My Bitcoin Christmas Shopping Spree

Virtual currency is great. Until you have to pick out presents. Or purchase them

George Frey / Getty Images

My editors thought that the best holiday present they could give me this year was the chance to create a new bitcoin, the increasingly popular form of digital currency that uses cryptography instead of government regulation to secure transactions. Little did they know that setting up a functional mining rig--a high-end computer system designed exclusively to solve mathematical problems that yield new bitcoins--is beyond the scope of my technical prowess, not to mention our budget.

So my editors did the next best thing: they wired me money and let me buy my very own bitcoin. The plan was to use only...