Chris Remus

@cjremus

My First Week on the Chain, The Blockchain, That Is

Here’s how a sticker on a mailbox in Brooklyn led me to an Ethereum wallet.

Today my Ethereum wallet is ready for action. It took me about a week to make this happen. Here’s how I did it.

Hmm, Interesting, a Blockchain Sticker on a Wall in Williamsburg Brooklyn?

I’ve lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for over 6 years now. The amount and originality of street art in the neighborhood has been on the steady decline over that time. People are still sticking stickers around quite a bit.

I walk my dog through the neighborhood. Early mornings are fantastic times to experience Williamsburg. Parts of the old neighborhood still peek through in the morning. Later in the day they get obscured by the new neighborhood.

What’s Blockchain? Isn’t that some fringe hipster payment system like Bitcoin?

Small things catch my attention during these walks. A blockchain.me sticker caught my eye a few years ago. It’s stuck on a mailbox, attached to a wall, of an older building that hasn’t been demolished yet. The sticker caught my eye on a daily basis for a while.

The sticker brought blockchain to my consciousness each morning. I’d push it away until the next morning. Slowly it stopped getting pushed away.

I’d heard a little about bitcoin. I’d heard a even a little less about blockchain. My impression was that they combined to form some kind of anarchic new currency. It was a currency the hipsters could use to flip the bird to our financial system.

It was also interesting enough to someone, to print and put up a sticker. The fact nobody pulled the sticker down over time said something to me too.

Free Form Writing and Exploration

I wrote for 30 days in July. A lot of ideas were jammed up in my mind. The 30 day writing exercise helps clear space in my consciousness. Somehow this helped dislodge my blockchain curiosity.

I used to take and idea and run with it. It had to start with a logical set of steps. Those steps had to lead to an envisioned outcome.

I try not to do this anymore. I try and not envision and outcome and drive toward it. I try and keep a broader perspective now.

This broader perspective helps different outcomes manifest. It helps me get past the starting point and unstuck. It helped me start reading about blockchain. Fred Wilson’s article about the hard fork got me rolling.

I told myself I’d read an article on blockchain every day. I did this every day in July. Then I did it again in August.

Medium articles tagged with “blockchain” were a helpful starting point —

I found myself coming back to the list of resources in this article too —

There was no map. I let one article lead me to the next. There was no plan. There was no anticipated outcome.

The only goal was to challenge my curious mind.

From Blockchain to Bitcoin to Ethereum

My reading started with blockchain. Those article led to a few about Bitcoin. The combination helped me understand the difference between the two. I understood (and still understand) blockchain to be the underlying “technology” powering Bitcoin.

I felt late to the party on Bitcoin. Yet the promise of learning more about the underlying platform felt exciting to me. It reminded me of the time I learned the OSI model that powers the today’s Internet.

http://www.tech-faq.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/osimodel.png

Ethereum seemed to have promise. I view Ethereum as higher up the technology stack than blockchain. I started reading more about Ethereum.

The additional reading lead me to believe I can work with Ethereum to create something. The promise of smart contracts is a concept that resonates with me. While I’m not a programmer, I feel like I can work with the tools needed to create something with Ethereum.

A Detour to Steemit

Steemit rewards content creators for creating and curating content? I create LOTS of content. I think some of it’s pretty good. I curate content too. Fred Wilson is rooting for Steemit too!

Count me in!

Wait a minute. Nobody’s rewarding me for my content? Hmmm…

Let me spend some time reading this Steemit white paper. Maybe it will help me understand how Steemit works. Then I’ll know how to create the right content and get rewarded for it.

Whoa…this white paper’s not quite doing it for me. I consider myself a pretty bright guy. Why isn’t is connecting with me?

Hmm…this article says Steemit’s kind of a scam. It mentions a reader who’s found a few errors in his initial read of the white paper…

Alright, on to the next one.

Back to Ethereum

Ethereum feels like something I can sink my intellectual teeth into. I started by trying to figure out the basics. Getting setup on an exchange seemed like the first step.

I setup a new Gmail account. This account is the one I use for all blockchain related activities. This approach seems more secure than tying it to an existing email account.

Next was to establish an account on an exchange. I used the new email address to create an account on Coinbase.

Then I read an article or two recommending Poloniex. I created an account on Poloniex too.

The idea of mining sounded like a fun experiment too. I still may explore this avenue. But learning that people have hacked together huge server farms to mine felt discouraging.

Late to the party again! It sounds like a change to Proof of Stake may make mining obsolete.

Here are a few articles I read about getting started mining —

Maybe staking in the proof of stake environment is the way to go for someone entering this world now. Hmm, something to think about…

Back to the Exchange Accounts

I live in New York. I’d like to create an account to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. It turns out there’s this thing called the Bitlicense.

The Bitlicense is intended to protect residents of New York State from nefarious exchange operators. New York State has deemed the Winkelvoss twins to be guardians of blockchain users in New York State.

Yuck.

Wait a minute. The blockchain is regulated ALREADY?

The Bitlicense also caused many cryptocurrency exchange operators to pull out of New York.

I learned this when Poloniex detected I was located in New York State. They made me cancel my account.

Does this mean I have to work with the Winkelvoss twins if I want to trade Cryptocurrency in New York State? Yikes!

Fortunately the answer to that question was no. Coinbase is licensed to operate in New York State. They’ve bitten the Bitlicense bullet, paid the $5,000 application fee and agreed to provide user data to the government upon request.

That doesn’t seem to be so blockchainy to me. Isn’t the whole point of this thing to NOT be subject to big banks and government institutions?

No big deal. I’m not planning to do anything tricky with my account. Coinbase, you need to verify my identity, cool, no problem.

So here, Coinbase, here’s a picture of my driver’s license, front and back, just like you requested. Wait, your ID verification software didn’t work once, twice, three times and now a fourth?

I’ve tried with my laptop camera AND phone. Alright, let me email customer support —

Unfortunately, many people have been experiencing severe difficulties in verifying their photo ID’s. The problem is known to us and we are working to remedy the situation.
We cannot manually verify your ID for you. At this time all you can do is to keep trying. We’re very sorry for the troubles. We thank you for your patience in this matter.
Eric
Coinbase Support

OK, then, now what?

  • I don’t want to give my money to the Winkelvoss twins.
  • Poloniex gave me the boot because I live in New York.
  • Coinbase can’t verify I am who I say I am. (BTW, isn’t the whole point of this blockchain thing anonymity, anyway?)

How about a Wallet?

I remember reading something about wallets. I didn’t know what they were.

Were wallets -

  • Web apps?
  • Apps that runs on laptops/desktops?
  • Mobile app?
  • All the above?
  • None of the above?

Were wallets only for Bitcoin? Did Ethereum wallets even exist?

I had no idea what a wallet was, how to use or where to find them. There was an article that suggested keeping your coin assets in cold storage.

Cold Storage?

Photo by Bethany Legg via Unsplash

I read that article. Cold storage made sense to me. Keep your keys somewhere hackers couldn’t get to them. Cold storage means storage on a computer not connected to the Internet. Cold storage could also mean physical paper.

That sounded kind of cool. The same article mentioned a few cool gadgets to help keep keys secure.

But oh yeah, I still need a wallet. I turned to my trusty assistants at Fancy Hands to help me out.

Here’s the request I sent Fancy Hands—

Hi,
Please research 5 articles reviewing Ethereum wallets for Mac OSX. Please create a google that lists the -
-source site
-article title
-link
-wallets reviewed in article, with rating or recommendation if the article provides them
Please make sure at least one article cones from medium.com and one comes from Reddit.com.
Thanks!
Chris

Jackpot!

Mizuki from Fancy Hands did a fantastic research job. Here’s the result —

Ethereum Mist

The Ethereum Mist wallet was mentioned in four of the five articles Mizuki found. It was mentioned in an article I had read. I decided to just roll with Ethereum Mist, rather than continue deliberating.

Now I needed to figure out how to get and use a wallet. I searched Medium for articles that mentioned Ethereum Mist.

The search yielded this step-by-step guide —

Perfect!

I followed this guide. It worked well. The guide solved the mystery of where to get the wallet by pointing me here —

I downloaded the wallet and had it installed in a matter of minutes. Then I started syncing to the chain.

I’m On the Chain Now

Starting the sync was surprisingly easy. It felt pretty exciting. I had read it takes a while to sync. It took about 4 days for the sync to complete. It took this long because my laptop wasn’t running 24x7.

At first, the sync was only running when I was working on my laptop. I then left my laptop on when I wasn’t using it. That sped things up a bit. It spead things up only once I remembered to change the sleep setting on my Macbook ;)

I Have ETHER!

Yesterday the first ETHER hit my account. The friendly people at ZeroGox sent it to me in exchange for my wallet address. I’m not sure why.

The Step-by-Step guide suggested doing this. The ZeroGox site doesn’t explain why they do it. Use the ZeroGox link at your own risk ;)

Maybe I’ll regret it using that link. Who knows!

Right now I have an ETHER. Or is it I have ETHER? I don’t know. Not knowing is part of the fun right now, I guess.

Now What?

Now that I’m on the chain, what’s next? I guess I need to figure out how to get some more ETHER.

Do I -

  • Start mining? Probably not, the ship has sailed on this one, I think.
  • Buy into a mining contract? Maybe, this might be low cost way to experiment.
  • Research participating in the proof of stake idea? Yes, this one sounds promising to me too.

I plan to write more articles like this as I continue my journey on the chain. Follow me so you don’t miss any of them.

Stay tuned!

Oh, and if you’ve learned something from this article and want to send me an Ether, my address is -
0x08d2D4faA58E7f11458877Ae2C5D9866817e0b79
If you don’t have any Ether to send or don’t want to send me any, no worries. How about clicking that little heart below to recommend this story to others? That won’t cost you a thing!

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