Fun with Bitcoin

Just for fun I have been getting reacquainted with bitcoin. Not the mining side of things. I know that it is not cost effective these days to try to mine at home. My experimentation is simply playing with buying small amounts on Coinbase when the price dips.

Next, I ordered the Shift Visa card and tied it to my Coinbase account. It just required linking it to a specific wallet within my Coinable account. I like that feature since I don’t have to keep a balance in that specific wallet until I am ready to use the card. That reduces the risk of the card being used fraudulently and impacting my balance. The card even comes with the current generation of chips as you would expect for a normal Visa card. The card showed up within several business days and activated with no fuss.

I found I could use the Shift card with my Square Cash app as a bank source. I have not tried receiving to the card via my Cash account because it won’t let you send yourself money. I expect it should work. The Shift Visa card was not recognized by Apple Pay.

Offline Wallet:

I have a kit that I got last year, and just started using as part of this exercise. You can see it at bitcoinpaperwallet.com. I like the design because it obscures the private key when folded and secured with the tamper resistant labels. You can order via paypal or by paying in bitcoin if you want to support the creator.

I researched hardware wallets. The Trezor is interesting to me. It has the aspects of an interactive hardware wallet while being offline regarding the private key. Some sites and wallets can interact with the device for approving transactions. They also just recently added Universal Two Factor, U2F support. The only issue is that the physical size is unwieldy for U2F compared to my Yubikey. I just keep my Yubikey 4 on my keys. I still might ask for a Trezor for Christmas just to have one to play with. For now I will just use a paper wallet in a safe deposit box.

There is another honorable mention. The OpenDime. You can read a great review of it over on CoinJournal. It sounds pretty cool but you need to have the use case of transferring a large amount of bitcoin for a purchase in person. It is a physical electronic wallet where the bearer does not know the private key until he/she breaks it open. So it is well suited for loading up a balance and handing it over to someone else as payment with integrity. This is the closest thing to a ShadowRun credstick that I have seen.

Secondary Wallet:

Coinbase does not support sweeping in a paperwallet/private key. They did a long time ago but removed the feature. So I went with Blockchain.info as my second wallet. They offer MANY security verification features to control the account. I turned them all on.

Another feature I like about the Blockchain.info wallet is that you can setup watch only addresses. That let me enter the public key of each of the paper wallets I made so I can track the active balance as I add to them. All without exposing their private keys.

I really wish Coinbase would add the following things:

  • Trezor support. This would make a great auto “vault” destination for a Coinbase account.
  • Google Authenticator support
  • Private key sweeps for paper wallets
  • Watch only addresses

I know a lot of the hard core crypto currency folks are not fond of places like Coinbase. They adhere to the normal financial laws most banks do. For someone like me that is perfectly ok.

Payment Use Cases:

One interesting use case is the Brave web browser. They recently added a method for charging a wallet specific to your web browser. They call it Brave Payments. That then gets paid out to the sites you frequent. Brave escrows the accumulated payments fro Brave users as they try to reach the site owners. According to the Brave documentation the payout threshold triggers at $10 USD in bitcoin. I did toss in $5 worth into Brave and will make the effort to hit my normal reading blog sites until it is spent.

Another use case is some vendors actually take direct bitcoin via their payment processors. Adafruit for maker electronics is one of my favorites. If you are into silver/gold bullion, JM Bullion takes bitcoin at the cash discount price.

Summary:

All in all it was a fun exercise. Still, keeping everything in Fiat currency and bank cards is the simplest for normal activities. It also avoids the possible loss of value due to the high volatility of bitcoin to USD. I will keep playing with small amounts of bitcoin but, as an average person it’s not for my day to day use. I don’t even see requests for payment in bitcoin at information security/hacking conference dealer rooms. They all just have Square credit card readers.

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