Because I live in a truck, in summer I have the interesting problem of excess (practically free) photovoltaics electricity. The same can happen in an off-grid home or a grid-connected home in a location with zero-export regulations.
This is a small overview of the current options to earn from utilizing your unused or underused computing resources and / or electricity.
By “recommendability”, judged purely subjectively by myself:
SONM. Blockchain project where you rent out systems by time, like VPS hosts on a cloud platform. The system just went live (yesterday). Looks like well-done tech, worth a try. Of course, nobody knows what you can earn with this (yet), but it should not get lower than the price of electricity. So if you have excess (“free”) electricity available, it’s always a benefit for you.
Golem. Blockchain project for various special-purpose computation tasks (Blender rendering, later machine learning etc.). Already live since a few months, see here for reported earnings.
iExec. Blockchain project where you rent out your CPU resources and earn tokens. For a comparison to SONM, see here.
Primecoin. The first “meaningful mining” coin ever created. Coins are mined by securing transactions with a prime number chain called “Cunningham chain“. This is for the most part basic research, but has some uses: “Cunningham chains are now considered useful in cryptographic systems since “they provide two concurrent suitable settings for the ElGamal cryptosystem … [which] can be implemented in any field where the discrete logarithm problem is difficult.” (source). For results of the prime number chains it found, see the records and the details. The coin is “naturally scarce” due to the scarcity of prime numbers, just that the upper limit of coins that will exist is not known beforehand (nice feature :D).
Gridcoin. One of the first “useful mining” coins, started in October 2013. Uses an interesting concept called “proof of research” that combines proof of stake and proof of BOINC (contributions to the BOINC platform for distributed scientific computing). You are not paid by BOINC projects but donate your CPU resources to them; instead you are paid in newly minted Gridcoins. Since this (together with the 1.5% inflation from teh proof-of-stake) sets Gridcoins on a path of continuous inflation and there is no immediate use value for Gridcoin (except speculation), this is a rather poor design for a currency. I once tested this about 1-2 years ago and calculated what I could make when running my i7 notebook on excess solar power (4-6 hours a day), and it was only 1-2 USD a year.
EFF prizes for large primes. You can participate in GIMPS (a collaborative effort hunting these primes) but this is more for sportsmanship and not for the money, as it seems there are no regular “mining pool style” payouts or shares of a future payout in case of an eventual, collaborative success. GIMPS will distribute a small fraction to the person actually finding it on their computer (3000 USD of 150k USD? compare here and here). You could instead hunt these primes solo, but the chances of success are of course slim. Good for those who like playing lottery and have free electricity around, so it does not cost them anything …
Proof-of-work mining. There are lots of cryptocurrencies you can mine with proof-of-work, including Bitcoin of course (but that’s only meaningful with GPUs and ASIC miners these days) and others that are designed to be economically CPU mineable. However, I don’t recommend this, as all these calculations are used for nothing beyond securing transactions – which can also be done with proof-of-stake instead of burning all that electricity. All mineable coins where mining serves a meaningful purpose beyond this have been included in the list above.
And some not yet or no longer functional projects:
DCP. Very similar to Gridcoin, as rewards are again earned from BOINC calculations. But seems to provide a more modern tech stack that could potentially do other tasks in the future. Not released yet.
Curecoin. Similar to Gridcoin, but limited to only one of the BOINC tasks (protein folding). Also, only half of the energy is used for these computations while the other half goes for proof-of-work. Gridcoin does not have that issue, as proof-of-stake uses only negligible CPU resources. This applies to the previous version. The coin seems to undergo a rewrite / relaunch currently.
There are other (blockchain based) projects that reward people for data storage, data transmission (CDN, video streaming), attention (“voluntary ads viewing”) and sharing personal data. We focused on CPU / GPU intensive tasks here only, as that is the best use in case you have to “burn” free electricity as meaningfully as possible.
Good news for my truck, it got MOT again ("TÜV") so I can move around a bit. Used the opportunity for a nice little tour. Including: buying some parts for my "living space" in a hardware store; overnighting under 380 kV; a visit to a hydraulics workshop (leaving 230 EUR for three new hoses for my truck's winch, phew!); and a nice afternoon of cycling in the forest. See pictures!
Speaking of forests: I had an idea how to make staying with the truck in forests less of an issue. Because officially, in Germany you're only allowed to overnight at one spot in your car for one night only, "to re-gain fitness for driving". Everything else is tolerated to some extent, but can cause you problems. (Which is mostly limited to being told to drive away … .) But when I saw a lot of trash at the entrance of the protected forest where I stopped for cycling, it led to this idea: I'll see what happens when I always collect some trash from forests I live in with the truck. When some forest ranger, police person etc. wants me to leave, I prove that I am beneficial to the place, and they might let me stay. Especially when I can show them from my blog that it's a habit. So, expect quite some pictures of trash in the future! The first one is below, collected 2009-09-14 at this beautiful place (50.580852,8.731282). It's essentially a way of commoning: pay nature for a nice place by taking its trash.
So I just finished another little project: my new entrance ladder. Ok, let's say it's finished except for a layer of paint, as always. All paint jobs pile up for when I have no urgent needs and will start to care how things actually look 😛
This shows the truck's right side, with the door to the living area open. The new ladder is hooked for storage to the inside of the door and will only be in use (means hooked below the door) when the truck parks on the roadside or otherwise in confined spaces where the normal stairs cannot be used. Or, like now, where the normal stairs exist only in pieces laying around …
The reason I'm writing this is to illustrate how a few pieces of trash and a few hours of time, mixed in the right way, can become useful items for everyday use. Here are the ingredients:
ladder hooks on door: self-made, bent to shape from 3 mm stainless steel; originally this was a broken bumper bar at the truck's box body that I had to cut off, so it's free …
blue mounting plate: leftover pieces from big aluminium 2 mm metal sheets that I bought from the junkyard to create door and window frames; originally all this were commercial signs at a MOT station; maybe back then I paid 0.40 EUR for the amount used here?
steel ladder: basically free trash, since I cut it out from the leftover back part of a tractor trailer that I had to shorten for a friend
lower holder: tool holder from the wooden leftover body of a 1953 firefighter truck which I burned one winter in the wood stove of my truck
hooks below door (not shown): bent from 5 mm steel that came as a leftover 20 cm slice of a MAN truck frame
nuts and bolts below door (not shown): stainless steel nuts and bolts I sorted from a 5 kg package of mixed overstock material I bought on eBay for 20 EUR … let's say these are 0.20 EUR again all together
rivets: seven are found by sorting a big free bucket of nuts and bolts; five are bought (0.20 EUR each?); one of them I shortened because I did not have the right length at hand (how to? remove pull pin, cut off a bit of the rivet head, put in pull pin, remove grate with file)
PU sealing agent: used as glue behind the blue base plate and lower holder; bought, used amount might be worth 1 EUR
cutting and sanding disks: I used a 125×1 mm angle grinder cutting disk half, and a 125 mm sandpaper disk half … together about 1.40 EUR
electricity: the sun did not send me an invoice yet
Which makes for a total monetary investment of 4.00 EUR, or 4.55 USD. I'm still ok with that amount 😀
Of course I could also have bought an entrance ladder. Why didn't I? For one thing, it is difficullt to find something that fits here (I looked once, and only found fitting ones from yachting accessory for at least 100 EUR). And then: While this might be uneconomical in monetary terms for me now, I am learning and getting better at building my own stuff. It's an investment into the future, because I discovered that building your own stuff grants you a form of freedom. How so? Because you can always build some simple, useful items you need, and this way you can always cover some of your needs without a paid job. Just free trash and free time needed. Now what if we could build everything we need from trash? Would we still fear "unemployment"? Would we still accept hiearchies in the workplace, strict time regimes, uninhabitable and ugly offices, bad pay?
With projects like these, I'm exploring how much freedom there is in free trash. I know about efficiency issues with DIY building, the need for automation and so on. But it's just the start, and so far I cannot even see the end: open source tech solutions are getting more powerful every day. (Have a look at EarthOS if you are not convinced yet, it's my collectionf of "open source solutions for everything in life".)