A Canadian aficionado mining and buying Ethereum

Cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and they walk each day into nosebleed bubble territory. I invest mainly in the mainstream stock market (the one that operates with fiat currencies); nonetheless, I have some appetite for risk and as such I allocate a small percentage of my investment fund into high risk assets.

I acquired some ether units with QuadrigaCX in the spring of 2017 and I have seen my investment multiply by a factor of 7. I bought when ether was priced at about $100USD/eth and now (December 2017) it is trading north of $700USD/eth. 

Time to cash in some profits: I sold half my ether and recovered my initial investments plus 2.5 times the money I initially invested. I still keep the other half invested in the Ethereum network, but even if the price of ether goes to zero; I lose nothing.

My interest in ether is not just about the money. I am a software engineer and I enjoy learning the technicalities of it all. This got me into trying the unthinkable; mining my own ether! :-)

Mining is more of a hobby for me and to my advantage I don’t have to foot an electricity bill (it is covered by my rent). 

Power efficiency was not a concern for me when shopping for mining hardware (I can use as much electricity as I want and pay nothing; it is subsidized by the landlord). 

Physical space is nonetheless a concern. I live in a one bedroom apartment and as you can imagine I cannot accommodate an ugly mining rig in my living room. My wife would freak-out; and the landlord won’t like it either.

But this is the thing. I figured I could achieve great mining performance without a rig; because Ethash, the algorithm to mine ether, is memory bond. Having more GPUs not necessarily means you have a higher chance of mining the winning block. The bottleneck of this mining algorithm is not in the hashing calculations, but in the read operations from the DAG. So, you have an edge when buying high memory bandwidth GPUs

To abstract what I just said? No worries. It is explained in better detail in this article: Ethereum's Memory Hardness Explained, and the Road to Mining It with Custom Hardware.

At the time of writing the GPU with highest memory bandwidth in the market is the NVIDIA TITAN Xp. This graphics card offers a jaw-dropping 547.7 GB/s of memory bandwidth. You can just plug it into the PCI Express x16 slot of your motherboard. You can even install a second Titan Xp card using the NVIDIA SLI technology (for this you need a SLI -ready motherboard and a NVIDIA SLI Bridge). 

If you put together two of these babies you would have created a mining rig of sorts; but the difference with more traditional (ugly) rigs is that it all fits inside the chassis of your personal computer. 

The cards are very expensive; but you don’t need much more to start mining. I am using my 3 years old desktop PC with 16GB or RAM; so I did not have to invest in a mother board, chassis, RAM, etc. 

I bought just one Titan Xp card for now and in addition to that I bought a 600W power supply unit (PSU) with one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCI Express supplementary power connectors. I had to buy this new PSU because the Titan Xp card is power hungry and my old PSU was not up to the job.

I tried solo mining so far with no results; but I am thinking of joining an ethereum mining pool. I’ll comment further when I manage to mine my first fraction of ether :-)

So far my investment in ether has been satisfactory. Even if I don’t manage to mine anything with my Titan Xp card, my hardware costs are already covered by the initial profits I made in QuadrigaCX. I recognize the risk of losing money in this enterprise, which is why I did not invest much of my net worth.

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Filing previous years income tax returns in Canada (2016 and beyond)

By law you are only required to file income taxes in Canada if you owe money to the tax man. Nonetheless, even if you are in the clear with the CRA, it might make sense to file a return, because in some cases you can get a refund or credit while doing so.

If you realize that you need to file back a return, simply find a tax filing software for the corresponding tax year and proceed with the filing.

I have used TurboTax for the last 3 years and I can vouch for the simplicity and quality of this software. You can either use the online version or the desktop version. I don’t like the idea of having my tax information stored in a website; which is why I prefer the desktop version.

You can get TurboTax from Amazon or directly from the provider.

If you are in a situation in which you do owe money to the government because you failed to file a prior tax return, then you should consider getting some legal tax advice in order to sort this out with the CRA.

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The cheapest roaming rates for Cuba

The lowest roaming rate for Cuba is the one offered by Digicel. Actually, as far as I can tell this is the only provider allowing you to access data at 3G speeds from your cellphone within the Caribbean island.

Locals can access WIFI hotspots using a service called Nauta; but unless you are a local (or friend with one) this service won’t be accessible to you.

For travelers or tourists the only way I am aware of is the Digicel Cuba Roaming SIM Card. According to Digicel, the card will allow you to access the Internet in all the provinces of Cuba; but you should take this with a grain of salt.

Here’s why? I bought the card myself and I used it with decent quality in Havana City, but when I headed to my home town, San Antonio de los Baños, in the province of Artemisa, the connection was choppy making it almost unusable at times.  What I gathered from this experience is that the card works well in some places; but not so much in others.

You might also want to restrict which applications in your cellphone have access to the data. The data available through this card burns fast and you might find yourself with no connection pretty fast. I only used the SIM card for email and reading the occasional Google News; which is why I only enabled the email client and browser to have access to the data.

Finally, you ought to verify that this card is compatible with your phone. To that purpose you simply need to verify that your cellphone is unlocked and SIM compatible.

If you plan on going often to Cuba and using this card, you might also consider buying an unlocked dual SIM card phone; so that you can insert the Digicel SIM card and your own mobile provider card at the same time. No switching of SIM cards required.

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How to Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source?

There is a withholding tax applied to each paycheck of salaried employees in Canada. By law your employer or payer is required to withhold a portion of your pay and send it directly to the government. The idea is that you will be paying off your income tax liabilities throughout the year and that upon income tax filling time you would owe zero tax dollars to the government. 

There are situations however in which it might be the government the one owing you money. A very common example of this is when people contribute to their own RRSPs with after tax dollars. RRSP contributions are tax deductible which means they don’t count for the purpose of calculating your income tax liabilities. In a case like this you would have paid too much tax to the government and once your income tax return is assessed; you should receive a cheque paying you back the excess tax.
 
Most people are quite happy with this arrangement, but it is not financially wise. Why would you wait the whole year to get your money back? It is actually better not to have paid the excess tax at all. If you pay more tax than you should, you are actually giving the government an interest free loan. 

Why do you think the government withholds the tax to begin with? Well, because they can put that money to “work” immediately. You can do the same: you can choose not to overpay in taxes throughout out the year. By doing this your cash flow will increase as if you would have gotten a raise (really, your paycheck almost magically increases).

You might be wondering at this point how you can prevent your employer (payer) from withholding taxes from your income. Well, you cannot just “tell” your employer to stop sending Ottawa the tax, because the law requires this tax to be withheld.  

You can Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source. To do this, you need to fill form T1213 and mail it by postal mail to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA has the authority to tell your employer to withhold less tax from your salary. 

So, upon receiving your filled form T1213 (and other supporting documents), the CRA will issue a Letter of Authority that you can pass along to your employer effectively reducing the amount of income tax deducted from your remuneration.

The CRA can also decline to issue the Letter of Authority if it determines not enough tax will be withheld to cover your tax liabilities for the tax year or if there’s something wrong with the documentation mailed to them. In this case, you will still get a letter explaining your request was denied.

I went through this process myself and I got the Letter of Authority with no issues. The process of filling the form T1213 is different for everybody, but as an example I will quickly describe what I did in my case.

First some context:

 
I am a full time salaried employee and my employer withholds some tax from my pay. 

On top of that, I make some extra money from this blog. No tax is withheld from the income produced by the blog because it does not come from an employer. 

In addition to this, I set up a Pre authorized deposit (PAD) agreement with Questrade to fund my RRSP. The PAD was arranged in such a way that a fix amount of money is taken from my bank account on the same day I receive my paycheck and used to fund my RRSP at Questrade. 

Let’s make some numbers up to illustrate the above. Let’s imagine the PAD takes $300 biweekly from my bank account and contributes that amount to my Questrade RRSP.  The year has 52 weeks which means a total $7,800.00 (52 x $300 /2) will be contributed to my Questrade RRSP via the PAD. Finally let’s imagine I make $2,800.00 from my blog.

Start by filling the Identification section: provide your First Name, Last Name, Social Insurance Number, Address, City, Province or Territory, Postal Code, Residence and Business Telephone (Business Telephone if applicable).

Then proceed to the Employer/Payer section and type in your employer’s Name, Contact person and Telephone and fax numbers (I left the fax number empty since I don’t think my company has one). I think it is wise to provide a Contact person in the Payroll or HR department of the company. It is also wise to let this person know about your intention to use him/her as Contact person for this application.

Then move to the section Request to reduce tax on. In this section I just checked the Salary checkbox.  I am not familiar with the other option: Lump Sum, but I did not care since it does not apply to me. If the Lump Sum option applies to you and you want to share your insights about it, please drop us a line in the comments section below.

Next you move to the Deductions from income and non-refundable tax credits section. Using the numbers from our example, you will enter:
  • Registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions (Line 1): $7,800.00
  • Total amounts to be deducted from income (Line 12): $7,800.00
  • Subtract income not under tax deductions at source (interest, net rental or self-employed income) (Line 13): $2,800.00
  • Net amount requested for tax waiver (Line 14): $5,000.00
There are other deductions and non-refundable tax credits that you can use to reduce your withholding tax at the source. Those are listed from line 2 to 11. Leave empty all the lines that do not apply to you. 

Line 12 is calculated by adding of all the numbers you have entered from line 1 to 11. In this particular example, I only filled Line 1; which is why the value of Line 12 matches the value of Line 1

Line 14 is calculated by subtracting the values in Lines 12 and 13.

Finally move to the Certification section and proceed to sign and date the form.

I mailed this application to the address specified at the end of the form T1213. Depending on where you live, the address will be different. Check the table at the end of the form T1213 to find out which address you need to send the application to.

My application included:
  1. My filled and signed form T121.
  2. My Pre authorized deposit (PAD) agreement with Questrade.
  3. A letter of my own explaining that the number I entered in Line 13 was just an “estimate”. (See the To Whom It May Concern letter at the end of the post). As you can imagine, I could not say exactly how much money I would make by blogging; so I just estimated the amount to enter in Line 13 to the best of my ability and I let the CRA know this was just an estimate.
I sent the whole application to the CRA on September 30th, 2017 and I got the Letter of Authority in the middle of November. You want to send the application well before the end of the year so that you give enough time to the CRA to assess you request and issue the Letter of Authority.

The Letter of Authority actually states that should you want to renew this application, a new form T1213 should be submitted each year by November 1st, thus giving enough time for the CRA to reply back.

If you have some questions drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer. You should not consider this to be legal advice of any kind. Should you use the information given in this post, you do so at your own risk.

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To Whom It May Concern:

September 30th, 2017

Dear Sir/Madam, 

I attached CRA Form T1213  (Request to reduce tax deductions at the source for year 2018). I also enclosed separate sheets containing further information about my employer’s contact person and a copy of the payment arrangement contract (RRSP pre-authorized deposit via Questrade).

Note that the value entered in row 13 ($2800.00CAD) of T1213 is an estimate done to the best of my ability. This portion of my income is variable (not fixed) and it is not subject to tax deductions at the source.

Sincerely,
--------------------------------
Yanniel Alvarez Alfonso

¿Cómo recargar los teléfonos celulares de Cuba por Internet?

Cubacel es el único proveedor de servicios para teléfonos celulares en Cuba. Este servicio celular no se factura una vez al mes como en el resto del mundo, sino que cada celular tiene que ser recargado de antemano con cierto crédito antes de poder usarse.

Hay dos formas para recargar los celulares en Cuba:
  1. Puedes comprar una tarjeta de recarga en una de las oficinas comerciales de Cubacel  dentro de la isla.
  2. Puedes recargar el celular por Internet usando una tarjeta de crédito (VISA, MasterCard, etc.) o PayPal.
Yo vivo en Toronto, Canadá pero tengo casi toda mi familia y amigos en Cuba. Debido a esto me encuentro prácticamente cada mes recargándole el celular a alguien; en particular le he estado recargando el celular a mi mamá por más de 7 años a través de Internet.

A lo largo de este tiempo he usado varios servicios de recarga, y el que mejor me ha funcionado es Ding (conocido antiguamente como Ezetop). 

De hecho Ding es el servicio de recargas que uso actualmente y lo llevo usando por varios años. Lo único que necesitas es el número de celular a recargar y un medio de pago (tarjeta de crédito o PayPal). Puedes efectuar la recarga dando clic en la imagen siguiente:
Ding* - Recarga saldo fácilmente

Una distinción importante: hay dos tipos diferentes de recargas que puedes hacer a través de Ding. La recarga explicada en este artículo es la recarga del balance del celular; la cual agrega crédito a tu cuenta celular permitiéndote hacer llamadas y enviar mensajes y correos electrónicos. Ahora bien, existe otra recarga conocida como la recarga de Nauta, que le permite a los cubanos dentro de la isla  conectarse a Internet a través de puntos compartidos de WIFI. Para saber más acerca de la recarga de Nauta haz click aquí.

Si este artículo te fue útil compártelo a través del botón de Google Más (G+) que aparece al principio de esta página. 

Para consultar la versión en inglés de este artículo sigue el enlace a continuación: Recharge Cubacel online. Ding/Ezetop promotions.