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Mining Cryptocurrency | What is it?


You've more than likely heard of mining cryptocurrency and have probably thought to yourself "How do you mine something you can't see?", well, in this article I will cover what it is and how you can do it.

Simply put, mining is how transactions on the blockchain of the given cryptocurrency are verified. People who use their computer hardware to mine (Miners) are paid in that currency for their work. The beauty of this is that transactions are dealt with on a peer-to-peer basis and no centralised authority is ever involved. Collectively, they act as a decentralised network which is almost immune to outside attacks. 

It's safe to say that the average user will not be mining Bitcoin, unless, in the unlikely situation they happen to be owners of a huge mining operation, featuring thousands of ASIC miners. This is because so many people are mining them and putting your small, $500 rig to work on a Bitcoin mining pool is not likely to bear any fruit, it's a huge lottery, where your little rig has the smallest chance, then cut that chance into further smaller pieces, of getting a share. 

Mining also adds new coins from the total supply into the circulating supply and once the total supply is put into circulation, this may cause miners to stop mining, but it may also cause people to continue, to claim the rewards attached to it. As an example, Bitcoin has a total supply of 21 million and the last coin is set to be mined in 2140 so the price, if cryptocurrency is still a "thing", could potentially be very, very substantial. 

At the start, when Bitcoin was first released into the wild, the block reward was set at 50 Bitcoin. So every miner would get a portion of that when the block was successfully mined, which occurs every 10 minutes. Every 4 years the block reward is halved. As of 2020, the block reward is currently set at 6.25 Bitcoin so, as you can imagine, it is a very competitive industry.

Depending on what you chose to mine, you may or may not make money. There are some projects out there that are just starting up, and they require people to aim their hardware towards it. 

Make sure you do your own research, though. Mining costs money, and things like electricity charges should be factored into it when are researching what you are mining. A lot of it is speculatory, and in some cases, you may or may not lose money.  


Connor

Statement: Nothing to disclose, Not a financial advisor

Ethercraft | Blockchain Gaming

Blockchain technology is a very new thing and it is quickly starting to take off. Companies are starting to use it as a payment method and people are hearing about it consistently on the news. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't heard of Bitcoin and how much it is worth. The problem, I have said all along, is that mass adoption is very hard to achieve. People do not want to hear the ins and outs of how blockchain technology works, as in some cases, it is very hard to understand and when people do not understand, they do not want to use it. To help with understanding, and to help nourish growth, more use cases of the technology have to be explored. One of these use cases is gaming

The gaming industry generates, on average, $100billion in sales every year from downloadable content, add-ons, and items. Purchasing skins and accessories for games is something everyone will be familiar with. Parents all around the world, even though they aren't directly involved in the games, will have heard the phrase "Can I buy a skin for Fortnite?" from one of their kids. The problem with this is that once you purchase an item, it is locked into your account. Just like the account you create, these skins are not your property. Arguably you can sell these products on, but this is usually against the terms of service. So that £20 addon you bought, but do not own, is sunk into a game and the money is in the hands of the game developer.

One game that I've been following for a while is Ethercraft, a role-playing game on the Ethereum blockchain, where, unlike traditional games, you own your character and all of the items on it. This is done through the use of an Ethereum wallet. Each address can be used to create one character and all transactions, be it purchases of an item or some other type of contract interaction, will be carried out and attributed to this address on the blockchain. The beauty of this is that the person who owns and has access to this address is the only one who owns the character and its derivatives. 

So, with all of the technical stuff out of the way, we can have a look at the game itself!

As mentioned, Ethercraft is a game hosted on the Ethereum blockchain. It has been in development for a few years now, and progress is starting to really pick up. Currently, the game can be tested on the Kovan test network which can be accessed using the in-browser Ethereum wallet, Metamask. Simply head over to their website, and connect your Metamask wallet by clicking on the "Open dApp (Kovan)" button. I've posted an article about Metamask before and how to use it if you are unsure how to install and carry out basic functions. 

In order to interact with the Ethercraft contract, you will need some KETH (Or Kovan Eth). This is free Ethereum that is only useable on the Kovan Test Network and allows developers and testers the ability to test the functionality of a dApp, without having to pay real money. Each transaction costs gas (the fee used to pay for transactions). so this is an invaluable tool for the aforementioned people. Free KETH can be claimed every day at the Kenj Faucet using your Metamask address as the recipient.  Make sure Metamask is running on the Kovan Test Network and not the Ethereum Main Network. 
With your newly acquired KETH, you are ready to jump into the game. 

You will need to connect Metamask to the Ethercraft website so that Metamask has permission to communicate back and forward with Ethercraft. Metamask will automatically pop up asking for you to do this. Once you click on the "Connect" button, you are good to go. Any websites that you connect to with Metamask will be done this way. You can manage any websites that have permissions by clicking on the three vertical buttons on the Metamask app and then clicking "Connected Sites".

Your first task will be to create a character of which you can choose either a default, which uses less gas to create or a random one that is geared more to specialist build, but with a higher gas price. 


After creating your character you will be loaded into the main game screen. The controls are simple and easy to learn. Clicking and dragging will allow you to move around the world map and using the mouse wheel will enable zooming in and out. 


As mentioned earlier, the game is still in development but some features, such as combat can be tested. This is a great way to see how blockchain gaming will function and how any items you collect are stored on your Ethereum wallet. You can jump into the combat by clicking on the blue portal by the eastern part of town. 


Once you click on the portal, a new window will open in the bottom left-hand corner. This will show the things that you might encounter in the dungeon, along with some cool information about it.

When you are ready to enter, click on the big blue portal image to open the stats allocation screen. You can change these to suit yourself, but make sure they add up to 100%. Click the blue portal image again to start your adventure. Metamask will open up and you will have to confirm the transaction. Once the transaction has been confirmed, the dungeon will load. 

Depending on the load of the Ethereum blockchain, this might take a while. 


As you traverse the dungeon you will likely encounter enemies. If you defeat these creatures, you will have the chance to receive some cool loot. Loot will also be randomly collected as you explore rooms, but this is random. Enemies aren't the only thing you need to watch out for, as traps are also littered around these areas. 


During my adventure, I was unfortunate enough to be slain by a Skeleton. If this happens to you, which is very likely, you will have to create a new character. 

When you die you will lose your items, but any experience you might have gained will be kept on your character. The experience you accumulate can be used to use the magic chest, which is stored in your house (It's located in South-East of the town, in between two other skinny houses). I was lucky enough to gain 123 experience points, so with it, I purchased the Meteor Hammer from the chest.


Naturally, after I purchased my new weapon I headed straight back into the dungeon to exact my revenge. Unfortunately, I was attacked by a stronger skeleton warrior and it killed me and I had to start over again! 

Ethercraft is a great example of how games might work on the Ethereum blockchain and is something I will continue to follow closely. 

Do you think that blockchain gaming is something you might venture into? Let me know over on the social media links below. I'd love to know your thoughts on the combination. 

Connor

Statement: Nothing to disclose

Metamask | An In-Browser Ethereum Wallet

Cryptocurrency wallets are often large and require a lot of downloading and synchronizing with the blockchain they interact with. With Metamask, you are treated to a fast, easy to use and convenient alternative to downloadable wallets. 

Getting Metamask is simple and setting it up doesn't take long at all. It is available for Chrome, Firefox, iOS, and Android at the Metamask website.   


Once you've downloaded it and added it to your browser, a new tab will open up. This is where you will set up your account by clicking on the "Create a Wallet" button. Once you've done that, you will need to create a password. 

This password will grant you access to the wallet on your current computer, as the wallet is specific to that computer. The next screen is the most important one and it is important that you read and understand it carefully. The "Secret Backup Phrase" grants you access to the default address created with the wallet and forgetting this means that any funds held on it will be inaccessible. I like to write this phrase down in a notebook,  and lock it away in a lockable set of drawers. 

The next page is a test as to whether you followed the instructions on the previous page. You will have to drag each word featured in your phrase, in order, into the input field box. Once completed, you should see the little fox icon beside your browser extensions area.  




Clicking on the Metamask button opens up the application. By default, it opens in a minimal view, but you can expand it by clicking on the three vertical dots and selecting "Expand view". 




With the application open, you will see a few buttons and your available balance. The default currency is Ethereum, but you can add custom tokens to your assets if you know the contract address. 

The most important part of this screen, after the balance, of course, is the number under your account name. In the picture, you will notice the alphanumerical address starting with "0x677A..", this is my public wallet address which is used for receiving Ethereum or any other token created on the Ethereum network. You can copy this address either by click left-clicking it, this will copy it to your clipboard or by clicking the three vertical dots and selecting "Account details".




Connecting your wallet to a Web3 site

One of the coolest things about Metamask is the ability to connect it to a website that allows direct interaction with your wallet. One of the more popular websites that allow you to do this, is Uniswap. Uniswap is, simply put, a decentralised swapping website for tokens. Funds are transferred from your wallet to the exchange and swapped with the token you desire. More info on the functionality of Uniswap can be found on the EthHub doc website.  

Getting back to the Web3 interaction, every website with this function will be connectable in the same way. A big button saying "Connect wallet" is the usual convention. I will use Uniswap as an example. Head over to Uniswaps swap website and click on the "Connect to a wallet" button. 




Once you've done that you will need to grant permission to Uniswap. It is important to only allow websites that you trust to connect to your wallet, as some websites may contain malicious code that can steal your assets! 



Now that Uniswap is connected to Metamask you will see that the LED light beside the "Connected" label is now a friendly green colour. Clicking on the green LED will allow you to change permissions, and disconnect, to any websites connected to Metamask.




The beauty of connecting to these websites is that you do not have to copy and paste your wallet address every time you want to make a transaction. So, not only does it make trading more efficient, but it also makes it less prone to error, such as pasting in the wrong address, which is every cryptocurrency users' nightmare. 

Metamask is a must-have for anyone who is looking to get into cryptocurrency and is in need of an Ethereum wallet, as its ease of use and the low learning curve is second to none. 

Connor

Statement: Nothing to disclose