The total noobs guide to Bitshares
Since you are already here, a bitshares account is almost a requirement. So if you just got one or are about to sign up, I have some small things you might want to consider before you do all the mistakes I and many before me have done. Blockchain and decentralized organizations can be a daunting experience when you are new to them. And remember that some things can't be undone. So sometimes it's better to just keep it simple.
Choosing account type
Bitshares offers two account types. Cloud and local account. They both come with strengths and weaknesses. And it can be you choose wrong based on what you have heard or read.
A few considerations:
- Is it just to store some tokens or is your purpose to store your life savings?
- where will you be using it? On the go or at home?
- what device will you be using?
There has been endless debates on which account type is more secure. Logically a local account is more secure since the keys are stored on your computer. And that's fine. But it's also the most complex account when inexperienced with the concept. And it is probably the account type with most support requests.
My take on it is this:
A cloud account is more secure IF you don't store more than 3 months house rent. Because the supplied password which your private keys are derived from is so complex, a brute force attack would probably be more expensive if possible at all. The benefits for you is that it's simple to use and almost idiot proof. There are two things you need to log on, an account name and the password associated with it. That's it. It can be memorized and used everywhere. So for the globetrotter it would be the account of choice. And it would be easier with plenty of devices. Just watch out for phishing sites. There has been a few of those recently. So check the authenticity of the site before you log on.
So in my view, most users are more secure with something that is straight forward and don't require much effort to learn other than printing their credentials and keep it stored in safe places.
The local account is for the big spenders. Those who have lots of crypto and would suffer if it was lost. It stores the private keys in an encrypted file that has to be loaded into a browsers cache before it can be decrypted.
This concept never fails to confuse. A simple maintenance clearing of cache in the browser also clears the .bin file stored there. Panic! There is no reason to panic. Not unless you have the .bin file, the brain key (which can be used to restore.bin without access to a backup file) and of course your chosen password to decrypt it.
So in other words, the casual user should not go through the learning curve it is to choose the most advanced account type. The advanced user is another matter. Better safe than sorry. And for even higher security, a multi signature scheme can be set up.
Working with nodes
Bitshares relies on a network of nodes that constantly feeds the latest state the blockchain is in. It's a fascinating system that reminds me of BitTorrent. Only in bitshares you can only have one connection at a time.
Nodes under heavy load performs poorly. And that might change during the day. This is normal and you notice certain parts of the client starts to lag. Or even stop.
That's when you need a fresh one.
A tremendous effort has been done over the past year to enhance the user experience and to strengthen the infrastructure. Consider yourself lucky to not struggle with the old software. Because it was unreliable at best. But at some point everyone gets into trouble and get connection errors some time.
The recent addition of automatic node switching is supposed to fix this. But for me it don't work. The reason is not all nodes are set up the same. And I have two close to me that simply don't cut it for me. The selection seems to be done purely on latency and not on how the nodes work over time. So for me automatic node switching is OFF.
I know which nodes that perform best. And it's a click away to find another I like when they go bad. Pinging them before I choose usually reveals one that will get me through the day and maybe the week. And remember: latency is important, but not the only criteria for a good experience.
Funding the account
Now when you are all set up with an account that suits your needs and you are connected it's about time to let the money do the talking.
There are several ways to get funds in. But most find it strange that Bitshares does not move money in and out. Not at present anyway. This is where gateways come into play. These are private companies collaborating with bitshares. Some offer fiat conversion but the majority of funds are crypto.
I have lost count on them all, but they all serve their niche and compete to make your transfers as painless as possible. They have their own support staff and do their own customer service.
Keep in mind that the gateways connect you with another blockchain. If it has difficulties, you will notice it by your transfer gets stuck or don't arrive at all. And it can feel intimidating for you as end user. But the operators usually handle these situations well and I have to date not lost any claims I have made. It has taken weeks sometimes and sometimes minutes for them to handle my requests. But usually it's just like any other exchange. Except the company is established on the chain instrad of a central database.
To sum it up:
Don't go over board choosing the most advanced security if it's just for a few tokens.
Back up your credentials. Three copies at least. One on your work station, one immediate backup and one offsite backup. For cloud accounts username +password and for local accounts, .bin file + associated password + brain key. For failsafe protection a copy of the private keys can also be wise, especially for local wallet users. But don't expose these to anybody...
Switching nodes and handling the connection to the network is second nature. If the balance is zero, it's probably just a dead node. You find it under settings -> nodes
Learn about the different parts of the ecosystem! Openledger, Cryptobridge, Rudex, easydex, Gdex, Escodex, Spark and many more are companies delivering services that make the platform vibrant. They often have their own communities where you can learn and get help from a human.
And remember that all actions on the blockchain are final. And some things can not be undone. This is especially true for the Permissions. Do not edit them unless you have a good idea of why and what you want to achieve. Worst case is that you lose access. And there is no one that can change it.