pc – Stay N Alive

The Blockchain and the "All for One, One for All" Demise of the Centralized Server

It’s amazing how history repeats itself. Internet history began with the conception of room-filled mainframe computers and “nodes” that would connect directly to the mainframes relying solely on the power of the central mainframe to get their signal and perform various tasks sent to the mainframe. Then came the PC era – an era where every person could have their own computer, and the processing power occurred on the same machine as the display and input device. Following that came the Internet, or World Wide Web, which combined mainframes and servers with personal computers. With the internet, mainframes and servers could be used to connect PCs, all over the world, in a distributed network of various servers all communicating with each other, and relaying information back to the client, the PC.

With the Cloud, we’re back to relying on servers, and we’re relying more on central data storage and processing more than ever before, just like the days of the mainframe. The only difference is our current “dumb terminals” can also cache pieces of information and perform mini processes to reduce the need for internet bandwidth in the process. All of that is about to change though with “The Chain” era as I call it, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain type infrastructure. In this era, we’re moving from lots and lots of servers all over the world, to one single server, distributed across multiple clients (or terminals) all doing their fair share of the processing.

With Bitcoin, I’ve talked previously about the power of “The Blockchain”, a global, worldwide accounting ledger that gets audited over and over again by a massive network of peer-to-peer computers, or “miners” to verify the chain has not been corrupted in any way. This network, as I stated earlier, when put together as a whole, is more powerful than the top 500 supercomputers in the world, combined. The network was designed this way.

In Satoshi’s whitepaper where he proposed the Bitcoin protocol, he suggests “as
long as a majority of CPU power is controlled by nodes that are not cooperating to
attack the network, they’ll generate the longest chain and outpace attackers”. As a result, it’s to Bitcoin’s benefit to have a very large pool of honest miners, preventing the possibility of another majority outnumbering the honest miners and providing a false version of the blockchain. This makes for a very, very large public “server”, with lots and lots of computing power, that anyone, and anybody can rely on without the need for central companies, corporations, and even governments in many cases to provide that service with their own powerful servers. In many ways it means it’s near impossible to “lie” or “spoof” inside this type of network!

Imagine the opportunities this opens up. Server resources, DNS, hosting, and even storage servers are no longer a necessity. Instead we can all rely on “The Chain” to access this information. If I own a domain, that record exists on the Chain and the Chain can verify I own it, and any IP information that comes with it when a browser makes a request for that domain. Perhaps IP addresses will no longer be needed at all with the Chain – after all, servers won’t be necessary and I really believe this massive network could be used for storage as well. So maybe your browser also gets knowledge of another key on the chain that contains the content of the webpage.

Of course, all this is theory, but the implications are evident. I’m still weeding out how a lot of this could work in my mind, and so are many, many others. The potential is there though, and we already have the largest supercomputer on the planet that we could be using – the Blockchain used by Bitcoin – we just need to come up with new ways of using it (and many are), and identify the flaws so that we can either fix them, or come up with a new protocol without those flaws. One thing’s for sure in my mind – centrally-controlled servers, in the future, will no longer be necessary. Instead, we will all rely on a massive, P2P network of some sort – be it Bitcoin and the Blockchain itself, or some other open and distributed cryptocurrency model adapted to allow this stuff.

The collaborative economy doesn’t apply just to goods and services. It also applies to technology.  The future will be less of a “one-to-one” or “one-to-many”, and more of an “all-for-one”, “one-for-all” model where everyone benefits that participates, and there is no fraud in the process. In the coming weeks and days I’ll share some potential use-cases for this Chain to further show some of its potential. What other use-cases can you come up with using the Chain?

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First the PC. Second the Web. Third the Cloud. And Now…The Chain – Why Bitcoin is Not Just a Currency – It’s a Platform!

What if you could transfer stock to another individual, without a stock broker or stock certificate? What if you could sell your home, without a real estate broker or deed? What if you could sell your car without need for a title or vehicle registration? That’s the concept of the technology behind Bitcoin, and why you need to be paying attention to why this is so much more than just a currency or investment, and why your brand could be disrupted soon if it does not adapt.

The technology behind Bitcoin, the currency that is making little-known software developers millionaires as the price has gone from less than $1 per Bitcoin to $800 per Bitcoin in just a couple years, has the potential to revolutionize the way the world authenticates human-to-human transactions within a matter of years. The technology, or protocol, is called “The Blockchain”, and it has the potential to be so much more than just a currency-driven protocol. It’s an entirely new platform. “The Chain”, as I’m now calling this platform, is incredibly powerful, and I truly think it is a paradigm shift on par with the shift from the mainframe to the PC, the PC to the Web, and more recently the Web to The Cloud.

“Colored Coins”

I had the chance to sit down with some of these Bitcoin millionaires and soon-to-be-millionaires (I’m not exaggerating!) at a local event in Provo, Utah (organized by my friends from the upcoming documentary, “Life on Bitcoin“) called a “Bitmob”. The idea is this (in a nutshell): a group of Bitcoiners approach a local business and tell them they will bring x number of people willing to pay with Bitcoin if the business will be willing to accept it. It’s a great way to get businesses to start accepting Bitcoin as a currency, brings a lot of new customers to those businesses, and overall improves the economy of Bitcoin as a whole.

It was at this meeting that my mind was enlightened that Bitcoin is not just a revolutionary, worldwide currency without central control, but it is so much more than that. A group of developers in the Bitcoin community have proposed an addition to the Bitcoin protocol (introduced by a pseudonomous developer named “Satoshi Nakamoto” in 2008, but with precedence in other standards and technologies prior to that), which allows each Bitcoin transfer to contain a payload of text. They call these “Colored Coins“. This payload of text could be synonymous with writing on a $1 bill the words, “I’ll give anyone who gives me this bill a car”. Then, that person would be held to giving each person that gave them that $1 bill a car. However, attaching this to an encrypted digital transaction that can be guaranteed as authentic, traced between the sender and recipient (by code, not necessarily ID of a human – one fatal flaw in Bitcoin IMO), now you have an even more certain guarantee of that agreement that the entire world can audit and ensure took place. If it is dishonored, the entire world knows (instead of just the people that gave the individual the $1 bill). See this video to get a better idea of how their proposal works – it does a much better job explaining:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmFjmvwPGKU]
Bitcoin is Just One Implementation of The Platform (The Chain)

The power of why this is possible lies in a worldwide “ledger” called “The Blockchain“, basically a ledger similar to an accounting ledger, that each bitcoin client has access to, can’t delete, and proves the transaction takes place. Because the entire world has access to this ledger, there is no mistake in the transaction, and anyone can prove that the owners of the 2 sides of the transaction are in agreement with each other.

The power of Bitcoin is in a vast, worldwide network of connected computers that can all authenticate what agreements were made from which parties. Each of these computers performs computer algorithms to ensure the strength of encryption on each transaction, further ensuring its authenticity. I’m told that if you added all this computing power worldwide, it would equal the power of more than 500 of the world’s top super computers. The number of trades on the network, today alone, outnumbered the number of transactions on Paypal, and are soon to outnumber the number of transactions by Discover Card.

The sheer number of participants in this worldwide peer-to-peer network, the value attached to each transaction (in Bitcoin – the Bitcoin-to-Dollar ration today is approximately 1/$700 and growing), and most importantly the openness of the network, the Blockchain, and the protocol behind it make this new network designed for commerce as scalable as the Internet, and perhaps even more valuable. As you can see, it can also be used for more than just monetary trade. One individual is using it for authentic transfer of files between individuals, for instance.

The thing is it’s the idea of Bitcoin and the Blockchain that makes all this so powerful. There will be numerous additions to the protocol over time, and I’m sure other versions, making this concept more and more powerful. What’s powerful isn’t that Bitcoin exists – it’s that this is the direction it is taking us as a society, and the technology exists today. For that reason this is a very large platform that will have many components to it, just like the web has HTTP and TCP/IP and MAC addresses, and even OAuth, and OpenID that all work together in one. We’ll see the same with cryptocurrency and online commerce in ways that transform commerce and corporate structure as we know today. There are already other cryptocurrencies like Litecoin and Namecoin. Devs and businesses will create their own currency exchanges (I’ll explain that in another post).

Bitcoin is Much More Than Just a Currency

For that reason I see Bitcoin as much more than just a currency. Bitcoin is an open platform designed for commerce. It is the architecture and Infrastructure for all transactions that Jeremiah Owyang mentions in the Collaborative Economy philosophy. Whether in “colored coins”, or another standard, Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency in general, are the platforms that will power every guaranteed human-to-human transaction on the planet. It’s already globally recognized. Each transaction has an intrinsic value (Bitcoin itself is limited in number, giving it rarity, similar to Gold). Each transaction can be proved, with 100% accuracy. And it’s near impossible to forge, unlike traditional currency. And what’s even better is this is all a platform which will evolve and grow, just like the internet.

Bitcoin is what happens when you apply digital and cryptographic principles to accounting. This is as big a change in technology to come to the world as the PC, the Web, and most recently the Cloud. We are entering a new era of human-to-human commerce where the brand, and the government is no longer “the middle man” in these agreements. Is your business ready to handle it? Are we pushing our governments to adapt? I’ll do some articles shortly on ways brands can adapt, and what I’m telling my clients.

Want to know more about Bitcoin? This video will get you started!:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um63OQz3bjo]
Like this article? It’s freely shareable and can be copied and distributed (or linked to) via Creative Commons Attribution license. Or, just send a tip via Bitcoin!:

Address: 19AdCAbjshRuEFhx4py1Ny7i48s1d6RFi

Mac Wins When it Comes to Twitter

PC or Mac? SurveyWith the launch of my new favorite Twitter app, Tweetie for the Mac yesterday, I wanted to see how successful it could be.  Damon Cortesi, who runs TweetStats.com, stated he was seeing Tweetie (the number one iPhone app for Twitter) give TweetDeck, the current number one Twitter client, a run for its money. (Literally, considering Tweetie costs $14.95 and TweetDeck is free)  After doing an informal poll via Twitter, I decided to create a SocialToo SocialSurvey around the question, and sent it to my Twitter followers.

From the poll, which is still running, at the time of this writing out of 138 people, 76 (55%) of people on Twitter use a Mac.  46 (33%) use a PC, a far drop behind.  15 (10%) use Linux, and just one uses another OS besides PC or Mac.  These stats would explain the popularity of a client like Tweetie, which runs just for Mac and iPhone.

We discussed this on FriendFeed.  The comments there ranged anywhere from those that were solely on a PC or a Mac, to those that used to be on a PC, but now were on a Mac.  Others use the iPhone or a Blackberry mostly to access Twitter.  Regardless, those that commented were still overwhelmingly Mac.

So it begs the question, with the new influx of celebrities and mainstream media on Twitter, will it continue to be this way?  Mac owners are often the early adopters, those willing to try new things out.  Will the PC eventually take over Twitter?  It will be interesting to watch, and maybe in a few months I’ll try this SocialSurvey again.  I’ll try a few other questions I think after this – what would you like to learn about Twitter users that we could poll on SocialToo?

In the meantime, please check out Tweetie Desktop for the Mac!  It’s clean, elegant, and very worth the price.  You can read more of Louis Gray’s review of it here.

Apple, Safari is Worthless to Me at the Moment!

Okay, I know no one at Apple reads my blog, but this is wishful thinking on my part. I’m getting really desperate, and so are what seems to be hundreds of others who have recently upgraded to the 10.5.6 update on the various Mac and Apple forums on the internet. The issue lies around Safari, and Facebook, and Gmail, and sessions. When I use Safari, no matter what I do, after about 30 seconds, Facebook logs me out. I can’t use Facebook in Safari. After 30 minutes or so on Gmail, it becomes unresponsive, and refreshing returns a 400 Bad Request error.

The only way I’ve found to fix this is to reset Safari, reboot, or clear all my cookies, but then, another 30 minutes later or so, all the other problems resurface again. I tried downloading the latest Webkit build, still no go. I tried reinstalling Leopard, still no go. I tried installing the full package from Apple.com for 10.5.6 and it still gives me the same issue. Each time I think it gets fixed, but a few minutes to hours later the problem comes right back.

It would appear that I’m not alone on this issue, either. Just doing a google search for “10.5.6 safari cookies session” or “safari gmail 400 bad request” returns page after page of users having issues. Threads like this one and this one prove there’s a serious issue here, with no response at all from Apple.

I’ve switched to Firefox, which actually I prefer, but Firefox is extremely slow for me on my Mac when compared to Safari for some reason. I want my Safari back! Apple, please, if anyone is listening, we need a fix soon! I am powerless without this update, and I’m really, really close to just getting a PC.

Thanks for the Memories, Bill Gates!

sc001cc949.pngThis is a picture of my very first computer. It was my very first glimpse into the world of Microsoft that would soon bring interest to the brilliant career as a software developer that I am now able to fulfill. That computer, an IBM PC compatible (of some sort), is what matured my experience as a developer. I remember the days of MS Dos before we even had color and windowing systems, and this computer even booted to BASIC! I remember my Dad getting a pirated copy of Microsoft Windows version 1 on 5″ floppies (as we were living in Indonesia at the time and this was all you could get out there), and trying it out, thinking there was no way he’d ever want to use a system like that. If you notice in the picture, we didn’t even have a mouse! The closest input device was the Joystick you see, which I used to play ironically, my first glimpses of the Microsoft Brand, in the game, Flight Simulator. Back then, Microsoft was simply just another brand you saw on a piece of software. Next to the likes of Broderbund, Activision, Lotus, and Wordperfect, Microsoft was just another software manufacturer that you saw alongside the likes of games and DOS.

Over the years, we began to see the gradual creeping of Microsoft into our daily lives. My first notices of Microsoft after the gaming and DOS days that I can remember would probably be the emergence of Microsoft Office, which, ironically, would not work on the computer I picture above. I had to wait to get a new computer before I could use it at home. Most of my memories of that came from Junior High School lab computers. It was actually rare back then for students to have a computer at home, yet alone one with a Word Processor!

At some point, we ended up installing Windows 3.1. I think it was the beginning of High School. It was there that I learned what a driver was and how hard it was to get any external hardware to really work with Windows 3.1. I really gained an appreciation of DOS in those days and learned how to write my own Batch files, configure my autoexec.bat and config.sys files to get everything I needed working properly. Frankly, back then there wasn’t much to get working properly. 3.5″ floppies were the new thing, few computers had sound cards, and there was no such thing as a CD ROM drive (at least not that we could afford!).

In High School, I remember getting a summer job my Senior Year at Computer City, a Tandy company, the company that also owned Radio Shack. While there, Windows 95 launched, and I remember trying to explain to customers the differences between Windows 95 and OS 2 Warp. We also sold Mac machines and Apple software in our stores back then! I remember beta testing Windows 95 with my friend and remembering all the cool new features it brought over Windows 3.1, and thinking it was so weird I didn’t have to install DOS before installing Windows 95!

I ended up going from there to work in Tech Support for Gateway computers. It was at that time that Microsoft Bob came out and I was forced to support it. I can’t tell you the number of times I remember just encouraging users to format and reinstall – it was actually standard protocol for the company back then!

Not long after that, Windows 98 came out, and shortly before I remember the IE/Netscape wars, the Novell Wordperfect/Microsoft Office wars (that was right here in Utah!), and somehow Microsoft continued to prevail. I think it was at that time I began to use Microsoft Office over Wordperfect products regularly for the first time. It was my only choice!

When Windows 2000 came out I remember how stable it was! Finally, a version of the Microsoft OS that the average Joe could use, based on Enterprise technology! (NTFS) I think it was at that point that I started seeing Microsoft as “evil”, and began venturing towards Open Source and other technologies to break free of the Microsoft trenches. It was also at that time that Netscape was no longer the dominant browser and web developers were very quickly forced to change their ways.

Since then we’ve seen Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Me (choke!), Xbox 360, MSN, Windows Live, Windows Media Center, and even Microsoft Surface! From games and DOS to programmable furniture, Microsoft has come a long way over the years. Yet, one man has stood at the center of it all, a quiet, but very, very, rich man, Bill Gates. He has been the quiet identity behind Microsoft for probably most of my life. Friday, Bill Gates had his last day at Microsoft. He has brought me many great years, and much of the reason I am a developer today. As he leaves I feel a piece of me bidding farewell, yet, at the same time, that company that I have both loved and hated over the years will still continue on in his legacy. Mr. Gates, thanks for the Memories!

Five Real Reasons Vista Beats Mac OS X

I’m going to step away from my normal focus on Social Media because the inner-geek in me just couldn’t resist. Recently Chris Pirillo posted a challenge that I just couldn’t help taking on. In it, he criticizes a post by Preston Galla of ComputerWorld stating “5 Reasons Vista Beats OS X”, and he makes some very good points. I admire Chris a lot because he’s one of the most unbiased Geeks I know, except when it comes to the Mac. Chris and I would get along well.

I too am a Mac user, in fact, the post I am typing at the moment is on MarsEdit on a Macbook. I absolutely love my Mac, and thus far have not found a preferred Operating System for development and desktop environment to work on, at least as a software developer (I should note that actually, most of my software development is over Terminal on the Mac, over to a Linux Server, my preferred server OS).

I will be the first to admit however that the Mac does have its flaws, in particular Leopard. I do run a Vista Ultimate machine, and I love it too, but for different reasons. Let me give 5 real reasons, and Chris, if you’re reading I would love to hear your response to this, why Vista, at times can be better than a Mac, in particular Leopard. Here are 5 reasons in response to Chris’s challenge that I think really make sense:

  1. It’s all about the media. Chris, I’m not sure if you’ve used Windows Media Center to its full extent, but sit down, set up a Windows Media Center machine/server, and then set up an Xbox 360. Be sure your server has a good TV card or two in it as well. Now, sync the two, and begin watching TV live over your home network. Add on a Media Center Extender to another TV in your house and begin streaming live TV on another channel to that TV as well. Now, on one of the extenders, open up some music, maybe even from your iTunes library on your PC (assuming it’s not DRM protected, stupid Apple). Go on over and visit the videos you have stored on your PC. Install some MCE plugins, and begin browsing your videos on Youtube, or even Netflix watch now movies. Got HD? MCE supports it. Go to the sports section, see all the sports games playing currently and what their scores are, surf through all the sports channels (all in HD!). Go in and schedule to record your favorite TV Series. AppleTV isn’t even near ready for this (although I so desperately would love to see them do it!). Heck, turn off MCE even and start playing some games, or rent a movie. If you can point out a Mac combination that can do that, I’ll jump for joy!
  2. The corporate environment. As a CTO and entrepreneur, I simply cannot force everyone onto a Mac. I have first, the expense of the learning curve and integration between Mac and PC, and second the cost of the Macs themselves. I can get a PC for under $500 these days. The closest equivalent to that is the Mac Mini, which still, at the equivalent PC level is more expensive. Now, add to that the expense of Parallels so those that need Windows apps like Quickbooks Corporate editions and others. True, integration with Exchange is possible, but is still pretty limited when compared to Windows. In the end I’m looking at a pretty expensive IT budget. Again, I think a Mac is an excellent development machine, and would still encourage a Mac for my developers due to their need to develop in cross-platform environments, but it just doesn’t make sense cost-wise across the entire company.
  3. Hardware compatibility. I agree – there are a lot of options when it comes to supporting hardware for a Mac, but, can I just get a decent wireless print server that works with the Macs in my household? What about print drivers that work across the network with Windows-connected printers? Leopard fixes some of that, but it’s still not anywhere near compatible as the Vista machines are. Is it Mac’s fault? No, but it is a strong point to buying Vista. What about shuffling around every time I need to connect to a projector because Macs use the non-standard VGA/DVI adapters? I’m sure the readers can come up with more unsupported hardware.
  4. Finance Software. I touched on this a little earlier, and Galla very broadly covered it in mentioning supported software, but his claim was not backed by specific examples. Simply saying, “Vista runs more software” is an opinion, and Chris, as you point out not necessarily proof that Vista is better. However, one thing I do have issues with is the vast array of Windows Finance software (aka Small and large business versions of Quicken and Turbotax) but lack of within Leopard. I run a very small business at the moment, and frankly, Quickbooks for Mac is simply too much for me. I’m looking for something more like Quicken Home and Business until my business gets large enough for me to hire an Accountant. There’s also the flip-side to that in that if you run a very large business, there are no enterprise versions of Quickbooks for Mac. This is why both my Father, and Father-in-Law who are CPAs do not use Macs. For now, I’m stuck to slowing down my machine with Parallels any time I need something like that, which, IMO is a hack.
  5. It’s all about the animated wallpaper! Can your Mac run animated pictures of waterfalls, running streams, or flowing lava? My Vista machine can. Come on – you have to admit that’s something my Vista machine can do that my Macbook can’t, don’t you? So long as we’re going to praise the Mac UI this is one really cool feature I’d just love to see on my Mac. There are also other cool UI features on Vista that I like, even though I think Mac trumps them as a whole.

So, those may or may not be big things to some, but that is my list, and you asked Chris. Of course I could always come up with 10 more things that Mac beats Vista in, but my point is, as they told us when I was a Sales person at Computer City as a teenager, there are strengths to each OS – it’s important to evaluate what works best for you and your situation, and choose accordingly. Now, I ask my readers, are there any reasons (supported by true, concrete facts) that you feel Vista beats Leopard or the Mac in general?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_AprFotKZU&hl=en]