The first question you should ask about every new cryptocurrency

It is easy to fall victim to the urge to jump on each new coin. The hype around an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is usually enough to drive even the most sober investor to distraction. But before you jump on any coin you have to ask yourself at least one key question:

Does this idea really need a Blockchain solution?

Cryptocurrency and the Blockchain are currently hot buzzwords in the online communities. Consequently, a lot of people are flocking to the “Bitcoin craze”. But not every idea is a good fit for the blockchain, and not every inventor is totally honest with themselves or others. You need to decide for yourself if a given idea makes sense running on the blockchain. And for that you need to understand the key idea of the blockchain.

The blockchain is a verifiable record of transactions

There are a lot of features the blockchain can provide, but the core concept is that of a verifiable, public ledger of transactions. Note that complete anonymity and privacy are not central to the concept of the blockchain. Specific coins may (or may not) implement some for of anonymity/privacy but that’s not usually the default. If a given problem does not benefit from a verifiable, public record then it’s probably not ideally suited to the blockchain. There is also no rule that the transactions are financial of nature — any sort of small, informational data could be stored on the blockchain. Butthe blockchain does not easily substitute for decentralized database, the information storage capabilities are inherently limited (i.e. the whole Segwit2x situation in BTC).

Some ideas are just a bad fit

Take an somewhat absurd example. Comic Book Coin (CBC) a cryptocurrency to handle comic book sale and distribution via the blockchain. Anyone creating a comic book could accept payments through in CBC and send the comic books to subscribers using though the CBC blockchain. This idea is flawed because of two reasons: file size and redundancy. First and foremost, comic books are relatively large files. Most blockchain solutions only handle a few megabytes of data in a block (1-8MB). Also publishers don’t really need or want the books themselves stored on the blockchain. Second, there are already plenty of cryptocoins that allow for online payments. This idea isn’t really well suited for its own coin.

But wait!

There is an easy fix to the CBC cryptocurrency that makes it seem like a much better idea. Instead of using it for sales and distribution, simply use CBC to track subscriptions (and possibly payment). Now the first issue is no longer a problem, since distribution of the comic books can be handled in any traditional way (web download, postal mail, etc). Payments could be handled with BTC or other coin, but maybe CBC could be used as well. But the real win is to handle and track subscriptions using the blockchain. Now publishers can easily create a list of accounts that have paid for the current issue. Advertisers have a verifiable way to determine the popularity of each comic book. Customers can discover other books read by people who subscribe to the comics they already like. Understanding the nature of subscriptions to comic books does make sense as a public record of transactions, and it might be a worthwhile investment. (If someone does this, don’t forget to cut me in).

So before you put your hard-earned cash behind the latest ICO fad, remember to ask yourself: does this idea really need a Blockchain solution?

What is OmiseGo and why is it up 2,570%?

What is OmiseGo?

OmiseGo (symbol: OMG) is a new cryptocurrency designed to help lower the cost of currency and asset exchange. The OmiseGo token sold out its $25 million initial token offering during the pre-sale period from June 7–23, 2017. The result was over 140 million OMG tokens with an estimated market capitalization of $35.6 million USD ( or $0.254 per token). With the current price hovering around $6.79, OMG has seen a meteoric rise of 2570% in under 2 months — 142% just this week.

Omise Corp

The brainchild of the Omise Corporation of Southeast Asia, OmiseGo is their attempt to use the blockchain to address the need for an inexpensive and accessible payment system for the large number of people in the region who do not have credit or debit cards. According to their white paper the eventual OmiseGo blockchain will allow people to conduct financial transactions between many different fiat and cryptocurrencies, including BTC, ETH, and others. But that software is not complete yet. Omise plans on having initial pieces available in Q4 2017, but the completion date is unknown.

OMG Token

Right now, OmiseGo is simply an ERC-20 token based on the Ethereum blockchain. Eventually, the plan is for the current OMG token to be used as a Proof-of-Stake currency for validating transactions on the future Omise blockchain. But in a the wake of the recent Plasma announcement, the OmiseGo team says they’ll be the first project to launch using Plasma. This isn’t surprising since the creators of Plasma (crypto-rockstars Joseph Poonand Vitalik Buterin) are both advisors to the OmiseGo project. But as a result it is not clear if the OmiseGo blockchain will simply be built on top of the main Ethereum blockchain using Plasma or if they will use a completely independent blockchain and Plasma.

So why is OMG price climbing so fast?

Solid Foundation

The parent company Omise is “a venture-backed payments company with operations in Thailand, Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia”. Founded in 2013 and with over 100 full-time employees Omise is legitimately positioned to integrate vendors and point-of-sale devices with their blockchain solution. Omise even recently acquired one of the three major payment providers in Thailand: Paysbuy. With experience in the payment management arena, Omise provides OMG with a solid base for expansion into the cryptocurrency space.

Name Recognition

OmiseGo has some high-profile advisors. As mentioned before Joseph Poon the co-author of the Bitcoin Lightning Network is the principal advisor as well as the original technical author. Also, in addition to Vitalik Buterin, other key people in the development of Ethereum are also advisors: Dr. Gavin Wood, Vlad Zamfir, and Martin Becze. The result is that OmiseGo benefits from a very high-profile and technically capable team of advisors.

Viral Marketing

the OMG team is giving directly back to the Ethereal community. On August 7, they announced the upcoming airdrop of 5% of the total number of OMG tokens directly back to qualifying accounts on the Ethereum network. The resulting 7+ million tokens will be distributed to Ethereum accounts with balances greater than 0.1 ETH. Full details have yet to be announced, but the resulting goodwill and word-of-mouth discussion should be good viral marketing for the OmiseGo brand.


Taken together OmiseGo price is rising on the standard cryptocurrency speculation backed by a sound corporate foundation, association with recognizable names, and a brilliant marketing campaign. Will it all add up to success? Only time will tell, but so far early investors have little to complain about.

Compiling cpuminer on a RaspberryPi

I just spent the last bit compiling cpuminer on the RaspberryPi, and here’s my notes:

  1. sudo apt-get install automake libcurl4-openssl-dev libssl-dev
  2. ./configure
  3. Edit the compat/jansson/makefile and switch ar and ranlib to gcc-ar and gcc-ranlib
  4. make
  5. strip cpuminer


Market Cap is a strange beast

To paraphrase a great sword fighter, “I don’t think it means what I think it means.”

Consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine a stock that issued 100 shares for $100 each 100 years ago. No one then buys or sells for 100 years. The market cap for the last 100 years works out to $10,000 (100×100).

Today someone sells 1 share for $1,000,000.  Suddenly, the market cap is automatically calculated as, $100,000,000. Even though the real amount of money invested is only: $1,009,900.

Now if you could “prove” that there were 99 other people foolish enough to spend $1m per share, the market cap makes sense. But I don’t think we can say that a priori.

If we computed prices as the average of the last n shares bought (where n is the number of shares outstanding). I think we’d have a clearer picture of value.

In the above example, we would say that resulting market cap was only: 1,009,900, and therefore the correct price per share is: 1,009,900/100 = 10,099.  Which seems like a much more defensible position in terms of pricing.

Is DIY-BIO the Personal Computing of the 21st Century?

Bento Lab Starter KitLast last year I ran across the following article in IEEE Spectrum: Tools for Would-Be Biohackers.  Since I have a daughter with interests in Biology, I considered getting her one of these “mini-labs” as a Christmas gift.  The high cost had me wondering if this was an outrageous idea.  It works out that adjusting for inflation, these mini-labs aren’t any more expensive than 8-bit home computers of my youth.  My wife asked what seemed like a totally reasonable question, “What are they even good for?”  It’s a good question, and it was probably the same question my parents asked about those early personal computers.  It got me thinking about whether this kind of Do-It-Yourself home biology (actually genetics) is going to become the same kind of technological revolution that the personal computer became?

I don’t have a ready answer.  I do know that I’m not willing to dismiss the idea out-of-hand, and I want to learn more.  While I think the kits above are really cool from a technological perspective, I’m planning on doing some small scale (i.e. cheaper) things first.  It will be interesting to see if I can find an answer to my wife’s original question, and if there is a whole new world of innovation to come.

Here are links to the various mini-labs:

Getting FreeBSD 11 working on my Asus Zenbook UX31A

Sigh… not sure why this was so painful. After years away, I thought it would be nice to re-visit FreeBSD on my dedicated malware analysis laptop. While I had used FreeBSD for over a decade on personal server systems, I’ve never really used it as a desktop system, but I’m tired of the Linux disto situation. Besides, I’ve always been more comfortable on BSD-based systems.

But let’s face it, some Linux distros are much better at working as desktop systems. Here’s my (on-going) work to get FreeBSD 11.0RC2 going on my spare ultrabook.

During install make sure to configure the internal drive as GPT partition table and be sure the EFI partition is listed first.

After the install, enter the firmware to create “a new boot option” and indicate the location of the proper UEFI boot file.

Add boot option: Internal SSD
Select Filesystem: [accept default]
Path for boot option: \efi\boot\bootx64.efi

Form here, I’m basically just going to follow the FreeBSD desktop install instructions from CoolTrainer:

Next swap CapsLock and Ctrl keys, because that’s just better:

echo 'keymap="us.ctrl" >> /etc/rc.conf

Then go into the System->Preferences->Hardware->Keyboard->Layouts and select “swap ctrl and caps lock”.


Some additional things I had to do:

  • installed emacs (text editor)
  • installed redshift (like flux)
  • installed slim (login manager)
  • installed cairo-dock (like Mac OS X dock)
  • installed cairn-dock-plugins
  • installed launch (like Alfred/Quicksilver)
  • installed compton (compositing window manager)
  • installed Chromium

Things I still need to work out:

  • Removable Media
  • SD card
  • Touchpad
  • WiFi panel for Gnome
  • Gnome 2/Mate sound

Installing the Nix Package Manager

There isn’t really a reason to read my install directions for nix, I just used the default install command for Linux/Mac OS X.  To wit:

curl | sh

Except that I had to modify the .profile script to work in tcsh.  Namely, I created a version of the default file works for csh/tcsh:


if [ -n "$HOME" ]; then
  echo 'setenv NIX_LINK $HOME/.nix-profile;'

  # Set the default profile.
  if ! [ -L "$NIX_LINK" ]; then
    echo "creating $NIX_LINK" >&2
    /nix/store/rznhi2hyzcgckk7yb2662lr57sb906ps-coreutils-8.24/bin/ln -s "$_NIX_DEF_LINK" "$NIX_LINK"

  echo "setenv PATH ${NIX_LINK}/bin:${NIX_LINK}/sbin:$PATH;"
  # Subscribe the user to the Nixpkgs channel by default.
  if [ ! -e $HOME/.nix-channels ]; then
    echo " nixpkgs" > "$HOME/.nix-channels"

  # Append ~/.nix-defexpr/channels/nixpkgs to $NIX_PATH so that
  #  paths work when the user has fetched the Nixpkgs
  # channel.
  echo "setenv NIX_PATH ${NIX_PATH:+$NIX_PATH:}nixpkgs=$HOME/.nix-defexpr/channels/nixpkgs;"

  # Set $SSL_CERT_FILE so that Nixpkgs applications like curl work.
  if [ -e /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt ]; then # NixOS, Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, Arch
    echo 'setenv SSL_CERT_FILE /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt;'
  elif [ -e /etc/ssl/certs/ca-bundle.crt ]; then # Old NixOS
    echo 'setenv SSL_CERT_FILE /etc/ssl/certs/ca-bundle.crt;'
  elif [ -e /etc/pki/tls/certs/ca-bundle.crt ]; then # Fedora, CentOS
    echo 'setenv SSL_CERT_FILE /etc/pki/tls/certs/ca-bundle.crt;'
  elif [ -e "$NIX_LINK/etc/ssl/certs/ca-bundle.crt" ]; then # fall back to cacert in Nix profile
    echo 'setenv SSL_CERT_FILE "$NIX_LINK/etc/ssl/certs/ca-bundle.crt";'
  elif [ -e "$NIX_LINK/etc/ca-bundle.crt" ]; then # old cacert in Nix profile
    echo 'setenv SSL_CERT_FILE "$NIX_LINK/etc/ca-bundle.crt";'

I installed this file as: /nix/var/nix/profiles/default/etc/profile.d/nix.csh. Then I just called in my .tcshrc using:

eval `/nix/var/nix/profiles/default/etc/profile.d/nix.csh`