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Comment: Moores Law (Score 1) 122

by James McGuigan (#46439981) Attached to: iRobot CEO: Humanoid Robots Too Expensive To Be the Norm

If it becomes technically possible to build a fully functioning humanoid robot, regardless of the price, then one will be built. Once this happens, Moore's law will start to kick in, as will the cost benefits of mass production. In fact all you need to do is to build a self-replicating robot, and call it skynet.

  "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility." -- Lee DeForest, inventor.

Comment: Re:theft-proof by design? (Score 1) 465

by James McGuigan (#46367499) Attached to: MtGox Files For Bankruptcy Protection

The bitcoin protocol itself works by having every transaction public, this is all stored in the blockchain. I send you a coin, and publicly announce this with a message signed with my private key. If I try to spend the same coin twice, then this is where the transaction confirmation chain kicks in (and why you need to wait for X number of confirmations). When you announce sending a coin to somebody else, I see the message, and additionally sign your transaction message with my private key and add it to the blockchain. The next person to see the transaction, will again sign on top of all the previous confirmations.

If I try to double spend a coin, then there will be two different sets of transaction history. The bitcoin client is configured to accept the transaction confirmation chain with the most number of signatures as valid, the other one is ignored. Additionally, clients in the network will only additionally sign the chain they believe is valid. Once you get more than a few signatures, its almost computationally impossible to fake a confirmation chain faster than the network, assuming you don't have 51%+ CPU dominance (which is the worry about going rogue).

The MtGox issue is that they wrote their own custom bitcoin software to deal with the running of a high transaction volume exchange. They where not waiting for transaction confirmations from the network to check their own internal transactions. Their software was buggy and suffered from an exploit using Transaction Malleability. See

The best real world bank analogy, is if you where to go to a cashpoint ATM outside a bank, withdraw money from the system, then enter a special code into the ATM which makes it display an error message. You then go into the bank and show them the error message, and ask them to refund the ATM withdrawal from your account claiming the ATM never gave you any cash (but in truth you did get the cash). This process didn't create new cash out of thin air, in practice you just got the bank to give you free money.

Eventually the bank becomes bankrupt, and you discover that what you actually own is not cash but rather an IOU from the bank for cash, which the bank can't pay.

Comment: Re:Why not gas? (Score 1) 1038

by James McGuigan (#45995139) Attached to: Controversial Execution In Ohio Uses New Lethal Drug Combination

Ah but we want a "civilized" execution. The last meal is the buy the prisoners cooperation with the process.

The prisoner may or may not have accepted his fate, but you don't want that "oh shit, its finally happening" moment and for him to suddenly fight and struggle, it would ruin the show for the "civilized audience". The prisoner may know logically, knows he is going to die at some point in the near future, but survival instincts can be very powerful.

Comment: Re: Cloud != Backup (Score 2) 310

by James McGuigan (#45833021) Attached to: 4 Tips For Your New Laptop

There are two aspects to data security. The first is can anybody else gain access to make a copy. The NSA probably has backdoor access to Dropbox, as anybody who can guess your username and password (just like an open ssh server). So having a strong unique password is important (just like for your email account). Anything really important (like my bitcoin wallet) is encrypted locally with a strong password before being mirrored to Dropbox, but otherwise I don't believe the NSA would be a threat to my personal safety even if they did know the contents of my filesystem.

Dropbox acts as a real-time offsite backup. The security here is that if I lose my laptop (and local backup disks), then worst case I can simply buy a new laptop, download all my personal documents from Dropbox and start working again on the same file I was working on just before my laptop disappeared, with minimal lost work assuming I am connected to the internet (a local backup will miss all work since the last backup). Its worth having an occasional local backup solution as well, such as an Apple Time Machine, as a backup for the backup.

Dropbox also guards against file corruption. Usually this takes the form of "opps, I didn't mean to delete/overwrite that file". These will usually occur to files I am actively working on and the previous desired version of the file may have been written only minutes/hours ago. This includes programming files that have got yet been committed to version control. A daily backup won't help here, but Dropbox will (I just need to login to the website and click undelete or previous version).

So in short, Dropbox is a very convenient real-time offsite backup that can protect against both catastrophic data loss and individual file corruption. It even doubles as a basic automatic version control system for your filesystem. The bet is that that I won't lose my laptop at the same time the Dropbox servers suffer catastrophic data loss as I can always reupload my data if Dropbox loses all its data. The security risk is that you are potentially exposing your data to Dropbox, the NSA and anybody who can successfully guess your username/password.

Comment: Dune (Score 5, Insightful) 691

by James McGuigan (#45735231) Attached to: Why Charles Stross Wants Bitcoin To Die In a Fire

“Control the coinage and the courts -- let the rabble have the rest.” Thus the
Padishah Emperor advises you. And he tells you: "If you want profits, you must
rule." There is truth in these words, but I ask myself: "Who are the rabble and
who are the ruled?"

-Muad'Dib's Secret Message to the Landsraad from "Arrakis Awakening" by the
Princess Irulan

Comment: Re:If you can read Chinese you pay twice in China (Score 1) 333

by James McGuigan (#45606767) Attached to: China Prefers Sticking With Dying Windows XP To Upgrading

But once you have gone to the trouble of deciding to support a new language/market, such as China, the production cost of making translations available on all your offerings is virtually nil. In the code settings it's most likely a set of a parameter settings within a unified codebase. The language pack option suggests that apart from a little install space, its not a difficult change.

The core logic here is economics and profit maximization. Software has a high up front build cost, then a virtually zero marginal cost to produce future units. Copyright is a government enforced monopoly. Piracy is the non-monopoly free-market price of software based on its marginal cost of production (ie free, or simply the the cost of CD media plus retail markup).

Profit = (Price - MarginalCostPerUnit) * Quantity - InitialCosts

Assuming no piracy, For each individual there is a maximum price they would be willing to pay for the product before they would choose not to buy it, or to switch to something else. A business running a standardized Windows setup would, if forced, likely pay a very high price for more copies of Windows as long as its less than the cost of switching their entire setup. A chinaman with access to torrents is likely only to be willing to pay a small fee to "go legit".

The laws of Supply and Demand in market economics means the quantity is heavily dependent upon price for a given market. A lower market price means more people will find the market price less than the price they would be willing to pay, overall it can increase profit, but it comes at the cost of making less money on all the previous units sold (this is known as poisoning previous sales).

In a perfectly price discriminating market, everybody would be haggled up to the maximum price they would individually be willing to pay. This is not possible. But the average American has a far high disposable income than the average Chinese. Thus you maximize profit by selling to the rich Americans at the price they are willing to pay, and to the chinese at the price they are willing to pay, and make it very hard for the chinese to see their copies to the Americans.

Comment: Re:Anyone in politics should absoutely love this! (Score 3, Interesting) 233

by James McGuigan (#45462407) Attached to: US Government Embraces Bitcoin in Hearing on Virtual Currency

This could be solved by a "paypal" like anonymous bitcoin transfer/laundering service.

You make your payment to the transfer service, and they make payment to the hooker using a random selection of coins from their collective "pool". There could be a few obfuscating transfers in the middle of the process, and possibly an apparently "respectable name" as the payment beneficiary. The transfer service would charge a commission of course.

All the wife/government would be able to trace is that payment was made to a known anonymous bitcoin transfer service... which still leaves the question of what are you hiding?

Of course you could always create a special one time throwaway bitcoin wallet for suspicious purchases. Do It Yourself Virtualized Pimping.

Money is the root of all wealth.