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For instance, the SHA-256 of the word BUTTERFLY (source) is 8c62ace4f9ef8ccd08ca6fb992a8524bb7dbdc0530654bd254c9da07a660949a (HASH). This seemingly random string of letters and numbers contains three important properties:
Bitcoin mining involves three factors: the cube, the mining difficulty and a random number. Heres how it all comes together:
Imagine our cube consists of the term BUTTERFLY discussed previously. In fact, the cube would contain a list of recent, unverified transactions, but lets keep it simple. In order for the block to be solved, bitcoin utilizes a deceptively simple test: If the HASH consequence of the block begins with a certain number of zeros, the block is considered confirmed.
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For instance, lets say that we have a mining difficulty of simply two, ie, our HASH should begin with two zeros. .
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The problem: BUTTERFLY will return the exact same HASH, and it doesnt begin with two zeros. Thus what we need is the next variable, a random number (called 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 small number changes the entire HASH outcome, there's absolutely no way to predict the number well need to address this! .
We repeat this procedure 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 creates bitcoin mining such a computationally expensive procedure, and as more miners join the network, the harder it gets. As of November 2017, a regular home computer working alone, ie, not an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and not part of a cloud mining network, could take 2.7 million years to mine one block. .
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CPU mining. In the first days of bitcoin, mining issue was low and not a great deal of miners were competing for cubes and rewards. This made it worthwhile to use your computers own central processing unit (CPU) to mine bitcoin. However, that strategy was soon replaced by GPU mining.
FPGA mining. Next came mining with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These significantly outperformed GPUs and CPUs in the mining process as FPGAs are chips which can be programmed to execute certain instructions and only those instructions (instead of being repurposed for mining, such as GPUs were).
ASIC mining. Similar to FPGAs, application-specific integrated circuits are chips designed for a specific function, in our case mining bitcoin, and nothing else. ASICs for bitcoin were introduced in 2013 and, as of November 2017, they're the best processors out there for mining bitcoin and they outperform FPGAs in electricity consumption. .
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Mining pools. To cancel the problem of mining a block, miners started organising in pools or cloud mining networks. Whenever a miner in one of those pools simplifies a cube, the payoff is shared with everyone in the swimming pool in a ratio representative of how much work you put into the pool (even though you personally never solved the mystery ). .
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 electricity costs, no excess heat and nothing to market when you decide 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 validate or approve transactions.
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Desktop pockets. Software like Bitcoin Core allows you to send and save bitcoin addresses and also connects to the network to track transactions.
Online wallets. Bitcoin keys are saved online by exchange programs like Coinbase or Circle and can be accessed from anywhere.
Mobile wallets. Programs like Blockchain store and encrypt your own bitcoin keys so you can make payments using your mobile device.
Paper wallets. Some sites provide paper wallet solutions, generating a piece of paper with just two QR codes on it. One code is the public address where you get bitcoin and the other is your private address you can use for spending.