variables to your experience. Some have a really, really good time. Like, if you look at the thing that I did, the video series on my node that I did back in May of 2020, that was a breeze. That went really, really well for me. But then when you check the Telegram chats of some of these support channels and you see the types of questions people are asking and problems people are facing, you’re like, wow, we’re seeing lots of issues come through. Some people having a great time over the long term, we don’t know yet. Give that two, three years and let’s come back and say, okay, what exactly has been the outcome of those bitcoin nodes? And I think you may come to the conclusion that you might need something else Stephan.
Stephan Livera – 00:08:38:
Stefan yeah, those are very good points. And the reality is it’s not just about setting it up, it’s about maintaining and running that operation over time. And so while it’s relatively easy to do that first download, sync even, that is a bit slower on the Raspberry Pi. But I think you make a very good point that it was also that the community was trying to come back to this idea that, okay, look at all the shit coins, they’re all hosted on AWS or one of the big virtual provider services anyway, whereas we in Bitcoin, we can do it on a Raspberry Pi. And I think maybe that was part of the argument at that time. But I think there’s also the concern that, look, most people in the Western world might have better options anyway, like just cost pound for pound. We might have more reliable options that are more battle tested in other arenas, let’s say. And so I think this is also some of what Warren Togami was getting at in his talk, which was also around security, that actually the Raspberry Pi operating systems may not be updated as frequently from a security point of view. And that from his point of view, he’s saying, look, you know what, why don’t people just get ThinkPads? You can buy those online. And this is something I’ve been playing around as well. You can get ThinkPads for a couple hundred dollars, you can buy an SSD for a couple hundred dollars. And so the reality is that nett, once it all comes out, you’re pretty much in the same ballpark, cost wise anyway. And ThinkPads are also battle tested in the business world, right? ThinkPads are like a very typical laptop, road warrior, businessman laptop. So that’s just one example. And then you’ve got those knucks, and of course we’ve got your favorite, the Dell Optiplex. So do you want to talk to us about some of the alternatives then? So if we’re shooting on raspberry pi’s, what’s the alternative that we’re trying to bring instead?
K3tan – 00:10:30:
And that’s the thing, right? Whenever you shoot on something, whenever you see a problem, you must also provide a solution. Now, I’m big on that. So I think what you can use instead, and that is quite cost effective, is a cheap refurbished PC, usually some X lease business computer. The Dell guys have the OptiPlex range, which is fantastic. HP has elite desk. Lenovo has ThinkCentre. They are all great options depending on whichever brand you want to support. But if you have a look like here is a Dell OptiPlex, okay, for the guys on the YouTube stream, you’ll be able to see this, but obviously on audio, basically have a look at the size of my hands here. It’s quite small, it’s not very heavy at all. And you could take this, you can travel with this. So it’s not that different to a Raspberry Pi. This is a Dell OptiPlex in the ultra small form factor, sort of in the case, right? So I think these are reasonable options that have a lot more grunts. These come with either an i3 or an, this has an i5 processor in it. It comes with 8GB of Ram and the SSD is actually inside the case. So you don’t have this flimsy USB cable running around. It’s all inside the one case. And all you need to do is really put a network cable in and put the power supply in and it’s job done. This becomes a lot cleaner. And it’s not that much bigger than a Raspberry Pi. Yes, it is. Granted it is bigger, but it’s not that bad.
Stephan Livera – 00:12:00:
Okay? Yeah. And the reliability. And also if you could just outline the computer power differences between, let’s say that OptiPlex you’re holding and the Raspberry Pi 4.
K3tan – 00:12:09:
Yeah. So I think those have like one 2 GHz. This has an i5 processor, 8gb of Ram, fair enough on the timescale. But I think the processing power there is going to be better. The connections is more that I’m more concerned about it’s– you have a direct stator connection from your hard drive into the motherboard, whereas the USB just flimsy, man. And so I just don’t like that whole approach of just USB being it in. So I think the processing speeds also the two weeks on one of these bad boys, 12 hours, okay? That’s the difference. We’re talking two weeks initial blockchain download versus 12 hours. Right?
Stephan Livera – 00:12:46:
So we’re just talking massively better processing power, right? And this is like a cheaply available and if you don’t want to do the OptiPlex thing, you can get an old laptop and that’s exactly also going to be similarly more powerful.
K3tan – 00:12:57:
The other thing is, I looked at OzBargain and OzBargain here in Australia is just a website where you get cheap deals and you can get these reserved PCs for $200. That case that I saw, that’s $200 plus another 2TB SSD for another $200 to $300, and for 500 Australian dollars, you are looking at a very, very future proof bitcoin node. And I think that that’s probably a better outcome. And the other thing is that I’ve got the video tutorials there up on Ministry of Node’s YouTube channel. So there’s some video tutorials that you can go through and I take you through all of this step by step. And so obviously, I think these are the best bitcoin nodes, but admittedly I am slightly biased there because it’s what I do. And so, yeah, you’re reducing your sync times, you’re making it more reliable, you’re making it robust, it’s still portable. And again, as you suggested, if you’re not into those, you can use an old ThinkPad or an old laptop that you can repurpose for the purposes of running a bitcoin node. Now, the great thing about laptops, as you mentioned is that there’s an added benefit of an uninterrupted power supply. So when there is a power outage, your battery will at least keep going for another couple of hours, and you can safely shut down the laptop rather than cutting the power and potentially disrupting things. Yeah. Corrupting disk functions and those sorts of things. So that’s another issue, and that’s another great option, is to use these general purpose computers. They’re the best for running your Bitcoin mode on.
Stephan Livera – 00:14:33:
Yeah. And one of the things with the laptops is they typically have WiFi built in. So if you really wanted to, you can just WiFi to your home network and that’s one less cable you need to deal with. Also now, of course, some of those old ThinkPads, they’ve got the Ethernet cable as well. So if you want to do Ethernet, you’re not stopped out on that option. But I think it’s something where we’ve seen, obviously with the whole Raspberry Pi thing, we’ve seen a bit of a culture around that on Bitcoin Twitter, and we see people make these 3D printed cases. There’s like a whole culture around this about doing it on a Raspberry Pi. Look, it’s not to say you cannot or should not, it’s just to say to consider, is that the cost effective way, is that the reliable way? And are there very security considerations and practical considerations around using a laptop or octuplex or something like this instead of the Raspberry Pi model? Because it might lead to more reliability.
K3tan – 00:15:21:
Exactly. The point that I’d make on security, though, is I think if you’re running just a word of warning when it comes to running a Bitcoin node, if you’re just installing Bitcoin, an Electrum server, maybe Mempool space and BTCPay server, there’s no actual need to put private key information on the node
K3tan – 00:15:39:
Right? You don’t need a private key. Your private key can always sit on a hardware wallet or externally on your sparrow wallet or something like that. It’s only when you install Lightning and Whirlpool that keys are actually ending up on the device. But I would advise that you keep those two functions to a minimum so you wouldn’t put your entire stack onto Lightning, for example, like that’s just, you know, you’re asking for trouble when you do that. So you’d probably have three wallets. You’d have a savings wallet, you’d have an onchain spending/mixing wallet, and you’d have a Lightning wallet, and the on chain spending and the mixing might be in the node if you’ve decided to set up whirlpool. And Lightning, of course, needs to be hot as well. So you’d minimize those things when it comes to so from a security standpoint, what’s at risk is not your biggest stack, it’s just the smaller spending amounts that you not to say that you want to lose them, but it won’t hurt you if you do, right?
Stephan Livera – 00:16:36:
Yeah. And so there’s definitely an argument there around segregation of what we’re doing. And of course some of that just follows on from our general discussion about the way we all talk about Bitcoin security. In the general, the prevailing thought is generally that you keep your cold keys offline, you try to ideally never have them touch an online computer. And that’s where, let’s say in this example, your savings might be, let’s say a multi SIG and you’ve got that with different hardware wallets from different manufacturers and you’re keeping the backups for that metal feeds and all that. And the idea is that you’re trying to, where possible, you’re using air gap security, if possible. Again, that’s not like a be all, end all. I know there are debates in the community about whether air gapping helps or not. I believe it helps, but I understand there are arguments that are going the other way. So I think while we’re here as well, I think on the reliability and performance question, I think users who are doing coin joints so for example, if you’re doing Samourai whirlpool, one of the interesting implications there is that your wallet will be searching quite deeply into the HD hierarchical deterministic wallet and that look up can be more challenging on a Raspberry Pi. So do you want to just elaborate on any of your experiences there?
K3tan – 00:17:46:
Yeah, so I think when it comes to it comes down to the Electrum server that you are querying against. Now for most people, I think the electrum rust server is probably fine for most people. But if you are continuously mixing for months and years, as opposed to doing the usual five mixes, center, cold storage, that type of deal, electrum rust server will probably, that will meet your needs.
Stephan Livera – 00:18:12:
More than enough.
K3tan – 00:18:13:
Yeah, more than enough. But if you are continuously mixing for years and years and you’ve gone down that key chain, say you’re at the 6000th address or something like that, then I know guys who have tried to import that wallet on an Electrum Rust server back end and it just simply does not work. There’s no amount of system resources that actually pulls that through. And so you need to end up on an Electrum X or a Fulcrum server. And so that’s kind of yeah, there are a lot more, I guess, trade offs with that. The Fulcrum server obviously has a lot of disk usage space requirements, whereas the electrum Rust server doesn’t. And so it really depends on how far deep into your wallet you’re going to go and whether you need that Electrum Rust server or you need the Fulcrum server. So it really doesn’t matter too much. I know Craig Raw from the Sparrow wallet. He’s a sparrow wallet developer. He did some fantastic research using Raspberry Pi’s as his standard and he’s come out with the Fulcrum server just absolutely rips through. That’s his base conclusion there. But I would strongly recommend that you read through the pros and cons of each of these methods and he uses the Raspberry Pi as a basis for that. Now obviously he optimizes as much as he possibly can, but whether that’s available to us here mortals, right? Yeah.
Stephan Livera – 00:19:42:
And as I recall from that, and I’ll get the blog post and put that in as well for anyone who wants to see his blog post comparing Electrum X, ElecRS or Electrum Rust Server and Fulcrum. And as I recall, I think the tradeoff came out that Fulcrum was kind of generally better. But one of the negative trade offs is it took a little bit more time on that initial setup and I think it requires a little bit more hard drive space. But then once you’ve got that set up and going, the lookups were way, way faster.
K3tan – 00:20:09:
Very quick post. Yeah, that’s right. So the initial, when you import that, I guess, public key into when you look it up for the first time, that’s where it takes a little bit more grunt. And then after that though subsequent, it’s just bank, bank, bank, even for wallets that are 6000 deep into the keychain.
Stephan Livera – 00:20:27:
Yeah, that’s an interesting implication for people out there. And the other interesting point here, so let’s say there’s only so many people who are willing to run a node. Of course we want to get that number going up, but of course, as our friend Matt O’Dell says, there’s the Uncle Jim model. And so if you want to be an Uncle Jim, using one of these Raspberry Pi may not be a good thing, right? Because in the same way. The performance aspect is so poor on a Raspberry Pi compared to. Let’s say, the ThinkPad or the Dell OptiPlex or, you know, your proper full blown desktop PC. That the performance gap is going to be really noticeable if you’re trying to be an Uncle Jim for your community, your family, your friends. And you’re saying, hey, Instead of you using somebody else’s server, use my server. And so just to refresh for listeners who are new, let’s say you run your Bitcoin full Node, and that could be using Raspberry Blitz, Arm, Brawl, Ronan, Dojo, any of the well known or My Node, or any of these other ones. And so the idea is you can run the infrastructure, you can run the Bitcoin Core Node, and you can run the Electrum Server or Fulcrum. And then the idea is your family or friends can just use, for example, Sparrow Wallet or Electrum wallet and connect through to your server. What we’re talking about here is this idea that if you want to run the server for your family and friends, you need your server to be performance, ie. Efficient, and actually get–
K3tan – 00:21:46:
and reliable. Because what if one of your clients wants to search up at 01:00 in the morning and 01:00 in the morning you’re asleep and the node dead, right? It needs to also be reliable. So you need that uptime, you need that capability to be actually online 24/7, so that whoever wants to query what is in their wallet are able to do so. When you are Uncle Jimmy? Yes. That’s another consideration. It’s the reliability of it, right?
Stephan Livera – 00:22:14:
Yeah. And so just for listeners, again, just to make sure everyone is following along. So the idea there is, let’s say you are using Sparrow Wallet or Electrum Wallet or one of these others, and you’re calling out to somebody else’s node. So what it’s doing there is it’s calling out to somebody else’s node to feed it it’s history, transaction history and its balance, and you are using it to broadcast transactions. And so if, let’s say you, the Bitcoin full node running club has a Raspberry Pi and then that your nephew or niece in the Bitcoin model is trying to call out to your server and it’s offline at that time or it’s really slow because so many people are hitting it at the same time or because it’s just not a very performance device. Then your clients are going to have your nephews and nieces in the Bitcoin sense are going to really suffer because they’re going to have a bad user experience and they’ll be like, Oh, this is a pain. It’s really slow to look up my transactions or it takes so long to load. These are the typical things that they’ll be saying. And so I think while let’s say Katana and I, you and I, we’ve been talking about Raspberry Pi node, I think it’s time to sort of shift the conversation or at least get more people aware about some of the trade offs here so that people can make an informed choice. Because I think what was the case in 2020 is now sort of become I think in 2022 has become it’s time to really start shifting to more reliability, more secure, more performance.
K3tan – 00:23:35:
Agree. You’ve summed it up very, very well there.
Stephan Livera – 00:23:38:
Stephan Livera – 00:23:39:
Okay, so as another example as well, in terms of hard drive or SSD, solid state drive capacity. So again, just to explain to listeners, the idea is you are running an operating system on your box, whether that’s a Raspberry Pi or whether it’s a ThinkPad or an OptiPlex or whatever device, and then you might have separately or even inbuilt into that device, let’s say it’s a ThinkPad or an OptiPlex and you put in a new SSD. That was a common thing where if you buy, as an example, let’s say you buy a refurb ThinkPad or a Refurb OptiPlex, we may need to insert a new solid state drive to make sure it has enough capacity. So I think that’s another component that we should just talk through so people understand what’s going on there. But the high level of it is that you’re storing the blockchain on that device and also the Electrum server you’re using, it has some indexing, it might be 30 or 50 gigs worth of data that it’s keeping as well. So you’ve got to consider that too. So do you want to just outline that process there of the process of buying this box or think bad or machine and then upgrading just at a high level? What does that look like?
K3tan – 00:24:40:
Yeah, so basically what you’re going to do is when you buy these refurbished computers, they’re usually going to have some small capacity drive in them and they’ll be like 128 gb or something like that, just to run Windows or whatever. Now what we’re going to do, and I go through this in the video series is basically you’re going to take that hard drive out and replace it with like a 1 TB or a 2 TB SSD. And that basically I prefer the Samsung Evo 870 model. That’s my preferred method. I think that these are workhorses, they’re designed to last a very long time and so I really like those devices in terms of their reliability and the longevity of them. And so you would swap out the 128 and you would put in the 2TB or the 1TB would install a new operating system on that and off you go. That’s kind of the process behind it. And it’s not technical, it’s kind of like putting in a USB. You open up the computer and you plug the USB cable, the connector in, it’s called a SATA connection and you just slide out the old hard drive and slide the new back in. These computers make it extremely accessible to be able to do that. And so, yeah, you shouldn’t have too many problems. There’s lots of video tutorials as well on how to change out the SSD from an existing computer to a new one. It’s not the most difficult thing.
Stephan Livera – 00:26:13:
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They offer the Cold Card, which is my favorite Bitcoin hardware signing device. And remember, we’re moving to that new term hardware signing device. So the Cold card can hold your private keys and it can sign your Bitcoin transactions. And there’s all kinds of different configurations you can use. You can just use it in single signature mode directly plugged to a computer. You can use it not plugged to your computer and just plugged into the power to the wall and using a micro SD card. And you can also use it as part of a multi signature set up. It’s just such a versatile device and it’s just really reliable. So I think that’s why it’s one of the favorites in the space. It is my favorite. You can go and get yours over coinkite.com and use the code livera when you’re ordering your cold cards, you might need to get some for yourself and some for your friends who you’re helping on board. So that’s coinkite.com. And now back to my chat with K3tan. Yeah, right. And there are tutorials online about all these kinds of things, right? If you search on YouTube or whatever, you can search how to upgrade SSD in this laptop and you’ll find some guy who’s showing you here’s how you unscrew the laptop screws and then it’s not that hard. So don’t be afraid listeners. You can do it and it’s cost effective. Right? So I’ll give you a quick example. So I think probably the sweet spot in terms of what I was researching, you can get a ThinkPad for about 150 USD and you can get a 2TB SSD, the Samsung one, even the Samsung QVO one, the 2TB is about 150 USD. Now if you want to really step it up, they’ve got a four terabyte of 350. But I think two terabyte is probably the sweet spot for now. Because the reason I say that is if you just do a 1TB might run out of space in a few years time, whereas the two terabytes probably a little bit more future proof and it’s not that much more. So it’s kind of like I think that’s probably the sweet spot for now. So listeners out there. And just again for context for listeners. So as an example, I was testing around, I ran an Umbrel. So just running an Umbrel with the default bitcoin plus electros, rather electrum rust server plus core Lightning. Now, to be clear on this set up, I hadn’t set up any channels on it yet, but the current set up as of today was about 596 gb. And if we’re assuming, let’s say on an assumption of 1.5 megabytes per block, that’s 216 megs a day or 1.5 gigs per week or about 78 gigs per year. So, for example, that set up I did, if there’s only about 400 gigs left, that means we’ve got to call it five years or so before that node is really going to start hitting into issues like running out of space and then we’re going to have to do that whole rollover process. Whereas if I had set that up with a two terabyte, there’s much more longevity there. And I think it also matters what you’re doing, right? If you’re going to do Lightning, there may be a channel database, there may be routing data that you know, it has to be able to use. And I think especially for those of us in the node running community and we see ourselves as Uncle Jim, we’re trying to help onboard our family and friends, but then we might need Lightning as well. And we might want to onboard our family and friends on, let’s say, using like if you’ve got LND Hub for Blue wallet or if you’ve got BTC, pay server has a new one called Ln Bank which is out in experimental mode and you can onboard your bitcoin nephews and nieces onto your Lightning server, if you will. So these are all things to consider around hard drive space and SSD. So anything else you want to add there around hard drive space or SSD? Capacity and costs.
K3tan – 00:31:02:
Yeah, so the other thing is you need to also factor in not just the bitcoin core that’s going up every ten minutes, but it’s also the Electrum server that’s also going up every ten minutes. So it’s a double whammy and depending on which server you have, an electromagnet is a little bit more less gigs, it’s about 30, 35GB, whereas the Fulcrum server is like 100 and something gigabytes right now. So that’s the, the level of difference in, in how much capacity you need. So, you know, if you’re using a Fulcrum server, you’re going to be eating into that 1 TB very, very quickly. I’d say I’d estimate two to three years and you’re done, whereas a two terabyte would give you a little bit more room in that regard, right?
Stephan Livera – 00:31:43:
Yeah. And so these are all very important things to think about and then in terms of obviously there’s different ways to run that bitcoin node as well. Right? So you can use Umbrel, you can use raspberries, you can use some of these different ones and some of them have a PC version or they’ve got a PC image as well. Or of course you can use K3tan’s Ministry of Nobox Guide. So do you want to just outline some of your thoughts there on, I guess, those users? So imagine the listener today, they’ve got just a raspberry pi node, let’s say they’ve got an umbrel something similar or a raspberry blitz, what’s the price is going to be like if they try to now do this on a laptop or an optiplex instead of on a raspberry pi.
K3tan – 00:32:24:
Yeah, so it really just depends on going through the documentation of each of their systems. So some guys will probably not have an image at all for a desktop PC. Other people will have an image. Like I know, for example, Umbrel, you can import the image into a piece of software called VirtualBox. Same thing with my node, you can import it into VirtualBox and you’ll be able to run that Bitcoin node or that graphical or that whole interface as a separate computer within your existing PC. So for example, a laptop, you get that same image and you fire it up on VirtualBox and I’ve got a video tutorial on that as well on the channel. And so you fire it up and on your computer, boom, you’ve got a minor instance ready to go and you can start clicking as if you were using a raspberry pi, but you’re actually just using your normal computer. Now obviously you’ll also need to make sure that you have given your computer access to a 1 TB disk at the minimum and then it will detect that and it will just sort of put all the blockchain data into that disk and it will format it for you and all those sorts of things. So that’s what the image does and that can be done. I’m pretty sure Umbrel can also be run on a PC as well. So there’s some instructions on how to get that going in a docker image and so you can follow some instructions and get that going on your computer as well. So those are some other options for getting off the raspberry pi and onto the PC image. Having said that though, I know that the Umbrel guys don’t actually fully support the they have disclaimers saying that they don’t fully support the PC version, those sorts of things. So those are just some things to think about as well. And then obviously the Ministry of Nodes guides, there is no trusted third party whatsoever, it’s just you the command line and you sit there and you do it yourself and I teach you how to do it. So I think that’s important. I think it’s important to just be in a position where Bitcoin is always you just download it as a user, you’re able to download it yourself, you’re able to verify it yourself, you’re able to install it yourself, you’re able to configure it yourself and you’re able to run it yourself and maintain it. I think that’s an important skill that at least some of us who are intellectually curious about running these nodes and getting into computers and getting into Linux commands and those sorts of things they should be doing that I think that’s really important for just the decentralization of the space.
Stephan Livera – 00:34:55:
Got you. Yeah. And one other question. I think maybe some listeners might head into this and even in my earlier days playing around with some of this stuff, I hit into some of this as well, where if I had a smaller hard drive for my operating system and a bigger hard drive for my blockchain data and then sometimes I’ll try to run some of these guys and then it would screw up, right?
K3tan – 00:35:14:
Mission errors and yeah dude, this is why I recommend a one single drive to rule them all have the operating system and the blockchain on the same disk. And the reason that I say that is because you end up getting these permission errors. Things just don’t quite work as well. You have to change configuration locations. It’s just it is a wild mess. It’s just not the stock standard way of doing it. I reckon if you’re going to do this, just take one drive, get a bigger drive and install the operating system on that and install the blockchain data onto that one drive and then when it comes time to upgrade that drive, you can basically blown the drive. So say for example, you need to go from two terabytes to four terabytes. What you do is you can clone the two terabyte into the four terabytes and now you’ve got free space of an additional two terabytes and so it just increases the disk space of that drive and then you whack that back into your computer and now you’ve got four terabytes. So you just start from where you left off.
Stephan Livera – 00:36:20:
Yeah. And I think these are things that we as a bitcoin community of people who are really into it or trying to educate, promote, advocate, whatever you want to call this. I think these are things that we all have to think about and try to up and increase our technical skill. I think it’s important for all of us. Of course, no one’s perfect, but we have to minimize lapping and everyone has to try to push each other to do better on these things. So I think it’s useful information for all of us. So when it comes to self hosting as well. What we’ve seen with some of the I guess the way some of the full node packages have gone is that they’ve kind of gone for the Raspberry Pi or the RockPr 64 when perhaps maybe the longer term pathway is to try to do this using PC images or having at least a PC runnable command that then fetches all the right things or of course. In your case. If we’re doing the Ministry of Nodes node box guide. Then you know. You already have to you’re already doing that anyway. You’re having to learn that part. Also, we’re also seeing this conversation go broader into this idea of the personal self computer, you know, self hosting. So this idea that we should self host not just our bitcoin node, but we should self host our media, our pictures, our next cloud or things like this. Now, I suppose it’s also probably a good spot to mention that people should remember to have segregation here. So do you want to just explain why should people segregate between their bitcoin applications and the non bitcoin ones?
K3tan – 00:37:48:
Yeah, so this is a great question that I see a fair bit and I think we’re seeing packages now that do both. I think that probably is worthwhile doing something in terms of segregating those two functions out. And the reason is because the wear and tear on system resources bitcoin just in itself uses when it’s in the initial blockchain download mode as well as when it’s in the electro indexing mode, it uses system resources and you’ve got an SSD that’s being used, that’s growing constantly. You’ve got Ram that’s being used, you’ve got CPU that’s being shared. The wear and tear to add an additional thing is going to somewhat impact the longevity of your bitcoin node. And so that’s why I’m not really an advocate of putting too many things on that bitcoin Node. This is a bitcoin node. This is your critical banking infrastructure that you are trying to keep for online, reliable and up all the time 24/7 and out into the future, you’re doing this. This is a project that you do today that you reap the rewards for, for a very long time. Okay? Now, to put your next cloud and other devices on there which use up those system resources, I think it’s probably better if you just segregate those two physically in terms of hardware, right? Don’t mix and match those two things up is my recommendation. Now the other thing is if you need to say, for example, you’ve done something on the next cloud and you just need to reboot just for that process to take place. So something’s gone and you need to upgrade and now you need to reboot. So then when you reboot the next cloud, well actually if you’re sharing the same computer, well, now you have to reboot the bitcoin Node, so that’s downtime for your bitcoin node. So in that regard, if you’re playing around with other software on this end and it needs a reboot, well, you’re going to have to reboot the bitcoin node as well. And it’s not ideal to be doing that. Keep your bitcoin node on line for as long as you possibly can in the context of running a server or an electrum server and those sorts of things. You don’t want to keep that, try and maximize as much uptime of your Bitcoin node as you can. And then the other thing is that when you’re playing around with these other pieces of software, you’re tinkering with things and as you will find with self hosting information, you will make mistakes. I’m not going to lie, it’s not all rosy out there. Things do go wrong in computing and if you have that same machine that goes wrong again, it’s one more thing that you’re thinking about. Whereas if you had a bitcoin node and you’ve just parked it in one place and you do your experiments on this pace and you play around and you find what’s best for you in terms of your self hosting software. It’s better that you just have that peace of mind to say. Okay. Well. That side. The bitcoin node side is okay. And I’m able to muck around as much as I want with the self hosting stuff on this side and it’ll be fine. And the two will never meet. And so there’s also possible security benefits of doing that as well. Like you don’t want potentially some sort of malware or something to infect that PC and then go out to various other devices on your network. I think there is probably some worthwhile networking controls that you can put into place as well on a particular device to say, all right, well, I don’t want anyone else being able to access this node except for this computer. And so you’re minimizing the attack surface to your bitcoin node, whereas the next cloud, you might want other computers to access the next cloud server. So you can really start to hone in or dial in on what you want your network to do when there’s a physical segregation there. So I think that that’s probably something that’s worthwhile considering is to have a separate, I guess, PC or a separate computer to do your self hosting stuff, which is now becoming more and more popular. People are running their next clouds, people are running their own photoprism, and there’s a whole bunch of applications now people are doing also their vault warden, so their bitwarden passwords, they’re self hosting that. It’s a huge space where you can get into some really cool applications, but they’re just not Bitcoin related. So just put them onto the side.
Stephan Livera – 00:42:43:
Got you. That’s not to say you shouldn’t install any of these. I mean, it could just be that let’s say you have an Umbrel or a start nine, but you have a secondary one that does your photos and your vault warden and your other things, and you have one that you do just bitcoin stuff on it. So that way you’re keeping a segregation of concerns that way. Now, of course, if you literally can’t afford it, well, okay, fine. But if it’s kind of a case where. Like we said. If you can outlay. Your initial outlay might be $300 something in that range. Or maybe $400 for a laptop and the SSD. Or an optical X and the SSD. Then that’s already basically in the same price ballpark as the Raspberry Pi models anyway. So it might make sense to do it that way when it comes to self hosting as well. Can you maybe hit us with some of your highlights? What are some of the highlights for self hosting? Like non bitcoin things? What kind of applications are there that people should consider? And I know you did a blog post about this recently, so I’ll include that as well. The MyHome lab post.
K3tan – 00:43:43:
Yeah. So I’ve been going down the journey of self hosting my data. I want to get rid of Google, I want to de Google and I want to get rid of Apple and I want to get rid of all of these trusted Microsoft and OneDrive and start to use or take ownership of my data as to who sees it, who has access to it. You will have seen recently that a gentleman took a photo of his kids groin area and sent it to his doctor and that got uploaded to Google cloud and Google came in and said, well, this is child porn, and shut his account down and he still hasn’t got it back yet. And so that’s ten years worth of data and photos and everything else that he has absolutely no access to, it is beyond ridiculous. So in that instance, people are starting to wake up and go, hold on, well if they can shut me down, if Google can shut me down from accessing my own photos, well, then maybe it’s time for me to take ownership of my own photos. And how best can I run my own Google photos? So that’s one there’s still hosted alternatives for doing that there’s now self hosted for your own data, for your calendar, your contacts, because you don’t want Google knowing who you conduct business with and those sorts of things. So you might want to self host the phone numbers that of your contacts. So those types of things can be done by a next cloud. And of course, as I mentioned, there’s Vault Warden, it’s a fork of bitcoin, but it’s easily self hostable where you run your own password manager. So in the event that bitwarden and servers go down, you won’t be affected because you’ve got it in your own home, all the data is there. And so these are the types of things. And then there’s also media servers, jellyfin, we can watch videos and all those sorts of things. And there’s so much that you can self host RSS feeds. So instead of going out to various websites, you can just get updates via RSS feeds and your RSS feed, you can have a server that maintains it and all of your clients, what you’ve read and what you haven’t read that can all be synchronized. There’s so many things that you can do with self hosting. But the important thing is when you start off just to give some tips, I guess, is when you start off using these free and open source alternatives, I would actually give yourself a process of two years to really wean yourself off because let’s face it, we’ve all been on Google for at least at least a decade, people, if not longer. And you’re not going to wean off them in tomorrow, right? You’re not going to wean off them completely within the next week. Try self hosting yourself. See what the issues are for about a year or two, and then when you’re comfortable, have them on both, right? So have them on your Google Drive and have them on your own self hosted thing. If you think that you don’t need that Google Drive anymore and you’re using it less and less and less, that’s the time when you should start to delete. So run them in parallel at the same time, and then when you’re done with the proprietary application, wean yourself off slowly and then completely shut it down. But don’t do a thing where you think, okay, well, I’ve got my next cloud now, I’ve got this now. It’s all good. I’m going to transfer all my data, I’m going to shut down my Google account and I’m going to shut down my Microsoft One drive and that’s it, it’s over. I’m done with them. I’m telling you now, in a month’s time you’ll be like, what just happened to my data? I hit the upgrade button and it’s all gone. But they are, do you know what I mean? You will find these issues as you come along with the open source software and you need at least two years worth of experience to be able to go, OK, well, you know what, I’ve got a handle on things, I can maintain it, I know what’s going on, I know how it’s used, and now I’m going to actually win myself off. That’s my advice. Yeah. So I know I’ve gone a bit. It’s good.
Stephan Livera – 00:47:35:
I think it’s useful to have, like, I think it’s useful context just for people to be aware of what’s possible out there, right? And it’s not saying it’s the hunky dory, everything’s great. I mean, there will be certain trade offs as an example. There may be certain features that are just not available in the free open source software in the Foss alternatives. But you are getting additional sovereignty. You are getting additional perhaps reliability. You may be saving some costs, you may not be having to pay for that additional space on Google Drive or Dropbox or Apple Cloud or one of these. And so there are some benefits there. And as more and more people get canceled, more and more people have to actually start looking at these things out of necessity, not just intellectual interest. And so I think this is something we as the bitcoin community or communities, whatever you want to call us, we have to think about this as well. And I think it’s also one of those things where there will be times where it’s inconvenient, but it’s better than just being completely shut down, right? Like, if you get, like, for example, that guy who got totally shut down out of his Google Drive, like, he just, you know, he’s just completely screwed. Whereas if he had this alternative set up, yes, it would be inconvenient at the start, but at least he has an alternative and it’s ready to go. So it’s kind of like when people talk about. Even with like flag theory and stuff like that. Of. You know. Trying to have a plan B. Whether that’s a plan B residence or citizenship or something.
K3tan – 00:48:57:
Stephan Livera – 00:48:57:
You can think of this as your digital plan B. That you need to have your digital plan B set up and ready to go so that you’re ready to kind of roll over if you do get canceled or something goes wrong in the mainstream world. That you have your digital self sovereign alternatives there to go.
K3tan – 00:49:14:
Yeah, definitely. And I’m looking forward to seeing more of this. I know guys who are developing more PeerToPeer based tools that will allow better backups, better reliability, decentralized data, those sorts of things. There is software that’s coming out and that’s being implemented and hopefully it will be free and open source soon and those sorts of things. And I’m looking forward to seeing what developers are building to help us with our own digital self sovereignty. And I think that’s great to see and I’m looking forward to experimenting with that software and seeing how it can help and benefit us as we move into this cancel culture, as you say.
Stephan Livera – 00:49:55:
Yeah, all right, well, I think that’s probably a good spot to finish up there. But listeners, make sure you follow K3tan on Twitter. I’ll put all these handles in the show notes, but make sure you check out Ministryofnodes.com.au. That’s where that’s the professional service where Katan will help you. You can basically do a call with him and pay him afterwards. And it’s kind of like a value for value model. And of course, K-3-t-a-n.com, which is his personal blog, and of course I’ll link that as well. You can find a bunch of this stuff there. My homelab is a great blog post. I recommend for people to check it out. There’s all kinds of guides out there and I think probably the final tip, at least from my side, I would say don’t feel overwhelmed, just start, like just start with something basic. And you might find that over time, it’s actually getting better and better and easier and you’re more familiar with it. So that’s probably the final tip from my side. Any final tips for the listeners out there, K3tan?
K3tan – 00:50:44:
No, I think you’ve now just get started. Do something, something is better than nothing. Whether that’s just moving over to using a new password manager like Bitwarden, or just opening up a ProtonMail account, or just doing something that is going to help you in the future from a digital perspective, I think that’s a great place to start. Just do something, get started, get involved. Yeah.
Stephan Livera – 00:51:06:
K3tan – 00:51:07:
Stephan Livera – 00:51:07:
Alright, guys, so that’s it. Thank you, Katan.
K3tan – 00:51:09:
Thanks for having me.
Stephan Livera – 00:51:10:
Cheers. So let me know what you think about K3tan’’s insights around Bitcoin nodes. Should you be using them on Raspberry Pi’s or should you be using something else? Let me know what you think. And of course, we spoke about a lot of different things. So the show notes are available over at StephanLivera.com/411. Thanks for listening and I’ll see you in the studios.
Another good option, in the US at least, is the Amazon Renewed Store.
Check out this absolute beast: 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, 3.9GHz i7 CPU for roughly the same cost as a raspberry pi 4 8GB