May 5, 2014

Chainlinking

As far as I can tell, there’s no word for that thing when a website links a few consecutive words of text. For example, if I was talking about Charlie Sheen I might mention he’s a had some trouble with the law. (See what I did there?)

So I’d like to formally submit my term, “Chainlinking”:

Chainlinking. When a website hyperlinks a few consecutive words, usually to provide background on a topic. Often snarky. Usually annoying.

Lastly, I should add that there’s another definition for chainlinking on Urban Dictionary. My definition is decidedly different, and has nothing to do with a bunch of dudes blowing each other.

May 1, 2014

More Quadcopter Footage

I snuck out onto the roof tonight and took the IRIS up for a spin. This was my first flight with the Tarot stabilization gimbal and GoPro, and besides for a little gimbal malfunction at the end, everything went great. Can’t wait to keep practicing and filming. It’s very addictive.

April 30, 2014

Storj – Dropbox for the Future

A lot of people are excited about a company called Storj. To some, Storj represents the “next-level shit” that bitcoin enthusiasts have been awaiting for years.

In a nutshell, Storj promises cloud storage that’s between 10-100x cheaper than Dropbox or Google Drive, and that’s 100% secure, encrypted, and decentralized. Which means that your files can’t be subpoenaed or viewed by anyone else but you.

But what’s really exciting and smells like “the future” is the fact that individuals will soon be able to rent out their spare hard drive space to Storj to make money. Think about it – since the data is encrypted, there’s no worry about having it peppered across hundreds of stranger’s hard drives. It also adds a layer of redundancy, so your files can never be “lost” or “deleted”.

If you want to dive deep into the details, this thread on the Bitcoin Forum is where all the action is happening.

Pretty cool stuff. Let’s hope Storj can meet everyone’s expectations.

April 27, 2014

My first weekend with the 3D Robotics IRIS

As alluded to in my previous post, I just picked up a multi-rotor remote controlled vehicle. And it’s awesome.

I managed to jerry rig an old Flip video camera to the front and record some test flights. The grainy footage and grating sound makes it seem like the IRIS is a piece of junk, but flying it is a completely different story. It’s stable, responsive, and a real thrill.

Here’s a combination of a few test flights in White Plains and Forest Hills. They’re pretty tame since I’m still terrified of crashing the thing.

When I get more practice (and a GoPro camera with stabilization gimbal) I’m hoping I’ll be able to take footage like this. This looks like a [Toby, earmuffs] shitload of fun.

Send in the drones!

How to fly a quadcopter

If you’re just getting into flying multi-rotor aircraft (me, for example) this is one of the most helpful beginner videos I’ve come across.

In related news, I just received my 3D Robotics Iris and it’s amazing. More on that to come later.

April 4, 2014

Embedding Posts from Bitcoin Megaphone

I just added a cool new feature to Bitcoin Megaphone. Now, each post’s permalink has an “embed” button, which lets you embed that post anywhere on the web.

This opens up the content to anyone who wants to categorize it or share it in new and creative ways. Enjoy!

While we’re on the topic, here are some of my favorite posts so far.

March 19, 2014

Bitcoin Megaphone

Last week I had a crazy idea for a website. This week I’m proud to announce BitcoinMegaphone.com. Let me explain the idea and why I’m so excited about it.

The website is based on two basic rules: Anyone can post, and anyone can profit.

Rule 1: Anyone can post

In this regard it’s like Twitter, but instead of being limited to 140 characters, you’re charged per character. So the only limit to the size of a post is the size of your wallet.

If you wanted to post a message the length of a tweet (140 characters), it would cost around $0.08 (based on the current Bitcoin/USD exchange). Posting just a bit.ly URL costs around a penny. If you want to stand out and post a chunk of text, the price (along with the post’s visibility) goes up.

So that’s the first part of the website. It’s got kind of a “Million Dollar Homepage” vibe to it. Ok, so far so good.

Rule 2: Anyone can profit

This is where things get interesting.

Every time someone creates a post, a “virtual tipjar” is automatically generated for that post. Each post has its own unique tip jar, and it’s baked right into each post’s URL. And here’s the kicker – only the original creator of the post is given the keys to the tip jar. This is possible thanks to the ingenious system of public/private key generation that’s a part of the Bitcoin system. So any time you see a post on Bitcoin Megaphone, you can send money to it and the author gets 100%.

This lets people get a return on their investment, and offers incentive to post and share funny, engaging, or timely content. Getting social currency in actual money is much more enticing than the meaningless Retweets and Likes we’re all so obsessed with.

There’s already a post that cost $15 where someone jokingly referenced the infamous Nigerian Prince scam email. It hasn’t gotten any tips yet, but I applaud the author’s balls:
http://bitcoinmegaphone.com/1FMiqFSdHwAZF9SKi8DVLUGfghEeAyWwSZ/

On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a post where the author only spent $0.08, but has already made $0.40 in tips, making about 4x his/her investment. (It’s a cute emoticon, by the way):
http://bitcoinmegaphone.com/14XMmrqXiUcpPHySzj4SXSPyxLPiVVgoiX/

Why I’m Stoked

Before Bitcoin, it would have been impossible to create a website like this. There are no credit cards to hook up, no user accounts to create and spam with marketing emails; no annoying ads that disrupt the experience of exploration and discovery; no annoying comments to moderate. It’s just content and micropayments.

There are a lot of smart and talented people looking at micropayments as the future of online publishing. Personally, I have no idea how things will shake out, but I’m excited to keep watching this living breathing ecosystem evolve.

In Summary

Right now on the internet, text is a commodity (think of those walls of text on your crazy friend’s Facebook page). Bitcoin Megaphone transforms strings of text from a commodity to a unique store of value. And that’s some pretty interesting shit.

PS – I was considering posting this entire post on Bitcoin Megaphone for $21.30, but decided it would be weird on launch day :-p

March 13, 2014

Getting to know Bitcoin

I just dropped some serious Bitcoin blog action. My goal was to write the missing manual I would have liked when researching Bitcoin myself. It's in no way comprehensive, but if you're curious about Bitcoin but overwhelmed by its huge barrier to entry, you might find this useful.

The main topics I cover are:
- Getting started with Bitcoin
- Using the Electrum Bitcoin wallet
- Creating a Bitcoin paper wallet for cold/offline storage
- Importing Bitcoin from a paper wallet into Electrum

Hopefully you’ll become more fluent in Bitcoin, and get one step closer to becoming the nerd you were born to be.

And while you’re at it, why not consider throwing me a tip? My address is 1NbjcmjS9DF1Ebp8CBAPdVU1Foqtp5r1BV and I think you’re cool.

March 12, 2014

Importing Bitcoin from a paper wallet into Electrum

Sending money to a paper wallet is the easy part. Getting it out is a little more complicated. So here’s a step-by-step guide.

Below is a paper wallet containing 0.36477 BTC (at the time of this writing). The paper wallet was made with bitaddress.org, using BIP38 encryption for the private key. (To see more about creating paper wallets, read my previous post called "Creating a Bitcoin paper wallet for cold storage.")

paper-wallet

I'm confidant the paper wallet contains the funds because I pasted that 12WwoV… address into blockchain.info, and can see the "Final Balance" – see below.

blockchain-dot-info

The overall process is to import the private key into Electrum, then send the complete contents of the paper wallet to another address in my wallet. This is super important: Any time you take funds from a paper wallet, you have to take out all the money. The reason has to do with change addresses and you can read more about it here. The bottom line, remove everything from a paper wallet when you want to retrieve its funds.

Decrypt the Private Key

Before I import my private key into Electrum, I need to decrypt it. For this, I use bit2factor.org. (If you're paranoid you can run it from a local copy you can download from its GitHub page.) Enter your BIP38 Passphrase (the one you used when creating the paper wallet with bitaddress.org) and paste your encrypted private key, then press the blue button.

bit2factor

If your passphrase is correct, the Address and Private Key fields will automatically get filled in. Notice that 12WwoV… address? That's the same address as the paper wallet – and it was able to figure that out from only the passphrase and encrypted private key. Cool! Copy the private key to your clipboard and go to Electrum.

Import Private Key into Electrum

electrum-empty

In the screenshot above, notice how my balance is still 0 BTC. That's going to change when you import your private key and the paper wallet's funds get associated with your wallet.

Go to Wallet > Private keys > Import and click Yes on the message below.

electrum-imported-keys-not-recoverable

Paste your private key into the field and press Import.

electrum-import-private-key

electrum-imported-key

Nice! Now you can see in the screenshot above that the 12WwoV address is now in my Electrum wallet in a newly-created "Imported" section, and my bitcoin balance is now 0.36477. That's another cool thing about private keys; they contain the public key embedded within them. Ain't math cool?

Transfer the funds

Now here's something important to remember. Even though I control the addresses's private key and hence the full balance of the paper wallet, that doesn't mean it's "mine" yet. (In fact, if I visited blockchain.info and searched for the 12WwoV address, nothing will have looked different from the screenshot at the top of this article.) Your goal now is to transfer the funds to one of your Electrum wallet addresses so that it's actually "yours". Also, since you'll be transferring it to one of your Electrum addresses, it will be recoverable using your wallet generation seed. Sweet.

So first, control-click on one of your Electrum receiving addresses to copy it to your clipboard.

electrum-copy-to-clipboard

Then right-click on the imported address and choose "Send From."

electrum-send-from

Now, paste your receiving address in the "Pay to" field, and enter a description.

electrum-send

For the Amount, enter the entire contents of the paper wallet, minus a .0002 BTC transaction fee. You have to manually do this math, which is a little annoying.

electrum-send-amount

Press Send, and you're all set! Now when you click on the Receive tab in Electrum, you'll see the full balance in your address, minus the .0002 mining fee.

electrum-imported

So that's my process. There's plenty of room for improvement in terms of security (such as using Armory to sign transactions with a dedicated offline computer), but this works for me and is relatively secure assuming someone isn't hacked into my computer. (Wouldn't that be fucked up, by the way?)

Creating a bitcoin paper wallet for cold storage

Using Electrum and other Bitcoin wallets is pretty safe (assuming your computer isn't hacked). But if you're serious about security or want to keep some funds portable, you can use a "paper wallet." The security benefit here is that your private key isn't connected to the internet, so no hacker can get to it. When a private key is stored offline (either on paper or in a non-connected computer), it's considered "cold storage."

A paper wallet is just a public and private key printed out. That's it. All those companies that offer you pretty green fancy-looking paper wallets with holograms are silly – all you need is the public and private key. (It's best practice to encrypt your private key as an added layer of security. We'll get to this below, so be patient. Jeez, why are you so pushy?)

The cool thing is that you don't need to be online to generate a public and private key. In fact, doing it offline is the safest way to generate your keys and be sure nobody's snooping on you. This brings us to an amazing little tool called bitaddress.org. You can actually download the entire site as a single .html file, which you can run in a web browser while disconnected from the web. To download it, visit bitaddress.org, click the GitHub link on the bottom, and click the "Download ZIP" button on the bottom right.

bitaddress-github

As a sidenote, you should be skeptical about trusting the author of this tool (or any tool that generates keys for you), since the author could theoretically generate tainted public/private key pairs they could steal from you in the future. I researched this tool a lot, and apparently enough security people have examined the code and nothing looks nefarious. Also, I found the original thread where the developers are talking about it here . Pretty cool.

Ok, so once you've downloaded the bitaddress html file, open it in a browser. You'll see you have to move your mouse around to generate true random numbers. This is pretty badass.

bitaddress-random

After you've moved your cursor around like an idiot for a few moments, the page will load. Click on "Paper Wallet."

bitaddress-paper-wallet

By default, you see those stupid-looking faux-currency bills. Fuck that. They take up too much space on your printout and are a distraction. Select "Hide Art" and generate 7 Addresses using BIP38 encryption, like this:

bitaddress-bip38

Then, in addition to printing this page, I like to make a PDF and keep it handy. Since I'm still learning/practicing with Bitcoin, it's much easier to copy/paste the addresses from a PDF than it is to scan the QR code and email it to myself.

So now you're free to send BTC to any of the newly-created Bitcoin addresses in the left-hand column. And you can monitor the Address's balance by searching for it on blockchain.info.

To learn how to retrieve the funds in a paper wallet, check out my next post appropriately called "Importing Bitcoin from a paper wallet into Electrum."