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Mine crypto, get a free lunch?

4 June 2021

Norton Antivirus has come up with a new business model that could set a trend.

They have decided to build crypto-currency mining into their product so that users can earn some coin while the code runs in the background. In theory, this could mean it becomes possible to pay for the software through the earnings it creates using your CPU/GPU cycles.

There are now even suggestions that we'll start to see "free" software coming out that has inbuilt crypto-mining code. You get the software for free, the software creator gets paid by way of the coin that software generates when running on your hardware.

I use the term "free" rather liberally here because, as we know, there are no free lunches on the internet and these deals may actuall cost users a whole lot more than they think

The problem is that once you've bought your hardware, the largest cost associated with crypto-mining is the electricity used by that hardware.

Poor unsuspecting users who think it's a great idea to earn some crypto in the background or who want to get a cool bit of code for free may find that they're actually going to be paying far more than they expect in the longer term.

Yes, a new version of Norton Antivirus may enable you to earn a few cents of Etherium every day but that may come at the expense of a few dollars worth of extra costs on your power bill and maybe even reduced computer life due to higher operating temperatures.

This doesn't sound like much of a deal to me.

However, with digital currencies being "a big thing" right now, I can see that there would be quite a few people that would leap at the chance to earn themselves some crypto for what appears to be doing nothing except choosing a suitably enabled anti-virus or other program.

Tech publication The Verge even speculates that

"It’s easy to imagine a company, not necessarily Norton, offering cheaper or even free computers, if you just turn your unused computing cycles into a recurring source of profit for the bloatware makers subsidizing your purchase"

To be honest, I don't see that ever happening. An offer like that would see such systems snapped up and stripped for valuable parts in the blink of an eye.

As for Norton, well I think most seasoned computer users recognise this product as being little better than the malware it claims to protect their systems from. The last time I bought a machine that had Norton Antivirus pre-installed on it the first thing I did was uninstall that software -- at which point the system crashed and would no longer boot. It required a fresh reinstall of untainted Windows to come back to life.

These days if I was buying a pre-built I would skip any offerings with pre-installed Norton Anitivirus on it -- the cost and annoyance of having to remove it or re-install the OS simply add hundreds of extra dollars to the price as far as I am concerned.

What's more, if I was going to mine crypto, I'd do it on a dedicated rig that used a much cheaper source of electricity than the one my computers currently run on -- perhaps a dedicated PVA.

How many Aardvark readers (if any) are mining crypto at the moment?

Would you be attracted by software or hardware that was free or significantly discounted because it ran crypto in the background?

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