Content

Various findings.

Operation Onymous, Operational Security, Open Bazaar and Facebook on Tor

9 November 2014 - Filed under Default

On Thursday Operation Onymous, a joint operation between several US and European law enforcement agencies was announced, shutting down between 20-400 sites running on Tor, arresting 17 people (releasing several after questioning), being sure to highlight that these sites are using Tor and that some are illegally selling drugs and/or weapons. Though Bitcoin was used by many of the markets that were shut down it was not the central headline on the story. Perhaps authorities have realized that Bitcoin is not their biggest problem – there are hundreds of similar currencies – but that being able to operate anonymous markets on the web is.

seized

Tor users I spoke with are not rattled. They see it as a risk to run Tor, especially to run an exit node, which is a gateway between Tor users and the non-Tor sites they visit, and are impressed that the vast majority of hidden services are still online.

The general consensus is that Blake Benthall, who took over Silk Road 2 from one of a line of Dread Pirate Roberts, was careless on a number of fronts. The keyword here is operational security, maintaining separation between his offline identity and all activities related to operating Silk Road 2. Among his mistakes were tweeting about his bitcoin, retweeting previous Silk Road stories, purchasing a Tesla with his bitcoin. Most damning were that he allegedly signed up for server hosting for the Silk Road 2 hidden service using his personal Gmail address and received messages there that came from the administrative interface of SR2. He also hired people who were “just around” to help moderate the forums, one of whom was a government agent, and trusted them more than necessary. Finally, he worked from San Francisco, the same city where Ross Ulbricht, alleged operator of the original Silk Road was arrested.

According to the community, bigger and better run sites including Agora and Evolution are still online and serving customers. Only time will tell how long they last but depending on their own operational security and Tor itself they could run for years saving lives, violence, and jail time for many.

The closure of these services has highlighted another vulnerability with their architecture: they are centralized. One solution to the centralization problem has been in the works for several months going by the name Open Bazaar. OB operates as a peer-to-peer network like Bittorrent and Bitcoin and would allow vendors to establish and manage a reputation, offer goods and services, and collect funds. Though OB is not anonymous, it is designed to work well with Tor to add privacy to its censorship-resistant market features.

In other news, Facebook now offers access via Tor which is odd because Facebook is often viewed as THE big brother for privacy-concerned internet users. Still, it could bring a large amount of mundane Tor use and make it harder allege guilt-by-association for Tor users. At the same time, there is utility in enabling users in the most oppressive jurisdictions to access the leading social network platform even if many would not touch it.

 ¤  Permalink  ¤  2014-11-09

Kids Use Secret Ballots, Congress Should Too

6 November 2014 - Filed under Default

Secret ballots exist to remove intimidation and bribery voting. In 1970, Congress did away with secret ballots and so began a decades long slide into today’s world of lobbying, special interests, and a government that no longer works for the people. Congress must go back to secret ballots to reestablish confidence in the legislative process and in democracy itself. For the most important civics lesson you will ever receive, watch this:
 

 

 ¤  Permalink  ¤  2014-11-06

Easy Guide to Earn FoldingCoin

9 October 2014 - Filed under Crowdeverything

If you have a GPU farm or a fast mining computer that no longer earns much Scrypt-mining, this guide will help you move to the ultimate ASIC-proof mining algorithm: protein folding!

In 5-10 minutes you will be earning FoldingCoin with your computer and at the same time you will be helping scientists around the world understand and make progress toward diseases like Alzheimer’s and Mad Cow disease.

1. Visit Counterwallet (opens in new tab) to create your Counterparty wallet. Once you open your new wallet, grab the first address by clicking on it, then right-click -> Copy.

counterwallet address

 

2. Visit http://folding.stanford.edu/ (opens in new tab) and click Download to follow the setup of your Folding@Home software aka your mining software. When it’s time to enter your account name, use your address from Counterwallet as your account name.

3. Email the FoldingCoin administrator by clicking the button below to create your account with them. (it sets up an email to rross@foldingcoin.net)

In the body of the email, fill in your counterwallet address which should also be your Folding@Home username so they know who to credit the FLDC to. If you’ll tell them that weex referred you, I will also earn some FLDC for writing and updating this howto.

4. Optional: Join Let’s Talk Bitcoin and register your counterwallet address using this quick guide: http://letstalkbitcoin.com/forum/post/easy-guide-to-sign-a-message-to-verify-your-ltb-address
Once you’ve both verified with LTB and received your first FLDC payment, you’ll be allowed into the FoldingCoin General forum here: http://letstalkbitcoin.com/forum/board/foldingcoin-general

That’s it! You should see your first FLDC payout in a day or two. Payments are sent daily.

4 comments  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2014-10-09

What is Counterparty?

6 October 2014 - Filed under Decentralization

Counterparty is a protocol for the creation and use of decentralized financial instruments using Bitcoin as a transport layer. The protocol currently supports
and implements the creation of assets, issuance of tokens of those assets, payment of dividends, protocol-escrowed trading, binary bets, and contracts-for-difference. The protocol has been operating since January 2014.

To enable the protocol to escrow value for decentralized trading and financial contracts such as binary bets and contracts-for-difference (CFD), there was a need for a common token of value in the Counterparty system. Similarly to how resources are spent to mine bitcoin, bitcoin was “burned” or irretreivably spent to create units of Counterparty’s native currency (XCP). During the 30-day proof-of-burn period in January 2014, 2.6 million XCP were created.

History

The earliest commits to Github of the Counterparty project were in December 2013. The project was announced with a release of the software on Bitcointalk.org on January 2nd, 2014. Since the software was released as free software, the proof-of-burn was started almost immediately opening on January 4th, 2014 and lasting until the 2nd of February. During this period, 2130 bitcoins (worth about $1.9 million at the time) were burned to create the XCP supply. To encourage investment in this system, each bitcoin was rewarded with from 1500 XCP to 1000 XCP at a rate which decreased linearly with each block found on the Bitcoin network during the burn period.

Since that time Counterparty has been responsible for over 77,000 transactions on the Bitcoin network. About 4,300 assets have been created and more than 7,000
informational broadcasts have been published, generally recording the outcomes of sporting events and currency exchange rates. Anyone can make these broadcasts thereby allowing Counterparty users enter into bets, binary bets and contracts for difference using them.

According to Blockscan.com, some of the most active assets include LTBCOIN, XCP, XBTC, EARLY, COMICCOIN, SJCX, and FLDC with numbers of transactions ranging from over 3300 for LTBCOIN to 800 for FLDC. In addition to the DEX, XCP trades on the Bter exchange and SJCX trades on Poloniex.

Distributed Exchange

The Counterparty protocol supports decentralized, trustless trading of native tokens in two steps using a facility called Distributed Exchange (DEX). Since the protocol parses transactions recorded on Bitcoin’s block chain, corresponding buy and sell transactions of one token for another are automatically matched and can be considered executed when each have been recorded in a block. Bitcoin can also be traded using DEX by adding an additional step called the BTCpay transaction where by the protocol holds the Counterparty token in escrow for 20 blocks. If a BTCpay transaction is confirmed during that period, Counterparty considers the trade complete and considers the tokens to be then owned by the buyer.

Consensus

Counterparty transactions are Bitcoin transactions. Depending on their form they may encode additional data in an OP_RETURN output or as additional addresses in a multisignature outut. Consensus is then achieved by interpreting the extra data in the Bitcoin block chain consistently. The Counterparty software does a check at Github for the latest minimum version required but other possibilities are being considered for ensuring that different services are interpreting the protocol and block chain consistently.

Development

Counterparty is developed as a free open source software project under the MIT license. Several projects are hosted at Github under the link https://github.com/CounterpartyXCP which include counterpartyd, the core software; counterparty_build, the automated build system; and counterblockd, a json rpc service that provides information for counterwallet, the web wallet.

The core software has seen improvements or less since the beginning of the git history in December 2013. It uses a number of python libraries and specifies version numbers of those libraries during environment setup to ensure uniformity across installations.

Service Availability

Counterparty use largely revolves around Counterwallet, the free software web- based wallet hosted by the development team. The core team also manages a wiki and forum. Blockscan.com is a block explorer for Counterparty providing charts and information on transactions, assets, orders, bets and broadcasts. The counterpartyd code provides a JSON RPC interface but also uses an SQLite database to store its information which facilitates access to the information managed by the protocol.

Outside the core and informational services, a few projects are developing tools around the assets including for crowdfunding (Vennd.io, Koinify, Swarm) and
rewards programs (LTBcoin.com).

Forks

There are two forks for the Counterparty code. The first, called Clearinghouse runs on the separate block chain provided by Viacoin. The second is Dogeparty which was implemented by Humint.is on the Dogecoin block chain. Dogeparty initialized the balances of their own central token-of-value using the same proof of burn process used by Counterparty with some tweaks. Clearinghouse developers instead sold XCH by rewarding funds sent in Viacoin to an exodus address with the new currency. It should be noted that while each of these systems launched on their prospective block chains, there is nothing in the Counterparty code base that permanently ties an instance of the system to a particular block chain. Therefore should there be issues with the security of the network either system uses, the respective communities could opt to switch to another block chain.

Conclusion

Counterparty is a decentralized system for extended financial transactions that has seen steady development and adoption since its launch. The project and its network are young and many are working on competing systems that could pose significant risk to those who would get involved with the project or invest in its fledgling economy. Further study is advised before making decisions on investment of time or capital.

Update: Oct 23, 2014 Clearinghouse seems to have confusingly labeled their XCH initialization process as burning and a “Fire Sale” when in fact developers kept the funds instead of having them sent to an unspendable address.

Update: Nov 14, 2014 Counterparty announced two days ago that they have integrated Ethereum’s EVM contracts on testnet. This means that any smart contracts written for Ethereum will run on Counterparty on the Bitcoin block chain. Only two days later Ethereum, countered by implementing Counterparty’s smart contracts in Serpent, one of the languages for writing Ethereum EVM contracts. Innovation is alive and well in the Bitcoin 2.0 space!

2 comments  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2014-10-06

Crowdequity meets basic scientific research with FoldingCoin

5 October 2014 - Filed under Crowdeverything

From time to time, a project joins a gee-whiz technology with humane purpose. Such is the case with FoldingCoin. By mixing Stanford University’s Folding@Home (FAH) project with Bitcoin and a digital asset protocol called Counterparty this project cooks up a market around basic scientific research that could increase participation and accelerate scientific progress. Going a step further, FoldingCoin could serve as a model for supporting grand scientific endeavors with potential to solve big problems.

What is Folding@Home?

Proteins are the building blocks of biological systems. They are created from blueprints in DNA and RNA that tell the organism how to assemble amino acids. When these come together they join to create complicated and useful physical structures by folding in certain ways. Figuring out precisely how these proteins fold is a huge challenge but computers can help, as they have for almost 15 years in the Folding@Home project.

Folding@Home takes computations that help scientists understand protein folding, breaks them up into chunks and sends them out to members of the FAH community who run software on their computer CPUs and GPUs. The project tracks member progress and allows members to form teams to compete to see who can do the most folding work.

How might FoldingCoin change things?

Until now, the main incentive to folding has been altruistic, knowing that you were helping basic scientific research that could help find a cure for Alzheimers or Mad Cow disease. If you optimized your folding setup it may have been to get a higher rank for yourself or your team on the Folding@Home website. There may have been some self-interest as well as some folders undoubtedly know folks with a disease that is linked to protein folding errors.

With the introduction of FoldingCoin, a monetary incentive is added. Members receive a share of 500,000 foldingcoins (FLDC) that are released each day out of a total of one billion that will ever exist. Doing the math you’ll see that these coins will only be given out for about five and a half years. Of course, since FoldingCoin is built on Counterparty, a vote could easily be held among holders of the coin, FLDC, to extend issuance at the same or a reduced rate at that time. Since FLDC is locked at 1 billion coins ever via the Counterparty protocol, such an issuance would necessarily be in another token with a similar but not identical name.

The point is, there is a limited quantity of FLDC and only two ways to get it. Either start folding or purchase the coins from someone who already has them. Providing this monetary incentive could massively increase the amount of computational resources devoted to folding as some folders could offset some of their costs or even turn a profit by selling the FLDC they receive.

How can you get involved?

Just as has been true since the beginning of FAH, you can create an account and download the FAH software to begin folding. What is unique about FAH with FoldingCoin is that you can now get materially involved without ever committing a single work unit. For the first time, you can simply buy something to support the efforts of the entire folding enterprise.

To do so, you would create a Counterparty wallet at https://counterwallet.io and then place an order somewhere to purchase FLDC. If you have bitcoin, you can create an account at Masterxchange.com and trade your bitcoin directly for FLDC, then send that FLDC to your Counterwallet. It is also possible to trade for FLDC on the Counterparty distributed exchange which is managed by a strict protocol with no counterparty risk. Though it may be a bit more time consuming, the funds you trade will never leave your hands, all the better if you want to trade large amounts of FLDC and not worry whoever is holding your funds.

Depending on the success of the project you may be able to sell FLDC at a profit at a later date. Such a market for speculation attached to scientific research is truly novel. Besides trading FLDC for Bitcoin, XCP and other currencies, the project is attempting to get the token to be used as a currency itself in some well-defined scenarios.

Where can you find out more about this project?

http://foldingcoin.net is the official website. The most active forum is actually sort of members-only and is hosted on the letstalkbitcoin.com site. It is made members-only through that site’s feature called Token Controlled Viewpoint which requires that you have FLDC in order to view the forum.  Short of that you can also check their Bitcointalk thread or ask about the project in the Counterparty forums (https://forums.counterparty.io).

1 comment  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2014-10-05

MyBB – Credit From Coins – Buy forum points with bitcoins

7 February 2013 - Filed under Default

Just wanted to post about a new mod I’m making available for MyBB. It was based on one called Buy Credit from the mybb.ro team. Anyway, it lets a forum admin sell their forum points/gold/tokens for bitcoins. It uses the very clean Blockchain.info API to get addresses and all funds get forwarded to the forum admin’s Bitcoin address of choice. For now the mod is available here. It has been submitted to the MyBB.com mods database so should be there once approved.

Here’s what it looks like at the moment of truth:

MyBB Credit from Coins - Buy Forum Points/Gold/Tokens with Bitcoin

Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2013-02-07

You Can Learn Bitcoin by David R. Sterry

24 August 2012 - Filed under Default

I just wanted to post a link to my new eBook that is available on Lulu and soon on BN/Nook/iBookstore and at CoinDL (which only accepts bitcoins). I wrote it because many people get caught up on technical details of Bitcoin which are totally unnecessary for initial use.

http://www.davidsterry.com/youcan

If you are interested in the technical details of Bitcoin, check out my Introduction to Bitcoin Mining or browse the excellent Bitcoin wiki

Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2012-08-24

7 Observations about the Atrix 4G, Android and Laptop Dock

26 April 2011 - Filed under Default

Motorola’s dual-core 1GHz Android-based phone, the Atrix, is notable because it’s the world’s first dual-core phone. Add to that the option to connect it to an optional laptop dock and the product is pleasantly unique. After more than 4 weeks of use, here are my impressions:

1. The phone is fast. This comes as no surprise since it’s dual-core and has a gig of RAM but so far it beats the pants off any other phone I’ve had. If I have any problems with the phone, it’s not me waiting for it to process something. Searching emails and contacts happens quickly but my biggest test was playing HD video on it while on the phone. Nary a glitch. For comparison, I didn’t have many problems with my last iPhone but my more recent Blackberry Curve 8900 frequently stalled while loading text messages and the browsing experience was truly discouraging.

2. The fingerprint reader is going to be a must have for me on any future phone. With the Atrix (and yes I refuse to call it Atrix, dropping the definite article…after all this is a thing, not a person) I happily set a strong pin knowing that I can quickly swipe my finger past the sensor to unlock it. This even works when the phone is docked.

3. The laptop dock was worth the purchase to quickly be able to hammer out a well-formatted email from time to time. I’ve played music, monitored my location via gps, and surfed the Internet all at the same time with only the most infrequent of audio glitches. For what the dock has hardware-wise, it could be cheaper however Motorola is offering a standout option here so some premium is to be expected. I like that it charges the phone while in the dock and I’ve had a blast being able to really multi-task with the laptop dock.

4. Android has tons of apps available and if you like freedom in your mobile software, Android is the only way to go. Since I do prefer to stick to free software apps if I can, F-Droid has been very helpful even if I just use it to select what I will later download via the Market.

5. Android’s browser is fast and fun to use. Besides loading pages well, the Android browser does a great job of resizing colums of text to eliminate the need for horizontal scrolling.

6. The keyboard could use some work. It often fails to correct common words I type and I’ve gotten into several capitalization battles with it. From what I can tell there’s no logic within it to know which keys are next to which. This sort of programming would really help it fix my typing errors. I’ve found in some cases just counting on it to fix as I go worked but it could definitely be better.

7. Cubed is a fantastic music player. I’m not going to review lots of apps but this one really enhances the experience not just as a phone but as a device for life. Two things are notable about the player…1) It downloads cover art for random MP3s and albums really well, automatically searching Flickr and other sources and 2) as you flip through your cover art, an experience lost since I physically handled CDs in jewel cases, it’s very easy to queue up album after album to create a great listening session.

There is much more to say of course but much of that would be about apps and not specific to the Atrix. Thanks for reading and if you have a tip for a better, hopefully free-software-licensed keyboard, I’d love to hear it.

1 comment  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2011-04-26

HowTo: Tune a Yangqin

15 January 2011 - Filed under Default

A number of years ago I purchased a Yangqin for a relative but never saw it properly tuned. The yangqin is pronounced yawng followed by the word ‘seen’ but started with a t sound.

Today I learned a method to tune this instrument and since I couldn’t find any similar info on how it should be tuned I am going to document the process here. My hope is that someone else will have some guidance for tuning their yangqin or will point out any errors in what I ‘m doing. There a number of different layouts for yangqin depending on which part of China the instrument is made and what kind of music will be played on it. I am documenting here the layout for one that was purchased in Suzhou, China near Shanghai in 2004.

First a bit about the instrument: The yangqin is a Chinese percussion instrument with many sets of strings that are plucked or hit with small mallets. Individual notes are produced by groups of 1 to 5 strings that follow closely parallel paths on the instrument and are tuned to the same note. The tuning of each note(again made by from 1 to 5 strings) is combination of two mechanical settings.

The first setting is the tension set by using a tuning wrench to turn tuning keys on the right side of the instrument. The second setting is the position of a small metal cylinder that simulatneously changes the length of the vibrating section of the string as well as slightly changes the tension on the string. These metal cylinders rest on the wood face of the instrument or for the higher notes, there are pedestals built to support them.

The strategy I would follow to tune this instrument is first to set all the metal cylinders to the center of their range of motion. This will allow for simple minor adjustments later due to environmental changes. Then each individual string should be plucked and tuned with the big tuning wrench using a chromatic tuner(just like one would use for a guitar or other instrument). You can probably get a chromatic tuner app for your mobile phone if you have a smart one.

There are many strings on this instrument so this process is likely to take hours and I wouldn’t be surprised if each string needs to be tuned a couple of times due to changes overall in the tension on the instrument. Once it is done however, it should be possible to fine-tune it by moving slightly the metal cylinders.

The picture below shows the note that should be produced by hitting each position on the instrument. If a position doesn’t have a note, that means it’s not supposed to be played there. When in doubt if the strings go from a little white bridge to a metal cylinder then you can play it.

Yangqin Tuning Chart

Now I’d like to explain the relationship between the notes on the instrument. The tuning described here has all notes in the key of C(so no sharps or flats) and the tuning goes from low on the side closest to you to high further away from you.

Using the note A as an example the blue A in column 2 (2) is one octave below the green A (4) which is one octave below the red A (6). So by playing the blue, green, and red As in sequence you hear three octaves of A ring together.

Note that the only set of bridges for which strings can be struck on either side is the longest column shown as columns 2 and 3.

Another octave relationship exists between columns 3 and 5 with the two Ds on the bottom being one octave apart. The yellow D is one octave higher than the uncolored one.

The last relationship required to figure this out(and I’m not really sure how column 1 fits into this) is going from right to left with the yellow squares and green A. This is best explained with a note line (like a number line).

If I start with the green A in the tuning chart, I should move down melodically four notes in the C-major scale to get the yellow D at the bottom of column 5. Then I should continue 4 notes lower in the C-major scale to get the yellow G at the bottom of column 6. Going the other direction from the green A, notes E and B in columns 3 and 2 respectively are 4 notes each up on the C-major scale.

I’m not sure that everyone will spell this instrument the same way in English so here are some other words that might be used to spell it to help those in need find this howto. yong, yang, chin, qin, tsien, chien, yongtsien, yongqin, yongchin, yongchien, yangtsien, yangqin, yangchin, yangchien. Yes, I’m aware a good search engine would do this kind of translation already but I have no idea how that works for Englishified chinese syllables.

Comments Off  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2011-01-15

Free Software for a rooted NOOKcolor

8 December 2010 - Filed under Default

The NOOKcolor from Barnes & Noble is an Android tablet computer that’s been turned into an e-book reader with the capacity to show pictures, store contacts, browse the web and play some video files. B&N has released an SDK and plans to compete simultaneously with the iPad and Kindle with this one device when they add a Google Marketplace app. That’s supposed to happen early next year.

All this is very exciting but it’s not why I bought it, I bought it because the NOOKcolor had been rooted, or modified to give its owner near complete control over the software. It also helped that others posted videos that showed some of the things a rooted NOOK color could do. So, within a couple hours of my purchase, I had rooted mine(thanks to the nookdev team!) and was off to load it with games and apps.

Finding these packages is tricky and for someone used to Synaptic, this process feels like an unsettling scavenger hunt. One must read wikis and forums to navigate the many places where the apk packages are available. After trying unsuccessfully to get many of the apks I wanted, I went and asked some free software friends who pointed me to F-Droid. F-Droid is an “app store” of sorts with the sole purpose of distributing free-as-in-freedom software to Android devices.

Among the apps I’ve grabbed from F-Droid are:
* Tiniest Open Source Violin – it’s just what it sounds like
* androidVNC – lets me view my desktop’s screen using the VNC protocol
* gvSIG Mini Maps – Similar to Google Maps, allows me to use multi-touch to move around many different map sources
* Jamendo – Download free music from the free culture crowd
* StatusNet – a client for identi.ca and other status.net microblogging sites

After loading up what I wanted, I looked for more. I learned of a couple of other lists of free software for the Android platform at https://wiki.koumbit.net/AndroidFreeSoftware and http://trac.osuosl.org/trac/replicant/wiki/ListOfKnownFreeSoftwareApps (the second of which I will probably help extending starting with this post). You can also search places like Google Code and github for other free software Android apps. Here are a couple more I’ve loaded from their Google Code sites…
* daap-client – I can listen to my entire music library that’s hosted on my server
* android-vlc-Remote – allows you to control VLC(the awesome media player) on another computer and even browse for files to play via HTTP

Of all the apps I’ve loaded I would say the daap, VLC, and gvSIG are my favorites. It truly is an exciting time so check out the NOOKcolor… it’s only $249 and the hacking opportunities are endless. It’s also a great front where the software freedom battle can be waged early and with great impact on the quickly growing mobile and tablet markets!

Tagged: ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

4 comments  ¤  Permalink  ¤  2010-12-08