Satoshi Nakamoto

In the world of digital currencies, most people are left with more questions than answers. For example, is digital currency better than paying for stuff with my debit card? There is at least an answer to that, for the most part, digital currency is not as convenient as paying with cash or credit card. But it might be better than writing checks, and there are still a few people that write checks.

Just a quick note on debit cards, debit cards were poised to be a great system until someone noticed that some merchants did not want to accept debit cards for small purchases. Lawmakers got involved, found out that banks were collecting a small fee and they made that illegal. The result was less than perfect. This legislation ended free checking. Banks were hoping they could make enough money off the debit card fees to offer zero fee checking accounts. No longer.

When it comes to getting something for nothing, there usually ends up being a time when the person who pays a lot of fees for other people that are getting something for free feel cheated. Electric cars have become a new plaything of the rich. They have collected the subsidies for buying the $70,000 cars, and now they drive by the gas pump where taxes are collected in their electric cars. The poor schmuck that could never afford an electric car, or even a newer car ends up paying the gas taxes.

So the promise of a digital currency might go beyond just being a shiny new object. Can consumers keep money in the “bank” without banking fees, can they spend the money without large transaction fees, can they move their money around without having to hire a gaggle of lawyers? These seem to be things free people should be free to do.

Enter blockchain. The first major scientific paper to presage a digital currency may have been titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” and it was authored by Nakamoto. But Nakamoto was a pen name. The hidden actor produced an open source repository that supported bitcoin, solved the double-spending problem and used a peer to peer network to update the ledger and supported transactions and the integration of such into the public ledger.

Nakamoto created (mined) block zero of the Bitcoin block chain for a reward of 50 bitcoin. At the time, that was worth less than a dollar. Now that would be worth more than $40,000. Due to additional mining activity, Nakamoto owns around 980,000 bitcoin.

Digital Currency Pricing

September 2019 shows some good pricing levels in some currencies, first might be lightcoin at $55.00

Next is Ethereum at $170.00 but a better price might be $130.00

Finally Bitcoin Cash is under $220, a great price for btc is anything below the $225.00 levels. Bitcoin cash spent 6 months below $150 last year, so there may be room to get a better deal, as good as it is right now.

Mining Rigs

Walmart sells a rack that will hold 19 GPU’s to build a mining rig. You might have considered putting two PCIe cards in a computer, but what does it really mean to put 19 video cards in a single computer?

First off you need a motherboard with 19 GPU slots. Actually, that is not entirely true, because the mining cards do not need the full x16 interface. So a professional will start with an Asus B250 that has 18 x1 slots and one full x16 slot. The x16 interface can be used in a standard case as a standard video adapter, but the remaining 18 x1 connectors are not meant to be used in a standard case. They are used with an x1 extension cable to the mining cards.

So what we are doing is using a ribbon cable to carry the PCIe x1 signals throughout the cage of video cards. Just a note, if each video card costs $1,000 then you can calculate the investment in just video cards.

But we are not done yet, because we need a power supply that is powerful enough and has enough power connectors to power 19 gpu’s. The B250 has three 24 pin power slots, so if you buy some less expensive video cards, they can get all their power from the ribbon cable going to the motherboard. We still have the problem of consuming something in the range of 75 watts up to 175 watts per card.

Since power supplies typically have a single 24 pin connector, it would seem that the intent is to use three power supplies. So three nice power supplies might be able to run twelve to 15 video cards. The fact is, if you were going to attempt this, you should not try to run the maximum number of cards. In fact you should start by running four or more cards, and learn as you go.

But suppose you can get a dozen high end cards mining bitcoin. You could run Linux or Windows, there are mining applications for either system. The GTX 1070 uses 150 watts and a lot of hashing speed. They also have at least one 6 pin, and sometimes two 8 pin power connectors, so that could make it challenging to run more than six cards on three power supplies.

But the reason we get excited about building a rig like this is to make money. So first we have to point out that nobody is mining bitcoin with Nvidia cards, there are more profitable approaches for this type of setup. So assuming you choose your currency wisely, each 1070 can mine more than $50 of currency per month. Now that you are seeing the dollar signs, put off looking at your electricity bill as long as possible. That is because each power supply can use up to $100 worth of electricity each month.

Normally, the power supply in a computer runs at a small percentage of it’s rating. Plus the computer goes to sleep more hours than it is awake. In mining digital currency, the power supplies are going to run full throttle 24 hours each day. So the cost of electricity roughly equals the mining revenue. And as the video cards and power supplies wear out under heavy usage, nothing is earned towards paying for replacements, much less paying off the initial investment.

Of course, the calculation are pretty rough. A slight rise in the price of digital currencies makes the project more profitable. Choosing the currency and finding less expensive electricity is a major component of the cost. The cost of electricity in Florida or New York City can be double what is payed in parts of Washington State.

Bitcoin Storage

In 2017, CNBC published a story about a man who had mined Bitcoins for 4 years and amassed 7,500 in the early days of the currency. Unfortunately, the hard drive on which the complex strings of digits resided ended up in a landfill. The man was an IT worker in England, and when the laptop died on which he depended for the mining, he kept the hard drive but threw the rest away, or sold some of the parts. At the time, a Bitcoin was worth less than an English Pound.

Much of the story transpired between 2009 and 2014, which makes the entire story surprising since cloud based backups have been around since the early 2000’s. We have been burning our own compact discs (CD’s) since the late 1980’s, and we have been using USB storage devices since around 2000.

The problem with hard drives

Of course, anything physical could have been thrown in the dust bin by accident. And CD and DVD media have too high a likelihood of being unreadable from one drive to the next, or after a few short years. USB solid state media on the other hand is very reliable, but whether USB or cloud, the next consideration is how to encrypt a bitcoin wallet.

Software Wallets

Hard drive based wallets generally require a password to open. Another consideration is that you will need the software that manages a wallet to run on a computer. If the computer that first stored the bitcoin ran on Windows 95 and the company went out of business, you need to hope that you can find the software, emulate Windows 95 and simulate the original operations required to operate the wallet.

Pencil and Paper

Some think that we could calculate Bitcoin hashes with pencil and paper, perhaps at a rate of more than one solution a week, but that argument might have some holes in it. But there is no doubt that the private keys required to possess a bitcoin could be expressed with a pencil and paper. But transpose a single pair of digits and the key is rendered invalid. Cutting and pasting digital keys seems to be so much safer for managing the cryptic data in play.

Hardware Wallets

Hardware wallets allow bitcoin owners to carry their bitcoin or store it in a safe deposit box. Of course, you would need to understand how to recover your bitcoin in the event of hardware failure, or if a comet strikes your safe deposit box.

A bitcoin can be represented in something as simple as two QR codes. Since there are a lot of digits to the public address and the private key, it is a fairly dense code.

Digital Currency Mining

Bitcoin mining is an activity where an investment is made in time or computing power to “solve” a new block for the blockchain.

The mining activity is described as solving a mathematical problem, it is actually guessing at the answer until it fits, submitting the answer and hoping a consensus of bitcoin agents.

There are many examples in blogs and on video sites of people building computer systems with Nvidia and AMD video cards to specifically aid in the mining of cryptocurrencies. Specialized hardware also is available for the mining of bitcoins. One objective of the hardware is to try many solutions in parallel in the pursuit of a solution that solves the next block. Specialized hardware will employ hundreds of cores, while video cards are combined to create thousands of cuda cores.

Each core produces a hash, the data being some transactions that are not yet posted as well as a transaction that signifies the payment reward for solving a block with the miners bitcoin wallet address as part of the transaction. A block also contains a link to the previous highest block. Since new blocks are appearing every minute or two, while solving the algorithm must constantly check for new transactions and the address of the last block.

Another component that is hashed into the block is the nonce. Once a hash is calculated for a block, all agents of the cryptocurrency can instantly (low computation requirement) know if the block is a valid solution. There can be more than one valid solution, but once adopted by the consensus of agents there is only one valid solution containing the transaction for the reward for solving the block.

Bitcoin Price Tools

Blockchain crypto currencies had a large run up that peaked around December 1, 2017. Much has been said about the market capitalization of crypto currencies, which reached nearly a trillion dollars, and it’s decline.

Market Cap is meaningless

Maybe not entirely, but much like the money supply numbers published by the treasury it is a secondary number. Wall Street likes to multiply the shares outstanding times the share price to reach a market cap number. These types of calculations were used to present a value for Enron and Lehman Brothers.

Velocity of Bitcoin

First if we look at the number of transactions per day for Bitcoin, it was less than 50,000 in late 2012 but averages over 300,000 today. The number of transactions per day also peaked in December 2017 around 500,000.

Velocity of all altcoins

With the advent of many crypto currencies, additional growth in transactions per day is somewhat evident. But since many alt coin entries into the market came through a capitalization route that included the exchange of dollars for Bitcoins, followed by the exchange of Bitcoins to procure new alt coin media. So while additional coins add some to the transactions per day for all coins, some of the transactions per day in a market with more alt coins would include exchange transactions and not barter.

The initial growth of Bitcoin

Bitcoin had many avenues for barter, but a large one was the now shut down Silk Road. While the existence of a tender scheme unfettered from political control makes politicians of both parties nervous, Silk Road, it is alleged, went beyond any grey area of barter into areas where one party might be hired to hurt another party. The Fed’s did prove, we think, that the founder engaged in pay for arm twisting or worse. Another harmful area was credit card theft, cloning and dumping, a seriously bad business no honest person would pursue.

How to pay for dumps

While we think of Bitcoin as rainbows and unicorns, it is simply a fact that scammers used Bitcoin to pay for massive dumps of credit cards. Sadly, cash was used too. Just because a medium for tender can be used for bad transactions should not be an argument used to undermine any sort of monetary system.

So the question remains, how much real (and legal) barter occurs in crypto currencies? How can we develop a velocity measurement for crypto? It is hard to find a value for credit card charges per day, it might range between several million to a hundred million (especially on a Christmas Shopping day) dollars per day.

According to a Forbes article before the peak, Bitcoin Now Processes $2 Billion Worth Of Transactions Per Day, A 10x Increase In 2017 – When this was written, the author expressed no interest in the reason for the transaction. What is important is that Bitcoin is used for actual trade, not for day trading or trading for other digital currencies. Interestingly, the author mentioned that Ethereum was seeing a lot of transactions per day.

In order to develop some crypto velocity, we will need to see an increase in real world barter, which perhaps is coming. We will probably see that in Ethereum, Litecoin or Bitcoin Cash, as these media are trying harder to be useful for tender.

So when will crypto cash velocity gain momentum? First we need to see if we can find any.

Blockchain for Supply Chain

In the last few years I have watched television commercials that promise that produce will be better accounted for and even fresher because blockchain technologies can be used to help manage the supply chain.

In reality, blockchain will probably take longer to adopt than did bar code technologies. Barcodes are so common that we like to assume that they were invented and put into practice all at once.

Barcodes have patented as early as 1951 when Woodland and Silver patented a barcode system based on Morse Code. There are probably dozens of patents older than 1951. The UPC barcode was invented in 1973, and is the system that most retailing employs.

The barcode scanner was a small part of the system required. Computers that could be updated with new codes every night needed to be placed in every store. Since the internet was invented in the late 1980’s the barcode that was invented in 1973 was of little use.

In the 1990’s, store computers could start using modems to get UPC database updates from corporate computers. Technologies such as uucp and RS-232 connected in store computers to the internet to distribute a usable database of UPC codes.

Meanwhile, corporate retail giants such as Kroger, Sears Roebuck and Walmart were working on a database of UPC codes, the items to which they correspond, acceptable ranges of sale prices, supply chain information, cost information size and family information, etc.

Simultaneously the bar code scanning laser providers were improving the ability of the scanner to scan a code on produce, round cans and square boxes and at all angles. Thus in the mid to late 1990’s that pieces had come together for widespread adoption of bar codes in retail sales.

So if we look at the shorter time interval of 1973 to 1995 the bar code system for retail price scanning and inventory control took 22 years to implement.

If blockchain technologies can be used to deliver a fresher tomato, be prepared to wait a few decades.

Why Blockchain might mature faster

When told that blockchain may be ready to help get you a fresher salad in a few decades, some people are shocked. Indeed, there may be some groundwork laid that will speed the adoption of supply chain blockchain implementation.

The Internet

Face it, no supply chain system can evolve without verification along the way. The internet is already invented, and allows shipments all over the supply chain to have their existence and location verified at a defined date and time.

5G 4G and 3G

Since every truck load of radishes is probably never near an Ethernet port, the use of Wifi and cellular data is a requirement to update supply chain shipment units of radishes.

Massive cycles of spare computing power

Not so much on this front. It seems every spare cycle of computing power is already tied up computing the next bitcoin block. So we have yet to see how the supply chain block for carrots will be maintained.

Bitcoin Cash Fork

Before the fork in the 2nd half of 2017, debates were occurring over the block size, a means to process more transactions in less time for less cost. The transaction rate of Bitcoin is not very fast.

When you consider that Visa, Mastercard and American Express might have a real capacity, especially on Black Friday of handling a billion transactions in 24 hours, digital currency has a long way to go to serve as a popular means or payment.

An important measure for the consumer is the time it takes to pay for a cup of coffee. A large latte made with Ethiopian beans might cost $10 in New York City. If the consumer presents a bank card to pay in dollars, the transaction is settled in about ten seconds. With Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash the time to settle is longer. The risk that an unsettled trade might be invalid would be too great for the merchant to assume. According to here, the settlement time for consumer transactions is around 150 seconds for Litecoin and 10 minutes for Bitcoin Cash.

Solutions are being developed to speed this wait for merchants and consumers. 0conf or zero confirmation and LN or Lightening Network are both gaining acceptance.

Ethereum

Along came Ethereum, another blockchain currency in 2015. It was proposed in 2013 but one key feature, smart contracts, dates back to 1993 when Nick Szabo proposed the smart contract.

Szabo envisioned digital markets and digital currencies and how cryptographic payment schemes could be used to buy a bag of potato chips from a vending machine. Actually, he was broadly speculating the use of data to purchase items.

Ethereum implemented more robust features including a EVM or Ethereum Virtual Machine that facilitates distributed processing of smart contracts.

Bitcoin invented

Bitcoin was announced in 2009, and is now the largest blockchain currency by market capitalization. Bitcoin was not the first digital currency, but it was the first digital currency based on the blockchain concept. Paypal is a virtual currency that started in 1998, but it is not a blockchain based system.

The importance of blockchain can not be overstated. In the process of settling a transaction the blockchain verifies that funds are available and prevents double-spending.

Normally, in the case of credit cards and Paypal, a central authority, these days a very reliable computer system, verifies transactions. In the case of spending money with a EVM chip credit card, five to ten seconds are spent communicating through the internet and verifying the transaction. The computers at Visa and Mastercard verify that the credit card is valid, and able to to spend the cash required.

Blockchain currencies require a similar communication, but with a decentralized database. If a seller can take payment in Bitcoin, they have a bitcoin account, or they have some bitcoin software on their computer. When they record the transaction, they must inform a consensus number of bitcoin pushers of the transaction, and if this command succeeds, the blockchain now records new transactions for both the payer and the payee.