Take the Bit(coin)

My company has started an initiative to get us to learn about Bitcoin.  I’d always been somewhat interested, mostly because I remembered the concept of mining them which seemed like some sort of magic.  I’m not going to get into mining them here for a couple reasons, 1) From what little research I read, you need a lot of horsepower, and even then need to be part of a group of fellow miners for it to begin to be worth while, and 2) I really don’t understand it.

What I will do is try and give you a little walk through of what I did, what I learned, and the mistakes I made.

First of all, research.  Learn about Bitcoins, wallets, exchanges, private keys, block chains, etc.  At least to some degree.  Our companies site has some great starters for you here: OddsShark: Bitcoin have a look, and note the other related links on the right.  Full disclosure, our company is an affiliate site for online sportsbooks, and some of the info is geared in that manner, but the information is valid in all regards.

Of course, me not being the most patient person, totally disregarded my own advice, and after a perfunctory read (er… skim) I googled Bitcoin wallets and read pros and cons of a few and went to work.  And totally wasted a couple days.

Wallets

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-5-06-06-pmAfter looking at a few wallets, it appeared to me that one called Armory had what I wanted.  To be honest, I mainly used this info from bitcoin.org, and some screenshots of the interface.  The vulnerable environment note you see is basically telling you (when you hover over it) that wallets held on your computer can be subject to malware.  Same is true of any software you store on your computer.  You CAN get hardware wallets, but I have no clue about them.

Now setting up a wallet is full of warnings, and instructions.  Read them, you’ll need pass keys/phrases. These are important, if you lose them, you have no way to recover your wallet if you lose access some how.  Think of them as your id, without them the bank will just kick your sorry ass to the curb.

Exchanges

So I downloaded it, ran it, determined how to receive bitcoins, and sent the link off internally.  Another part of the initiative was learning how to buy bitcoins, so again with some limited research (Do as I say, not as I do) I figured out that I needed to use an exchange, similar to how you’d exchange currency at the airport.  There are exchange rates, and fees. I did some googling again, looking for recommendations for exhanges in Canada, or dealing in Canada at least, and found QuickBT. Are they any good? Well they seemed to be to me, I gave them an address from my wallet, worked out the exchange rates to get about $20 dollars worth and submitted.  I had to provide my cell number for verification, and had to call back a fully automated number to validate and activate my account, but in about 30 minutes had notification my transaction was processed. The emails say any future purchases should be nearly instantaneous, so we’ll see on that front, but have no reason to doubt them.

Blockchains

Then came the waiting… and waiting… and…. Armory says it’s not online? Why isn’t online, my computer is online?  So researching that I find that Armory requires you to have a local bitcoin blockchain client. My limited understanding of this, is that it’s a registry/database of bitcoin transactions, the good news is, you don’t need to know all there is to know, anymore than you do about how banks transfer money to each other, but if you choose to, again, the info is out there (I feel like I’m on the X-Files).  So I download, Bit Core QT (I think that was the name), which by the way has its own wallet, so now I have two.

But a wallet is kinda meaningless in a way, your “money” is associated with keys, not the wallet itself.  You can import and sweep your keys into a new wallet, and as you’ll see that can be important.

So I start the app, and restart armory and see that I am now online! Yay! But still not showing the coins I bought …. hmm… so I look at bitcore and see its status… downloading blocks from 3 years 42 weeks ago.  WTH?  Friday at about 6PM – Ok, I’ve got good bandwidth, this shouldn’t be bad.

Tick tock, tick tock….

So Sunday morning, its finished! Yay, now I should have my “money”! So I start armory again, and it scans databases, for about an hour… then… nothing.  There is a bar on the screen saying it will scan transactions, that never happens… I wait 30 minutes… an hour, all the while googling for info and options.  Nothing.  So I wonder if I’m screwed, and look for how to import to a new wallet.

Keys and Wallets and Sweeping, Oh My!

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-5-40-05-pmDuring that process I find that your “money” is associated with keys, not the wallet.  Googling a bit more, I find that you can export your keys from Armory (and I assume others).  Doing a bit more research, I decide upon using Electrum as a new wallet (3 now! woohoo!) mainly because it has 2 factor authentication with my google authenticator.  I get it installed and set up no problem, and decide to try and import my keys.

Now there are 2 options here, and the terminology is a bit muddled to me.  One is to sweep your keys.  This allows you to essentially bring the keys from your old wallet into your new.  I tried that option, and for whatever reason, I could never seem to get the “next” button to become enabled.  Probably an ID10T error, but oh well! So I tried the next option which is an import.  The difference is that, at least in Electrum, you import them to a new wallet.

That said, I gave that a try and waited and it never worked.  Just seemed to hang.  Maybe because I tried all 3 at once.  So then I tried one, and it never seemed to work at all.  I forget what info it gave me, apologies for that, but read up and it seemed that it would only import keys with confirmed transactions.  Moore googling, and was able to find a site called Block Explorer that allowed me to check my keys. Low and behold it showed one as having the Bitcoins I bought – Whew!

Trying Electrum again, creating a new wallet, and just using that key, poof! I have it! My little over $20 is there! But now I have another wallet (4 in case you lost count).  Deciding I’m gonna abandon the Armory and Bit Core ones (I assume just delete the app and app data), I still have two in Electrum.  Not ideal, for me at least, so easy solution? I send all my coins from one wallet to a key in my new wallet, and poof, in a couple seconds it shows up.

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-6-22-45-pmIt is unconfirmed at first, not sure the inner workings, but something like blockchains being created every 10 minutes with new transactions, and once that happens it’ll be confirmed.  Details be damned, all I know for sure is that approximately 5-10 minutes later, the status changed, and I now have the confirmed “money” in my main Electrum wallet.

Now, if you got through all that, I’m sure you can read a bit more, get more information, and save yourself the troubles I had.  Good luck!

 

The Essence of Spirtuality

First off, for those that know me, this is unlike anything I’ve ever written about before, or probably again.  But I also tend to write, or rant, about whats on my mind, so here it is.

I am by no means religious, I have personal values, beliefs and ideas that don’t necessarily involve a formal god entity. However, I also don’t consider myself an atheist.  I believe there is something, not a being per se, but something, whether its a group mind, the force, or pan-dimensional mice that created Earth to determine the ultimate question of life, the universe, everything (they know the answer is 42 of course, they just are unsure of the question).

I do have religous friends, those with deep faith, and I am happy for them.  I am glad they found something that works for them, and respect that immensely.  In return I ask my readers, if there are any :), to respect that what I have found works for me.  Trying to sell me is going to have the opposite effect.

A couple articles this week made me feel a need to write though about spirituality, first off Mr. Rex Murphy wrote an article about atheists demanding a chaplain in the armed forces, and about how many were so vocal in their atheism.  Mr. Murphy raises some valid points, and some I agree with.  One though I take a little umbrage with is saying that atheists can’t be spiritual.  Apologies to Mr. Murphy if I’ve misunderstood his article of course, but that was my take on it.

The second article was linked by my old friend Mr. Harry Tucker, a man I consider to have deep faith, while also being a fellow geek…. the two aren’t mutually exclusive! The article itself was from CNN about “Why millennials are leaving the church”.  This article hit some nails on the head for me, and relates to how I feel.

I grew up in rural Newfoundland, and like most kids of that time went to church with my parents. The church leaders of that time back home had definite ideas on what a minister should preach, and what he shouldn’t, so generally the ministers we had preached hellfire and brimstone.  Yet my religious studies in school taught of a man who preached love and tolerance. The two didn’t go together for me, and I never really find a home there.

Nowadays the big debate seems to be about the LBGT community, and church’s attitudes to them.  Again, I see bodies who call themselves christian acting with hate and intolerance, rather than love and tolerance, and feel somewhere things have lost their way.

I know all individuals aren’t like that, many are tolerant, and understanding, but too many are not, and as the article says, people are leaving the church for those reasons.

Back to atheism and spirituality, again my position is that they aren’t mutually exclusive.  Some would define me as an atheist, and maybe I am in the strict definition.  But I do feel I have feelings of spirituality, even if my definition varies.  Do I need a chaplain? No probably not, at least not in the normal definition of the term, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a desire to discuss my feelings, my spirit if you will with someone else.

I saw a quote a note by Morgan Freeman about Black History month, saying the way to get rid of racism is to stop talking about it.  I’ve said Canada is less racist for that very reason.  I also remember Pinball Clemons saying something similar.  We see people as people first, not as a color.  Well its time to stop seeing them as a label of any sort.  Look at them as your family, and live by the Golden Rule, and I think you will find your own spirituality.

I hope you find peace, happiness and fulfillment in whatever religion or lack thereof that works for you.

“The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

Douglas Adams

Lest we forget…

I support our troops. I’m proud of what they do and have done.
And I’ll never forget. But….

“War! huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me?

Ohhh? War! I despise
Because it means destruction?
Of innocent lives

War means tears
to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
and lose their lives”

Edwin Starr

“Blind faith in your leaders, or in anything,
will get you killed.”

Bruce Springsteen.

Remember these words as we approach Remembrance day.
Where are our troops now, and why?
There are reasons to be at war, profits aren’t one of them.

Let there be lite

I wonder who uses all the features in some of our computer apps. Take word for example, the tool bar ribbon has more things to do than I can mention, yet finding a save button is difficult.

I’m sure lots of these features are awesome, but how many people use them? I want a word processor that lets me write a simple document. Oh and one that doesn’t second guess me. Hello, Microsoft, yes I did want to end my list, no i dont want that indented. Stop changing what i do!

Power users may need lots of these features, but I’m not paying for all the chaff, give me a lite version for a reasonable price, and I’ll condider you, but till then, for me, and anyone I recommend to, it’ll be a free alternative be it app, or online.

Shit or get off the pot Halifax!

That’s what my Dad used to say about people who waffled.  Though he likely wouldn’t have called it waffling or indecisive, I’m sure he’d have had other more colorful terms.

But in whatever terms you want to use, Halifax needs a leader, or council that will do just that.

No matter what your take is on the issues here, you have to agree that the current council’s policy of ignore it till it goes away doesn’t work.

Come on people make a decision and stick to it. Are you going to sell St. Pats? or not? Keep the oval? or not? Allow beer sponsorship? or not?

And one more that seems to have fallen off the radar again, a stadium for the FIFA Women’s world cup.  We wanted to host a game or more, and for that we need a stadium. Deadlines to say yay or nay have come and gone. 

Maybe the council read too much Douglas Adams who said “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

In some ways I’d like a stadium, to be able to host world class events, to maybe get a CFL team.  But I also understand money could be spent on schools and roads which we need too.  What I don’t agree with is the way council seems to just want to delay the decision till its too late to actually make one. “Oh, I’m sorry we can’t get a stadium now because we missed the deadline, studying it to death”  Come on Peter Kelly et al, shit or get off the pot already!

And my last rant for this one, we are in the middle of a transit strike here, affecting a great many people getting to school and work.  And what does council decide? We don’t need a meeting today, not enough on the agenda.  And they then even waffled on that decision.

I’ve never been much into municipal politics, but changes are needed. Whether those already there can change themselves remains to be seen, but if not, I’ll be casting my municipal vote for the first time ever soon.

3D TV

I looked at my first 3D tv “programming” yesterday at Best Buy. And I have to admit I am pretty intrigued and impressed.  So I came home to research it a little.  Turns out that while it looks great, tv programming is pretty much non-existent here.  There are some blu-rays being made available, but not a huge amount.

I guess even for someone like me, a geek who loves to have everything as soon as i comes out, I’ll be waiting a while yet.