Thursday, November 29, 2018

Certificate Transparency

Today is 2018's World Digital Preservation Day. It might appear that this post has little to do with digital preservation. However, I hope that the long post below the fold is the start of a series asking the simple question underlying not just digital preservation, but many areas of the digital world, "how do I know this digital content is real?" It is another of the many problems for which blockchain is touted as a solution by people lacking real-world understanding of either the problem or the technology, or both.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cryptocurrency Collapse

Bitcoin 2-year "price" history
In the second half of last year Bitcoin experienced a massive pump-and-dump. The (heavily manipulated) "price" was pumped from under $2K in mid-July to almost $20K in mid-December. Then came the dump. Hannah Murphy's Bitcoin: Who really owns it, the whales or small fry? reports, based on data from Chainalysis, that in the dump phase:
longer-term holders sold at least $30 billion worth of bitcoin to new speculators over the December to April period, with half of this movement taking place in December alone.

“This was an exceptional transfer of wealth,” says Philip Gradwell, Chainalysis’ chief economist, who dubs the past six months as bitcoin’s “liquidity event”.
This dump drove the "price" down to the mid-$6K region by mid-June, where it stayed until mid-November. But in the last two weeks, things have become "dynamic". At 4pm yesterday on Coinbase the price of a bitcoin was $3718.96. It has lost more than 80% of its value this year. Below the fold, I look at why this might have happened.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

John Wharton RIP

My friend John Wharton died last Wednesday of cancer. He was intelligent, eccentric, opinionated on many subjects, and occasionally extraordinarily irritating. He was important in the history of computing as the instruction set architect (PDF) of the Intel 8051, Intel's highest-volume microprocessor, and probably the most-implemented instruction set of all time, and as the long-time chair of the Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop. I attended AMW first in 1987, and nearly all years since. I served on the committee with John from 2000 through 2016, when grandparent duties forced a hiatus.

On hearing of his death, I thought to update his Wikipedia page, but found none. I collected much information from fellow Asilomar attendees, and drafted a page for him, which is has been published. Most of the best stories about John have no chance of satisfying Wikipedia's strict standards for sourcing and relevance, so I have collected some below the fold for posterity.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Cryptocurrencies' Seven Deadly Paradoxes

John Lewis of the Bank of England pens a must-read, well-linked summary of the problems of cryptocurrencies in The seven deadly paradoxes of cryptocurrency. Below the fold, a few comments on each of the seven.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Kids Today Have No Idea

One of the downsides of getting old is that every so often something triggers the Grumpy Grandpa. You kids have no idea what it was like back in the day! You need to watch Rob Pike's video to learn where the hardware and software you take for granted came from!

I'm eight years to the day older than Rob, so I got to work with even earlier technology than he did. As far as I know, Rob never encountered the IBM1401, the PDP-7 with its 340 display, the Titan and its time-sharing system, 7-hole paper tape and Flexowriters, or the horrible Data General Nova mini-computer.  I never used an IBM System /360, but we did both work with CDC machines, and punch cards.

I think Rob and I started on PDP-11s at about the same time in 1975, me on RSX-11M at Imperial and Rob on Unix at Toronto. Rob was always much closer to the center of the Unix universe than I was in the UK, but the Unix history he recounts was mine too, from Version 6 on. Rob's talk is a must-watch video.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

What's Happening To Storage?

My only post about storage since May, was October's Betteridge's Law Violation, another critique of IDC's Digital Universe, and their constant pushing of the idea that the demand for storage is insatiable. So its time for an update on what is happening in the real world of storage media, instead of IDC's Universe. Below the fold, some quick takes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Making PIEs Is Hard

In The Four Most Expensive Words In The English Language I wrote:
Since the key property of a cryptocurrency-based storage service is a lack of trust in the storage providers, Proofs of Space and Time are required. As Bram Cohen has pointed out, this is an extraordinarily difficult problem at the very frontier of research.
The post argues that the economics of decentralized storage services aren't viable, so the difficulty of Proofs of Space and Time isn't that important. All the same, this area of research is fascinating. Now, in One File for the Price of Three: Catching Cheating Servers in Decentralized Storage Networks Ethan Cecchetti, Ian Miers, and Ari Juels have pushed the frontier further out by inventing PIEs. Below the fold, some details.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ithaka's Perspective on Digital Preservation

Oya Rieger of Ithaka S+R has published a report entitled The State of Digital Preservation in 2018: A Snapshot of Challenges and Gaps. In June and July Rieger:
talked with 21 experts and thought leaders to hear their perspectives on the state of digital preservation. The purpose of this report is to share a number of common themes that permeated through the conversations and provide an opportunity for broader community reaction and engagement, which will over time contribute to the development of an Ithaka S+R research agenda in these areas.
Below the fold, a critique.