First of all, what is the Pi Network?
I imagine a lot of Pi skeptics imagined Pi would never make it past the mobile mining app stage before simply running off with peoples' data! So let me explain a bit more what Pi is really all about before we learn more about nodes.
Pi Network is a fork of the Stellar Network being built by a small team (so far) of Stanford graduates. The lead developer actually taught the first ever course on blockchain at Stanford. While with the Stellar Network the maintenance of nodes will be left to companies and other institutions, Pi nodes will be run by Pi network users from all over the world. At the very least the team has said there will be thousands, but potentially hundreds of thousands of nodes!
Because it will use the Stellar Consensus Protocol, the Pi Network will be able to handle significant throughput, all while being energy conservative. Transactions take an average of just 3-4 seconds. Since it can be run using light nodes which don’t require expensive dedicated hardware or advanced technical knowledge, it can fulfill Pi’s goal of creating a truly decentralized network for and by the people, and provide the opportunity for ordinary people with limited tech know-how and resources to contribute to (and be rewarded by) a legitimate cryptocurrency network with an actual use case.
The end product or goal for which Pi will be used is a digital e-commerce and D’apps platform on which users can buy and sell goods and services, build apps, advertise, gain exposure for their social media presence and more. The hints given in the white paper place an emphasis on the exchange of digitally based services, but in the test transfer pilot of Pi, users have also already made many exchanges for physical goods as well.
Many are not aware that apps will be able to be developed on Pi. One early stage app has already made its debut within the Pi mobile app. Called ‘FeverIQ,’ it’s a Covid-19 symptom tracker (it's temporarily unavailable while under further development, but pays you a tiny amount of Pi to report your symptom/non symptom status). And the invitation has been put out for developers worldwide to avail themselves of Pi’s newly released SDK package.
Advertisers will be able to place ads on the platform, which has the potential to drive the value of Pi up significantly. I highly emphasize the word potential, as Pi is very much an experiment when it comes right down to it.
“Advancing User Centric Decentralization”
In my opinion and personal experience, Pi is one of the best crypto projects around to get involved in if you have limited tech savviness and/or resources but still want to actually participate in a network rather than just investing in or reading about them from the sidelines. Let's face it, there's something a bit more rewarding about actually participating in and contributing to a network than just staking your coins on some DeFi platform that is often under the auspices of people you don't know you can trust, and uses non time-tested smart contract code which could potentially be hacked.
You can use your regularly used computer, or get a decent used one off ebay for $100-$200 (the team will be refining hardware requirements/recommendations for nodes during the test phases). This is part of what attracts me to it. That, and what is likely to be a high level of user-friendliness and appeal to ordinary ‘no-coiners,’ as the crypto uninitiated are fondly called.
Also, so far there has been no mention of large (or any actually) staking requirements to run a node, making it truly accessible to anyone with a laptop and an internet connection, and not just those with the mega bucks to buy a node with.
If you get involved with the Pi Network, there are four main roles, which allow you to choose your level of involvement. The first two or three are incredibly simple and require very little investment of your time or energy.
At the most basic level, which the Pi team has dubbed Pioneer, you simply download the app, register and “mine” Pi daily by checking in once daily to prove you are not a bot. This is just simulated mining, it’s not using your phone’s resources at all…in fact you don’t even need to have the app open. For all intents and purposes it is a generous ongoing airdrop to help create an existing user base for the network when it finally goes live, and incentivize people who are interested to get more involved with the network.
Another thing many don’t know is that the mobile mining aspect of the Pi project will not last forever. The team is still deciding at what exact point it will end. The next point at which that decision will be made is when the app has 10 million active users. Right now, it has over 6 million. At that point, the mining rate will either be halved, or phone mining will end altogether. It’s still unclear what criteria the team uses to make this decision at every milestone, but there have already been several “halvings” of the ming rate.
Also you should know that when the mainnet goes live and Pi has value on its platform and as an exchangeable cryptocurrency, you will not be able to access your earned Pi without completing KYC (know your customer, ID verification) first (Pi uses the Yoti app for this). So no, Pi is certainly no sort of privacy coin!
The next role is Contributor and basically just means that you add other Pi users to what’s called your security circle. This just means you can vouch that they’re a real person and they aren’t going to be a bad actor who tries to sabotage the network. It will also increase your ‘mining’ speed a little. It doesn’t need to be anyone you personally know. You can add other Pi users from the chats or your earning team etc.
The next is Ambassador. This just means you successfully invite at least one user to join the network. Each user you invite who regularly turns on the miner (checks in daily) increases your mining rate slightly.
The last level is the one I’ve come to elaborate on a bit today, and that is applying to actually run a Pi Node. You do this by installing test software on your computer. This is not going to be a full instructional guide on all the steps, but rather an outline of what’s involved so that you can decide whether you want to pursue it or not.
Firstly, a few disclaimers
1) There are no rewards being paid for running the test node software. While there are no guarantees, it’s generally understood that those running nodes will be rewarded a portion of transaction fees starting in phase 3 of the project as an incentive mechanism to consistently maintain their node.
In the meantime, if there is a reward to be had from running the test node software aside from contributing to this grand experiment, it’s simply getting in on the application process early and establishing a baseline of consistency to show the developers you are likely to be consistent in maintaining your node. In other words, it makes you more likely to be selected assuming you in fact are consistent in running the test node.
2) Currently it’s just dummy software used to test various possibilities, find out what hardware requirements are, and start calibrating the network. Real (and yet still very much ‘testnet’) software is scheduled to be released any day now.
3) You will need to complete and pass KYC to be selected for a test node. If you are what the team is looking for to run a testnode, you will receive an invitation to complete KYC.
I’ve been in the chats and forums for a while now. I’ve also set up the required software on both Mac and Windows 10 and here’s what I can tell you. The set up process can be relatively quick and painless, or it can drag on and be a pretty big pain in the ass depending on various factors, such as exactly what operating system you’re running etc. For me, it was easy on Mac (though I’ve seen others have some difficulty even on Mac) and a massive pain on Windows. I set it up on Windows Pro, but because my computer doesn’t have a certain kind of processor (I bought a used one off Ebay for dirt cheap to use as a dedicated machine, so it’s a bit old!), I had to use the work around that is used to run a node on Windows Home.
One of the Pi team’s core aims is to make running a node as simple and accessible for the average person as possible. In the meantime, keep in mind that this is the very first iteration of the software. Over time the process should get simpler. So if you’re put off by finagling with the first generation, you could always wait and try later as the process gets refined. Essentially the software you’re installing is actually Linux software that runs inside a ‘container.’ software. You can think of a container like this. If your computer is a country, the container is like its own self contained city or village within. But one with its own self contained governance and operation. Everything that goes on is essentially isolated from the rest of your machine’s operations.
So let’s take a look at what you need to run the test node software and the basic steps involved. We’ll start with the big questions you might have like “What do I need?”
- Do I need a dedicated computer? While having a dedicated computer is ideal and may help you qualify for a Node (and is likely required for a Super Node), it isn’t absolutely necessary. You can in fact run a test node on your day to day machine, but the caveat is that it should be one with ample resources, because the node software will use some of them and might make your regular activities lag if you don’t have enough to spare. The dummy software might not, but the real testnet software that is coming probably will. Plus you’ll want as many resources as possible available for the node if you want the team to select you. Right now the hardware requirements are up in the air, and figuring out what they are is in fact one of the main purposes of the first phase of the node testing. If you’re running Windows, you will need Windows 10, nothing earlier. Software for Linux is forthcoming. Any Mac OSX from the past few years is fine as far as I’m aware. You can always do what I did and initially set it up on your daily use machine to see how it goes, and then if you feel inspired by the experience, switch to a dedicated machine later.
- Do I need a VPS? No. Many may know that a VPS is a Virtual Private Server provided by various companies for a modest monthly fee, which in many cases is important when running different blockchain nodes to eliminate or minimize downtime, so that when your machine goes offline for whatever reason, your node does not.
- Do I need a VPN? In most cases no. There are some situations in certain countries where the way the ISP’s work there will make it necessary.
- Does my computer need to be on 24/7? Yes and/or No, depending. It isn’t absolutely necessary, but will increase your chances of being selected to run a node. These are light nodes and are not particularly energy intensive. You will need to prevent your computer from sleeping at night for the node to run, but it uses very little power from your machine (I’d like to say you can at least let the screen go to sleep, but I’ve had issues with it disconnecting when I do this which seems odd. At the least, you can dim the screen). And if you’re not using a dedicated computer, you can of course just let the node software run in the background while you do other activities. And again, even if you turn your machine off at night, you still may qualify to run a test node. Leaving it on 24/7 is just a way to maximize your chance of being selected.
Pro Tip. The earlier you get involved, and the more consistently you run the mobile miner and the test node software, the more likely you are to be selected to run a node.
So now that we’ve covered the basic requirements and non-requirements, what are the basic steps for application and node running.
- First, make sure you’re a pioneer who’s running the mobile miner daily. Also establishing a security circle and a few successful invites will help in showing the developers your consistency and commitment to the network.
- Install the node software on the computer you plan to use. It can be found here.
- Follow the instructions within the node software by installing the Docker container software on your machine (the link shows up right in the node software). This is one of the steps that many people are having issues with, especially on Windows. You may have to spend a bit of time in chats and watching YouTube videos if you have issues. Generally speaking, as long as you have a fairly modern processor (something known as a SLAT processor to be precise) Windows 10 Pro users overall have an easier time than Windows 10 Home users because they’re able to use just a single piece of software (Docker desktop) in conjunction with the Pi software, whereas Windows 10 Home users have to use Docker Toolbox as a workaround, which provides the same operations, but with THREE pieces of software in addition to the Pi software.
- Open port forwarding on your router. This step can be confusing as it was for me, although ultimately it was quite easy. It’s just when you don’t have experience, there’s a pretty large knowledge barrier to navigate. What helped me was watching related videos on YouTube. The gist of what’s involved is finding your wifi’s IP address and using it to open your router’s configuration page. Then following a few simple steps. If this leaves you uneasy about leaving your network vulnerable, there’s really nothing to worry about, as everything is running on container software. Also the firewalls that ship with modern computers are competent enough to make port forwarding safe. Firewalls are enabled by default on Windows, but on Mac you’ll want to make sure your firewall is on, because usually they are not. It’s easy, just go into Security and Privacy in System Preferences. Google the subject if you have to, but it just takes a couple minutes. If you still feel uneasy, you can always use a dedicated computer that’s free of personal history information and crypto wallets etc. as an added precaution.
- Leave your machine running as much as possible with both the Docker and Pi Node software running, and preventing it going to sleep unless you really want or need it to.
In a nutshell, that’s the whole process. There’s a lot of room for improvement in making the set up easier and more accessible to the average non-IT person, and the team has promised to do just that. There’s also plenty of room for improvement in the meantime in terms of providing a simplified comprehensive guide to the current process. Mostly, community members have taken it upon themselves to do this and there’s a couple places you can visit that provide a pretty robust comprehensive compilation of tutorials, guidance and troubleshooting. One nice — and smart — thing the Pi developers have done, is include chat software right within the Pi node application software, which makes it super easy to access as you set up and run your node. It’s also the same application that you use on your phone to mine Pi! Pretty neat how it’s all integrated. And there’s a dedicated chat for Pi node set up (The moderators are consistently reasonable and helpful) though it’s a bit unclear to me if all node applicants have access to it, as some have said it’s only showing up for early applicants. In any case, there’s still a Pi Discord server with node assistance etc. You can even ask me personally any questions and I will try my best to respond.
I hope this short guide has given you a good idea of what Pi is all about and how you can get involved if it interests you; and in particular what’s involved in applying for and running a Pi node so that you can decide whether it’s something you want to pursue. I know it’s a bit hard to make that decision when the process goes more smoothly for some than for others and it’s hard to know what you’re going to run into; that’s one of the many risks involved in being an early adopter. But I like to think “fortune favors the brave,” and it’s worth a shot when it comes to a network as big as Pi might well be.
Whether you want to try to run a node or not, if you want to start earning Pi immediately with the Pi mobile app, you can accept my invitation and use this link. If it requires an invite code you can use: CryptoScrimper. Happy Mining and….possibly… Noding!!