Sunday, July 29, 2018

Drifting...

With the Bitcoin frenzy over for months now, I'm back to doing something more creative and calming: painting rocks. Meanwhile, I've left my main website drifting in the Twilight Zone, halfway being the old web host and the new Google Suites thing... just kind of lost heart and got tired. Yet another transfer... is it even worth it?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bitcoin Fee Meltdown Saga, With the Crew of Apollo 13...


Bitcoin Fee Meltdown Saga, With the Crew of Apollo 13...


"Ladies and gentlemen...failure is not an option."

                "You're going to lose a lot in the transfer, Ken."

"Yeah, yeah. But all we're talking about here is four amps."

                "Find out how to squeeze every amp 
                  out of both of those God-damned machines!"

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Feeling Left Out of the Whole Blockchain Thing...

I know you can't be an expert at everything, but I really would love to be one of those people who knows everything there is to know about putting bits and bytes together and coming out with something that makes sense and does marvelous things, even if it's just turning a text-file full of algabraic-greek looking gibberish into an app that replaces the blue screen with pictures, videos, cartoons, and other eye candy.

And yes, I know, you're saying, well, I wish I could pick up a paintbrush and turn a blank canvas into a painting the way you do, but you can't. (Though you could punch a few keys in the right art program and let the computer fake it for you).

I'm wondering about uses for the blockchain, and wishing I knew how to utilize it, if only to write "Kilroy was here," and commit it to the blockchain for all of eternity. I don't even know if I have truly grasped the purpose of blockchain, and whether committing graffiti to an archive to perpetuate itself throughout history is something the blockchain can do or should do.

One of my thoughts for how it (blockchain) could be used--and I may be wrong--is for compiling documents of genealogy. I did a quick search to find out if anyone is already doing something like that, and got a bit of a shock to realize that Genecoin is enticing people to upload their DNA sequences to the blockchain, and let it perpetuate forever, unchanged. Fair enough, that might be a good use, maybe an even better one than what I thought. But placing my DNA into the chain so that some mad scientist in the not-so-distant future can plug my genetic code into a molecular 3-D gene printer and clone a duplicate version of me, or cross my genes with with a housefly, Jeff Goldblum style, is not what I had in mind.

I was thinking of something more along the lines of, uploading documents, stories, "proofs," and conclusions, to live on as unchanged documents for permanent reference, to always be. I do realize that Wikis and on-line family trees already do that to some extent, but in a way, they don't. It's great that everyone can go in and collaborate on the tree and add and merge and all, but the "merging" factor is what I thought might be overcome. It's not the final, compiled version of the ancestor in the tree I'm wanting to save, but the many bits and pieces that it took to get there.

I guess what I'm asking for is a reliable cloud, where I can place my personal copy of a daguerreotype or albumen photo (before it fades away), and attach my testimony of how I came to own it; or upload a certified copy of a death certificate (maybe even one that can have the actual, viable certification document attached by a court clerk, or whatever); or even upload my article detailing the steps on how I, personally, came to conclude that this particular W. A. Shields in Tennessee is the same guy as that William A. Shields of Tennessee, who ended up in Missouri. So that fact, or that document, or that combo (document, certification, and story), can "be" there for the next guy who wants to take a look at my original work (before a thousand other users morph W. A. Shields into W. F. Shields, into H. F. Shields, into H. F. Shellmound, into Henry J. Shellmound, and on and on); and they can evaluate my docs and my story and my conclusion and decide for themselves, "Eureka! she's right!" or, "Bull! she's cracked!" Whatever they want to decide, but they have the original document(s) at hand. Not even for the purpose, specifically, of evaluating my work, but just for them to have and hold the original (virtual copy) of that will, that deed, that marriage license. To have it shelved, unchanged, in as close to original form as you can get a virtual thing to be; to have it archived there, to provide it to the next guy who wants to evaluate the doc for himself.

I see that someone is doing that now with digital photographs, to allow people to provide them as documents, untouched by any photo-editing tricks, to perpetuate in their original form, as history, unrewritten... The blockchain as archive.

And why aren't I satisfied that the world family tree already does this for me? Because of what happened in the past with Rootsweb, and FamilyTreeMaker, (and now Find A Grave) and a dozen other products and sites and services that got taken over by "The Evil One," the Greedy Pig, Ancestry. I remember how, when it happened with Rootsweb, and also the Genealogy Forum, of how that simultaneously affected USGenWeb, which suddenly kind of quieted down and stopped growing, at least for a long time. Because people were frustrated, and burned out with falling for another PayPal promise, that "It will always be fee free." That, "We won't lock up your information and start charging you for it." No, they won't. They will sell out to Ancestry, and Ancestry will do that. (Or Ebay. In the case of PayPal).

And sometimes, it's not even because they want to be a Greedy Pig that they do it. Sometimes, it just starts to cost too much for them to provide it to you. Like when Georgia's Virtual Vault took the death certificates and marriage books offline, probably because dozens of wikis and libraries had started utilizing it. Server overload! Or when the Social Security Death Index people said, "We can't sell you your ancestor's original application anymore" ($7 fee, wow, wish I'd bought a lot more of them back then) "because we've decided that's a breach of confidentiality and a privacy issue." But then, on down the line, they turn it over to Greedy Pig, and you can buy it from them ($20). So, repeat that please?! Privacy issue? Or profit issue? Which is it? Thanks, I'd just like to know.

The same kind of thing happened when courthouses everywhere turned their vital-record services over to Vital Chek (or whatever), and the price-per-doc fee changed from, like, $3 (good old county courthouses!) to $30. Whew!

And a lot of people like me said, then, "So, why should I spend a thousand hours digging out my old photos and scanning them, and sharing my grandfather's death cert., and sharing my tree, and transcribing that cemetery, and uploading it all to a database if Ancestry's gonna come along tomorrow and buy out the database, and charge you guys for that thousand hours of non-profit data entry I provided free of charge? Irritating, to be sure. I have a friend who got burned in an early "firing-of-most-of-the-guides" thing. In fact, I got burned myself, when an art forum I loved, that had become a virtual "real" community of friends to me, got dumped in that same incident, and I went into withdrawal when all the discussions and tips and portfolios of artists I had come to know just, phttt! went away.

And then there's Animal Farm. But let's not get side-tracked.

Maybe I'm mixing up two issues here... "Profit" vs. "Preservation." I mean, it's always going to cost people to serve up documents, so the blockchain can't prevent fees jumping from $3 to $30. In fact (judging by Bitcoin exchanges), maybe the blockchain just proves to the idealist that a certain amount of "evil" capitalization is necessary, and that anyone who serves up a document must eventually charge for it, if they're used to serving it up to ten people, and they suddenly have to serve it up to ten million. It just costs people to do things. So, throwing out the question of fees, and who "owns" history and historical documents, lets just focus on "preservation." I'm interested in the immutability aspect of blockchain. In storing little packets of history, or at least, the solid, immutable blocks used for building history.

So... blockchain genealogy. This is something I'd like to see....

Rant over.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Worries: Grandma and Bitcoin Fees

Bitcoin fees... sigh. So, is this the beginning of the end?

Fearful geek that I am, I can't begin to understand all the math and codes and tracking mechanisms that it takes to make Bitcoin work. Still, I've played with it enough to be excited by the possibility of sending packets of "cash," or even just packets of verifiable bytes of information in a ledger, to someone anywhere in the world. It's not just the get-rich-quick aspect of the "coin," but the intellectual curiosity of where the technology will lead, and how, or if it will, affect our everyday lives in the future. It could be that my understanding and love of Bitcoin is better placed in Ethereum, which I also "love."

But one of the topics on forums has been about the mainstreaming of Bitcoin. At what point would the coin enter the mainstream? On that day, users speculated, old hands would be rich on Bitcoin-as-an-asset, while everyday Joes could happily pay for Starbucks lattes with this new virtual cash, and all would be well.

And Bitcoin Wallet developers (some said) dreamed of the day that Grandma would whip out her Bitcoin wallet with the same fearless confidence she showed in the past as she unsnapped the gilded-metal catch on her little pink-leather coin purse. And all would be utopian. And this brave new coin would put nasty old traditional banks to shame, and their greedy old fees.

But now it seems that the cost of mining has grown tremendously, as was (apparently) expected. That was to be the slowdown, the stabilization of the value of the coin, and nothing for the fearful geek to fear. It was said to be inherent in the technology, the natural course of events, and not an evil thing. It was part of the genius of the original code, or so they thought.

But now the user and exchange fees have grown to monstrous proportions to outstrip the mining fees and the bank fees and all the other greedy old capitalist institutions. And it's not because the miners or the exchanges are greedy, it's because they have reaped a portion of the harvest of the blood, sweat, and tears (and hard-earned fiat cash) they have put into mining over the years. But with the tears came the insight that greedy old capitalist banks maybe had a reason for their high fees. Business has its overhead. Any business. Even the invisible-gold-coin business.

Now the naysayers are gloating, literally foaming at the mouth with crazed glee, almost true madness, as they scream, "Bubble! Bubble! Tulip! I told you so! I told you it was a Ponzi scheme!"

Well, bubble it may be, and losers many there will be, but Ponzi scheme... I don't think it ever will be.

You can't put the cat back in the bag. You can't put toothpaste back in the tube. Pandora can't put the bad stuff (or the good) back in the box.

Satoshis and the blockchain technology that supports them have been unleashed on the world. It's all open source. And yes, there are black hats. But there are white hats, and they are starry eyed. And they are a community. A community of true believers, a community of smart, hard-working developers.  And they will work to fix this. They will seek solutions. They will seek the Holy Grail. And yes, they may be seeking the thing that will never be found, the El Dorado that turns out to be a beehive of mud huts in the jungle. But they will try to solve the puzzle, try to find a way to make the fees fall in line with the transaction, try to save the blockchain for a future day.

Call me Don Quixote. Or call me Grandma. Grandma won't be happy paying a seventy-five-dollar fee on a hundred-dollar trade, getting coffee money back in change for a big bill. Don Quixote hopes the white hats have Grandma's back.

The blockchain will not fade away, but it will continue to morph and keep on morphing. Into what...? Grandma just doesn't know.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bitcoin Fees

Bitcoin... ah, the coin that lets you avoid those terrible banking fees. So, let me get this straight. I want to buy $100 worth of Bitcoin, so I pay a $5 fee to Coinbase to buy Bitcoin with my U.S. dollars. And I want to "own my own key," so I pay a $25 fee to send my Bitcoin to my other wallet. And later I want to withdraw my Bitcoin, so I pay $25 to send it from my wallet back to Coinbase. And then I pay $15 to withdraw it from Coinbase to my bank account... Waitaminute...?!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

More Thoughts on Paper Wallets

My last post gave a run-down of my experience in sending Bitcoin to a paper wallet, and later, using the Blockchain.info exchange to pull money off of the paper wallet. In that, I said that I wouldn't advise using this method, even though I'll probably use them again.

My plan would be to use them for long-term storage. Even using them that way, you might lose money (if not by accident, by normal rate fluctuation). 

What I didn't tell you is how I agonized over the decision of whether to create several "sloppy wallets" and send small amounts; or just split the full amount in the wallet and send it out in two or three chunks. If the former: fees, fees, fees. If the latter... what if I made a mistake, this being my first try? (And the exchange warning me, all the while, that this process is only for advanced users). 

I had to pat myself on the back and give myself a pep talk: "After all, the world won't end if you make a mistake and lose $100 in the Twilight Zone. You won't be happy, but you won't die from it."

Honestly, though, it's a wonder I didn't die from the stress of it. When I was searching high and low for that well-hidden "Import" button on Blockchain's site, for instance, I came close to having a meltdown. I broke out in a cold sweat and had to pep-talk myself again!

But loading small amounts on paper wallets: it could still work, if you already have a nice supply of Bitcoin in some third-party wallet that only charges small fees for sending. The paper wallets could be used as gifts, or could later be combined into one big account for sending or spending.

I can't easily get over the fact that fees seem to hit you coming or going. These could increase in the future, but then again, they could stabilize, as the vendors find some compromise that would make the fees better correspond to the amounts being sent, or different fees for different uses.

In my opinion, paper wallets (with other off-line backups) would still be better than third-party vendors for storing cryptocurrency in the long term. As long as the blockchain exists, for manually inputting keys (if necessary), it seems more reliable than hoping Jaxx or Coinbase doesn't go out of business or get hacked. 

For experimenting and holding average amounts of currency, I think vendor wallets (Jaxx, Bitcoin, etc.) or exchanges (Coinbase, Blockchain, Bitsane) are most convenient. Yes, you could lose money if exchanges or wallet generators got hacked. That's not much more worrisome than a billfold full of cash and credit cards, or an on-line banking account that might get hacked one day.

P.S.: I haven't tried a hardware wallet yet. Might be trustworthy. Then again, it might be like my flash drives. At least two or three times, I've plugged in an old, reliable flash drive only to get the message that it can't be read, or the technology of that particular drive is no longer supported, or just... my machine suddenly doesn't recognize it anymore. What? Why? It worked fine yesterday... :-(



Another Crack at Crypto - Harrowing Experience, But Kind of Fun?


Okay, in my last post, I wrote War and Peace. No, really, somebody else already wrote that half-million-word book, but my last blog post certainly was long. I gave a run-through of my personal experiences with cryptocurrencies. Learning to use them had been quite stressful, though I'd gained money, not lost it (I think). I'll have to do the math, but I think I'm still ahead.

In learning to use crypto, I had read lots of articles and watched tutorials, experimented with a few exchanges, sent money wallet to wallet, and used the blockchain to track my balances. I had put money into a paper wallet, but had not yet gotten money out of one. I was a little nervous, but not that fearful. I felt comfortable with the concepts involved in paper-to-web transfers, and only a little afraid of the interfaces I had seen, which were somewhat old-school techy--you know, solid gray boxes and fields, kind of like the old FTP interfaces that scared me so much (fearful geek that I am).

Tonight, I am older and wiser. I have used Blockchain.info to import my Bitcoin from my paper wallet and export it to two places: a wallet in the Bitsane Exchange, and a Jaxx wallet. Once again, the experience of doing something new with crypto proved harrowing. My advice is, "Don't try this at home." (Or anywhere else). Seriously, only use paper wallets if you're serious about cryptocurrency's long-term potential and you don't mind losing a few fees while you experiment. There are other good uses, of course, including person-to-person transfers, avoiding exchanges altogether.

My exchanges were successful, in spite of high fees. But figuring out how to do things involved a lot of trial and error and guesswork. I had watched some tutorials on YouTube and thought I knew how to do this thing. I should mention that, at some point during this process, I signed up on the Blockchain.info site using my email address, and verified it. I'm not sure if that was required. They emailed me a wallet-code/username to log in with. So now when I click "Get Free Wallet," the site recognizes me and that username comes up; I put in my password and log in.

On Blockchain.info's home page (even before logging in) I used the hash searchbox at the bottom of the home page to check the balance in my existing paper wallet again. It was slightly depleted by negative rate fluctuations over the past week or so, but I still had over $100 to play with. I gathered the various target wallets I planned to use to receive my funds (one at Jaxx, one at Bitsane, one at Blockchain).

I had already watched third-party tutorials on the process of emptying a paper wallet into a Blockchain wallet. All of the tutorials showed the Blockchain menu as having an "Import/Export" link at the top. First big snafu! This link did not exist. I looked and looked. It certainly wasn't at the top of the page with the other menu items. So, I clicked around in the site and still couldn't find it.

Screenshot of Blockchain.info's home page.

Closeup of Menu Items on Home Page:

Closeup of menu items on Blockchain's home page.

No Import/Export Item (including links in the drop-downs under each item). I went to the FAQ. Nothing. Then I did a quick Google Search. I found the usual maddening, chaotic mix of guesses and opinions (many quite rude), but couldn't find my answer. Finally, one person mentioned "Settings." I went there, and still no Import/Export link, nothing that looked like the tutorials. But at last, under "Addresses," I found a demure, nondescript little text link for imports. Here's how I found it:

From Blockchain.info's home page, I clicked on "Get Free Wallet." (Here, I'm working from memory: I don't think the code that came up at this point was the wallet. It may be the user identification, kind of like a username for your wallet. It is a longish, private key with hyphens in it).

Using the wallet/log-in ID that Blockchain sent me and the password I created, I logged into my wallet/dashboard interface.

The resulting screen is a dashboard, similar to the one below (accessed Jan. 10, 2018). It says "Be Your Own Bank." It has "Your Balances" ($0 until you deposit something). And it has some charts.

On the dashboard, in the left-hand sidebar: 

Click "Settings."

The next screen shows your Wallet ID (PRIVATE!) and a Mobile Pairing Code/QR (also private).

In the left-hand sidebar:

Click "Addresses" and get the screen below:

It says "Be Your Own Bank." Under that are two buttons ("Send" and "Request"); an alert; a link for Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash; a default wallet ("My Bitcoin Wallet"); a link that says "+ Add" (to add a wallet); a title ("Imported Bitcoin Addresses" with an informational alert, "Not backed up..."); and FINALLY, this link:
+ Import Bitcoin Address. 
(Note: The actual link is in plain gray text, not highlighted). 
Screenshot of dashboard in my logged-in wallet settings at Blockchain.info
Clicking on the link ("+ Import Bitcoin Address") brought up a pop-up box with a white field to enter an address, but it did not actually say which address to enter. They suggest that only advanced users do imports. I almost made the mistake of entering my Private Key here, but intuited that, as I was importing a wallet, not yet spending funds, I should enter my PUBLIC key here. So I did:

Screenshot: Blockchain.info's pop-up box for inputting a public key
in order to import an existing wallet from elsewhere.
 The text message in the pop-up above is the "advanced user" warning:


My guess, to input the PUBLIC key, turned out to be correct. Success! My wallet, that had previously existed on a printed piece of paper, now appeared as a link on the Blockchain site, and my USD balance appeared on the dashboard. I don't recall if this was immediate--I think it was. Of course, I had kept a copy of my private key so I could later spend my coins. Now I felt "safe." The first step in my paper-to-web transfer was complete.

Afterwards, I could have played around with my balance, sending small amounts of bitcoin here and there (biting the bullet on fees). But I had a specific purpose in mind for my coin. I wanted to exchange some of it for some lesser cryptocurrencies, in hopes that they will one day be "big."

I next used the "Send" Button. The next steps were pretty familiar to me--not unlike Coinbase, except that this was the first time I'd had to enter my own private key. The process for doing this is pretty straightforward. For the recipient address, I entered an existing Public Key. The field for the corresponding private key was clearly marked. A pop-up then asked for the pin that I had created when I first created my paper wallet. I had to do some subtraction (subtracting the stated fee) to determine how much I could send. It gave me a summary, to make sure of everything before I sent it.

For my second transaction, I wanted to use my total balance. Interestingly, Blockchain tried to double the fee, here, to $11. I was shocked, but then realized that I could customize the fee. I changed the fee to about $5-$6 (it wouldn't let me do less). I subtracted the fee from my total balance, and sent the difference. That emptied my wallet. My dashboard showed a $0 balance. Success!

Elsewhere on my dashboard, I could see the pending transactions and confirmations. My transactions remained pending for a very short while before being confirmed and showing up in my other wallets. I immediately exchanged some of my Bitcoin for Ripple. Maybe not a wise decision, if Ripple flops. But I've done something new and exciting, for a fearful newbie. That makes me very happy.

A little byword: none of this is anonymous. All these companies now have my "real" email address, one or more of them have my full name and street address, and one of them (Coinbase) has just about everything about me, including my bank-account routing info. The only way to get hold of Bitcoin anonymously, besides mining, would be to find another Bitcoin user and make a trade, person-to-person, wallet-to-wallet, without ever going on-line. Likewise, you'd then have to make any Bitcoin-to-fiat exchanges in person or through LocalBitcoins, or something like that. It all sounds rather back alley. However, I have sent a small amount of Bitcoin from my Coinbase and Jaxx wallets to another person's Jaxx wallet. Still, my original Bitcoin buy was on Coinbase, so it's all traceable. But, if I'd made my first buy in person, I guess it would be untraceable, if that's a big concern.

I wouldn't advise using paper for anyone who isn't trying to protect huge sums, or wanting to keep them for a long, long time -- or maybe wanting to physically transfer paper, as a chunk of "cash," to someone else. Some of the tutorials tell you to do a lot of paper wallets loaded with small amounts, for the purpose of experimenting. For every wallet you load (paper or otherwise), you may have to pay a fee to Coinbase, or Jaxx, or Blockchain, or an individual seller, or whatever you're using to send it. You may end up paying a $5-$15 fee to send, say, $5, $10, $20. Some of the exchanges or currencies set a minimum amount or a reserve to keep you from sending small amounts. Getting funds from paper wallets onto the exchanges is tricky, especially since exchanges may change the rules or update their interfaces so that you can't figure out how to use them. The idea of paper wallets is attractive to me, but the actuality of using them, outside of experimenting, is a little scary.

Another thought: --about $5 per transaction (on relatively small amounts). I don't know where I got the impression that Blockchain's fees were reasonable. Still, I'm sure these companies, like me, are still learning. With the price of servers, electricity, customer service, lawyers, et al, they must inevitably raise their fees. And if fees are high now, what might they be in the future? Hmmm, maybe those good old fiat-bank fees don't seem so insane now. I mean, I could spend $25 or $5,000 greenbacks any old day (if I had that much) without paying any fee at all...


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Crypto-Newbie

I'm no expert, just a pathetic newbie, trying to navigate the muddy, gator-infested stream of Cryptocurrency. In the beginning, I read and read, created several wallets, watched 10,000 ads and answered ten or twelve surveys in order to collect five or ten cents worth of "coin" from some then-functioning faucet, deposited it to a wallet, and felt rather proud of myself. I read a lot more, finally decided that a $50 gamble wouldn't kill me; and, deciding that Coinbase was newbie safe (in spite of the so-called high fees and lack of anonymity), I not the bullet and opened an account. Signing up was easy, and I quickly linked my checking account, waited the agonizing week or so, and made my first official Bitcoin purchase. Need I tell you how excitedly I watched the daily, nay, even hourly, rate changes? Finally, I let it lie for a year or so, checking occasionally.

Then Coinbase required Authy for 2FA. Fine, I signed up for Authy. I was still using a landline at that time, but it all worked.

My first big snafu came when Coinbase decided that landlines would no longer work for 2FA. Fine, I switched to cell for SMS notifications--not my first choice, but it had to be.

Not long after, Coinbase decided SMS was not secure. Fine, I switched to Authy, but Authy was somehow connected with my landline.

I did something in the wrong order, and was unable to log into my Coinbase account, while I wrangled with Authy and Coinbase Customer-Service reps to get my 2FA/phone-verification mess straightened out. Authy reps were human. Coinbase used bots. Authy got it fixed, though I whipped them a couple of sharp opinions during the process. But I'm back in my Coinbase account, though I don't dare change my phone number or email, for fear of the same mess.

Terribly spooked, I withdrew almost all my currency, exchanging to good old US dollars and putting it safely into my checking account. I also let Authy know that tech companies which handle people's mony and bank accounts should offer alternate identity-verification choices, including traditional ones, such as Notary Public oaths. I left a few bucks in Coinbase, 'cause, what the hell... a five-buck lotto ticket, etcetera. I patted myself on the back for having made a few bucks, and still having a few spare bucks invested.

Barely a month later, Authy app began to return a phishing alert when I select my Coinbase account. Smart-Aleck techies on forums blasted Authy and suggested switching to Google Authentication, but I didn't dare make a change for fear of being locked out of Coinbase and/or Authy.

I investigated the various exchanges all the crypto-wiseguys were raving about, but found problems with each one: one wouldn't accept US residents, one was too complicated, one wouldn't allow small trades (a requirement of mine, since I want to use smallish amounts when testing new wallets on new exchanges). So, I stuck with Coinbase, while ogling other exchanges with envy.

Bitcoin had flatlined at about $800-$900, and got so boring, I didn't even check Coinbase for ages. Then one day I saw a news article, checked my account, and was pleasantly surprised. Over the next few weeks I watched the NYC rate climb to $3,000 per coin. I suspected a bubble, but knew it could shoot even higher. I thought it would, "eventually," but I thought it would probably crash first and stagger along for a few years before rising. I saw that some "experts" agreed with me, so again, I converted most to cash. Alas, I had spooked too soon. Bitcoin climbed to $12,000. I bought more at a loss (regretting that I could've been a few thousand dollars richer had I waited a month to sell).

I'd also had to agonize for over a week while my cash travelled from bank to Coinbase. I wanted to make instant buys. My next big snafu came when I tried to add a credit card to Coinbase. It will not verify. Seems Coinbase makes two little deposits, but Visa combines the amounts to one. Coinbase won't verify with the combined amount, and Visa statement will not show the separate amounts. Visa CS blames Coinbase; Coinbase CS blames Visa, and my card won't verify. (My driver's license won't verify, either. Coinbase's verification process is a muddled mess, and Customer Service the re is practically non-existent). Keep in mind, I've lived in one place for about 30 years, had the same solid, stationary, highly traceable landline, had the same bank account, and been (at one time) a Notary Public. And I can't get verified by a damned little start-up that has existed for less time than our current stash of toilet paper. Well, maybe a bit longer than that, but... Do you see the problem here?

All that aside...

Except for the phishing alerts, all had become fairly stable, I'd made decent little profits, and I decided that I probably shouldn't be linking a credit card anyway (being an impulse buyer and a semi-poor person). Besides, I now learned, I could place some money in a Coinbase USD wallet and make instant buys that way. So I did.

I made another small deposit into Coinbase, waited till prices were down a bit (though higher than before the failed-verification snafu). I even ventured into other coin: Litecoin and Ethereum. I experimented with creating paper wallets and third-party app wallets, and sent a bit of coin to them. I gave a tiny amount of Bitcoin to my niece, so she could study crypto. The $2-$5 fees, I put down to the learning curve: a reasonable cost for real-time experimentation and learning, and a lot cheaper than that $400 Crypto Cash Crash Course I saw advertised localky; man, that guy will be able to buy some major crypto, if he has many takers.

Coinbase announced that it wouldn't support the upcoming Bitcoin Cash fork. I barely understood that, and from the few articles I read on BCH, I wasn't impressed; so I did nothing. Come the divide, nothing changed. I was fine. Later, I was pleasantly surprised when Coinbase agreed to support BCH technology, opened me a wallet, and gave me $30 or $40 USD worth of coin. But that got me to thinking (how I could've missed out), so I read up on forks. So, I moved most of my Bitcoin to a paper wallet.

Now, keep in mind, I'm dealing with amounts of coin so small, I see snarky wiseguys on Reddit snickering about such newbie trades, the same way a guy will snicker over another guy's tiny little penis. So I don't post on forums, I just read 'em.

I wanted to buy something new and cheap, but Coinbase only offers a few coin types. I'd failed to find another exchange that worked for me. Then I found Bitsane. Bitsane won't sell to US clients for fiat currency, but will allow crypto-coin exchanges.

I opened an account. I struggled with the interface, but managed to open a Litecoin wallet.

I would try to choose LTE to Ripple, but every time, Bitsane would switch it back. I thought I probably needed to open a wallet and deposit some coin first--a fearful thing, since I couldn't seem to make the exchange work. But I reminds myself, All my existing coin is still from that original dividend, and it's subsequent growth, plus the "fork" bonus. Found money, to me!

So, I opened an LTC wallet, went to Coinbase, and sent a little Litecoin. Coinbase's app kept "sending" forever, so I finally closed it, speculating on three possible outcomes: Twilight Zone (lost Litecoin); failed transaction (refunded Litecoin); or successful transaction. Bitsane still showed empty wallets, but Coinbase, once reopened, showed a pending transaction, with two confirmations; so I guessed the Litecoin would soon appear in my Bitsane wallet, and it did.

Now Bitsane showed a loaded LTE wallet. Now I opened an XRP wallet, and attempted to make a trade. Bitsane still switched the exchange buttons. It looked backward to me, with "Buy" (LTC) on the left side (blue button), and "Sell" (XRP) on the right side (gold button). But in between was a non-descript little text "XRP," with a field to enter amounts. I inquired that I should put my LTE amount in the box and hit "Buy." I'm dealing small amounts on both sides of the coin, so if I did it backward, it would either fail, or I' s lose, maybe $20-$30 bucks to misplaced coin and exchange fees.

Now, if you know crypto and are good at exchanging them, you'll laugh at me for what I did next. Some digital amounts were underneath the "Buy" and "Sell" buttons. I'm used to the Easy Button on Coinbase, where I enter a very familiar USD amount and buy how ever much coin I can get for the fiat amount I know I'm spending (less fees, of course). So, these fractional amounts in decimal form on the Bitsane buttons were Greek to me. So I just copied the amount from the LTC side into the middle box for XRP -- something like 0.1455 -- and I hit the blue LTC "Buy" button. Lo and behold, it went through!

I immediately checked my wallets. I now had some LTC and someXRP, so I was a semi-happy camper, but with no idea how much of either coin I owned. I closed Bitsane and used a coin converter, but was still unsure. So I went back to Bitsane, deciding to spend the rest of my Litecoin. I followed the same process, but this time, it failed. The middle box said "Minimal Amount 5." I'm looking at the LTC box, and I don't have "5." I don't even have a whole number, just a fraction of coin, a 0.009-something. And oddly, the XRP yellow button shows a similar figure. I have no idea what I have or what to do.

So, I tried random figures in the middle (currency/XRP) field. I put "1" and both buttons showed a change of figures. But underneath them, both sides showed the same figure, something like 13 or 19, and I don't recall of the decimal was before or after. (I'm now guessing that figure tells me it's a one-to-one unit exchange--but I don't know if that's what it means).

So then I tried "5," and the corresponding amounts on the buttons still looked miniscule. So I tried a whopping 4500, and hit "Buy," and it quickly said, "You don't have enough--want to make a depisit?" (paraphrasing).

So now I thought I had some idea, that I could probably buy maybe 10-20 Ripple for the amount of Litecoin I was willing to spend on an experiment. I went back to the wallets, memorized the decimal amounts, went to the converter, figured out the Litecoin I had left in that one wallet, and went back to the exchange. I entered a whole-dollar amount (between 10-20) in the XRP currency field, and hit the blue "Buy" button, and it worked. I now had approximately the desired amounts in both wallets. I didn't try to calculate my remaining Lifeline to the penny, knowing it'll come and go with the market, anyway.

Now, it's my bad that I probably spent $10-$20 (or who knows how much) in fees to exchange less than $50 of Litecoin for some Ripple, and some will call it a fool's errand to trade "good" Litecoin for "bad"(or iffy) Ripple, but I'm proud to be the first of my personal acquaintances to own Bitcoin and Ethereum and Litecoin and Ripple (albeit in laughably small amounts, at current rates); and to have purchased them on two different exchanges, one of which is most definitely not for us newbies!

And all this, I did at a small profit, considering the amounts of my initial fiat deposits and withdrawals. Yes, any expert could have done twice as much with less than half the fees...

But I'm no expert.

First published on Little Scraps of Paper, my catchall blog for reminders. Moved here, as best fitting the stone age to technology age theme...