ELI5: Bitcoin Mining Explained

November 9th, 2018

MoneyThings I learned about bitcoin mining today:

  1. All bitcoin transactions are recorded via a system called Blockchain. The “mining” process you hear about is something you must do in order to add new blockchain entries (blocks) to record the transactions. This cannot be done by the casual user—adding an entry is very, very computationally intensive. So there are dedicated bitcoin miners who do it for you.
  2. Successful miners are rewarded with a number of bitcoins in addition to any transaction fees they charge. Currently, however, the bitcoin reward is so lucrative that transaction fees are typically less than a dollar.
  3. About every 4 years the number of bitcoins you get from mining a block is cut in half. Right now it’s 12.5. It’s been at that level for about 2 years and is expected to drop to 6.25 in the 2020-2021 timeframe.
  4. Eventually the system will get to the point where mining bitcoins won’t provide enough of them to be cost-effective, and the miners will get their profit solely from charging transaction fees.
  5. The maximum number of bitcoins that will ever exist is about 21 million. Currently about 17.5 million have been mined (~ 85% of the total).
  6. The difficulty level of the bitcoin mining calculations is adjusted approximately every two weeks to account for changes to the amount of processing power applied to the system. The goal is to make it average 10 minutes per block. So the system adjusts for advances in hardware or increases in the number of computers used, and the problem is just as time-consuming today as it was 5 year ago, and will be the same 5 years from now.
    • Note: For the technically inclined, the mining computations just require you to generate a hash code that, when interpreted as a number, is less than a specified value. So the hash must have a bunch of leading zeroes. Normally you will have to run the hash algorithm many times before you get a value that meets the criteria. The adjustment that occurs is to simply change the target number.
  7. In December 2017, a miner using poorly-written custom mining software had a situation where his software neglected to tell the blockchain system to give him the reward. He mined the block, inserted it into the blockchain, and got nothing in return. At the time, the 12.5 bitcoin he lost was worth about $200,000. These bitcoins are lost forever, as effectively as if they’d been physically destroyed.

[SOLVED] Why is my Uploaded YouTube Video Such Poor Quality?

November 6th, 2018

Video CameraI’ve recently been uploading videos to YouTube. Usually I’m waiting to send the link, so I upload the video then immediately view it on YouTube to ensure it’s good. Often I find that the video quality has been significantly downgraded, sometimes to the point where it’s unwatchable.

When researching this I found a large number of potential causes and solutions, but the actual answer is quite simple:

  • Just wait for 30-60 minutes.

When YouTube first publishes a video it does everything it can to quickly make the video viewable and, as such, does the least amount of processing possible and starts with the format that can be watched on any device. So the initial format is the lowest resolution and bitrate. After publication, however, YouTube continues to perform processing in the background and subsequently adds higher-quality versions of the video. If you wait for a bit and then refresh the page, you’ll get a much better version of the video as the default.

Carbon Nanotubes May Not Be the Wonder Material After All

June 13th, 2016

NanotubeThere have been great hopes that a carbon nanotube cable could be used to create a space elevator, providing easy access to orbit. According to recent research, however, that may not be possible for the foreseeable future. Even atomic-level defects in the nanotube will greatly reduce its strength, and current mass manufacturing techniques are quite error-prone.

Link: https://www.newscientist.com/…

What are Enterprise Social Networks and Why Should I Care?

November 1st, 2015

Social NetworkIt’s now possible to set up a closed social network, a la Facebook, for a limited group of users such as a company. Sort of like how some companies have a private internet (called an intranet), they can have a private Facebook (called an enterprise social network). You get the benefits of collaboration, networking, custom business apps, etc. It’s sort of like what Lotus Notes did back in the day.

Enterprise social netowrking is not hypothetical—the linked article discusses how the Royal Bank of Scotland is deploying Facebook at Work for 100,000 employees. And most notably, it’s an opportunity for Facebook to make money selling a product, versus selling advertisements.

Link: http://www.techrepublic.com/…

How to Fix Windows 7 Unable to Create or Find a System Partition on an SSD

October 30th, 2015

Windows LogoMy primary hard drive died, and I decided to replace it with an SSD to help speed up my system. When I tried to install Windows 7 on the new drive, however, I kept getting this error message: “Setup was unable to create a new system partition or locate an existing system partition. See the Setup log files for more information.” (<RANT>And just WHERE would these log files BE?!?</RANT>) Most of the “solutions” on the web dealt with correctly configuring the disk partition. I had used the Windows installer to set up the partition, but just to make sure, I booted into Linux and set the boot flag for the partition. Didn’t work. So I used DiskPart from the Windows recovery console. Didn’t work either.

Finally I came across an article that mentioned BIOS settings, and that did the trick. The SATA Mode (that’s what it’s called in my setup program but it varies) was set to IDE and needed to be AHCI. After making that change the install went smoothly. The article also said that you should not use Intel® Smart Response Technology, which is another BIOS option.

Windows 10 to Get Its First Major Update

October 30th, 2015

Windows LogoSince Windows 10 was released with its free upgrade offer, I’ve been telling people to delay upgrading until after the first major update—which will happen sometime in the next week or so. It’s pretty much a no-brainer to take advantage of the free upgrade, and most of the major issues should be ironed out after this update, so I say “go for it.”

Link: http://www.pcworld.com/…

Windows 10 Has a Native Print to PDF Function

September 22nd, 2015

MicrosoftIn a move that is long overdue, Microsoft has added a “printer” to Windows 10 that will generate a PDF file of what you’re printing. It will show up in your printer list, just like the XPS Document Writer has for all those years, but this will be much more useful.

Link: http://www.techrepublic.com/…

Stupid Criminal Stories #21

October 10th, 2014

ThiefThis one is absolutely mind-numbing in the amount of stupidity shown. A man burglarized a house, used the victim’s computer to log in to Facebook, and didn’t log out. The homeowner posted his phone number on the burglar’s Facebook page, in the hopes that someone who knew the burglar would contact him. Instead, the burglar himself texted the homeowner and arranged to meet so he could pick up some clothing he’d left in the house. He actually showed up, so the homeowner called the police and the burglar was arrested.

Link: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/…
(via Kim Komando)

Sci-fi Becomes Sci-fact: Autonomous Swarm Boats

October 7th, 2014

ShipAutomated combat systems have long held a place in science fiction. Warfare turns into battles between machines, some directly controlled by human beings and some completely autonomous. We’ve all heard about the airplane drones that are seeing significant use in recent conflicts, but here’s something quite different. The US Navy is testing autonomous swarm boats. They’re small, unmanned boats that sense the environment and work together to achieve their objective. That may be to protect a particular ship, attack a target, etc. It’s quite interesting. Note, however, that the Navy doesn’t allow the swarm boats to utilize their weapons unless there is a human being on board. The linked video explains in more detail.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/…
(via Kim Komando)

Microsoft Announces Windows 10

October 1st, 2014

Windows LogoMicrosoft has announced Windows 10. (What happened to Windows 9 you may ask — who knows?) Details are sparse, but they did say that it will run on all devices a la Windows 8, but will configure itself for the device type. So PC users will see a Windows 7 interface while phone users will get a start screen with tiles. Also, there will be a single app store with apps that run on all platforms and devices. Sounds like they learned from Windows 8.

Link: http://www.komando.com/…

Remote Kill Switches are a Bad Idea

May 29th, 2014

GuillotineRecently I’ve been hearing about government support for remote kill switches, say in automobiles for law enforcement use, or in cell phones for when they’re stolen. And my first thought is always that some hacker is going to find a way to trigger the switch and cause all kinds of problems.

Apparently the hackers had the same thought. The linked article covers a situation where stolen iCloud credentials were used to lock out iPhones via the “Find My iPhone” anti-theft feature.

Link: http://time.com/…
(via Kim Komando)

Test Your Website for the Heartbleed Vulnerability

May 7th, 2014

Computer SecurityAstute Chad’s News readers will have already heard about the Heartbleed vulnerability, but it’s something we all need to be aware of. Fortunately, xkcd has the best explanation I’ve seen to date. If you manage or own a website that uses SSL certificates for secure HTTPS connections, the linked page will check to see if your site is vulnerable.

You can also use it to verify websites that you visit, to make sure they aren’t open to Heartbleed attacks. Major sites have already patched their systems and installed new SSL certificates, so I’m thinking the real concern is the smaller e-commerce sites. (Note: If you use this tool to verify a site, do it before you open the site in your browser.)

Link: http://safeweb.norton.com/…
(via Kim Komando)