Bitcoin: Volatile Is Too Calm A Word

Bitcoin Russia

“Volatile is too calm a word to describe the vicissitudes of the bitcoin…” is one of the statements in an article in the South China Morning Post.  It’s an interesting look at Bitcoin from the perspective of the Chinese press.  The article tries to examine bitcoin from the enthusiast and the skeptics point of view simultaneously.  And it succeeds pretty well, stating that no one really knows if Bitcoin will succeed or fail, and even suggesting that the recent round of skyrocketing value could be a manipulation by the U.S. Government to make Bitcoin fail (the logic is: make Bitcoin unstable, and scare aware investors.), a suggested by Wolf Richter on the naked Capitalism blog.  Despite what might be a slight anti-U.S. dig, the rest of the article is pretty level-headed.

Much more level headed than the press in the United States.  Here we have people like Andrew Ross SorkinPeter Leeds, and Matthew O’Brien writing articles against Bitcoin, while the likes of Timothy B. Lee write counter articles.  And, the more surprising thing to me is that even the NASDAQ website is publishing articles about Bitcoin. (In all, NASDAQ has published around 50 articles that reference Bitcoin on their site – according to search results.)  It seems like there is always a sharp division in this country, and the press is more than happy to help forward that division as much as they can.

So, when we held panel hearings last week on the topic of Bitcoin in our government, it was no surprise that our lawmakers were basically split three ways on the subject: positive, negative and clueless.  But overall, the majority of the discussions went well.  Most of the statements were neutral to positive, with only a few making negative statements.  And, of course, the ones that were the most negative were groups concerned with security and criminal investigations.  Obviously, anything that poses a new challenge to them (especially something that they cannot demand to have some kind of control over) is disturbing because it would mean they would have to do their jobs instead of being able to rely on someone else supplying the information for them.

So, once the speculation of the hearings was over, we all thought the market was going to settle back down again.  And it did.  For a few days.  New events took shape, and seem to have spurred on the market again: Richard Branson announcing that he would accept Bitcoin for payment for space flights — and more that he has done so already.  And then there was a large volume purchase on Friday for approximately $150M in Bitcoin.  Articles like Bitcoin Hedge Fund Posts Staggering Return are only helping to reinforce the idea that Bitcoin is definitely an interesting market, and some place that it is worth playing around with some money if nothing else.  While other investors are looking at and investing in Bitcoin related start-ups in order to try to gain a foothold for when the currency does go mainstream.

Oh?  Did I just say when?  Yes I did.  While there are still lots of things to be worked out (legally especially) it looks like there is a better chance of Bitcoin being accepted as a mainstream currency.  And, in fact, I suspect that the rise in the currency that started at the end of last week just happened a few days earlier than it would have because of the events that occurred.

With the mood of the market around Bitcoin, I suspect that many see the upcoming holiday season as one of the major testing periods for Bitcoin.  With there being many many more vendors accepting Bitcoins now, it will undoubtedly have a significant role (if a very small one) in the market force known as Black Friday.  And, I suspect that people are speculating that it will go well.

Once the holiday season is over, the market will likely adjust again.  It may not go back to the level it was at before this whole thing start, but I don’t foresee it crashing anytime soon barring some major disastrous thing happening.  But that’s the thing about dealing with a market as small as the Bitcoin market is just now: it’s easy to sway the market one way or another with just a few words, or a news story.

Over time that will change.  The market will stabilize more as more people invest.  But, how long it is going to take to reach a tipping point where there are enough people involved in the market for it to stabilize is anyone’s guess.  I think there will be a lot of factors involved in that occurring.  Like, as someone pointed out, making the interface for using Bitcoin easier than it currently is.  And all that will depend on whether the current challenges, bugs and glitches in the Bitcoin applications, like the Bitcoin-Qt wallet can be found and stamped out.  It’s going to be the reliability of the applications that will slow or increase the acceptance of Bitcoin, equally as much as scaling the transaction system up to a level where it can compete with Visa and Mastercard.

eCigs / Vaping: The Mech Mod Fuss

SmokTech Galileo Mech Mod

SmokTech Galileo Mech Mod

So I’ve had two articles that I was planning on writing.  The first was going to be about Mech Mods (mechanical mods), the second was going to be a juice review, of sorts.  This article is about Mech Mods, but it is also about something else that I hadn’t planned on talking about: rebuild-able atomizer (aka RBA’s).  Now all three of these topics are related for me, although this article will still be about mech mods. I will write an article about RBA’s in a few weeks.

So, let me first explain what a mech mod is: these are plain, very simple devices.  Typically the only electronics to them are the wiring and a switch.  There is no circuitry for adjusting the voltage or wattage settings, there is no “puff” counter like there is on the iTaste MVP, there’s no meter to indicate when you battery is low.  Nothing.  Just a switch, and possibly a locking ring to keep the device from firing when it is in your pocket.

I’ve been curious about these for a while, so I decided to check out my local vape shop to see what they had in stock.  Sure enough they had several of the popular SmokTech models in stock, and all reasonably priced. Originally I really had just thought about stopping in and looking at the devices.  However, at the last moment, I decided it was time to take the plunge and buy one.  I opted for the SmokTech Galileo, pictured at right.  It’s a really nice mod, very solidly machined, nice heft, and a wonderful brushed finish that will resist finger smearing and scratching pretty nicely.  The etched in patterns on the tube just add a touch of class to the device, and maybe provide a little extra grip (although it wasn’t really necessary with the stainless steel finish).  Overall, it just fits in the hand well and feels comfortable.  And, the other thing is that it is (in my opinion) a reasonably priced device, typically $50-$60 (although I have seen them as low as $35, however I don’t know the vendors, and typically they were out of stock at that price).

SmokTech Galileo Bottom

SmokTech Galileo Bottom

If you notice there doesn’t appear to be a switch, there actually is one.  It’s on the bottom of the unit, as pictured to the right of this paragraph.  I’d seen this kind of design before, and it seemed a bit unusual to me.  I wasn’t certain how I would like it.  It seems somewhat odd trying to depress a button with your pinky finger.  Possibly a bit more so for me since I broke the carpal bone behind my pinky many years back.  It was a radial fracture, and despite trying to realign the pieces of the bone properly they knitted together at a slight angle.  As a result, the pinky on my right hand tends to stick out a bit when it’s in a normal position, and is occasionally a bit tricky to use, especially for things like this.  But that turned out to not be as big of an issue as I thought it would be.  Instead I just use my ring finger for firing the device.

Now, the trigger switch on this device deserves a little extra mention.  One of the things that happened a lot with earlier mech mods is the wiring / connectors for the switch would break because of the physical connection required.  So, some of the mods, including the Galileo have come up with a unique solution: using magnets set in opposition to each other between the mechanical button and the internal switch.  This makes for a far more reliable switch that doesn’t go soft or break as easily.

So, my reason for getting a mech mod was to understand several things.  Some of which I still don’t understand, but some of it I now understand a bit better. The major thing that I don’t completely understand is the large variation in prices.  Mech mods vary so widely in price it is astonishing.  I’ve seen mech mods from $20 all the way up to $300.  And, I don’t think that’s the most expensive mech mod out there.

Now, I understand some of the variation.  Obviously the lower-end mods tend to be clone / knock-offs: lower quality materials, cheaper finishing, etc.  As always, you get what you pay for, and even if the clones are well made, they tend to cut corners someplace.  And, I understand that some of the high-end ones are things that are hand-made, or use move expensive materials, are personalized, etc.  But still, it seems to me a lot of mech mods are over priced for what you are getting.

I guess the only way to decide if a mech mod is worth the price is to watch for reviews from a reliable source like Pete Phil  Busardo (sorry I keep making that mistake!) or Nick “GrimmGreen” Green.  (And yes, I will always recommend those two people for their reviews over just about anyone else that I’ve read / watched.)

So, here’s the thing to understand about mech mods: there is no protection in them.  You can actually short them out, destroy a battery, etc.  Most devices like the iTaste MVP have limiters in them to protect from shorts, or going below a specified resistance, or firing the device for too long.

SmokTech Kick

SmokTech Kick

The lack of these protections / restrictions can be both a blessing and a curse.  If you are just going to use a mech mod with something like a ProTank, you probably won’t notice any real difference.  The device will fire and heat fluid, etc.  It may not perform as well as devices that allow you to adjust the voltage or wattage that you are firing the coil at.  However, that can be overcome by inserting a device known as a Kick into the battery tube (pictured to the left of this paragraph).  The kick allows you to set the wattage that you want the device to fire at.  But, if all you want to do is use a mech mod with a ProTank or an eVod, then I wouldn’t recommend it.

So, this brings me to the points where we can talk about what you can do with a mech mod that you can’t do with a standard eGo or MVP device.

First thing is this: mech mods allow using different sizes of batteries.  Most typically people use 18350 IMR, 18500 IMR, or 18650 IMR batteries.  These tend to range from 800 mAh up to 2900 mAh.  Most of the batteries are 3.7 volts, but there are some batteries that go higher.  And, there are batteries that vary in amperage, including some recent 18650 IMR batteries from Panasonic that are rated all the way up to 10 Amps.

Common Mech Mod Batteries

Common Mech Mod Batteries

So, this is where things get interesting.  Depending on the size of the mech mod you can use different battery configurations.  For example, stacking two 3.7 volt 18350 batteries in a mech mod allows it to fire at 7.4 volts, while the amp hours (mAh) remains the same – typically 800mAh.

Now, why you would want to do something like this comes down to what you are connecting to a mech mod to vape with.  While, as I noted, you can use an eVod or a ProTank (or any other cartomizer for that matter) with a mech mod, you will (in most cases) be subjecting yourself to the resistance limitations of those devices.  Where mech mods shine is in their ability to allow using devices that have different resistances than most tanks / cartomizers.

This leads us into the topic of atomizers, rebuild-able atomizers of varying types.  Basically, these allow you to use different materials to achieve lower resistances, even going so far as less than 1 ohm of resistance.  However, that is another topic altogether, which I will cover in a different article.

So, to sum things up: mech mods are extremely simple devices without most of the safeguards of devices like the eGo and MVP.  They are typically very finely crafted / machined devices (at least the good ones). They allow a lot of flexibility in attaching cartomizers or tanks to them.  However, they are really there to allow working with more customized setups.  Basically, getting things set up the way you want to set it up is a tweakers paradise.  However, it is a matter of crossing the line where vaping serves the purpose of tobacco replacement, versus becoming a more serious hobby and time investment.  In a comment last week, I talked about this being line crossing the line into rolling your own cigarettes, or tying your own fly-fishing lures.  If those kinds of things appeal to you, and you have or want to find out all the technical information needed for DIY vaping, then this kind of thing might appeal to you.

Bitcoin: Guess What The News Is?

Bitcoin China

Bitcoin China

So, I bet you can’t even possibly guess what the big news of the week is in the Bitcoin world?  Yeah, sure, unless you are living under a rock you know what the big news is:

  • Bitcoin climbs again, and again, and again.  Even briefly crossing $1000USD.
  • U.S. Government starts hearings on possibly regulating Bitcoin.

The thing is, those stories have so over-shadowed every other Bitcoin story, it’s been difficult to come up with much else to talk about.  However, I having been digging diligently and have come up with a few things.

One of the angles to cover is why is Bitcoin so popular in China?  And I do mean popular.  It is widely believed that much of the market swing this week is based on Chinese investment in Bitcoin prior to the start of the U.S. regulatory hearings.

The factors that seem to be at play here are how China perceives itself in relation to the US Dollar.  Let’s face it, if you are a large economy, wouldn’t you want your currency to be on top?  That is something that China has been struggling with for years now: the dominance of the US Dollar in the global economy.

It’s long been speculated that China manipulates the Yuan to try to gain ground in the global economy.  It is known that investment in property market is capped, and the stock market isn’t yielding as high has some of the high net value individuals would want.  Combine that with using Bitcoin as a way to get around China’s policy of only allowing $50,000 to be transferred out of the country each year, and Bitcoin starts looking a lot more positive to Chinese investors.

But there are other factors as well.  For example, China doesn’t see a relationship between the value of the renminbi.  The recent announcement that Baidu’s security company would start accepting payments in Bitcoin, BTC China receiving $5 Million in series A financing, along with a property investment firm announcing they would start accepting Bitcoin all have had a positive impact on the image of Bitcoin.

Then there’s the potential for U.S. regulation.  With the hearings going on this week, China would have appeared to be quite interested in getting involved before any U.S. regulation was even discussed.  Possibly trying to gain an upper hand before action by the U.S. government forces China’s government to consider similar regulations.

As of this writing, the value of the Bitcoin has come back down.  From the towering heights of $900, it’s back to the $530-$650 range.  Still an overall healthy uptick from just a few weeks ago.

It would appear now that the hearings are over, things have settled back down.  If there was a bit of a panic that the U.S. government was going to take immediate action to regulate Bitcoin, that certainly wasn’t evident in the hearings.  It was also evident that there was a reasonable level of acceptance of what Bitcoin is, and that there would be serious consequences to innovation if there was over regulation.

It was also apparent, that other than a few over-reactionary people on the panels, that the major of the panelists held positions that were reasonable.  (Of course, DHS has a negative opinion – they have to.  And the Lawyer on one of the panels was about as worthless as they come when having a fair and reasonable representation or understanding of Bitcoin, IMO.  But that isnt’ a surprise.) On balance, it seems like the U.S. might be headed in the right direction where Bitcoin is concerned, but only time will tell.

Where does that leave China?  Mostly in a “wait and see” position I would expect.  If the U.S. starts to regulate Bitcoin, China will likely follow.  But until then, the Chinese government isn’t likely to take any action as they are still trying to gauge how they can best leverage Bitcoin for themselves.

Much of the information in this article was gleaned from several sources: Bitcoin hits $750, up 107% in a weekCould China make or break bitcoin? and Why China is Leading the Global Rise of Bitcoin.

Switching to eCigs / Vaping: The Cost of Vaping

eCig / Vaping: Starter Kit Guide

eCig / Vaping: Starter Kit Guide

This topic goes to a couple of questions that I see frequently:

  • What should I buy?
  • How much does it cost?

Now, I have to make a couple of assumptions regarding these questions.  The first is that we are talking about getting set up with something that isn’t in the cig-a-like category. While those kinds of setups are okay for people who just want to try an eCigarette, they only go a little way towards being a real replacement for tobacco products.

The second assumption that I will make: there are two types of costs involved.  The first is an initial investment (ie, buying a vaping kit), and there is a set of ongoing costs for consumable supplies.

There is a third question that should be asked with these questions: where should I buy my vaping supplies?  For anyone that has looked around a bit online, it can be quite confusing.  There are a lot of shops with all sorts of supplies and merchandise.  Some have decent reviews, some don’t.  Some have starter kits, while some leave it totally up to you.  And so on.

So, I am going tackle these questions one at a time, and hopefully try to cut through some of the junk out there.

What To Buy

There are lots of options in this area.  Seems like a lot of sites and stores have “starter kits” that vary quite a bit in quality, components and price.  For example, MadVapes has kits ranging in price from $10 – $60.  The options go from small, cig-a-like batteries with cartridges, up to larger batteries with tanks.  How are you supposed to figure out which option to choose?

Let’s start by eliminating a few items.  As I stated at the beginning, I am assuming that most readers of this article have either already tried a cig-a-like, or disposable eCigarette and are looking for the next step.  Also, the batteries on most of these kits are typically small, and won’t last a whole day for the average smoker, which means carrying two batteries, and re-charging one while using the other.  Which tends to be a bit inconvenient (he said with touch of sarcasm).

Eliminating these systems brings you into what is known as the “eGo” style setup, with still lots and lots of options: a tank system or a cartridge style system.  One battery, two batteries, or more?

This is where we get to talk about battery sizes.  One of the things that I haven’t talked about is the sizes of batteries.  Not the physical size (although it is related), but rather the amount of electricity stored in a fully charged battery.  Batteries are rated by mili-amp hours (mAh), a number you might have seen listed on many of these sites.  Basically, that number tells you how much of a charge the battery holds.  The higher the mAh number, the more of a charge it holds.  Most of the eGo batteries range from 600 mAh to around 1200 mAh.  How fast the batteries discharge is a function of how much you use them, along with the resistance of the tank or cartridge you are using. (I explain the resistance issue in my Voltage vs. Wattage article.)  Basically, the higher the resistance, the more the battery has to work to heat up your fluid, which causes the battery to discharge more quickly.

Personally, I found that I could get just about a day out of a 1200 mAh battery, with a tank or cartridge with about 2 ohms of resistance.  But I am a heavy vaper, still vaping the equivalent of almost a pack and a half of cigarettes a day (as I documented in my How Much Should I Vape article.)  So, if you currently smoke less, or know that you will vape at a lower rate, a smaller battery may suffice for you.

This would bring us to the question of cartridge(s) or tank(s)?  I’m just going to be flat-out in my statement here: tank systems are better for starting vapers.  Why?  Cartridges tend to be smaller, and need to be refilled more frequently.  This is good if you want to switch flavors a lot, but I believe most people starting in vaping don’t want to do that.  Instead, I recommend a tank that is large enough to enough fluid for a whole day, or at least only need to be re-filled once during the day.

This still leaves a question as to what style of tank you want to use.  There are two primary styles: the “Nova” style (with a top coil and long wicks), or eVod / ProTank style (with a bottom coil and very little wick).  There are two major physical differences between the two, and one subjective difference.

First, with the top coil (Nova) style tanks, they are easier to fill.  They have a cap on the top of the tank that you un-screw and removed, to allow re-filling without removing the tank from the battery.  The bottom coil style tanks have to be refilled by removing the cap at the bottom of the tank, which means un-screwing the whole tank from the battery, then removing the cap.  Once filled, you reassemble it, and screw it back on to the battery.

Second, the wicks.  The Nova style has long wicks that pull fluid up into the head to be heated.  The bottom coil tanks have very little wick, and use gravity to feed the fluid into the head.  The difference here is that the Nova style tanks can take longer to pull fluid up into the head.  This can result in either needing to tilt the tank to get fluid to the head, or getting occasional dry-hits (ie, taking a vape when there is no fluid in the head to be heated up, which can sometimes result in a burning flavor).  With bottom coil tanks, the only time you are likely to get a dry or burning flavor hit is if you have run out of fluid.

Third, the more subjective difference: the Nova style tanks tend to taste different than the ProTank style tanks.  The more wicking material involved in the tank, the more the flavor of a fluid tends to be muted / changed.  Nova style tanks are known for this difference.  (I have heard from a few people that some of the newer top coil style tanks are better, but I have not tried them yet.)

When you put all three of these together, I believe the small inconvenience in filling a bottom coil tank easily out-weighs the flavor and dry hit issues of the top coil tanks.  So I definitely recommend a bottom coil tank.

There is one more consideration with the battery.  Should you use a fixed voltage / wattage battery, or get one that is adjustable?  Having an adjustable battery allows you to adjust for the intensity of the flavor, and for the resistance of the coil in your tank.  While not a necessary feature, as it does tend to add a bit of expense, it is a highly useful feature to have.

So, let’s move on to what this all costs.

Pricing Your Kit

The cost for a vaping set up can range pretty wildly from store to store, and even with the options you can get from any individual store / site.  And, for what it is worth, I don’t always recommend going to the cheapest place to get your vaping supplies.  Why?  Well, reliability and good customer service can account for a lot in this business.  Having a site or store with an established positive reputation can go a long way towards making certain you get what you want, and can maintain a good relationship with them for supplies.

Another factor: brands do count in my opinion.  The vaping industry is full of stores and companies supplying alternate and knock-off versions of products.  Sometimes with these alternates, you get what you pay for: cheaper produced, cheaper materials, cheaper products.  Overall, this can mean a less reliable product, which will have a negative affect on your enjoyment of vaping.

So, that being said, I suggest looking for three brands: SmokTech, KangerTech and Innokin.  The products from these companies seem to be very high quality, and are consistent. (There is a fourth that I have used: Joyetech.  They tend to be good products, but not equal to the other three I am recommending.)

Let’s start with Innokin.  There are two kits from them that appear to be really nice.  The first is the iTaste VV 10S Kit.  This kit has an 800 mAh battery, an iClear 10S tank, with the extras that you need: a case, a USB charging cable, and extra replacement coils (5).  The price for the VV 10S Kit seems to vary pretty wildly, I saw anywhere from $50-$90 for.  I would think that something in the $50-$60 range would be appropriate.  For a lighter smoker (ie, someone who smokes less than a pack a day), this would be an excellent option.  I have not used this product, however given the next products quality and other reviews / comments I’ve heard of this product I feel safe in recommending it.  If you are a heavier smoker, then I would definitely check out the iTaste MVP V2.0. This has a 2600 mAh battery, with an iClear 30 tank and cable included.  It doesn’t come with any replacement coils, which is a small drawback (but I will talk about this more in a moment).  I have been extremely impressed with this unit since I first talked about it a few weeks back.  This is possibly the first, and only, device that I have used that was able to go over two days between charges.  For a street price of around $65 USD, just the main unit alone is a good investment.

The downside: I’m not impressed with the iClear 30 included with the MVP.  I tried it, and it immediately flooded (ie, the fluid that I put into the tank leaked into the center column within a few hits on it).  I would be leery of similar issues with the iClear 10S, but haven’t used it so I don’t know if it is an issue.  Also, I noted that the flavor of my fluid was muted as it was with the Nova style tanks.  Not an issue, but a preference.  So, I would suggest if you are thinking about getting one of the Innokin products, you might want to consider buying a different tank to go with it.

That brings me pretty quickly to KangerTech.  Their ProTank and Mini ProTank get my highest approval, especially the 2.0 version of these products (I haven’t used the version 3 yet, but I have some reservations). A lot of people also like the SmokTech eVod tanks, which are compatible with the ProTank bottom-coil system.  All of these options make for an excellent, excellent vaping experience.  And, they aren’t very expensive: $10-$15 on average. If you are thinking about the Innokin products above, I would recommend considering pairing them with these KangerTech products.  I can say that my iTaste MVP with my ProTank is my daily use vaping system.  The Mini ProTank should work well with the VV 10S Kit (although I am not certain if the cap will still fit if you are using the Mini ProTank).

If you don’t want to go the Innokin route because of the expense (which I admit, the pricing on their products does come at a premium), I would suggest looking to SmokTech.  One of the vendors that I trust working with, has a SmokTech eVod starter kit that comes with two 650mAh batteries, an eVod tank, 5 replacement coils, charger, etc.  for $40.  This is a win x3 kit: the price is very reasonable at $40, it is a bottom coil system, and all the components of the kit are high quality.  The only thing you lose out on is having a variable voltage and / or variable wattage system.  But, as a starting system it’s an excellent deal.  However, if you later want to try a variable voltage battery, you can order a KangerTech eVod battery for around $23 dollars (note: these apparently need a different charger, which will cost an extra $5).

 

So, that pretty much covers the major options that I would consider at this point.  The price range for what I would consider to be a good setup is $40 – $70 dollars.  When you consider that a carton of cigarettes is around $70, it is a pretty good investment (especially for me, since I was buying a carton of cigarettes every week).  But, there are some ongoing / recurring expenses with vaping that you will want to keep in mind.  So, let’s talk about them.

Recurring Expenses: Vaping Consumables

If you have a vaping store in your area, you will find out quickly that this are is the core of their business model.  There are some things that you will need to buy on a frequent basis, and your purchasing them allows them to stay in business.  There are basically two items in this category: eJuice (fluid), and coils (or cartridges).

Now, the fortunate part of this is, these recurring / ongoing expenses tend to be much lower cost than smoking cigarettes.  This is what most people refer to when they say that vaping is much less expensive than smoking.  The bad side of it is that, at least in the case of eJuices, there are lots of options and you might end up wandering through a few different brands, flavors, etc. and spending a bit extra while you find several you like.

So, here’s the easy part: the replacement coils or cartridges.  Cartridges (or cartomizers as many call them) are something that you will need to swap out probably every week or two.  Generally you can buy them in quantity and get a decent price.  Typically they are in the $1-$2 each range.  Just looking at Sun Vaper’s again, they have 5 packs of cartridges for around $7.  That should be enough for about 1-2 months worth of vaping.

The same holds true with coils.  Sun Vapers sells KangerTech replacement coils for the ProTank, Mini ProTank and eVod for about $6 USD for a package of 5 coils.  I’ve had extremely good luck with the KangerTech coils.  One of them even went so far as to last a whopping six weeks for me, but on average I seem to be getting more like three to four weeks each.  Back when I first bought my ProTank, I was used to having to replace Nova coils more frequently (every week or two), so I ordered 4 packs of ProTank coils ( 2×1.8ohm, and 2×2.4ohm).  That was around 6 months ago.  At this point I still have 2 packs that haven’t been opened, and I have 4-5 that are in use.  Note, the one thing you may want to consider is having a couple of different resistances around.  Depending on the fluid you are vaping, one resistance coil may work better than another.  This is the reason I bought two packs of each resistance.

So, that part of the ongoing expenses doesn’t amount to a whole lot.  The only other major expense that you will encounter is in the fluid that you vape.  This might cost a bit more up front, since you may want to try out several different brands, and flavors of fluid, but in the long term, your expense will level off.

The prices of the fluids tend to vary by vendor, but not necessarily as much as might be expected.

In general, the going price for a 30ml bottle of fluid is about $20 +/- $5.  For me, a 30ml bottle lasts for about two weeks (and again, I am a heavy vaper).  So, I tend to use around two 30ml bottles a month.

Personally, I like fluids from V2, Halo and MadVapes.  I’m still trying out others, so I could be adding more to my list.

So, if we add this up, my ongoing monthly expense is just under $60.  Compared to $240 a month for a carton of cigarettes each week, and you can see the savings is substantial.  Even if you smoke less than me, you are likely to still be ahead with vaping since you won’t go through as much fluid.

There is one more thing to consider: batteries don’t last forever.  however, they do last for a long time: 9 months to a year, sometimes longer.  So you can expect to need a new battery occasionally.

Summarizing The Expenses

So, if you break the investments into two categories, initial and ongoing, we have the following:

Initial:

  • Kit with battery / tank (or cartridge): $40 – $60
  • Fluid: $25
  • Extra coils (if needed): $6-$8

That would make the total around $90.00 USD, plus shipping, tax, etc.  But that is only a one-time investment.

Ongoing:

  • Fluid: $25-$50
  • Replacement Coils / Cartridges: $5-$8

Which, at the top end, is about $58/month. (Which is what I said was my number).  But, for many people, it’s likely to be around $30-$40 USD/month.

Occasional:

A new battery: eGo style batteries tend to be around $20-$25 each.  So, if you have two, you might have to spend another $50/yr or so (but, as I’ll explain in another article, you aren’t likely to replace a dead one).  If you invest in an Innokin device, you will have to replace it, so expect the same cost as your initial investment.

Where to Buy

This is kind of the elephant in the room for this whole discussion.  There are a lot of really good brands and vendors around.  I’ve mentioned a few I like throughout this article: V2, Halo, MadVapes, Sun Vapers, etc.  But, certainly they are not the only good vendors out there.  I recommend looking at some other resources, like GrimmGreen’s website, and Pete Busardo’s website.  They liste vendors that they have worked with and trust.  Also, Reddit has a list of vendors, with reputation scores.  So, that’s how I would find a good vendor to work with.

The other option is to see if there are any local Vape stores in your area.  But, if you do find some, check the Reddit list to see if they are on there, and what kind of reputation they have.  And, I would suggest that you go in to them with the idea of testing them, and not letting them push a product on you (unless it happens to be something that fits into what you have decided from reading this article, and/or doing other research).

Finally, I would like to add, that this guide that I have written shouldn’t be the only one you read.  I’ve mentioned GrimmGreen and Pete Busardo.  I have a very high respect for these individuals and watch their videos all the time.  They have their own guides on their websites.  And, the Reddit Electronic Cigarette reddit has tons and tons of information.  There are also lots of guides and information on eCigarette Forum.

 

Hopefully with the information that I have provided here, and with some research at some of the recommended sites, you will be able to find a good solution for you that fits within the price range you are able to afford.  Thanks for reading this exceptionally long article.

Bitcoin Definitely Has The Attention of…

Bitcoin Egypt

Bitcoin Egypt

Bitcoin has gathered lots of attention.  Possibly too much at this point.  There are new businesses cropping up trying to challenge Bitcoin (and in very odd ways).  There are new businesses being attracted to using Bitcoin.  And, it seems like there are new hacks, or thefts happening on a more frequent basis.  For example, just in some recent articles:

 

Yet all of these hacking / theft reports don’t seem to be dampening the market much, if any. As I write this article, the exchange rate is between $330 and $388 USD, and average is $357.95 (based on the current prices of MtGox, BTC-e, CampBX and Bitstamp).  But why isn’t the market heeding these as warning signs?  Probably because there are lots of other things that range from interesting to exciting.

One of those is the story that NPR came out with today that farmers appear to be interested in Bitcoin.  Especially the types of farmers that are typically in farmers markets.  Why would this be of interest to farmers?  Well, many of them are already using electronic POS systems on a tablet or phone, and with those systems they are incurring substantial charges for handling transactions.  Bitcoins much lower processing fees, combined with the need to not have physical currency available appears to be attractive.

The interesting thing in the article was a video segment from ‘Life On Bitcoin‘, a documentary by a recently married couple decided to spend their honeymoon travelling, using Bitcoin as their only currency.  The segment in the article was them going through a farmers market and convincing some of the vendors to set up Bitcoin on their tablets and accepting payments.

While this kind of article shows that small businesses are becoming more and more interested in Bitcoin (like the Subway Sandwich shop that accepts Bitcoin), it’s not just the small businesses that are making progressive steps.  One of the more surprising Bitcoin based ventures is the agreement between Alix and Ridge Resources Ltd. to perform exploratory work.  This is going to see an ongoing payment system set up between the companies in Bitcoin, with Alix actually setting up their own private exchange through a third-party company.

While this isn’t exactly a mainstream concept yet, it seems like a very progressive idea.  It also shows that one of the interesting cases for Bitcoin could be in the B2B area, where companies need to exchange money directly, and want to keep the overhead of the current financial institutions out-of-the-way.  Certainly, if companies start doing a lot more of these kinds of B2B arrangements, it could pose a substantial threat the current fiat currencies as there would be no exchange rates involved between the businesses, no interest charges, basically little to no overhead.  The set up and running of a private exchange for a group of companies is likely to be far less than what the bankers are charging now.

However, this is the kind of situation that might bring about a few things more quickly in the Bitcoin arena.  For example, currently the rate of transaction processing hasn’t hit the level of one transaction per second.  But, the rate of transactions has increased exponentially.  This leads into a scalability issue.  Fortunately, the Bitcoin developers are already working on plans to make Bitcoin scale up to a level where it can handle transactions in the way Visa or other institutions do.  Basically the idea is change the fixed transaction rates for mining Bitcoins, introduce clients with less overhead, and make the processing overall more efficient.  (I won’t go into the details here, Timothy Berners Lee does an excellent job of interviewing Mike Hearn about the design in the cited article.)

And, if that weren’t enough, after the introduction of the first Bitcoin ATM in Canada there are still other competing ideas for Bitcoin currency – or rather odd sounding ideas that are attracting substantial investment.  Take ‘Ripple’ as an example.  It’s just an odd sounding system that allows users to exchange fiat currency or Bitcoin for their alt coin (called rpx), transfer money between locations in rpx, then transfer it back out.  The idea for buying in / out is to go through a network of “gateway” providers.

Honestly, the whole thing sounds ridiculous to me.  I don’t see where it provides anything that the current Bitcoin system doesn’t provide.  At least the cited article didn’t give me any reason to think that there was anything useful to the system.  The only thing(s) I saw in this system were (a) introduction of a proprietary currency that is un-necessary, and (b) regulatory strangle points in the form of “gateways”, and (c) a system that appears to be an awkward attempt to preserve the current fiat currency systems over Bitcoin.  The other point was that I didn’t see anywhere that there was any explanation of what kind of ledger system that Ripple would implement, why I would think it was equal in strength to Bitcoin, and if it was going to be an open and transparent system (at least at the level that Bitcoin’s ledger is publicly available).

Worse yet, I don’t think that Ripple has the possibility of being used as a protocol in the same way that Bitcoin does.  As I talked about last week, Bitcoin / Namecoin have the possibility of making virtual assets more tangible, and that is a potential for a transformation of how we think of the internet, how governments interact with the internet, and how a much larger society can form around the internet.  Ripple doesn’t have this potential, at least from what I’ve read so far… But I could be wrong, there could be a lot more to Ripple than the press is talking about.

So, this seems to be the current story with Bitcoin: smaller businesses are getting very interested in it, there are social experiments going on with Bitcoin, and even some larger businesses are starting to work with it. Bitcoin faces a scalability issue, but that is being addressed and looks like it will be handled well in advance of major issues arising in that area. In the meanwhile, there are odd attempts at starting offshoot businesses that supposedly address “problems” with Bitcoins, but they don’t appear to be addressing any real issues, instead they are trying to shoehorn into the current financial network that has been the root of so many problems in the first place.

I’m still betting on Bitcoin / Litecoin / Namecoin in the long-term.

Switching to eCigs / Vaping: How much should I vape?

Innokin iTazte MVP 2 & KangerTech ProTank II

Innokin iTazte MVP 2 & KangerTech ProTank II

As I’ve mentioned previously, I look through the logs of search queries that people have used to find my site.  I try to identify what things I may not have covered all that well in the articles that I have written so far and then write something to try to help you, dear reader. Big Smile

This week I want to tackle an interesting question: “How much should I vape compared to smoking analog cigarettes?”  it’s actually an interesting question, and somewhat difficult to answer.  However, I have had some personal insight into this question recently that I think might shed some light on the topic.  But first, I have to post my disclaimer:

I am not a doctor, nor a scientist.  None of the information in this article is intended to be used as medical information.  If you plan to act on any of the information in this article, please make certain you are consulting a physician. I will not be held responsible for any inaccuracies or problems that arise from use of the information in this article.

There are four parts that play a role in how much you vape:

  1. The amount / strength of nicotine in your eJuice
  2. Whether you have stopped smoke analog cigarettes altogether
  3. The frequency you are vaping
  4. The amount you used to smoke

Nicotine Level

I hope, from other discussions, that the relevance of this point is fairly obvious. When you are starting to vape, I would strongly recommend you try to match the level of nicotine in your eJuice to the level of nicotine in your cigarettes.  It may not be possible to get an exact match, but if you can stay close (I’d say +/- 2mg) then you can make a fairly straight comparison between the number of cigarettes you used to smoke, and how much you are vaping (which I will explain in the section on comparison calculation).

Now, however, if you are not vaping the same amount of nicotine that you were getting in your analog cigarettes you may need to adjust for this.  For example, I am now vaping 12mg of nicotine in my eJuice whereas I used to smoke cigarettes that contained approximately 24mg of nicotine.  Good for me: I’ve cut my nicotine by 50 percent.

Or have I?  The fact is, while the nicotine level is lower, I may actually be vaping more to make up for the lower level of nicotine.  So, I need to keep in mind that I might have increased the amount I am vaping buy up to 100 percent (or to put it another way doubling the amount of vaping I’m doing to get the same effective amount of nicotine).

So, I would definitely suggest keeping that in mind: there may be variation in terms of the amount of vaping versus smoking that is proportionate to the amount of nicotine in your eJuice compared to the amount of nicotine in the analog cigarettes you used to smoke.

Smoking Analog cigarettes while vaping

You did stop smoking tobacco products, didn’t you?

The fact is, I have known some people who both vaped and smoked tobacco cigarettes. Myself included.  However, this only happened during a specifically limited period while making the transition to vaping.  (And this is the most frequent type of scenario I’ve heard of, but a lot of times the details varied a bit.)

For me it was this: initially I tried disposable eCigarettes.  I found pretty quickly that they seemed like a viable alternative to tobacco cigarettes.  However, I knew that (a) the disposables were expensive, and (b) there was likely something better for me to use.  So, I did some research, but I still had my tobacco cigarettes available. Once I had the Nick Stick, I set aside the tobacco cigarettes. All said, it was about a 2-3 week transition period.

But, I have known some people who went the other way.  They picked up the eCigarette, but kept smoking and slowing working their way over into vaping. Some of them took months to make the transition.

But that doesn’t make a difference at this point. The point is: you have made the transition, haven’t you?

If you have not completed the transition, that is a complicating factor.  While you should be able to determine the equivalence of vaping to cigarettes, you have to factor in how many cigarettes you are smoking.  And, if there is a difference between the amounts of nicotine in your eJuice and your cigarettes that has to be taken into account too…  And, honestly, while that seems straight forward, I am not certain what I propose will be accurate in that scenario.

Okay, I’ve just said a lot more on this item than originally thought I needed to… So, time for the next subject.

How You Are Vaping

Do you vape the same way you smoked?  What I mean by this is: do you sit and vape at your desk or in the field, or wherever and whenever you want to?  Or do you stop and take breaks to vape?  How did you smoke?  Did you smoke at your desk, wherever and whenever you wanted to?  Did you have to go on smoke breaks?

When you smoked, did you typically smoke a whole cigarette at a time?  Or did you take a few drags on the cigarette and set it in an ashtray only to light a new one 5, 10, 15 or however many minutes later?

The reason that I point this out is that there is a fairly major difference with vaping.  Many of us can do it indoors, at our desks, without stopping to take a smoke break.  Because of that we frequently vape a bit differently than we used to smoke: we pick up our devices ever X, Y, Z, or whatever number of minutes, take a couple of drags / hits / toots / puffs (or whatever you want to call it), and put it down.  Typically this means that we are just maintaining a certain level of nicotine in our blood streams on a more consistent basis.

Some people I know have done the opposite: they still take smoke breaks, only they pick up their vaping devices and go vape for a certain amount of time, then return to their work.

This may, or may not, make a difference in the amount you vape.  I did the break thing for a while, like I was still smoking, only I would go to a lounge with a book or my eReader and sit and vape and read for a bit.  Later, as I got more comfortable I started vaping at my desk, using a lot less time, and spreading my vapes out a bit more.

I don’t have any hard / fast rules for differences in these two scenarios.  I would just suggest that you keep it in mind later when determining if you are vaping more or less than you smoked.

The Amount You Used To Smoke

Did you smoke a pack a day?  Half a pack?  Two packs?  Knowing this is somewhat important if you are going to try to figure out if you are vaping more or less than you used to smoke.

If you aren’t certain, try to get a rough estimate.  Try to remember how often you bought a pack of cigarettes.  One of my friends used to by a pack every other day during the week, and then he’d buy two packs for the weekend: five packs a week.  So, he (on average) smoked approximately 75 percent of a pack a day (5×20=100, 100/7=14.28.  That’s about 14 or 15 cigarettes a day.)

Personally, I was up to almost 1.5 packs a day, on average.  I went through a carton (10 packs) of cigarettes a week, or 1.428 packs per day.

the epiphany and calculation

So, when I did my experiment with tobacco cigarettes back in September, I made a mental note of something: for me, I smoked a typical king size cigarette in about 12-15 drags.  I’m sure for 100’s style cigarettes it would have been more drags.  And for different people, the number of hits / drags to smoke a cigarette may differ significantly, you will need to make your own calculation in this area.

When I got my iTazte MVP 2 one of the features it has is a “puff” counter (or drags, toots, hits, whatever).  So…  That set off a lightbulb in my brain: I can do some simple math to see if I am vaping more or less than I used to smoke.  All I had to do was check the meter at the end of the night, and see it was in the range for the number of cigarettes I used to smoke.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to take into account any of the variations I talked about above.  The nicotine level in the cigarettes and my current eJuice is a pretty close match (no more than 1mg difference).  While I was vaping and smoking at the same time, I had a specific limit on the amount I smoked and when I smoked.  And, outside of that experiment I do not use tobacco products.  So, the controls were in place, and I had some good numbers to work with (especially since I recalled a lot about my previous smoking habit).

So, for several days I kept track of how many puffs were on the meter each night.  Typically they were in the range of 389-399.  For the smoking…  I calculated that smoked around 30 cigarettes a day.  30*12=360, while 30×15=450. So, those numbers matched up pretty nicely.  But, I did notice that I didn’t get to the top end of the range…  I was at least 50 drags / puffs below the projection for the smoking.

So, 50/12=4.166667, 50/15=3.33333.  So, that’s somewhere between 3 and 4 cigarettes less per day on average than I used to smoke.

Closing

So, that’s how I figured out that my vaping is a little less than I used to smoke.  It’s based on mathematics, but there is some variance in the numbers.  And, I wouldn’t say that my numbers should or would be identical for every one.

Also, I had the luxury of having my MVP2 to keep count for me.  Most devices don’t have puff counters, although there are several others that do have them.  If your device doesn’t have one, you would need to keep a count manually, which may be more difficult to do — almost as bad as keeping track of calories.

So, how much should you vape?  That depends.  If you are trying to reduce the affects of nicotine on you, or the amount of nicotine in your bloodstream, this calculation isn’t going to tell you directly.  However, if you have reduced the amount of nicotine in your eJuice, and you are still vaping about as much as you used to smoke, then you have reduced amount of nicotine in your system.  If your vaping is higher at a lower nicotine level, the percentage difference in vaping vs. the percentage difference in nicotine might give you an approximation of if you are reaching your goal.

So, it’s really up to you to understand how to interpret these numbers.  However, the numbers are at least a baseline for you to start understanding the difference of vaping versus cigarette smoking.

Bitcoin As A Much Borader Disruptive Technology

Bitcoin Portugal

Bitcoin Portugal

There are still a lot of questions as to why Bitcoin should be considered and radical, disruptive technology.  Right now, it seems that most people are focused on the fact that Bitcoin is being used to challenge the fiat currency system.  Many people think that Bitcoin will fail at that endeavor.  They may be wrong, or they may be right.  The point is: it doesn’t matter if Bitcoin overthrows fiat currencies.  Why?  There were a couple of articles that recently talked about a couple of subjects related to Bitcoin that put the whole thing in a completely different context and are well worth considering.

In If Bitcoin goes to zero, what will be left? More than you think Shakil Kahn (a Spotify investor) tells use that he actually expects Bitcoin to go to zero, not just a few times, but many times.  In a talk given with Jeremy Allaire, the two put forth the concept that what is important about Bitcoin isn’t the value of the currency.

Instead, they see a lot of innovation that is happening around Bitcoin that they believe will survive even if Bitcoin itself fails.  And, that is what is important about Bitcoin: the disruption that it is posing to the business world.  The idea that remittances, and other forms of financial transactions might be handled based on the Bitcoin protocol in the future.  The idea that eCommerce and POS systems will be changed by Bitcoin.  Basically in the long term, there is a whole business ecosystem that is being built around Bitcoin.

Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures posted an interesting article that delves a little bit into the reason behind why some investors are now interested in Bitcoin: Bitcoin As Protocol.

In the article, Albert points to one of the key features of Bitcoin: the blockchain.  The blockchain is a public ledger.  Ledgers have the quality that they are single entry systems: every transaction gets a single entry.  If there is a mistake in the ledger, it cannot be changed, instead another entry has to be made to correct the previous mistake.  This provides a historical record of the transactions.

The Bitcoin blockchain functions in the same way: a single entry is made for each transaction.  A hash is generated for each of the transactions, guaranteeing that the transaction cannot be tampered with without regenerating all of the hash codes of all the transactions in the blockchain, and distributing all the replacement hashes to all of the nodes in the network.

That’s a feat that even the NSA isn’t likely to have accomplished. Of course, this could be wrong, the NSA is pretty resourceful, but still it seems highly unlikely.  And, there is strong enough reason to believe that the encryption technology used in the Bitcoin protocol will remain strong the next 15+ years.

Back to Albert Wenger’s article.  The fact that this fundamental accounting principal is actually codified as part of the Bitcoin protocol is the key.  It means that the transactions on the ledger / blockchain has an expressive power that other protocols lack.  And that is a bit deal because the ability to use this type of expression has other possibilities.

Enter Namecoin, and Alt Coin that is the first to extend the underlying protocol concepts of Bit Coin into a new area.  The idea that this kind of technology can be used to link virtual assets to the block chain / ledger.  In the case of Namecoin they have started with the internet domain name system (aka DNS).  The idea is that you use Namecoin(s) to purchase domain names.  By purchasing your domain name with a Namecoin, your ownership of the domain is linked cryptographically to you and no one else.

This means that what were once virtual assets, or services that were provided now have attributes closer to a tangible asset.  No one can just go into the domain name registrar system and change an entry without decrypting all the transactions before and after the target entry.

This would mean that governments or private entities could not simply take over a domain and take it completely off the internet without going through proper channels.  Instead they would have to do the work of finding the individual(s) and arresting them, shutting their business down, etc.

This would prevent governments from using things like CISPA and TPP to break the fundamental underlying structure of the Internet.  It would, in essence, make the Internet go from being a system provided by countries and businesses to it’s own entity, with a distributed system that no one government, or even group of governments could control.

This is why the technology behind Bitcoin (and by extension, Namecoin) is very important and very exciting to a lot of people now, especially investors.  They can see that the idea of extending the market place with a virtual currency that changes the properties of non-tangible assets into something closer to tangible assets is a huge innovation.  And, that is why Bitcoin failing / going to zero makes no difference: the underlying technology has implications that are far ranging.

My bet about this concept is that we will see more and more merging of new technologies like BitTorrent, TOR, Bitcoin / Namecoin and other protocols to form a new infrastructure.  The only question is how long is it going to take?  Will the rate of innovation be able to out-pace the determination of governments to disrupt and irreparably damage the internet before it happens?  That remains to be seen.