Tag Archives: mining

Infographic: Why Is Decentralized Currency Better?

Why is-decentralized currency better infographic HolyTransaction

 

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jorge

Bitcoin’s Monthly Recap of September 2015

Welcome to HolyTransaction’s ninth monthly recap for the year 2015. This past month of September has been marked by some pretty developments in old cases and the long awaited release of new products; during that time, the bitcoin price rose from a low of $229.86 on September 1st to a high of $236.12 on September 30th, according to Bitcoin exchange Bitstamp.
 
Mike Tyson Proud to Be In Bitcoin, Opens Bitcoin ATM in Las Vegas
Weeks ago, Mike Tyson announced that he would be releasing a Tyson branded Bitcoin ATM in Las Vegas. The Lamassu Bitcoin ATM currently sits at the Linq in Vegas, is the 7th in Sin City, and has gathered a lot of attention. Tyson believes that Bitcoin will grow as education on it grows. He commented: “People don’t really understand a currency based on numerical equations. I personally still don’t … but I’m grateful to be a part of the revolution and hoping that my participation in this space will lead to more conversations and help increase knowledge and awareness.”
 
More Corruption in FBI Silk Road Case As Variety Johns Comes Forward
Variety Johns, the man long associated with working with Ross Ulbricht and Silk Road, has turned himself in and revealed a very convoluted tale. He claims that a corrupt federal agent is threatening the Ulbricht family and is in control of an encrypted Bitcoin wallet with Ross Ulbricht’s bitcoins. Posting to the internet, Variety Johns revealed his real name and the alias of the supposed agent hunting him: Diamond. The years old investigation into Silk Road is still ongoing.
 
21 Inc. Releases 21 Bitcoin Computer
21 Inc., one of the most well-funded Bitcoin companies in the world, has released its first product: the 21 Bitcoin Computer. At its core, the Bitcoin computer is just a Raspberry Pi 2 with an attached 21 Inc. Bitcoin mining chip that is rather efficient. The Bitcoin computer enables a developer to have full access to the Bitcoin network as a full node. Already, the computer has become the #1 best selling server on Amazon.
 
R3 Blockchain Initiative Brings 22 International Banks Together
In a sure sign of the times, many big name banks from around the world have committed to working with new Bitcoin company R3. R3 is planning a blockchain development initiative that will update the financial infrastructure that banks use to include blockchain technology, whether or not Bitcoin will be involved remains to be seen. The CEO of R3 stated: “The addition of this new group of banks demonstrates widespread support for innovative distributed ledger solutions across the global financial services community, and we’re delighted to have them on board.”

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Satoshi

Dogecoin to allow Litecoin merge mining in network security bid

(CoinDesk) The dogecoin development team has announced that it will soon enable auxiliary proof-of-work (AuxPoW), allowing merge-mining with litecoin that will address concerns over the altcoin’s future.
AuxPoW enables the dogecoin block chain to receive work from other scrypt-based networks. Dogecoin miners will still be able to generate blocks and receive DOGE, but now, litecoin miners will contribute hashing power to the dogecoin network.
The move, announced on the dogecoin subreddit, follows a months-long period of community debate focusing on the question of long-term viability in the dogecoin network. Litecoin creator Charlie Lee suggested the idea of merge mining in April, eliciting mixed reactions from both sides of the conversation.
According to the dogecoin development team, the AuxPoW integration will require a hard fork of the dogecoin block chain. No specific integration date has been given, but the development team said that testing will begin soon.
As explained in the original announcement:
“Our topmost priority has always been to provide a stable platform for the currency and its services and of course its users. We hope that with AuxPoW we can achieve that in a better way than what it currently is like. Our hashrate has been on a decline and we hope that we can gain more of it with the acceptance of proof of work from other chains.”
As expected, community members voiced both enthusiasm and concern for the AuxPoW plan. Yet, advocates for the strategy, including Lee, say that the move will ensure the stability and security of the dogecoin network.

Plan to save dogecoin

AuxPoW is not new – several coins already enable work from other mining networks, with namecoin being the most prominent example. This long-standing reputation as a workable proofing system – and the strength of the litecoin network – has gained the idea support in recent weeks.
In a recent community post on /r/dogecoinDogetipbot creator Josh Mohland shared his perspective on the concept, saying that AuxPoW would help solve a key problem with dogecoin: the fact that it was never intended to function as a full-fledged transaction network.
Mohland explained:
“Dogecoin was built to die quickly – none of us expected it to grow into the absurd entity it is today. With that said, there’s absolutely an easy way to save the coin from its certain death (and by death I mean 51% attacked for the lulz), and that’s AuxPoW.”
He went on to call AuxPoW “a simple change” worth the trouble, owing to the fact that the risk of a 51% attack far outweighs perceived costs.
Other community members expressed concern over the idea, saying that the move enables large litecoin pools to crowd out smaller dogecoin miners. Questions were also raised as to whether or not AuxPoW would actually help prevent a 51% attack.

Dogecoin in ‘dire situation’, says Lee

Litecoin creator Lee hailed the announcement, telling CoinDesk that the development team made the right decision during a “dire situation”.
Lee argued that the move comes at the right time given the long-term threat to the dogecoin network – and, as some have pointed out, its falling price. He added that the move provides increased security for dogecoin without any repercussions, removing a source of concern for the network and enabling broader development in the community.
Lee told CoinDesk:
“[The community] can focus on what dogecoin does best (tipping, donations, wow) instead of worrying about defensive mining and network security.”
Image via DailyDoge

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Satoshi

Network security and Proof-of-Work: do we need an alternative?

The Bitcoin protocol is designed using a proof of work mechanism, which determines who is permitted to sign the transactions that need to be verified.
A proof of work (PoW) is a piece of data which is computationally difficult to achieve, meaning that it required a lot of either time or hashing power (or both) to find the solution, but it’s easy to verify that this work was actually completed. Bitcoin uses a proof of work algorithm called hashcash, which has been around a lot longer than bitcoin itself, and was created with the purpose of being an anti denial-of-service (DOS) measure. Hashcash is fairly versatile and can be implemented with a number of functions; bitcoin uses hashcash-SHA256^2.
The proof of work consists in finding a target number that is below a certain target value, and in doing so the miner essentially “proves” that she performed a certain amount of “work” in trying various inputs. If I input a string into the SHA-256 hash function, there is no known way of determining what the output will be. Trial and error is the only way to find an input that will generate a hash that fits the desired criteria. In theory, you could nail it on the first try, but the probability of this happening is very small.
Given the current combined hashing power of the network, on average a solution is found every 10 minutes, at which point the block has been mined and the bitcoins are released as a reward. Every 2016 blocks, which ends up being approximately every two weeks, the algorithm moderates itself and either increases or decreases the difficulty of the problem. In practical terms, this means that it either increases or decreases the target value, so it’s easier or harder to find a value below it. This ensures a relatively smooth rate of release for newly mined bitcoins, and avoids flooding the market with coins at any given time.
It doesn’t matter whether I am using a supercomputer or a laptop to do the proof of work, it’s simply that with a supercomputer I can go through the attempts much faster, which means I have a higher chance of solving the problem before anyone else and therefore claiming the reward. The only thing that is important is how many hashes I can go through per unit of time, which is why the power of mining hardware is measured in MH/s, GH/s or TH/s (mega, giga and terahashes per second).
Some people in the cryptocurrency community have voiced the concern that miners may not be incentivized to continue mining if the price of bitcoin plummets, or simply because the reward for solving a given block decreases over time. Both are valid concerns but deserve to be addressed separately. In the first case, the assumption is that the reward amount would be too low for it to be worthwhile financially, and once all 21 million bitcoins have been mined this reward goes away entirely. Currently miners are primarily incentivized by the coinbase reward rather than the transaction fees, which is why many blocks end up with few transactions. Miners profit from the transaction fees, and the more transactions they include in a block, the more money they can make, but the opportunity cost of continuing to work on that block rather than go after a new one is high, as a competing block may win, rendering their work a waste of time and computing power.
Let’s assume that for whatever reason the price of bitcoin collapses, and therefore it is significantly less lucrative (net negative, once you factor in the cost of electricity) to mine. If miners are rational actors, most of them will stop mining, which is a problem for the network. The unintended consequence, however, is that mining would become dramatically less competitive, and therefore substantially more lucrative for those miners who continue to mine — at least in the short term. As I mentioned earlier, the algorithm self regulates to keep the average pace at which blocks are solved at around 10 minutes per block. As the bitcoin developer guide explains, Every 2,016 blocks, the network uses timestamps stored in each block header to calculate the number of seconds elapsed between generation of the first and last of those last 2,016 blocks. The ideal value is 1,209,600 seconds (two weeks).
Based on a comparison to the ideal value, the algorithm either increases or decreases the difficulty of the problem to solve, essentially recalibrating to try and get as close to 1,209,600 seconds as possible. To date, the difficulty has increased as more and more advanced ASIC miners continue to be developed, and more computing power is needed to have a chance at being the first to solve a block. However, the algorithm can also self-regulate in the opposite direction, making it easier to solve the problem by increasing the target value. Difficulty can be decreased by as much as 75%. This component of the protocol is particularly brilliant in design, as it basically guards itself against market shocks that could be produced by sudden swings in the mining power being inputted at any given moment.
Even if the bitcoins they are mining are worth substantially less post crash, if the miners believe that the expected future value of their bitcoins is significantly greater than it is at present, then it would make sense to continue mining. Alternatively, if a large percentage of miners quit because they didn’t anticipate the future value of bitcoin to make their present expenditure worthwhile, the new environment could still attract a new class of miners who are not currently mining because they don’t have the hashing power needed to make it lucrative, but if competition decreased dramatically, it would be. Presumably at this point other miners who had been mining previously would also see this and start getting back into the game, which would ultimately increase competition and start driving things in an upward direction again.
The likelihood that we see a huge drop in the price of bitcoin also decreases substantially over time, as it becomes less probable as the network expands. One of the main reasons bitcoin prices have been fairly volatile to date is that the network (by which I mean the number of consumers with wallets and merchants who accept bitcoin as a form of payment) is still relatively small. Bitcoin’s market cap has been hovering between 7 and 10 billion dollars, which means that any hedge fund worth its salt could take a position and dramatically swing the market. Bridgewater Associates, for instance, is the world’s largest hedge fund with $150 billion in global investments under management. In theory, they could buy ALL the bitcoins that have been mined to date 19x over, and still have enough left to throw in six Instagram acquisitions in for fun. And that’s only one of the top funds. Because the market cap is small, bitcoin to date has been subject to the whims of large actors; as the cap increases, there’s a strong chance that this will change.
There’s also the issue to consider that even in the absence of a price crash, incentives to mine naturally decrease over time as the amount of bitcoin received as a reward for mining a block is halved every 210,000 blocks, or approximately every four years. Theres is reasonable cause for concern that without the incentives provided by block rewards the network will no longer be secured, in that the transaction fees will not be sufficient to support the cost of securing the network. This is a manifestation of the game theory concept of the “Tragedy of the Commons” in which no individual actor wants to perform work or contribute to the community because he believes that she can reap the benefits regardless, but when everyone behaves this way, the system ends up collapsing and leaves everyone worse off. No one wants to pay transaction fees, but if everyone avoids paying them, the miners will have no incentive to keep security levels high, which could result in a systemic collapse.
To some extent, the point in time at which this problem becomes a reality will depend on the price of bitcoin, and no one can accurately predict when the network will reach that point, but even if prices continue to grow this is likely only a case of delaying the inevitable. If a bitcoin today is worth $600 and I receive 25 when mining a block, and in ten years I only receive 6.25 bitcoins for doing the same work, yet each one is worth $100,000, mining still makes a lot of sense. Even considering the investment in mining equipment, assuming that the amount of electricity I will have to expend will be higher, and discounting for 2-3% annual inflation, there’s still a substantial potential upside. There are a number of external factors (exact cost of electricity, price of ASICs or other mining equipment, etc) that will play into this and influence whether the network incentives to mine remain high enough, so it is worthwhile considering other mechanisms, prominent amongst which is proof of stake.
Proof of stake (PoS) is an idea that came about as an alternative solution to proof of work, primarily as a safeguard to some of the original protocol’s perceived shortcomings. Apparently it was first proposed in 2011 in the bitcoin talk forum by “QuantumMechanic”, and since then several models for implementation have been developed. A proof of stake scheme is similar to proof of work in that it is also a mechanism for determining who will sign the transactions in a given block, but instead of relying on hashing power, it uses ownership as the deciding factor. Simply put, if Alice holds 5% of all coins, she has the ability to mine 5% of the blocks. Theoretically this should increase network security by making it more difficult to mount a 51% attack. In order to do so, someone (probably a mining pool) would have to control over half of all coins in existence, which is much harder to do than controlling 51% of the hashing power. It’s worth considering that this isn’t impossible, as a large centralized pool could form and come to control over half the coins in circulation through a combination of owned coins and loans, for example. Realistically, however, in a proof of stake situation it wouldn’t make much economic sense to mount this type of attack. It would substantially reduce confidence in the network’s security, and likely cause the price to plummet. By crashing the value of a coin in which it is so heavily invested, the malicious mining pool would essentially be shooting itself in the foot. To some degree this is also true in a PoW scenario, but the disincentive is much stronger where PoS is being applied.
Although there’s no way to know exactly if and when an alternative to proof of work will become necessary due to a lack of mining incentives, a proof of stake scheme could also be a desirable solution for environmental and efficiency reasons. Since the proof of work process does not actually solve real-world problems, the energy is essentially burned without a real return, which is suboptimal. Implementing PoS, either in the form of a fork from the main proof of work blockchain or via the use of an altcoin that uses it (ie Peercoin, or something similar) could be significantly less costly than bitcoin mining as it currently stands, because the current system gobbles up a huge amount of electricity. Because PoS uses far less energy, as almost none is expended in the mining process, it would be substantially cheaper to make a profit mining than in a PoW scenario. It would also meaningfully reduce transaction fees in the long run, as miners wouldn’t have to charge high fees in order to cover their power and hardware costs.
We still lack a perfect solution to all these issues, and PoS is not a panacea either. One problem I see with implementing a PoS mechanism is that it could cause illiquidity in the market and lead to great concentrations of wealth. Miners would be incentivized to hold their bitcoin in order to be allowed to mine more, and therefore large concentrations pools of currency would accumulate. Currently, miners have an incentive to convert some of their mined bitcoins into dollars by selling them, but this is largely true because of a) price volatility – it is still risky to hold everything in bitcoin and b) there are still many assets that cannot be purchased using bitcoin. If PoS were implemented, and as both a) and b) become less relevant as the network expands, this could lead to a vast majority of coins being held by very few.
Despite the considerable improvements that proof of stake offers over proof of work in certain spheres, ultimately neither proof of work nor proof of stake offer a perfect solution to long-term network security concerns. Still, both clearly have useful characteristics which, applied in conjunction, could help overcome some of their own shortcomings. Just as I was wrapping up this writeup, Ryan Selkis passed along a fascinating paper by Bentov, Lee, Mizrahi, and Rosenfeld which proposes a third option, called Proof of Activity (PoA). PoA is predicated on the belief that neither PoS nor PoW are flawless, and seeks to pull in some of the better aspects of both. Given that this piece has already gotten quite lengthy in just looking at proof of work and proof of stake, I’ll write about the PoA paper separately sometime soon. The paper, titled “Proof of Activity: Extending Bitcoin’s Proof of Work via Proof of Stake”, is fairly technical, but it’s very thorough and for those who are so inclined I definitely recommend a read.

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Satoshi

Under the microscope: conclusions on the costs of Bitcoin

Hass McCook is a chartered engineer and freshly minted Oxford MBA. He has been researching bitcoin over the past several months and recently joined the Lifeboat Foundation’s New Money Systems advisory board.
This, the final instalment in his five-part series, evaluates the relative sustainability of the bitcoin network against the costs of gold production, the printing and minting of physical currency and the legacy banking system.
money flying away
Under the Microscope has aimed to cast a critical eye over the social, environmental and economic impacts of the way we currently transact and transfer wealth, be it through legacy systems like gold and fiat currencies, or through newer digital cryptographic ones.
The series has also endeavoured to give readers a clearer idea of the human and environmental impacts associated with both current and future monetary systems, and allow them to draw their own conclusions on the relative sustainability of the old and new systems when viewed from a holistic “triple-bottom-line” approach.
Although it is not necessarily fair to compare bitcoin to the entire legacy banking system, there was doubt in the community about the impact of the legacy banking system, and thus, it has been quantified for completeness.
comparison of economic costs
Comparison of Environmental Costs table
It should be noted that the only thing involved in bitcoin mining is electricity use, and as the world moves towards clean and renewable energy, Bitcoin will have even less of an impact on the environment (See Koomey’s and Moore’s Laws). There is also much larger scope for energy efficiency improvements in integrated circuits and computing than there are in gold recycling.
comparison socioecon costs
As can be conclusively seen, the relative impact of the bitcoin network does not even register on the radar of the fiat and gold-based monetary systems, representing a very conservative relative environmental impact of just over 0.13%, and a relative economic impact of just under 0.04%. When one considers Koomey’s Law, we can expect energy/GH to continue to half every 18 months until 2048.
This means that we can expect our current industry best efficiency of 0.733 W/GH to reach 0.0000000873804 W/GH. Thus – armchair academics take note – in the event that bitcoin scales to a million times its current size and market cap over the next 30 years, it’s environmental impact will still be insignificant compared to existing systems.
When considering Moore’s Law, we can expect $/GH to continue to half every 18 months until at least 2020. When we consider the advent of decentralised emission-free renewable energy, we can expect tCO2/GH, and possibly even $/kWh, to tend towards zero.
The more agile and dynamic bitcoin companies can take advantage of these trends, but the sluggish, inert and over-encumbered incumbents simply cannot. As time goes on, bitcoin only becomes more sustainable, while legacy systems continue to bloat year-on-year.
There are no negative social externalities as a result of bitcoin proliferation, and any money laundering and shadow economy dealings that currently happen on the network will reduce drastically in proportion as adoption grows and regulations firm up on the on-and-off ramps into the bitcoin economy.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the crypto-currency space will take time to evolve to ensure that the issues faced and created by our legacy monetary systems do not continue to plague us for the next century and beyond.
It has been demonstrated that institutional fraud is a problem systemic to humans, and not to monetary systems. However, transactional fraud is only a problem in legacy systems due to the infallibility of the fact that 2 + 2 will always equal 4.
Although this paper has shied away from all of the ideological and philosophical debates surrounding bitcoin, what is clear is that the argument that bitcoin is superior monetary system – from the benefits and protections it provides to merchants and consumers, to the relative lack of negative impact it has on our planet and humanity in general – is a strong one.
The world is currently crippled by several issues, and the human race faces several existential threats such as climate change, the global ageing population demographic crisis and wealth and income inequality.
It is also unacceptable in 2014 to still have tens of millions of people forced into labour, and current monetary systems are somewhat responsible for several of the social ills brought about by corruption, money laundering and the black market.
For those who are willing to back their principles and morals with their money, bitcoin provides the opportunity for socially, environmentally and economically conscious global citizens to choose to no longer participate in the fragile and rotten legacy monetary system, and voluntarily participate in the open and wondrous bitcoin ecosystem.
Due to the several benefits and significantly reduced burden on our planet and society, there is a certain feeling of inevitability about digital currencies, whether it be bitcoin, or a future currency that proves to be even more sustainable and beneficial for humanity.
You can read Hass McCook’s paper ‘An Order-of-Magnitude Estimate of the Relative Sustainability of the Bitcoin Network‘ (on which this series is based) in full here.

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Satoshi
litecoin accepted

Litecoin network hashrate tripled in two months

At the end of April, mining hardware manufacturing company started shipping a whole stack of their products. It was the same time when the Litecoin hashrate was somewhere around 173,225 MH/s. The increasing exposure of Scrypt ASICs mining machines further influences other manufactures as well. In just two months since April, the Litecoin hashrate went up to 200$, while its mining difficulty also tripled.

The next Scrypt ASICs to hit the market will have the hashing power between 200 and 400 MH/s; indicating the possible surge in Litecoin mining difficulty and network hashrate as well. Some companies are also building hardware that can sustain hashing power up to 650 MH/s. As many believes, these events will somewhat impact the Litecoin standings in the market. The question however is, in which way?

The Litecoin community seems to have divided on this question. There is a section which believes that the increasing hashrate will have a fruitful impact on Litecoin prices, citing Bitcoin as a key instance; while another section does not acknowledge any relation between the Litecoin prices and its hashrate.

Explanations are coming from both sides, each with a unique perspective. The ones that support the prediction of Litecoin’s escalation believe it to be the network’s strength that will multiply by over 1,000 times in future. It is the economics of scale in mining that will play a major role in boosting the Litecoin’s stand in the market.

On the other hand, there are those who do not support this theory even in thoughts. They outright rubbish the history that certifies increasing hashrate proportional to the coin’s market cap. Their logic dictates a scenario in which miners are faced with increased selling pressures in order to cover their investments on such expensive mining hardware. This aims at a lower demand and higher supply rate that will eventually cause a huge drop in Litecoin prices. They event say that the current imbalance of Litecoin market is caused by such selling pressures.

Considering both the sections, we believe that market conditions have changed a lot since the launch of new cryptocurrencies in the market. The reason why BTC did so well after the increased hashrate was it being used only for trading. Litecoin too cashed only because of the bubble fuelled by China. The moment these coins were introduced to the real merchant world, its basics changed completely. Seeing today’s scenario, Bitcoin is backed by multiple major organizations while Litecoin is still far away from reaching this point. In short, the continual acceptance of BTC over LTC thickens the latter chances to repeat history. Hashrate increased or decreased, it won’t hold any meaning until Litecoin grabs some major investments from big players.

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Satoshi

“The current proof of work system that is in place incentivizes centralization,” says BlackCoin Foundation

As Bitcoin’s first-mover momentum spreads the digital currency’s adoption, the “proof of work” model it uses to confirm transactions is coming under scrutiny within the crypto-community.

 

(PaymentSource) The proof of work algorithm rewards the individuals, called miners, who confirm blocks of transactions in exchange for an amount of the digital currency. Individual miners join pools to mine collectively as a group, increasing the computing power available to confirm Bitcoin transactions.

This model seems to benefit by encouraging a large number of participants, but it is vulnerable to what is called a 51% attack. A miner or pool that holds 51% of the total computing power could in theory control the blockchain, which is the public ledger of Bitcoin transactions. This control could enable double-spending bitcoins as well as blacklisting certain users or computing equipment. Until recently, the 51% attack was widely considered an unrealistic threat.

The proof of work algorithm is robust and has been resilient in the face of continuous attacks for the past five years,” says Andreas Antonopoulos, a technologist and entrepreneur who is active in the Bitcoin community. But a mining pool called Ghash.io gave the community a scare when it took over 51% of the network for 12 hours on June 13.

If a pool used its control for nefarious purposes it would only hurt Bitcoin’s use and, in turn, its price. This result would hurt any miners who become attackers, since they are rewarded for their mining efforts in Bitcoin and likely hold a generous amount of the digital currency. Since the incident, Ghash control has decreased substantially, hovering now at around 35%.

Certainly miners didn’t sign up for unfair play and they would abandon that pool,” lowering the percentage of its control, Antonopoulos says. The 51% attack “is a theoretical attack that’s narrow in scope and goes against the incentives for the miners and owners of the pool.

Last year, Ghash said it would try to prevent itself from capturing 51% of the network power and that it would not do any damage even if it did reach this level of control. And since the power is split over the many individuals who mine in the Ghash pool, it’s unlikely the pool could reach a consensus among its members to damage the network.

Nevertheless, some in the Bitcoin community are calling for a splintering, or “fork,” in the Bitcoin blockchain, and the forked version of Bitcoin would add features that discourage pooled mining. Others are talking about the benefits of a “proof of stake” algorithm, which secures cryptocurrency networks by asking users to show ownership of a certain amount of the currency.

BlackCoin is an alternative digital currency that uses a pure proof of stake model. It was created about five months ago and has generated enough support to be integrated into CoinKite’s merchant point of sale system.

A user chooses to ‘stake’ his coins to generate the next block in the chain, and his chance of doing so is proportional to the weight of his own coins,” says Adam Kryskow, U.S. representative for the BlackCoin Foundation.

Proof-of-stake algorithms enable faster payments. BlackCoin transactions confirm in under a minute, whereas Bitcoin transactions usually take about 10 minutes. And proof of stake is also more eco-friendly, consuming far less energy than proof of work algorithms.

Image: Peercointalk.org

Peercoin is one of the most recognized altcoins that uses a hybrid proof of stake/proof of work model. New coins are awarded to miners who do work to authenticate transactions, but are also given to users who hold a higher stake in the system.

The current proof of work system that is in place incentivizes centralization,” says Kryskow. “Specifically as mining payouts decrease, small mining operations will be forced to close up shop. With little to no incentive to continue mining, network power will fall dangerously low and security will be severely threatened.

But proof of stake has its own vulnerabilities. Kryskow admits that since proof of stake algorithms are not completely decentralized, they are susceptible to a “nothing at stake” attack, where older coins could be used to fork the blockchain to create a competing one.

The proof of stake model hasn’t been stress-tested enough over a long period of time, and it worries Antonopoulos when proponents argue that the nascent mining algorithm is better than Bitcoin’s proof of work.

Bitcoin has survived a number of attacks over the years, says Antonopoulos. “There is much better monitoring and tracking [of the network]…a lot of DDoS protections and countermeasures built into the core client because of Bitcoin‘s experience with widespread attacks over the years,” he says.

Proof of stake was created in 2011 with the launch of Peercoin. “It was attacked and beaten; bugs were found, security issues were rampant and countless vulnerabilities were exposed,” Kryskow says. That’s when Peercoin moved to the hybrid proof of stake/proof of work model.

BlackCoin‘s developer argues that, like Bitcoin’s proof of work, proof of stake will be stress-tested in real-world use. BlackCoin “is a great proof of stake experiment,” Kryskow says.

Antonopoulos agrees that the development of new proof models is advantageous. “I don’t think we’ve found the perfect solution yet,” he says. “Everything comes with compromises…so you just have to identify which ones are the good compromises to make.” Other algorithms include “proof of burn,” in which a small portion of a cryptocurrency is destroyed to create value through scarcity; and “proof of resource,” which takes a resource, such as bandwidth, and assigns it a certain value for sharing.

The real issue, though, is until we see a problem in Bitcoin that impacts the price, knowledge of Bitcoin is so much higher than [all other altcoins] that any other solution out there will be irrelevant,” says Tim Sloane, vice president of payments innovation at Mercator Advisory Group.

Sloane doesn’t expect everyone using the Bitcoin protocol to switch over to another digital currency just because there’s a threat
of disaster. But it may happen if a disaster actually strikes.

As Bitcoin gets bigger and bigger, the problem gets bigger and bigger,” he says.

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Satoshi

The single most profitable illegitimate mining operation: 500 Million Dogecoins mined!

 

(CoinDesk) An unknown hacker has reaped an estimated 500 million dogecoins – worth nearly $200,000 at today’s prices – by hacking into a series of data storage hubs for computer networks, according to SecureWorks, an information services subsidiary of personal computing giant Dell.

 

The SecureWorks report revealed that the hacker targeted network attached storage (NAS) boxes made by Taiwan-based Synology Inc. and used its computing power to mine dogecoin through a private pool. The action caused problems for Synology’s customers, some of whom reported poor performance on Facebook in February.
SecureWorks called the months-long intrusion unprecedented, saying:
“To date, this incident is the single most profitable, illegitimate mining operation.”
Following reports of an issue, the investigators ultimately discovered a folder entitled ‘PWNED’ that contained the mining software CPUMiner and the capacity to conceal the program.
The address the mined dogecoins were being sent to was also identified,
revealing the accumulation of more than 400 million dogecoins. Along
with another wallet, the hacker generated roughly 500 million dogecoins
between January and April.
In
addition to exploring the technical aspects of the hack attack,
SecureWorks delved into the possible identity of the assailant,
suggesting that “the findings strongly indicate that the threat actor is
of German descent”.

Hacker used private pool

The
configuration file of the software that was infecting Synology’s NAS
boxes pointed to the presence of hidden mining software.
CPUMiner,
the program used, had been modified to run on the boxes and was
connecting to a dogecoin pool not associated with any public mining
group, SecureWorks said. Each NAS box acted as an individual miner,
connecting to the pool and generating dogecoins.
SecureWorks
accessed the data being sent to the NAS boxes, which allowed them to
ascertain the dogecoin wallet address holding the fraudulently mined
dogecoins, as well as the possible identity of the hacker.
Dubbed
“foilo.root3″ in the configuration file, the user appears to have a
connection with accounts on GitHub and BitBucket, although it remains
unclear whether the name is unique to a single person.

Mining malware gains

The
dogecoin mining attack represents one of the more creative approaches
to generating digital currency through fraudulent means. Other recent
attempts have found wrongdoers using unique means to upload software to
mine bitcoin, but in nearly all cases, the program was designed to
conceal itself and its operations.
Last month, unknown hackers attempted to distribute bitcoin mining malware through a modified torrent file of the video game Watch Dogs. This attack was notable as it targeted another form of online piracy.
A
more unusual concealed attempt to create mining botnets out of mobile
phones was uncovered in April. At the time, a group of wallpaper apps
listed on the Google Play app store were discovered to contain bitcoin mining programs.
Image via Dig Doge

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What Dogecoin must do to survive

Tim Swanson is an educator, researcher and the author of ‘Great Wall of Numbers: Business Opportunities and Challenges in China’. Here, he explores the mining systems of dogecoin and litecoin to show how the dogecoin economy can thrive.

(CoinDesk) The key ingredient to the success of any decentralized public ledger, such as bitcoin, is incentivizing its transactional network to simultaneously secure the network from attackers and process transactions.

In the case of bitcoin, and in the case of virtually all other cryptocurrencies, this incentivization process is handled through seigniorage.  Every 10 minutes (or 2.5 minutes for litecoin, or one minute for dogecoin) a fixed amount of bitcoins is paid to the labor force called “miners.”  These miners are computational systems that perform never-ending mathematical calculations dubbed hashing.  This hashing in turn creates security for the network; so as long as more than 50% of the hashrate is maintained by “good” systems, bad actors are prevented from manipulating the ledger.

The other key role these miners also fill is processing and including transactions into packages called blocks. Every 10 minutes, one miner is rewarded for processing these blocks with fixed income. Last month David Evans published a good overview of how this process looks from a labor input and supply output perspective.

For some advocates, one of the purported advantages of cryptocurrencies is that their money supply creation rate is actually deflationary (or contractionary) in the long run – in the short run, bitcoin’s expansionary rate is quite high, with inflation at 11.1% this year alone. That is to say, it is a hardcoded asymptote, tapering off over a known time period. In the case of bitcoin, the wage for the labor force (miners) is split in half roughly every four years (every 210,000 blocks), for approximately the next 100 years – until its money supply is exhausted at a final 21 million bitcoins.

Roughly 12.7 million bitcoins have already been paid to miners.  With dogecoin’s 100 billion dogecoins, this process is accelerated, with the mining income dividing in half every two months.  While it took about five and a half years for about 60% of bitcoin’s total monetary base to be distributed, as of today 78% of dogecoin’s reward (income) has already been divvied out to its workforce in less than six months.

What now for the workforce?

While this frenetically fast money supply has provided a psychological motivation for early adopters to partake in the dogecoin ecosystem, economic law suggests that this network will probably cease to exist in its current form within the next six months probably through a 51% attack.

The reason is simple: with every block reward halving, also called “halvingday”, the labor force is faced with a 50% pay cut.  The contractors (laborers) incapable of profitably providing hashrate at this level can and will leave the work force for greener pastures.  This same issue has impacted other altcoins in the past, such as MemoryCoin, which died after nine months due to a combination of factors including diminished block rewards (it attempted to divvy out its entire monetary supply in two years).

Early advocates of dogecoin like to point to outlier events such as the Doge bobsled team or sponsored NASCAR driver at Talladega or even a vaunted tipping economy (which is actually just faucet redistribution) as goal posts for growth and popularity, yet after two halvingdays the actual dogecoin block chain has lost transactional volume each month over the past four months and the labor force has also left for new employment elsewhere.

This is visualized in the following two graphs.

The first chart shows dogecoin’s collective hashrate.  The black lines indicate when the “halvingday” or rather “income halvingday” occurred. Because the price level of a dogecoin remained relatively constant during this time frame, there was less incentive for miners to stay and provide labor for the network.  If token values increased once again, then there may be incentives in the short-term for laborers to rejoin the network.  Yet based on this diagram, roughly 20-30% of the labor force left after each pay cut.

The second chart shows on-chain transactional activity.  The first three months are erratic because of how mining pools (similar to lottery pools) paid their workforce (miners).  Following the first halving day in February, the network transaction rate fell to roughly 40,000 transactions per day and then leveled off to around 20,000 until 28th April 2014, when another halvingday occurred and the subsequent transactional volume remained relatively flat to negative. It is currently at 12,850 transaction per day, or roughly the same level it was during the first week of its launch five months ago.

Dogecoin’s falling hashrate

Now, some readers may claim that a lot of the transactional volume such as tip services and tip bots are being conducted off-chain and thus the total number of transactions is likely higher.  And they would be correct.  But that would completely defeat the purpose of having a block chain in the first place – a trustless mechanism for bilateral exchange that negates the need for “trust-me” silos (as Austin Hill calls them).

Also, while this topic deserves its own series of articles, there is little literature that suggests that tipping can grow
an economy; it is not a particularly good signaling mechanism or way to grow a developing economy (i.e., “China, you need more tipping activity to grow and prosper”).

However the key issue is this: if the trend continues and the network hashrate continues to fall 20-30% after each halvingday, then within the next two to four months it will be increasingly inexpensive for competing mining pools on other ledgers to conduct a 51% attack on dogecoin’s network, destroying its credibility and utility.

For instance, the chart below is the litecoin hashrate over the past six months. Litecoin is dogecoin’s largest competitor based on its proof of work (PoW) mechanism called scrypt:

One of the reasons the litecoin hashrate is not rising or falling at a constant rate but is instead jumping up and down erratically is that miners as a whole are economically rational actors.  When the cost of producing security is more than the reward (block reward income), the labor force turns towards a more profitable process such as another alternative scrypt-based “coin” (note: bitcoin’s hashing method uses SHA256d whereas litecoin and dogecoin use scrypt). The same phenomenon of hashrate jumping up and down occurs with the bitcoin network.

For the sake of simplicity, the litecoin network can be viewed as roughly 200 GH/s versus the dogecoin network which is roughly 50 GH/s.  To conduct a 51% attack on dogecoin today, an entity would need to control roughly 25-26 GH/s which is roughly one eighth the processing power of the litecoin network.  The current ‘market cap’ for dogecoin is $35 million, assuming marginal value equals marginal cost, ceteris parebus on paper it could cost $17.5 million in capital and operating expenses to successfully attack the dogecoin network.

The chart above shows both the hashrate of litecoin (in red) and dogecoin with the vertical black lines representing the dogecoin “halvingday.” What this shows is that while dogecoin, for roughly one month in early 2014 was more profitable to mine than litecoin, the halvingday led to an exodus of labor.

If current prices and trends continue, which they may not, in two months the litecoin collective hashrate may hit 240 GH/s and dogecoins hashrate could shrink due to halvingday by another 20% to 40 GH/s.  At this rate a successful 51% attack on dogecoin would require just one twelfth of the hashing power of litecoin which at the same prices levels would entail less than $10 million in capital and operating expenses to do.

Will dogecoin survive?

While the development team could theoretically switch its proof of work algorithm (to X11 as used in Dash), the doge community is really faced with six options:

  1. Merge mine. Namecoin was (and is) an independent block chain, but since block 19,200 about 80-85% of its network hashrate (and block rewards) are tied to bitcoin mining pools through a process called “merged mining.”  The new sidechains project from Blockstream is attempting the same process.  Charlie Lee, creator of litecoin explained how dogecoin could be “merged mined” with litecoin in a series of posts last month.
  2. Transaction fees. Both the development team and mining community could agree to float or raise transaction fees on the doge network, similar to what Mike Hearn has been discussing for bitcoin.  In practice however, even if approved, very little actual commerce, and therefore transactions, is conducted on the dogecoin network. Thus it is unlikely that this will compensate the large drop in mining income.  Similarly, as Gavin Andresen pointed out in Amsterdam this past Friday, increased transaction fees reduces the participation rate. It is important to note the actual transaction costs are much higher than stated – block rewards (token dilution) are usually not factored in.
  3. Proof of stake. There are several variations of proof of stake.  Whereas bitcoin, litecoin, dogecoin and most other cryptocurrency experiments use a “proof of work” mechanism to protect the network from malicious entities, a proof of stake system, such as that used in NXT, will randomly assign a “mining node” called a “forger” – a poor marketing term for sure – to process all the blocks for the next minute.  Because all of the other nodes in the network know which miner to trust, this lowers the amount of infrastructure needed to protect the network.  In theory this sounds amazing.  In practice however, most proof of stake systems end up almost immediately centralized in one manner or the other. Andrew Miller, Andrew Poelstra and Nicolas Houy call it “proof of nothing”.  Perhaps Stephen Reed’s version can work in the future.
  4. Increase in market price. This would incentivize the labor force to continue providing security of the network with the expectation that the tokens they are given in return for their labor will continually appreciate in value.  This is betting on hope.  Charlie Lee pointed out the uphill task this would require beginning next year when rewards fall to less than one tenth what they are today, stating last month, “At dogecoin block 600,000, only 10,000 coins will be created per block. So in order for dogecoin to keep the same amount of security as today, dogecoin price would need to go up by 25 times. And dogecoin price would need to gain on litecoin by 50 times in order to catch up on litecoin’s security. And assuming everything stays the same, the market cap of dogecoin needs to reach $1.5 billion by January of next year.”  For comparison, the ‘market cap’ of dogecoin today is roughly $35 million (note: it is probably not accurate to call it a ‘market cap,’ see Jonathan Levin’s explanation).
  5. Migration. Dogecoin could also migrate to a platform like Counterparty and become a fully secured altcoin with a dash of proof of transaction thrown in to inflate the coin with ongoing usage that this particular community likes to embrace. It could be fully protected by the bitcoin hashrate with no further need to try to acquire miners to protect it.
  6. Further experimentation.  While it is unlikely the dogecoin has the resources to create secure production code in the shortened time frame, Robert Sams “growthcoin” and Ferdinando Ametrano’s “stablecoin” could provide a mechanism that enables the network to live on in a different manner.

While any or all of these may be tried out, it may be too little, too late. With that said, stranger things have happened.  A rising tide lifts all boats and thus in the event that “bitlicense” approved exchanges on Wall Street come online this summer and new capital actually flows into bitcoin and other alternative ledgers, perhaps similar speculative funding will flow into dogecoin as well.  However, this is not something that can be known a priori.

I contacted Jackson Palmer, creator of dogecoin for his thoughts on the situation.  In his view:

“It is definitely a challenge that dogecoin (and all current-gen crypto currencies) will face in the future. As we discussed recently, it’s kind of a sad reality that people are purely profit driven and these decentralized networks we’ve built are reliant on profit-mongers to power and secure their viability. I’m very concerned about the impact of centralized mining and reliance on transaction fees could hold for bitcoin as it becomes less enticing to mine – really, the network can be held at ransom to attach hefty transaction fees if the mining pools are cherry picking as they create blocks. At the end of the day, I think the viability of cryptocurrency really hinges on a move away from PoW-based mining to something new and innovative that doesn’t just stimulate an arms race and put all the power back into the hands of the fiat-wealthy. I don’t have a solution unfortunately, but hopefully someone will find one and bring about a new generation of digital currencies in the coming five to ten years. That being said, cryptocurrency as a space is very unpredictable so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if dogecoin beats the odds and overcomes these challenges in some weird, wacky way. It’s in the community’s hands, and they’re certainly passionate about seeing it reach the moon, as am I.”

Can this happen to bitcoin?

To be balanced, below is the network hashrate for the Bitcoin network following its first halvingday on November 28, 2012:

The following two months, from December 2012 through January 2013, the hashrate stayed flat and in some weeks even declined. There were three reasons why the network did not decline precipitously like dogecoin:

  • Despite the fact that very little real commerce actually takes place on the bitcoin network, there was some amount that did in 2012 and does today (primarily gambling and illicit trading of wares).  Thus there was external demand for the tokens beyond miners and tippers.
  • The token prices rose creating appreciation expectations.  The price rose from $12.35 on 28th November 2012 to $20.41 on 31st January 2012.  If miners believe and expect the price to increase in value, they may be willing to operate at a short-term loss.
  • The first batch of ASICs from Avalon shipped and arrived to their customers at the very end of January. These provided roughly two to four orders of magnitude per watt in performance than the top competing FPGAs and GPUs.  This is equivalent of miners being given sticks of dynamite instead of pick axes to tunnel through mountains.

While more research will be conducted and published in the following months and years before the next bitcoin halvingday (estimated to occur probably before August 2016), the bitcoin network faces a similar existential hurdle, though perhaps less stark once more ASIC processes hit similar node fabrication limitations.  That is to say, in the next couple of years there will no longer be performance gains measured in orders of magnitude. They will likely compete on energy costs. Since most participants do not like paying transaction fees, incentivizing miners to stay and provide security will likely be problematic for the same income reduction issues.  This scenario will likely be revisited by many others in the coming months and years.

Nothing personal

From a marketing perspective Dogecoin has done more to bring fun and excitement to this sub-segment of digital currencies than most other efforts – remember, USD can also be digitized and encrypted.  In turn it brought in a new diverse demographic base to block chain technology, namely women.  While some of the more outlandish gimmicks will likely not be enough to on-ramp the necessary token demand which in turn leads to token appreciation, this project has not gone unnoticed.

For instance, two weeks ago I had coffee with a bank manager in the San Francisco financial district.  As we were wrapping up he asked me to explain dogecoin.  I mentioned that what sets doge apart from the rest was its community was much more open towards self-ridicule, self-parody, less elitist and most importantly, women actually attended meetups.

He quickly surmised, “Oh, so it’s the wingman currency. It’s the friend you bring to the bar who is willing to look goofy to help you out.

That is probably a fair enough assessment and it will likely need a wingman to survive.

Open your free digital wallet here to store your cryptocurrencies in a safe place.

Satoshi

Why Bitcoin miners are moving to tiny towns in Washington state

(Gizmodo.in) There’s not much in rural Washington, but there are lot of dams. And dams mean hydroelectric power. Following the lure of cheap electricity, Bitcoin miners and their power-hungry server farms are making out for sleepy little towns in the Pacific Northwest. Although Bitcoin is a digital currency, mining it still has a gigantic physical footprint. That’s because computers “mine” Bitcoin by solving a cryptographic equation. To mine more Bitcoin, you need more computing power. Or you can just have more computers. This is what a “multi-GPU mining rig”-basically a bunch of processors hacked together-looks like.
Powering up and cooling all those processors requires a lot of –you guessed it– electricity. Last year, Bitcoin miners were sucking up an estimated 1 million kilowatt-hours per day. That’s a hefty electric bill right there. But Washington has some of the lowest electricity rates in the country-less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour for industrial customers in certain area. The average U.S. household pays something more like 12 cents a kilowatt-hour.
Big tech companies running big data centers have been in on the state’s cheap electricity for a while now. Dell, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Intuit all run data centers in Grant County, Washington. But Bitcoin mining’s reliance on intense computing power means even a small operation-relative to a behemoth like Microsoft, at least-needs a giant building full of servers. MegaBigPower, which has considered itself the largest Bitcoin-mining business in the U.S., has a Washington outpost.
Grant County says it has two Bitcoin mining companies operating, with five more to come. The engineers who first built Washington’s dams could not have possibly anticipated Bitcoin mania, yet those dams are now drawing some of the currency’s biggest backers. This is a modern gold rush, shaped by the electric infrastructure we built long ago.

Open your free digital wallet here to store your cryptocurrencies in a safe place.

Satoshi