Erin and Jachin’s 2014 Christmas Playlist

Time for this year’s Christmas Playlist. If this isn’t enough Christmas Music, you can always go back to previous years (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010).

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Adventures With Bitcoins: International Money Transfer

When I tell people about bitcoin and I want to give an example of something bitcoins are good for today I usually use the example of international money transfers. Recently I successfully transferred some money to my sister (about $50), who is currently living in South Korea. It was not exactly the smoothest experience ever but I think it demonstrates a real opportunity.

Here’s how we did it.

About a month and half ago I asked my sister if she’d be willing to give this a try. Using CoinMap.org I found a bitcoin ATM in Seoul. It was kinda far away from where she lived but she said she goes to that part of the city every so often. We figured it was worth a shot.

My sister has an iPhone, so I showed her ¢oinpunk which is a web based online wallet that works on iPhones. As of the writing of this post Apple has not been allowing cryptocurrency wallets in their App Store but there’s hope that this will change soon. Coinpunk is really well designed and it even lets you use the phone’s camera to scan QR codes, which is a pretty key feature. I sent her about $50 worth of bitcoins.

Over the next month in a half she tried to use the ATM once on a Sunday, and the coffee shop where the ATM is, was closed. She tried again, and it was down for the day because the people who were running the ATM were updating the software. During this visit she asked around at the coffee shop and got the contact information for the group that was running the ATM. They had a phone number, she called and they were pretty helpful and explained what was going on. The ATM is operated by a company called Coin Plug.

Third time was the charm, she finally made it on a day when the coffee shop was open and she said the ATM worked really well. She was able to exchange the Bitcoins I sent her for South Korean Won.

Given the volatility of bitcoin holding on to them for a month was a risky move on our part. If we really did not want to be exposed to the risks of a big price change we could have arranged a time in advance where she would be at the ATM. I’d buy some BTC using credit card on CoinBase (or many other such services). I’d transfer her some Bitcoins, she’d order a coffee, a couple minutes later she’d have the Bitcoins and be able to sell them through the ATM for KRW before she was done with her drink. I’ll bet we could complete a transfer in 15 minutes or less.

I did a quick (back of the envelope) calculation on how much we were charged in fees. I don’t think it was very much (less then $4, maybe less then $2). If I had used a credit card to buy Bitcoins immediately that would have costed a bit more.

Obviously this would be a lot easier if there were many Bitcoins ATM’s everywhere. Or even better, if regular ATMs supported buying and selling Bitcoins. If that days comes this will be pretty easy for anyone.

Korean BTC ATM



Adventures With Bitcoins: It All Feels so Normal Now

It’s been over a year since I last write about my experiences with bit coins. I have not been able to explore the world of crypto currency as much as I would have liked but I have managed a few things.

Overall though, it’s been very interesting to see how Bitcoin is becoming more and more mainstream all the time. If you watch closely it seems super slow but if you take a step back, it’s pretty amazing how fast it’s been.

Hive

It’s been very interesting to watch the evolution of wallet software. My favorite right now is Hive. I run it on my Mac. When I want to pay for something with bitcoin I just click on a link, it opens Hive, with a confirmation screen. I click ‘ok’, put my password in and it’s done.

New Egg

NewEgg.com recently started accepting bitcoin. I needed to place a small electronics order and I figured I’d give their bitcoin payment method a try. The only hiccup was I initially had items in my cart that were supplied by one of their “partners” (or something like that) and the bitcoin option was not there. I changed out the items in my cart for similar ones that NewEgg supplied and it worked great.

Coin Base

Even though I’ve been spending bitcoins I have yet to replenish my supply. I’ve been meaning to do that and I figured I’d replace the the ones I spent at NewEgg. I’ve had a Coin Base account for a while but I never set it up to buy and sell bit coins. I went ahead and did that. It worked great. It reminded me a lot of setting up a paypal account, but they seemed to have smoothed the process out even more. I actually had a verified account in less then an hour (and only about 5 minutes of filling in information). That included 2-factor authentication, verifying my checking account and a credit card. I won’t get my bitcoins for about 3 businesses. It will be interesting to see if that works faster in the future or if that’s just the speed at which banks work. It takes about the same amount of time (maybe a little longer) to get money into my paypal account.

Over all I was impressed with how ‘pro’ everything from New Egg, to Hive to Coin Base feels. I see that Hive has a Coin Base app, it will be interesting to see what that does.

Speaking of which, if you are thinking about setting up a Coin Base account you should let me refer you.



The Zombie Translator Rises Again

The Zombie Translator (Zombietranslator.net) is back and better then ever. Not only does it “work” but there are now more example phrases not to mention vast improvements to the zombie linguistic engine.

My brother Derek is also involved as a writer.

There’s also a “social” element to the Zombie Translator. You can follow it on Twitter @ZTranslator, Tumblr and Google+. There you will find useful phrases to memorize. Some phrases are things you might like to communicate to a zombie and others are things zombies might be trying to tell you.

You are more then welcome to “like” the zombie translator on Facebook, but I’m not sure I’ll be posting much there.

What follows is mostly for my fellow software developers. If you do not care about such details you can stop reading.

I built the zombie translator on Google App Engine in python. It has been a pretty good experience so far. I’ve been playing around with Google App Engine for a few years now and they seem to be making it steadily better.

If it’s not obvious, the front end is all written in Bootstrap. I’ve learned a lot about bootstrap building this. It’s very handy. Getting the site looking half way decent and functional was much easier with Bootstrap then starting from the HTML5 Boilerplate (where I used to start) although it looks like they’ve added some more stuff recently. It’s also got the whole “responsive” thing too, which I pretty much got for free (you should try the site on your smart phones, it works pretty well).

I’m also hopefully that if I ever want to give it a face lift to make it look more like a zombie translator and less like a bootstrap site, that should be an ‘easy’ process.

For the “zombie linguistic engine” I actually am using the “natural language library” NLTK, which sounds like it should be a translation of the Bible, but it’s not, it’s a python library for determining meaning from “natural language”. It has a bunch of cool tools and hopefully in the future I can spend more time exploring it.

In the future I’m planning on using this as a ‘toy’ project. There are several javascript front-end libraries I’d like to learn, including Angular and React. I figure this is just the right size of an app to build after I’ve done the obligatory “TODO” app.

I’ve also spend a little bit of time trying to automate the process of posting the translations to the various social networks. I’d like to keep things going as long as I can. However I want to spend as little time on it as possible, so I’m trying to automate the process. So far the only social network I have automated to my liking is tumblr. They have a great API and a really nice post queuing system. I can see why they are so popular, if only I could get all my friends on Facebook to switch to tumblr.



2013’s Best Books

I think I’m going to start writing an annual blog post about my favorite books every year. Here’s this years run down. In case you are wondering I don’t actually have a memory capable of remembering all the books I’ve read this year and what I thought of them, but I’ve been logging my reading at GoodReads.com and that makes it easy.

Here they are in no particular order. I’m probably going to try to stick to one book per category.

Non-Fiction Politics: The Law by Frédéric Bastiat. One of the only real books I actually read this year (I “read” most books by listening to them). It’s short. It’s funny, and it’s full of thoughtful insights.

Non-Fiction Theology: Knowing God by J.I. Packer. A classic I had never read before. Lots of good stuff, I’m sure I’ll read it again.

Science Fiction: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. One of the best science fiction writers knocking another one out of the park, but it’s the 3rd in a series and you should read the other two books first.

There were lots of other good book I read this year, checkout my Good Reads profile if you want to see what I’ve been reading. If I have any regrets I wish I would have made time to finish a computer book or two and maybe read a bit more history. I also could have done with a little less science fiction, but it was a good year for me and books.