What Good Is Bitcoin?

If you’re like most of the country this holiday season you’ve probably been talking about Bitcoin over Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  However, what is Bitcoin and should you be investing?  These are two very different questions, depending on who you ask.

Bitcoin is a very complex algorithmic store of value and is designed to be used as a currency.  It is supposed to replace decentralized banks, leaving the power of commerce in the hands of the people.  It was invented back in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto and was an open source project.

At first it was possible to “mine” bitcoins with a powerful computer (or not so powerful, depending on your perspective).  However, as more and more bitcoins became found, the difficulty of mining a new bitcoin became harder and harder.  It is now almost not profitable to mine bitcoin vs the amount of energy it takes to actually run the mining computer itself.

Over 100,000 merchants and businesses accept Bitcoin as a way of payment.  However, due to the exponential rise in the value of 1 Bitcoin over the last year (2017), it has become less of a currency and more of a store of value.

It’s true that economists are quite divided on how to approach Bitcoin, and what to even say about it.  Is it a good investment or is it more like playing the lottery or going to a casino?  The only thing that remains true as the currency goes through surges and crashes is that nobody knows for sure.

People have become quite wealthy due to the meteoric rise of this digital currency.  And Bitcoin isn’t the only currency you can now purchase and/or mine.  There are hundreds of other “cryptocurrencies” that are being traded every second.  Litecoin and Ethereum are two of the most popular, and are available for purchase on Coinbase, one of the most popular trading platforms for US users.

The problem with Bitcoin is that since it’s decentralized, there are problems with theft (as in the Mt Gox disaster) as well as the fact that it’s not insured and not traceable if it’s stolen. This has led to the development of hardware wallets such as the Leger Nano S and other similar devices.  This ensures that your Bitcoin stash remains safe.

There have been a lot of reports of Bitcoin being stolen thanks to hackers.  So a few things to be sure to do are to keep your computer clear of spyware with something like Spyhunter, and ensure your coins are stored in a safe places such as a hardware wallet.  The consensus is that leaving your coins on an exchange is asking for trouble (this is due to the tragic downfall of Mt Gox).

So what do you think of this rise to prominence of Bitcoin?  Is it a bubble or is it here to stay?  Have your say in the comments below!

December 28, 2017 | Category: My Blog

Stop Ransomware Before It Starts

cryptowallOne of the worst things that can happen to your computer is the infection of ransomware.  Ransomware is a form of malware that can install itself and then encrypt your files, rendering them useless unless you “pay” the ransom.

The thing is, if you have adequate offline or offsite backups you will not suffer in the wake of a ransomware attack.  Simply remove the virus or format your system, replace the files, and be on your way.

However many people do not properly back up their data, thus allowing ransomware to take full advantage of them.  Some of the most prolific and infamous ransomware programs out there “FBI” ransomware, CryptoLocker, CrytpoWall, TeslaCrypt, and more.  Those are just a few as recent reports suggest that ransomware is quickly multiplying based on the success of CrytpoLocker.

BitDefender labs has put out a CryptoWall vaccine that prevents encryption attempts by ransomware that is built on the same architecture as CryptoWall and CryptoLocker.  I’d highly recommend installing this software (it’s free after all) just to save yourself the headache if a ransomware happens to sneak by your defenses.

Here are a few tips to protect yourself from the bad effects of ransomware in the first place:

  • Setup a good antivirus software.  Norton 360 is a good one.  Ensure that it runs constantly in the background.
  • Add a malware removal software tool to the mix such as Spyhunter
  • Avoid browsing internet bad neighborhoods such as adult and gambling sites
  • Always ensure that you back up your data to offsite or offline locations. That means disconnecting the hard drive that you back up to since malware can access files on hard drives that are always connected.
  • Install the free “vaccine” software that is available
  • Don’t download random attachments that you don’t recognize.
  • Keep up on security threats from security blogs such as We Hate Malware and Cisco.

Problems With Backblaze Downloading

After recently having a hard drive go down on me, I’ve been looking into what options are out there as far as online backups go.  We all know how hard it is to remember to back up our data.  Despite the consequences, we continue to procrastinate.  It used to be really hard to back up your data, but with the advent of cloud backups and faster internet speeds, you can have a continuous backup of your files as long as you’re connected to the internet.

backblaze1When my hard drive went down I was incredibly thankful that I had been running Backblaze.  It really saved my butt.  And for that I can definitely recommend it as a good solution.  However, I ran into trouble with Backblaze when I was trying to download large .zip files with my backed up data.  I would end up with “ghost” files – files that were there, but had no data.  This happened for a LOT of files (not just large files), and it was pretty annoying to have to individually download those files.  I couldn’t download large batches. Also, the downloads ran quite slowly, which was another strange thing.  Why throttle the download speeds?

I ended up only being able to download small amounts of files at a time with any sort of reliability.  It was a bummer because I had to download a lot of video files to finish a project on time and I was up until about 3 in the morning because it just took an incredibly long time to download anything.  And although you can have them send you the data on a hard drive, it’s not exactly free or quick.  So unfortunately I guess you get what you pay for with Backblaze.  I mean, at least it’s backed up.

I sometimes use MyPCBackup on my laptop, and I think it does a decent job of backing up my files.  However their software is kind of clunky and it often will tell my my subscription is expired when I know that it’s definitely not.

I am now about to try out CrashPlan.  I will have to see how reliable they are as far as downloading large batches of files.  I work with large amounts of videos and photos so I need something reliable.  I know that local backups are the best for large amounts of data, but you have to have offsite backup too in order to really be safe.

Anyone have any experience with CrashPlan?  You can comment below.

7 Cool Apps You Should Try

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Tired of your current apps? Check out some of these new ones. Almost all of them are free, and each one has its own special niche. Try them to see if one fits your lifestyle.

  1. Gallery Doctor

Is your phone cluttered with photos? Who has the time to weed out the ones that are too blurry, poorly lit, or too weird for you to share? Gallery Doctor, a free new app on iOS and Android, skims through your photo library and picks out all those duplicates and faulty photos that you really don’t want. It makes the bad batch available for you to browse, or you can choose to trust the app and scrap the whole batch. Check its handiwork the first few times to get a feel for what it keeps and doesn’t keep. Once you get in the groove with this app, it can save you hours and give you back a lot of data storage.

  1. The Occupant

It’s not for the faint of heart, but for Halloween fans and thriller junkies, this app hits the spot. It’s a free iOS game that invites you to roam the halls of a high-rise hotel, solving problems and finding items. The sheer terror of getting caught by the horrifying Occupant is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. This one’s not for the kids, folks!

  1. Parama Math 1

Many apps try to turn math into a game, and this one succeeds. Free for iOS users, it features various scenarios and problems to solve, along with quirky, colorful characters and objects. You just might see a boost in your math-challenged kid’s grades after this learning adventure.

  1. Tripr

Getting ready to take a vacation on your own? Download Tripr, free to Android and iOS devices. You can network with people you know or people you just met during your travels. Ask about the must-see sites, the best-kept secrets of small towns, or the most delightful eateries. You can also check in on events like plays, concerts, and other gatherings to see which of your acquaintances will be there. The app makes traveling less like a solo pilgrimage and more like a shared adventure.

  1. StyleBee

Too busy to find time for the salon or massage parlor? Book a professional to do your beauty services at home. Through StyleBee, you’ll find experts at makeup, massage, hair-styling, face-painting, and other beauty and health services. StyleBee serves the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas currently, but plans to expand during the coming year.

  1. Hotspot Shield Free VPN

If you’re anxious about security while your Windows phone is online, try Hotspot Shield Free VPN. It has unblocking features for accessing specific content, and it offers high-level encryption to keep your private information safe, even as you’re doing mobile browsing.

  1. Pocket Physics

Got a super-intelligent kid who asks you a bunch of scientific questions all day long? Or maybe you just want to brush up on your physics facts. Either way, Pocket Physics is perfect for dredging up those long-forgotten but necessary facts about force, motion, and energy. For those who want a full-scale course in physics, the app’s publisher, Gecko Solutions, promises that additional chapters are on their way.

October 20, 2015 | Category: My Blog