Nvidia announces official anti-cryptomining software drivers

Nvidia, the graphics chip company that wants to buy ARM, made a unusual announcement last week. The company is about to launch its latest GeForce GPU (graphics processing unit) chip, the RTX 3060, and wants its users know that the chip is tailored to meet the needs of gamers and those who create digital experiences.

Nvidia said, Our GeForce RTX GPUs introduce cutting edge technologies such as RTX real-time ray tracing, DLSS AI-accelerated image upscaling technology, Reflex super-fast response rendering for the best system latency and many more. Ray tracing is an algorithm used in generating synthetic images that are almost unbelievably realistic, correctly modelling complex optical interactions such as reflection, transparency and refraction, but this sort of realism comes at huge computational cost. You can therefore see why gamers and digital artists might be very keen to get their hands on the latest special purpose hardware that can speed up the creation of images rendered in this way.

The dilemma that modern GPUs face, however, is that they’re also pretty good at performing cryptographic calculations, like computing hashes such as as SHA-2 and SHA-3 at high speed. This sort of algorithm is used at the heart of many cryptocurrency mining calculations. You can therefore see why cryptocurrency fans might be very keen to get their hands on the latest special-purpose hardware that can speed up the calculations needed to earn cryptocoins.

This tension between graphics-cards-used-for-graphics and graphics cards used for cryptomining has regularly led to new product releases from GPU makers selling out almost immediately, followed by the inevitable price gouging by buyers who were able to get hold of retail stock and then to flip their cards for a quick online profit. Selling plenty of product may be a great outcome for GPU vendors, but the artificial price inflation caused by stock shortages is a less welcome look for any mainstream company. The company’s true customers, the end users who were after the product in the first place end up feeling outmanoeuvred by and aggrieved at the company itself, not the buyers who flipped for quick money.

For its new product, Nvidia has therefore openly stated in advance that its software drivers for the RTX 3060 are deliberately biased against cryptomining with the launch of GeForce RTX 3060 on Feb. 25, we’re taking an important step to help ensure GeForce GPUs end up in the hands of gamers. RTX 3060 software drivers are designed to detect specific attributes of the Ethereum cryptocurrency mining algorithm, and limit the hash rate, or cryptocurrency mining efficiency, by around 50 percent.

Simply put, Nvidia will try to detect the code you’re running, and purposefully but not secretly, given its public announcement take out what amounts to denial of service (DoS) actions against software it thinks is trying to do Ethereum calculations on the GPU. 

If you want to do cryptomining, Nvidia said, you need to buy a different product, to address the specific needs of Ethereum mining, we are 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.

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