Re: Difficulty: More nodes active, or faster nodes?

The recent upticks in difficulty have been remarkable. At 511.77, I’ve even stopped off those machines where I don’t pay for marginal power consumption. My calculation is that the wear/tear from elevated temperatures and full-speed fans has more risk and cost than the BTC value. (You can question my math.)
But my question is this: Are we seeing the rise of mega-power machines, or just an exponential increase in the number of nodes? That is, are the top-producing machines making leaps in power (over average), or are my machines still about average, just dwarfed by the number of participating machines? Is there any way to tell? (node counts?)

I totally understand that difficulty reflects the state-of-the-art in client khash improvements, but it’s clear that my own computers also represent a rapidly diminishing part of the total network generation rate. As the network gets larger, my chance of finding The Block every 10 minutes shrinks. I’m thrilled, not bitter 🙂 , but I’m curious to understand what has transpired over the past three weeks to make it so dramatic.

Cheers.

The performance numbers posted from a VIA C7’s hardware SHA-256 weren’t astronomical.  Only in the 1500 khash/s range.  If you think about it, just because it’s implemented in hardware doesn’t mean it’s crazy fast.  It still has to do all the steps.  It’s only if simplifying it down to single-purpose hardware makes it small enough to fit many in parallel.  That’s not necessarily easy or a given.

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