Bitcoin Mining - can you buy or mine Bitcoins in Australia

Running software which verifies transactions on the bitcoin network, is euphemistically known as "mining."  The process of validation is called mining, for there's a chance that while verifying transactions, your software may "mine" a new bitcoin "block" - and be rewarded for doing so.  This is how new bitcoins are created - via the process of transactional verification.  Rather ingenius.

Unlike fiat currency, which is normally created out of debt, Bitcoin (and other alternate crypto-currencies) are created threw this process known as "mining" - which is effectively the process of securing and validating the transactions on the network.  A "proof-of-work" system developed by Bitcoin's creator, the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, "mining" occurs on the transactional record of Bitcoin, called the blockchain.  Each new block in the chain, is generated or "mined" on average, every 10 minutes - with the network self-adjusting an arbitrary "difficulty" value in order to keep that average at around 10 minutes per new block. As new hardware is added (and removed), the difficulty will adjust every 2016 blocks to accommodate the change in network computing power - always striving to keep new block generation to every 10 minutes.

When Bitcoin was first launched in late 2009, mining was done solely on computer CPUs, usually by themselves, or "solo-mining".   After a while, some clever folks figured out a way to combine their solo mining and they grouped together into "mining pools" - where they would distribute the rewards amongst themselves.  Software also evolved, and enterprising software engineers developed a way to distribute the hashing algorithm (sha256) which drives Bitcoin, onto high-end graphics cards.  With their multitude of parallel processing cores (heretofore used for rendering fancy 3D graphics and the like) used to calculate hashes for the network - effectively repurposing expensive, dedicated graphics cards, into nothing more than massively parallel number crunchers - not even rendering a single frame of graphics, yet being pushed to (and often times beyond) their limits.  Not only was hardware adopted and co-opted into roles other than what it was originally designed for - but the software and supporting platforms evolved as well - with other peer-to-peer models rising up to challenge some of the larger pooled systems of co-operating miners.

Mining Software History

Originally, the bitcoin client was used to mine coins via the host's CPU, enabled by a simple parameter passed to the program at startup (gen=1, or generate coins = true).  As time went on, and as the software and hardware evolved, other miner-specific programs and even operating systems were created.  Early on, the python-powered Phoenix kernel was very popular (and remains so, to this day) as was phatk, followed by phatk2.  DiabloD3 miner was released for OSX-specific mining.  Eventually, multi-gpu, FPGA, and now ASIC hardware has been released and developed for, and it seems the state of the art miner software is now ckoliva's cgminer.  Those in the Butterfly Labs camp like to point to BFGminer, which seems to be a fork of cgminer.  Lastly, there is Reaper.exe, which afaik is only for windows.  Several versions of miner monitoring software packages have also been released.  Github, github, github!!

Dedicated operating systems, such as Linuxcoin and BAMT, were released by enthusiastic early adopters.  As the platforms and technologies matured, windows and java/web-based applications were developed, lowering the bar for entry.  In 2013 enterprising hackers released video game software with mining trojan code included, and were able to mine a decent amount of coin before being noticed.

Mining Hardware

CPU - > GPU -> FPGA -> ASIC -> ?

The open-source community remains the driving force behind bitcoin, mining, and associated software and hardware platforms.  Even so much, as having entirely open-sourced designed ASIC hardware, controllers and software, which,  as of summer 2013, are currently under development.  As we enter the summer of ASICs, with tens of thousands of Avalon ASIC chips being sold for the DIY-crowd, as well as for startups who are using the chips to create hardware, we are bound to see a blossoming of innovation with these brand-new technology.

Bitcoin Basics in Australia

Bitcoin 101 - what is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is an open-source, de-centralized, peer-to-peer digital commodity.  Woah, Quite a jargon-y mouthful indeed! Let's decontruct that.

Open-source: this simply means that the underlying control structures (in this case the computer code) which makes up the system/program in question, is "open" and freely available for anyone to access, inspect, modify, fix, change (break), etc.  Flying in the face of western competitive capitalism and corporate greed, open source software can sometimes be a difficult concept for some to understand and fully appreciate.  Consider it the future way of creating software (or of doing anything, really), as it's a co-operative model, instead of a competitive one.  As we're coming to learn and accept, the model of co-operation is a far more efficient and effective one.  The era of compete & deceive seems to be (thankfully!) coming to an end.

De-centralized: the state of having no central authority.  Akin to mushroom mycellium, the Internet, fractals, holograms, universes, etc., this is a model of the all-is-one theme of this universe.  Instead of a top-down, pyramidal system of domination & control (think many religions, governments, military, many societies, etc.), a de-centralized system is just that - all lateral, with no real hierarchy.  This model is also proving to be far more efficient at distribution, equity, resource management, sustainability, and on and on.  If you think that having the Federal Reserve (a private corporate entity which controls the US monetary system) seems like a bad idea - then Bitcoin's de-centralized nature is right up your alley.

Peer to Peer: the flip-side of the de-centralized model.  As there is no real top-down control system, there are simply "nodes" on the network, just like the Internet.  Everything connects to everything else.  All is one.  Aum!

Digital commodity:  Bitcoin is one of the few commodities on the planet which supply happens at a known, predictable rate, and cannot be modified (well, itechnically it could be modified, if the community agreed to the modification).  It was designed to be essentially counterfeit-proof, and extremely fungible or divisible (each Bitcoin is comprised of 100-million individual "Satoshis", ie, there are 8 decimal places to a Bitcoin).

 

What is required to control/access Bitcoin?  Bitcoin is stored in wallet addresses which are protected by private keys. An example of a wallet address is: 1BKPi3B88vAA5FDCBhxq6vFXMzK5S9jmKw.  Each wallet address has an associated "Private Key" which is used to grant access to the coins at the associated wallet address.  The private key is a much longer set of characters and is all that is needed to access Bitcoin stored at the associated wallet address.

How does one acquire Bitcoin?  There are really only 2 ways, either threw barter, or threw Bitcoin "mining".  Barter would include all the various currency, commodity, service and fiat exchange services, and "mining" is the process of running a piece of software which validates the transactions of the network, and receiving a reward for doing so.  This website has a lot of information on how to buy bitcoin via exchanges: bitcoins.com.au.  #bitcoin-otc is the web-of-trust driven site, where the geeks who jockey the network do their trading via Internet Relay Chat/IRC (where, if one can gain the community's trust, is a far more effective place & way to trade bitcoin.)

How does one spend Bitcoin?  Once you have accessed Bitcoin stored at a wallet address, to spend it is as simple as entering in the address you wish to send it to, and pressing your wallet's Send key, and confirming the transaction.  There is no going back, or chargebacks - it's on you to verify the address is correct and you truly wish to send funds there.   Instantly, the request for funds to be moved is transmitted to the network and the Bitcoin are then spendable by the recipient after being confirmed (which takes on average about an hour).  As the state of the art in wallets is about to drastically change (given the Trezor and other hardware wallets on the way) this procedure of spending, and even storing, is about to radically alter.  Many nay-sayers have rightly said that Bitcoin will never reach critical mass until it has a user-friendly application & way to accept and spend it, well those days are rapidly approaching.  The Trezor is due to ship in the fall of 2013.