What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a new form of money.

Bitcoin
The Bitcoin Symbol

Money, as Adam Smith taught us, is a token for labour, or human effort.

As a form of money, Bitcoin is a new way to trade, and a new kind of currency, that is purely software based, or digital.

It is made with, stored and traded using software, and all of this software is free, open source and available for anyone to download, inspect and study.

In other words, there is no person or corporation that controls Bitcoin.  That is why it is described as “The world’s first decentralized currency”.

But then, how would such thing have any value?

That, indeed is the BIG question.

As a thing of value, Bitcoin must satisfy certain criteria:

  • It should be hard to obtain / produce
  • It should be limited in supply.

That Bitcoin satisfies these two criteria is the remarkable fact that makes it a viable form of money.

Another descriptive term for Bitcoin would help to understand why it is hard to make, and limited in supply. It is, what can be called, a ‘crypto currency’.

This means that it is generated by methods used in encryption. And it is generated by complicated calculations in ‘blocks’, each ‘block’ being related to the previous one, and each having increasing complexity, thus forming a chain of blocks.

Why this is so computationally hard is rather intricate, but is basically related to what is called as ‘hashing’.

A hash is a way to condense a set of data into a result that will always be the same if the process is repeated, but it cannot be reversed.

A simple example is the digit sum. So the digit sum of 347 is 3+4+7 -> 14 ->1+4 = 5, it will always be 5, but given a digit sum of 5 we cannot say what the original number was – it could be 23, or 2111. Thus hashes may be thought of as one-way summaries.

Bitcoins are produced with the idea that each new block should have a specific hash, which is arrived by shuffling the elements of the block until the desired hash is obtained. Further, the blocks in each block are connected to the one before it, and by extension to the one after it. The beauty of this is that, each subsequent block verifies the ones before it, and hence it would be increasingly tough to alter or counterfeit a block.

Some other key features of this process is that each subsequent block is computationally more demanding that the one before, yet is designed to have slightly lesser value, so that after a few million blocks, it would run out. The number of Bitcoins generated per block starts at 50 and is halved every 210,000 blocks (about four years). Thus the total number of new bit coins that can ever be produced is capped at 21 million.

Generating new Bitcoins in this manner is rather imaginatively called ‘mining’, and those who do it using powerful, larger data center farms are called ‘miners’.

Mining Bitcoins
Mining Bitcoins is hard and requires a lot of computing!

So what is the current value of 1 Bitcoin in USD? Surprisingly, it is already available on Google like the other currencies, just by entering “1 bitcoin in usd”. Right now it shows 623.06$.

Bitcoin can be bought and sold from currencies on various online exchanges. They can also be traded for goods, both for buying and selling. Transactions are online and instantaneous. They are stored in digital wallets.

In short, we now have a information currency for the new millennium that can be freely traded from person to person without a central agent, bank or government.

It is a powerful and revolutionary idea.

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Apps Featured on NDTV Gadgets Website

Two of the apps here – Indian Train Alarm and Indian Train Status have been featured in an NDTV Gadgets article on Apps and Sites that make train travel in India better!

Beyond IRCTC: Apps and Sites That Make Train Travel Better

Here is a link to the article:  http://gadgets.ndtv.com/apps/features/five-apps-and-sites-that-make-train-travel-in-india-better-555645

Links to these apps, for all major mobile platforms, are in the  Apps page

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ITS for Android Crosses 1 Million Downloads

IIndian Train Statusndian Train Status for Android has today crossed 1 million downloads.  So thanks everybody – thanks a million – not only for downloading, but also for sticking with the app as it evolved over time, going through several difficult periods of adaptation to the changing national train enquiry portal and, especially, for giving your valuable feedback and suggestions, many of which are now integral parts of the app, making it what it is today.

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Use Hangouts+SMS

HPSIt has been a while since SMS was enabled in the Hangouts app for Android.  In some devices like the Nexus 5, it now is the only SMS app that comes installed.  However, this remarkably versatile combination seems to be rather underused, with many users disabling the feature after seeing annoying double notifications, going back to the “Stock” messaging app.

In fact, they would be missing out on a lot of messaging power:

  1. Hangouts automatically detects which contacts are online and automagically switches to Chat from SMS and vice versa = potential savings on your SMS bills.
  2. You can log in to an multiple devices with the same Google ID - and your Hangout chats will be replicated across all of them, including Android, iPhone and even iPad.  This is something very few messenger apps provide (Whatsapp and WeChat – I’m looking at you!) , and is super convenient, especially since:
  3. A Hangouts desktop app is also available, with the Google Chrome browser

Consider this:

You start a chat on mobile and suppose you need to send a photo which is currently on your PC. You can just open chrome -> hangouts, and send it to the same chat thread, which will be instantaneously synced with the desktop app, and then come back to mobile to continue the rest of the chat!

And you can do this with any combination of devices, to which you have logged in with your Google ID.

But to achieve all this chat mojo, there are a couple of additional steps you need to do, in addition to enabling SMS in Hangouts:

  1. Disable the notifications in any previously installed SMS app. The option should be available in its settings menu.  This will prevent double notifications.
  2. Open the Google+ app in your Android device at least once, and allow when it asks permission to sync contacts to your device. Hangouts works with Google+, and once sync is enabled, it will get automatically updated with contact details from your Google+ account, which is perfect.

In addition,

  • To continue chats on desktop, open the Chrome web browser and install Hangouts from the Chrome web store.

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Indian Train Alarm for iPhone & iPad

Indian Train AlarmLocation based alarms for Indian Train Stations – now available for iPhone & iPad!

Download on the App Store

Just like the Android & WP8 versions, this app comes with a list of Indian Railway Stations, with their locations, to set the alarms. Over 2500 stations are currently listed, more stations are being continuously added, and you can also add stations on your own after downloading the app!

Be informed when your train is about to reach a station, using the location services on your iPhone or iPad! No internet connection is required for the alarms to work.

The alarms may be set with a triggering radius of 10km or 25km, and will be triggered within an error margin of 1/2 – 2km depending on the accuracy of the location fix.

The app uses low battery consuming location detection provided by the latest iOS core location technologies.

Download on the App Store

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Widgets in ITS 5.4 for Android

Widgets for Indian Train Status
Widgets for Indian Train Status

A preview screenshot of the widgets that will be available in the upcoming Indian Train Status 5.4 for android:

With these widgets added to the home screen, you will get one-touch, ultra-quick access to status and time tables.

Another feature that will be available is offline caching of time tables, so that you can check the time table offline, esp while traveling. And yes, this will work even from a time table widget!

Expected release date for ITS 5.4 is 11th February, 2014.

Get it on Google Play

 

 

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Indian Train Alarm for Windows Phone 8

Just released: Indian Train Alarm for Windows Phone 8!

Indian Train AlarmJust like the Android version, this app  comes with a list of Indian Railway Stations, with their locations, to set the alarms. Over 2400 stations are currently listed, more stations are being continuously added, and you can also add stations on your own after downloading the app!

Now be informed when your train is about to reach a station, using the location services on your Windows Phone! No internet connection is required for the alarms to work.

The alarms may be set with a triggering radius of 5km or 25km, and will be triggered within an error margin of generally within 1/2 – 1km, depending on the accuracy of the location fix.

And uniquely for Windows Phone: you can set a live tile to show the updated distance to the first alarm station! Indian Train Alarm

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Indian Train Alarm

Indian Train Alarm

Location based alarm for Indian Railway Stations!

This Brand New App from Sasyabook comes with a list of Indain Railway Stations with their locations to set the alarms. Around 2000 stations are currently listed, are more stations are being added.

Now, you can be informed when your train is about to reach a station, by the location services on your Android mobile! No internet connection is required for the alarms to work.

The alarms are set with a triggering radius of 5km.

The app uses a unique low battery consuming location alarm service provided by Anagog Ltd. (www.anagog.com)

Indian Train Alarm

Get it on Google Play

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