Make mine a double: How to get more from your mining

Cryptocurrency mining is all about performance—that is, getting maximum processing power (‘hash rate’) for every watt of energy used. Since that has a direct effect on profitability, just as ‘search engine optimizer’ was once a new job to help companies win attention on Google, now there are crypto optimizers too.

And they’re in great demand, according to Kristy-Leigh Mineham, an expert in the field. Speaking to me from Seattle, Washington, she explained that both the hardware and the software in a mining rig can be tweaked.

Working for many of the giants in the industry since 2010, Kristy-Leigh examines a rig and makes many small improvements that add up to better performance: “I’m good at looking for bottlenecks and smoothing them out—or removing them entirely,” she says.

The first job is to look at the software: “software optimization can occur at a number of levels—there’s the design level, which is all about your architecture—what hardware is the software working with? What language are you using? Then there’s the algorithmic level—my favorite—where it’s all about making the best use of the available hardware. You’d be surprised at how awful most implementations are.”

It gets more technical, the deeper into the software you go: “At the source code level, you can go in and refactor the code all the way down to the compile and assembly level, where you take what the source code was translated into and make sure things didn’t get lost in translation. And if they did? Correct it by hand, in the machine’s native language.”

It’s like having a team of engineers working on a racing car at the pit-stop: Kristy-Leigh will go in with her digital wrenches and spanners, fixing problems. Hardware optimization is different. “In hardware, you’re limited by what you get from the factory. The best you can do is tune the frequency of each individual chip. In some cases, you can do circuit board modifications to increase stability and performance. Very rarely, you can replace the entire software layer that controls it.”

It’s a role Kristy-Leigh seems born for. From a young age, she say, she’s been breaking things in order to improve them. “I was mostly into video games early on. With a hex editor, you could see a live view of a video game’s memory and manipulate bytes in real time, which meant you could see the effects instantly. And you could also set breakpoints, which let you overwrite preprogrammed game logic. Video games taught me a ton about basic command lines, Boolean algebra, binary formats, networking basics, and even cryptography. I guess that means I’ve been a hacker from the start of my life—if you take the original definition,” she laughs.

Her love of secrets led to an interest in cryptography and from there, she was naturally drawn to the ideas behind the original Satoshi white paper when it was dropped into an online chat room she frequented. “I thought, here’s the kind of technology that’s really going to disrupt the world.”

Armed with her limited knowledge, Kristy-Leigh started mining Bitcoin—chasing high scores in hashrate rather than gaming points. When she’d maximized the hashrate numbers, she went into the source code, just as she’d done with video games: “I think I shaved a few instructions down into one—and then I was like ‘oh, hang on, that actually changed something. It’s faster now’. It was just like a video game. I was hooked.”

She started doing odd bits of contractor work under many pseudonyms, often getting paid in Bitcoin—in numbers that looked impressive but at the time amounted to cents. Of course, having a stake in Bitcoin at those values turned out to be a good investment, as long as you hung on to most of it. And yes, Kristy-Leigh admits, she did. It’s provided the initial investment for her own startup companies and worldwide travels.

Today, there’s growing demand for people who understand crypto technology as intimately as Kristy-Leigh does. “There are more and more coins out there, every day, and each of them requires fine-tuning and tweaking,” she says.

Kristy-Leigh is bullish about the long-term prospects for crypto and blockchain technology, but believes it will only come of age when it’s been embedded in three big sectors: banks, ecommerce, and gaming.

“Banks are easy—the promise of more efficient, cheaper transactions makes blockchain a natural. But the banks that are already pursuing it are less established than their more conservative counterparts.” Once a big bank in the States, Canada or the United Kingdom begins to adopt blockchain, Kristy-Leigh believes, it won’t affect the user experience but will be a big change behind the scenes, resulting in a sharp decrease in fees.

“Then, we’ve got ecommerce. When online retailers start to cut out the fees now charged for handling and transacting, we’re going to see the true power of blockchain hitting the biggest markets. And smart contracts will help retailers, too, with inventory and delivery tracking and with warranties and services. Smart contracts are going to revolutionize the retail space.”

Finally, perhaps more surprisingly, there’s gaming: “Gaming has become a critical part of everyday life for all ages. Every year more resources are put into cyber protection and anti-cheating mechanisms. If you could use the blockchain to track and verify virtual assets in an MMO [massive multiplayer online game], you’d cut down on a lot of unnecessary overhead and be able to track purchases and refute chargebacks in a pretty streamlined manner—instead of the current system that costs Apple alone millions of dollars each month.”

More stable cryptocurrency prices will help speed up adoption. Kristy-Leigh says their volatility has been like “stocks on steroids”, but notes that values are already less volatile than they have been. “We’ve got more historical data to play with now. We know that in the last financial quarter of the year, crypto prices swell. Christmas is a big facilitator of that.”

When it comes to the inevitable question about being a woman in the field, Kristy-Leigh laughs. “It’s never affected me,” she says. “The only people who ever cared about my gender were people who didn’t care about my code. In the space I come from, people only judge you from the quality of your commits*, not the quality of your… sorry, pardon my Australian!”

* In software development, a commit is the making permanent of a set of proposed changes.

Kristy-Leigh Mineham will be speaking at the CoinGeek Week Conference in London on Friday November 30, along with other industry leaders.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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You don’t need to understand how cryptos work

It’s ten years since publication of the Satoshi white paper proposing Bitcoin, but the crypto revolution is still in its infancy – or childhood, at least. Most people have heard of crypto but don’t really understand it. If you know a bit and someone asks you to explain, despite your best efforts your listener will probably end up more confused than ever – or just wishing they’d never asked. And after their questions, you may realise you don’t really understand much either. (OK, I admit it – I’m talking about myself.)

Are the complications of crypto a problem? Maybe not. By the time millions of people are using cryptocurrencies and blockchain applications, the technical details will be hidden and the average user won’t need to take an interest, any more than they now do in how the internet works. (Transmission control protocol, anyone?)

In a former life, as a BBC documentary producer, I made a profile of Bill Gates. We interviewed his science teacher at the school where Gates first learnt about computers, along with Paul Allen, his school friend and future partner at Microsoft. Back in Bill’s day, the mothers’ club at the upmarket school had raised money to give the school a teletype machine linked to a mainframe computer at the local university. Gates and Allen made the most of it and became teenage computer experts. Gates’ dad said it was “almost an addiction” for the young Bill. But after they left school, the two knew exactly what they needed to do to set up a software company – and the rest is history.

We filmed the retired science teacher showing some of today’s pupils the original teletype machine that Gates and Allen had used. The teenagers were impressed: “It’s amazing. I wouldn’t even know how to start to make a program,” they admitted. As so-called ‘digital natives’, most young people are profoundly ignorant of how their devices actually work, however expert they are at using them. Bill’s teacher was shocked at their ignorance of the workings of computers.

It’s been that way throughout the tech business. Most of the first personal computer users were geeky enthusiasts – such as the members of the Homebrew Club, where Steve Wozniak showed off his early computers before founding Apple with Steve Jobs. Today’s Apple customers carry devices which are impossible for the user to open, let alone repair.

And that kind of evolution isn’t confined to modern tech either: Henry Ford began by designing and building cars in his own workshop, while today’s car industry bosses or drivers don’t need to know how engines work.

So what about crypto? Well by this measure, when most people who use the currencies or run the businesses behind them haven’t even heard of blockchain, then we’ll be making progress. Once all the technical stuff is out of sight and out of mind, then the average user will be happy. We’ll still need clever people to develop new uses and keep the systems working. But they’ll be able to get on with their jobs out of the public eye.

And people like me with only a smattering of knowledge won’t be trying to answer awkward questions like “so how does Bitcoin actually work?” From now on, I’m just going to say: “you don’t really need to know.”

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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BTCC’s Bobby Lee: The essence of Bitcoin is that now information is money

In the seven and a half years that Bobby Lee, a co-founder of BTCC, has been studying blockchain and cryptocurrencies, he’s learned that what happens in the industry is something that “no one has control over.” This keeps him from making predictions on the upcoming Bitcoin Cash (BCH) upgrade.

Lee noted that before the hard fork that led to Bitcoin’s rebirth in BCH in August 2017, “I was begging people not to fork it at the time. But it still forked. So that actually proves the fact that Bitcoin is quite decentralized, that no one can force it: no governments, not even people, regular people or miners, or there’s no decentralization in it to force it one way or the other.”

A self-proclaimed “Bitcoin maximalist,” Lee nonetheless concedes that both BCH and BTC can co-exist. “The best analogy is, it’s like religion. If you look at the world’s religions, there’s many, many religions. I don’t claim to be an expert here, but I think several of them trace back to the same roots.” He considers Bitcoin BCH and BTC as “legitimate children of Bitcoin.”

The primary value of cryptocurrencies, as he sees it, is that money is no longer about specific pieces of paper or lines of credit issued through a governing body. “Very few people realize that the essence of Bitcoin is that now information is money. So it’s not about something physically you hold, it’s not about having ownership under my title, under my name, for example, real estate. Even the car I buy, for example, is owned under my name, and the government enforces it. There’s a matching of my name and the asset—the real estate or the car… With Bitcoin, the ownership is actually proven not through physical means and not through title registration, by identity. But that should only be because you have information, you have the knowledge of the private key. So people don’t get that, and that’s fine because not everyone’s a computer scientist, not everyone’s an economist. So I hope to spread that message, that that’s the essence of Bitcoin, because now people can own Bitcoin by having that information.”

Blockchain’s part in history, according to Lee, “goes back to the fundamental rights as a human being, goes back to the word ‘freedom.’”

“Essentially, we’re not slaves, we’re not enslaved in society. Now how does slavery and freedom matter to Bitcoin? Well, if you think about it, the governments have enacted so much control over the money, essentially, people who have now made money are enslaved to the governments, because the spending restrictions, who they can transfer it to, how much they can receive, and also the value of the money, is also completely and arbitrarily controlled by the central banks through inflation, and so on and so forth,” he said.  “Right now, we’re seeing that the value is highly volatile, so there’s a downside to it right now, because we’re in the early days. We’re barely in the tenth year of Bitcoin, but give it another 10 years, give it 50 years. I think it will be very important to the people of the world.”

It may be just the beginning, but we could already see a big change from just five years ago. Lee said, “I remember distinctly in 2011, even as recently as 2013, saying the word ‘Bitcoin’ into a crowd, no one would understand what you’re talking about. The idea of a ‘bit’ coin, a digital coin, that was just unheard of. So now, through years of pushing it in the media, finally the world knows about Bitcoin. They also know about the word ‘blockchain,’ they also know about the word ‘tokens,’ and so on.”

If you’re interested in helping the growth of merchant adoption of Bitcoin BCH, join the bComm Association, an industry group that intends to be the focal point for miners, merchants, exchanges, developers and members of the BCH community. Developers and merchants of the Bitcoin BCH community will also be on hand for the first CoinGeek Week happening in London in November. Members of bComm Association can avail CoinGeek Week tickets at discounted prices. To purchase tickets or learn more about CoinGeek Week Conference, visit the official website here.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Bitcoin now a playable word in Scrabble

In yet another proof that Bitcoin has been steadily making its way towards mainstream audience, the cryptocurrency is now a playable word in Scrabble.

This week, Merriam-Webster released the sixth edition of its Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, with 300 new words added, including Bitcoin. The word has already been added to Merriam-Webster’s regular unabridged version in 2016; however, it’s only this year that the official Scrabble Dictionary has finally been updated.

Bitcoin is described as a noun by the dictionary and means “a digital currency.” Players can get up to nine or 11 points based on the game’s scoring. In a blog post, Merriam-Webster explained, “It’s important to remember that new words are added to the dictionary only when they have already been used by many people—often initially by specialists or subcultures. Then, gradually, a word’s use spreads to the rest of us.”

Aside from Bitcoin, several other words found their way into the updated Scrabble dictionary, including Emoji, Ew, Ok, Facepalm, Macaron, Puggle, and Sriracha, as well as over 100 two-letter words. Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, noted, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has also listed the words fintech, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and “ICO” (initial coin offering).

Bitcoin is getting widespread recognition not just as a currency, but as a word that we can use in our daily lives. One way a word can gain recognition in a society is via repeated usage, and at the rate Bitcoin is getting referred to recently, it might just be on its way to full-fledged mainstream popularity.

Aside from making its way to the Scrabble dictionary, Bitcoin was also mentioned a few weeks ago in a track in Eminem’s new album ‘Kamikaze’. Now you can rap about Bitcoin and play it to win a game of Scrabble.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Block Seoul Day 1: Is cryptocurrency a new asset class?

It is apparent how cryptocurrencies are starting to change the world and how people live today. And yet, there is not much sense of urgency among governments and regulatory bodies in most territories and jurisdictions as to how these new form of money can be technically defined and used by everyone.

On the 17th of September 2018, the first day of the Block Seoul 2018 conference, a panel of investors and innovators came together to discuss what cryptocurrency is and define whether it is an asset class. The Financial Times described an asset class as a broad group of security investments that tend to act similarly in different market conditions. Equities like stocks, bonds, and cash are all asset classes.

Among the panelists, BTCC co-founder Bobby Lee and Elmar Bob from Tech Alliances APJ agreed that cryptocurrency is an asset class. Bob shared, “I’ve been living and working in Japan for about 20 years. Japan has always recognized Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as an asset class.” He added, “In fact, in Japan Bitcoin is legal tender so you can actually buy and sell goods with Bitcoin. Now, that’s kind of an important aspect because Japan is third largest economy in the world. It’s something we need to pay attention to.”

Lee agreed and shared the possible reason why countries all of the world seem to have challenges with creating and defining regulation for Bitcoin. “Bitcoin does not fit into any one of these (securities, equities, bonds, real estate, and precious metal). It has aspects of all five of these asset classes but I think Bitcoin cryptocurrency is a unique piece that’s why countries and regulations will have a challenge,” Lee explained.

For CITDEX’s Chris Cutler, however, cryptocurrencies are assets—but they’re not asset classes. He then raised a question: “How does it fit within the regulatory framework, in the legislation framework?”

According to Cutler, there is a rich history of how investment instruments are treated under tax rules. He said, “You’ll see different treatments for securities tokens offerings that distinguish them from utility token offerings in the United States, and those are critical distinctions. It’s also frustrating dealing with governments often because they are reactive and not keeping up.”

The panel also discussed other use cases for tokens that exist in the ecosystem that have not been seen before. Trevor Koverko, of Polymath, forecast the next evolution will involve moving from paper to digital, and then to smart contracts, where programs and simple tasks as filing will be automated. Cutler also expects that security tokens will be disruptive in Venture Capital industries.

Sandra Wu, of Origin X Capital, pointed out that with Security Token Offerings (STO) there will be regulators which may only allow accredited investors, which, in turn, may defeat the purpose of a decentralized feature of the technology because it may only be about “the big boys club” again. She asked, “How do we ensure that there will be more individuals coming in and playing in this space? Because ultimately, with this type of technology, you want mass use adoption and therefore, a lot of investors coming in.”

Wu closed the panel stating the future of crypto is looking bright. She hopes to see new custody offerings and new regulations that will guide the community to a new path.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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UK Treasury slams ‘Wild West’ crypto trade, calls for regulation

Members of the UK Parliament are looking to increase regulations for the cryptocurrency industry, in order to tame the “Wild West situation,” according to a Treasury committee report.

“Crypto-assets have been embedded in certain pockets of society and industry, and it is highly likely that they are here to stay. The UK Government and financial services regulators appear to be deciding whether they will allow the current ‘Wild West’ situation to continue, or whether they are going to introduce regulation. The current ambiguity surrounding the Government’s and the regulators’ positions is clearly not sustainable,” the committee said.

Under the proposal, regulatory power would be given to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and would involve amendment of the existing Regulated Activities Order.

The committee report used the term ‘crypto-asset’ rather than ‘cryptocurrency,’ on the suggestion of the Bank of England’s (BoE) Martin Etheridge, who was quoted as saying, “[Cryptocurrencies] are not acting as a medium of exchange; they are not particularly good as a store of value, given the volatility; and they are certainly not being used as a unit of account.”

The BoE, in its statements to the committee, also noted that scalability and transaction costs remained a challenge, without distinguishing between the performance of the many cryptocurrencies available.

“Measured against the U.S. dollar, [BTC] is ten times more volatile than sterling, and other cryptocurrencies are even more volatile,” the BoE said.

Based on such input, the Treasury committee said, “The slow, costly and energy-intensive verification process for transactions is not unique to Bitcoin, but a fundamental feature of crypto-assets based on public, decentralised blockchains. This may ultimately limit the extent to which crypto-assets and blockchain can replace conventional money and payments systems.”

Among other risks cited in the use of cryptocurrencies were the hacking of exchanges, loss of passwords, price manipulation, use of cryptocurrencies for money laundering, and “implications for financial stability” with the growth of the industry.

The report, while critical of cryptocurrencies, did acknowledge the potential use of blockchain. “The Committee recognizes that blockchain technology may have the potential to solve problems caused by a lack of trust in data integrity and may be a more efficient method of managing certain types of data in the long term, offering higher levels of security than centralised databases,” it said.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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BCH Jeepney team brings original Bitcoin white paper closer to 100M Filipinos

When the Bitcoin Cash Jeepney, also known as BCH Jeepney, first rolled out on the streets of Manila, one of the most frequently asked question was if the original Satoshi Nakamoto white paper could be read in the Tagalog language. And so in a bid to bring the original Bitcoin white paper closer to the more than 100 million Filipinos in the country, the team behind BCH Jeepney—with help from the BCH Wives Club—set out in June to translate “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” into the national language of the Philippines. The project couldn’t be more apt for the BCH Jeepney team, whose test pilot “Gen”—a bright green jeepney with the words “Bitcoin Cash” emblazoned all over it and a distinct “B” in place of the usual front grille—is the first and only public vehicle to promote Bitcoin Cash, the only true Bitcoin as envisioned by the original Satoshi Nakamoto white paper. Though it set out as a humorous take on the initial coin offering (ICO), BCH Jeepney is moving towards a bigger goal: To educate people, particularly the unbanked, about Bitcoin Cash. In the Philippines, an estimated 86% of households are unbanked, i.e. those who do not have bank accounts due to insufficient cash for keeping, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data. BCH Jeepney, led by masterminds going by their aliases “MrG,” “WildCard” and “MrSkatman,” was initially funded by 20 Bitcoin Cash supporters, each contributing 0.5 BCH. Contributors to the #InitialJeepneyOffering are considered the BCH Jeepney’s “chairholders,” since they are literally “funding a chair” in the vehicle. Read the Tagalog version of the Bitcoin white paper, translated by the BCH Jeepney team, here. Incidentally, if you’re interested in helping the growth of merchant adoption of Bitcoin BCH, join the bComm Association, an industry group that intends to be the focal point for miners, merchants, exchanges, developers and members of the BCH community. Developers and merchants of the Bitcoin BCH community will also be on hand for the first CoinGeek Week Conference happening in London in November.  Members of bComm Association can avail CoinGeek Week tickets at discounted prices. To purchase tickets or learn more about CoinGeek Week Conference, visit the official website here.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.
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