Bitcoin is composed of a network of full nodes, which thousands of people around the world run on computers. Bitcoin is an anomaly in the financial world. Bitcoin has no one king with a jeweled scepter or company with a profit motive in charge. These nodes are a crucial piece of ensuring that Bitcoin remains decentralized and secure.
Each node stores a record of every bitcoin transaction ever sent. With this knowledge, the node can independently verify that new transactions are valid – that the person sending the transaction owns the bitcoin they say they own.
On top of this, Bitcoin’s Lightning network is one of the more promising technologies in the space, pushing bitcoin transactions to a new level of scale and speed. Luckily, for tinkerers who like having extra control of their money, running the mysterious infrastructure underlying it can be a short weekend project.
In this article, we’ll walk through how to set up a Bitcoin node as well as a Lightning node, using RaspiBlitz, created by developer Christian Rotzoll and supported by the German-based Bitcoin startup Fulmo, which also hosts Lightning network hackathons around the world.
Why set up and run a Bitcoin node?
Not only is it a mind-expanding experience that contributes to the health of the Bitcoin network, but it benefits the user running the node as well.
One of the key advantages of Bitcoin is that users don’t have to trust an intermediary bank such as Wells Fargo to hold their money or to make payments.
“Not your Node, Not your Rules,” as the RaspiBlitz instructions put it.
Along those lines, running a node is a key part of being financially self-sovereign. Users running these nodes can rely on them to be correct. They don’t have to trust anyone else with this information, such as a malicious actor that might want to provide a user with incorrect information. If a user accepts bitcoin payments, but does not run their own node, they’re trusting information about the payment from somebody else’s node. This data can be spoofed.
Bitcoin developers think that running these nodes are so important, in fact, that many have dedicated their careers to make them as easy to run as possible.
“Why would you want to use someone else’s computer as the source of truth?” Bitcoin entrepreneur Chimezie Chuza argued.
Then there are Lightning nodes, which run on top of this Bitcoin full node as a second layer for speedier payments. These nodes connect users to the Lightning network for speedier payments with lower fees (which is especially useful when they bounce up from time to time). The network is still experimental and new, but plenty of users and developers are throwing caution to the wind out of enthusiasm for Bitcoin and are using it anyway.
What we’re going to do in this article is set up not just a Bitcoin node – with the help of RaspiBlitz, we’re also going to install a Lightning node.