The Lightning Network is many things. It’s cheap, the fees for sending payments are so low that they’re nearly free. It’s fast, sending Bitcoin is so quick that it can compete with credit card payments in terms of speed. And perhaps most importantly, the Lightning Network offers something that Bitcoin has never had before, privacy. The person you are paying can’t see how much money you have in your wallet. These are the upsides.
The downside is that a lightning node isn’t the easiest thing in the world to set up. It requires a fairly in-depth understanding, or at least familiarity with, software and programming. In the past that has stopped people from using the Lightning Network but no more! With these plug and play nodes, it has never been easier to start using it.
Be Like Jack Dorsey with the Casa Node
The Casa Node is the most popular Lightning Network node and is used by none other than Jack Dorsey, the Bitcoin maximalist and CEO of Twitter. At $300 not only is it the cheapest preassembled node on our list but the purchase price also includes a Trezor hardware wallet. Fittingly, it’s possible to buy the Casa Node with either a credit card or Bitcoin.
After setting up the node and getting it connected to your wi-fi, a process which takes less than half an hour, the node will begin to sync the blockchain. When the node leaves the factory it’s fully synced however in the time between the factory floor and your home it will have gotten out of sync and it may take some time to catch up.
Once the sync is complete the home screen will pop up. The home screen on the Casa Node is renowned for its simplicity and Apple-like appearance:
It gives you the option to check on the system settings, set up a Bitcoin wallet or open a payment channel on the Lightning Network.
While the entire process is supposed to be seamless some people have reported corrupt blockchain syncs and problems connecting to their wi-fi network. Given that the Lightning Network is new technology and plug and play nodes are even newer it makes sense that there are bugs. Casa Node appears to have good customer service though and that alone may make it worth buying this particular node.
A NODL Node is a Long Term Investment
At $400 each, the NODL node comes at a $100 premium over the Casa Node. It bills itself as a “personal Bitcoin assistant” and offers the same features as the Casa Node. It allows you to set up a Bitcoin wallet and connect to the Lightning Network without an undergraduate degree in computer science. The primary feature which sets it apart from the Casa Node is NODL’s SSD hard drive. That decreases blockchain sync times and increases the life of the product as SSD drives last longer than traditional hard drives.
The NODL website claims that set up is easy and users can get their NODL syncing with three clicks. Like the Casa Node, it comes pre-downloaded with nearly a complete copy of Bitcoin’s blockchain so sync times should be short. The box itself is constructed out of steal and looks slightly more robust than the Casa Node. If you are ready to buy you can purchase the node directly from NODL. It comes with a configurable storage option where 500GB is $399 and 1TB is $499.
For the Do It Yourselfers, Make Your Own Node
If you have got the technical expertise and want to save some money it’s possible to assemble your own hardware node. The RaspiBlitz is based on open source plans and requires the following for assembly: RaspBerryPi 3 B+, a 1TB hard drive, an LCD-display, a Micro SD-card, a power supply and a case with a heatsink. The creators of the plans for the RaspiBlitz estimate that the materials will cost less than $160, depending on where you live. That means that time aside, the RaspiBlitz can be had for about half the cost of the Casa Node or one-third of the price of the NODL node.
Once you have got the node set up and all of the software installed, a process which (apart from the syncing of the blockchain) can be done over the weekend, you will be greeted with the home screen:
It’s not quite as intuitive or nice looking as the Casa Node home screen but it gets the job done. Since everything is open source it should, however, be easy to update in the future as the UI is improved upon.
Why Running a Lightning Node is a Good Idea
As the Lightning Network is in its youth there are still a lot of bugs to be worked out. However, it’s growing quickly and showing real signs of adoption. That means more channels are being opened and larger payments are being successfully routed. In April of 2019, for instance, the overall capacity of the Lightning Network hit $5,000,000 for the first time.
All of this suggests that the Lightning Network is going to be the scaling solution that wins in the long run. That being the case it makes sense for people to start familiarizing themselves with it now. That applies double for merchants. Bitcoin fees have been continually rising and they are high enough now that it no longer makes sense to make small payments using Bitcoin. If someone wants to buy a coffee, for instance, the fee could be as much as half the price of the beverage. With the Lightning Network buying a coffee is easy and the fees will be negligible. That’s great for merchants because it’s a lot cheaper than paying the fees on a credit card transaction.
If you are ready to take the first step and open your own payment channel you can’t go wrong with any of the nodes we listed above. Whether you build it yourself or buy it premade, what matters is that you get involved with the Lightning Network and help to assure its dominance over the traditional payment industry.
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