Star Forge, ticker OTG, is a stake pool of Cardano registered on the blockchain on January 14th, 2021 operated by Wayne. Since then it has minted over 1200 blocks, validating and securing the network. What differentiates Star Forge from almost every other stake pool is the setup. Currently running bare-metal infrastructure, connected with Starlink and powered by solar panels from a mobile home! Not only that, it’s also extremely efficient because it utilizes the Apple M1 ARM-based chip which consumes only 6 watts.
The origin story
Wayne’s background is a diverse tapestry of experiences that have shaped his unique skill set. Having begun his career as a Volvo technician, he transitioned to entrepreneurship by owning and running an auto repair shop in Vermont. Just before the onset of the pandemic, Wayne ventured into the realm of landscape and masonry design, employing 3D software to collaborate with clients on crafting their ideal outdoor spaces. His expertise extended beyond design, as he meticulously generated 2D plans for masons and landscaping crews to bring those visions to life. Wayne’s journey also led him into the realm of IT, where he became a Linux enthusiast of 15 years, driven by an insatiable curiosity to unravel the inner workings of systems. While he currently manages a roster of clients who rely on his technical prowess to address issues, as well as overseeing various websites, Wayne’s focus shifted during the pandemic. He dedicated himself to the stakepool and his colleagues in the Armada Alliance, determined to establish a self-sufficient position free from the grip of a corrupt system. Even as he contemplates the need for a conventional job due to the current state of the industry and the world, Wayne’s recent acquisition of an RV symbolizes his aspiration to discover off-the-grid communities and embrace a lifestyle that aligns with his values. Wayne’s dedication to privacy and digital freedom is evident in his self-identification as a cypherpunk. His journey with Linux exposed him to the significance of online privacy, and he closely heeded warnings and predictions that have since materialized. As he witnesses the erosion of privacy rights in the digital age, Wayne recognizes the urgent need to champion this cause as a cornerstone of global freedom.
The crypto journey
Wayne’s journey into the world of crypto began in 2012 when he set up a Bitcoin miner as a playful experiment. However, his focus shifted as he embraced system administration and honed his web-related skills following the birth of his daughter. It wasn’t until a few years later that Wayne delved into crypto investments, gradually recognizing the importance of self-custody, especially when the pandemic struck and economic uncertainty loomed. Unfortunately, Wayne’s optimism was tainted by the realization that the growth he witnessed was manipulated by malevolent forces, channeled through corrupt entities like the Ukrainian government and SBX, ultimately fueling a sense of disillusionment.
Wayne’s journey in the blockchain space took a pivotal turn when he stumbled upon Charles’ whiteboard video and discovered the potential of Ouroboros PoS for low-powered devices like the Raspberry Pi. This discovery, coupled with his affinity for on-chain governance, led him to the Cardano ecosystem. Wayne’s involvement deepened as he became part of the Armada Alliance, initially building nodes on Raspberry Pi’s in BERRY pool’s telegram group. This endeavor coincided with his project of constructing a battery bank from recycled laptop 18650 cells, perfectly aligning with the energy-efficient nature of Pi-based nodes. His contributions not only established connections but also fostered a sense of camaraderie among passionate individuals who shared his vision.
In his pursuit of meaningful engagement, Wayne found himself an integral part of various alliances and projects like CSPA and Tosidrop. These involvements, though diverse, were never forced; they developed organically as he connected with like-minded individuals who appreciated his Linux expertise and valued his contributions. Wayne’s decision to open a stake pool stemmed from a desire to create something valuable and unique – an off-the-grid, solar-powered, mobile validator with an efficient setup. His aspiration was to offer a hobbyist pool that could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other hardware configurations, attracting support through transparency, operational insight, and personal rapport with the community. Wayne’s journey reflects his determination to make a meaningful impact in the blockchain space despite the challenges and disillusionment he has encountered along the way.
The concept of a mobile stake pool has been brewing within Wayne’s mind for quite some time, tracing back to the early stages of his engagement in the blockchain space. While the idea of an RV as the locus for his pool may not have been immediately evident, the notion of mobile living took root in Wayne’s thoughts during the pandemic’s onset. This aspiration has been a testament to the alignment of timing and circumstances that led him to envision the feasibility of his plan, culminating in a resounding “This might actually just work.”
The mobility inherent in an RV-based stake pool holds profound significance for Wayne. Central to his ethos is the principle of self-sovereignty, a belief that takes on heightened importance in light of his suspicions about potential future upheavals, including the possibility of another “great reset.” With the launch of his stake pool, Wayne shouldered the responsibility not only for its operation but also for the well-being of those who entrusted their investments to it. His unwavering commitment to the pool’s continuity is unwavering; Wayne refuses to compromise his principles under any circumstances. The RV serves as a fortress against potential crackdowns, offering a tangible means of safeguarding pool operations. Additionally, Wayne’s adeptness in setting up the pool wherever connectivity can be established, combined with the RV’s capacity to access Wi-Fi within antenna range while remaining enclosed within a Wireguard VPN, makes this endeavor a true mobile stake pool – an embodiment of privacy, resilience, and adaptability.
Star Forge started securing the blockchain on epoch 243, from its inception it has been a bare-metal stake pool. This means that the block producer node is running on physical infrastructure hosted on-premise, not reliant on server farms hosted by big corporations. This type of hosting requires a bigger investment upfront to acquire all the necessary hardware to run the node. However, this initial investment is depreciated as time goes on making it more economical in the long term when compared to paying for cloud hosting every month.
Although it has not always been as high tech as it is now, Star Forge started running on four Raspberry Pi 4’s with 8gb of RAM. As the pool grew and the Cardano node became more resource intensive, an upgrade was necessary to keep securing the blockchain by minting blocks. Fortunately, Apple decided to launch its new line of M1 chips at the same time. These are highly efficient and powerful ARM-based systems-on-a-chip designed by Apple for its Mac desktops and notebooks. However, Asahi Linux came out a year later forcing OTG to use a hacked image to be able to run Ubuntu on the Apple infrastructure. Since then, the Raspberry Pi’s were retired and the entire operation was moved to new Apple M1’s booting Asahi Arch Linux complemented by two free Oracle ARM Ubuntu instances. The timing on Starlink was also very fortunate for the Star Forge, which until that point was reliant on Xfinity as Internet Service Provider (ISP). Nevertheless, the first months of Starlink’s service were terrible and needed another six months until new satellites were launched to provide adequate coverage and a stable internet connection necessary to run the pool.
The third leg in this trifecta of decentralization is the power bank needed to store the energy collected by the solar panels. The small initial battery bank was not enough to power the new systems plus the addition of Starlink. Luckily some profit taking was enough to upgrade the power bank to 900 amp hours, enough to run the pool for a week with a single charge.
As Wayne’s journey unfolds, the future of Star Forge Stake Pool holds promise and purpose. He sees marketing as a crucial avenue to share the story behind his creation, inviting individuals to explore the history of the pool and the values it embodies. Wayne identifies with the term “prepper,” underscoring his commitment to both the pool and the community that has grown around it. Beyond technical preparations, Wayne considers his responsibility encompassing his well-being and that of his stakeholders. The sentiment “I am one with the pool and the pool is with me” encapsulates his dedication.
When it comes to his perspective on Cardano’s current status, Wayne speaks of the need for a transition of power from centralized entities to the community. He lauds figures like Samuel Leathers and eagerly anticipates the evolution of Voltaire. While he expresses concern about certain aspects of centralization within the network, he remains resolutely optimistic about Cardano’s potential to achieve security, decentralization, and transformative impact. Wayne envisions a world-changing role for Cardano, a collective endeavor that can reshape the status quo.
In a delightful twist, Wayne’s attachment to ducks paints a vivid picture of his multifaceted character. He recounts the story of ducks in his life, their antics and endearing presence that resonate with his journey. Just as ducks have taken hold of his heart, so too has his stake pool journey – a testament to Wayne’s enduring commitment to growth, resilience, and the pursuit of positive change.