Thoughts on Bitcoin/Crypto

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Banking / Traditional finance (#tradfi) is ripe for disruption (and perhaps needs to be disrupted). Why 👇

  1. Fiat Currencies: Store of Value
    Inflation is Taxation Without Legislation -Milton Friedman
    1. Government issued currencies (fiat) are prone to debasement – losing value every year
    2. Rely on a central government that controls supply (and value) 
    3. The central government has an incentive to create more money every year (steal from savers)
    4. Checks & Balances in the form of a link to gold / something with limited supply (scarcity) have disappeared
    5. Predictably supply increases every year (and in times of crisis, by massive amounts)
    6. ==> The USD has lost 95-96% of its value over the last ~100 years (at the FED’s current inflation goal of 2% the USD would loose half its value in ~34 years)
  1. Banks
    1. “Fiat” cannot be stored without the use of intermediaries (banks, regulated by Central Banks)
    2. Your money is just some banks’ liability; you have exposure to a bank’s creditworthiness (and the banks in turn are exposed to the creditworthiness of the central bank)
      1. One can store “cash/gold/diamonds/paintings”, but this is inconvenient at scale; susceptible to seizure; susceptible to demonetization; susceptible to theft etc.
      2. Gold/cash can be faked; BTC cannot, easily verifiable by anyone.
    3. If banks go poof, then the money they created/owe you also goes poof
    4. FDIC / Government insurance of this money, makes the government liable to pay when/if banks go poof
      1. So the government protects the banks from going poof (systemically important)
      2. This means banks are immune from failure; so they do not innovate and improve customer service; instead they find new ways to tack on “fees”.
    5. Original intent: Bitcoin was created after the 2008 bank bailouts; https://news.bitcoin.com/a-deep-dive-into-satoshis-11-year-old-bitcoin-genesis-block/ (Note the bailouts were required because 95-96% of all dollars/rupees/pounds (fiat) are actually just bank liabilities not physical “notes”/real money.)
  1. Fiat Currencies: Medium of Exchange
    1. “Fiat” currencies cannot be transferred without the use of intermediaries (payment networks like Visa/Mastercard/Amex which are susceptible same regulations as banks)
    2. Banks are exclusionary. Only a few have access to the SWIFT network.
    3. You can move “cash” without using a bank, but this is difficult to do at scale (inconvenient form factor, susceptible to seizure, theft etc)
    4. Regulations limit innovation at banks (and now bank’s culture), because they are systemically important entities.

Enter Bitcoin:

Bitcoin is many things; digital gold; a commodity with limited supply; a medium of exchange; a store of value

The core innovation is the lack of central “authority” (aka gatekeeper, that can be corrupted). Central authority is distributed and yet no participant can just claim all the coin. Scarcity without a single authority! Incredible. 

  1. Medium of Exchange:
    1. Easy to transfer anywhere in the world, where there is internet; code is open, network is open
    2. No permission needed; every single participant (node) can verify & create transactions without requiring any permission from anyone
    3. Becoming a participant is permissionless too; no gatekeepers
    4. DOES NOT work without internet; sure you can write down long codes and use pigeons, but really it does not work. (In times of crisis, governments like to cut off internet access; see Kashmir, Yemen, Syria ….)
  1. Store of Value
    1. Supply is “algorithmically” limited; cannot be debased – (not without a hack/security flaw); 
    2. There can never be more than 21M Bitcoin; in fact some will get lost every year in abandoned wallets, so the supply is likely to decrease YOY.
    3. No insurance (FDIC); if your money is stolen no government will help. May be alleviated by private cos offering insurance?
    4. No plunge protection team like the US FED (i.e. no Bernanke PUT)
    5. No one to kill competitors (the US has an army and uses stronger army diplomacy when folks want to supplant the USD as the reserve currency)
    6. OTOH the army of bitcoin maximalists grows every day and is quite a strong force 
  1. Commodity:
    1. Similar to say physical steel; supply is limited; mining is needed to mint new coins; has high volatility; 

Risks to participation as a speculator

  1. Security
    1. A single double spend, or other weakness in the core consensus algo would destroy all value.
  1. Competition: Competition among peers, BTC vs ETH vs Doge vs CumRocket etc.
    1. Is this a winner take all market? Will there be one global ledger (blockchain) or many? Will some be more important than others?
    2. While easier to transfer if you have internet, physical stores like gold/diamonds/guns don’t need internet or electricity … 
    3. Central Banks could also create their own “coin”, and thus compete. They’d have the resources to force compliance, esp. from institutions & companies.
  1. Regulation
    1. IMHO Crypto is anti-fragile, regulation will spur innovation and make crypto even more resistant to threats.
    2. Something with this much demand is more likely to be taxed than outlawed; but heh, Cocaine has demand and it outlawed, so …

Risks that I don’t think are really risks, but hey, I could be wrong

  1. High volatility ; the USD exchange rate is volatile 
    1. Has not hurt adoption so far; # of wallets, nodes, transactions all rising
    2. High vol is good, it removes paper hands.
  1. Excessive Power Usage / Inefficient
    1. The network will and can vote to change from Proof of Work to say Proof of Stake or Proof of Space or something else
    2. This can be solved.
  1. Stability: 2.5 trn of crypto recently went thru a 30-50% drop in price; no FED/SEC stepped in to save the “banks”. No vultures (economists) jumped in to save the rich by stealing from the plebs (or Is the Fed meant to the opposite, protect the plebs? I get confused sometimes). Nothing bad happened, no systemic risk. There was plenty of leverage and those who took the leverage paid for it. No one else was affected. Imagine if the SPX plunged 50%; there would be carnage and the losses would be socialized. Crypto market cap is now > than top 2-3 banks I think – which should be considered systemically important! and yet nothing untoward happened when it tanked. The fact that Central Banks want to get in on the game, by making a digital currency (crypto) just legitimizes the model. It works. If you can’t beat ’em join ’em. 
  1. Lack of Utility:
    1. What is the utility of money if it cannot be exchanged for good & services? BTC is liquidateable at scale (100’s of M/day)…

Risks to adoption / Technical Risks

  • Low transaction speed; since every transaction must be broadcast / verified by every node, there is an inherent limit to the number of transactions per second. There are solutions like Bitcoin lightning, but there is no one clear winner as yet. This is also a problem for Ethereum and similar chains;
  • Poor UX: Wallets are not terribly easy to use; much easier to use hosted wallets like Coinbase, but then the distributed, pseudonymous nature of Bitcoin is lost.

Apple Earnings Call – Jan 27 2021

Notes from earnings call/transcripts:

  • 40% GM with 20% rev growth!
  • Rev up 21% YOY to $111B (Annual Rev: $300B)
  • EPS up 35% YOY
  • Operating Cash Flow: $38.8B
  • Gross Margin: 40% (39.8%, up 0.16 pts, products GM: 35.1%)
  • R&D Spend Last Qtr (Sep 30, 2020) grew at 21% YOY
    • Was 11% in June Qtr
    • This continues to be predictive…
  • USA sales: 36% of rev (64% international)
  • Installed Base: 1.65B devices
  • Services: $16B revenue (65% GM)
  • iPhone: 17% YOY Growth (installed base 1B)
    • #thought iPhone 12 looks visibly different ∴ China sales up
      • Also China, Korea => 5G well established; all new phone sales need 5G, which could have driven upgrades. USA, EU well behind, could have upgrade growth in the coming quarters.
      • Confirmatory Kremlinology; “I think you’ve seen that our performance has been particularly strong in China” – Luca
    • Vol growth is underestimate because of late launch; this is insane growth.
    • Both switchers and upgraders grew!
    • Mix skewed to higher ASP models (Pro, Pro Max). Oddly the iPhone 12 despite being fantastic value seems be under-represented
    • Tim Cook sees “opportunity” in India? HUH? 1% penetration, so where is this opportunity? 5G from Airtel + Jio (too small?), why was this bought up/mentioned?
  • iPad: 41%
    • #thought WFH favours iPads? It’s great for Zoom calls, great for kids schools. Was it something else? “And as COVID-19 kept us apart, we saw the highest volume of FaceTime calls ever this Christmas.” from Earnings Call Transcript
  • Mac: 21% ✔
    • M1 getting started, next qtr they will fix the touchbar, magsafe and the then it’s gonna be perfect 👌
  • Wearables+Home: 30% (WFH?)
  • Search Advertising: aka blackmail biz: going strong dude, thx for asking! (per Tim Cook)
  • Cash: $200B (approx)
  • Projections: Next Qtr:
    • Wearables+Home will be weaker;
    • AirPods Pro / Max will do great (supply constrained)

Enterprise / Server Cloud Storage (not “Personal” cloud storage)

Cheapest:

  • Backblaze B2: $5/Tb/mo (data transfer: $10/Tb)
  • Wasabi Storage: $5/Tb/mo (data transfer: ??)
  • OVH physical server: $3/Tb/mo (zero data transfer and other charges, but you do need to setup ZFS and some API layer software yourself).

Backblaze and Wasabi are both S3 compatible object stores. Note that data transfer can easily dominate storage charges, for even somewhat frequently accessed data. OVH is therefore much cheaper than it appears.

Other Options

  • google / gcloud: $10/Tb/mo
    • 1 Tb  => $10/mo ($120/pa)
    • Nearline (USA): 1000 * 0.01 => $10/mo (Using prices for nearline storage, South Carolina data center)
    • Nearline (Mumbai): 1000 * $0.016 = $16/mo ($200/pa)
    • Nearline has some charges if stored for less than 30d (min term). So could be a bit more than $10 (perhaps the same as S3’s intelligent tiering)
  • amazon / s3
    • 1 Tb => $12.5/mo  (between $12.5 and $20 because intelligent tiering will take some time to kick in).
    • Using prices for S3 Intelligent Tiering, USA data center: 1000 * 0.0125 => $12.5
  • Digital Ocean / volumes: (Block storage built on Ceph)
    • 1 Tb => $100/mo (approx 10x S3 prices, yiiikes.)
    • rsync’able storage
  • Digital Ocean / spaces: $0.02 gb/mo (S3 Compatible File Storage)
    • 1 Tb => $20/mo (about the same as S3 without intelligent tiering)
  • Backblaze B2: $5/Tb/mo
    • $10/Tb data transfer; cheaper than Amazon, but can still dominate.
    • S3 compatible API

Max value

Store HOT on Digital Ocean spaces (save on bandwidth)

Move older items to gcloud nearline or lower tier

#[[Hosting / Servers / Cloud Guide]]

“Free” SQL Databases

  • Heroku Postgres
    • Good & simple
  • IBM DB2: No credit card required, re-activate by email every 90 days
    • 200 MB of data storage
    • 15 simultaneous connections
    • Shared multitenant system
  • “Always free” Oracle Cloud instance (ptooie, slow as molasses) + apt install postgres
  • Supabase: Postgres, realtime, kinda like Firebase but with SQL and a real postgres instance. Free while in beta
  • Recommendations:

Timeseries Databases

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tl;dr use Timescale (open source extensions to postgres) – All the power, expressivity and ease of SQL w/horizontal scalability via partitioning. Like your own, Amazon RedShift. Faster and obvs. much cheaper than RedShit.

Other options:

  • InfluxDb (and cloud) – simplicity of ingest
  • ElasticSearch – needs a custom browse component (Kibana too complex)
  • Clickhouse, Vertica, Pilosa and others – “exotic” options, not really worth the effort, esp. given how good TimescaleDb is.

How to ingest:

  • v0: statsD -> influx (fast, cheap, quick, scalable)
  • v2 rsyslog (on each server) => central rsyslog => beanstalkd / kafka => (fan out) postgres (timescaledb) + mongo + influx + es

June 2020 🔥🔥 New JS Bundlers/Builders

A new generation of JS bundlers that use modern browser’s native ESM support promise to be much faster than the Webpack/Rollup style bundlers; They seem to be getting a lot of traction / tweets of late (search twitter)

Snowpack: https://snowpack.dev
HMR for Svelte mentioned in the Readme, which makes it a winner for me!

npx create-snowpack-app --template @snowpack/app-template-svelte new-folder

Snowpack is a faster build tool for modern web apps. Snowpack leverages ESM imports in your application to remove unnecessary bundling work during development. The end result is a build tool that starts up instantly and wastes no time rebuilding on every change. See changes reflected in the browser instantly.”

Other contenders:

esbuild: https://github.com/evanw/esbuild

Vite: https://github.com/vitejs/vite

  • Native-ESM powered web dev build tool. It’s fast. “
  • By vuejs
  • HMR for React, Preact, Vue. Svelte not mentioned…

Kinda related:

Sucrase (https://www.npmjs.com/package/sucrase) is like babel-lite; smaller scope, assumes modern browsers, upto 20x faster than babel and typescript. Instead of ts-node index.ts, try running sucrase-node index.ts.

Deno takes some inspiration from Go and pulls deps directly from GitHub without npm (or a package manager). I have yet to wrap my head around it … but conceptually I like the idea that a deno script is a “single” file rather than a pile of files. OTOH, PHP’s phar never gained as much traction … I mean when was the last time you downloaded a “cli script” that was actually a phar? Also deno is uses typescript natively.

Quarantine one liners that will crack you up!

  1. My body has absorbed so much soap and disinfectant lately that when I pee, it cleans the toilet.
  2. Half of us are going to come out of this quarantine as amazing cooks. The other half will come out with a drinking problem.
  3. I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.
  4. Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.
  5. This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house, told my dog….. we laughed a lot.
  6. Quarantine Day 4-Went to this restaurant called THE KITCHEN. You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have no clue how this place is still in business.
  7. I’m so excited — it’s time to take out the garbage. What should I wear?

— from a random WhatsApp forward

CoronaVirus Updates (Good News Only)

There is a lot of negativity all around re: coronavirus. It’s depressing. So, in the next posts, I am going to highlight positive developments.

With nearly every smart person on the planet working to find a cure – it’s only a matter of time before we have one. Looks like there are 2 possible treatments (meds) already:

* Remdesivir

* Chloroquine – generic, cheap and easily available – (if you’ve every had malaria, like me, you’ve probably had some version of chloroquine. I remember it tasting bitter’ish but otherwise had no side-effects on me)

(Low) code API integrations

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What does a distributed / internet operating system look like?

A platform that lets you natively read/write from modern apps? Make apps?

In some sense this is what IFTTT was going for – though consumer focussed, it is IMHO, a very example of a ‘no-code‘ development platform . It’s what Apple’s ‘Shortcuts’ aka Workflow is. It’s what Alexa skills are. I’m not sure Airtable fits, but Airtable got the marketing right.

And now we’re seeing the green shoots of a new generation; pipedream.com and autocode.stdlib.com. These are more developer focussed and provide the “plumbing”, but still need devs to actually make stuff. I’m a lot more excited (perhaps that’s cuz I’m a dev, and these platforms are targeted right at me). I think there’s going to be an explosion of new apps + services, because it’s just so, so easy and quick to knock out an app that uses say Twitter and Amazon S3 … is this how the promise of “serverless” will finally be delivered?

+QQQ

(Virtual) Server Pricing

My goto services:

#FREE => Heroku (but only one “VM” is free, then $7/mo for a 512Mb “Dyno”)

Super Cheap => OVH
don’t have an affiliate program AFAIK, cuz they’re so low cost 😦

Blend => Digital Ocean
Use my aff. link to sign up, you get $100, I get $10, everyone’s happy 🙂
Here => https://m.do.co/c/728c8434e1b1

Digital Ocean
Special sauce: Incredible UI/UX, super fun to use. I’ve stopped thinking about it anymore, when I need a VM, I just go to DO.

Downsides: Many (probably most?) of the IPs are blacklisted for email. Most aren’t great exits for VPN services either for the same reason.

CLI tool (doctl) has pretty shit UX; could have been so much better. But still it’s there and works in a pinch
$5/GB of RAM
Linode$5/GB of RAM
OVH
Special sauce: The lowest cost option, but it’s Canada and Europe only. No SE Asia, no USA.
$1.68/GB of RAM
Yep it’s 66% cheaper than everyone else.
Vultr
Special sauce: awesome plans with $2.50 for a node with IPv6 only, 512Mb RAM.
$5/Gb
Amazon LightSail
Special Sauce: oh well, it’s the IBM of servers, so I might as well document it here: They have this clone of Digital Ocean, called LightSail, that s3cks, obvs. It’s the same price as Linode/DO/Vultr. Available in a few more locations than most of the above (incl. Mumbai; Digital Ocean has Bangalore).

When to use: All the rest of your infra is on Amazon Cloud and you’re pathethic.
$5/GB of RAM
Heroku #FREE (owned by Salesforce, not indie and chill like they pretend)
Incredibly good tooling; 1x 512Mb Dyno is free (1000 Hours/mo if you verify with a credit card). Gets very expensive very fast though — because you are subsidising the development of developer tools and the “free” tier.
$14-$50/Gb of RAM
Prices as of June 5, 2019.

I may update this page someday, but then again I may not 🙂 Bookmark if you’re adventurous (ctrl + d, or cmd + d)