I am new to Bitcoin, how can I get started?

I am new to both StackExchange and to the new online currency called Bitcoin. I understand what Bitcoin is and how it works, but I was wondering: how do you actually get started with Bitcoin? I have read some articles about mining and the different things you can do to actually get some money in profit, but none of the articles actually go into depth with how to actually do all these things. I was wondering if anyone in the community could help me and make any suggestions to me and those who want to get started in the new currency.

Do PCI USB risers lower the hashing rate?

I have a PCI USB riser like this one:
PCI x1 USB to PCI x16 riser

I have 2 identical video cards with one plugged directly into the motherboard and one plugged in via the PCI riser. I am seeing a hash rate of 290 KH/s on the one directly connected to the motherboard and 210 KH/s on the one connected via the riser. The riser is connected to the PSU so it is powered. There is no need to short the PCI slot. I have tried this riser in both a PCI x1 slot and PCI x16 slot with the same results. The video cards are both GTX 580.

Could the added latency of going through a USB wire account for this decrease in hash rate?

Using another video card (GTX 750 Ti FTW), I was able to confirm a decrease of about 100 KH/s while connected to the PCI USB riser. I have tried 2 separate risers with 2 separate video cards and every time a PCI USB riser is involved, my hash rate is lower than when connected directly to the motherboard. The motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R. The BIOS has been updated and I only see BIOS options to change the PCI Express Frequency and PCI Express Clock Drive.

I am having a hard time finding an answer online and I need experts, please help. If these USB risers decrease the hashing power then I’m not sure why people want them. I want them for the added distance I need between my motherboard and GPUS in my setup but perhaps I should alter my setup to allow for the ribbon cable riser version. I appreciate your recommendations. Could there be a setting that accounts for this latency and keeps an optimal hashing power?

Is there a lightweight blockchain parser library/server?

I’m using bitcoin-qt and have a local copy of the blockchain, in which I’m running some analysis with the JSON-RPC API using mostly getblock and getrawtransaction. I have no need writing or sending transactions in this use case. It’s overkill to run a full node just to read the blockchain, and it hurts my analysis performance, too.

Is there a (preferrably tested) library to parse the blockchain and return objects, JSON or not? Language doesn’t matter much. If not, is there a node implementation that allow turning off network and wallet features?

dogecoind won’t read conf

I’m having issues starting dogecoind after compiling in ubuntu 12.04 x64 running in VirtualBox on win 7 ultimate x64

here’s what i’ve tried from inside dogecoin/src after make -f makefile.unix:

sudo su
./dogecoind -server -listen -daemon -rpcuser=dogerpc -rpcpassword=dogerpcpw -rpctimeout=30 -rpcport=8334 -rpcallowip=192.168.1.* -rpcallowip=127.0.0.1 -testnet

and i get:

Error: To use the "-server" option, you must set a secure rpcpassword in the configuration file:
/root/.dogecoin/dogecoin.conf

so i do:

cd ~/.dogecoin
emacs dogecoin.conf

i save the following parameters:

rpcuser=dogerpc
rpcpassword=dogerpcpw
rpcport=8334
rpcallowip=192.168.1.*
rpcallowip=127.0.0.1
server=1
daemon=1
listen=1
testnet=1

i even chmod 777 dogecoin.conf to be sure everyone on God’s green earth could access it so that wouldn’t be a problem, but still the same error when trying to start up dogecoind

would much appreciate any help/tips!

Found my old wallet, is it empty?

So I found my old wallet from 2011, I was able to pull my address and my PrivateKey using pywallet. I downloaded Bitcoin-QT, copied the old wallet over and reran with -scan. Since it was a new install the blockchain is still updating (not finished as of this post).

I searched my address at blockchain.info and it said that address didn’t have a balance. With that being said, are my efforts at recovering the wallet pointless? I pulled the wallet off an old drive so it hasn’t connected since 6/2011. The entire directory is intact and the block that was processed is still in the directory as well, about 301MB big. Not sure if that helps me at all in this case.

EDIT: Here’e the pywallet dump with critical data removed. The fact that there is nothing under tx makes me believe that I’m wasting my time.

{
"bestblock": "REDACTED",
"ckey": [],
"defaultkey": "1PSatNhRDmmR6rfK5c9XJvqwB92z7beRa",
"keys": [
    {
        "addr": "1PSatNhRDmmR6rfK5c9XJvqwB92z7beRa",
        "compressed": false,
        "hexsec": "REDACTED",
        "label": "",
        "private": "REDACTED",
        "pubkey": "REDACTED",
        "reserve": 0,
        "sec": "REDACTED",
        "secret": "REDACTED"
    }
],
"mkey": {},
"names": {
    "1PSatNhRDmmR6rfK5c9XJvqwB92z7beRa": ""
},
"pool": [],
"settings": {
    "addrProxy": "127.0.0.1:23075",
    "fGenerateBitcoins": "False",
    "fUseProxy": "False"
},
"tx": [],
"version": 32100
}