Ethereum: The Story of Casper the Unfriendly Ghost!

A lot of the industry is treating this as new but it has been on the Ethereum team’s roadmap, including this post from Vlad back in 2015.  In plain English, Casper the Friendly Ghost as they call it is the roadmap and implementation that the Ethereum team is beginning to test.  It is the process of how they will switch their network from PoW (mining) to PoS (Proof of Stake).  I will admit I am not envious of how they will go about this task and it is a big job, but the implementation has me shaking my head.  Before anyone cries foul or FUD, I am speaking from an IT and business perspective because the security issues in the crypto world are puzzling to me.

A lot of the key features of this Casper protocol are for example how they plan to “penalize bad nodes” or nodes who misbehave, broadcast false/fake transactions/confirmations etc..  Why should this be possible in the first place?  No one should be able to run a node if they aren’t trustworthy but there is no basis on this elevated privilege in cryptocurrency networks like Ethereum.  Strangers off the street are being trusted to be honest and not mess with the network.  That’s not how business or the world works, nor is it how IT works if you want to stay safe and stay operating.

The craziest part that “has me shaking my head” is the fact that “Validator Nodes” which are essentially “bonded” by depositing at least 1500 ETH which the Ethereum network and team controls.  The onus is then on the node runner to secure the node, keep it running reliably, preventing DDOS attacks and risks that the actions of other nodes could cost you money.  Make no doubt about it, the team is clear you could lose some or all of your money through no fault of your own as a Validator Node.

But let’s back up here, this is an improvement over the current issues but is it solving anything?  At first mining worked to secure the network and stop centralization.  But here we are today where big players with big money and ASICs have centralized most cryptocurrencies, something that wasn’t supposed to happen.  It is clear the small players will hardly play any role in the network of Ethereum with this change to Casper.

Getting back to the security aspect.  What is to stop extremely wealthy people who don’t care about money or have more than enough money to run the majority of Validator Nodes?  Nothing stops them from losing all of their money and they don’t have to care about it if they could setup a one-time heist to fool enough users or even a single user for a single targeted transaction.  Massive bank-heist type frauds would be possible with collusion and owning enough Validator Nodes, and clearly only the wealthy could pull this off.  It would be immoral but not illegal and I would say the Casper system, with bonded node validators is enabling and encouraging it.

Casper is well-intentioned but to me it shows that the cryptocurrency world is far out of touch with basic norms of computing and IT security.  There has got to be a better way that prevents this in the first place.

Ethereum and virtually all coins are already centralized from the start.  This is and continues to be the case since the developers must be trusted whether you like it or not.  Why don’t some teams just centralize under a trustworthy community rather than depending on the honesty and integrity of strangers, or worse inviting only the wealthy to centralize and participate?

One coin I feel that meets my criteria for a secure, functional, fast and affordable coin for both users and business is from the anonymous Sonajin Team (or Team Satoshi 2.0 if I’m correct).    I believe the coin will revolutionize cryptocurrency and will be the best poised for mass adoption.  Naturally I’m going to add that I have bought into it and have a stake, both for my own interest but also with the expectation that it will be a historically smart choice to own some XSJ.

Kin plans to fork Stellar Lumens instead of using ERC20 Ethereum Coins

The first thing I remember about Kin is that they are Canadian and they raised a lot of money in their ICO.  The last thing I remember is that I tried to buy it and couldn’t find any proper safe exchange to buy it on (they were on what I consider essentially scam exchanges).  I also wasn’t able to gain access to their website (it was broken) so on that basis I will give my thoughts about the project and ideas behind it.

First of all I agree with their assessment of Ethereum  as being like dial-up internet.  But this raises the question of planning and management.  Slow transactions, lack of security and fraud have been synonymous with Ethereum since it debuted.  What I am getting is this choice is rather rush and sudden.  With such a big team why did no one think of the implications before doing ERC20 tokens or was it just a crash grab first and project as an afterthought?  What happens to the value of those ERC20 tokens that so many people bought?  They will become worthless and they are now a megacorporation who is going to make their own private blockchain for payments.  I resent the fact that they could contribute to the downfall of good ICOs and the few real tokens out there.

With that said I think KIN/KIK could kill it in a good way.  Yes they are centralized but if they do it right and are trustworthy in the end (maybe like a PayPal). The good news is that I do believe Stellar/Ripple are a good base for things, it is a fast and relatively secure network, albeit without privacy and first party wallets.  I think Kin has the right idea but possibly wrong execution based on their initial entry.  I have a  high standard of trust or ICOs a good part of that is the team, their decisions and how they treat their investors.  Time will tell how well they execute this one but I hope it works out and that investors do not lose their money.  I, for one am glad that I wasn’t able to buy KIN as they are now about to dump it and make it worthless.

Here’s my experience with the KIK/KIN team (nothing working and no response after they collected millions of dollars):

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Kin gave me the inspiration to realize how bad Ethereum was when trying to buy their tokens and they wanted to charge me about $100 in fees!

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$98 in fees to buy KIN:

Google’s Co-Founder Sergey Brin Says Ethereum Mining Driving Computer Boom and Renaissance

This is very striking to me in that I find the statement makes no sense and with one word “SETI”.  SETI didn’t set off a computing revolution and still has limited participation.  SETI which is searching for signs of extraterrestrial life has used a sort of grid-computing through unused computing power of its supporters to help search through troves of data that the SETI researchers don’t have the power to do.  I admit back in high school I didn’t want to share my CPU cycles, nor did most other people.

I am drawing this comparison because SETI didn’t start off a frenzy of computer buying to “mine” SETI.  This is because there was no actual reward or benefit to doing it any practical sense.  Mining is only being driven by the hope of big rewards and profits, or in other words greed.  Yes, some computing enthusiasts are getting into mining but does anyone really think that this greed has turned people into computer enthusiasts?  Sales of GPUs would be flat if not for the profits.  If mining because unprofitable the same people who rushed in will rush out, they are speculators and investors, not computing experts or enthusiasts.

Aside from being extremely wasteful, inefficient and ineffective I believe PoW or mining is not sustainable and the long-term currencies that are to survive will be converting to PoS (Proof of Stake).

And this gets to the most ironic point.  Google has recently banned ALL cryptocurrency advertisements.  Maybe Sergey thinks “mining Ethereum is cool and so is cryptocurrency but not if you want to promote it on Google!”.

Just Keep Hodling Your Cryptocurrency Coins!

As of the time of this writing on 2018-04-15 coins have started a rally just before the weekend and they’re all up.  Could it be that there is some pumping going on from Soros, Rothschild and Rockefeller?  Or could it be an emotional reaction to their announcements that they will invest in crypto?

Coins are up between 3-16% at the time of this writing with the big news being that it looks like Bitcoin has strongly cleared the $8000 mark and is hanging there fairly well.  We are back to where we were later last year.  Could this be the next leg up of a bull run? No one can be sure since only the whales and FUD and FOMO can control the market but I’ve been hodling.

Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin to me are key indicators of something big possibly heading our way.

 

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Swiss Researchers Forecast Sideways Trading and Downward Pressure on Bitcoin for 2018

They have based it on Metcalfe’s law which says at this point that Bitcoin could lose another 27%.  The group also cites the part I agree with, in that so far cryptocurrency prices are mainly driven by Bitcoin which means Altcoins (other than Bitcoin) have risen and fallen in direct correlation.

Where I am not sure if I agree or disagree is their theory that a lot of this is driven by fear in the news.  While I am sure it is, if the fear is unfounded why should bad news reflect on the long-term valuation?

A sensible market would be wise to react to say the hacks that have happened to Ethereum or the fact that illegal content has been inserted into the Bitcoin Blockchain.  That is bad news that has relevance since these issues potentially threaten the integrity of the entire blockchain.

While we’re on the topic of Metcalfe’s law, since cryptocurrency is a completely new and largely irrational market can we trust this is a valid predictor?  I am not aware that any other traditional models have successfully called any of the major events in cryptocurrency.

I do agree it was time for a significant correction but the same has happened in commodities and stocks before, yet the stock markets keep moving (albeit with a lot of money printing and manipulation-is that what regulators mean by regulation for cryptocurrency? :) ).

Only time will tell where things head but I do think that currencies that are efficient, secure and easy to use will stand the test of time (which admittedly are very few and I cannot think of a single one that solves all of the issues just yet).

ICOs Still Going Strong in 2018

Despite the slow start and bearish sentiment of the cryptocurrency market this year, apparently ICOs have been going strong.  Various reasons are plentiful for why the ICO market remains this strong and it has me scratching my head.

Some say that serial investors are cashing out and then reinvesting into new ICOs.  Others say new investors from outside the traditional cryptocurrency world are coming into the market.

I am not sure what to think, as someone like myself is shying aware from most ICOs based on my experience that I feel 99% of these are scams and won’t ever deliver anything.  I think most of them are the next dot bombs and it is absolutely right to panic and sell these worthless Ethereum ERC20 tokens.

In ICOs the traditional due diligence is simply not enough.  It is easy to weed out people without IT or business experience.  And from that you have to weed out who has valid experience and qualifications?  Working for big name companies does not make you qualified to deliver on an overly ambitious project, but it does of course help attract investors.  I’ve seen enough big names including the Telegram ICO to be unimpressed (the Telegram ICO tells you to send money and then e-mail them to confirm the transaction……..how on earth will they build a proper blockchain if they can’t make their own API for transactions?).

Sorry for the rant but seriously what is driving the ICO market despite all the bad news?  I suspect it is people in the cryptocurrency world and I suspect they are miners who are thinking “my coins aren’t worth that much at the moment why not invest some of my spare ones into ABC scam ICO in the hopes that it grows and acts as a hedge to my underperforming cryptocurrency”.

That’s the best I can do and I suspect that is what is happening.  There are of course the institutional and whale investors who play a role but it’s unclear to what extent.

Bitmain Reportedly Creates an Ethereum ETHash and Cryptonight Monero ASIC Miner

Some analysts on Wallstreet are claiming this and I would say it is likely credible seeing as how a Cryptonote Miner is being sold on their site now.

1. Hashing algorithm: CryptoNight

Power consumption: 550W

Hashrate: 220KH/s

These are the most conservative estimates. We expect the miners to deliver higher performance and efficiency when they are ready to ship.

2. There are financial risks associated with mining cryptocurrencies. These risks can be related to changes in exchange rate of the cryptocurrency or to changes in the algorithm that is used to mine the cryptocurrency. Please deliberate well before making a purchase because we will not accept any requests for refund for orders of this batch.

3. One major cryptocurrency which is using CryptoNight hash function is about to change their PoW algothrim, and according to their public statement, it is purposely to brick ASIC mining rigs including X3. When you buying it, you are betting that they are wrong

This is one instance where I am happy with Bitmain (unlike the scam they pull where the miner you buy will mine for them until you change the config!  They could at least default it to an account on Hashnet that gives you credit).  But in all fairness for the X3 Cryptonight miner they have given fair warning that there are two significant risks and issues with using their ASIC.

Cryptonight apparently has threatened to do something that would cause these ASICs to brick.  Even if they won’t be bricked Cryptonight has pledged to stop the use of these ASICs which is a huge threat to owning these units from Bitmain.

This could get interesting if they do release an Ethereum ASIC but Ethereum itself has stated they will eventually move to PoS (Proof of State) which will essentially stop all mining.

If the above scenarios play out then I believe most people would point their GPUs at ZCash and Monero instead and those currencies would rise in value.

We’re in very curious and serious times for cryptocurrencies between uncertainty over regulation, government, mining and the future value.  Is Bitmain leading to its doom or leading the market to more growth?

Time will tell and it is really hard to call which way it heads.

Coinbase To Support Ethereum ERC20 Tokens

Coinbase just announced it will be supporting the trade of ERC20 tokens.  A lot of times in the crypto world I look and shake my head and I just can’t stop with this one.  I could see if Coinbase wanted to support actual currencies like Ripple, Lumens, Monero etc… those are reasonably safe currencies to invest in.

ICOs which are essentially crowdfunding/pseudo-stocks (depending on who you ask) are extremely risk and I would say about 90% of those are fraudulent in that they collect your coins and never intended to deliver anything.  I think we can all agree at any rate that ICOs are extremely risky and HODLING may be as useful with those tokens as holding RIM stock.

Coinbase has a huge client base and is one of the easiest ways for people to get into cryptocurrency.  However, they risk bringing regulatory wrath and also dampening new investors from coming in when they get burnt on these ICO scams.

It’s recently come to my attention that some people weren’t aware that Ethereum Smart Contracts or ERC20 tokens are not vetted, supported or approved by the Ethereum team in any way.  This is  huge issue of course and why I am so against smart contracts at the moment.  Let’s get cryptocurrency as an infrastructure in terms of B2B,B2C,C2C etc… working fast, efficiently, securely and easily before biting off more than we can chew!

I am also at a loss as to how the Coinbase legal team approved this one?  Did they run it by any counsel at all?  I think if and when people lose massive amounts that Coinbase could be held liable regardless of waivers and disclaimers for losses in some of the huge ICO busts and scams to come.  Especially when there are so many other avenues and stable currencies they could have directed their customers to.

I am fearful for the investors, for Coinbase and the cryptocurrency market as a whole but should these warnings go unheeded and “things go terribly wrong” then it would be a good, fresh start for the industry.  Investors also need to do their diligence and exercise good understanding and judgement before making investment decisions.

It will be interesting to see where this leads but I would never recommend any friend or family member to invest in any Ethereum Based Token ICO and to stick with solid and real cryptocurrencies that solve the problems of today.

IRS / US Taxman Says Cryptocurrency Income IS Taxable

Like the old saying goes one thing is certain “taxes and death”.  The IRS definitely hasn’t disappointed even cryptocurrency owners by clearly stating cryptocurrency is taxable.

Hopefully the rules will be fair.  I feel it should only be taxable like any stock, so when there is a capital gain through resale.

The same rules of the IRS apply for tax evasion if you’re a US citizen and don’t report your crypto earnings.  One other interesting thing is how the IRS has got their hands on Coinbase data for some users.  This will certainly be used to go after users who’ve made profits.

We Need A Better Coin Now!

Cryptocurrency today as of the time of this writing is in a bit of a flux and identity crisis.  Part of this is due to a well directed campaign in the news via government and banking entities.  However, I will always give credit where it is due and many of the flaws that have been pointed out by these entities are completely true.  In fact, from a business, security and IT standpoint I find that most cryptocurrencies are almost impossible to use.  There are coins that individually address “some of the issues” but I have never seen a coin or team that “just seems to get it”.

Whether it’s how an ICO is run, basic functionality, security, privacy, getting out information it seems apparent to me that the vast majority of teams and coins do not sufficient combined IT and Business Knowledge to make things work.

There are just so many issues with a lot of the top coins that could kill them, let me name a few in no particular order.

Speed – 99% of cryptocurrencies are extremely slow taking minutes, hours or several days to complete a transaction!

Expensive – A lot of times you can spend a small fortune just sending a small amount of coin to someone (you could spend $100 to send $5 of coins with some Ethereum tokens for example)!

Security – Most coins are by default completely insecure.  Any coin that has a public ledger is insecure and has 0 privacy.  This allows for replay attacks and all kinds of nasty things.  It also means your activities are easily tracked and traced.  Imagine if your competitors can see exactly who is paying and who you are paying including the full amounts?  It would put your business at a huge disadvantage.  Having “public, permissionless blockchain” such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin etc..  will mean the coins can never be secure when the whole public is involved.

Hardforks – Most coins are easily counterfeited, hard or softforked where basically anyone can copy an entire coin and just rename it and call it their own, while confusing and devaluing the original coin holders.  This should never be able to happen just for the reason of sanity, continuity and integrity.  There have already been scams like the BTG Scam and replay attacks.

PoW/Mining – It is absolutely crazy that mining still exists, as cool as it originally was, mining is now a hindrance in many ways to the cryptocurrency community.  Not only is it wasteful in terms of energy resources, it is unsustainable in both environmental, monetary and functional terms.  Returns are so slow with most major coins that it is almost not worth it unless your power is cheap or free.

To top it off why on earth should we let transactions be controlled by “miners finding the next block”.  It doesn’t secure the network anymore and that is because coins like Bitcoin were created before ASICs and assumed “no one would party would hold more than 10% hashing power”.  Of course single pools in China have way more than 10% power and so do some mining farms possibly.  This means that pools and large farms could work together to defraud people by sending false transactions and confirming it among themselves.  By the time the scam is realized the parties who initiated the scam would already have escaped with the money.

Mining also leads to centralization, the very thing that cryptocurrency was meant to avoid.  This inevitable because as difficulty increases, only large corporate or government players with deep pockets can continue.

The same applies with running full nodes, large organizations will be the one running them.

Usability – Most coins are unusable because they are slow and insecure but to make it worse there’s more.  The current coins are not easily integrated in a secure way.  You shouldn’t have to run a full Litecoin, Bitcoin or Ethereum node on a huge mega server with tons of RAM and HDD just to create receiving addresses and receive payments.  This not only inefficient, it is insecure because the same computer that generates the receiving addresses is usually the one that holds the wallet/funds.

To top it off you can send to a wrong or non-existent address and lose your money forever with virtually all currencies.  Blockchain is just a big database, couldn’t some query be done to make sure the address actually exists?!  On top of that there is no feedback, send by e-mail or notifications by e-mail you always need to keep your wallet open to notice.  It would be much easier if these different functions are kept separate.  However this is a problem too because most cryptocurrencies are admittedly not secure if you don’t sync the entire chain.  And that’s another issue, syncing is a huge issue with coins like Ethereum it is extremely slow and takes a ridiculous amount of CPU cycles.  Imagine paying someone from Craigslist in person  and one of you says “hold on mate sorry I have to wait for my wallet to sync for hours or days!”.