All posts by ihatethesoundsaroundme

Hanging Out with the Chain Gang, Part 2

Because, as it turned out, the person sitting inside the Microsoft booth was York Rhodes, one of the top-level managers pushing the blockchain efforts at Microsoft. And, evident from the various workshops and talks that included Microsoft’s presence, it was the intention of Mr. Rhodes to use this occasion as an opportunity. For what? Namely to declare the love shared between Ethereum and Microsoft, using various examples like the Starbucks project that had been revealed a few days prior:

It was obvious that unlike some of their other projects, Microsoft had decided to seriously invest in blockchain going forward. (And, in the days that followed, they made similar announcements that emphasized this reconsideration.)
As yet further proof, there was also an interesting workshop by Microsoft to describe their efforts binding Azure with J.P. Morgan’s Quorum:

For some, this kind of event (along with the discontinued funding of many projects for social good) was somewhat a disappointment, representing a turning point for Consensys and Ethereum where the ideals of hot air were traded for a cool breeze. Personally, though, as someone who’s seen this kind of thing before in the DotCom era, it’s part of the growing pains of any nascent platform. I listened to Rhodes’ lecture with the appreciation that comes from knowing how time moves us all along.

But all good news doesn’t have to come from the corporate overlords. In fact, Gitcoin delivered some informative updates about their platform, especially in relation to their integration with Ethereum:

And it was amusing as well as informative, since Kevin Owocki acknowledged Microsoft’s presence by both congratulating their progress in the last few years and by reminding us how we used to think of them.

In the end, this summit was a good indicator of what was to come, of the maturity that must be embraced by the developers of a platform and by the platform itself. And we’ll be all the better for it. Both Gitcoin (which I wish had been around when I was young) and Microsoft are two side of the same “coin” (see what I did there?), showing how the same platform can advance in parallel with the right kind of collaboration and vision. I left the summit surprisingly a bit more optimistic than before, which I can say hardly happens these days.

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Hanging Out with the Chain Gang, Part 1

So, I got an opportunity to attend the Ethereal Summit this past week, and I’m glad that I did. It was my first time, and it was worth it. Why? For a number of reasons. Also, strangely, I found it interesting to see Joe Lubin casually walking down a street in Red Hook, especially when I remember how the ‘hood used to be when the movie Made was shot. In addition to surreal imagery, it was a pleasant experience for the exposure to all of the different projects. Plus, it didn’t hurt that The Red Hook Lobster Pound was just a few doors down.

On the first day, I attended a few workshops, but the one that especially caught my attention was an Ethereum-based platform for VPN called Orchid. Some people might chastise me for not knowing about it, saying that it’s been around for years. But I’m an old man who lives under a rock, so many “ancient” things are new to me. In any case, it was one of those ideas where you say “Oh, yeah, of course that makes sense! Why didn’t I think of that?” After listening to the presentation for only a few minutes, I was sold on the idea. I only wish that I had taken a better picture (which is the one shown below):

I listened to a few presentations from the main stage, but they seemed rather short and bit rapid in pace. Afterwards, I decided to visit the exhibition area with all of the vendor booths. (Which, I was told, had sadly shrunk to a fraction of its size from last year and its crypto “good times”). I walked past the free candy stand, drank my cucumber water with my pinkie out, and checked out the nearby booths. It was then that one booth and its XBox caught my eye:

The gentleman sitting down seemed oddly familiar to me, but I had a hard time placing where I had seen him before. Little did I know at that moment, he was more or less the guest of honor at this summit. Because this event was mostly about one major player who had now taken a profound liking to the Ethereum platform: Microsoft. As I would soon learn during the course of the next day.

Product Review: Azure Blockchain Workbench

So, until there’s a Kubernetes Operator for an Ethereum test chain (or something comparable where you click a button to get everything running and perfect), it seems like you’ll have to do things a little more manually when it comes to setting up an Ethereum development environment in the cloud. Why’s that? Because with a nascent tech like Ethereum, everything keeps changing rapidly, and a Docker image with an embedded Ethereum testchain and dev tools will be outdated in just a few months. So, in the end, you’d have to do the same thing anyway with just a basic Docker image: download the latest packages, make any needed adjustments to get a testchain working, and then refactor your code (Solidity, etc.) so that it’ll now compile without warnings or errors.

Sigh

So, when I heard that Microsoft had created a service that would wrap around Ethereum, my eyes started to sparkle. Finally, I wouldn’t have to worry about playing the role of admin or devops, so that I can just develop…

…but then I promptly stopped and thought “Wait a minute? Microsoft? Creating a PaaS with Ethereum? Hmmmm…I don’t know about that…” Still, though, I’m willing to try anything once, so I decided to give Blockchain Workbench a chance.

So, I tried out Workbench to get a quick impression, and after a few hours, I think that I have a fair assessment of it. Now, if you’re a beginner, I’d recommend it: it’s a good place for an Ethereum beginner with an Azure account. But (and I’m trying not to be too harsh here), I would say that’s where its potential would be maxed out. Beyond being interactive teaching software for enterprise officers to learn about blockchain, I doubt that it’s something Ethereum developers or proponents would ever use. Not only is the Ethereum node completely hidden and inaccessible, the Workbench is an abstract wrapper around the node, so abstract that it becomes an hindrance to even communicate with the node. In the end, it’s completely unfriendly to a developer, an opinion which seems to be shared by others.

However, I will agree with Dimitrios on a second point: Microsoft’s template for Ethereum PoA could be useful. After experimenting with that one for an hour, I could totally see a consortium opting to try it out as a shared Ethereum solution.

Quick Tangent: Maybe When I’m Dead

I always think about circling back to my haunted house game, especially since it seems that the tech stack gets a little closer each year to making the design viable. And now, just a few days ago, the IEEE standard for precise locations was announced to be released in March! That means silicon designs could be just around the corner, right…?

…right?

Oh, let’s be honest. At this rate, I’ll be one of the ghosts in my game before this damn thing ever gets done.