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A Crypto Currency Review

Crypto-currency.

There has been a lot of attention paid to bitcoin and crypto currencies lately, but may people do not fully understand how they work and why they are worth money. I was actually one of those people, so I decided to dig into this and setup a wallet and miner and see what all the fuss is about.

So what exactly is it?

Crypto currencies are a peer 2 peer network, similar to what napster and filesharing programs used to be. However instead of being used to share mp3s and movies, all computers running the p2p software connect together to create, maintain, and secure a public ledger for the currency known as a blockchain. That blockchain contains highly encrypted transaction records that must be confirmed and approved by other peers on the network. So in a sense the users help to keep the other users honest.

So what is all the talk about mining?

Mining may not be the best term for what is happening here, mining is essentially the approval process for transactions to be entered into the blockchain. Say my friend sends me 20 dogecoins, a broadcast is made to all peers on the network that a new transaction has been made. All of the peers on the network that are mining will work to verify this transaction by determining it is valid by unlocking its encryption and verifying the contents. Once a worker can show proof of work that they verified the block it is broadcast to all the peers on the network, once all the peers accept the transaction and proof of work it is added to the blockchain and everyone moves on to the next transaction.

So in a way the mining is a verification system to make sure someone can’t just go give themselves a bunch of bitcoins or undo previous transactions in the chain, as the community of peers will not approve it.

So how do you get coins by mining them?

As transactions are entered into the blockchain, the first portion of each block is the generation of a new set of coins, as a reward for helping secure and verify the transaction you get those coins.

But I heard that mining gets more difficult, less coins are given as a reward, and there will eventually be no new coins, What then?

Mining is essential to the system, without it there is no verification and the system will fail so there must always also be an incentive for people to mine the coins. The original bitcoin documents state that the idea is to create a transaction fee, and eventually convert fully to where that fee is the reward and incentive to the miner.

So what makes these coins worth money?

There are exchanges where you can buy and sell bitcoins using other currency, much like you can exchange US dollars for Euros. While anticipating success in the platform people are paying more money for a bitcoin in anticipation that their value will go up. Currently a bitcoin is valued around 640 US dollars, that is simply what people are willing to pay for a bitcoin today.

Are there dangers with using bitcoins?

Yes, because it is digital it is your responsibility to secure your digital wallet. If its stored on your hard drive you have to have it backed up in case your hard drive dies. If you store it online with a web service that web service could fail, and both platforms can be susceptible to hackers.

How is this different than standard economies?

Bitcoin is decentralized, so there is no backing by a central bank, and it is unregulated by governments. It is very difficult to trace transactions witch make it able to be used for money laundering and crime. Think of it this way, the US federal reserve is the centralized bank that controls the US dollar. They employee many well trained people that control the US dollars value and the amount of money printed based on economic factors such as unemployment rates and economic growth. With bitcoin there is no central bank, there is only a static algorithm that determines how many coins are released to miners and that is already set through 2140 when new bitcoins will no longer be produced. It is not able to adjust to factors like unemployment rates, economic depressions, or population changes.

The design of the system was originally to take the power of creation of money out of the hands of centralized banks and governments, thinking that it can create a more stable economy. Since inflation and the amount of currency in circulation is predefined the system should be able to avoid financial crises. However opponents to the system say that an economy can not be based only on a static rate of money creation, and that a system that can not inflate and deflate to adjust to unpredictable human behavior will ultimately fail, and eventually create the exact financial crises that it is hoping to avoid.

What does the government think of this?

Some governments like China and Russia have banned the crypto-currecies in their countries. In the US the government has given several warning to deter people from investing in this system. The IRS has determined that they will treat bitcoins like property and not like currency in regards to taxes. So its more like owning a stock than owning money, but you will still be required to report and pay taxes on any capital gains from it. Though as I said before that is is hard to trace bitcoins, I am not sure how they could effectively audit and enforce accurate reporting of gains from bitcoins to the IRS.

So should I try to mine or buy some coins and get in on the action?

Like any other investment you should do your research and decide if this is correct for you. Is there a possibility for profit, yes there is. A bunch of people mined or purchased bitcoins when they were around $10 each, and they are nos worth $650 each. Those people made money. However the price could also drop if you buy now and you could lose just as much. The harder thing to determine is what to research. If you buy stock in a company to can research that companies profits, free cash, debt, etc and try to make a wise choice. As bitcoin is a peer to peer network it does not have these things. It is probably more tied to government acceptance, strength of the p2p network (how many miners there are, and how diverse they are), and its acceptance from retailers.

Mining is at this point not very profitable. I did it for a few days and earned about $0.16 worth of crypto currency. It cost more than that to power the pc that was doing the mining.

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dogecoin

Dogecoin ubuntu – failed to read blocks

As I tried to setup my miner while the updates were running, I ran into an odd issue when running dogecoin on ubuntu. The pc crashed when loading the ati beta driver for linux, and forced a reboot.

When I rebooted and relaunched dogecoin-qt I got an error that it failed to read blocks and it quit. Using my google techniques I found that this is typically because of a file corruption in the dogecoin data directory. Unfortunately as a noob to dogecoin I did not know where that was.

I found some post son how to fix this on a windows machine. Most pointed to deleteing the entire contents of the data directory except for your wallet.dat file. On reboot dogecoin-qt would then re-download all blocks until you are current.

The solution I used to fix the error on linux (ubuntu 14.04, dogecoin-qt 1.7) are as follows. Open your terminal.

cd ~/
ls -a (the -a flag show directories that start with .)

you will see the .dogecoin directory. This is the data directory for dogecoin on ubuntu.

cd .dogecoin/blocks/
ls

you will see a bunch of rev#######.dat files. Locate the highest numbered one.

sudo rm rev#######.dat ( the number you identifed in the last step)

relaunch dogecoin-qt

it will prompt you that the data directory is corrupt and ask if you would like ot rebuild, select yes/ok

It will begin re-indexing the data blocks. Since all of them except for the last one should be correct (the last one is where the corruption happened) the process moves much faster than on the initial install. The other posts I have seen that say to remove all files in the data directory except for your wallet.dat file would remove all of these rev### files and I believe that would make the process much slower.

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Google Glass Frames

Google glass prescription frames.

It seems that the stocking and availability issues with the new Google glass perscription frames has ended and I finally saw them in the style and color I desired on the website. I picked up a pair of the bold frames that match the style of glasses I typically wear.

In the box.

Upon un-boxing here is what I found in the frames box.

google glass frames

1. There is a hard-shell case for the glasses. Unlike the case that comes with Google glass itself witch is half hard-shell and half soft, the one that comes with the frames is a full hard case. As someone that travels a lot I feel like this protects the device better when I carry it in my carry on backpack through airports, but I feel like it also leaves room to reduce it’s size. Since the glass frames are not fold-able like traditional glasses the case is the full size of the glasses.

2. Mini screwdriver. This was inside the hard-shell case and is the screwdriver that you need to move the glass between frames. There is an elastic holder in the case that secures the screwdriver in place so you always have it handy.

3. There are two small packets of documents in the box. The first is labeled “For your eyecare provider.” It includes recommended lens types for the frames and instructions on how to fit the frames ensuring that the display is above the normal line of site.

4. The second packet is labeled “For you to keep.” It includes instructions on how to remove the glass from the original frame and install them on this one. It also includes a set of extra nose pads and a Glass branded microfiber cleaning cloth.

My over-all impressions of the frames are that they are a solidly made frame. I wish they would have found a way to be able to fold the frames with the glass attached, but I can adjust to them always being open. I have not got my prescriptions lenses yet but I have a appointment scheduled for my annual eye exam.

They are comfortable to wear, though I am not currently wearing them for long periods of time because I do not have lenses for them yet. They are larger than my current frames as you can see in the photos but they do not look bad. The nose pads are adjustable like on the frames that come with glass so you can adjust them to make sure the glass device sits correctly in your line of site.

Ill post a follow up once I get lenses made and detail how that process went. I am excited to finally be able to wear the glasses comfortable with my prescription lenses.

wearing bold glass frames

my regular glasses

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First day with Google Glass

I recently got selected to be a google glass explorer. I jumped on the opportunity and ordered my glass (version 2) and it arrived in a few days. I have a few ideas on software for the glass but for now I want to do a quick overview of my initial impressions of the device and its software.

The Device.

The device itself seems pretty well made. The titanium frames seem flexible but sturdy. I wear glasses every day wearing the Google glass feels very natural to me. I currently have to double up on my regular glasses and the google glasses until I get a pair of the new prescription frames for them witch is a bit cumbersome, but wearing just the google glass by itself feels natural to me.

The display is clear once you get it adjusted correctly, and I have no issues reading any of the displayed information. I do feel like there is a bit of eye strain if you are using these for a while. In my case this may be partly due to wearing them over regular glasses, and the display is slightly over my prescription glasses frame at the top. Still I feel like it’s only a strain if you are constantly looking at the glass display. I would not suggest trying to watch anything more than short video clips on google glass. But for quick glances up to see a message or information it is pretty comfortable.

The battery life may be a little bit of a concern. The first time I charged them I ran the battery down to about 35% after about 3 and a half hours of use. In all fairness I was using them constantly like a kid that just got a new toy, and had the screen active and on, downloading apps, making calls, etc. the entire time.
The built in vibration speaker is not loud enough to use for much. The new earpiece that comes with it is a necessity for phone calls and hearing content. I do find the earpiece very comfortable, and I have issues with most earbuds.

I’m looking forward to getting some prescription frames for them for use in the future. I will probably only be using them for development work for now.

The Software.

The voice recognition works well. When the device goes to sleep you can activate it again by tipping your head up, which happens sort of naturally as you look upward in direction when you want to use it. It is responsive and fast in most cases when doing web searches and getting content. There is a touch panel on the side of the glasses for scrolling, zooming and navigating menus. With that being said I feel there are a few navigational things that can improve here (witch I will point out in a bit).

The OS itself works as a timeline. When you do a web search, use an app or take a picture, it creates a card on your timeline witch you can scroll through using the touch panel. The cards stay in the timeline and some have more actions you can do with them like sharing on messaging or facebook. They all stay in the timeline until you delete them. Some recognize voice commands and other require that you use the touchpad to interact with them.

The camera functions work for taking photos. You can trigger a photo with voice commands, with a wink of your eye, or by pressing a button on the frame. It takes the photos fairly fast, and then puts the photo up as a timeline card for you to interact with from there.

My suggestions

I see a few issues with the OS of the system that I think will need to be addressed.

1. Timeline management. Currently any event that you do with the device is saved in your timeline until you delete it. The events in the timeline just keep building if you are not constantly deleting them. There is no clear all button or command. In my opinion I would rather all items automatically delete after a certain amount of time unless I specify to keep them. Imagine as you use the internet all day at work you have to go through a process of a few clicks to delete every webpage, email, call, and message you get or they stay on your computer forever. I would rather specify witch items to keep open and have the rest close after 10 minutes or so.

2. Global voice commands. Once an application or timeline card is open and you are off the home screen voice commands are determined by weather or not the programmer put them in. There are not any global voice commands like “ok glass, go home” or “I’m done with this” or “cancel” that you can say in every app. This leaves you in most cases touching the side of your face to go back to the home screen. To make the process worse when glass goes to sleep on a timeline card it wakes up on the same timeline card. This may be good if you are viewing a recipe, but I find in most cases the next time you activate glass you want to start a new event and expect to be on the home screen when it wakes up, but you’re not and have to fumble around with the touch pad to get there.

3. Taking pictures. I said earlier taking photos was easy, and it is but there is still an issue. We want to take good photos. Because the camera is triggered by a voice command there is no framing the photo beforehand. So every photo you take is a wide angle shot that mimics exactly what you see. You cannot zoom in or see the capture frame beforehand. I find this leaves most of the photos I take less than desirable and I would want to edit them before sharing them. So the concept of take a photo and share it without using my hands doesn’t really work.

Wrapping Up

With that being said, the device is still in beta and Google just released a new development kit with the ability to add interactive timeline cards, and create android activities that use all supported android intents. In short that means the tools are now there to fix most of this, and I am sure it will be worked out by the launch.

As a member of the explorer program my goal is to create an innovative new software for the device. As a starter project to get my head around the sdk hopefully my next post about google glass will be announcing the release of my first piece of glassware. That will most likely be either a timeline manager, or a replacement for the built in camera functions.

wrestling

NCAA Wrestling Results, Jan 13 – Jan 23

There were some big upsets and changes in the rankings this week.

(Rankings at Time of Match)
# 19 Michigan def #2 Minnesota 19-14
#13 Pittsburgh def #5 Oklahoma State 19-18
#9 UNI def #4 Oklahoma 19-17
#1 Penn State def #14 Northwestern 39-8
#7 Missouri def Central Michigan 16-15
#2 Iowa def #8 Nebraska 22-9
#5 Oklahoma State def West Virginia 30-6
#6 Cornell def Harvard 33-6
#1 Penn State def # 19 Indiana 36-6
#2 Minnesota def Michigan State 35-3
#9 Ohio State def # 15 Northwestern 21-12
#8 Nebraska def Penn 30-9
#7 Missouri def SIU Edwardsville 40-0
#10 Northern Iowa def Central Michigan 25-14

New NCAA Rankings as of Jan 21.
1.Penn State
2. Iowa
3. Cornell
4. Minnesota
5. Northern Iowa
6. Oklahoma
7. Missouri
8. Pittsburgh
9. Oklahoma
10. Nebraska.

wrestling

NCAA wrestling results, Jan 6 – 12.

#2 Minnesota def Wisconsin 28-6

#1 Penn def beats Purdue 34 -3

#3 Iowa def Indiana 38-4

#4 Oklahoma def #17 Iowa State 27-11

#6 Cornell def Lehigh 33-7

#23Wisconsin def #9 Ohio State 22-15

#9 Ohio State def #11 Illinois 18-16

#8 nebraska def Penn 30-9

#7 Missouri def SIU-Edwardsville 40-0

#10 Northern Iowa def Central Michigan 25-14

#3 Iowa def #5 Oklahoma 24-6

#2 Minnesota def #16 Northwestern

* #8 Mike McMullan def #1 Tony Nelson with an overtime takedown ending Nelson’s undefeated season.

bbq

Creating a Homemade Barbecue Sauce

As the Holidays are approaching I find myself whipping up some batches of my homemade barbecue sauce for the family outings.  My sauce is a favorite among friends and family and I prefer it over most of the commercial sauces available at the supermarkets.  For me creating a sauce was a fun experience and took a bit of trial and error to get things just right, so I thought I would offer some tips and advice on how to get started in creating your own sauce.

First you need a base to work with.  The most popular base is a tomato based sauce, though mustard and vinegar based sauces are also very common.  Some areas such as Alabama are known for white sauces that are mayonnaise, and some sauces from Asian areas are based with soy sauce.  Most sauces will contain some amount of vinegar or cider vinegar which helps to both preserve the sauce and bring out the flavors.

Once you create a base to work with think of how sweet or spicy you want your sauce to be.  Most sauces will have an ingredient to add the sweetness.  Common sweeteners are white sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, or fruit juices.  Though don’t be afraid to experiment and maybe try things like soda, or using a combination of several sweeteners.

Next think about spices, adding a hot spice like cayenne pepper either ground or flaked will definitely give you some quick heat.  You can use fresh peppers or prepared spices, and experiment with the flavors you like.

After that look at the additional flavors that you can add to give it some added complexity.  Maybe add some of your favorite beer or whiskey.  More herbs and spices like oregano, basil, paprika, cilantro etc.  You can add soy sauce, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, fruit flavors, or vanilla.  This is where you can really be creative and make a sauce unique to you.

Here are some tips for starting out.

  1. Look at some base recipes on the internet to find a base to start with.  But don’t just copy someone else’s recipe and call it your own.  That takes all the fun out of it.
  2. Start with small batches as you experiment, not everything you try is going to be good.
  3. Keep a log of exactly what you put in each sauce.  You can refer back to this to recreate and improve on the ones that you like.
  4. Think of themes for your sauces based on experiences or areas.  One sauce that I tried was a Louisiana themed sauce sweetened with molasses and using spices commonly found in Cajun and creole recipes.  That sauce was not successful for me, but my favorite homemade sauce is a Mexican themed sauce with ingredients all known to Mexican food.
  5. Don’t be discouraged when a sauce doesn’t turn out.  You can try it again and improve it, or move on to another idea.
  6. If your sauce comes out too thin you can use corn starch or flour to thicken it.
  7. Cook your sauces for a minimum or 20 minutes.  Most sauces will benefit from longer cooking times to help the spices mature into the base.
  8. Use reusable containers to store your sauces such as used ketchup bottles, mason jars, or plastic squirt bottles you can get at Walmart or target.
  9. When you try your sauce on meat for the first time be mindful of any rubs, marinades, or injections used while cooking.  You will be getting these flavors into your finished product as well.
  10. Stay consistent with brands as you recreate your sauces.  For example if you use ketchup in your base Heinz ketchup and hunts ketchup had different flavors and will provide different results.

 

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Penn State vs Iowa Wrestling

#1 Penn State defeated #3 Iowa on Saturday 24-12.  The Nittany Lions won 7 or the 10 matches in the meet to hold on to their #1 ranking.  The Nittany Lions are on a roll right now beating #9 Ohio State only one week ago.  After competing in the southern scuffle their next dual will be with #21 Purdue on Jan 12.  They will still face #2 Minnesota on on Feb 9, and #5 Oklahoma State on Feb 16.

Full Results

125 – #3 Nico Megaludis, Penn State, dec. #4 Thomas Gilman, 4-1,

133 – #3 Tony Ramos, Iowa, pinned #15 Jimmy Gulibon, 5:22,

141 – #2 Zain Retherford, Penn State, dec. #10 Josh Dziewa, 4-2,

149 – Zack Beitz, Penn State, dec. Michael Kelly, 6-1,

157 – #1 Derek St. John, Iowa, dec. James Vollrath, 10-4,

165 – #1 David Taylor, Penn State, major dec. #4 Nick Moore, 12-3,

174 – #3 Matt Brown, Penn State, dec. #6 Mike Evans, 4-1,

184 – #1 Ed Ruth, Penn State, major dec. #2 Ethen Lofthouse, 12-4,

197 – #3 Morgan McIntosh, Penn State, major dec. Sammy Brooks 12-4,

Hwt. – #3 Bobby Telford, Iowa, dec. #12 Jimmy Lawson, 3-2.

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Santa’s New Technology

The NSA has been under a lot of scrutiny lately for its spying and data collection techniques, but a new anonymous leaker has revealed another source of spying and the culprit my surprise you.  A group of hackers has tracked a lot of internet traffic collecting information to the North Pole.  They claim that Santa is spying and collecting information on a scale much larger than the NSA to determine who is naughty and who is nice.

When most people thing of Santa’s workshop they think of hard working elves making wooden toys and stuffed animals.  Some close to the operation are now suggesting that the highly guarded workshop is now more of a high tech enterprise, with halls and halls of server storage that is reportedly used to collect data and help Santa automate the task of determining who is naughty and who is nice.  The workshop also contains many electronic white rooms for making today’s high tech toys and gadgets.

The extent of the workshop’s operations are still very secretive.  We tried to contact Santa for a statement about the workshop but he declined because of his current workload in preparing for the upcoming holiday.  We did find one of Santa’s elves named Buddy but his only comment was “Santa! I know him!!”

After the initial reports many supporters came to the defense of the workshop with a general belief that the operation will help ensure those that partake in cyber-bullying, x-rated web sites, and distribution of pc viruses will earn a spot on the naughty list.  Others still insist that their privacy is being violated.

Whatever your belief is with the holidays coming all should keep in mind as always, that Santa is watching and knows if you’ve been bad or good.  So be good people.

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