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Instead of having one central authority that secures and controls the money supply (like most governments do for their national currencies), Litecoin spreads this work across a network of 'miners'. Miners assemble all new transactions appearing on the Litecoin network into large bundles called blocks, which collectively constitute an authoritative record of all transactions ever made, the blockchain. The way Litecoin makes sure there is only one blockchain is by making blocks really hard to produce. So instead of just being able to make blocks at will, miners have to produce a cryptographic hash of the block that meets certain criteria, and the only way to find one is to try computing many of them until you get lucky and find one that works. This process is referred to as hashing. The miner that successfully creates a block is rewarded with 25 freshly minted litecoins. Every few days, the difficulty of the criteria for the hash is adjusted based on how frequently blocks are appearing, so more competition between miners equals more work needed to find a block. This network difficulty, so called because it is the same for all miners, can be quantified by a number; right now, it is 9006199.5262201
As we've seen above, finding a block is very hard. Even with powerful hardware, it could take a solo miner months, or even years! This is why mining pools were invented: by sharing their processing power, miners can find blocks much faster. Pool users earn shares by submitting valid proofs of work, and are then rewarded according to the amount of work they contributed to solving a block. The reward systems used by mining pools can be roughly subdivided into two categories: proportional systems and pay-per-share systems. Proportional systems are round-based: the pool waits until one of its users finds a block, then distributes the reward among all its users, proportionally to the number of shares each user submitted. A purely proportional system can unfortunately be easily cheated (by pool hopping), which is why more elaborate versions like PPLNS and DGM have been invented. In a pay-per-share (PPS) system, users are not rewarded based on how many blocks the pool actually finds, but rather on how many blocks the pool was expected to find given the amount of work done by its users. The pool pays a fixed amount of litecoins for each valid shares its users submit, based on the mathematical laws of probability. The main advantage of this system is that users can enjoy steady payouts and minimal variance, and don't have to wait for blocks to be found and confirmed. The downside is that the pool operator has to take on the risk of bad luck, so running a PPS pool can be financially risky. If you want, you can create additional workers on your account page, with names and passwords of your choice. Both the username and the password are case-sensitive. Never use your account password for any of your workers. Create a Litecoin address. Download and install a Litecoin client from the official website. After starting Litecoin Core, click on the 'Receive' tab and copy your Litecoin address, then paste it in your account settings so that you can receive payments. Alternatively, if you wish to use Electrum-LTC, you can use any of the addresses shown in the 'Addresses' or 'Receive' tab. Your Litecoin address should start with the letter 'L' or 'M', and be 34 characters long. Can I use a Bitcoin ASIC miner to mine litecoins? No, you need an ASIC designed to mine Litecoin. Litecoin and Bitcoin use two very different hashing algorithms (scrypt and SHA-256d, respectively). Can I use the same worker name and password for more than one physical miner? Yes, but if you use different workers it is easier to track your miners' performance. Your expected rewards will be the same either way. I keep getting the message 'Stratum requested work restart'. It is perfectly normal to get this message a few times per minute. It simply means that your miner is switching to a new work unit, because the previous one is no longer valid. Because of the stochastical nature of mining, frequent work updates (which are necessary for efficient merged mining) do not mean that your work goes wasted. For more information on mining check out Mining Software Downloads and getting Started
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