OpenChia launches pool app with The Chia Plot integration

Farmers on OpenChia, the Chia pool pushing radical open source transparency, have just gotten a new way to both access their pool statistics on the fly as well as get the best and latest news about Chia right at their fingertips. That’s right, they have integrated The Chia Plot directly into their pool app launching today.

Having helped them get this working (not a lot, they did not really need anything except an API endpoint and some Android 11 testing) I have gotten to see it a little ahead of schedule, and I think its really nice. I am not able to check out how the pool stats portion works as I am currently solo farming, but the app is very snappy and easy to use. I am actually a really big fan and the best part is because it is OpenChia developing it it is fully open source available under the GPLv3 license (no selling their work!).

Check out some screenshots of the app below, or download it on Google Play here or on the iOS App Store here. Yes, they have launched on both major mobile platforms (I checked out the Android version). I think this is a really great milestone for the Chia community, as it gives a common platform for all pools to launch a branded application – they just need to keep it open source and upstream any fixes or feature updates they make. I am going to officially call on other pools to work on the OpenChia mobile app, improve it where they can and collaborate on this valuable tool.

Or just fork the News code so that your pool members can get access to the latest Chia news quickly and ad free. The only catch is that you need to open source yours too if you are going to do that.

More details about the many moves of Stai Global

The other day I posted an article about Stai Global and their Stai cryptocurrency, and touched a bit on all the various bits they are involved in. To recap, they are a Chia fork with a couple of differences but primarily they are a company planning on selling their Station-i automated charging stations as well as creating an ecosystem around their cryptocurrency involving real world utility.

The Station-i charging stations are a really good idea, and according to them they have actually sold some that are being deployed around Germany. To me this is the meat and potatoes of their plan, the idea of creating a common convenience store / EV charging station wherever people go and use the Stai cryptocurrency as payment there to avoid the hassle of taking in all sorts of different currencies around the world and needing to sort it out on the backend. Let people buy Stai with their local currency and spend Stai at the charging station wherever they are, then Zuweso GmbH only has to convert Stai into Euros once and pay their bills. It makes sense if the price of Stai is reasonable and reliable.

stai station-i charging station

The Station-i thing is beyond my comprehension about how that will end up going. I think it might be a good idea, and a cool business model, but I have no idea what complications would exist or barriers to entry are there. The theory sounds really smart to me, but I cannot even fathom if this is easy to execute on or impossible. I do like the idea though, and if I had to guess I would say that if they can execute on the idea they will do very well. There are similar chains around Canada, such as En Route, that provide a consistent fill-up and eat experience to people while they travel and that model has been successful.

The next thing they are doing is their “green energy reselling” program, a partnership with Lumenaza Community. This seems to be a renewable energy community collective. Whatever that means. This whole thing is hurting my brain, I cannot imagine what it must be like to run this business and having to keep track of all this. The selling point for this program is that you will be using community provided renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro) and the partnership with Stai is that you can use your Stai coins to pay some of the fees on top of the plan.

lumenaza stats, energy you can pay for in stai

I had a German community member look into this, and it doesn’t seem like a great deal to him. It didn’t look like a scam or anything, just not a great deal on energy and the payment of Stai on top of Euros seems to have been entirely extra. The counter-argument to that is that you pay a little bit extra to ensure a green energy source, and the Stai payment is extra but used to counter some of the overhead of not allowing fossil fuels into the network. I am legitimately unsure what to think about this, because there are lots of companies selling expensive energy without any renewable promises or fun cryptocurrency angles. I think its another interesting move from an interesting team but probably not one that will go anywhere if the energy markets in Germany are anything like those in Canada.

And then there is their store. This one I am less impressed with, although I am hoping to proven wrong soon. The store is a partnership with Coininger, a computer store that looks like it is focused on the mining (and farming) userbase. The Stai angle seems to be a partnership where you can pay the markup they have over their Kosatec (another retailer) drop shipping prices. Sound complicated? It is. Basically you can pay for items from online wholesaler Kosatec and Coininger where you pay in Euro’s up front for 80% of the price and then 20% in Stai at a price of 50 Euros per Stai. It seems they send an invoice for the Stai after processing the rest of the order, so probably not well automated but at least they are trying to create some utility here. Because everything is in German, and this is not focused on North America I would need someone in Germany to actually help me go through process, order something, and pay in Stai to be able to explain more. Luckily I did that and the results of that purchase will be up this week, so check back.

In recent announcements and this article they also discuss a very interesting promise of a newer, bigger online store where you will be able to pay entirely in Stai for some or all of the items (I am not 100% clear on the details). The details here are also sketchy, but it seems like they will be partnering with someone involved with German retailer Kaufland and hoping to use the Stai connection to offload inventory that is not otherwise moving well. Because these are only announcements, its a lot less easy to get solid details by trying the process out, but it seems like the next evolution to their partnership with Kosatec.

All in all Stai seems to be involved in a lot of things, and has a lot of ambitions. But I think the mistake is seeing them as a Chia fork, or alt coin, or even a cryptocurrency company. It seems to me like they are a Station-i company using a “green cryptocurrency” as a bit of sprinkled blockchain, where it might not be necessary to their core operations but they are integrating it for a variety of reasons. Including marketing. Without a Chia fork, no one in the Chia community would have heard of their company and they would still need to build a database and application to handle transactions at their stations. I think the biggest risk to Stai-the-coin is that the company simply gets bored and decides they don’t need it anymore for any of the rest of their plans.

A brief review of Nucle Chia Wallet code

First, I would like to premise this with the fact that I am not a software developer or engineer. The team at Nucle is far better at this than I will ever be, and if they wanted to pull a fast one on me or obfuscate parts of their Chia wallet they easily could. This should also not be viewed as any sort of security review of the Nucle platform itself – I was not looking at the system end-to-end but at the back end code that will make up the web service that interfaces between the client devices and the Chia network. Some of the things I note in this article can be mitigated through upstream or downstream infrastructure and configuration. So here it is, my initial thoughts on the Nucle back-end source code.

The first thing I looked for was evidence that the Nucle application was accepting private keys and signing spendbundles on behalf of the user. This is why we’re all here right, to check out local signing on the device? Well, because I am looking at it backwards (ie, not the client application but the server one) I cannot show you the function that is signing the transactions, because it is not here. I have looked through all the code and cannot find anything that accepts a private key and uses that to sign a transaction.

What I can find is that when the back end sends a transaction to the full node that transaction needs to be fed an existing hash and spendbundle from the client. So unless they are using some sort of middleware application they aren’t discussing, it appears to me that the private keys signing transactions are doing so on-device. That doesn’t mean they are doing it well, or that their crypto is properly implemented. But it does mean that if you are using a Nucle application that your private keys do not get sent to the server application – or if they do, it doesn’t really know what to do with them. Assuming no fancy obfuscation.

Nucle Chia wallet signed transaction function

A Chia Plot community member has graciously offered to do a real deep dive of the code with me, and I plan to take full advantage of that. I suspect he will be able to find more things wrong than I am able to. But on that note, there are a few areas I would recommend the Nucle team take a look at.

First, is architecture. Their example architecture here involves running a webapp/database on the same instance, with redis and the httpd deploying together. They are properly proxying it with Nginx, but their Nginx config isn’t perfect and more suitable for a small blog than a financial services wallet. No TLS 1.3? Come on. This should also be segmented, with the reverse proxy running on a hardened box external to the web app itself. Nginx is easy to do that with, and they might be doing that part properly, so lets hope.

Also, their app seems to use keys stored on disk, and seemingly in every instance, as well as passwords stored in config file. They also seemingly turn off Cross Site Request Forgery protection, which makes sense for a multilayer app but only if they have something else on the front end handling that. That is not documented for any other users that might fork the web application and allow for insecure requests. I am not sure how much of this comes from the node.js framework they are using, or how much is a Nucle architectural decision but these are the areas I would focus on after a quick glance. Some low hanging fruit, and it might even be solved depending on how they compose their docker image. But its not documented if so, at least not here.

And last, they have a hard coded API endpoint to the Coinbase pricing API to get the XCH price in USD that they display in their wallet. This probably doesn’t pose an actual security issue because they aren’t selling anything or executing trades based on that endpoint. But it is bad practice to put external URLs that you do not control directly into your source code.

All in all I think Nucle has done really good job here. The code is clean and readable and no major red flags popped out at me. A few minor issues that are more areas for improvement than actual problems. I am looking forward to digging into the code in depth with expert assistance once it is released for real.

Is it possible to farm Chia without a full node?

Chia Network recently released their light wallet software, an installable application that allows a user to create or import a Chia wallet in minutes instead of the days spent syncing the full node wallet application everyone has been using to farm Chia until now. This is a game changer, and is a requirement for the new Chia Asset Token ecosystem springing up. The point of this article is to discuss how it does that and what that could mean for farming.

Light client verification

Light client support is another benefit of proof of space when compared with proof of stake, since all proofs can be objectively verified cryptographically, and require controlling an actual resource at a certain point in time. For light clients who want to sync up quickly to the chain (for example mobile wallets), a full node can reate a small sized proof that can convince the light client that the weight of a chain is close to some value. This is called a proof of weight. Naively, the light client can download every single block and all the required proofs and verify them, but with such a large number of blocks, this would require a lot of bandwidth and CPU.

A more efficient method relies on a protocol similar to Flyclient[4]. The node (prover) sends all the sub epoch summaries from the fork point, which include difficulty resets, to the light client. There is only one every 384 blocks, so this can only reach a few MB of data. The node also deterministically samples several sub-epochs based on the challenge of the last block. Sub-epochs have a chance to be chosen proportional to the difficulty during that sub-epoch. For the chosen sub-epoch, the light client downloads one of the challenge chain blocks (which are approximately 1/32 of all blocks), and computes the average infusion iterations of all challenge blocks in that sub-epoch. Based on this time, the light client can extrapolate how many blocks the reward chain contains. For example, if the challenge blocks all occur with very small iterations (close to the beginning of the slot), there are likely many blocks in that slot. Conversely, if the iterations are close to the middle of the slot, there is likely only one block per slot. This allows the light client to only download 1/32 of the blocks in each slot, but still get a good estimate of the total weight.

Furthermore, the last few sub-epochs should be downloaded in full for the light client. This adds a small amount of data, but prevents attackers from creating small forks at the end of the chain. The main difference between this protocol and flyclient is that blocks are not committed to using a merkle mountain range, but instead the light client downloads the entire list of sub-epoch hashes from genesis, guaranteeing that the queried sub-epochs are included in the chain. Another difference is that entire sections are downloaded, as opposed to individual blocks.

Chia Network new consensus document

Thank you to Grizzo for once again finding great information hiding in plain sight about what is going on with Chia. Basically it is doing verification against a small wedge of the blockchain instead of needing the entire thing, but it is absolutely verifying recent blocks independently to ensure the entire chain is kept secure.

The reason this is so interesting to me is that I think it should be possible to modify this protocol slightly in order to get current signage points and farm against this slimmed down blockchain section. It probably does not contain every bit that is needed for farming, which is why I suggest it would probably need to be a little bit thicker of a node, but it probably doesn’t need much more. I’m not an expert, and I welcome an expert to weigh on this but it should be a matter of downloading more foliage or the complete sub epoch or something.

Now, this does not seem like something that Chia Network would want to encourage, as it violates the principles they have set forth for decentralization and they are actively using their full node count in marketing. But there is a very real issue with farming on lower end hardware or creating a cloud node of any sort, and that is that the blockchain will continue to grow – forever. It only gets bigger. But if there is a way to farm against a static amount of data that is just cycled through? That would be a lifesaver for Raspberry Pi farmers.

How do unverified Chia Asset Tokens (CATs) work?

One of the big questions I have had since Chia Network officially launched their Chia Asset Tokens – CATs – is what the experience is like with an unverified CAT. We know that once Chia verifies a token (process is still unknown) it will show up in the Tokens section of the Light Wallet and allow you to add the token to your wallet with the click of a button. But Chia has made it very clear that this is a local client process and that other wallet providers can verify their own set of tokens, or none at all, and that it is possible to just use unverified CATs as easily as the verified ones.

That last one is pretty key for a decentralized process as having Chia be a gatekeeper for these things is very dangerous. But a team of intrepid Chia fans have minted an unverified token and called CryptoShibe Gold and are giving it away on reddit. They also sent me 100 coins unsolicited, which would normally (and in the future) go unwritten about and ignored but this is the first time and it gave me an opportunity to see what happens when you receive a CAT you haven’t added to your wallet.

The good news is that it works really well. I didn’t have to do anything at all to see the new CAT in my wallet, it just didn’t have the verified check or a name. But i was able to see my balance separately from other tokens as well as presumably spend and use the tokens however I wanted to. Because the name is simply a client setting that automatically picks up SpaceBucks and MarmotCoin but that seems to be all the verification does. I did not need to add the asset ID manually, although you can in order to see a 0 balance wallet.

From what I can tell this is a pretty good user experience. The only qualm I have is that I can see a situation where people just start spamming wallet addresses with their CATs and it creates a UX issue with how many to display and which one is which. Because the user has to name the unverified CATs themself had I gotten 5 or 6 unverified ones at a time instead of 1 I would have had a lot of trouble sorting them out by checking Asset IDs and such. If it was 50 or 60 I might not even be able to because the Chia Light Wallet UI doesn’t look ready to support that high a number.

Anyway, shout out to the CryptoShibe folks for giving me the opportunity to check out their (near) worthless token. I’m not being a dick, they say that themselves on Reddit here where they are doing their giveaway. I am glad to have gotten to see what an unsolicited CAT reception looks like and you can check out the simple three step process I went through here below.

Introduction to trading Chia – exchange basics. What is an exchange?

Disclaimer not financial advice. Not an expert. Anyone trading Chia or other cryptocurrency does so at their own risk.

Spot trading, Bull market, Pump and dump, oh the joys of trading! 

But what do they mean? For a full list check here

Understandably most readers of this blog will already know most of the basics of exchanges so these first few entries in this series might not necessarily be for you; however in order to run one must first walk. 

There is a lot to grasp when going about trading Cryptocurrency for the first time; much of it is tossed at you without any warning. The graphs alone are enough to turn most people off, especially if you don’t understand them. Hopefully by understanding the art of the deal from the ground up we can establish well informed chia traders going forward. Not to mention opening up new/old Farmers of chia to the benefits of something other than “hodl”. No better place to start than at the start.

What is a Crypto exchange?

An exchange by simple definition is the act of giving one thing and receiving another. 

A crypto exchange is a marketplace that allows an individual to trade cryptocurrency for other assets, generally these assets are fiat(real money) or another cryptocurrency. Another term for a crypto exchange is a digital currency exchange(DCE) or more commonly a crypto marketplace. Examples of chia exchanges would  be Kucoin, Okex and Huobi

Crypto exchanges list “pairings” of one digital asset for another asset, the most popular pairing coins being BTC (bitcoin) and USDT (tether), but there are many others depending on what exchange you use. 

Eventually when it comes time to cash in our Chia coins, knowledge of what an exchange can do will be an asset in getting the best dollar value for your hard earned farming rewards. 

Be fair, warned!

Trading (even simple selling) comes with risks and certain functionality within these exchanges (example futures trading) carries extremely elevated risks. Understand what you are doing and like gambling never trade more than you can afford to lose.

Going forward in this series we will cover various topics starting from the basics; to intermediate trading techniques. As someone who is relatively new to cryptocurrency myself, hopefully through these posts we can continue to learn together the ins and outs of the chia markets (exchanges) and simplify the experience for all chia users to enjoy.

Chia News of the Week – Nov 22 to Nov 28

This was a pretty slow week for Chia news, coming hot off the heels of multiple very busy weeks of announcements and releases. It was also Thanksgiving in the USA where most of the Chia Network team is located. The biggest news this week was centered in the world of forks, and honestly I didn’t even cover it all because it was my birthday week and I take breaks too but I will give some of them a shout out here.

Its not really news but we started off the week with a video from Digital Spaceport where he and I sat down with JM Hands from Chia Network to talk about many topics. Despite my best efforts the guys were able to turn it into a really good conversation through talent, knowledge and careful editing. Go check out it out here and give JM a reason to come talk to us again.

Also on Monday I got an update from Chia about what had caused the weird netspace jitters with the pools. It was, as I suspected, and issue with timelords issuing signage points at a slower rate. Originally Chia informed me that it was caused by someone else bringing a faster timelord online but it actually appears that both timelords involved were run by Chia Network themselves. I did not update the article, due to the aforementioned laziness, but they did continue to investigate and discovered that there was an unknown discrepancy in speed between their two fastest timelords and what we saw was the first one dropping off. These kind of issues are exactly why they are developing and launching their ASIC timelord for next year.

Other than that, the only real news came from the forks. In an article I am behind on writing, a number of forks have already launched their own version of the Chia light wallet. From what I can tell, that number is one and that fork is Flax. They even say they fixed the upstream bug that caused issues with the Chia light wallet when installed on a machine actively farming. Well done, Flaxseed. This actually happened on the 20th, but I didn’t get to it then and it really does deserve a shout out ASAP.

After that both Stai and HDDCoin have launched their online stores, with slightly different behaviour from each. Stai is offering more items through a partnership with existing stores, but only allows you to pay their markup in Stai with the rest paid in Euros. HDDCoin lets you pay the entire thing in HDD or in USD, but is only offering a drive at not great value and some branded merch for now. I think they are both great approaches and neither one is exposing themselves to too much risk.

Finally I put out a call for new writers for The Chia Plot yesterday, and received way more interest than I anticipated so I am putting that on hold for now while I speak to everyone who reached out. Rest assured if you reached out to me and I haven’t gotten back to you yet, I will and we will chat.

It is definitely possible I missed something, I always do. I think SpaceBucks gave out everything and shut down their faucet so I hope everyone got some. Let’s see what this week in Chia brings, and I hope all the American Chia farmers and Chia Network developers had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Looking for Chia and Chia Fork ecosystem writers for The Chia Plot

So I have put out calls for help before, and some have answered that call. And I truly appreciate it, as there was no promise or anything for those folks and they have all done an excellent job. This is different though. This time I am offering two part time paid writing positions, amount paid based on traffic. So if you would like to put The Chia Plot on your resume, or if you just want the rest of the community to hear your thoughts now is the time.

Update: Due to a significantly larger response than I expected I am going to put this on hold for right now. Thank you to everyone who reached out.

What I am looking for is two people that are plugged into the Chia and Chia fork ecosystems to write News articles, Op-Ed’s on big Chia-related topics as well as flush out the How-To Guide section of the site into something comprehensive and useful. The requirements will be simple, about 4 articles a week of 300 words or more focused on matters of interest to the Chia community. The goal here to get to 2 posts a day in order to create regular traffic so Google doesn’t smite me anymore when I get busy.

If you have outside interests, like your own Chia-related project that is fine. You will just be conflicted out of writing about yourself, but you will still be able to pitch your stories to the rest of the team. So people with existing projects are more than welcome.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in please reach out and contact me at thechiaplot@gmail.com or on The Chia Plot discord server. You don’t need a masters in journalism, or really any experience just the willingness to write and some insights on the Chia ecosystem.

Chia fork Stai also has a shop, as well as big ambitions

Even before the HDDCoin store had launched, Chia fork Stai also had a store open where you can buy hard drives. They are following a slightly different model than HDDCoin, but the store is just one of their many ambitions. Primarily they are selling something called the Station-I, and the Stai coin cryptocurrency is merely a means to an end for them. Check them out here.

This one has been sitting on my desk for awhile, because it is very difficult to know what to think about Stai. They have huge plans compared to other Chia forks. They are also not focused only on their coin, but on the real world outcomes they are hoping to create with the rest of their businesses. I am going to very briefly touch on each one here, but I think some of these deserve their own deep dive. If Stai and the company behind it, Zuweso GmbH, achieve even some of their goals they will likely need full time reporting as much as Chia Network itself does. If.

So how does the coin work? Well, its not exactly the same as Chia or the other popular forks. They have a large premine of coins, similar to Chia, of 55 million Stai. They are also taking a percentage of all farming rewards according to the article listed above. I am going include the following quote, but it is a Google Translation of a recent German article about the company so do not attribute any particular word to the Stai team later on.

STAI developer explains the main features Evgeniy Mikhalevich, who acts as a cooperation partner with his GFT GmbH, the cryptocurrency works as follows: Within the first twelve months, the finder gets five STAI per new block. After that, however, there are only three coins and after another twelve months two. For comparison: It was the same principle that made Bitcoin a rarity. Initially, a block find contained 50 coins, today it is only 6.25 coins and in spring 2024 it will even be only 3.125 bitcoins.

One coin per new block goes to the company. This initially flows into the Premine Wallets. The majority of all income then flows via the Community Wallet into the assumption of the costs of electricity, food and drinks for all members. A smaller proportion goes into the Construction Wallet for the construction of new Station-i mobility stations to cover all services worldwide. These projects are financed mainly through debt and equity capital as well as subsidies. Investors also have the opportunity to participate in product and site development via participatory subordinated loans, with loans from EUR 5,000 upwards and a return of between five and seven percent p.a.

Google Translation of German article about Stai Global issuance policies.

The main crypto-adjacent plans I can see being integrated here are as a payment system for their Station-i filling station, an automated “gas station” for electric vehicles; a residential energy provider where you can pay some fees with Stai; an electronics store where you can pay the margin in Stai, but the rest in Euros; and apparently there is a new, larger shop coming where you can pay the entire price in Stai. A lot of these are already in place, and you can leverage Stai for them today. This makes Stai one of the only Proof of Space and Time coins with actual utility today – including Chia (for now).

Any one of these plans would be highly ambitious for a Chia fork, and set them apart from the rest. HDDCoin has a small web store run on WordPress and we are all suitably impressed, but this is something else. I have spoken to the Stai team, and I think they are very much trying to accomplish all this. However, I am not sure anything is done the best way it can be. This is going to be a part of the Chia and Chia fork ecosystem that I will be keeping a close eye on, and check back in a couple of days for a deeper look into some of the businesses they are getting into.

HDDCoin opens online store where you can spend your HDD on an HDD

Chia Fork HDDCoin has just launched their online store, where you can buy stuff with HDD or USD. This is pretty neat, and a big step forward for the Chia Fork ecosystem.

There are, however, some concerns I have. First, running an online store is a far cry from running a Chia fork or other blockchain. I am not sure how they have managed their payment systems, and a lot of exploits tend to arrive when new payment systems go online. I am hoping, for their sake, this is well tested. Second, customer service can be a really time consuming job as part of running an online store. I know their team is good, but it won’t be for long if they get bogged down on order support.

hddcoin online store

I for one, do not have nearly enough HDD to order anything off the store so in order to even try to use HDD I would first need to go to xt.com where they are traded, buy some, and then use that to buy stuff from HDD. The exchange they mention in their announcement below is “market conditions” which right now is 0.35 USD / HDD according to their store page, which means you need to have farmed a LOT to buy an HDD or anything cool. I only have 38 or something.

hddcoin store opening announcement

I do plan on checking this out, but it probably won’t be much of a secret shopper situation since I cleverly use my real name here. I presume everything is being drop shipped so they don’t need to worry about inventory, otherwise the logistics here will be very difficult for them. Let me know in the comments if you end up buying anything from them and if you use USD or HDD.

Edit: seems to only allow US shipping for now. Will have to wait for my beer koozie I guess.