Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Don't own cryptocurrencies

A year ago I ended a post entitled The 120K BTC Heist:
So in practice blockchains are decentralized (not), anonymous (not and not), immutable (not), secure (not), fast (not) and cheap (not). What's (not) to like? 
Below the fold, I update the answer to the question with news you can use if you're a cryptocurrency owner.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Recent Comments Widget

I added a "Recent Comments" widget to the sidebar of my blog. I should have done this a long time ago, sorry! The reason it is needed is that I frequently add comments to old, sometimes very old, posts as a way of tracking developments that don't warrant a whole new post.

For example, my post from last December BITAG on the IoT has accumulated 52 comments, the most recent from August 25th. That's more than one a week! I've been using it as a place to post notes about the evolving security disaster that is the IoT. I need to do a new post about the IoT but it hasn't risen to the top of the stack of draft posts yet.

One thing the widget will show is that not many of you comment on my posts. I'm really very grateful to those who do, so please take the risk of commenting. I moderate comments, so they don't show up immediately. And if I think they're off-topic or unsuitable they won't show up at all. But comments I disagree with are welcome, and can spark a useful exchange. See, for example, the discussion of inflation in the comments on Economic Model of Long-Term Storage, which clarified a point I thought was obvious but clearly wasn't. Thank you, Rick Levine!

Hat tip to Nitin Maheta,  from whose recent comments widget mine was adapted.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why Is The Web "Centralized"?

There is a groundswell of opinion, which I share, in favor of a "decentralized Web" that has continued after last year's "Decentralized Web Summit". A wealth of different technologies for implementing a decentralized Web are competing for attention. But the basic protocols of the Internet and the Web (IP, TCP, DNS, HTTP, ...) aren't centralized. What is the centralization that decentralized Web advocates are reacting against? Clearly, it is the domination of the Web by the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) and a few other large companies such as the cable oligopoly.

These companies came to dominate the Web for economic not technological reasons. The Web, like other technology markets, has very large increasing returns to scale (network effects, duh!). These companies build centralized systems using technology that isn't inherently centralized but which has increasing returns to scale. It is the increasing returns to scale that drive the centralization.

Unless decentralized technologies specifically address the issue of how to avoid increasing returns to scale they will not, of themselves, fix this economic problem. Their increasing returns to scale will drive layering centralized businesses on top of decentralized infrastructure, replicating the problem we face now, just on different infrastructure.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Economic Model of Long-Term Storage

Cost vs. Kryder rate
As I wrote last month in Patting Myself On The Back, I started working on economic models of long-term storage six years ago. I got a small amount of funding from the Library of Congress; when that ran out I transferred the work to students at UC Santa Cruz's Storage Systems Research Center. This work was published here in 2012 and in later papers (see here).

What I wanted was a rough-and-ready Web page that would allow interested people to play "what if" games. What the students wanted was something academically respectable enough to get them credit. So the models accumulated lots of interesting details.

But the details weren't actually useful. The extra realism they provided was swamped by the uncertainty from the "known unknowns" of the future Kryder and interest rates. So I never got the rough-and-ready Web page. Below the fold, I bring the story up-to-date and point to a little Web site that may be useful.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Approaching The Physical Limits

As storage media technology gets closer and closer to the physical limits, progress on reducing the $/GB number slows down. Below the fold, a recap of some of these issues for both disk and flash.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Preservation Is Not A Technical Problem

As I've always said, preserving the Web and other digital content for posterity is an economic problem. With an unlimited budget collection and preservation isn't a problem. The reason we're collecting and preserving less than half the classic Web of quasi-static linked documents, and much less of "Web 2.0", is that no-one has the money to do much better.

The budgets of libraries and archives, the institutions tasked with acting as society's memory, have been under sustained attack for a long time. I'm working on a talk and I needed an example. So I drew this graph of the British Library's annual income in real terms (year 2000 pounds). It shows that the Library's income has declined by almost 45% in the last decade.

Memory institutions that can purchase only half what they could 10 years ago aren't likely to greatly increase funding for acquiring new stuff; it's going to be hard for them just to keep the stuff (and the staff) they already have.

Below the fold, the data for the graph and links to the sources.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Disk media market update

Its time for an update on the disk media market., based on reporting from The Register's Chris Mellor here and here and here.