Bitcoin – Two (ish) Years Later

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.

Today

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.

Wallets

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.

Let me start by saying, I love my Trezor. This tiny thing has everything you need in it, and nothing you don’t. I’m not going to review it – there are enough of those already, but here it is on Amazon if you want to check it out. Anyway, it handles all the secure functions of a wallet inside its hardware – and offloads everything else to a javascript-heavy web application (or any application, really) – which is bulletproof in theory. Could this be hacked? Probably. Will it be a popular target for crackers? I seriously doubt it.

Faucets

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.

Casinos…Ugh

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.

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