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OK, so it didn't work. but it had me going for a while there.

my crazy idea, which turns out to have been not so crazy after all, was that some Bitcoin philanthropists could have left little crypto "geocaches" around for people to find. I used a modified version of this script to try different words and phrases, and imported the private keys on my test server using commands like $ bitcoin-cli importprivkey 5J8EYvahRXUicxLs6xmemzHpnn4M2U7mtJkaDowM6FcQcNzbhpr "free bitcoins" false. the text in quotes is the label you want to give to that imported key, and the false means don't rescan; the rescan takes hours on a slow machine. on the 4th import I deliberately left off the "false" so I could check if I'd hit pay dirt.

after only a few minutes I started seeing AddToWallet messages in debug.log. over the rescan thousands of them scrolled by; checking the log later, 90032 of them total. I was stoked, but I couldn't wait. I generated QR codes of the private keys using this script and tried "sweeping" them with the Coinomi app. I had one trying with BTC and the other with BCH, Bitcoin Cash. the first two showed "The private key does not contain any funds.", but when I got to password, it started going crazy, that little spinning circle going for hours. it crashed once and I restarted it. finally I decided it was hung, and I aborted it. and hours later, the rescan on my server finished and I could check:

$ bitcoin-cli listaccounts
  "": -0.35461540,
  "free bitcoin": 0.00000000,
  "free bitcoins": 0.00050000,
  "password": 0.35331540,
  "qwerty": 0.00080000

what?! I had over $5000 worth of BTC but it got spent? where did it all go? listtransactions only showed me a small portion of that. did someone hack my computer? or was it the Coinomi app that grabbed the funds even though they don't show up in the balance?

turns out I was a few years too late. these are apparently well-known brainwallets and have long since been swept. the negative number for the default account "" exactly canceling out the sum of the other keys' balances just means tthat they were spent, not that they were spent from this particular machine. it's quite misleading.

so anyway, during all of this I had visions of billions dancing in my head. it turned out to be nothing, but what a ride. and I could still someday hit on a winner.

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last updated 2017-12-21 09:55:59. served from tektonic