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Promising technologies
Apr 29th, 2014 by Ken Hagler

Recent­ly there have been a cou­ple of sto­ries about promis­ing pro-liberty tech­nolo­gies: Dark­Mar­ket, for enabling free mar­ket trans­ac­tions, and Dark Wal­let, for pre­serv­ing finan­cial pri­va­cy.

Not so interesting after all
Mar 18th, 2014 by Ken Hagler

It turns out that bit­coin vend­ing machine at the local cof­fee shop requires a palm print and a gov­ern­ment ID before it will sell you bit­coins. Nat­u­ral­ly, that killed my inter­est pret­ty quick­ly.

Interesting development
Mar 6th, 2014 by Ken Hagler

A few days ago the cof­fee shop near­est my apart­ment, Domini­can Joe, installed a Bit­coin vend­ing machine. I haven’t tried it yet, but accord­ing to the screen it can both buy and sell bit­coins.

A Bitcoin Introduction
Apr 14th, 2012 by Ken Hagler

Bit­coin — The Lib­er­tar­i­an Intro­duc­tion [On Life and Lib­er­ty — Erik Voorhees]

An excel­lent gen­er­al overview of what Bit­coin is. It does gloss over a few things that I con­sid­er prob­lem areas, though, so I’ll men­tion them here.

The first time a new user launch­es the Bit­coin client, it has to down­load the exist­ing blockchain (that is, the record of all pre­vi­ous Bit­coin trans­ac­tions). Right now this is about 1.5 GB, which may not seem like much to any­one with a good Inter­net con­nec­tion, but the down­load mech­a­nism is extreme­ly slow. This means that the first-time user’s expe­ri­ence is going to be along the lines of “launch the client and wait at least a day before you can do any­thing with it.” This is like­ly to put off any­one with a casu­al inter­est, espe­cial­ly giv­en the way that it’s glossed over by Bit­coin advo­cates. In the­o­ry this will even­tu­al­ly be over­come by clients that don’t down­load the entire blockchain, but it’s cer­tain­ly a prob­lem now.

While the decen­tral­ized nature of Bit­coin makes it invul­ner­a­ble to the kind of gov­ern­ment attacks that have destroyed ear­li­er attempts at alter­nate cur­ren­cies such as e-gold and the Lib­er­ty Dol­lar, it’s still pos­si­ble for some­one with more than 50% of the network’s com­put­ing pow­er to destroy it. This is the thing that has me wary about Bitcoin’s future, as the Evil Empire does in fact have a great deal of com­put­ing pow­er avail­able and a pre­vi­ous­ly demon­strat­ed will­ing­ness to destroy alter­nate cur­ren­cies. As Bit­coin increas­es in pop­u­lar­i­ty the net­work will get big­ger until it’s beyond any government’s abil­i­ty to destroy, but it’s still a dan­ger now while it’s not wide­ly used.

Final­ly, Bit­coin is based on cryp­tog­ra­phy, which in most respects is a very good thing. How­ev­er, in cryp­tog­ra­phy some­thing which is unbreak­able today may not (indeed, prob­a­bly will not) be unbreak­able in twen­ty years. When you’re secur­ing your hard dri­ve that doesn’t mat­ter, because you can just upgrade the encryp­tion as need­ed, but when your mon­ey sup­ply is depen­dent on the secu­ri­ty of SHA-256, it’s a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. I haven’t seen any­thing I’d con­sid­er reli­able on just how eas­i­ly (if at all) the algo­rithms behind Bit­coin can be changed when it becomes nec­es­sary.

Donating to WikiLeaks
Jul 15th, 2011 by Ken Hagler

The Evil Empire has done every­thing it can to shut down dona­tions to Wik­iLeaks, and it’s been pret­ty suc­cess­ful. I decid­ed to try mak­ing a dona­tion of $100 using one of the alter­na­tive meth­ods avail­able: Bit­coin. This was a multi-step process. First, I had to trans­fer mon­ey from my check­ing account to Dwol­la, which took four days. From there, I trans­ferred the mon­ey to Mt. Gox, which took anoth­er day. Once it was there I pur­chased $100 worth of bit­coins, which was about 7.14 at the time. Final­ly, I sent those bit­coins to the dona­tion address for Wik­iLeaks. The last two steps took just a few min­utes, most of which was spent deal­ing with the Mt. Gox inter­face.

Over­all, this was rather incon­ve­nient due to the has­sle involved in actu­al­ly get­ting the bit­coins. I expect this will only get worse in the future, as Bit­coin is some­thing of a com­peti­tor for Dwol­la. Pay­pal has a long-standing pol­i­cy of cut­ting off busi­ness­es which are in any way involved with alter­na­tive cur­ren­cies (steal­ing their bal­ances in the process)–we saw that with e-gold well before they were attacked by the Evil Empire. I wouldn’t be at all sur­prised if Dwol­la either adopt­ed an anti­com­pet­i­tive pol­i­cy them­selves, or else were ordered to by Gestapo agents.

The good news that once I actu­al­ly got my hands (fig­u­ra­tive­ly) on the bit­coins, it was triv­ial to bypass the block­ade on Wik­iLeaks.

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