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For instance, the SHA-256 of this word BUTTERFLY (source) is 8c62ace4f9ef8ccd08ca6fb992a8524bb7dbdc0530654bd254c9da07a660949a (HASH). This seemingly random string of letters and numbers contains three important properties:
Bitcoin mining involves three variables: the cube, the mining issue and a random number. Heres how it all comes together:
Imagine our cube consists of the word BUTTERFLY discussed previously. In fact, the cube could contain a listing of recent, unverified transactions, but lets keep it simple. In order for the block to be solved, bitcoin uses a simple test: If the HASH result of the block starts with a certain number of zeros, the cube is considered confirmed.
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For instance, lets say that we have a mining problem of simply two, ie, our HASH must begin with two zeros. .
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The difficulty: BUTTERFLY will always return the same HASH, and it doesnt start with two zeros. So what we need is the next factor, a random number (known as a NONCE). We carry this number, combine it with BUTTERFLY, and HASH again. If it doesnt begin with two zeros, we change the number and try again, and since changing one little number changes the entire HASH result, there is no way to predict the number well need to solve this! .
We repeat this process over and over until we find a number that, when combined with BUTTERFLY, gives us a HASH that starts with two zeros. That number is the solution to the block. Here are some tries:
This arduous procedure of randomly trying to find a number that supplies the solution is what makes bitcoin mining such a computationally expensive process, and as more miners join the network, the harder it gets. At November 2017, a normal home computer working alone, ie, not an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and not part of a cloud mining network, would take 2.7 million years into mine one block. .
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CPU mining. In the early days of bitcoin, mining issue was reduced and not a lot of miners were competing for blocks and rewards. This made it worthwhile to utilize your computers own central processing unit (CPU) to mine bitcoin. However, that strategy was soon replaced by GPU mining.
FPGA mining. Next came mining using field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These significantly outperformed GPUs and CPUs in the mining procedure as FPGAs are chips which can be programmed to perform specific instructions and only those instructions (instead of being repurposed for mining, like GPUs were).
ASIC mining. Comparable to FPGAs, application-specific integrated circuits are chips designed for a specific purpose, in our case mining bitcoin, and nothing else. ASICs for bitcoin were introduced in 2013 and, as of November 2017, they are the best processors available for mining bitcoin and they outperform FPGAs in power consumption. .
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Mining pools. To offset the difficulty of mining a block, miners started organising in cloud or pools mining networks. Whenever a miner in one of those pools solves a block, the payoff is shared with everyone in the pool in a ratio representative of how much work you put into the pool (even though you personally never solved the puzzle). .
Cloud mining. Clouds provide potential miners the ability to buy mining rigs in a remote data centre location. There are many obvious advantages, the most obvious being: no energy costs, no excess heat and nothing to market when you opt to hang up your virtual pickaxe.
Once miners get bitcoin, they are given a digital key to the bitcoin addresses. You can use this digital key to access and confirm or approve transactions.
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Desktop pockets. Software such as Bitcoin Core lets you send and save bitcoin addresses and also connects to the network to track transactions.
Online wallets. Bitcoin keys are stored online by exchange programs like Coinbase or Circle and can be retrieved from anywhere.
Mobile wallets. Programs like Blockchain store and encrypt your bitcoin keys so you can make payments using your mobile device.
Paper wallets. Some websites offer paper wallet services, generating a piece of paper using just two QR codes on it. One code is the public address where you get bitcoin and the other one is the private address you can use for spending.