Doom Best Coin On Test Network

I have launched a currency called “Doom Best Coin” using the Ethereum#ERC20 standard (on the Rinkeby test network). Currently it doesn’t do anything meaningful besides demonstrate that ANYONE can start their own currency.

This is a GOOD thing and one of the primary reasons I was enthusiastic for Ethereum long before its existence. Private currencies are a great step forward for decentralization. There are almost 500 ERC20 coins now in use on the main network, several with interesting concepts. By next year I bet we see over 2 thousand.

Now the question for the world is… which currency do you trust?? Here’s a hint: currencies that say “In God We Trust” or are named “Doom Best Coin” probably shouldn’t be at the top of your list.

Ethereum’s Augur Project One Step Closer to Reality

One of the most exciting components with Ethereum is the Augur project, or as I call it, “The Bet on ANYTHING” market!”

Yesterday the project released an updated White Paper found here.  The technical details are not for most people, but what is exciting is being one step closer to the possibility of two strangers on the internet being able to place trustless bets on almost anything!

The word “betting” has a negative emotion attached to it in American culture, but being able to assign personal stake in prediction models is incredibly valuable. Indeed it is perhaps a much-needed component in our political system.

As I type this, one of the most hated presidents in American history is addressing the nation in a Statue of the Union. The internet is filled back and forth rage about who is “right” and “wrong”. As the fury between two groups grows, perhaps the ultimate test for the truth can be found if the two opponents can form an agreement of what their disagreement is, and bet on it.

Consider how this could be used in economic debates in uncovering the truth. Politicians (particularly in my home state of California) are incredibly dishonest at presenting understated costs of projects to voters around elections. Augur presents an option to expose what politicians truly believe:

“Do you really think that this project is going to be under what the budget states? Let’s bet on it!”

Do you want to bet if this is going to truly be a temporary tax?”

Additionally, consider how this tool could be used to hold a politician at their word. During a campaign, candidates could leverage this tool to offer promises to voters: “I’m Joe Nobody running for US Congress and I will not vote in favor of any budget that is not balanced, and I’ve placed a $100,000 bet to assure this in the Augur network!” Such a statement would be much more meaningful than the standard “I promise, I’m a good person!” assurance we get from current candidates.

Hopefully, this goes live soon. Here’s an older video showing its possibilities from 2015:

Monero’s Web Mining Option

Cryptocurrency Monero has made some noise recently with its ability to mine on websites, sometimes without user consent. While this probably sounds unethical (which it is), the opportunity to leverage user CPU power as an incentive to visit a website instead of advertisements is an interesting concept.

While I’m still kicking this idea around in my head, does this make Monero potentially the most stable currency option? Measure users’ CPU usage as a function of time?

While you think about this, please see the below is an example of mining using your consent. Please click “start mining” this and leave it running for the rest of your life.

If you’re interested in seeing a less ethical example, checkout this fake page I made that looks like it’s giving VBA advice, when in reality it’s hogging your CPU. Be on the lookout for stuff like this if you’re browsing. If your laptop starts to takeoff, because the fan is going so fast… you may be on a Monero mining website!

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Ripple in 2018 Seems Potentially Profitable

I do not like what cryptocurrency Ripple represents, but I do see it as potentially a middle ground, that delays central Bank’s march towards irrelevance. In 2018 as their proof of concept gets rolled out, I can’t imagine that XRP price (currently at about $1.25) doesn’t grow considerably. I’m still a Solidity Coder and Ethereum warrior, but I’m throwing a little in Ripple just because it seems inevitable to grow in value, particularly against the doomed dollar. Always be careful when buying crypto and there are no sure things… yada yada.

Downgrading Utility Of Limitless Chrome New Tab

For about 5 months I have been using a Chrome extension called Limitless as my default “new tab”. During installation, Limitless requested my GMAIL credentials, which I I declined to provide. It works fine without them. However, in light of the recent Equifax data breach, I was curious to see what exactly Limitless was asking for.

As I suspected, the extension wants the ability to have total control of your email. Specifically:

View, manage, and permanently delete your mail in Gmail

At this point, alarm bells should be ringing loudly in people’s heads if they are entering in an active gmail address. Limitless’s privacy policy can loosely be interpreted as, “Even though the NSA, Equifax and Ashley Madison can’t keep their data secure, you can trust us and every employee that works for us now, or in the future, because your privacy is important to us! 🙂 ”

They do state that data is stored locally, and looking at their code, this appears accurate. However, they also state they may change this policy at some point in the future…

Sure, you could use a dummy gmail login, or none at all. However in principle, I’m tired of extensions asking to be trusted with information they simply cannot guarantee to remain secure. So I changed my feedback to negative 2 (out of 5) on chrome store and am going to drop the extension completely.

To be fair, Limitless is just one of MANY extension offenders wanting total access to your email. The point of this post is just to encourage people to drop these extensions, even if you don’t provide or even if they are semi-useful. If Limitless adjusts their policy I’ll change my Chrome extension feedback and followup with this post saying so.

As a side note, I feel like the “new tab” extension market is kind of weak. I may tinker with making my own. Maybe I’ll call it “LIMITED” as in the amount of data I’ll seek to collect from users!

Of Course Equifax Got Hacked!

Why is anyone shocked that another data breach results in millions of people’s information falling into the hands of criminals? Stated differently, if Ashley Madison, LinkedIn, and the NSA can’t keep their data secure, what makes people think a credit score entity is going to perform any better

I don’t know the specifics of this Equifax hack and I don’t really care. If I had to guess, I’d say probably inside job. For people that think their data is secure because they trust sites like “Google” they are looking at it the wrong way. A better question is, “do you trust every single employee at Google who has access to your data?” The answer is the same as what the NSA would say if asked if they trusted all of their employees (even before Mr. Snowden left the country), of course not!

The only thing that really matters in this situation is will the public recognize the need for blockchain technology and zero-knowledge services? Steller examples include LastPass, SpiderOak, and Signal all can face data breaches with a much stronger level of confidence because even if someone gets every bit of information on their servers, it is highly unlikely anything useful could be leveraged from it.

We live in the digital age. Signatures made with pens that my 6-year-old could mimic effectively is not security. Entrusting your data to corporations that have human employees, and have human errors will ultimately have data leaked. Hopefully, today’s painful lesson will beef up the requirements to take security more seriously. It’s really pretty easy, trust no one.

Alan Turing: The Enigma Poorly Written and Ignores Questionable Death

I dragged myself through the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma. Author Andrew Hodges was so enamored with Turing that he practically doubled the necessary length of the book with all kinds of emblematic speculation. The result was a book that should have been about the life of a fascinating individual, but was instead a certifiable cure for insomnia. The writing was just too pedantic, not engaging, and full of weak attempts to find deeper meaning than necessary. Too much psychoanalysis, trying to paint Turing as a beautiful, brilliant, innocent human whose self-awareness of his homosexuality was more advanced than the world he lived in.

Turing’s acts during World War II were of course fascinating, but the writing just didn’t do a great job building excitement about it. The movie based on this book, The Imitation Game was essentially the opposite, as it deviated into 95% fiction once Turing arrived at Bletchley Park, but at least it was fun to watch.

The author must have typed 2 thousand “indeeds” which grew tiring. Additionally some of his insight was pretty silly (Alan Turing was “only” 18 minutes slower than the gold medalists in the Olympic 10,000 meters). I would have much preferred the style that the author of the Steve Jobs biography, where that author simply aimed to display as many facts as possible, letting the reader form their own judgments.

Yet the part that jumped off the page for me was the lack of insight on Turing’s death. The author stated unequivocally that Turing killed himself, even though that’s quite debatable. The arguments that the author offers to support his claim are:

  • The police report said it was a suicide.
  • Turing redid his will somewhat soon before his death.
  • Turing was tired of not fitting into in to society (with little evidence to support this).
  • Turing may have had a fortune teller tell him something (not a joke).
  • The coroner didn’t show signs of a struggle (or did he? see below).
  • Turing used cyanide in order to convince his mother that he did NOT kill himself, but to let everyone else know he DID! (what??)

Suffice to say, that’s not exactly a bulletproof set of arguments to unequivocally rule his death as suicide. I believe the author was so fixated to paint Turing as a martyr of gay prejudices, that he overlooked some obvious questions with his death. Turing was a victim of abhorrent laws against homosexuals, but those laws may not have killed him. Consider the evidence against a suicide that also comes from this book:

  • Turing didn’t leave a note and was quite a thorough person.
  • While he did update his will, he left a variable sum to his house keeper which would sensibly imply he did not have a timetable on when he would die.
  • His sexual criminal conviction had passed and he was no longer taking the state-mandated medication. Thus his “castration” or his persecution from the state was no longer a current issue for him.
  • Turing’s research affairs were very much in disarray. Turing seemed to like order and harmony, as he had left careful instructions of where some of his valuable items were hidden during WWII. Turing was also proud of his work and believed it to be important, so it seems doubtful he left his most recent life’s work scattered around his apartment.
  • None of Turing’s friends indicated that they saw his suicide coming. Quite the opposite, they all expressed shock that he would do this to himself.
  • Turing appeared in a “good mood” by the last people who saw him alive.
  • Turing showed no signs of wanting to end his own life including to that of his psychologist who he was on a friendship level with.
  • Turing, for the most part, enjoyed life, getting lost in the many wondrous mysterious of nature, mathematics and things that fascinated him.
  • Even while under the castration medication, he had found “safe cities” to be gay in by way of the Netherlands and Paris. To think he felt alone and despair in the UK also doesn’t add up, especially given his financial options to go where he wanted.

In a different book about her son, Turing’s mother claims Alan accidentally killed himself. This is technically possible considering he was using cyanide for his experiments. Yet it seems unlikely that a genius man like himself could so carelessly do such a thing, especially when he had been working with chemicals for years.

Neither author considers a third darker option which was that he was murdered. Turing was essentially the liaison between the US intelligence and the UK during World War II. It’s certain he knew a thing or two more than the average citizen.

As the book details, homosexuals were considered a risk in the intelligence community because their sexual nature could be used to compromise them. Thus it is conceivable that someone on either the US or or British side, may have assessed that Turing knew too much on a subject and represented a national security risk. Indeed, (there it is again!) others have asked this question recently and are speculating that Turing may have known key developments on spying on the Russians. Perhaps adding the most credibility to this theory is that the coroner did document Turing’s death with, “Death due to violence,” which disproves the author’s notion that the coroner ruled unequivocally a death by suicide.

While I don’t have any more research beyond what I’m posting, the two theories of accidental death and suicide seem less likely than a government murder intended to either look like a suicide or accident. I actually had a drinking buddy in my 20’s end up being found dead in way that looked like a suicide, but many (including me) believe he was a victim of a government murder. So perhaps I’m too easy easy to convince about a government conspiracy.

Getting back to the book, considering how much the author speculated on every other excruciating detail in Turing’s life, it’s unfortunate he didn’t do a better job digging for answers about the details of Turing’s death.

I’m glad I read this but I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to. Wikipedia Article on Turing is a much shorter read with about 75% of all you need to know about the founder of modern computer science.

Encrypt Your Gmail/Yahoo/Outlook/iCloud Emails

Use Mailvelope to send and receive encrypted email. Uses PGP encryption, the same method Edward Snowden used to reach out to reporters in 2013. When used properly, with the private key protected, there is no known successful direct attack against PGP. Most attacks focus on indirect methods such as stealing a password, keystroke logger or snooping over someone’s shoulder.

Steps:
1) Install Mailvelope on Chrome or Firefox
2) Create a public/Private key for yourself
3) Share your PUBLIC key (NOT YOUR PRIVATE KEY)
4) Collect your friends Public key and import them to your Mailvelope Key ring.
5) Message away with complete privacy.

Always remember to lock your computer, and don’t share your private key or give anyone access.

 

A Beautiful Free Time-Stamp Website

I found an amazing website that does a brilliant job of using a a couple simple concepts to combine for an incredibly useful tool. OriginStamp.org is a true gift to the world by developers André Gernandt and Bela Gipp. In conversation with them they told me, “We started this project just for fun and didn’t expect so many people to use it.”

The site’s popularity doesn’t surprise me — it’s awesome! They have created a FREE service that allows anyone to prove they possessed any type of electronic file before a specific date. The electronic file could be as simple as a string of text, or as massive as a movie file.

I’ll dive into the technical details later, but consider a couple basic applications:

  • Someone has written an amazing script and wants to have it logged as their work, before sharing with a publisher.
  • Someone moves into a new rental property, and takes extensive video of the condition of the property, which they want to archive on the day of their move-in. By archiving the footage, the landlord cannot argue that the video was taken on the move out date.
  • Someone wants to log a text prediction. Example would be if I said, in 2015, “I, PG CodeRider, predict the Cubs will win the 2016 World Series in a game 7 thriller against the Indians!” it would be pretty impressive!

Without OriginStamp, creating verifiable proof of a file’s existence, before a certain date is difficult (having a “saved as” date with the file doesn’t count). Users would likely have to defer to a third party to provide proof of ownership. This lends itself to the following problems:

  • The third party site likely costs money.
  • The third party site may disappear.
  • The third party site may not remain credible to the rest of the world.
  • The third party site might experience a server crash, hack, or accidentally delete your file.

OriginStamp avoids all of these problems. The simplicity of their approach, combined with their robust method of validation, makes it truly an elegant creation. The site ingeniously leverages the bitcoin blockchain as a point of reference. Because the blockchain is a decentralized entity with literally thousands of people monitoring its integrity, it is impossible to manipulate historical entries. Additionally, due to this same decentralized nature of the blockchain, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where the Blockchain would suddenly cease to exist. Thus a user can rest assured knowing their claim is verifiable so long as the internet remains functional and Bitcoin continues to have even a small percentage of people using it.

How You Can Use This Tool (without actually understanding it)

For those of you that just want to “trust me” and believe this works, without understanding why, here’s a step by step guide of how you can use it:

1) Create a FINAL VERSION of a file or text that you want to verify. It is critical that not a single change occurs in your file, or it won’t be verifiable in the future. Example is if you write a million word novel, once you submit it, you can only reference that version you submitted. A change to a single character will make the entire file incapable of being proven to be your file at the time of the transaction.

  • I’m going to go through this process by validating a screenshot I created with my 2016 presidential predictions. Again, the “Final Version” is very key, and it’s easy to overlook how it’s possible to accidentally alter. In my case, I cannot simply post a copy of the JPG file of my prediction and maintain the integrity, because when a user downloads the file, certain attributes such as the “saved date” would be different than the original. Thus I have posted a zipped version of my jpg file, which if someone were to download and extract the jpg file, would ultimately be my FINAL VERSION.
  • It’s also important to note that you include something that references you as the creator in the file, so that no one else can claim it as their work. My file has my name in the screenshot.

2) Go to OriginStamp and submit it by clicking the create stamp, and then clicking on the Drop files icon. I’m usually pretty careful with posting private data to sites, but I would have no problem running most of my information through their submission site. What they claim they are doing (and I sincerely believe) is conducting an SHA-256 hash calculation on your file. This will generate a 40-60 digit length of letters and numbers. There are many sites that can conduct this calculation for you that should all result in the same answer. A couple I just found doing 20 seconds of research are Xorbin.com or Filformat.info.

  • In my example, the exact SHA-256 hash of my FINAL VERSION is: 3742fd0fcebd60f38995429e736a1e2f3f040ea367c21ce87cb1b9bcd89e5d89
  • If you aren’t certain you’ve hashed correctly from a 3rd party site, you could cross check with a single letter of text “a” which should result in: ca978112ca1bbdcafac231b39a23dc4da786eff8147c4e72b9807785afee48bb
  • Make sure you have a copy of your hash, as well as the original copy of your file.

3) After submitting your file, you will get a notification saying your hash has successfully been created. Note that OriginStamp will not “submit” it to the blockchain until about 7PM East Coast time. They only submit free submissions once a day, to keep their costs down, and depending on how busy the blockchain is it may take up to 2 days to register. If you’re in a hurry to get your hash submitted, they offer a premium service to accomplish this where they wallop you with a colossal fee of $1 to get it in right away.

4) If you trust OriginStamp to remain in existence forever, you need not do anything further. When you need verify the date of your file, go to their website, click Verify Stamp, and enter your hash, or drag in your file, and the site will tell you when it was submitted. However if you wish to be able to validate your file without the existence of Originstamp, you’ll need to collect a few more pieces of information. After waiting a day or two, you’ll need to revisit OriginStamp, click Verify Stamp, enter your hash or upload file and it will take you to a confirmation page. On this page, it will list of all the hash submissions as well as the Check Sum hash. You should store both of this with your final version file. The list of all hashes can be a somewhat long now as the site gains popularity.

5) When you’re done, you should have either two pieces of data if you trust OriginStamp alone, or 5 pieces of information if you want it under any scenario where Bitcoin exists.

In my example I have:

Hopefully you would never have to defend the legitimacy of your file, but if you did, you should have a pretty convincing case. Of course, I have no idea how a jury would react to this information, or if it would even be admissible as evidence. However, to illustrate what you have, below is how I would argue the authenticity of my Presidential prediction if someone was accusing me of being a fraud in a court of law

Me: “Your honor, I did in fact create this JPG on 10/31/2016. To prove it I used a site called OriginStamp. This site took my file and hashed it using the SHA-256 method. If you go to OriginStamp, they will confirm this transaction.”

Accuser: “What the heck is OriginStamp?!? Judge, objection! I’ve never heard of this site. How can we trust its validity?”

Me: “Okay forget going to OriginStamp, we can walk through what they did. OriginStamp created an SHA-256 hashed text of my file (see above). OriginStamp then took ANOTHER SHA-256 hash (the Check Sum) of all the other records they received that day. I have a list of these and the SHA-256 hash of these can be conducted on numerous sites.

“As is the nature of SHA-256 hashes, they are relatively easy to calculate in one direction, but impossible to conduct in a reverse manner. Stated differently, I can claim with utmost certainty that no one on the planet can produce any SHA-256 pre-calculation string which results in the same final hash output as any of mine, without using my file or text. Such an effort would take far more than millions of years with today’s computing power.”

Accuser: “So what he has a hash that is unique? What does this prove?”

Me: “It doesn’t prove anything yet, but as a final step, Originstamp used the final Check Sum hash along with Base 58 encoding, to find a Bitcoin address to log a small Bitcoin transaction which cleared on 11/3/2016. This process can also be demonstrated on multiple websites, I have a screenshot from Brainwalletx.Github.io. A user simply needs to enter the Check Sum as the Secret Exponent to generate the address that was used. What this means is that this address was specifically used for this purpose we have outlined. The possibility that this address which comprises a hashed connection to my exact file is incredibly unlikely.”

Accuser: “So you’re saying there’s a chance…”

Me: “Technically yes, but the fact that an active address which I found with my specific JPG hash in it is beyond infinitesimal. There are exactly 2^256 possible bitcoin addresses — that’s far more atoms than there are on earth, sun, and other planets, combined. The likeliness of this series of events happening is less  than me playing the Mega Millions Lottery and winning, four times in a row.”

Accuser: “Okay so how do we know you didn’t make the entry after the election?”

Me: “The blockchain’s integrity is maintained by thousands, perhaps millions of computers validating transactions. At the end of Sep 2016, the hash calculation rate per second was 2.6×10^16. This represents far more processing power than any single entity such as the United States government could direct at the blockchain in hopes of manipulating the network. It would be easy for me to find at least a dozen articles on the web, or a computer science professor to testify how unrealistic back-dating entries in the block chain is.”

Accuser: “I still think this is bogus”

Me: “Ok.”

Ultimately your argument would likely hinge on testimony of some math expert, but that’s my best effort to simulate how to defend the legitimacy of the transaction. Note the links in the discussion above for reference on how Base58 encoding is conducted.

Anyway, a great tool. Thanks again developers André Gernandt and Bela Gipp.

More Reading On It:

Developers’ Abstract On Concept

Dashcam Ap (similar tool for time stamping smartphone recordings)