A hacker group has recently claimed that it has stolen Mitt Romney’s tax returns. The files were allegedly obtained from the Tennessee office of the big accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCooper, on August 25. The hackers have threatened to make the files public on September 28 — unless they are paid $1million in Bitcoins, the online currency. Bitcoins are difficult to trace or identify.
Bitcoin is a decentralised digital currency. It is money that can be transferred directly from one person to another on the Net, without going through a bank or clearing house. It is the cheapest way to move money around because you just have to pay a voluntary fee. You can use them in every country, there are no prerequisites or set limits and your account can never be frozen. Anybody can generate Bitcoins on the Internet by running a free application called the Bitcoin Miner.
Mining requires a certain amount of “work” for each block of coins. The amount that is mined is automatically adjusted by the network so that only a limited and predictable number of coins is generated. They are then stored in your digital wallet.
When you transfer Bitcoins, an electronic signature is added. Bitcoin verifies transactions with a state of the art encryption that is used in military and government applications. After it is verified it is permanently and anonymously stored in the network.
Bitcoin is open source. Unlike a normal bank, the Bitcoin database is a decentralised database. No individual owns it. It is maintained by a community of open source developers. If the Bitcoin idea takes root, it will revolutionise business on the Net and beyond it just the way Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak changed computing with their personal computers, or the web changed publishing.
Bitcoins have a checkered past. Where the Euro failed, it is really conditioning people to a single world economy as well as currency. There is still a lot of work to be done on it and many questions are unanswered. For example who determines the mining work that is required to make them? How secure is it? Wouldn’t it be easy to hack and manipulate accounts if you are careless?
Even with all these questions, it has a devoted following among libertarians and techies. Above all, trading in Bitcoins is becoming popular even in India.
Bit Torrent Beta App for Android: If you have an Android device, Bit Torrent Beta is a very good app for downloading content from torrent trackers. You just need to have WiFi. First you have to instal the app from the Google Play Store. Then you can choose to go to any torrent tracker site you want and click download. It opens like any app and is especially helpful for people who have little technical experience. It is only the beta version but it works fine. It also includes RSS feed so you can add the addresses of your favourite sites.
Torrents have been around for some time. However, this lightning fast file sharing protocol hasn’t completely taken off, except among techies. Torrent is a simple file sharing technology that helps you download movies, music software, ebooks and other stuff that comes in large files — such as educational videos — for free. The Bittorrent software handles the uploading and creation of the torrent files. It is maintained by the company, BitTorrent.Inc.
BitTorrent technology has brought about a revolution in conventional distribution economics. The more popular a large video, audio or software file, the faster and cheaper it can be transferred with BitTorrent. It is sharing, remember, so it is being downloaded from other people’s computers automatically through a software called uTorrent.
Bit Torrent is not a program, the programs that you use to download files via the BitTorrent protocol are called BitTorrent Clients, e.g. uTorrent which is highly recommended for Windows as well as Mac or you could use Vuze or KTorrent for Linux. Vuze is cross platform and will work equally well on Windows and Mac.
But be warned. BitTorrent does not claim to protect your IP address. Anyone can see it. Moreover take care that you don’t infringe on copyright laws of the land. Also you should be careful that you don’t download viruses. But with a bit of caution, BitTorrent is a good bet.
Send in your computer-related problems to email@example.com with bits&bytes as the subject line