Minimum RAM requirements for madmax to create K34 plots -- and other stuff

I have a laptop with 20 GB of RAM, and would like to use it to create K34 plots.


  1. Is 20 GB of RAM enough to create K34 plots via madmax?
  2. Does Chia or madmax have to be fully installed on my laptop, when I need only the plotting part to work?
    2a) If Chia or madmax does not have to be fully installed to do only plotting, then which executables will I need?

I realize that I could simply install the software and see if it works.
But I use my laptop as a music server. Other than installing JRiver’s Media Center on it, I have never installed anything else (I am overly cautious about installing anything on my PCs that is not absolutely necessary).

So I would rather know if it will work, before I go ahead with installing anything on it.

Lastly, do I really need to install anything on the laptop? Can I simply have the plotting executable on a flash drive, and kick off the plotting job from there? But if the plotting job needs libraries and other files, then I will do the installation, assuming someone confirms that 20 GB of RAM is sufficient for K34 plot creation.

My goal is to create K34 plots on my laptop, and install only that which is absolutely necessary for the plotting to function properly.

Another idea…
Could I boot from a flash drive to a live Linux OS and install Chia on that live OS?

If that works, and it will not touch my internal storage, then I will be golden.

I am no Linux guru, and have never installed it. But I watched youtube videos, and it seems simple enough. But will it be fully functional (or functional enough) for me to install Chia and do plotting from a live Linux OS?

In general, laptops aren’t designed to survive (for longer time) the constant hammering of the cpu and chipset that goes with plotting.
The 20GB should be fine for running but all building/sorting of tables would have to be on disk (ssd/nvme). Few laptops have ssd/nvme with substantial TBW (durability), you can look up the TBW figure for your system/drive. Each K34 plotted takes 5.75TB away from remaining TBW. At zero left the drive usually doesn’t stop working but no guarantees…

Booting a live linux would afaik imply installing chia/madmax every time, along with additional configuration needed such as mounting drives to have partitions for program and data storage. Not on the flash drive, not on the internal SSD/NVME of your laptop so some external SSD/NVME.
Connected how, USB probably but -2, -3 or -C versions. Expensive one’s may have better speed/lifetime but…

As you may guess by now I wouldn’t advice using your laptop for plotting.

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I will not use my internal drive for the temp processing. For one thing, it will be too slow. It is Samsung model (don’t remember which one), and it will slow down with this type of processing. But it is more than fast for booting up and playing music.

My goal is to use the laptop for computing the plots, while not touching my internal storage.

I will use my Samsung T5 USB drive for the temp processing.
I have used it before, on my regular Chia rig, before I installed a second Samsung 980 Pro NVMe.

That T5 is plenty fast. Not nearly as fast as the Samsung 980 Pro drives. But fast enough.
And for anyone considering using the T7 for the temp processing… forget it . I tried it, and it sucked.

The T7 is faster for small jobs (such as 50 to maybe 100 GB). After that, it is a slug, and Chia far exceeds 100 GB of processing space.

Most of the time, my laptop is sitting there powered off. So why not have it create some plots?

And I am simply curious as to how its I5 quad-core processor will perform.

And, yes, I will have to manually do everything you (@xkredr59) mentioned. It will help me learn how to mount drives in Linux, etc. And once it’s done, my laptop will just remain on for a few days and churn out a few K34 plots.

Sounds like you should just give i a try :wink:

If you have any specific questions on Linux just ask, I worked through my own learning curve on Ubuntu which is a good distribution in general.

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Well, my question is Linux, in a round-about way…

I used Etcher to create an MX Linux USB boot drive. When I booted from that USB drive, I got an error (which I did not write down). So I figured, let’s try Pop OS.

With Pop OS, I got:
error: /casper_pop-os_21.04_amd64_intel_debug_25/vmlinuz.efi has invalid signature.
error: you need to load the kernel first.

Press any key to continue…

(and a smiliar “kernel” message form MX Linux, that I did not write down).

Searching on-line, I came across an article that read that “secure boot” needs to be disabled.
I booted into my BIOS. It had secure boot enabled. And my BIOS had no menu option that I could find to disable secure boot.

So 1) I do not know for sure that it is a secure boot issue, and 2) if it is a secure boot issue, I cannot find a way to disable it.

If no solution is found here, I will call Micro Center’s technical support line (I purchased the laptop from them), and maybe they can guide me on how to boot from a USB flash drive.

PoP!OS is Ubuntu with some nice mostly graphical additions.
Most likely indeed it’s secure boot getting in the way of default installation steps.
There seems to be a way to boot Ubuntu with secure boot but that’s the long and winding road.
Best is to disable secure boot, should be possible but maybe ask for help with technical support.

I got Pop OS to fully boot.

I had to enter a BIOS password, in order to have permission to change the secure boot settings.
Once done, I had to navigate one of the BIOS’ secure boot menus and drill down into the USB flash drive’s file structure, until I reached the grub efi file.

I set the BIOS to allow that file permission to boot from, and Viola!, success.
(by the way, I barely know what I am talking about with all of this – but I am making progress)

On to the next hurdle:
Installing Chia.

I can find no graphical installer packaged with Pop OS. So from the terminal, I ran:
$ apt search chia

The few hits that I got had nothing to do with Chia.

I navigated to Chia’s website, hoping to find version 1.2.11 – but, no luck. Only the latest version is there (which I would rather avoid, due to its “newness”). No matter, I am only going to be plotting.

So now the question is:
Do I download the Ubuntu “arm” version or the “non arm” version?
I have no idea what “arm” refers to (I am assuming it is hardware related), and I have no idea what my Acer Aspire 5 laptop has, as it pertains to that “ARM” hardware.

Can anyone clarify any of the above?

Thank you.

I would use 1.3.1 Ubuntu/Debian - NOT the ARM version.
Under the hood PoP!OS is 99% Ubuntu.

1.3.1 already solved most annoying issues but since you only want to plot it’s not an issue anyway.

When you download from first save the .deb file to disk and run/double-click it from there.

This assuming you already mounted your external disk and set up some directories there for Downloads, Chia, Temp and some.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is a viable path.
As your laptop is only used for music library and you just want to experiment and do some plotting… Some laptops have a ‘door’ at the back behind which you can easily change/upgrade the SSD there.
If you have this maybe consider chancing the current Windows disk with another and install linux there. Learn a bit of linux, plot a few K34’s, just swap in the Windows SSD when done.
I think 1TB SSD should be enough, 2TB is better/faster because it won’t fill up completely during plotting.

Is that an option for you?

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That is what I did, and Pop OS is running in demo mode. All of it is confined to the USB flash drive that I booted from.

I ran:
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt upgrade

I then downloaded the Ubuntu/Debian (non ARM) version, and Firefox offered to execute it.
It got installed. It created whatever environment it needed (sort of like how Windows installs software).

I navigated to the madmax directory, and the executable is there. I ran it with --help, and it listed the options. So it appears to be working fine.

All I have to do now is plug in my Samsung T5, to be used as the temp space, and also plug in an empty 18 TB easystore drive that recently got delivered when Best Buy had them on sale for $299.99.

I will get around to actually plotting in roughly 12 hours.

Your idea of an alternate boot drive is doable. I have the original 256 GB stick that came with the laptop (I replaced it with a 500 GB stick (to hold my music + OS) that is now in the laptop).

But I am anticipating that the plotting will be a bit slow. So I do not want to swap out the boot drive. And I will not be plotting with that laptop for more than a few days (less, if a K34 plot takes 20 hours). So the live boot is good enough for this temporary use.

Also, I am not thrilled with Pop OS. But it was what I had on my flash drive. If I had known how to get MX Linux to work (I had tried that OS first) via the secure boot nonsense, then I would have ran that as a live OS. But Pop OS is working, and will soon be plotting (crossing fingers).

As soon as I turn off the laptop, it all goes away.

I used to manage a business unit in a Linux data center. I was not admin level. But I knew my way around. That was 8 years ago. So I am rusty.

Rusty or not, seems your doing fine with this :+1:
Curious what the results will be.

Arm is for ARM CPU’s.

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Which chip maker makes ARM CPUs?

I searched for the answer, and each article goes into the weeds on the architecture.

I am just curious whether or not any consumer CPUs from Intel and AMD are ARM based?
Is it safe to assume that your I9, or Zeon, or Ryzen 9, or Threadripper, is not ARM based?

I got a K34 plot churning away via madmax. Things are way slower than I anticipated.

Phase1, Table 1 took 33 minutes.
If that speed is representative of the entire process, it will take 112 hours.

I am letting it run. But if in 12 or so hours it is still on phase 1, I am pulling the plug.

By the way, my Samsung T5 (used for the temp processing) is formatted as NTFS.
Will that slow down the process in any meaningful way?

Yes that should have performance issue.
In windows there is a kernel-level ntfs driver but on linux it’s a user-space driver thats always slower.
On Linux you might consider formatting your T5 as XFS or EXT4 for better speed.

I have other stuff on the T5.
Reformatting it will be a hassle.

Besides, even if EXT4 gave me 2x the speed of NTFS, the K34 plot would still take 56 hours, which is way too long to be of any meaningful use. And I doubt I would get anywhere close to twice the speed. But I am guessing.

Congrats on getting that Linux plotter up and running!

A number of chip makers today produce ARM-based CPUs. Most mobiles phones are arm or arm64 based. Apple makes their own silicon for iPhones but still use the ARM architecture. Microsoft, Intel, and AMD are all exploring ARM-based laptop chips right now, so we might start seeing laptops with ARM processors in years coming. Some embedded devices use ARM, and all Raspberry Pi devices have ARM chips and use an arm instruction set.

32-bit Intel and AMD CPUs were based on the x86 instruction set, while now all 64-bit Intel and AMD CPUs (Core i3/i5/i7/i9, Ryzen, Threadripper, etc) are all based on the x86-64 (AMD64) architecture.

So today if you are going to download a binary software package, the following architectures are common:

  • x86-64: 64-bit Intel and AMD laptop and desktop processors
  • i386/x86: Older 32-bit Intel and AMD laptop and desktop processors
  • arm/arm64: Mobile devices
  • mips/mipsle/mips64: embedded devices, consoles, set-top boxes
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Maybe you can check your temps. Potentially, your CPU is temp-throttling.

I have no idea how to do that with Linux.
The laptop’s fan has not come on, and nothing on the case is hot.

Not sure what CPU you have in that laptop, but let’s say that it can draw up to 30-60W. Even with that 20-30W power draw, the fans should be fully on, and the laptop close to hot (as it cannot dissipate that much heat through the keyboard / top side). So, either not all cores are being used, or it has really aggressive temp-throttling.

When I started plotting using chia plotter (mid last year), I tried to use my laptop (i5 Dell), but quickly gave up. The temps were over 80 deg C all the time and CPU freq were dropping like a rock (still keeping that over 80 deg temps). With those temps, everything inside is getting hot, not just the CPU (so, most likely your SSD/NVMe will be running hot as well). It is really not worth to ruin that laptop, just to get a couple of plots.

Also, another way of looking at how long it will take to get a plot is to estimate the power draw per plot on your main box (or just use Watts). Assuming that both machines have same efficiency, you can divide that watt-hours by your laptop power draw. Assuming your main box draws 200W, and your laptop 20W, that is kind of what you are looking at - about 10x longer, or about 3x longer if it can draw 60W.

As I wrote before, getting some RAM caching software for your main plotter will give you much better results for less money / stress. (Of course, adding more RAM with that caching software will be even better).