Vertcoin (VTC) has been rising quickly over the past few days, a time when most major coins and alts have been flat.
Earlier today Vertcoin was up roughly 325% over 24 hours, based on CoinMarketCap’s stats. This brought its market cap over the $4 million mark and saw it reach 14th position in the rankings of mineable coins. Not bad for a Litecoin fork released on the 8th of January 2014.
Before dismissing Vertcoin as just the latest pump and dump, it’s worth noting that it does have an active development team, engaged community and – most importantly – at least one innovative feature. This feature is the scrypt-adaptive-Nfactor algorithm, designed to make the coin resistant to Scrypt ASICs. I briefly discussed this feature of VTC in my interview with Fluffypony, his conclusion being that ASIC resistance is only a matter of time.
For more detail on Vertcoin’s rise and what it brings to the party, I spoke with Aleks_N. (2) He’s been involved in Vertcoin since its launch, modding cudaminer to work with VTC and also compiling the Windows binaries of Bufius’ VTC-specific cgminer mod.
<GG> So can you speak about what makes VTC ASIC-resistant?
<Aleks_N> Sure. In a nutshell it is all to do with the N factor.
N factor determines the “memory hardness” of the scrypt algorithm, or in simple terms how much RAM is required per thread to crunch the numbers. Normal scrypt has an N factor of 1024.
So with N=1024 the memory per thread is 128KB and at N=2048 the memory per thread is 256KB.
When it goes up to 4096 it will be 512KB, that is the limit for GPUs at present.
<GG> Ah ha, and is that VRAM it’s using or system RAM?
<Aleks_N> That is VRAM. So unless GPU architecture changes by then, after 4096 GPUs wont be able to mine VTC any more.
<GG> So when N redoubles, then everyone is back to CPU mining?
<Aleks_N> Yes, when the N goes to 8192 that would be the case at present. But that isnt till Sep 2017.
<GG> And these N increases are what keep current generation ASICs from being practical in VTC mining?
<Aleks_N> Yes. The reason this makes it difficult for ASICs is that many of their features are hard-coded in the circuitry – that is why they are so efficient. Hence you would need to make a new ASIC every N change. Of course, you could use an FPGA etc. but you would need LOTS of memory to back it up – quite an expensive undertaking.
<GG> Ah thanks, that explains it well. I recently saw ASICs described as software turned into hardware, so I can see why changing certain factors would force a hardware redesign. Would you say the philosophy behind Vertcoin is to keep mining distributed?
<Aleks_N> Yes, I think that is fair to say; to keep mining accessible to all.
<GG> OK and Vertcoin price has had a remarkable rise. I would like to discuss possible reasons for that.
<Aleks_N> Well, I think the price rise is mainly due to the additional hashpower on the network. 3 x network hash = 3 x price. That has fuelled a little buying frenzy so we got a bit of extra boost.
<GG> So no specific event or coverage or code change?
<Aleks_N> Well yes, I think the fork helped a great deal.
<GG> The hardfork? I encountered that, couldn’t figure why wallet wasn’t updating for a while… What was the reason for it?
<Aleks_N> Because we were getting stranded at high difficulty. Now it adjusts every block, so you dont end up with a massive difficulty jump followed by everyone leaving and stranding the faithful miners on a high difficulty with high block times.
<GG> So pools would hop in, mine, then exit leaving difficulty ramped? I thought the Kimoto Gravity Well stopped that sort of thing?
<Aleks_N> No, thankfully the multipools could never jump in as the algo is not normal scrypt. But that doesnt stop big individual miners leaving – and when you have some miners pushing out 30MH like one guy that was on my pool… That makes a big difference when nethash is only at 300MH.
<GG> So now that price is rising high, do you expect even more big miners to get involved?
<GG> OK and VTC is currently on which exchange(s) and will it get listed on any new ones soon?
<Aleks_N> Coined Up and Poloniex at present, the volume is on Coined Up. Hopefully Cryptsy will add it soon but who knows.
<GG> I see. and it seems the community is pretty good, in it for the long haul?
<Aleks_N> Yeah, I hope so. It’s been exciting early days!
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