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Archive for March 2011

BitCoin updates for 31/03/2011

tl;dr – Several interesting updates, including buying drugs via bitcoin. Read ahead to find out more.

Only a few days ago I blogged about BitCoin for the first time.

Since that, I have a few updates.

  • At least two-three of my friends opened bitcoin accounts, and are considering investing.
  • I created a proposal on Stack Exchange for a bitcoin Q&A site.
  • You can buy one copy of Portal 2 at 20% discount via bitcoin.
  • There’s a proof-of-concept for bitcoin bond trade. grondilu, a reputable member of the bitcoin forums, is offering the first known bitcoin bond. Every participant bids how many bitcoins he is willing to pay grondilu now in order to get 100 bitcoins in approximately four weeks. I bid 93.5 BTC (hey, it’s not like I have a lot of other uses for my bitcoins right now).
  • If you were still confused after my last post, perhaps this introduction to bitcoin will help.
  • I learned of the existence of Silk Road, a bitcoin-powered online drug store. You can buy LSD for anywhere between 24 and 150 BTC. One of the good and bad things about bitcoin that it will enable total consumer freedom. Things that were once impossible, will be possible soon. Repeat after me – “a totally anonymous and untraceable method of payment.” I don’t want to open the ideological debates here, but like all progress, a lot of good and a lot of evil will come of it. My personal belief and hope that the good outweighs the bad.
  • My blog has been acting kind of slow lately, so I’m willing to pay 15 BTC to anyone who optimizes it.
  • An example not directly related – A useful service I found via bitcoin is Torrent Traveler. It’s a service that offers to download torrents for you, and send them to you as email attachments (useful if you’re on a trip and don’t have consistent internet). They don’t support bitcoin yet, but it serves as an example for a good service that depends on efficient micro payments (they charge $0.25 per GB).
  • The bitcoin / us dollars ratio has hovered around 0.8 BTC per dollar. I think there is a psychological barrier at $1. There’s still time to hop on the bitcoin train…

BitCoin – your new high yield investment!

Note – this post describes exactly what I think about BitCoin. Even though I have an interest in seeing BitCoin spread, this post represents my true opinions about BitCoin – I’m not trying to tempt you to buy it so I’ll get rich (although that would be a nice outcome :))

Update – After posting this, I found this Quora question: How can BitCoin be hacked. I’m still convinced that it can’t effectively be hacked, but I don’t know enough to prove why. I’ve asked the Quora community to refute it and convince that BitCoin is safe. I advise you to read these arguments and retorts before buying a significant amount of BitCoin. Note that this question is from two months ago, when the computation power of the bitcoin network was about ten times less than today (it keeps growing exponentially, see below).

About 4 days ago, I discovered BitCoins via this Slashdot Post. I spent most of the last 4 days reading about it, and here’s the executive summary.

  • What is it? BitCoin is a “startup currency”, a form of “peer to peer money”. It started about three years ago, and is starting to gain critical mass right now.
  • Where can I spend it? There are already several business that accept it, ranging from ordering books, to a digg style website, to porn. Yes, you can buy porn with bitcoins. If the porn industry are doing it, this means it will become mainstream (porn have been known to lead internet technology for years)
  • How much is it worth right now? About $0.8.
  • How much was it worth half a year ago (on 10/10/2010)? About $0.06. Yes, this means a growth of  X13 in 6 months!
  • Why is BitCoin better than “real money”? There is a variety of reasons. Read the link, I don’t want to repeat myself.
  • Will it continue to grow? Well, we don’t know yet. But we can bet on it. So far, I bet $350 of my money that it will grow, and I’m planning to purchase more.
  • Where can I find more about BitCoins? First, you can try the forums. If I were you, I would quickly obtain some free BiCoins from the BitCoin Facuet, then go and ask some questions over at bitcoin.witcoin.com (the Digg style, bitcoin powered website I told you about)
  • And, one last question – “WTF? Are you serious? You’re paying for virtual goods, this is like buying stuff on FarmVille!”To that, I answer a resounding no. I’m very confident that this will become more and more real. If you’re quick enough to decide, and brave enough, you can join me and bet on it to. If I’m right, you may become rich *
Update
A few important facts to add:
  • There will only be about 20,000,000 bitcoins, ever. Nobody can create an inflation at will, and create more bitcoins unfairly out of thin air. If you believe 1% of the world’s economy will be bitcoins by 2030, and you buy 1000 bitcoins now for the low low price of $800, and you hold the bitcoins for 20 years, then you will personally own 1/2000000 of the world’s economy. Yes, you. Personally. Read the figures again.
  • Today, the worth of all the bitcoins put together is $10,000,000. The worth of the bitcoins traded every day are $10,000. This is not a toy research project.
  • The userbase is growing exponentially.
If, after reading all this, you’re interested, here’s a small “how to get started guide“. If you have any questions, just let me know!
* – “Becoming rich” not guaranteed. Invest at your own risk. Use your head. And be sure to drink lots of water, and not to eat before swimming.
* – If this post somehow made you rich and you want to repay the favor, I accept donations at this address: 1G89pwL5FWKt7CPvJBaquNVVHkjtJ8sWEn

Want to know what’s on my mind lately?

Take a look at Wordle – creates a quick summary of any RSS feed. Here’s mine (java required).

Wordle: ripper234.com

git-svn made easy

For the last year, my main usage of git was for my own personal projects – rather basic stuff, consisting of simple commit/push/pull operations. Recently, I wanted to edit some code on the OSQA project, which is unfortunately hosted on SVN. I am not a committer (yet), so if I wanted my work to be source control, I actually had no clear option except using git-svn.

It took me some time to get started, I find that there are still some gotchas that can surprise you if you’re new to git or git-svn. Luckily I stumbled across this lovely series of screencasts. Thomas walks you through the basics, and showcases some more advanced use cases as well. I highly recommend it! (I subscribed to his blog as well)

My 2011 job hunt

I was asked by my dad to “send him a few links about prospective hi-tech companies” to pass a long to a friend who is looking for a job. Instead, I decided to blog about my experience from recent “job hunt” I did, and concentrate it into one post.

I decided to look for a job on February, posted this fact on my blog, and sent my CV to a two placement companies – SeeV and Pinzzeta. I was relatively selective in choosing companies to interview at, because I knew I’ll probably go work for Google if they accepted me anyway, and I wanted to try a few other companies both to see if I could find something that excited me more, and to practice my interviewing skills. Before going to any interview, I formulated a list of things I wanted to know about my future employers, and decided what my next job would be about – working and learning from great people, and being part of a team that has a bright future ahead of it.

Finally, I would like to end with a short list of some of the companies that I found more interesting, in no particular order:

  • Delver – Some of the brightest people in the industry work there (I know, I spent 3 years working with them!)
  • Snaptu – A leader mobile app platform, Facebook just signed a big deal with them. Their sheer scale was amazing (I don’t recall the exact numbers, but they have a shitload of hits every day).
  • Soluto – I was impressed by the people and vision of Soluto. They make a downloadable client that “makes your frustrations go away”, and they already a lot of users. Note that user counts of a desktop client should be counted differently from user counts of webapps – users are way more reluctant to download apps.
  • Waze – even though I only had the chance to do one interview there, it seems like everyone I know uses their software! I always wanted to build something that’s very wildly used, and Waze looks promising in this aspect.
  • TypeMock – one of the world leaders in TDD, and with impressive people in its current & former ranks, TypeMock seems like a great company to work for.
  • I’ll finish this list with a few stealth-mode startups that caught my eyes. It was really hard turning you guys down – I would keep my eyes open for both Yotpo and MashLife

(I’d like to add that if I interviewed for your company and it isn’t on this list, this does’t mean I think of it negatively – just that it wasn’t a good fit for me, at this time. I deliberately wanted to keep this list short.)

Update – it appears that only one day after I posted this, Facebook announced that they’re acquiring SnapTu for $70 million. I wonder if that would have meant anything for me if I had just signed there two weeks ago.

How to backup your EC2 instance using python

A while back, I asked on Server Fault how to backup an EC2 instance. I got a few good answers, but nothing that’s “batteries includes, copy-paste me and you’re done”.

As I recently started to learn Python (I’d like to get my hands dirty with OSQA code, and it aught to be useful in my upcoming job at Google), I turned to implement a simple backup script in Python.

I quickly found boto, an library for accessing EC2. They have a very helpful user group, and I wrote a small script that, will create a new Amazon AMI & snapshot, and take care to cleanup all AMIs and snapshots.

In the process of writing this, I found that boto itself has a very similar functionality included, but I was already well into writing my own wrapper script, and besides my scripts creates “ready to run” AMIs, and not just snapshots (lame excuse, but still).

So, to use, simply clone this github repository, make sure your python installation includes SSL, configure it and you should be good to go.

Add StackOverflow-specific search to Chrome for fun and profit!

When I saw Chrome’s Custom Search feature a while back, I didn’t think of any particular use for it for me.
However, lately I’ve noticed that a lot of my queries end in “site:stackoverflow.com”.

So, I went ahead and setup shortcuts for searching Stack Overflow (and Super User, while I’m at it). From now on, if I want to make the turtle move in Logo, I simply type “SO turtle logo” into my Chrome’s omnibox.

To set this up, see this link.

Who should write the Spec?

Today, at an excellent presentation/discussion of Continuous Deployment organized via IL-TechTalks, one of the presenters (I believe it was Gig from Wix) talked about this novel idea: The traditional role of a product manager is to write specs, which developers then digest and implement. This leaves the PM with the question – after reading the spec, does the developer really understand what we’re trying to achieve with this feature?

Instead, why not create the opposite process? A developer/feature owner and a PM can discuss a feature verbally to get the message across, and then the developer can create a spec document. If the developer really understands the business goals of his feature, this can be an easy way for him to “prove” this to the project manager. I think the role of spec documents is important in some features, because they are relatively cheap to build (compared to a full fledged POC), and help to create a focus point for all parties involved with the feature. By creating and owning the spec document, the feature owner can begin to really take ownership of the feature, instead of interpreting a document written by someone else. Also, shifting the ownership of the spec document to the feature owner enables him to be creative in ways the product manager can’t, because he has specific domain knowledge.

The feature owner is empowered to build the best feature he can that satisfies the business goals and vision outlined by the PM, as opposed to the traditional approach which tends to encourage developers to only make minor changes in the “PM’s spec”.

What do you think? Can this process work at your organization?