Into the Next Network

Author's note: This article is part of an ongoing blog about my adventures in the world of alternate currencies.

I know enough about computer programming and how to modify executable files to be dangerous, and this became evident in my second most recent alt coin acquisition. I was given a recommendation to hold some Nextcoin (NXT) by someone I consider knowledgeable about these things, so I did my best to follow the directions I found on the Nextcoin Forum to install the NXT wallet client, then headed over to the Bitcoin Next exchange and bought a Bitcoin's worth of NXT.

I bought NXT on three separate occasions. At first I bought small amounts using my mining earnings from CEX. Then I decided to take the plunge and buy an entire Bitcoin's worth. It was when I sent the NXT proceeds from my largest purchase back to my NXT wallet that I realized it wasn't working as expected. I never saw the transaction register. And when I tried to send NXT from one account to another that transaction never registered as a debit either.

I went on the Nextcoin Forum looking for help. I got some advice to modify this and modify that. Interestingly enough, one of the things I needed to do was make sure my computer's clock was exactly right, not a few minutes fast. Unfortunately the modifications caused things to work even worse, and then it got to the point where I couldn't even open up my wallet.

Meanwhile the value of NXT climbed and my little stash grew fivefold in value, to the point where my investment of one Bitcoin would come out to over five Bitcoins if I had been able to sell all my NXT off at the going rate. I didn't want to sell my NXT, but I also didn't like the fact that I wouldn't have been able to anyway.

I knew that I was beyond tweaking. I needed actual technical support–someone who could talk me through either fixing or completely overhauling my installation. So I went to the Forum and requested that help.

After making a few posts I got an offer from joefox on the Nextcoin Forum to use his little program to get into my computer and go through all the necessary steps. I messaged him and later this evening we connected by Skype. After chatting for a few minutes I decided he was trustworthy enough and he got into my computer and fixed everything. Actually, we worked together to remove all previous attempts to install NXT programs and then he installed it again from scratch.

My real problem all along had been that the Java program necessary to run the NXT program was not working properly, but it wasn't showing the actual errors either. Joefox told me that I need to run it from the command prompt window, rather than the usual double clicking on it. Otherwise if there was errors it wouldn't show them. He talked me through all those little quirks and other details.

Once Java was running the program properly, then I could log into my NXT client. Joefox directed me to this url: Logging in is a bit different from what I'd normally expect. Rather than a username/password combination, there is only a password. I created my account by clicking on the lock icon and then entering a passphrase. This either created or opened up an account number and from that time on, I could unlock the same account by entering the passphrase I chose. There is no way to change the passphrase for a particular account, so it is very important to choose a nice long random one with every special character in the book. I use PasswordsGenerator to create all my passwords and then store them in one of those password management programs. Every so often I will probably create a brand new strong password to open up a new account and then transfer all my NXT to the new account just to keep the honest people honest, or stay one step ahead of the hackers.

I opened up my NXT wallet for the first time in several weeks–it had really been that long since I'd been able to check my balance other than on the block chain. Everything was there as I would expect. The large purchase I had made and sent to my account which I'd never actually seen hit my account was all there, as were the deposits from the previous two smaller purchases I'd made. Not only that, the deposit of NXT from my original account was also there. This was the deposit I'd made which had never registered as either a withdrawal or deposit on either account. But one of my attempts had worked.

I could see that while unlocked my wallet was beginning to forge, the NXT equivalent of mining. In NXT, there isn't really any mining going on. Instead, that Java program allows my computer to host a part of the NXT network. While my wallet is unlocked, the amount inside determines my chances of opening up the next block. The blocks contain transaction fees but no new Nextcoin. There is a countdown timer that runs saying “you can generate the next block in xx hours xx minutes xx seconds.” The numbers on the timer change every minute as the network is constantly readjusting the estimate to reflect how many Nextcoins are actually on the network–that is, in unlocked wallets on computers where the Java program is running properly. When I'd first set up my wallet, the number on the forging timer only changed if I locked, then unlocked my wallet. Now that it's working properly, those numbers change every minute.

Joefox told me that how I shut down the Java program is important, as doing it improperly could corrupt the other files that are associated with it. He advised me to adjust the power settings on my computer so that my computer would never sleep. He said that as an IT guy it's actually harder on a computer to put it to sleep than just keep it running, though easier on the environment and electric bills. I am OK with keeping my computer running constantly as I would love to pick up some additional NXT by helping out the network. I really do like the proof of stake (as opposed to proof of work) reward system that NXT has. There will never be any reason to buy specialized hardware in order to forge NXT.

I am happy to be back on the Next Network, and only days ahead of its big launch on January 3. Now that all systems are go on my end I am really hoping that Nextcoin has a bright future ahead of it.

Devtome Writers

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