Never having owned bitcoins I don't know how bitcoin wallets work and I'm wondering: if I buy bitcoins, what will I need to know about the software involved, and where should I keep my bitcoin wallet? I have a home computer and I have a Google account. Can the latter be used? What security issues are involved? If I'm travelling and far from home, how would I have access to my bitcoins?
if I buy bitcoins, what will I need to know about the software involved?
You don't have to know anything really, if you don't want to.
and where should I keep my bitcoin wallet?
If you don't want to learn about the software or how to keep your wallet secure you should try to find the most reputable e-wallet and keep your money there. People will have different opinions on which one is the safest so have a look around, read forum threads, use something that is well established. MtGox is one option that is well established and is also the exchange with the highest volume.
I have a home computer and I have a Google account. Can the latter be used?
If you don't want to use an e-wallet you could download the official client from bitcoin.org and store your money in its wallet. Your money is then stored in a file on your computer. You could use your Google account to backup that file (your wallet). That would basically mean that the same money is stored in two places - on your own computer, and in your Google account.
What security issues are involved?
If you choose the option of downloading the client it means that anyone who gets ahold of your wallet file can spend your money. If you have uploaded the wallet to your Google account that simply means that there are two places to rob you. It would be enough for the thief to get it either from your home computer or from your Google account.
There is an option in the client to encrypt the wallet using a password. That way anyone who gets ahold of your wallet file can't use your money unless they also know your password. Things to keep in mind here is that if you have some malware on your computer it is possible that it could sniff that password as you type it and then the encryption won't help you. Also, if you forget your password your money is gone. There is no way to recover it.
If I'm travelling and far from home, how would I have access to my bitcoins?
Then the simplest way would be to use the e-wallet option.Tweet