Adam Novak's PlanetLab Slice

What it is doing and why

Table of Contents


What is your PlanetLab slice doing?

My PlanetLab slice is running an experimental version of PyBC, a blockchain library implemented in Python. My slice is running a cryptocurrency system implemented using PyBC: nodes mine blocks and send "coins" to each other, in order to generate transaction traffic and test system performance.

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Why is it doing that?

The slice is performing an experiment: I am attempting to compare the performance and storage requirements of traditional blockchain and "mini-blockchain" backends for a cryptocurrency system. This is important work for the future of cryptocurrencies: the traditional blockchain model, in which all full nodes need to maintain a complete history of all transactions, suffers from scaling problems. The alternative mini-blockchain model, in which transactions are only stored for a finite length of time, can potentially be made to scale better.

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Is this making you money?

No. The test cryptocurrency being produced and exchanged among nodes has no actual value, and is not being bought, sold, or used to purchase anything. The test cryptocurrency rule set is structured so that the total supply of currency units is unbounded, and moreover the rule set is entirely under the control of a single individual, so it would be extremely difficult for the test cryptocurrency to acquire any value. At the end of the experiment, the keys controlling access to the experimental cryptocurrency units produced will be destroyed. This is emphatically not a slice that misappropriates PlanetLab resources to mine Bitcoins, or any other cryptocurrency, for the personal gain of the experimenter.

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Is this legal?

Almost certainly. There is no law prohibiting the writing of cryptocurrency software. The number of cryptocurrencies that have been created to date is on the order of a hundred, and to my knowledge no one has ever gotten in legal trouble for creating one. When cryptocurrencies are used as money, it is possible to do illegal things with them, ranging from buying drugs to running investment scams. However, the fact that the test cryptocurrency units produced in this experiment are not used as money by anyone, and will not be bought, sold, invested in, or otherwise exchanged for money, goods, or services means that the risk of legal issues associated with this experiment is very low.

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Who should I contact if things go wrong?

If the slice begins causing any sort of problems—if it somehow gets convinced that some unrelated server is involved in the experiment and starts sending it a problematic number of connection attempts, or if the slice manages to use an inordinate amount of PlanetLab node resources, or if someone has managed to compromise the slice and is abusing it—you should contact:

Adam Novak
anovak [at] soe [dot] ucsc [dot] edu

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