Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Video Game Preservation

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I have written fairly often about the problems of preserving video games, most recently last year in in Video Game History. It was based upon Phil Salvador's Survey of the Video Game Reissue Market in the United States. Salvador's main focus was on classic console games but he noted a specific problem with more recent releases:
The largest major platform shutdown in recent memory is the closure of the digital stores for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U platforms. Nintendo shut down the 3DS and Wii U eShops on March 27, 2023, resulting in the removal of 2,413 digital titles. Although many of these are likely available on other platforms, Video Games Chronicle estimates that over 1,000 of those games were exclusive to those platforms’ digital stores and are no longer available in any form, including first-party Nintendo titles like Dr. Luigi, Dillon’s Rolling Western, Mario & Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, and Pok√©mon Rumble U. The closures also affected around 500 historical games reissued by Nintendo through their Virtual Console storefronts, over 300 of which are believed not available on any other platform or service.
Below the fold I discuss recent developments in this area.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

The Great MEV Heist

The Department of Justice indicted two brothers for exploiting mechanisms supporting Ethereum's "Maximal Extractable Value" (MEV). Ashley Berlanger's MIT students stole $25M in seconds by exploiting ETH blockchain bug, DOJ says explains:
Anton, 24, and James Peraire-Bueno, 28, were arrested Tuesday, charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each brother faces "a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count," the DOJ said.

The alleged scheme was launched in December 2022 by the brothers, who studied at MIT, after months of planning, the indictment said. The pair seemingly relied on their "specialized skills" and expertise in crypto trading to fraudulently gain access to "pending private transactions" on the blockchain, then "used that access to alter certain transactions and obtain their victims’ cryptocurrency," the DOJ said
Below the fold I look into the details of the exploit as alleged in the indictment, and what it suggests about the evolution of Ethereum.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

One Heck Of A Halvening

The fundamental idea behind Bitcoin is that, if you restrict the supply of something, its price will rise. That is why the system arranges that there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoin by halving the reward paid for mining the next block every 210,000 blocks (about every four years), an event called the "halvening" (or more recently just the halving). It is an article of faith among the crypto-bros that, after the halvening, the price will rise. For example:
In the image below, the vertical blue lines indicate the previous three halvings (2012-11-28, 2016-7-9, and 2020-5-11). Note how the price has jumped significantly after each halving.
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The most recent halvening happened on Friday, April 19th. It was eagerly awaited so, six weeks later, it is time to go below the fold and look at the effects.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Library of Congress: Designing Storage Architectures 2024

I participated virtually in the 2024 Library of Congress Designing Storage Architectures for Digital Collections meeting. As usual, there were a set of very interesting talks. The slides from the presentations are now online so, below the fold, I discuss the talks I found particulary interesting.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

"Sufficiently Decentralized"

Mining Pools 5/17/24
In June 2018 William Hinman, the Director of the SEC's Division of Corporate Finance, gave a speech to the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit: Crypto entitled Digital Asset Transactions: When Howey Met Gary (Plastic) in which he said:
when I look at Bitcoin today, I do not see a central third party whose efforts are a key determining factor in the enterprise. The network on which Bitcoin functions is operational and appears to have been decentralized for some time, perhaps from inception.
...
Over time, there may be other sufficiently decentralized networks and systems
Below the fold, thanks to a tip from Molly White, I look at recent research suggesting that there is in fact a "central third party" coordinating the enterprise of Bitcoin mining.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pew Research On Link Rot

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When Online Content Disappears by Athena Chapekis, Samuel Bestvater, Emma Remy and Gonzalo Rivero reports results from this research:
we collected a random sample of just under 1 million webpages from the archives of Common Crawl, an internet archive service that periodically collects snapshots of the internet as it exists at different points in time. We sampled pages collected by Common Crawl each year from 2013 through 2023 (approximately 90,000 pages per year) and checked to see if those pages still exist today.

We found that 25% of all the pages we collected from 2013 through 2023 were no longer accessible as of October 2023. This figure is the sum of two different types of broken pages: 16% of pages are individually inaccessible but come from an otherwise functional root-level domain; the other 9% are inaccessible because their entire root domain is no longer functional.
Their results are not surprising, but there are a number of surprising things about their report. Below the fold, I explain.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Fee-Only Bitcoin

Mining a Bitcoin block needs to be costly to ensure that the gains from an attack on the blockchain are less than the cost of mounting it. Miners have two sources of income to defray their costs, the block rewards and the fees for the transactions in the block.

On April 19th the block reward was halved from 6.25BTC to 3.125BTC. This process is repeated every 210,000 blocks (about every 4 years). It limits the issuance of BTC to 21M because around 2140 the reward will be zero; a halving will make it less than a satoshi.

Long before 2140 the block rewards will have shrunk to become insignificant compared to the fees. Below the fold I look at the significance of the change to a fee-only Bitcoin