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Comment Re:Crap, the sky is falling (Score 1) 334

Actually that's not the case. For apps running on your phone, they are using simplified payment verification in which the contents of the blocks are not validated (the block headers themselves are). So they are agnostic to the kind of issue that led to the unexpected hard fork. Yes this kind of consensus failure is pretty disastrous but it didn't actually affect many end users, and will only get rarer in future as testing improves.

Comment Re:It's not a full node (Score 5, Informative) 150

A full node is a really, really large amount of work. I feel that lots of people don't realise this, get enthusiastic and think, "I love Bitcoin! I love Go! I'll write Bitcoin in Go" where for Go you can substitute basically any language that's fun or popular. Then they write the easy bits (like wire marshalling) and eventually the project dies around the time that it's time to implement the wallet or Bloom filtering or robust test suites. Possibly Conformal is different, we'll have to wait and see, but the feature set they advertised in their blog is very much what has been seen many times before. In particular there's no handling of the block chain, re-orgs, no wallet and they haven't got any infrastructure to test edge cases.

One reason implementing Bitcoin properly is not fun is an entire class of bugs that doesn't exist in normal software - chain splitting bugs - which can be summed up as "Your software behaves how you thought it's supposed to work rather than how the original bitcoind actually does work". Bitcoin is highly unusual in that it implements group consensus - lots of nodes have to perform extremely complicated calculations and arrive at exactly the same result in lockstep, to a far far higher degree of accuracy than other network protocols. This means that you have to replicate the same set of bugs bitcoind has. Failure to do so can lead to opening up security holes via consensus failure which can in turn lead to double spending (and thus your users lose money!).

Being compatible with the way bitcoind is written (bugs and all) may require you to break whatever abstractions you have introduced to make the code cleaner or more elegant or whatever reason you have for reimplementing Bitcoin. Here's a trivial example - signatures in Bitcoin have an additional byte that basically selects between one of a few different modes. It's actually one of three modes plus a flag. So a natural way to implement this is as an enum representing the three modes plus a boolean for the flag. But that won't work. There is a transaction in the block chain which has a sighash flag that doesn't fit any of the pre-defined values (it's zero) and because Satoshi's code uses bit testing it still works. But if you turn the flag into an enum, when you re-serialise the mode flags you'll re-serialise it wrong and arrive at an incorrect result. So you have to pass these flags around as integers and select via bit testing as well.

Bitcoin is full of these kinds of weird edge cases. Eventually you come to realise that reimplementing it is dangerous and probably whatever benefits you thought it had, it probably doesn't. Some people believe there should be independent reimplementations anyway and I can understand and respect that, but doing it safely is an absolutely massive piece of work. You have to really, really, really believe in diversity to do it - the features of language-of-the-day aren't good enough to justify the effort.

Comment Re:Why explain himself? (Score 1) 176

Because I don't believe MPs are really in need of random company executives to teach them how their own laws work? And this is random - lots of companies sell into the UK, have offices there, and book profits in some other, including one that Hodge is herself involved with. So how are these people picked ... well, by how well known their brands are. So Hodge can look tough in the tabloids. I am struggling to see what other rationale there could be.

I agree that they need to learn about the issues in order to construct well thought out changes. If Margaret Hodge is confused about how corporation tax works, she could go talk to the experts who work for HMRC and they will happily talk to her all day. Or alternatively just spend some time reading articles about it on the internet.

Comment Re:Why explain himself? (Score 3, Interesting) 176

That's not how the law is written. The money that is being charged for the ads are paid to the Irish subsidiary. Therefore Irish taxes apply. There's no legal definition for what it means to "make a sale" in that regard and the location of the first person you talk to on the phone makes no difference. Otherwise if you call up a company and your purchase is handled by an Indian call center, is the sale suddenly taxable in India now even if you're a Brit and pay a British company? No, that's not how tax works.

If someone thought the law was actually being broken, then the right thing to do is for HMRC to prosecute. Not summon random executives to "explain themselves" to Parliament. That's a waste of time that is guaranteed to achieve nothing.

Comment Re:Why explain himself? (Score 1, Interesting) 176

Also, there's nothing really to explain here. Nobody is claiming the law has been broken or tax was mispaid. Hodge is just an idiot who wants to spend more money to make herself more popular and is holding "show trials" of companies who she believes somehow are too good at taking deductions. This is hilarious because she herself has a stake in a large company that uses exactly the same tax strategies.

Comment Passports are encrypted (Score 4, Interesting) 236

The data on a passport is encrypted with a key derived from the "machine readable zone" that's inside the book. To decrypt the data available via NFC you have to actually optically scan the open page. In addition US passports have a shielded chip so the book has to be open to be readable.

Comment Re:Mountain out of a molehill (Score 1) 322

The article calling for giving up the constitution isn't calling for the establishment of a police state, as you seem to be implying. It's pointing out that arguing over interpretation of an ancient document that doesn't evolve with the needs of the time is unnecessary for freedom (as evidenced by other countries and America's presidents own frequent disregard for it), and causes unnecessary problems. Example: people who justify gun ownership not on any kind of reasoned argument about the needs of the time, but just "because the constitution says so". There may well be good arguments for high rates of gun ownership in 2013 but "someone thought it was a good idea hundreds of years ago" probably isn't one of them.

Comment Re:Speculation (Score 1) 293

The credit of the USA is itself issued in dollars, so you can't say the dollar is backed by that. Say it's "backed" by taxes or the military or anything else, but credit isn't an option. And BTW I'd say you can't back a currency by levelling taxes in it. That might create demand for it, but in the most extreme scenario of total Bitcoin success combined with total govt/people disconnect, then nothing stops you living entirely in Bitcoins and come tax time buying dollars with them, giving them to the government which then turns around and sells them back for Bitcoins so it can pay its suppliers.

Comment Re:Did he really do it? (Score 3, Insightful) 99

Let's apply Occam's Razor. We have two competing explanations.

One is that the Swedish prosecution is hopelessly corrupt and has decided to level very, very specific yet trumped up charges against him, despite having successfully prosecuted him before for running the Pirate Bay (so there isn't much more to be had by doing it again).

The other is that a guy who made profits out of massive piracy of other peoples work doesn't have any moral qualms about stealing things from other peoples computers. Note that even his friend/partner in crime Sunde isn't willing to actually state in public he thinks the guy is innocent - rather telling.

I'm gonna take a wild guess and say the right answer is probably two. But let's wait and see what comes out at the trial.

Comment Re:Patent troll (Score 0, Flamebait) 112

If I recall correctly CSIRO are the guys who claimed to employ the scientist who invented wifi and proceeded to tell the whole world how this great Australian invention had been ripped off by nasty companies who just didn't want to give them their fair dues. The reality of course is that nobody in particular invented wifi, it was the result of many standards committees and donated technologies from lots of companies, and CSIRO was in fact just a patent troll.

Comment Re:Bitcoin (Score 2) 138

The idea that the government (and government) would try and screw with the block chain is ridiculous, there's no way that would help them achieve their goals. If there's any kind of analysis the NSA would want to do, it'd be analysing the block chain and possibly crossing it with their own crawl of the web/peoples emails/etc. If Bitcoin were to get large enough to be of interest to the NSA (which I doubt would happen anytime soon), de-anonymising the block chain is what they'd be interested in - not out running it.

Comment Re:Your kid, spending your money . . . (Score 1) 152

One other thing I recall the OFT investigating is/was people who took free government provided online services, repackaged them in app form and then sold them to unwitting people who didn't realize the services were meant to be free. Which seems like something that should indeed be handled, although I'm not sure if it really violates any law or how one might write a law to stop it.

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