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Behold the Arscoin, Ars Technica’s Cryptocurrency






Photo : Aurich Lawson

Courtesy Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

Recently, I became the first person in the history of Ars Technica to have a gold—rather than black—user name.

How did I get this blinged-out honor? I bought it for the low, low price of 500 Arscoins—the latest digital cryptocurrency to hit the Internet. Arscoin is one of around 100 or so “altcoins,” or alternative bitcoins, derived from the same source code as the original cryptocurrency.

Everything you need to know to mine Arscoins with your CPU or GPU.

The existing Bitcoin community has an inherent distrust of many altcoins. Bitcoin forums are replete with discussions of “pump and dump” scams, where the originators of a new altcoin might “pre-mine” coins, release their currency to the general public, and market their hot new cryptocurrency hard in order to drive the price up. Then the creators simply sell off their coins at a profit and walk away. It’s one of the oldest financial tricks in the book.

But other altcoin creators are true believers in anarcho-capitalism, or they simply find Bitcoin and its derivatives new and interesting. And not all altcoins are quite as ridiculous as they may seem; evenDogecoin, which was jokingly based on an image meme, has an on-paper market capitalization ofmore than $60 million.

As the new year began, I found myself writing about several new (and often ridiculous) altcoins: Coinye, Norris Coin, and yes, Koindashian. It got me thinking: if anyone can just up and create a new altcoin, how hard can it be? Arscoin is our attempt to find out. Here’s how we created our own digital currency, how you can do it too, and what it all means.

The Arscoin project is for those who want to experiment with digital currencies—and buy some fun hats and colored usernames along the way. In other words, it is for educational use only; we have centralized the system in order to prevent it from developing into a real-money economy.

Jesuscoin and Snoochyboochy

While the creator of Bitcoin remains a mystery is reluctant to talk about his creation, the currency’s digital underpinnings are open to anyone to learn about; it’s famously open source. One of its first major competitors, Litecoin, used the Bitcoin source code in late 2011, changing a few key parameters before releasing its own source code. That, in turn, has spawned more recent clones like BBQCoin and Dogecoin. According to Coinmarketcap.com, 75 mineable altcoins currently exist, with market capitalizations ranging from $38,000 (FedoraCoin) to $10.3 billion (Bitcoin). Even other journalists have started their own altcoins (see Joe Weisenthal’s Stalwartbucks).



To create an altcoin, enterprising developers generally take the Bitcoin (or Litecoin) source code found on Github, tweak it as they see fit, and then compile it into the files necessary to generate the blockchain and start mining. Not surprisingly, there’s an entire subreddit devoted to the practice, and helpful altcoin users have written up extensive guides with titles like “The altcoin explosion… and how to profit from it,” “Complete Guide on How to Create a New Alt Coin,” and “How To Clone Scrypt Based Altcoins for Fun and Profit.”

However, for non-coders, this approach often includes daunting instructions like:

Once all of the dependencies are built and installed, the next step is to clone the source from git. In this example, I will be cloning foocoin, rename it, re-git initialize it, and push the initial copy out to Github to ensure git is working:

 %git clone https://github.com/foocoin/foocoin.git
 cloning in to foocoin
 %mv foocoin barcoin
 %cd barcoin
 %rm -rf .git
 %git init
 initializing git repository in ~/barcoin
 %git add -A *
 %git commit -m "first commit"
 %git remote add origin https://github.com/barcoin/barcoin.git
 %git push -u origin master
 username for git@github.com: barcoin
 password for barcoin@github.com: **********

But for programming newbies (like me), altcoin creation is still possible. University of North Carolina student Matt Corallo’s Coingen.io debuted in early January 2014, and many sources told me that it is the easiest way to craft a new altcoin. It has already been used to create coins with names like “jesuscoin,” “snoochyboochy,” “supercalifragilisticexpialidociouscoin,” and my personal favorite, “wake_up_sheeples_banker_owned_federal_reserve_notes_equals_more_debt.”

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