1) A very large number! And other wallet matters
2) How to create a blockchain.info wallet (the easiest way to get a wallet)
3) A new service that allows you to buy Bitcoin ("BTC") with a credit card
Recently I was engaged with a BTC service which involved getting a new wallet. I messed something up and then lost that wallet! I then wondered if there was any cost (to me, or to the BTC Ecosystem) in losing or discarding wallets.
An example of discarding wallets would be someone very concerned about privacy who would use a wallet once (for one transaction), and then never using that wallet again (giving the owner more privacy, sort-of like the "One-Time Pad" in encryption in days gone by).
For this discussion, I will use a genuine BTC wallet that does not belong to me:
The wallet belongs to the mixing service bitmixer.io. Note that all BTC wallets start with a "1" followed by 33 other alphanumerics. In this case, the eight letters following the "1" are part of a "vanity wallet" (similar to vanity license plates on cars), more further below. What I am interested in looking at here is the NUMBER of possible wallets based on the fixed-length of a Bitcoin wallet ID. Normally BTC wallets have a random string of alphanumerics, which is probably best (there have been some problems with those who have vanity wallet IDs...). I have now looked at quite a few wallet IDs, and pass along the below remarks for setting up some arithmetic:
a) 26 capital letters + 26 capital letters + 10 digits = a theoretical 62 alphanumerics
b) But, I have seen, No capital I's ("I"), NO capital O's ("O") and no small l's ("l")
c) I have seen NO zeros ("0")
d) This would yield some 58 alphanumerics, I may have missed something, so say 55
Note that these 55 characters can be used in any of the positions 2 - 34 in a wallet ID. So, we are looking for a number that would be approximately 55 to the 33rd power ("55^33"):
-- 55^2 (55 squared) = 3025 (first two characters after the "1")
-- 3025^2 (55^4 = 55 "to the fourth power") = 9,150,625 <- from here I will simplify by rounding
-- 55^8 ((55^4)*(55^4)) = approx. 81,000,000,000,000 (81 trillion)
-- 55^16 (81 trillion * 81 trillion) = approx. 6,561,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (this would be 6.561 octillion, or (6.561 * (10^27)), a large number.
-- 55^32 ((55^16)*55^16)) = approx 43 sexdeciilion (aka sedecillion) or about 43 * (10^51)
-- 55^33 = approx. 2.365 septendecillion (2.365 * (10^51)) <-- (10 followed by 51 zeros)
Reference on large numbers here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_large_numbers
2.365 septendecillion is the largest number I have ever calculated on my own. Keep in mind that I rounded DOWN and only used 55 alphanumerics (instead of some 58 or so). So my number is almost surely too low! But, even if I am off by a factor of 1000, that is still an extremely large number!
That would work out to about 300 duodecillion wallets for every man, woman and child on Planet Earth, so no worries if you lose a wallet ID (as long as there was no BTC in there)!
[Ed. Trivia Note, when I was some eight years old, our family dictionary listed numbers up to vigintillion or 10^63]
I briefly mentioned "vanity wallets" (vanity address) above. There are services that will allow you to "make" (discover might be a better term) wallets with some of the first characters you would want. Here's an article discussing this:
https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Vanitygen <-- this shows some coding for programmers...
Here is one way to do it yourself (looks hard):
There may be services that will do vanity addresses for you. But, be careful! Maybe just sticking to the random wallets is safer, and hides your own personal identity and safety a little better...:
In my Part Five (here: http://robertmixblog.blogspot.com/2013/12/fun-with-bitcoin-for-beginners-part-five.html) I explained how to get a wallet from MultiBit, a free program you can download that allows you to make wallets, receive and send Bitcoin, study transactions, change passwords, etc. MultiBit requires downloading though, and some people don't like downloading programs that they are not familiar with, especially if your computer then asks you to download Java (by Oracle), which one of my computers did.
So, here is another way to get a BTC wallet that is easier yet apparently secure. It is also free, and is done using blockchain.info, the respected Bitcoin service. Some time ago, my source "Bitcoin Insider" ("B.I.") told me the following (words may not be exact):
There is a low but non-zero probability that your coins could be stolen.
The way I interpreted THAT was "engineer-speak" for "low risk". I am comfortable with the wallet (and its "spawn" as each time you use their sharedcoin.com mixing service it throws off a brand new wallet for you). So, the below is a step-by-step procedure for having a wallet at blockchain.info. Note that blockchain.info does NOT have your password! You lose or forget your password, you LOSE any BTC in your wallet!
1) Go to blockchain.info, you will get a page that looks like the below (*click* on any image for a better view), note the red oval I drew around the (faint) gray word "Wallet" near the top center:
2) Click on "Wallet", and this page appears, next click on "Start a New Wallet" (inside my red oval):
3) You will then get something very similar to this. Fill out the fields with the green arrows (the email (first) is optional, but I did it, and then blockchain.info gives you a code that you can use instead of your wallet ID, see further down). The fourth arrow is a "Captcha" (all you old-timers from ZH have seen this!) the Captcha is used to keep "robots" from misusing blockchain.info. Note the red arrow! Do not lose your password!
Upon finishing these steps and clicking the "Continue" (bottom green), you will arrive here:
Keep the above word string! It will allow you to recover (somehow...) a lost password. Then "Continue" and you arrive here:
Enter your Identifier, if you have done all of this on one computer it will likely already be entered for you (it is an alias, blockchain.info sends it to your email and then you enter your password).
And then you will arrive here (edited for privacy). You will have a QR-Code as well as your new wallet ID right there!
You are now ready to go and buy or send BTC! Of course, to send them, you need to BUY some first...
If you are lucky and know someone who will sell you BTC for cash, then you are good to go. You can also try localbitcoins.com to try and find someone who will sell you BTC. I have had "reasonably good" results with localbitcoins, but, alas, there just are not that many in my town who are out there with BTC for sale for cash.
But, there is a wonderful brand-new service that allows you to buy BTC by credit card (or debit card). They charge a 5% fee "over spot" (my favorite (free) BTC price service is ounce.me). Of course buying by BTC by credit card DOES leave a "digital trail", so those very concerned with privacy perhaps may not want to do this... They now operate in eight states, go to their website to see if you are in the lucky eight:
They require some hoops to jump through. These include credit card info, a scanned ID (Driver's License) and probably some other things (same mail address as billing address, etc.). But, the process is not onerous. Here is their Home Page:
You have to sign up via a Google, Facebook or LinkedIn account. Once you are "in the system" you are good to go. Here is what I did just the other day:
Once you you are in their system and you successfully complete a transaction, you will see a satisfying screen of "BTC pouring into your wallet", and when that is done, this will be your receipt:
Congratulations! You will then be an owner of (more) BTC!