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Bitcoin The Almighty Buck Bug Math

Incident Raises Concerns About a More Formal Spec For Bitcoin 80

An anonymous reader writes: Aberrant treatment of transactions by Bitcoin miners has renewed concerns that Bitcoin as a protocol may need a stronger specification. OpenBSD savior and Bitcoin entrepreneur Mircea Popescu raised this issue back in 2013 that the current attitude of "the code is the spec" was introducing fragility and harming Bitcoin's vital decentralization. While a lot of fuss has been made about the maximum blocksize, perhaps formalizing the protocol and breaking the current mining cartel is a more urgent and serious problem. The debate going on resurrects many of Datskovskiy's early concerns about Bitcoin's fragility including mining as a necessary bug, but a bug nonetheless.
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Incident Raises Concerns About a More Formal Spec For Bitcoin

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  • Besides this issue, I recently read that the block size debate between 1 or 2 MB is heated. Is it just a small hiccup the the sign the Bitcoin is reaching it limits?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Serving its purpose: facilitating illegal commerce.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @08:22AM (#51627819)

      So the underlying problem is there is phenomenological evidence that indicates that for long stretches of time, some cartel can controls 51% of the block chain compute and is withholding submits so it can privately mine them before distributing them.

      If I understand bitcoin correctly, both of those are its fundamental achilles heel, assumed never to happen, and therefore the currency is now subject to manipulation, and thus eventually worthless.

      Or am I wrong?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You're not wrong. "Eventually worthless" depends on the future actions of the various parties though. Another cartel could wrest majority control away from the problematic cartel, which could save it. Also, it's not in the interests of the majority cartel to destroy the currency - you don't get to have 51% of the BTC network without spending a lot of money on hardware. That's an investment requiring a return, which won't happen if the currency folds.

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        So the underlying problem is there is phenomenological evidence that indicates that for long stretches of time, some cartel can controls 51% of the block chain compute and is withholding submits so it can privately mine them before distributing them.

        You have to have the most up to date ASIC all of the time or you are at a disadvantage. And electricity. It's a logical conclusion that if someone can control the volume of hardware and electricity thrown at it then they can dominate.

        Maybe the first flaw to be overcome with digital currency is for it to cope with it's own implementation issues.

        If I understand bitcoin correctly, both of those are its fundamental achilles heel, assumed never to happen, and therefore the currency is now subject to manipulation, and thus eventually worthless.

        Wasn't it widley publicized *how* you could manipulate it?

        Perhaps if it can always be manipulated, it is worthless. If you a bitcoin that is worthless you still ha

        • by N1AK ( 864906 )

          Perhaps if it can always be manipulated, it is worthless. If you a bitcoin that is worthless you still have a bitcoin. It doesn't have a *value* less than zero, like some other investments might have, so rather than being "worthless" it's "worth nothing" for some period of time until someone says it is "worth something". Currency was spent to provide that electricity to create (mine) a bitcoin, which also had value assigned to it.

          There's a couple of big issues with this post. Firstly there isn't an investm

      • by AdamHaun ( 43173 )

        It almost sounds like Bitcoin would benefit from having some kind of organization to produce and manage the currency. Something like a bank, only more centralized. Perhaps we could call it a... central bank [wikipedia.org]?

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        and is withholding submits so it can privately mine them before distributing them.

        Methinks the Bitcoin network should add a secondary Blockchain to get rid of this "witholding" nonsense...

        After someone mines a block on the primary chain, they have to submit it to other miners who will immediately start working on mining a block on the secondary chain. If someone else gets their mined block included on the secondary chain first, then all the first miner's with-held submissions are essentially

      • The main "problem" in this case; Once you create and publish the details of a transaction, there is no way to invalidate it. Even if it hasn't appeared in the block chain for 2 weeks, you cannot assume it will never happen.

        The rest of TFA is speculation about the how this transaction *might* have been ignored by the mining cartels in order to defraud someone. By hoping that an attempt would be made to create a second transaction, with different inputs, to make a payment to the same people.

    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 03, 2016 @08:59AM (#51627937)

      It already has reached its (current) limits - you can currently wait up to an hour to have your transaction written into the block chain, which means that at any time during that period the buyer can withdraw the transfer, so you have to delay handing over products until the transaction has actually been written into the block chain.

      Can you imagine having to wait an hour before you can leave the supermarket if Visa didn't authorise a transaction right away?

      • Almost like a Check.

        • Even before they started to be completely refused as a payment mechanism at UK shops in recent years, cheques were almost always refused at shops if they were not accompanied by a cheque guarantee card which covered amounts greater than the face value of the cheque.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Interestingly while VISA does typically authorize the transaction right away (although Supermarkets may choose to operate without online auth, for example if they have a telecoms outage)... ... authorization and settlement are separate.

        Authorizations on their own do nothing. No money changes hands, nothing.

        Settlement moves the money but doesn't require authorization. The supermarket can issue a settlement saying "send me $800 of Richard_at_work's money" without any authorization showing you asked to pay the

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Besides this issue, I recently read that the block size debate between 1 or 2 MB is heated. Is it just a small hiccup the the sign the Bitcoin is reaching it limits?

      I think they want a bigger block, so placement within a block is less scarce, And the network as a whole can do more transactions per second.

      Why not reduce the target from 10 minutes per block to 5 minutes per block, instead, however?

      • The 1 MB limit was originally a temporary measure to prevent spam transactions, in the days when actual volume was 10 KB/block or less, and people mined on their home computers. Today we have 1 MB/block of real transactions, and most mining happens on custom chips designed for it. Unfortunately, the people handling the original code implementation have stubbornly delayed any increase.

        Blocks are solved on average every 10 minutes, so at most 1 MB generates 13,333 bps of incoming data, less than a 24 year o

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          Beyond beefier network nodes, there are a number of approaches to offloading transactions off the main Bitcoin blockchain. Most of these are not ready for use yet

          A good reason to not change block sizes, at least not yet.

          If you shorten the interval, you either have to halve the generation amount, or change the total number of coins which will be generated.

          Obviously: adjust the generation amount to correct the discrepancy. This also helps with the problem that Confirmations take too long.

          The 1 MB limi

  • We should ask him to get the CTO of Bitcoin to implement the spec and to break his contract with the mining cartel. That will fix everything. /s

  • Always fun. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @07:29AM (#51627721) Journal
    It's always entertaining to see the latest episode of 'Bitcoin: rediscovering the reasons behind the various messy hacks that we dislike about more typical currencies...'
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The problem, and fix, have no intersection whatsoever with "typical" currencies. It's also entertaining to see the latest episode of "brainless criticism of Bitcoin by people who know nothing."

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday March 03, 2016 @08:45AM (#51627879) Homepage Journal

    There are competing implementations of full nodes in progress, some more useful than bitcoin-core. Some, like classic allow for bigger blocks, some others are more focused on having a full spec and compatibility.

    There are some who claim that only the core c code binaries can be allowed to run. They DDOS competing nodes and talk trash about every competing codebase, trying to keep Bitcoin out of distros, off devices, etc. They claim that it's because Bitcoin is so fragile that only one codebase may be allowed to touch the Blockchain. Yet other codebases already are and it appears to be working.

    I was interested to read the other day that a couple of the core developers are now funded by very old-world banking interests. It seems so odd to me to see self-proclaimed Bitcoin evangelists fighting against efforts to spread its adoption.

    Meanwhile I saw a bitcoin vending machine in the vestibule of a restaurant the other day, next to the other candy machines, and was happy to be able to seamlessly exchange currencies in a few seconds. The arbitrage between that machine and Amazon makes purse.io a huge boon for local residents.

    • "Meanwhile I saw a bitcoin vending machine in the vestibule of a restaurant the other day, next to the other candy machines, and was happy to be able to seamlessly exchange currencies in a few seconds. The arbitrage between that machine and Amazon makes purse.io a huge boon for local residents."

      How are customers adjusting to the idea of swiping in a Bitcoin purchase, and then waiting an hour for the blockchain to update before their soda drops? How large a crowd accumulates around the machine on hot days?

      • by N1AK ( 864906 )
        I'm pretty sure this may be like the machines you get at Airports where you put in real money and it eventually credits your bitcoin account. Given the delay on locking in a bitcoin transaction no one is going to provide something for bitcoin by vending machine because it would be too easy to take the item and rescind the payment.
      • You misunderstand how the Bitcoin Network works. New transactions are *relayed* across the network in seconds. Each network node validates the transaction before passing it on, especially comparing the transaction inputs against the existing blockchain, to make sure the sender had funds to send. If another transaction arrives later, attempting to spend the same funds a second time, it gets rejected. As long as your soda machine is well-connected to the network (talks to a well-connected node), there is

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      I was interested to read the other day that a couple of the core developers are now funded by very old-world banking interests. It seems so odd to me to see self-proclaimed Bitcoin evangelists fighting against efforts to spread its adoption.

      I think it's more of the "coolness" thing - Bitcoin represents everything traditional fiat money isn't. It's independent! It's cool! It's digital! It's not money! No government!

      Now that it's matured though, that counter-culture feel has gone away as it becomes more mains

  • No where within site linked to with the text "mining as a necessary bug, but a bug nonetheless" is it stated that mining is a bug. In fact, the word mining is only used twice. It is mentioned only to explain what mining is in the most hand-wavy way possible. Very misleading
  • Why group mining? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why is group mining even a thing?
    It seems to be the source of most buttcoin problems.

    Why not rip it out entirely and change the spec around to balance singular nodes?
    Or put a max nodes per group in effect.

    • Because the mining reward is only given out once per 10 minutes. If your hardware is an insignificant fraction of the network computation power, you will not win a block in a reasonable time. For example, my graphics card, which I stopped mining with in mid-2013, is 42 MHash/s. The network as a whole is 1.1 million TeraHash/s today. So my expected time to win a block is 500,000 years. I could mine faster if I bought custom mining chips, but it would still be ~500 years per block. By joining a pool, yo

  • Mircea Popescu is on the same level as Bennett. Not going to read anything by him.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yes please a formal specification! I tried implementing Bitcoin but quickly realized the documentation is incomplete and sometimes even incorrect. People keep saying how the protocol is beautiful but honestly these people don't know what they are talking about. It's a big mess to look at that codebase.

    Why do we have specification you might ask? Specifications are a type of contract and as a type of contract they are there to assign blame. It answers the question "Who is violating the specification" when som

Mathematics deals exclusively with the relations of concepts to each other without consideration of their relation to experience. -- Albert Einstein

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