But let's start at the beginning, when I started getting in to a loose collaboration with three people I've never met---one whose name I'm not even confident I really know---with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of a nebulous new cryptocurrency at stake.
It started with a cryptic note from someone I'd met online, with a link to a bitcointalk.org message board discussion for a new currency called "bitmonero". His note said only:
"this looks interesting."
From prior collaborations with him, I knew he had a good nose for opportunities in cryptocurrencies. Within an hour or two, he followed up noting:
"Regarding bitmonero it is profitable with aws with the wallet miner. Seem like some people have got optimised miner which is a few times faster as well so there obviously room for improvement..."
AWS, of course, was Amazon Web Services' spot market, which will let you cheaply rent mind-boggling amounts of compute power on short (1 hour) timescales. AWS profitability is a key ingredient for making money on cryptocurrency mining, because it scales: You can rent one machine or 10,000, and the only thing you have to worry about is if you start to use too many, the price will go up.
I was busy with the end of the semester and didn't respond quickly. The next day, I had an email from him offering 1 Bitcoin (about $600) to develop a 5x faster miner, and from chat, we discussed splitting the profits after that 50/50. I was still feeling overwhelmed with real work, but I took a brief look at ...