Bitcoin – I Don’t “Get It”

This may sound strange coming from a CEO who owns and uses Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency through multiple businesses that accept Bitcoin each day.   But I still really don’t understand Bitcoin on a practical level, the technical part is understandable but for how long will the current model of currencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin work?  Do not get me wrong, I am long on crypto still but what that means in the coming years and decades is probably going to be vastly different than the current model of today.

What Is A Confirmation And Why Does It Take So Long?

What I’m referring to is when you send or receive currency there are varying opinions of what it means to actually “confirm” you have it.  But even before that people who have sent and received cryptocurrency know it is actually quite slow.  It can easily take a number of minutes and even after that point it is recommended you wait for a certain amount of confirmations.

It’s quite simple, these crypto networks with multiple nodes have to talk to each other, this takes time for them to all be in sync or agreeance with the blockchain.  Once that happens you get your first confirmation, however this can be a number of minutes and still doesn’t absolutely guarantee you have the money in your wallet.

The current system is nearly impossible to use as a daily transaction/banking experience.

I’m used to using cash, debit, credit or even services like PayPal.  It is all fairly instant (although sometimes it can take several seconds for debit or credit) but once the payment is approved and the merchant is notified instantly, they knew they have their money.  Imagine waiting for even a single confirmation for cryptocurrency while in line at a supermarket?

Why does the problem exist?

It’s quite simple, ironically it’s the one huge negative side effect of distributed, decentralized cryptocurrencies.   There are other drawbacks too such as what happens to banks if they are DOS’d but this hasn’t been a huge factor so far in crypto’s history.

What other risks exist?

My biggest fear is that in the future a powerful organization or entity may eventually be able to reverse engineer or find another way to attack the blockchain and algorithm of some cryptocurrencies.  This would essentially spell disaster, chaos and the end of that currency.  It would be the equivalent of the destruction or infiltration of a fiat currency’s central banking and distribution system.

One other issue with the blockchain

Everyone knows the safest way to hold crypto is with your own wallet because exchanges are routinely hacked and coins are stolen, it is more risky to keep your coins with a third party wallet (essentially the equivalent of an online crypto bank).  The problem lays with the issue at this moment that those deposits are not insured (although I believe Coinbase and a few others may have some insurance).  This may change in the future and exchanges and currencies that are insured will definitely rise above the rest.

What is the solution?

This may draw the ire of a lot of hardcore crypto users but there has got to be some sort of central authority, body or “top-tier” network similar to root DNS servers on the internet that can serve and validate transactions on the blockchain.  There must be some sort of physical organization between the nodes on the blockchain.

Is there a current solution to this problem?

Ripple/XRP solves this problem by essentially verifying transactions instantly and keeping all the currency in essentially an online global wallet (there is no such thing as paper wallet or traditional on your computer/device wallet).  The advantage is that you don’t have to store hundreds of gigabytes of blockchain data (and growing) like Bitcoin and other currencies.  Ripple has the benefit of also being endorsed by major financial institutions which is a first for digital crypto that I’m aware of.

I haven’t done further research but currencies like XRP I believe are the future, things can be done anyway technically and Bitcoin, Litecoin and similar blockchained coins can do this if they change some of their decentralized model.  I expect there will be more infighting and similar splits as the Bitcoin Cash that emerged from the Segwit update as the industry matures and expands.

Disclaimer

I hold positions in multiple cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin and Ripple and have given my true opinion of both in this article.

Issues with Buying from China

I’ve been buying things from China for years both in person and online and can tell you there are both very honest people, companies and also just as many if not more who are not honest. Herein lays what I believe is one of China’s biggest issue to sustainable cross-border e-Commerce in my opinion and experience.

One of the biggest issues still exists today on say Aliexpress, you want to buy a pair of pants for your kids or wife, or a carpet. They show you fantastic looking pictures and my wife asks if I think it’s a good idea. My answer is always “If the picture they show is really what you get and the other specs and sizes are correct then yes”. I’ve gone for an advid consumer to a skeptical one who tends to buy more locally or from more trusted sources and known brands for certain items.

The first time I remember encountering this was buying a nice Hello Kitty for my daughter. What we received had a completely different design and outfit. The seller as per normal from China “apologized and promised a discount next time”. This is what scares me about their business model. I replied and said they have to give us a discount now or there won’t be a next time. They broke my trust by sending the wrong item and then expected future business without making this issue right. This has happened enough times from eBay and Aliexpress that I rarely buy anything because the hassle of disputing and trying to get your money back is just not worth it especially since so many items are not as pictured or even the correct size or of horrible quality. You end saying for the time and hassle there are no savings there’s no point in ordering anything.

For example if I’m looking for a certain make and model and electronic and the seller is known to sell authentic goods then I have no issue buying it because I know I’ll get exactly what I expect and paid for with no hassle (usually……… more on this later). So this is how I’ve proceeded, generally with good luck knowing that there are fakes of almost every electronic, obviously some things are more or less likely to be faked.

The impetus for this article started when I first embarked on a journey to buy a popular Chinese phone the One Plus 5 with 8GB/128GB in September. I tried to buy it from GeekBuying ( a highly recommended site on internet forums ) only to be told that they won’t honor the price and randomly want more money. The amount they asked for actually became more than purchasing from other sellers at the time.

Here is what happened at GeekBuying and they refused to honor the price and then proceeded to offer a discount code that actually made items cost more.

Thank you for shopping at Geekbuying.
We are so sorry that the Oneplus 5 A5000 cost has increased. Really apologize about this embarrassment situation and we hope that you agree to make up the difference $25 and we can continue the shipment as soon as possible.
Please note that the extra difference is already with 20% discount which Geekbuying takes the partial responsibility.
Would you like us to send you the email link to pay 25$?
Looking forward to your early reply.
Inconvenience regretted.

Cecilia
Customer Service Representative
Geekbuying
www.geekbuying.com

Asking around on Reddit and searching showed this is a common practice at least with phones with Geekbuying. I had to open a PayPal dispute because they would not provide a refund when I asked for it.

GeekBuying.com Price Increase Scam from chinaphones

 

So what next – I tried GearBest.com

GearBest is also a highly recommended place to buy mentioned all over the internet so I paid $539.99 from there.  It has now been 34 days and I haven’t received the phone.  Attempts at getting answers from them just refer me to “check the tracking and wait” essentially even though their 22-25 business days period has now expired.  Some have accused GearBest of giving out fake tracking numbers and hoping people don’t follow up on their orders.  I think this may be possible, I was given a tracking number from Singapore Post, it shows an item arrived in Canada about 3 weeks ago but Canada Post has no record of it at all.  It’s really not normal for Singapore Post to take this long.  As a final resort I’ve opened a dispute with Paypal to which there has been no response for.  Fearing this is truly a scam I’ve shown everything to PayPal and am awaiting their decision and I truly hope their buying protection works.

I never imagined this would happen to me or that I’d receive nothing at all with a potentially fake tracking number.

Customer service from most of the sellers of I’ve had issues with in China has been either unresponsive, unhelpful or even rude.

So what now?

This experience has kind of been the tipping point of my opinion of dealing in ecommerce with Chinese sellers.  The level of trust, honesty and service is woefully lacking and I believe is a huge threat to China’s business going forward.  If these sellers want a long-term sustainable business they simply have to change their ways as buyers like me are completely turned off and moved away from buying items from China for fear of being scammed and the hassle and frustration that goes along with it.

A lot of the manufacturers do not seem to be interested in knowing that their so-called resellers or distributors are not being honest or fair.  In fact when complaining about issues from both to OnePlus and Vorke, neither company replied or commented at all.

This kind of practice is simply unsustainable and if people like me will no longer buy from China others will follow.  It’s only a matter of time before fake reviews, blog posts and forums will catch up with unscrupulous companies and it unfortunately taints the entire industry and hurts everyone.

I’ve learned my lesson I will definitely not buy from other websites unless someone I personally know can assure me their experience has been good.  I will continue to stick to eBay and Aliexpress but will continue to be careful and try to buy as little as possible.  Whenever possible I now favor a more local seller who I trust over an overseas seller.

China’s eCommerce is still maturing and to put it in perspective there was a time when eBay was full of scams too.  It takes time to get it right but hopefully this happens sooner than later.  As always in general, buyer beware of internet reviews and recommendations and this will continue to change the online marketing landscape and trust factor.

IoT (Internet of Things) Security Issues Increase

IoT (Internet of Things) is simply a fancy way of expressing that we have more devices online and connected to the internet than ever before when compared to my favorite tradition of Desktop PCs, Tablets and Phones. With the advent of embedded computing becoming more affordable, powerful and easier to develop than ever using tools like Raspberry Pi based on the ARM platform, this means we have a plethora of new devices and embedded, internet connected devices added to every day things we use.

Common examples of these are new cars, alarm systems, video cameras/surveillance systems, fridges, stoves, home locks, lights, watches, medical equipment and so much more.
The security issue with these devices is more challenging and complex than ever before for both the end user and businesses using them.

There is no doubt or anyone in denial that it’s an issue and the privacy, security and financial risks can be quite high. Security in general works on the basis of weakest link and it is arguable that a random internet connected device in your house or business poses an immense security risk with some of these devices having little to no security or out in the wild vulnerabilities.

These devices are certainly not impossible to secure, in fact the majority of them are easy to secure but it’s simply not the forefront or priority of most device makers or developers. Because of this devices are often completely unsecured and don’t even need to be hacked, sometimes they run a telnet,ssh or web daemon which can be accessed with no password or a dictionary password like admin/admin root/root or with just a username. There are others which cannot be easily updated which have vulnerabilities that end up being found later and exploited. Even more difficult some of these devices are physically inaccessible and installed in appliances and other devices where it can be harder to update them. A lot of companies would be reluctant to push out updates because often if the update failed it would render the device useless without physical intervention.

We can only hope standards emerge in the industry where updates will be easier, standard and guaranteed but this is unlikely to happen. Even with companies who use these products and recognize it is an issue there is only so much planning that can be done for devices that are not easily managed or accessible.

The only practical solution today is to try to firewall and physically isolate IoT devices where ever possible to reduce the risk (but for a lot of companies this is not easy or practical). At the end of the day more advanced network planning and management will be required and so will hardware firewalls play an ever increasing role in trying to prevent and detect attacks to these devices.

Why I Founded Techrich Corporation of Hong Kong, China

This is a question that I’ve been asked a lot considering that people ask if there is any duplication of overlap with compevo.  Techrich is an extension and complement to compevo and allows possibilities for our clients.

Being incorporated and based in Hong Kong allows us to provide more leverage and advantages and fills any gap that compevo may not have been able to fulfill.  In terms of data storage, security and connectivity Hong Kong cannot be beat.  It has the best of nearly all worlds.

Why Hong Kong?

This is the next, natural question that follows.  Hong Kong is economically, politically, and technically stable in terms of both IT infrastructure, ecosystem and most importantly its link to the outside world is fast and neutral.  Hong Kong itself is still the internet gateway to China, being directly connected to Mainland China.

Hong Kong is also has a large Big Data industry and demand due its reputation as a financial hub of the world which is a perfect ecosystem and fit for Techrich’s goals.

Contrary to some common belief, Hong Kong is not in the Asian Ring of Fire and is relatively free of any natural disasters, making it not only an ideal location on a world scale but perfect within Asia too.  Hong Kong does experience typhoons but they are rarely devastating and have little to no impact on IT or datacenter operations in Hong Kong. In fact Hong Kong’s power grid is known to be one of the most reliable and stable in the world.

In terms of internet routing Hong Kong is quite neutral with excellent connectivity to all of Asia, North America and Europe, but of particular importance is the capability of very low ping times into Mainland China that only Hong Kong can provide.

Slow Internet in China especially Shanghai and Beijing!

A colleague sent me this article asking my thoughts: http://travel.cnn.com/shanghai/life/your-internet-connection-feel-slow-its-probably-not-your-router-684008/

A lot of people automatically assume the best internet experience will be found in Beijing or Shanghai but we’ve never known that to be the case.  A lot of people will automatically assume it is the GFW/Great Firewall but in fact from my experience it simply seems to be packetloss due to congestion.  China has an enormous amount of demand for bandwidth since it has the highest amount of users (736million as of 2017!) in the world. This is why for compevo and Techrich we’ve always avoided the major centers due to the congestion.  However, bandwidth and good connectivity inside and outside of China is not always dictated by the location and even the backbone in the same cities of China are not created equally.  It takes a lot of research to get access to reliable and fast bandwidth in China but this is a completely different book to write.

With that in mind there are many ways around the slow internet in China, if your local connection is fast and connection inside China is fast you could simply use an internet acceleration service that runs through a less congested part of China and even Hong Kong.  It’s a great way to optimize your internet.

My recommendation even in 2017 is that there are many places in China with fast and reliable internet but major hubs will not likely one of them anytime soon due to the user bases in major areas being so large.