Ben: Today is Saturday, the 7 of June, 2014. Welcome to the fourth in a series of community interviews with Sunny King, Architect of the Peercoin and Primecoin cryptocurrencies.
Ben: Following the model we used last time, the format of today’s interview will be a moderated chat, and the questions that will be directed to Sunny King are ones that were suggested and selected by the community. A copy of those questions can be found here: http://www.peercointalk.org/index.php?topic=2705.0
Ben: This chat is scheduled for 60 minutes. Any questions that are not addressed during this interview will be tabled for a follow-up interview that will be scheduled for a time in the coming week(s). Details will follow if that is needed.
Ben: We’d like to request that during this interview that any questions for Sunny King or I are asked in the #Peercoin Freenode IRC channel. I’ll do my best to move those questions in to the main interview chat, as possible.
Ben: The link to that chatroom is: https://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=peercoin
Ben: Finally, for those of you who were not in attendance during the last interview, to introduce myself, I’m Ben Rossi, a member of the cryptocurrency community. For full disclosure, I’m a holder of Peercoin, Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Nxt, and am an active contributor to the Peershares and Peerunity projects.
Ben: Thank you for joining us today, Sunny King.
Sunny King: Thanks Ben for hosting
Ben: Last time we chatted, we spent a lot of time talking about how Peercoin has evolved, and where it is positioned to go in the future
Ben: Open Transactions, the Peercoin network transaction fee, and proof-of-stake minting enhancements
Ben: Is there anything that you’d like to follow-up with that came to mind about any of the topics we previously discussed during the past couple of days?
Sunny King: I think we also talked a bit about side chains, and I intend to put some focus in this area this year.
Ben: If not, we can jump into different, but related questions that the community is interested in hearing about. But I wanted to give you the opportunity to return to any of the previous discussions.
Sunny King: Sure, feel free to go ahead
Ben: Ah, yes, there was the side-chains conversation, as well. Thank you. (@Sentinelrv, could you please post the link to the previous interview?)
Ben: Well, in that case, let’s get started. I’m sure that we’ll touch on those items during today’s conversation, too.
Sentinelrv: Here you go: http://www.peercointalk.org/index.php?topic=2862.0
Ben: Primecoin is one of the two cryptos that you released. While the Primecoin community is smaller than the Peercoin one, there are a lot of dire hard supporters.
Ben: There is some confusion in the community about the purpose of Primecoin, how it relates to Peercoin, and how it should be marketed.
Ben: Could you please comment on the relationship between Peercoin and Primecoin, and their intended respective purposes?
Sunny King: Primecoin is a different approach to Peercoin as to the energy problem of cryptocurrency. In my opinion proof-of-work would stay for quite some time as at least one of the major security models of decentralized consensus, so putting the computing power to something more useful than just hashing is definitely an important improvement there
Sunny King: Let’s put it this way, Adam’s hashcash is cool, but at this point it’s rather boring don’t you think? I think implementing primality testing in ASIC is a lot more useful for computing industry than just a bunch of hash functions, although that’s probably my prejudice
Ben: I’ve noticed that Primecoin recently broke another world record
Sunny King: We know that the current market is highly competitive, right now the scientific approach is not very well capitalized by market. There are a few other networks, all not very well capitalized at the moment. So primecoin is still leading the scientific proof-of-work market.
Ben: Has there been any academic discussion about how these very long Cunningham chains can be put to practical use, beyond as a mechanism to protect cryptocurrencies?
Sunny King: Yes we claimed 14-prime chain record. So primecoin is holding 10-primes through 14-primes world records at the moment.
Sunny King: Not that I am aware of, however these structures have some link to cryptography, so you never know.
Ben: I may be the only one, but I’m excited at the prospect that proof-of-work using the Primecoin algorithm could be put to use pushing scientific research forward. Hopefully we’ll hear about interest from outside the cryptography and cryptocurrency domains in the near future
Sunny King: Regarding the relations between peercoin and primecoin, they are designed to each be contenders to the energy efficient and energy intensive market sector of cryptocurrencies
Ben: Did you envision a time where they would be linked at a more fundamental level?
Ben: For instance, is there a development path that could lead to Primecoin someday providing the proof-of-work component for Peercoin?
Sunny King: Most likely not in this fashion, I think peercoin is more likely to move to stop proof-of-work rather than switch to prime mining
Ben: Would you ever consider opening up development for a wallet that could support both XPM and PPC?
Sunny King: But I think primecoin would get its own eco system. If infrastructures of side chains are developed, there will be both for peercoin and primecoin.
Sunny King: As for combined wallet, that’s probably too early to say at the moment.
Ben: That’s an interesting thought, and one that I had not considered, to be honest.
Ben: The codebases for Primecoin and Peercoin are similar enough that a lot of the development advancements in one (outside of their core hashing schemes or proof-of-work), could be repurposed to work in the other.
Ben: What is the next logical step in Primecoin development on your roadmap?
Sunny King: The main problem is to keep sync with bitcoin’s bug fix and new features. Bitcoin’s codebase is not very amenable to multi currency wallet development. But this is also something to be looking at from side chain development point-of-view. Currently I think spending the effort to just combine wallet is probably too costly.
Ben: As someone with first-hand experience working with the Qt wallet code, I think that “not very amenable” is a accurate description
Sunny King: Like I said, I am looking at possible side chain infrastructure development, we don’t want to be left behind bitcoin in this area.
Ben: A related question, and I’ll use the submitter’s words to preface it…
Sunny King: In fact I have been thinking along this line since 2011. Originally I was thinking about supporting data applications inside peercoin network.
Ben: Let’s talk about that a bit (and then come back to the next question)
Sunny King: The main problem is blockchain is not quite scalable for such purposes.
Ben: When you use the term “data applications,” what do you have in mind? Would these be different cryptoassets, or something else?
Sunny King: And there are many many different data applications, so the thing would get very crowded
Sunny King: It could be cryptoassets related, ripple has been the pioneer in this, namecoin another pioneer in domain name application, you could have say messaging, or things like file system such as what super3 is considering
Sunny King: So the best approach is probably to let each application have it’s own side chain I think, not to interfere with the usability of base currency network
Sentinelrv: For those interested, this is Super3’s project: http://storj.io/
Ben: It sounds like you’d be a supporter if anyone wants to work on a “PeerMessage” ala BitMessage, or to take things in a whole different direction
Sunny King: I think yeah if we can provide the infrastructure to other developers that would be very useful
Ben: That’s actually comment is actually a nice segue into the last Primecoin related question I had from the community
Ben: The original poster had phrased it something like this:
Ben: I’m working as a “data scientist” (large-scale biology and sequence analysis, setting up workflows and providing understandable ways to visualize such data usually through web-interfaces, as a PostDoc).
Ben: If they were to ‘donate’ a week of their time to develop something for Primecoin, what would you like to see created?
Sunny King: I think right now it’s just a matter of understanding the importance of cryptocurrency movement, I certainly hope the scientific community could put some effort behind primecoin network, say accepting both bitcoin and primecoin.
Sunny King: You could also think about possible side chain applications for scientific use. I think there could be lot of things to be moved to blockchain
Ben: (If anyone else has ideas that they would like to run by the community, please post them on the Primecoin forums.)
Ben: We’re now 60 minutes in. How are you doing for time, Sunny?
Sunny King: I can stay for a while no problem.
Ben: Excellent. Ready for a couple of more technical topics?
Sunny King: Sure go ahead
Ben: Other than the current exchange rate (but that’s a very recent item), it’s been my impression that one of the more prominent concerns that the Peercoin community has relates to how we can respond to criticisms about the current implementation of checkpoints.
Ben: You’ve stated on the record in the past that you’d like to eventually find a way phase them out, or, at least evolve the design to build upon the rest of the decentralized aspects of the block chain.
Sunny King: The checkpoints is there for temporary protection. It can be removed right now, but unlike some of our competitors who don’t quite care about security, I take it very seriously. Last time I mentioned that even though proof-of-stake security is getting stronger during last year, we could do a lot better still.
Sunny King: There are ongoing discussions of improvements related to security enhancement, which might be implemented in v0.5
Ben: In your opinion, is there a point in-between today’s checkpoint implementation and “no checkpoints at all” that would provide less of a target for criticism?
Ben: And addressing your previous statement, these “ongoing discussions of improvements related to security enhancements” – beside yourself, who are the others who are involved in those discussions?
Sunny King: sigmike and a few others have pretty good discussions.
Sunny King: Regarding broadcast checkpoints, we would consider removing it in v0.5
Sunny King: there are two active considerations of security enhancement, one related to cold minting, another to a better reward model to incentivize minters
Ben: Am I correct, then, to understand that the viability of checkpoints (and when they can be mostly or fully phased out) is mostly dependent on these proposed security enhancements?
Sunny King: Not really, we can remove it now without these enhancements.
Ben: Let’s assume that the consensus was “Yes, the Peercoin network is mature and secure enough to remove checkpoints,” would we still want to keep them in for their originally intended purpose, which I believe was to prevent DoS attacks against the network? (Also, as far as I know, this is how Bitcoin still uses them)
Sunny King: There is still the bitcoin style checkpoint in source code
Ben: I’m trying to get inside the head of people who will read the statement, “Not really, we can remove it now without these enhancements.” and immediately come up with a criticism or accusation.
Sunny King: the purpose of broadcast checkpoint is to defend against double spending when the proof-of-stake security is still not strong enough, or when certain bugs enables such attacks
Ben: What data points (number of active nodes, number of unique addresses that have solved blocks with proof-of-stake, etc.) can people use to reach their own conclusions about the overall security of the network, absent of broadcast checkpoints?
Sunny King: Let me clarify, what I mean is that the checkpoint will be disabled like in primecoin, but if an emergency occurrs and the community has general consensus, I can still broadcast them but users would need to explicitly issue a command to enforce checkpoint
Sunny King: mostly it’s the proof-of-stake difficulty which is the most important stat.
Ben: Presumably the higher that is, the more active minters, which means less centralization and increased resistance to 51% stake attacks?
Sunny King: This is useful against DoS on transaction processing but less effective against double spending
Sunny King: Yes it generally means a higher participation in proof-of-stake minting
Ben: And by “51% stake attack,” I mean someone holding greater than 51% of the available coinage that is actively being used to attempt to mint blocks – not someone who is holding 51% of the available PPC in circulation
Ben: Do you have any guidance on what the community can do to ensure network security? Is it as simple as “start minting”?
Sunny King: Right that’s sort of comparable to 51% attack in bitcoin
Sunny King: I know many users are hesitant to do this because of risk of getting hacked. That’s why the cold minting feature is an important consideration
Sunny King: Before that feature is implemented, you can do two things to help mitigate the risk
Sunny King: One is to use the ‘minting only’ unlock mode for minting with an encrypted wallet
Sunny King: The other is to proxy your minting node behind tor
Ben: For the second mitigation strategy, we, the community, can help educate people about setting up Tor and enabling the proxy settings on their wallet client
Ben: Or, as Peerchemist and I were discussing earlier today in chat, offer a “Tor defaulted” option for the Peercoin Raspberry Pi distribution
Ben: Cold-minting is big, and as you’ve probably seen from the forums, a topic that is of huge interest.
Sunny King: Yes it’s one of the high priority items
Ben: Getting from where we are, today, to the point in the future where cold-minting is offered seems like it will be a bigger task than for just one developer.
Ben: Or, rather, a bigger task to get it in place in a timeline that will encourage people to wait for it
Sunny King: Yes I think in the past year the community has gained lot of strength in technical capabilities, this is demostrated by the development of peerunity and peershare projects, a high quality of technical discussions,
Sunny King: I think this feature should be developed in a larger development group, rather than me calling the shots
Ben: Would this larger development group be involved in the Peercoin v0.5 cycle, or are you looking to release that, and then bring additional developers on to the project?
Sunny King: The merge with bitcoin 0.8 is done and under testing. In fact the develop branch is already opened for v0.5.
Sunny King: But the inclusion of the security enhancement should involve other developers I think, most likely from the peerunity and peershare project teams
Ben: For those of you following along at home, here’s a link to that branch – http://github.com/ppcoin/ppcoin/tree/develop
Ben: That’s great to hear, about the merger with Bitcoin’s 0.8.x codebase. Do you expect to release that as a stand-alone upgrade for Peercoin, once you’ve conducted testing? Would this be Peercoin v0.5?
Sunny King: We’ll see about this, it depends on the progress of the proposals and community consensus.
Ben: Also, is it at a point where it would be useful for the community to begin to test the :develop branch and provide feedback?
Sunny King: Sure you can test it, but not use as production of course! It’s not refined keep in mind. I will go through the pull requests next week.
Ben: How soon do you expect that you’ll add collaborators to the official Peercoin repository?
Sunny King: Probably very soon, I am still communicating to the project teams
Ben: Can we expect you around PeercoinTalk.org more frequently in the coming weeks and months, and hear more about your thoughts on different discussions that are on-going?
Sunny King: Yes I should, maybe we could do daily free chat for 20 minutes, something like that
Ben: Oh, I see, just put that out there publicly, with no regard for my job security…
Ben: I’m kidding! The idea of frequent chats will be really popular around the community. Let’s make that happen.
Ben: We’ve reached the 2 hour mark in the interview, and I’d like to be respectful of your time. There are a few more questions that the community has raised, that I’d like to return to during a follow-up interview, but is there anything that you would like to address anything before we wrap up for today?
Sunny King: Thanks Ben, both our projects are aimed for long term and I believe the crypto movement is very very important event of our times, so keep studying, innovating, let’s make the future together
Ben: Thank you, too, Sunny King, for spending time with us today.
Sunny King: Thanks all for tuning in and see you guys next time
Ben: For the next interview, there will be a diverse set of questions, mainly focused on your thoughts about cryptocurrencies, in general
NewMoneyEra: Thanks Sunny for leading us toward a future of greater liberty!
Sunny King: Sure, I’d love to get philosophical
Ben: A few personal questions… and I’d like to address one more of the “elephants in the room,” the so-called “nothing at stake” criticism.
Ben: I’ll be in touch in the near future, and we can schedule the follow-up.
Ben: Like before, I’d appreciate feedback from the community about this interview, and how the format worked. Please don’t hesitate to send me a PM with your comments and suggestions.
Ben: We’ll be posting a transcript of this chat, shortly, and it will be posted here on PeercoinTalk.org
Ben: For those who were able to view this interview live, thank you all for tuning in, and for providing commentary and follow-up questions in the #Peercoin chatroom
Ben: Have a great afternoon, evening, or morning, everyone!