You'll download the software you need to mine a specific coin and edit an executable text file with details like the mining pool's URL to connect to, your wallet address and the name of your "worker" or PC. More advanced options allow you to adjust how hard your GPU or CPU works. The vast majority of this software works across Windows and Linux, although it's more difficult to configure on non-Windows systems. What makes it more challenging is that these variables are formatted differently depending on the pools and the software.
Coinbase is probably the easiest and safest way to purchase bitcoins in the U.S. Unlike BitStamp, Coinbase is not an exchange. They act as a counter-party to all customer trades, you buy or sell your bitcoins directly to Coinbase. The buy/sell fee is 1% on top of the buy/sell spread. The bid/ask is usually close to BitStamp where the firm gets its liquidity from. For example, the current bid is at $635.48 and the current ask is $638.07. In addition to this, the firm has daily limits on the amount of bitcoins bought/sold. These limits are not applied on the individual level. Basically Coinbase has a set amount of bitcoins that it is willing to buy or sell every day. During times or high volatility, users may not be able to buy/sell bitcoins until Coinbase decides to ‘’refill’’ their stock. Here’s a good explanation on this issue from their Customer Support:
BTC/USD Live Spreads Widget: Dynamic live spreads are available when market is open. When market is closed and static spreads are displayed, the figures are target spreads. Spreads are variable and are subject to delay. The spread figures are for informational purposes only. FXCM is not liable for errors, omissions or delays, or for actions relying on this information.
Bitcoins are mined with powerful computer hardware and software. A maximum of 21 million Bitcoin will be available, after which no further bitcoins will be produced. The algorithm which governs the production of Bitcoin limits the quantity that will be produced, and the rate at which they will be produced. It is a finite commodity – there is a fixed amount, and that ensures that greater demand will always prop up the price. In this way, it is similar to other finite commodities such as crude oil, silver, or gold.