Setting up a Debian-based Bitcoin node

I’ve previously mentioned how fullnode.co is a scam.

However, I was a bit too optimistic about the state of Bitcoin availability
on mainstream Linux distributions, and the state of Debian.

As it turns out, there is a bitcoind for squeeze, but not for the more recent wheezy. Not that it matters, as that version is way too old to be useful.

There is however a bitcoind in unstable. And that’s where Debian sucks: it’s still too damn hard for most users to deviate from the main repository.

I feared that bitcoind would not be started automatically after the installation like most daemons (which would be for good reasons, given the resource requirements). Well, it’s worse: there is no init script at all!

So my easy Debian instructions did not work and the real ones won’t fit in a few commands. That’s why I made bitcoin-node, a simple fire-and-forget script to properly upgrade and configure a Debian server into a public Bitcoin node. It also has the added bonus of running bitcoind without the wallet feature, to lower the resource requirements and reduce the attack surface. In the end, my main goal is achieved: you mostly have to trust Debian to get you a good binary.

I recommend that you check out LowEndBox for cheap VPS offers. Look for at least 30 GB of storage (you don’t need SSD), and 512 MB of memory (part of it can be swap). This should cost you around $20 a year; sometimes less if you find a good promotion. That’s clearly better than what fullnode.co offers.

Then get the script, it’s pretty straightforward; you shouldn’t have to be overly technical to run it.

Why do we have freedoms?

I often think, we claim that we aren’t free, and that it’s getting worse, but then why are we able to claim it? Why wouldn’t our oppressors censor us?1.

By looking a tad deeper, we see that states actually constantly try to censor. Of course, it’s to censor the bad stuff like pedonazism2. Obviously, if you protest, you must be a pedonazi. Defamation laws3 and copyright laws4 are also used as censorship tools.

Still, nowadays it’s incredibly easy to publish and never get punished for it. Is it because the State is lax? No, not at all; it’s because it has been rendered powerless. It has been rendered powerless by Gutenberg, by Xerox, by the Internet, etc. It now acts like he gave you that freedom, but it never intended to.
Want freedom? Stop asking for it; take it.

And what happened to speech is happening to money right now, and there is no going back.

  1. It isn’t entirely true. Traditional media is extremely dependent from the State and worships it daily. It even has its fake rebellious decoys. But this isn’t really censorship, it’s more like subsidized spam. []
  2. Interestingly, France censors encouraging racial hate, holocaust denial, endangering the safety of the State, and… encouraging tax fraud. []
  3. It’s incredibly hard to defend yourself against a defamation lawsuit in France, as you have to prove everything you said is true, in court. Many books have been effectively censored that way. []
  4. One of the most notable early users being the Church of Scientology, but it also helped build a censorship infrastructure. []

Fullnode.co is a scam

So, another thing that gets media coverage. Let’s look into it.

They are using extremely overpriced ISPs1. For the same price, they could easily host more than four times as many nodes.
At least they are not charging you more than it costs – the servers they list really use those ISPs, and the cheaper plans can’t work. Moreover, the $10 plan by Linode is soon going to be too small to store the blockchain!

Their server list show a lot of servers expiring in a month or less. How about hosting less servers but for a longer duration? Having stable, static IPs is highly valuable, as past connections are saved by clients.

Then, and perhaps worse of all, the nodes are ran by the same organization and too few providers; you’re actually paying for the centralization of the network. Want to help Bitcoin? Learn how to run a full node. It’s not hard (see below). Or even easier, seed the blockchain data torrent.

So, how do you set up a full node? Here’s the fastest, easiest way:

Go to http://lowendbox.com/ and select a provider with 30 GB disk space or so.
At checkout, select Debian or Ubuntu.
SSH into it, and run “apt-get install bitcoind”. Forget about it.

Feel free to copy-paste without attribution.

Of course, to help Bitcoin, it’s even better to go deeper into what running a full node entails. You can blindly apply updates, but you can also choose if you agree with them or not. Full nodes are an underestimated power.

It is quite unfortunate that once again, the “community” raves over something that has been provided for years, in a better way, by many, including yours truly, for what I estimate to be a two-digit amount of terabytes. We haven’t asked for your recognition, but at least don’t donate to fuckers.

  1. No, full nodes don’t need SSDs, because what they do is mostly sequential. []

Bitcoin is not a payment network

Bitcoin is often presented as a payment network1.

I think this happens because it is more convenient to ignore the more politically controversial aspects of Bitcoin.

After all, everyone agrees that credit cards suck. You’re basically giving your private key to entities so they can charge you what they want; fraud is very high and the fixes are inconvenient two-factor authentication systems. When you’re used to Bitcoin, where you only sign transactions, this is laughable. Merchants also enjoy the certainty of no chargebacks and small entities do not get fucked by bank fees.

So Bitcoin does all of this better than credit cards, however, it is mostly because the state-backed banking monopoly and the mountain of “regulations”.

There’s no reason we could not have payment systems with instant payments, policies against chargebacks, secure transaction signing, etc.

Ripple is actually quite close to that, if you ignore their own altcoin bullshit; but I doubt Ripple would survive regulation if it ever becomes too popular.

Bitcoin detractors that interact with the poorly informed “bitcoin community” will retort that Bitcoin has many issues as a payment network, and they will be right.
If you only want buy stuff, the price fluctuation risk is incredibly annoying. Of course, that’s what Coinbase wants you to forget, because they always try to fuck you on that aspect. They’ve even automated the fucking2.
Critics will also say that it does not scale. The blockchain as a payment network truly cannot handle the transaction volume of, say, Mastercard.

Unless you are bitcoin-rich, or have a bitcoin income, there is very little incentive to use Bitcoin to buy things online. So while merchants accepting Bitcoin take very little risk as payment processors give them the exact fiat amount they want, I do not think they get much volume from bitcoiners. MP goes as far as to say as payment processors are “not in Bitcoin”; I disagree, in the sense that payment processors are exchanges3. While those payment processors have no business long-term, they are very useful in the short term.

Decentralization is a compromise. Bitcoin as an ubiquitous payment network will not happen on the blockchain, and it will likely be through centralized services. The future of Bitcoin payments is to use the blockchain as a clearing house tool and for long-term savings, and there’s nothing wrong about that.

Because what Bitcoin really is is digital cash and digital gold.

Bitcoins are an extremely secure, unseizable asset that you can actually own; unlike how most fiat currency is used, bitcoins in your wallet are a not debt to you and are not exposed to fractional reserves.
It is much more convenient to hold and secure than fiat cash, and fiat cash only works in physical transactions (and is sometimes not even allowed).

Moreover, its limited supply is anything but a random choice; it is a clear message against governmental central banking policies. And it’s not so that it is deflationary, it is more that the monetary policy is known in advance and impossible to change. Bitcoin with an constant but reasonable inflation4 would not be so different.

And this is what we have really been longing for.

  1. Wikipedia says “payment system”. []
  2. Not that all automated fucking is bad. []
  3. And usually do not require the AML KYC crap. []
  4. For example, 1 BTC block reward, forever. []

No, do not dencentralize everything

Many newcomers, with their basic understanding of Bitcoin, marvel on how great it is. It then becomes their hammer, and everything they think of becomes a nail. Everything has to be decentralized and blockchained.

Worse, many untalented scamvelopers now promise “disruptive” “decentralized” whatevers. And the general public buys it, either the dream or the “IPO”.

It is quite unfortunate that those projects are taken seriously when they haven’t resolved basic issues, regarding exchanges, storage, etc. The scamvelopers behind it are quick to profit from it, while they do not have to show any ability to create a working product.

Some have released incomplete whitepapers with complete bullshit such as “proof of bandwidth”. Most of them ignore past achievements and research and reinvent the wheel… badly.

Moreover, those projects are generally not solving any concrete human need.
For example, decentralized exchanges create new sets of problems (especially if they are blockchain-based) while solving none: it is incredibly easier for an exchange to resist government oppression than it is for the issuer. It is also incredibly easier and likely for the issuer to scam investors than the exchange. So why would users switch to poor liquidity and scalability for practically no advantage?

Then there are services like BitBet – the real centralized aspect is not so much the infrastructure, but the human aspect of resolving bets. I stumbled upon a competitor where they basically allow any random user to create and resolve bets; this won’t end well. If you followed the “Bitcoin community”, you would end up with BFL winning delivery bets. After months of casual betting, I realize that BitBet mods are doing one hell of a hard job.

Outside of Bitcoin, centrally moderated BitTorrent trackers overall provide a much better experience than their decentralized competitors. They’re not flawless, however, you always have to keep in mind that decentralization will come with its own compromises.

This all could have been avoided by looking at the past, i.e. respecting the elders.

I could mention Diaspora*. Huge media coverage, huge Kickstarter success, and… crap. The thing was badly designed from the start, because the developers were inexperienced teenagers. Meanwhile, actual projects with talented developers did not get any funding.

Or I could tell you the story of decentralized bug tracking. At the time, people were discovering git, the decentralized version control. They then wanted to decentralize bug tracking; despite being all the rage, nothing of value emerged and now no one talks about it anymore. Because it wasn’t solving any real human need and was creating new problems.

And guess what? Now some guy wants to decentralize decentralized version control. It’s called Gitchain, the technical choices are extremely poor and it will never scale, but it already has its own Kickstarter and media coverage.
That’s what happens when you do not respect your elders.

Bitcointalk, always retarded

Retarded, as in late.

Bitcointalk has the tendency to fall in love with scams, live in denial, hate the ones calling out the scams, then eventually realize they got scammed. Way too late.

Many of those clairvoyant people were actually banned from the forums; this isn’t just some groupthink à la reddit but an actual organization promoting scams. The poorly thought trust system also highly favors said organization, considered as trustable by default.

GLBSE, Cognitive, Labcoin, MtGox, Neo&Bee, the list goes on. And they do not learn, the cycle appears to repeat every time.

But what can you do?

  • If it’s on Bitcointalk, assume it’s a scam.
  • Assume that the more involved in the Bitcointalk power structure someone is, the more of a scammer he is; including “VIP”, “Donators”, etc.

Yo #bitcoin-assets, I put contrarianism in your contrarianism

Apparently, a ritual of #bitcoin-assets is to blog about how #bitcoin-assets is marvelous and how we are superior to everyone.

Not entirely incompatible with my blog, which from its inception has been about how I am superior to everyone.

Still, I just don’t feel it is quite right.

Perhaps this is a better description:

herbijudlestoids:i gotta say, im used to hanging out with opinionated geeks, but yall have some of the weirdest forced opinions iv encountered

Better yet, this one:

We take ourselves very seriously here. Derp Derp, Derp Derp Derp.

Credit for the image is unknown, but I believe this was first about what.cd, though it has been true of the more or less exclusive communities I have been part of. Not that there is anything wrong with it.

A third description would be simply #bitcoin-curmudgeons.

A fourth (added after initial publication):

Framedragger: i’ve to admit, even though this chan is full of pompastic arrogant fucks, the content is pretty sweet

Two blog posts in a week, after more than a year of inactivity?! Well, the few readers that are left know this isn’t the first time. Perhaps blogging is a muscle.