What’s the best crypto-wallet for daily use?

Cryptocurrency is different than fiat money, as you probably already know.  But those differences make a HUGE impact on how you choose which wallet software to use.  And it’s all about control… YOUR control over your own money.

Let’s begin…

Rather than telling you which wallet apps are best, I’m going to lay out the features you need to look for in wallets, and the ones you need to DEMAND.  In other words, in the “demand” features, you should remove any wallet from consideration that does NOT have the complete “demand” list.  Other features, that may help, but are not deal breakers will be listed as “nice to haves”.  One of the reasons I’m not listing any wallets is because that would make this article dated eventually.  What I’m presenting here should be relevant for decades to come.

DEMAND

  1. Open Source:  If the software wallet you’re considering is NOT open source, then ditch it immediately!  Why?  Because open source wallets have no secrets.  Their entire source code is freely available for anyone to inspect, to guarantee there are no malicious intentions hidden behind the scenes.  Closed source wallets are a black box and you’re throwing out any chance of verification of honesty and relying SOLELY on the word of the wallet creator.  The whole point of cryptocurrency technology is that you DO NOT TRUST ANYONE ELSE WITH YOUR MONEY!  And that INCLUDES programmers… ESPECIALLY programmers!  And I say that AS A PROGRAMMER, MYSELF!
    1. Addendum:  Just because a wallet CLAIMS to be “open source”, doesn’t mean it IS.  For example, I could publish a closed source wallet and just CLAIM it’s “open source” and people would just believe it and download and use it, while I never publish the source code.  So, if some app CLAIMS it’s open source, DON’T BELIEVE THEM… EVER!  You go and FIND the source code (usually on https://gitlab.com or https://github.com) and verify the source code exists.  A reputable wallet author will also provide you a link to the source along with the binary to download.
    2. In addition to FINDING the source code, make sure you download the app FROM the source code repository’s binaries, NOT from an app store or anywhere else!
    3. If you’re a programmer, just download the source and compile it yourself and use THAT!  If you’re NOT a programmer, do #1.2 above.
  2. Must be an app that runs on your own hardware.  In other words, if it’s a website, then you’ve just completely obliterated the ENTIRE PURPOSE of cryptocurrency.  A website “wallet” is NOT a wallet.  It’s a BANK!  THEY are a centralized authority holding YOUR money.  By definition, if YOU are not in control of it, then it isn’t YOUR money, it’s THEIRS.  They ALLOW you to access it, until they DON’T!  Stay away from online wallets, with the brief exception of online exchanges where you EXCHANGE your cryptocurrency for fiat money or vice/versa.  But as SOON as you acquire crypto from an online exchange, you MOVE IT IMMEDIATELY into your OWN wallet!
    1. This means that you must DOWNLOAD an app (desktop or mobile).  And I recommend staying away from browser plugin wallets.  Browsers are just not a safe enough environment.
  3. Your keys or seed phrases are not transmitted over the internet FOR ANY REASON!  Your keys ARE your money!  Whomever holds they keys, holds and OWNS the money.  This is the very core and soul of cryptocurrency.  It’s its reason for being.  NO ONE other than YOU should EVER know your seed phrase or passwords… EVER!!!

NICE TO HAVES

  1. Easy to use user interface.  A lot of people mistakenly think this is a “demand” feature, but you’re better off with a klunky UI that puts you in control of your crypto rather than a sleek and polished wallet that doesn’t meet all the “demand” features.
  2. light vs full node.  What does this mean?  The most secure wallet will be one that’s ALSO a full node on the network for that cryptocurrency.  But to do that, it would need to download the ENTIRE blockchain for that cryptocurrency.  For a popular cryptocurrency, like #BitCoin, that would mean HUNDREDS OF GIGABYTES of data (eventually TERABYTES!) and hours or days of downloading, plus consuming all that space on your hard drive, forever.  It would also mean that your PC would be an actor in the BitCoin network, processing transactions.  That’s actually a GOOD thing for the network, but NOT a good thing for your local resources.  If all you’re looking for is a wallet, a full node is beyond overkill.  It’s like running a whole grocery store just because you need a refrigerator for your Milk.  I’m not discouraging you to NOT be a node.  By all means, PLEASE DO run a full node.  It helps the whole crypto community.  But, it’s not necessary for YOU if all you want is a wallet.  A “light” wallet is JUST a wallet, not a full node.  As such, light wallets are the only kinds of wallets that are available on mobile.  A full node requires a desktop PC, plugged into the electrical outlet.

Other Considerations

There’s another kind of wallet that I’m on the fence for at the moment, because it violates demand #1:  It’s NOT open source.  However, it has some other interesting security features.

The Samsung cryptocurrency wallet

I know I said I’m not going to recommend any specific wallet, and I maintain that.  I AM, however, going to TALK ABOUT one:  The Samsung cryptocurrency wallet meets all the other demand features, but it IS NOT OPEN SOURCE!  However, it has an important security feature no other software based wallets have.  That is, modern Samsung phones and tablets have a hardware based key store.  This is a special, isolated chip that can store encrypted versions of your cryptocurrency keys.  This hardware IS robust and is an important, core feature of the Samsung Knox (now known as “Samsung Secure Folder”) isolated security environment.  It’s the only mobile environment approved by the US Department of Defense for its employees.  Take that however you like.

What is Samsung Knox (or “Secure Folder”)?  You know how you enter a PIN or a password, or a pattern, or a fingerprint, or a face image to unlock your phone?  Well, on Samsung phones, you have all that, PLUS another, completely isolated, secure environment INSIDE of that.  It’s like a smartphone within a smartphone.  Once you set up “secure folder”, you get a SECOND smartphone environment, with another home screen and another set of apps.  Apps installed inside this secure area are NOT accessible to apps outside of it.  I personally install all my financial apps inside of this area.  My games and less sensitive apps and data are stored in the regular phone area.

Side note:  Whether you use the Samsung crypto wallet or not, you SHOULD install the mobile wallet you DO use inside the Samsung Secure Folder area on your phone (if you’re using a Samsung device).

The Samsung Cryptocurrency wallet is a software mobile wallet, and just like all other mobile wallets, it encrypts your seed phrase to your cryptocurrency with your password.  But the difference is that it stores that in the isolated, secure chip.  THAT makes it immensely more secure.  HOWEVER, the app is NOT open source!  Hence my hesitation of recommending this app.  We have no way to know what’s REALLY going on inside the Samsung wallet, because it’s closed source.

My Compromise:

So, here’s my recommendation:  If you DO use the Samsung wallet, never have more in it than you’d ever put in your real, physical wallet.  In other words, in the days when you’d have a wallet in your pocket with cash in it (you remember that right?  That green paper that you’d trade for stuff?), you’d rarely carry more than about $100, because that’s all you’d need for 1 day and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you lost it or if it were stolen.

I recommend the same practice with the Samsung crypto wallet.  Only store about $100(USD) worth of crypto in your Samsung wallet.  If you run across a local place that accepts crypto, you can spend it, but if there’s ever any kind of a breach with Samsung’s OS and/or software, you’re not going to lose too much.

And I’ll give the same $100 limit advice for ALL OTHER mobile wallets too!  Store the remainder of your fortunes in multiple hardware wallets or multiple desktop wallets.

Conclusion

Cryptocurrency was created for the purpose of YOU being in control.  Therefore, it’s pointless to store your cryptocurrency in a place that you DO NOT control.  As always, don’t put all your eggs or cryptos in one basket.  Don’t put your life savings into your mobile wallet.

Addendum

Speaking of not putting all your eggs in one basket:  As you start accumulating more and more wealth in cryptocurrency, either by continuous investing or by the value of it rising, it’s smart to create more digital wallets and spreading your crypto among them.  Don’t store all your passwords and seed phrases in the same place.  Following these practices, if any of your wallets are ever compromised by your own failures to protect them, you won’t lose ALL of your assets.

In the comments below, tell us what wallets YOU use… THAT FIT THE DEMANDS listed here?  Please keep the conversation limited to those that fit the minimal demand list.

Debunking another Flat Earth Video

Amazingly, there are grown adults in first world countries that believe the earth is flat.  They frequently post videos “proving” their B.S., military grade stupidity, thinking they’ve outsmarted the rest of the world.  It’s amazing and sad to see.  Here’s yet another one that I’ll be debunking here.  Although, MUCH of what they provide lacks source material, so we don’t know what they’re showing.

Debunking this video:

h t t p s : / / w w w . y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = G 8 f J N _ 6 N H h 4

  1. at 00:12 seconds in, showing 2 images of the space jump, one showing a label on the capsule and one not.
    You have to provide sources. Show us the video. Is one from a rendering or a test at a different time?
  2. at 00:22 seconds in, an astronaut suddenly appearing from nowhere: Again, CONTEXT MATTERS! Was this just NASA’s broadcast switching from one recording to another? It’s CRITICAL for you to show us the source material, otherwise, there’s no way to confirm or debunk.
  3. car in space: No argument is actually given, therefore, there’s nothing to refute.
  4. 1:04, showing blockiness around the earth in a photo from the moon.
    I’m surprised the video maker knows enough about a paint program to increase the contrast, but not enough to know that this is a VERY WELL KNOWN artifact of lossy image compression. Also, your video is at 720×480… EXTREMELY LOW RES. Why?

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compression_artifact
  5. Picture of full earth over moon horizon: AGAIN DUDE! SOURCE MATERIAL!!!! Where the HELL did you get this image from? Is it claimed to be authentic or is it an artists work that you found on the internet???
  6. https://epic.gsfc.nasa.gov/epic-galleries/2016/solar_eclipse/full/168_2016068234208.png image with tilted box: More than likely they rotated the image so the north & south pole line up for your viewing pleasure. There’s no up or down in space. Neither the satellite nor its camera are necessarily oriented perfectly with the earth’s axis of rotation with the top of the camera perfectly lined up with true, earth north. I moved the levels down even MORE in my local paint program, and you know what I found? STARS!
    1. Also, notice in both YOUR and MY level modifications, there are horizontal bands that line up with the rotated box frame?  Those are artifacts of the CCD.  A fake wouldn’t have these and certainly wouldn’t hide them in low levels.
    2. If these were fake, there’d be no reason to have a non black background, no reason to rotate it (just manufacture it in the orientation you want), and no need to put stars in there far below the viewer’s ability to see, hidden in the very low gray scales. All of your “evidence” is evidence of it being real. Here’s a link to the gallery it came from: https://epic.gsfc.nasa.gov/galleries/2016/solar_eclipse
  7. 1:22 Saturn’s moon Enceladus: What are you trying to prove here? Again, you’ve revealed more detail of the surface of the moon that wasn’t visible in the original image and revealed stars that weren’t visible in the original image. Why hide this in a fake? You’re providing evidence that it’s real.
  8. 1:29 Green edge between moon and earth. Again, if it were fake, they’d have it perfect with no artifacts. This is likely an artifact of the CCD on the camera or the lenses. Everyone has seen these ghosting effects in cameras.
  9. 1:34 The earth and “copied” clouds. OMG! We’ve been debunking this one over and over and over for YEARS! That’s NOT AN IMAGE THAT NASA CLAIMS IS REAL!!! That’s the original iPhone wallpaper. There are multiple articles on how the artist created the image. Again, I’ve debunked this one so often, I write a blog post about it here: Does NASA fake photos of Earth?
  10. 1:47 yet AGAIN… JPEG COMPRESSION ARTIFACTS!!! How many DECADES do you want us to explain this to you before you finally understand what everyone else already understands?
  11. 1:58 Apollo 15 image. Ghosting on analog film is a VERY WELL known phenomenon. How many examples of this do you have in this video???
  12. 2:13, yet again, more JPEG artifacts!
  13. Poor lense, bandwidth, & compression problems in ISS footage.

OK, I’ve spent enough of my free time just on the first 3 minutes and 29 seconds of this 20 minute video… 13 innuendos in all.  I’ve debunked 100% of everything shown up to that point, though no proofs were shown of any claims, only innuendos, but I debunked those.  I never saw a top 10 count in that time segment though.  Maybe it’s later?  Maybe I’ll get back to it when I’ve got more time to waste.  But for now, I’ve got a life to get back to.

360 Degree Panorama Experiment

This is an experimental post, testing out a control to present my 360 degree panoramic photos.  If this works right, below you should see three 360 degree panoramas. One of a Victorian like bedroom in the Biltmore Estate.  Click and drag inside the image to look around. Another of a room by the grand staircase. And a third at the Stable Cafe.

 








Cryptotab browser is a total SCAM!

What IS CryptoTab Browser?

It’s a custom and closed source web browser that has a built in BitCoin miner.  That means it’ll run high intensity calculations on your CPU, burning electricity with the intent of creating new BitCoin.  By closed source, that means they’re not open source.  They do NOT make their source code available for inspection.

What it CLAIMS

It claims to make you money by mining BitCoin on your computer while you browse.  But this is misleading.

What it ACTUALLY does

In reality, when you create your account, likely from having clicked someone’s referral link, you’re software is now a slave to the person who owns the referral link.  While your computer burns through electricity that YOU are paying for, it’s giving a large portion of the tiny amount of BitCoin that your computer generates to the other person, not producing any profit for you at all.  Even if you got to keep all of the BitCoin that you mined, you’d STILL be losing way more money than you make.

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to be profitable mining BitCoin on a PC or a mobile device

A very, very long time ago, the complexity of BitCoin became too powerful for PCs to mine it and be profitable.  For years, the only way to make a profit mining BitCoin is to buy specialized hardware that can’t do anything other than mine BitCoin.  Those hardware devices cast at least $1,300 (USD) on the low end, run very loudly and hot.  And you’ll have to run one for about 6 months before you generate enough BitCoin to break even on the cost of the hardware.  There is NO PATH to mining profitably on a PC (unless you get your electricity for free!)

If you mine on ANYTHING else, you’re GOING TO LOSE MONEY! Why? Because the amount of electricity you burn will cost you MORE than ANY infinitesimal amount of bitcoin you mine. Even if your electricity were free, the amount you can mine on a PC is virtually nothing. It also slows down your PC for everything else.

But wait! There’s MORE!  To make matters even WORSE, when you start mining with this browser, you don’t even get to keep all of the minimal amount of coin you mine. Even if you did, you’d already be at a loss, but it’s worse. Whoever’s link you clicked on to get the browser gets a portion of YOUR earnings! Earnings that are ALREADY in LOSS territory.

A Classic Ponzi Scheme

The ONLY way to “make money” with this is NOT by mining BitCoin, but by having LOTS of people sign up through your referral link.  THEY LOSE money by mining and lose even MORE by giving you the minuscule BitCoin THEY mine.

Stay away from CryptoTab Browser.

This is what the Decentralized Web 3.0 will look like

The Decentralized Web 3.0 will bring you the following benefits:

  • The end of ISPs and governments spying on your online activities.
  • The end of big tech collecting all your private data.
  • The end of email providers being able to see your personal email.
  • Encryption of EVERYTHING.
  • The end of social media censoring you.
  • The end of demonetization.
  • The end of spam.
  • The beginning of making money by receiving marketing email (if you choose to).
  • The end of censored banking.
  • The end of domain name confiscation.
  • The end of web hosters shutting you down.
  • The end of registrars shutting you out.
  • The end of app stores removing your apps.
  • The beginning you YOU being in FULL CONTROL of your personal data.

Here’s how, but first a short history…

Internet 1.0

introduced the world to the idea of everyone being a publisher.  Unfortunately, there was no security designed into the architecture and it was mostly static and difficult to have interaction.

Internet 2.0

was a more structured way of creating websites, with more user friendly user interfaces and lots of interactive content, in addition to improved security models.

But something went wrong.

Something went HORRIBLY wrong!  As individuals started becoming effective communicators across geographical and political boundaries, they started being silenced for multiple reasons… sometimes by anti-competitive companies with deep pockets, but usually political reasons by tyrannical regimes in back-assword countries, then in first world countries, by corporations (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Instagram, etc…) and so-called “educational” institutions, and in some cases, even first world governments, themselves.

Anti free speech campaigns began successfully shutting out an entire class of voices via social media outrage mobs demanding voices they didn’t like be silenced and for some reason, the big social media companies complied and shut them down by shadow banning, removing them from search, suspending their accounts, or deleting their accounts altogether, frequently with no warning and no explanation.

Then they went after their income.

YouTube began demonetizing video creators.  PayPal began killing users’ PayPal accounts.  It even spread out to the real world.  Credit card companies began shutting down people’s accounts and even BANKS started deleting their OWN CUSTOMERS!  All for political ideological reasons!

They rewound the freedom clock back to the early 90s, and in some cases, back 100 years or more.

Enter Decentralization…

Decentralized services were already being created before “the purge” started, but decentralization started to accelerate because of this.  The FIRST popular decentralized service to hit the scene was #BitCoin, which is a fully decentralized, global currency.  What makes it so powerful is that there’s no central point of failure, and more importantly… no central point of attack.  It’s a BRILLIANT system that prevents double-spending, prevents counterfeiting, and gives control of assets back to the people.  Governments CANNOT control it!  It first rolled out in 2008 and has grown exponentially since then.  It’s been so successful, than many millionaires have been made because of it and thousands of other cryptocurrencies have been created.

The technology behind it can be used for so much more than JUST money.  In fact, all the strangle-points (or censor-points) of the current (or “legacy”) internet can be censorship resistant using the same or similar decentralized technology that BitCoin uses:

  1. DNS
  2. File Storage
  3. EMail

DNS

is the Domain Name System that allows you to type in human readable names into your browser like https://BitCoin.org or other sites you’re familiar with.  The reason this works is because your browser takes the name you enter into your browser’s address bar and looks it up in a publicly distributed database to find the actual IP address of the computer you’re really wanting to connect to.  Even though the database is decentralized, there’s a centralized authority that authorizes the names AND they are beholden to governments, so when a government demands control of your domain name, then you lose your domain name and all your visitors and paying customers, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Domain name registrars can also take your domain names away, and this has been happening due to political reasons.

There are now several decentralized DNS replacements.  One of which is https://NameCoin.org  This is an open source project designed to have NO central authority.  It’s controlled by a blockchain (the technology that drives BitCoin).  In fact, it’s copied directly from Bitcoin, using BitCoin’s source code.  When you register a domain name on THIS system, you do it with a cryptocurrency called NameCoin.  Once registered, you own the domain name like you own your cryptocurrency.  It CANNOT be taken from you.  For now, there’s a problem in that current (legacy) browsers are unaware of this technology and so those names can’t be used with regular browsers unless you install plugins for them.

File Storage

Another weak point for censorship on the legacy 2.0 web is web hosting.  The way it works is you rent space and CPU capacity on someone else’s servers to host your websites.  If the hoster doesn’t like your politics, you’re GONE!  This has been happening at an accelerating pace.

The solution is decentralized file storage.  One of the most popular at the moment is https://IPFS.io which is a fully decentralized file distribtution system.  IPFS stands for InterPlanetary File System.  The genius behind this is that you don’t request content via a URL with a domain name and a path and file name.  Instead, you request it from the decentralized IPFS network via the HASH of the file you want.  (A “hash” is a mathematically generated number based on the CONTENTS of a file.  IPFS hashes are unique for every file).  If you’re a web publisher, you publish your files to the IPFS network.  Users can request your files (like website HTML pages) via the unique HASH of your file.  The IPFS network goes into action, looking for any node that has that file, and if found ANYWHERE on the network, delivers it to the user.  As a file is requested more often, it starts to spread across the globe, becoming more and more decentralized and faster to load.

Decentralized DNS systems, like NameCoin can be configured to return an IPFS file.

EMail

Your EMail will radically change too.  From your usage point of view, it will still look and feel similar to what you’re using now, but it’ll have the following, drastically different and improved features:

  1. Censorship-resistant, meaning no one can shut down your e-mail account.
  2. Decentralized.  There will be no central server that you connect to.
  3. Encrypted.  By default, ALL of your email will be heavily encrypted, without any effort on your part.
  4. Spam-Free:  NO ONE will be able to send you email unless you authorize them to.  You’ll also be able to set prices that spammers must PAY YOU in order to send you spam, should you elect to even receive spam.  The global system will prevent any email going to you unless you’ve authorized it AND that it includes the proper amount of cryptocurrency you’ve specified.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the dark forces trying to silence you or block you from seeing speech that THEY do not approve of are coming to an end.  No websites will be blocked by other people deciding what you can see.  Your sites will not be blocked.  Your web hosting cannot be blocked.  Your social media will not be blocked.  Your videos will not be blocked.  Your content will not be demonetized.  Your banking will not be stopped.  Your web browsing cannot be spied upon.  Your email cannot be read by third parties.  Spam will be a thing of the past.  Censorship will be much more difficult for the censors.  And everything will be encrypted all of the time.  AND you’ll even MAKE MONEY by receiving marketing email and ONLY if you choose to do so.

All of your data will be 100% in YOUR control.

Your data will be stored, fully encrypted on your end, across multiple, replicated hosts (or locally only on your hardware), readable ONLY by YOU!

Decentralized Resources in the making (or already made):

The list keeps growing and is far far bigger than this list.  Check out all the decentralized apps on https://Blockstack.org as plenty of examples.

Samsung Blockchain Keystore “Couldn’t install app”

If you’re getting the “Couldn’t install app” error when trying to install the Samsung Blockchain Keystore app in your device’s Secure Folder, then read on.  Skip the background if you’re familiar with it and go straight to the Solution section.

Background

In mid-2019, Samsung came out with the Samsung Galaxy S10 phone.  At the same time, they introduced their first cryptocurrency wallet, the “Samsung Blockchain Wallet”.  At first, it only supported Ethereum.  But as of late 2019, it supports a few more cryptocurrencies, most notably, it now supports the most important one, Bitcoin!

But, to use the wallet app, it requires another app; the “Samsung Blockchain Keystore”.  I’m not sure why they separated that out into two apps, but my semi-educated guess is that you can create your keys and manage them in one app and use them in other apps, not JUST the wallet app.

Now, as anyone with any knowledge of cryptocurrencies knows, you have to be EXTRA careful with your keys for cryptocurrency.  YOU are 100% in control of your cryptocurrency.  If you’re careless, and it gets stolen, you have NO RECOURSE!  Unlike a traditional bank with FDIC insurance of up to $100,000 protection per account, there’s NOTHING for cryptocurrency.  That’s not a bug, that’s a feature!  With freedom, comes responsibility.  But that’s a speech for another day.  The point is, that if you’re going to do this on mobile, you want it to be a secure as possible, and on a Samsung phone, that means putting it in the ultra secure section called “Secure Folder”.  Now, let’s get back to the “Couldn’t install app” error.

Solution

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no solution at the time of this writing (2020-01-04).  I spent an hour on chat support with Samsung, who then sent me to a phone tech support that’s a specialist on the Secure folder.  Both the chat tech and the Secure Folder tech were unaware of the problem and both confirmed that it is, indeed, a problem that they’re going to have to fix.

Here are the problems you’ll experience:

  1. When trying to install the Samsung Blockchain Keystore into the Samsung Secure Folder:
    1. It will not find it in the installed apps from the apps installed outside of the Secure Folder.
    2. It will not find it in the Play Store (to their surprise, it’s not in the Play Store at all.  You can search for it with a desktop browser.  It’s just not there).
    3. It WILL not find it in the Samsung Galaxy Store… at least, not directly.  First, you have to search for the Samsung Blockchain Wallet app, select it, scroll down for similar apps, and you’ll find the Samsung Blockchain Keystore down there.  Try to install it, and you’ll get the error:
    4. Installing the KeyStore app OUTSIDE of Secure Folder will NOT make it available to the wallet app INSIDE the secure folder.
    5. Even when installed outside of secure folder, it does not show up in the app drawer.  You cannot add its icon to the home screen.
    6. The ONLY way to launch it is to find it in the Galaxy Store and tap the “Open” button there.

So, the conclusion is that it’s not possible to use the Samsung Wallet app in the Secure Folder area.  And if you can’t use it in there, it’s not worth using.  You NEED the extra protection of the Secure Folder for your cryptocurrency.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE IT OUTSIDE OF SECURE FOLDER!!!

Speaking of Decentralized Monetization,

If you like my work, you can contribute directly to me with the following cryptocurrencies (but, apparently, not with the Samsung Blockchain Wallet app in Secure Folder yet!)

BitCoin:

bc1qx6egntacpaqzvy95n90hgsu9ch68zx8wl0ydqg
bc1qx6egntacpaqzvy95n90hgsu9ch68zx8wl0ydqg

LiteCoin:

LXgiodbvY5jJCxc6o2hmkRF131npBUqq1r
LXgiodbvY5jJCxc6o2hmkRF131npBUqq1r

Must-Haves for Decentralized Apps

Whether you’re a developer or a user, these are the requirements for a truly decentralized app. If it lacks any of these, your app can (and should be assumed that it WILL) be censored:

  1. No reliance on legacy DNS.

    1. While you CAN make use of DNS as an additional measure, your app should still fully function even if the entire DNS system is compromised and/or your domain name confiscated.  You should think of the DNS as only a gateway for legacy users to find your services.
  2. No reliance on a centralized account creation system.

    1. User accounts should be created client side ONLY, like a cryptocurrency wallet. The app’s concern with the user account should ONLY be that the user cryptographicly signs their communication with you, using their private key and you use their public key to transmit private data from you to them.
  3. Deployment of the app should NOT depend on a centralized app publisher.

    1. The app should be obtainable if you or your company or your organization cease to exist. This does not mean that you can’t ALSO deploy to centralized app stores, but those should be SECONDARY. You should also dissuade your users away from centralized app stores.
  4. User’s personal data should ONLY be stored on their own device

    1. OR encrypted with their public key before being stored remotely to their choice of external storage.
  5. Remote storage

    1. All remote storage should be stored on a decentralized storage platform (The user’s SiaCoin or FileCoin accounts, for example. For published data, IPFS and/or a blockchain). This doesn’t mean you can’t also make use of centralized platforms. In fact, make use of popular centralized cloud storage like Amazon S3, DropBox, Google Drive, etc, but encourage the user to add 3 of those to their storage preferences and you encrypt their data locally, with their public key, then replicate it, like RAID 3, across at least 3 or more centralized storage platforms.
  6. Monetization

    1. Creator monetization should NOT be controlled by the app creator. The app creator should only facilitate code in their app to allow independent users to pay, directly, to each other, using a system outside the control of the app creator (such as cryptocurrencies).

Speaking of Decentralized Monetization,

If you like my work, you can contribute directly to me with the following cryptocurrencies:

BitCoin:

bc1qx6egntacpaqzvy95n90hgsu9ch68zx8wl0ydqg
bc1qx6egntacpaqzvy95n90hgsu9ch68zx8wl0ydqg

LiteCoin:

LXgiodbvY5jJCxc6o2hmkRF131npBUqq1r
LXgiodbvY5jJCxc6o2hmkRF131npBUqq1r

The Importance of Decentralized Apps & Services

First, a definition:  What IS a decentralized app or service?

A decentralized app or service, its data, and the user accounts are available from multiple locations.  If any one of them go offline, the app or service continues to be functional and distribution of the app or service does not cease, the data does not go away, the user accounts do not die, and no functionality ceases to function.

Let’s review how legacy (centralized) apps and services currently work…

Ordinary, legacy services that you’re probably used to are things like Google Maps, Google GMail, Google Search, Google Drive, Google Docs (seeing a pattern here?), Google’s YouTube.  Aside from the obvious fact that all of these are from A SINGLE COMPANY! they’re also centralized.  In spite of the fact that Google has a planetary wide system where they distribute their services and storage, they have the following centralized points of failure:

  1. They’re all owned by one company.
    1. Google could, in theory, go out of business.  Wait!  Stop laughing.  Where are you going?  Obviously, that’s not likely to happen any time soon, but it’s always a possibility, especially with the possibility that they may be broken up into multiple smaller companies, due to their gigantic control of virtually the entire internet.
    2. They can (and DO) censor.  THOUSANDS of YouTubers have had the following problems, increasing and accelerating in occurrences, frequently for political, not safety reasons:
      1. Demonetization.
      2. Shadow banning.
        1. Removing their videos or channels from “suggested videos”.
        2. Hiding their videos or channels from search results.
        3. Marking them as “age restricted”, which hides them from search results where “child safe” restrictions are enabled, such as public libraries and schools.
      3. Videos deleted.
      4. Channels deleted.
    3. Falsification of viewer counts.
    4. Blocking of voting.
    5. Blocking of comments.
    6. Simply not paying the creators what they’re owed.
  2. They’re all reliant on the centrally controlled DNS system.
    1. Though the DNS is a decentralized service, the CONTROL of it is NOT.  The CONTROL of the DNS is controlled by an organization called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).  They’re the ones that can take your domain name away from you.  They used to be a U.S. based organization, but in 2016, the U.S. government, in a highly controversial move, transferred control to an international body that is not adherent to your first amendment rights.  At the time of this writing (2020/1/4), there are fears that tyrannical governments like Russia or China may start to get partial control of this too.  Both of them are already creating their own DNS and many countries block domains from their entire citizenry.
      1. See this:  UN Moves Towards Handing Dictatorships Power to Control the Internet
  3. They all have access to your PERSONAL data.
    1. Any data you enter into their apps or websites is viewable by them and stored on their servers.  YOUR data is controlled by other people.
  4. Your user account is proprietary for THEIR services
    1. You’ll have to create separate accounts for apps and services on OTHER centralized apps and services not owned by Google.
    2. Your user account and password are known and stored on these organizations servers.  They have access to EVERYTHING you do with their apps, and so do their employees and contractors!

Decentralization solves ALL of the above problems!  Here’s how:

  1. No centralized DNS.
    1. Decentralized apps do not rely on the centrally controlled DNS (Dynamic Name System).  Once you install and run the app on your local device, most of the functionality happens on your own device.  In cases where data needs to be shared, it’s either done so directly from your device to your friend’s device, if you’re having a private conversation, or it’s distributed to a decentralized, public data system like IPFS (InterPlanetary File System).
  2. Decentralized account management:
    1. Instead of creating a user account on a centralized web site for each and every website you visit, you create ONE account.  And you do this on your own device.  And you do not publish it (unless you want to).  This is how cryptocurrencies work.  You create your “wallet” using software running on your own computer.  It’s essentially a very large and random number, run through a cryptographic algorithm that generates TWO keys:  One private (that you hide from everyone) and on public (that you can share with the world).  These keys work in unison.  If you want to prove to anyone that you created content, you encrypt it with your private key.  Anyone with your public key can decrypt it.  Technically, that’s not what we call “encryption”.  It’s “digitally signing”.  If something can be decrypted using your public key, it’s proof that it was encrypted (or signed) with your private key, meaning only YOU.  If someone wants to send you something private, they’ll encrypt it with your public key.  It can ONLY be decrypted with YOUR private key.  This key combination is your “account” and you can use that on any decentralized app that uses that particular technology.  You can also create multiple accounts, if you like.
      1. You create your accounts on your own device.
      2. You use the same account everywhere (if you want).
      3. You can create as many accounts as you like.
      4. No one, but YOU has control over your accounts.  No one can delete them.
  3. Decentralized app deployment:
    1. Apps are made accessible on a network of nodes, rather than a centralized app store.  Some examples of decentralized networks are BitTorrent & IPFS.  This prevents a single entity (Like the Apple App Store or Google’s Play Store) from deleting them.  It also prevents a centralized authority, like ICANN from taking away the public’s access to your content via the DNS.
  4. Personal Data & Remote Storage
    1. While personal data does NOT need to be decentralized, decentralized apps SHOULD handle personal data ONLY locally, on the user’s device, OR, per the user’s intention, encrypt, then store on the user’s choice of cloud storage, preferably a decentralized cloud storage, like SiaCoin or FileCoin, or replicated (after encrypted) across multiple accounts on separate centralized cloud storage services like Amazon S3, Google Drive, DropBox, etc…
  5. Monetization
    1. Content creators should receive payments DIRECTLY from the consumers of their content, usually in the form of cryptocurrency.  The app providers need only provide the means for the content creator to accept cryptocurrencies.  This is usually done by the content creator registering their cryptocurrency wallet addresses with their content and users being able to tap or click it and then transfer crypto directly to the creator.  There should be no middleman involved.
  6. Elimination of DDOS
    1. Distributed Denial Of Services is an attack against a CENTRALIZED web site.  For example:  Multiple machines send thousands or millions of requests to a website, overwhelming the CENTRALIZED servers, causing them to be unable to respond to legitimate requests, because they can’t tell the difference.  If your services or content are decentralized, there’s no central server to attack.
  7. Faster Downloads
    1. When you download content from a decentralized network, you’re not relying on the limited server resources of a single organization or single server anymore.  The system finds the closest or fastest nodes to you that have the content and deliver it to you.
  8. Global bandwidth
    1. Decentralized distribution means closer physical transfers.  In other words, as a downloaded item gets distributed via the act of downloading, it spreads organically across the internet.  Each download is done via the closest neighbor, preventing clogging up the longer path connections, making the rest of the internet faster for everything else too.

Decentralization provides massive benefits for BOTH publishers AND consumers.

  1. For Consumers:
    1. As a consumer, the content you love cannot be taken away from you just because of the politics of the day or the preferences of the owner of an organization.
  2. For Publishers/Creators:
    1. You can’t be censored.
      1. Twitter, Facebook, & YouTube have gone on a massive censorship craze and in spite of being hauled in front of Congress multiple times and facing backlash from the public, they’re only accelerating their censorship.  Decentralization puts an end to that.
    2. You can’t be demonetized.
      1. A sinister part of censorship is demonetization.  In addition to silencing dissident voices, they’re also cutting off their funding and propping up the distribution of funding of only the voice they approve of.  Decentralization puts an end to that.

Speaking of Decentralized Monetization,

If you like my work, you can contribute directly to me with the following cryptocurrencies:

BitCoin:

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LiteCoin:

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SANS DIGITAL Raid Tower Four Years On

SANS DIGITAL MobileSTOR MS4UT+B

Almost 4 years ago, I bought a Sans Digital MobileSTOR MS4UT+B four drive bay RAID tower.  Here’s how it’s stood up so far:

The reason I’m writing this article today, is because this past week was the first time one of my drives in the ARRAY failed.  To be clear, this is not a complaint.  ALL drives fail.  That’s WHY I bought a RAID tower, so that when one eventually DOES fail, I have the redundancy in place to keep going while I get a replacement drive, with zero down time and zero data loss.

Before reading further, if you don’t know what RAID is or a RAID tower, please click the link below for a straight-forward explanation:

When I bought the tower almost 4 years ago (this model is not available for sale anymore), I also bought 4 of these drives.  Click the image to see it on Amazon.

Seagate 4TB NAS HDD SATA 64MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive (ST4000VN000)

for $149.99 each in December 2014.  They were the cheapest 4TB drives I could find at that time.

All 4 have been running 24/7 until 2018-10-29, when one of them finally failed.  To be honest, I expected the first failure to be years ago, considering my track record of at least 1 failed drive a year.  I bought the cheapest drives I could find too, so I expected more frequent failures.  The front panel of the RAID tower indicated that my drive #3 had died.

The computer was completely unaware of the failure.  This is a good thing.  That means the RAID tower’s seamless drive failure was working.  I immediately ordered a new, replacement drive.  I ordered the cheapest, 4TB drive I could find.  Why?  Because reliability of individual drives is not all that important when you have them in a RAID tower.  The redundancy of the whole system dramatically improves overall reliability, even when using low reliability drives.  I should also point out that just because a drive is inexpensive, doesn’t mean it’s also low reliability.

Here’s the drive I bought in late October 2018 for $79.99… nearly half the cost from 4 years earlier.  Click the image to see it on Amazon.

WL 4TB 7200RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Hard Drive (For RAID, NAS, DVR, Desktop PC) w/1 Year Warranty

What did I do?

When it arrived 3 days later, without shutting anything down, I opened the front panel of my RAID tower, pulled out the bad drive (with the whole system still on and running), unscrewed the 2 screws holding the handle onto the bad drive, screwed them and the handle onto the new drive, and plugged it into the RAID tower.

What did the RAID tower do?

The RAID tower immediately recognized the new drive and started replicating data to it.

What did the PC do?

My PC never knew anything ever happened.  As far as it was concerned, there was a working 12TB drive that it continued to actively use throughout the whole process.  There was never any downtime.

How long did it take?

Swapping the drive took about 5 minutes or less.  The replication, however, began on the night of Tuesday, October 30th.  It was still replicating when I left the PC on Saturday night, November 3rd.  However, Sunday morning, when I got back to it, it had finally finished.  So, it took it about FOUR DAYS to complete the replication.  Much longer than I thought.  I figured it would take between a couple hours up to maybe 1 day.

What does this mean?

It means that my data was vulnerable to disaster via a SECOND drive failure from the moment the drive went bad on Saturday, October 27th, through when the data was finally, fully replicated onto the new drive somewhere between the night of Saturday 11/3 and the morning of Sunday, 11/4… a total of a few hours more than 1 solid week.

If any other drive had died during that time, my 10TB of data would have been hosed.

The good news is that if I were NOT using a RAID tower, I’d be in that same risk ALL THE TIME!  I was only at risk for 7 days.  The BAD news (for YOU) if you’re not using RAID, you’re at that risk 100% of the time.

Conclusion:

This RAID tower performed as designed and is still performing.  The vulnerable replication period is much longer than I expected.  But, in the end, it all worked.  This is the first drive failure I’ve had where I didn’t lose a single bit of data.

My recommendations:

Whether you need speed or reliability, you SHOULD be using a RAID array.  I highly recommend buying a RAID tower and let it handle the complexities of configuring the system.  Software RAID solutions are available, but they are much less reliable and consume resources on your computer, slowing you down.  With an external hardware solution, it’s literally just plug and play, like any normal, single external drive.  But with the capacity, speed, and reliability of a RAID solution.  RAID towers can be found for under $100 and there’s no upper limit to how much you can spend on one.

So:

  1. Buy a RAID tower.
  2. Configure it to the configuration that best meets your needs.
  3. Have a local backup using a low cost, external USB hard drive of equal capacity as your full RAID array’s configuration.
  4. Have a cloud backup of your data too, AND MAKE DARN SURE IT’S ENCRYPTED ON YOUR END BEFORE BACKING UP!!!
    1. There are a lot of decentralized, peer-to-peer, cloud backup services coming online like:
      1. Sia
      2. FileCoin
      3. StorJ
      4. and others.  None of them are great solutions as of this writing YET!  But that’s changing.  Keep an eye on them and read EDUCATED reviews of them.  That includes keeping an eye on my blog because I’m watching them with intense interest, in addition to testing them myself.  I’ll ring the alarm bell when it’s time to jump on.  They WILL BE the ultimate backup solution.

What is RAID or a RAID tower?

RAID is an acronym that stands for “Redundant Array of Independent Disks”.  In short, it’s a system that allows you to make multiple hard drives look like a single drive to a computer that’s using them.  The benefits you get depend on the RAID configuration you choose and the hardware and/or software you use to implement RAID.  Your RAID configuration options are:

RAID Towers

RAID 0:  Striping.  This treats all the platters in all your drives in the RAID 0 configuration as one drive with multiple platters.  On a regular, single drive system, a hard drive usually has multiple, physical disks inside of it.  Data is written on the disks on tracks, similar to a record player, but unlike a record player that has ONE groove that spirals all the way from the outer edge to the center, computer disks have individual rings, called “tracks”.  A hard drive has multiple disks (called “platters”), each with tracks.  A file is written across the multiple platters on the same track until that track, on all the platters, is full, then another empty space is found to continue the writing.  With RAID 0, you can add more drives to extend the depth of those tracks. One file is now written across all platters on all drives on the same track until they’re filled.  There’s no limit to how many drives you can have in a RAID 0 configuration (except limits imposed on your RAID hardware and/or software).

Benefits of RAID 0:

  • Speed
  • Larger volume size.

Disadvantages of RAID 0:

  • Decreased reliability.  If any one drive fails, the whole thing goes down.  The more drives you have in a RAID 0 configuration, the sooner the whole thing will die or the LESS fault tolerant it is.  RAID 0 is pretty dangerous and should not be used unless speed is more important than reliability.

RAID 1:   Mirroring.   Given X amount of drives in ANY RAID configuration, you can have a duplicate copy of them, which requires twice as many drives.  All drives have to be the same capacity.  Neither set is the “original”.  All data written to one set is duplicated on the other.  Both sets are live.  For example:  The simplest RAID 0 configuration is a 2 drive system, both drives of equal size each.  Your total storage capacity across the system is exactly the capacity of ONE of those drives.  Everything written to one drive is duplicated on the other.  A more complex RAID 0 configuration will more more than 2 drives, but ALWAYS an even number of drives.  The 1st half of drives can be any other RAID configuration you like.  The 2nd half of drives will be a duplicate of the same thing.

Benefits of RAID 1:

  • 100% redundancy.  Acts as a full, live backup.  Any part of either side can fail and the array continues to function, seamlessly.
  • Speed.  Mirroring doesn’t require extra processing.  It’s no slower than a single drive with no RAID.

Disadvantages of RAID 1

  • Capacity is reduced to 1/2 the total capacity of the whole, physical system.

RAID 3:  RAID 3 is made of exactly 3 drives.  2 drives for data, one for parity.  Any 1 drive can fail and the system can continue to function until you replace the bad drive, in which case, the new drive is restored from the remaining 2 drives.

Benefits of RAID 3:

  • Redundancy
  • Capacity.  Maximum capacity usage for data across your array of disks.

Disadvantages of RAID 3:

  • Speed.  RAID 3 requires extra processing and thus, results in somewhat slower performance.
RAID Towers

RAID 5: RAID 5 is nearly identical to RAID 3, with the added benefit that you can use any number of drives you like.  You’re not limited to 3.  Instead of dedicating drives to data or parity, every drive in a RAID 5 configuration contains BOTH data AND parity.  2/3 of every drive contains data and 2/3 of every drive contains parity.

Benefits of RAID 5:

  • Same as RAID 3 plus…
  • Not limited to 3 drives.  Can have 2 or more, with no practical limitation.

Combining RAID configurations: It should be noted that you can combine RAID 1 with any of the other configurations.  A popular configuration is stripping (RAID 0) plus mirroring (RAID 1), known as any of the following labels:

  • RAID 0+1
  • RAID 1+0
  • RAID 10

Benefits of combining stripping and mirroring:

  • Maximum Speed
  • Maximum Redundancy & reliability

Disadvantages:

  • The same disadvantage of mirroring:  Your total capacity of all your drives is cut in half.

What is a RAID Tower, then?

A RAID tower is a piece of hardware with multiple drive bays.  You can plug in your own hard drives in the tower.  The tower usually has the hardware and software built in to handle the RAID configurations for you.  You plug the tower into a computer and it appears simply as a single, external disk drive with the full capacity of whatever RAID configuration you assigned the drive array.

RAID is a concept.  A RAID tower is a functioning product implementing that concept.

A special note about RAID and SSDs (Solid State Drives)

SSDs, as you probably know, are the modern replacements for the decades old, spinning disks we call “hard drives”.  SSDs have no moving parts and are 100% solid state electronics.  They’re essentially memory chips that don’t lose their data when you turn them off, making them ideal for a modern replacement for hard drives.  Because they have no moving parts, they’re significantly faster and more reliable.  They’re also a lot more expensive (for now) per gigabyte of storage.

Can RAID work with SSDs?

Yes!  In fact, my personal desktop PC is using two 256GB SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration.  Why RAID 0, when it’s known to be less reliable?  for several reasons:

  1. Speed.  Yes, even though SSDs are significantly faster than spinning platters with moving read/write robotic arms, they can be even faster in a RAID 0 configuration.
  2. Reliability:  No, I’m not using RAID 0 to make them more reliable.  They are, in fact, LESS reliable in a RAID 0 configuration, but since they’re SSDs, even with two of them in a RAID 0 configuration, they’re still more reliable than a single, spinning disk drive.
  3. I need speed more than reliability on my boot drive.  Why?  All my important data is stored on my RAID tower.  Everything on my boot drive can be restored by simply re-installing all of my software.  The only thing I’ll lose is my time.

Actually, the primary reason is I’d purchased a 256GB SSD for another computer and didn’t need it in that one anymore and I wanted 512GB SSD for my desktop, so I just bought a second 256GB drive and put them both in, configured as a RAID 0 system.  I’m perfectly fine with it for the reasons listed above.

But, enough about me.  Yes, SSDs can be used in any RAID configuration that spinning platter disk drives can be with the same pros and cons.  It’s just that every configuration on an SSD is faster than the same configuration on spinny disks (as I like to call them).  Also, every option is more expensive with SSD.