It’s been a couple years now since I’ve really even thought about Bitcoin. Now, seeing it in the news breaking the $4000 barrier, I decided to take another look at the landscape, not just Bitcoins, however, but Ethereum as well.
A Little History
I first got involved with Bitcoin way back in late-2010. I played around with some early faucets, did a few days of mining, and promptly lost interest. I saw it as interesting, but ultimately a waste of cycles (for me, at that time) to mine the stuff. I also had enough other projects to keep busy.
I got into it again in 2013 when one Bitcoin was worth a few hundred bucks. I had some free time on my hands, so I picked up one of those USB ASIC miners on Amazon and started mining again. I eventually ended up with 6 of those things, but due to the Bitcoin spiking up to around $600, everyone else soon had the same idea. The network hash rate went up, the difficulty increased, and my calculations showed those ASIC miners were going to be worthless soon, so I sold all 6 on eBay for only a couple bucks less than I paid for them. Earned some Bitcoins, gambled some away (which I would not recommend), and once again, promptly left my wallets to rot in my backups. This is when I wrote my last article on Bitcoin – a comparison of two popular software wallets.
Now it’s 2017. The Bitcoin is staying over $4000. Out of all the cryptocoins, Bitcoin is leading the pack by a far margin in market cap, with Ethereum a distant, but worthwhile second, worth around $300 per Ether. It’s definitely a changed landscape.
Since I talked about software wallets before, I’ll start there. With the bad news. It’s about MultiBit – it’s dead. Purchased by a hardware wallet maker and then outright abandoned. A terrible shame, but MultiBit HD’s mandatory “dev fee” may have killed their name for good. The last available version would not send Bitcoins. I had to export my private keys into electrum.
Speaking of electrum, it’s alive and well! It even has a fork for BCC (Bitcoin Cash). That was the good news – it’s still the best software wallet I’ve used. It’s actively maintained, as well – to support all of Bitcoin’s features. Best of all, it’s still open-source and community maintained, so it won’t go the way of MultiBit. Unfortunately, like any software wallet, it can still be prey to crackers (if you think I mean hackers, please learn the difference), phishers, and malware. With Bitcoin’s current value, it’s a much more coveted target. I decided it was time to buy a new toy – a hardware wallet – a Trezor.
Bitcoin faucets have changed a bit too. Out of all the faucet links I have from 2013, only one of them – freebitco.in – still exists (and still works the same way!). All of my other faucets, have died. All the faucets today, including freebitco.in, seem to incorporate some form of gambling, like a lottery, or a High-Low game, as side-activities with your “earnings” which may explain why they have survived when others died. Maybe an interesting article topic for another day.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about these – they just aren’t worth it. Wager too little and it’s a computer game; wager too much and you’re denying yourself the trimmings that go with a real-money experience.
I wasted 0.1BTC in 2013 on one. Something I regret now. This is only made worse by the fact that I live in Las Vegas and can gamble with real money whenever I want. They haven’t changed – they still suck (the Bitcoins right out of your wallet).
Enough about Bitcoin. Ethereum!
Did I mention the Trezor stores Ethereum as well? It’s an important altcoin these days because it’s running second place to Bitcoin in market capitalization. There’s another interesting twist to it – it’s (supposedly) immune to the sort of ASIC disaster that made Bitcoin mining unprofitable. In theory, anyway. I figured, mining is GPU-only, I have a decently new (and idle, unless I’m gaming) GPU that could be earning its keep – so I started mining ETH while it’s competitive. No idea what I’m going to do with the ETH, but it’s fun to play with.
Ethereum is neat for another reason too – it allows custom contracts. Which means I can set up a private “testnet”, create my own cryptocurrencies (think screen time tokens for kids, and a great STEM lesson), and deploy them without any actual money outlay. It’s got some interesting possibilities to play with, but I’ll cover that in a future blog post.