Sep 292013

Physical Primecoin Finite by Design

Christopher Mrozek is a crypto-currency enthusiast and he makes physical bullion for crypto-currencies. The coins are beautiful and people who ordered them seem very happy with their purchase. He’s targeting Primecoins at the moment. You can find this information on his website Finite by Design or at his Bitcointalk forum thread where people are already ordering his 0.999 fine silver 1 Troy Ounce coins (similar to American Silver Eagles in 1oz). The first batch has a limited supply of 50 coins, so if you want one for yourself, go ahead and order one.

BTCGeek: Why Primecoins?
Chris: Primecoin was selected for a number of reasons. Primarily because I am a huge fan of Sunny King and his work as a crypto developer. I have confidence that he will not walk away from the project – which is a danger investors must be cautious of in this new crypto-currency landscape. A strong following and loyal supporters is another reason, as evidenced by the rapid ascension of XPM in popularity and market cap.

BTCGeek: Any plans for other crypto-currencies too?
Chris: Yes, actually I am putting the finishing touches on our next product line, physical Cryptogenic Bullion bars. These will be 1 troy ounce of .999 fine silver with the hologram sticker just like Primecoin, however will be the shape of a bullion bar rather than a coin. We are shooting for a release date by the end of October for this product. Additionally I have had a couple requests for other crypto-currencies to be created and I plan on continuing to add product lines. I will be running a public poll soon to help identify which other lines the community wants to see.

BTCGeek: How can buyers be confident that their private keys are secure and that you don’t have a copy of their private key?
Chris: This is a critical concern for me as well as for my customers. Privacy and security of my customers and their products is imperative to my companies sustained success. Unfortunately there is no perfect answer and I have no way of proving that the private key is destroyed other than giving my word and sharing the argument that the longevity of these product lines depends on maintaining this verbal bond. I single handedly manage the generation of each unique address and private key and do the painstaking task of constructing the coins by hand – no one else is involved or privy to the process or the byproducts of this process. Once the coins are assembled, the private keys are destroyed by me personally leaving the only existing copy to be the one hidden under the tamper resistant, security hologram sticker on the back of the physical piece.

BTCGeek: What got you interested in crypto-currencies and Bitcoin?
Chris: I originally got interested and involved with crypto-currencies thru Bitcoin which I had the fortune to stumble across relatively early. This lead me to also discover alternate currencies. I found the entire concept to be fascinating and decided to invest a portion of my savings into these currencies. I have been an investor/trader ever since thru some wild fluctuations but in the end have seen growth in my investment portfolio and I have a firm belief that mass adoption is inevitable and hence continued growth.

BTCGeek: I ask this to people in the community because crypto-currencies attract a very interesting bunch of people. What are your political beliefs?
Chris: Politics and religion, a couple subjects I try to steer clear of, lol. I will try to delicately dance around this question as not to alienate anyone. I was born and raised in America so the concept of freedom is deeply engrained in me. My political views are aligned with this belief and also with the understanding that anything as an absolute can be hazardous, hence a balance must be maintained.

BTCGeek: Quite a few people in the community think that alt-coins are a distraction from Bitcoin and the energies spent developing and promoting them should instead be used towards Bitcoin. What are your thoughts?
Chris: I think competition forces the envelope to be pushed and innovations and improvements to continue to evolve. Bitcoin is an excellent prototype but I believe it to have limitations and I suspect the likelihood of an alternate currency taking the market lead to be very likely. I believe the staunchest Bitcoin supporters are large stake holders for the most part and thereby have an interest for ensuring it as the one and only. This narrow-sighted view however is ironically similar to the one that Bitcoin supporters find themselves involved with when battling against the conventional government backed financial system paradigm.

BTCGeek: Which alt-coins are your favorite?
Chris: Of course I am a fan of Primecoin for it’s uniqueness. I also am a big believer in Cryptogenic Bullion as I see this to offer some of the best features from many different coins blended together into one rare commodity. NVC and PPC are a couple others that I am fond of, primarily due to their respective devs for whom I have the utmost respect and confidence, Sunny King and Balthazar.

BTCGeek: Which ones do you see the most potential for?
Chris: I am partial to Cryptogenic Bullion for a number of reasons. Rarity, transaction speed, 51% resistance via Proof of Stake as well as interest, rapidly diminishing supply and well designed difficulty adjustment algorithm to prevent being taken advantage of by mining pools, active and public development team and dedication to marketing and growth.

BTCGeek: It is interesting how something as digital as crypto-currencies have a market in the physical coin form (Casascius coins for Bitcoin, for instance). Why do you think that is?
Chris: I think the early prospectors/investors in digital currencies are those who truly believe in diversity regarding their finances. I think the same mentality that leads one to diversify their portfolio into crypto-currencies also leads one to diversify into precious metals. Due to this I feel the merging of a precious metal with a digital currency to be extremely popular among collectors. I am not sold on the functionality of these pieces but the collectibility is undeniable.

BTCGeek: What’s special about the number 11 in offering 11 XPMs?
Chris: The number 10 was actually my original selection for the physical pieces but in a conversation with Sunny King, he suggested the use of a prime number instead. Obviously I liked the idea and hence the number 10 was changed to the more fitting prime number 11.

BTCGeek: How do you monetize the crypto-currencies that you receive? Do you convert everything to USD to pay for material, etc. or do you keep a part of it in the original form?
Chris: As of now all of my received payment via crypto-currency remains invested in crypto-currency’s. I do plan to transfer some to USD to recoup my initial investments from family savings but am working with my accountant to insure that this is handled by the book.

BTCGeek: What are your thoughts on the regulation of Bitcoin?
Chris: It is a bit of a double edged sword and oxymoronic, but I think regulation will be critical to mass adoption and therefore I support it.

BTCGeek: Do you think the US is doing a fair job at it?
Chris: I will have to get back with you on that after I have finished working with my accountant and payed my taxes, lol.

Photo credit: redphlem

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Sep 072013

Bitcoin Web Hosting

I had a chance to speak with Rob, the co-founder of Bitcoin Web Hosting, which is a site that provides services like hosting your website, VPS, dedicated servers, etc. and you pay with Bitcoin. This helps with keeping your anonymity intact. Rob is an entrepreneur and Bitcoin enthusiast and he has some very interesting thoughts to share about the crypto-currency universe and its use in small businesses. Read on!

BTCGeek: Give us a little background about yourself.
Rob: I am originally from Northern California, lived in the Bay Area, Frisco, Hayward; stayed in Oakland for a bit. I also spent a good deal of time north of Sac in a small town called Chico. It’s a small party town, plenty of good times, although it’s pretty slow paced – and it’s hot as hell during the summer.

I went to school at CSU, with a focus on Business, and ended up leaving after a year and a half. I really didn’t think I was learning anything that I couldn’t learn on my own, so I left. I had plenty of friends that had Bachelor’s and were still working dead end jobs and didn’t really see the value. A lot of people told me I was an idiot, but you know what? I don’t have no debt and they’re still trying to pay theirs off working for someone else. Go figure.

BTCGeek: What was the philosophy behind Bitcoin Web Hosting and how did you get started?

BTCGeek: What fascinates you about the whole Bitcoin idea?
Rob: What fascinated me the most about it was that some unknown person had a single idea can have an impact around the world to the point where it is actually being used for commerce and that kind of really speaks to the power of the internet. It’s like the whole open-source community where they tinker around with things and make them better.

BTCGeek: Do you see any drawbacks to using Bitcoin or any impediments to its mainstream adoption?
Rob: I am fully behind it. How I look at it, the volatility, although I do speculate on them. It really needs to be broken down in a way where the average Joe can understand it. There are lot of things in there that isn’t going to appeal or be understood by a broad spectrum of people. Maybe it’s a good thing, maybe it’s a bad thing but regular people off the street, they don’t really know about Bitcoin.

BTCGeek: Where is the big push going to come from? The tech entrepreneurs?
Rob: I think with most things – you can even talk about iPhones, tablets, Google glass, any type of new innovation that is right on the cusp of something new, it’s always the tech crowd that adopts it first and they are the ones who make things mainstream. I am not saying the volatility or not a lot of people knowing about it is a bad thing per se, it’s just the natural thing. Especially with the new currency thing not controlled by a government, it’s a monumental thing in history.

BTCGeek: What do you think of alt-coins? Any of them promising in your mind?
Rob: I wouldn’t say I am an expert on Bitcoin and certainly no expert on alt-coins but with alt-coins I look at it like this – because Bitcoin hasn’t reached a critical mass yet, and because there are so many things to deal with such as regulation, we need major advocates, even lobbyists for Bitcoin who can get things moving. I think alt-coins kind of distract from Bitcoin because all these resources and all this time spent on creating alt-coins could be spent on making Bitcoin a better system and protocol and getting it into the hands of people.

BTCGeek: But don’t you think alt-coins are easier to experiment with considering it is very hard to experiment with the Bitcoin protocol because of its size? Maybe we can have more innovation in the crypto-currency space with alt-coins, no?
Rob: Yeah, that was actually a conversation I had with another person and in that regard, I do see it as a good thing because you can’t just do any types of wild experimentation with something that is already in use. Litecoin does sound interesting to us.

BTCGeek: Do you have any plans for introducing Litecoin for your business?
Rob: It’s something that we are kinda looking at and watching it and learning more about Litecoin but it is not something that we are ready to jump into yet, so not a yes, not a no.

BTCGeek: Tell us a little more about your business and how you operate.
Rob: We’ve got VPS locations across the US, UK, Ireland and dedicated servers in Romania, Germany, UK and US.

BTCGeek: Do you have any other startup experience or is this your first time?
Rob: I would say it’s my first startup in a sense but my first company was Status Engage. I am still doing that as well. It’s my first startup and my first partnership with someone else.

BTCGeek: How hard was it on the technical side of things to integrate Bitcoin into your site?
Rob: I would say it was as easy as setting up anything else. We use BitPay as our processor. Another friend of mine in the travel industry who does wine tours and world travel tours and he’s going to be accepting Bitcoins as well.

BTCGeek: Can you share any numbers with us in terms of how many websites you’re hosting?
Rob: I’d rather keep a lot of that private. We’ve got really good feedback and have got quite a few customers in the VPS space. We also partnered with Andrew Bently, the author of Bitcoin Unveiled and have a sweepstakes going on right now for another week.

BTCGeek: Do you have an active Bitcoin community in San Diego?
Rob: There are small meetup groups. I bring it up with everybody I meet and I haven’t yet met many people who really know about this.

BTCGeek: Bitcoin can tie in closely to people’s political beliefs; how do you describe your political beliefs?
Rob: Well political beliefs wise, I think politics is just a mess these days. That’s why I think Bitcoin is a good thing because people should have an option to have an alternative. I think borders, nationalities, races and even religion do more to divide people than bring them together. Politics wise, I think the government is too big and too overreaching.



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Sep 032013

Prime Dice Interview

This is my interview with the co-founder of PrimeDice, who goes by the nick ‘Stunna’ on Bitcointalk forums. PrimeDice is a Bitcoin based gambling site that offers a number of features such as a low 1% house edge and instant confirmations of funds. PrimeDice has been quite a hit since it’s inception in the gambling community. It’s interesting to hear Stunna’s thoughts on the industry, Bitcoin, etc.

BTC Geek: Tell us a little bit about your background, interests and how you got into Bitcoin.
Stunna: I have a background in business and marketing and have been following Bitcoin since 2011. However, I wasn’t a strong believer until this year. Reasoning behind this was I never took the time to fully understand what Bitcoin was and was concerned about the volatility previously.

BTC Geek: What got you interested in online gambling? How is Prime Dice different from all the other Bitcoin gambling sites out there?
Stunna: I’ve always been a bit of a betting man, from playing against my odds to playing with them. The entertainment value of gambling has always been unmatched for me, even if just making a $10 prop bet with a friend about what team will win a game. What got me interested in bitcoin gambling specifically was when I learned about SatoshiDice and saw the volumes they were getting a year ago despite having what I felt was a heavily flawed system. During my test runs there a while back it was taking significant amounts of time to receive my result and off-chain solutions had not yet been made. I saw an opportunity to innovate and take some of their market share and improve bitcoin gambling as a whole.
PrimeDice is different from other gambling sites due to the simplicity and responsiveness of the entire experience. I firmly believe that PrimeDice is the first bitcoin gambling site created for the masses. Some of the features I feel will truly define PrimeDice have not been released yet and are in progress, I hope to further differentiate ourselves from other sites in the future.

BTC Geek: What do you have to say to those who say online gambling sites like Satoshi Dice pollute the blockchain and makes it unnecessarily bloated?
Stunna: I understand the notion that SD is “bloating the blockchain” and I firmly disagree with it. This issue of blockchain bloat is an issue within the bitcoin protocol itself. If this problem is not solved then bitcoin will never go mainstream. Just imagine the amount of daily bitcoin transactions versus fiat, there is no comparison. SD has been heavily stressing the network unnecessarily but it brings to attention an important issue that must be solved for us to proceed.

BTC Geek: How do you handle the business side of things? Do you have any co-founders or employees? Did you ever experience any problems with hacking or insufficient funds? How much of reserve currency do you keep?
Stunna: Myself and one other partner run the majority of the day to day of PrimeDice. I handle the business, support, advertising, operations and PR. My partner works on back-end with various devs and does most of the work that must be done behind curtains. However, our work heavily overlaps and we both do what we deem necessary at any given moment.

BTC Geek: What are your thoughts about alt-coins in general and adding alt-coins to PrimeDice specifically?
Stunna: I don’t feel that alt-coins have contributed much to virtual currencies, no alt-coin has proven significant competition to bitcoin. It can be argued that alt-coins have only worked to discredit bitcoin and make people take it less seriously. J.R Willet said it best:
“Alternate block chains compete with bitcoins financially, confuse our message to the world, and dilute our efforts” – J. R. Willet
On that note J.R. Willet’s goal to create altcoins with bitcoin’s blockchain is particularly interesting. That’s a bit off-topic though.
With Regards to PrimeDice specifically:
Adding in litecoin support is definitely something we’re interested in doing, it just isn’t a priority at this time.

BTC Geek: What is the business/profit of Prime Dice? Any other interesting stats that you can share with us? (e.g. which countries/cities do you see the highest traffic from?)
Stunna: Majority of our traffic is coming from the USA, we’ve had several translations made for various languages which are yet to be implemented. We think our volume is quite good, we are probably profiting less than people think though as our house edge is a mere 1%.

BTC Geek: Even though Bitcoin has been in the news several times, it appears that the general public isn’t ready to adopt it yet. What would be the catalysts for mainstream adoption of Bitcoin in your opinion?
Stunna: Bitcoin needs to be easily accessible to the public for the general public to adopt it. As much as we all hate paypal we can’t deny the simplicity of creating a paypal account and using it to pay for a transaction. Bitcoin needs to be “dumbed down” to reach mainstream appeal. Services such as coinbase are doing a tremendous service to bitcoin as they have greatly simplified the process of making and using your own personal wallet and buying BTC.

BTC Geek: How do you think the governments and financial institutions will play the rise of Bitcoin?
Stunna: Bitcoin is too small right now to attract serious attention from financial institutions. As we’ve seen the government has expressed an interest in “taming” Bitcoin. Government regulations will either ensure the long-term success of Bitcoin or greatly hamper it.

BTC Geek: What Bitcoin services/businesses are your personal favorite that you see a good future potential for?
Stunna: As I’ve mentioned earlier I’m a fan of coinbase. I don’t use their wallet but I respect the service they are offering new users of bitcoin. I also feel that is a great service to bitcoin. At PD we’re not simply working on gambling sites, we’re working on building services which we feel will greatly contribute to bitcoin in the long run, more on that next time though.

BTC Geek: Bitcoin seems to have two big pushes right now – one from the entrepreneurial side that see a huge potential for building solutions and another from the necessity side in countries like Cyprus and Greece where they use Bitcoin more as a store of value than as a payment system. Which side will be more dominant in your opinion?
Stunna: I firmly believe that it is the entrepreneurial side driving the growth of Bitcoin. Many people such as myself see opportunities to make our own websites or businesses and gain a valuable experience. It is very difficult to create a successful business geared towards fiat as the market is very saturated and regulations pose a massive barrier to entry. Occurrences such as that of Cyprus and Greece can’t be relied on for bitcoin to continue to grow.

BTC Geek: What are your political leanings/beliefs?
Stunna: I’m a libertarian and I identify closest with minarchism. Basically this means that I feel that governments should leave most of their functions to the private sector other than certain necessities such as maintaining a military. I’m a firm believer in the non-aggression principle. With regards to religious beliefs I’d categorize myself as agnostic.

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Aug 282013

I had the opportunity to interview Sam Gilman who is the creator and founder of Coindega. Coindega is a Bitcoin classifieds site that brings buyers and sellers together – think of it as a Craigslist but for people dealing in Bitcoin alone. He had some very interesting thoughts to share and I hope you like this interview.

BTC Geek: Can you tell us a little about your background?
Sam: I am from California. I studied linguistics at UC Berkeley and lived in China afterwards for 3 years – studying Mandarin and teaching. I’ve always been into software – there are those who have a degree in Computer Science and those who are self-taught. I am definitely in the self-taught category. After that I went to Texas, Austin and past 2-3 years I’ve been working in New York. I just called it quits and moved on. Looking at the possible next-big-things, Bitcoin was the biggest one I could think of.

BTC Geek: Did you have any startups before Coindega?
Sam: I have a small educational game called Fourtones which is a Guitar Hero game for learning Chinese characters. It was just a passion project, a few thousand people played.

BTC Geek: You’ve been involved in the startup world. How do you think the startup community reacts to Bitcoin? Do you think a lot of people know about Bitcoin and are excited about it, considering the hacker community is usually at the forefront of new technology?
Sam: I think it’s a very interesting question. The way I can answer that is by giving my opinion on where I’ve been working – at WeWork which is a technical collaborative space. It has all technical people all doing startups in technology. Most of them don’t really know about Bitcoin. When I talk to people I know who know Bitcoin, it’s like “Oh yeah everyone in the world knows about Bitcoin” but in actuality even highly technical people don’t know so much about it. I think most technical people have heard of it and understand it to a very small degree but everyone is kind of hesitant and waiting for someone to do something.

BTC Geek: So what got you into Bitcoin?
Sam: I love doing things and I love the Internet and that’s what i do for fun. A lot of people left at the same time in my last company and the last couple of weeks we were talking about what we were going to do, and we started talking about ideas. It’s so new and there are so many problems coming with it, I think there is a tremendous opportunity for people to do stuff right now. I saw that as a very big opportunity and I started learning as much as I could.

BTC Geek: What problems does Coindega solve for it’s users?
Sam: I found some issues such as the 0 confirmation problem. The 6 confirmation rule uses 6 confirmations but that could take a lot of time. Essentially, if you use Coinbase or BitPay at a store, the person is going to assume the risk or going to make you wait, neither of which is an ideal solution. It’s fundamentally a problem. The 6 confirmations can take hours at times. It’s a problem for people doing instant transactions. I did more market research and tons of people want to buy and sell in Bitcoin. When they meet, they need to wait for confirmation. So I added the feature where the product you send on Coindega already has to have 6 confirmations in the wallet.

BTC Geek: So how does Coindega distinguish itself from Craigslist and why should people use Coindega instead of just using Craigslist?
Sam: Craigslist is awesome for cash transactions, but anything else, even credit cards, is hard. Say you’re buying something on Craigslist and say you need to send 10 Bitcoins to the seller. Is this guy just supposed to assume that you sent the Bitcoin with zero transactions? I don’t think so. Are you supposed to wait an hour for 6 confirmations? I don’t think so. It’s kinda hacky if you want to go with Craigslist alone. I don’t think if people will understand that. I don’t see Craigslist going out of their way to build something exclusively for Bitcoin.

BTC Geek: Where do you think the biggest push for Bitcoin is going to come from – the developer communities in the developed world like US and Germany or places that need to protect wealth and forced to use Bitcoin, like Argentina and Cyprus?
Sam: I think it’s an interesting question. Currency is just a medium of exchange; it doesn’t matter what it is. It could be shells or gold or silver. Bitcoin is cool but end of the day it is just another exchange mechanism although it has really nice advantages. It is good to remember that this is money – people don’t care about money per se, they care about getting products. That’s the real question – how does this help the consumer. The push would come from businesses that don’t want to pay the credit card fees and if they can pass it on to consumer, that’s a big deal. I am not an expert but I think there are going to be a lot of different things and not one central, big push. Ultimately, people have to get paid in Bitcoin and not have to go out and buy it – that’s just dumb. When companies are paying their employees in Bitcoin, that’s going to be a huge deal. It’s silly when you expect the consumer to go out and buy Bitcoins in currency just to make the exchange.

BTC Geek: Do you have any marketing plans for Coindega?
Sam: Honestly, I just contact people who legitimately want to sell via Bitcoin on Craigslist and ask them to either post it themselves on Coindega or ask their permission to post it for them. 80% of the people are like “This is awesome, I’ll do it myself!” Honestly, Bitcoin has still not reached that critical mass but I am certain that it will increase in the future. There are not so many people buying and selling things in Bitcoin.

What are your thoughts?

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