My no-longer-secret Bitcoin shame

Bitcoin has infested tech news lately–the cryptocurrency’s unlikely rise in value, its subsequent and unsurprising fall in value, what complete tools Bitcoin zealots can be in front of a reporter, and so on and on. I’ve watched all of this as an unwitting spectator.

Yes, I’m one of those doofuses who forgot a password to a Bitcoin wallet. At least I have a half-decent excuse: CES.

I didn’t go to the gadget show in 2014 planning on investing in Bitcoin, but one of the first events I attended featured a diverse contingent of BTC startups, one of which had a dollars-to-Bitcoin ATM. How could I not gamble a few bucks to earn an anecdote to throw into a Bitcoin explainer?

I put a $5 bill into this thing and followed an exhibitor’s advice to install the Mycelium wallet app on my phone, scan a QR code off the ATM’s screen, and set a 15-character passcode to protect my stash of .00513 BTC.

Guess what I forgot to do as I headed to my next CES appointment?

I then mostly ignored the app, except for the occasional check to see how my investment had decayed. That habit faded, and when I tried resetting my phone the next fall to fix some touchscreen bugginess, I didn’t even think about the risk of losing access to my tiny Bitcoin hoard.

By which I mean, I didn’t even think to open Mycelium until several months after that unsuccessful phone-troubleshooting exercise. Then I realized that I could no longer remember the 15 characters I’d typed on my phone’s screen two years earlier, without which I could not restore the backup I had made right after my ATM transaction.

That’s where things have remained, even as Bitcoin’s value has soared and then plummeted. It’s annoying, but at least I have two things going for me: The app won’t lock me out as I keep guessing the passcode incorrectly, and at the current exchange rate I’m only out $57 or so. I’ve done much worse gambling in Vegas.

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Weekly output: a bum Bitcoin deal, CES recap, Facebook and trusted news

The week after CES is always among my less productive ones–but this year, I can’t blame that on coming down with a CES-transmitted cold. Fortunately, I have the Dealmaker-in-Chief’s accomplishments of the past few days to put my own in a more positive context.

1/15/2018: Kodak bitcoin miner: What this dubious scheme says about technology’s misdirection, USA Today

My last post about CES unpacked a dubious Bitcoin-mining proposition on display in Kodak’s booth.

1/16/2018: Techdirt Podcast Episode 150: The CES 2018 Post-Mortem, Techdirt

I spent an hour or so talking with Techdirt’s Mike Masnick about what we saw at CES and what that suggests about the state of technology. Once again, I was struck by how more than two decades of practice at CES did not stop me from missing some interesting things at the show.

1/20/2018: Facebook and trusted news sources, Al-Jazeera

The news channel had me on to talk–as usual, overdubbed live into Arabic–about Facebook’s announcement that it will survey its users to see which news sites they trust, then prioritize those sources in the News Feed accordingly. I expressed my doubts about that idea, noting that a survey done last summer by the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute found that ranked Buzzfeed less trustworthy than Brietbart News–and that the conspiracy-theory outlet Infowars outranked both.

Weekly output: Apple Park, forced-redirect ads, net neutrality, tech trends, Tech Night Owl, media-player tips

I would add up how many weeks this year have involved me writing about net-neutrality issues, but that would be too depressing.

12/11/2017: Why doesn’t Apple make its devices as carefully as it’s making Apple Park?, The Washington Post

After seeing Jony Ive’s talk at the Hirshhorn Museum last month, I tweeted out a line from him about how people should shut up about Apple Park’s perfectionist design–which then irked a great many people. I decided there was a story in this and, after striking out at two other places, found a home for it at the Post. Once again, I enjoyed confusing people who hadn’t seen my byline there in years.

12/11/2017: How to stop rogue ads that can set you up for malware, Yahoo Finance

When my mom asked how to dispel an obnoxious “forced-redirect” ads–the kind that take you off whatever you’re reading and then break your browser’s back button–I figured the problem was widespread enough to be story fodder.

12/14/2017: Here’s what you can expect now that the FCC has killed net neutrality, Yahoo Finance

The anger I’m seeing about this–not to mention the 3,767 comments this has drawn so far–suggest that FCC chair Ajit Pai’s PR strategy of laughing off fears is not calming anybody down.

12/16/2016: What’s Up With Tech?, PATACS

In my first talk to this user group since 2010, I talked about why I’m not sold on a handful of much-hyped technologies–4K TV, smart speakers, drones, virtual reality and Bitcoin. I brought a bag full of random trade-show swag to give away, and now I have that much more room in my home office’s closet.

12/16/2017: December 16, 2017 — Rob Pegoraro and Jeff Gamet, Tech Night Owl Live

I talked to host Gene Steinberg about the demise of the service once known as AOL Instant Messenger, net-neutrality politics, and my decision to replace my MacBook Air with a Windows laptop.

12/17/2017: Cord-cutting tips for setting up your new Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV, USA Today

The advice about using an Ethernet connection instead of WiFi should be obvious, but I’ll bet a lot of people don’t think about using Plex’s apps to play music and videos stored on their PCs or using a media player’s remote-control app to avoid having to type passwords by clicking at letters on the TV’s screen with the player’s regular remote.