Trying out the Gigabytes hungry Armory Bitcoin Wallet-Vault Software in Ubuntu 15.10

There aren’t many blog posts about user experiences regarding Armory so I decided to write about my installation and getting the program started experience. Yes, only that – not even how to use it to receive and send Bitcoins! For this I’ll have enough of links to recommend to you. You’ll discover why below, read on.
Armory - Initializing Bitcoin Engine
Usually there is software out there, where you don’t have to bother much about getting it installed on your computer, this procedure is done within a few clicks and you are set and running. What we call user friendly. As it’s quite simple to do such a task, usually most of the tutorial descriptions will be about how to use the software and not a whole book size long on how to install it or just a long blog post about an …installation! Am sure there are other softwares out there that are not easy to install but for today, it will be about ARMORY.

In my post I will not write about how to use Armory, for that you will find enough video tutorials on their website which I really well done.

What was rather unique and different compared to the normal user experience of installing software is the magnitude of the ever growing data size of the blockchain that you will have to download completely. It was around 70GB as beginning of May 2016. Which will turn into 140 GB on your hard drive once Armory has built its database around it… And its size keeps growing!

You will find some
forum posts
about a few common issues with the program and various articles that mention the software when it comes to securing your Bitcoin keys. My idea to write about it, is also in the perspective of a user and personal thoughts about using such a software that needs a lot of Gigabytes. It has been mentioned in various Bitcoin forums that this is becoming a concern, yet you will also see users write about the different perspectives such as; that several Terra-bytes drives do not cost much these days,
so why wonder about 140 GB?

After listening to several podcasts of
Trace Mayer
I decided to check out his several times mentioned
Armory Wallet
which I would rather call a …vault!
It is one of the most secure wallets out there, just as it says on its front page: “BEST BITCOIN WALLET
Armory is the most secure and full featured solution available for users and institutions to generate and store Bitcoin private keys. This means users never have to trust the Armory team. Satoshi would be proud!

Before installing it, I spent a while reading and trying out a few other wallets listed and well described here:
Choose your Bitcoin wallet
I just wasn’t convinced by most of these tools. If you do not have your key all to yourself, then you do not have your Bitcoins! Simply said. It also depends how you intend to use Bitcoins. You could store some in your vault and a few on your mobile when you travel. There are many scenarios to consider and also the security risks. And you can send your bitcoins to different wallets that you own.
Also look up:
Deterministic Wallets
(And this technology keeps changing such as the introduction of BIP0032 format which I cannot describe to you – better Google it.)

In my post, I will not be writing about how to secure your Bitcoins, because I actually haven’t done that yet! First you need to know: HOW TO!

It actually answers the question at the end of the blog post
How to secure your bitcoins by Yariv Sadan
If you’ve read this far, this is a good time to stop and ask yourself: are you sure you still want to own bitcoins? ☺”
I haven’t only read that far, I’m looking into cryptocurrencies since two years with some long gaps in between, especially the Bitcoin wallets discouraged me for a long time into giving up on this subject! You should take your time with Bitcoins and do not do any financial investments on a hurry! A lot of companies have come and gone within a short lapse of time, just like in the early stages of the new e-commerce economy boom in the 2000’s. But different. So, you don’t want your keys to disappear that way – that’s why its interesting to look at wallets where you keep the keys.

So much to the introduction. Now let’s go.

Downloading Armory

You can
download Armory from their website.
Then you can follow on their instructions in checking the signature of the file you downloaded so as to make sure it isn’t an altered version.

Installing Armory

Once I checked the installer, and run it, and Armory was installed, it wouldn’t just start running. It requires the bitcoin core installation or bitcoind.
→ On their troubleshooting page it informs about this.

What is bitcoind?

“bitcoind is a program that implements the Bitcoin protocol for remote procedure call (RPC) use. It is also the second Bitcoin client in the network’s history. It is available under the MIT license in 32-bit and 64-bit versions for Windows, GNU/Linux-based OSes, and Mac OS X.

As part of Bitcoin Core, bitcoind has been bundled with the original client from version 0.2.6 to 0.4.9, and with Bitcoin-Qt since 0.5.0.” Reference:
bitcoinwiki

When I was done with bitcoind, I saw that in my home folder there was a new .bitcoin folder. Which you can move later on. (I use Linux Ubuntu, so in windows or other operating systems, it might be different!)

Launching Armory

When I launched Armory, the Initializing Bitcoin Engine seemed to be stuck.

So I checked into the logfiles to see if something was happening. There seemed to be only some URLs that it wasn’t able to access and I read at reddit that it does take long and better to just wait. I kept doing restarts and making changes in my settings. Each time I made changes I then checked into the logfiles what effect did it have. I mean the logfiles of Armory which is in the home folder under .Armory.

So I just left it like that for some hours and when I came back I saw some progress. In the settings I did disable torrent download.

Armory problem, endless “Initializing Bitcoin Engline” 

By the way, even when you are fully set with Armory, each time you start it, it does take long to initialize. And longer if you didn’t start it for a week, as it will need to catch up on the new blocks of the blockchain.

Armory downloads the whole blockchain

The downloading seemed to be taking forever and I saw barely any progress so I started to look into the folders of .bitcoin and .armory to see if there are any files within any folders that are changing, or growing. I saw blocks being downloaded and growing in size, so I thought – OK – there is still hope! And I left it running. The blockchain by then had reached 70GB which I had to download. And with a slow 1 Mbit connection, this took a week! I was loosing hope and wondering to try some other wallet, but then I thought, hmm no, let’s just wait, lets do this till the end!!!

Armory builds its database

This was more like a surprise! Once you are done downloading the blockchain, Armory will build its own database and voilà you will have 2 times the size of the blockchain stored on your hard drive. That’s where you can run quickly out of space if you are using your main hard drive. That was a problem I would have to fix. Which means moving all the folders of .bitcoin and .armory elsewhere.

Moving Armory to another drive

You will have (well its your choice) to move both the Bitcoin code directory and armory if you run out of space. Follow the tutorial here:
Moving the Bitcoin Core Data Directory

I did carry out these steps but they didn’t work out like a charm. Maybe I did some mistake somewhere when carrying out the steps… When I moved the .bitcoin directory to another drive and started the bitcoin core program, it didn’t prompt me to ask where is the new bitcoin directory. It then kind of messed up with Armory.

When I redid the steps; and when starting bitcoin core: it did prompt me requesting where the .bitcoin folder was located, things started improving.

But then even though I was inputting into the settings of Armory which folders to use, it kept using the folders on the other drive, there was a slight improvement when the issue with bitcoin core was solved but it kept then building its database on the old drive.

This forum post helped me:
How to change path to both .armory and .bitcoin (36GB needed for both atm)

Basically what solved my problem was making a new shortcut from scratch and then including in its command section the following:

/usr/bin/armory –satoshi-datadir=/media/home-folder/drive-name/.bitcoin –datadir=/media/ihome-folder/drive-name/.armory/ %u

And when I loaded Armory again, in its setting I manually removed any entries that were in the fields of the Bitcoin Install Dir: and Bitcoin Home Dir:. As from now it was getting these directives directly from the command in the shortcut.

Now everything works, it initializes, builds the database, scans the transaction history and goes online.

Time taken to get Armory online

It took 2 weeks to be up and running with Armory. And it required endurance, persistence and a lot of trials and errors to be up and running. Of course also including hours of reading and research. So, it took long! Imagine how long it will take when the blockchain reaches 100GB. There are still some places in this world where Internet is very slow. I didn’t mean this as a complaint!
Armory - is online

Was it easy to install?

No, it wasn’t easy, neither difficult, it required effort – the effort to research and figure out how to get it working. And a lot of time. It’s not plain click n’ play. It will definitely NOT BE everyones cup of tea. Currently this will not scale or go mainstream easily – I could be wrong, when it comes to value, maybe more people are keen to make the effort to figure out how to get a digital vault working because its about money…

My thoughts on this kind of Bitcoin Wallet?

Before I even got into installing this software I watched all of Amory’s tutorial videos several times. It did take quite a while to understand its logic. You can read my article:
Re-engineer your logic to understand the cryptocurrency Bitcoin
Once I felt I was up to it, I went ahead with the installation not knowing how much time consumption was ahead of me.

Now, that I have managed to install it, and considering the ever growing blockchain, I’m not sure if several Terrabytes of storage will be enough in the future. The question that I ask myself and for which I will have to do some research is, if you use Armory and you have your keys, while your Bitcoins are stored on the blockchain anyway, can you use your keys with another wallet that doesn’t require to download the whole blockchain? So at least you know, in case you run out of computational resources someday, you can still access your Bitcoins in another way! //Study more about deterministic wallets (I have also contacted BitGo if this is possible with their wallet)

The technology is changing a lot and maybe in the future to come Armory and the blockchain will be handled differently.

When I launch Armory it still does take long to load. When I look at it in the perspective as a Vault it feels like appropriate that it is a bit bulky and time consuming to use but worth it for the security aspect.

As of now I cannot tell you yet how user friendly it is to use this program to sign transactions but seeing from the tutorial videos it appeared pretty straight forward.

By running Armory, did it encourage me to get my first Bitcoin?

No. I still do not feel like I have found the right tool to manage keys. Maybe it is THE right tool until I have understood more about deterministic wallets.

Around the year 2014 I had great difficulty grasping the logic of wallets and keys, blockchain etc. It was overwhelming and I gave up on the subject of Bitcoin. I felt that it was to complicated.

The fascination and motivation to discover and learn more about Bitcoin came back this year. I have listened to many podcasts, viewed many speeches on youtube, read a lot so this kind of inspired me to try the wallets as a progressive learning step.

So, I have only come so far now in trying the wallets, and discovering about how they work. There are of course other alternatives and interesting wallets to look at such as
BitGo and
Samourai.
But for now, I will say, there is no need to get my first Bitcoin, I prefer to continue my journey of discovery and research until I have a good feeling for all this.

It will probably be different if you need to trade in Bitcoins and run your business payments in Bitcoins. Well there are many more reasons why you might need Bitcoins which is another big subject of its own.

What I also find interesting about the Bitcoin cryptocurrency is the possibility that it offers, such as for markets in Africa where many persons have no access to banks to be able to send and receive payments. That’s why it remains an interesting adventure and discovery journey to see this shaping into reality someday. Bitcoin offers this possibility, yet it also requires to have the right solutions that make it accessible to every person with full security aspects.

Use Cases

There are various reasons why you would want to use Armory, especially if you buy and sell stuff and get paid in Bitcoins, you would want to have a wallet that gives you a reliable confirmation of the received transaction on the blockchain. This tool can also be ideal for organizations that require multi signature accounts.

As I said before, this program is like a secure vault and for various use cases a few hundred Gigabytes will not be an issue!

 

Can you share with us your experience with Bitcoin Wallets?

Trying out the Gigabytes hungry Armory Bitcoin Wallet-Vault Software in Ubuntu 15.10 by

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