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Author Topic: Bitcoin technology with gold  (Read 3314 times)
realnowhereman
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July 14, 2011, 03:36:12 PM
 #1

Let's say I am an owner of gold and a seller of gold certificates.  People would like to use gold, but it's hard to buy and sell things with it.  I am honest; and trusted (people already buy my certificates).

Enter: Bitcoin (technology).

Forget Bitcoin as it is now for a second.  Bitcoin's blockchain lets us trade anything securely; the only caveat is how that "anything" enters the system.

Remember, I'm trusted and honest.  I get together with all my trusted and honest friends who also have gold.  We all declare how much gold we have (by weight) and we all certify that those declarations are valid.

Now... we modify bitcoin to create a new genesis block (and hence chain) which issues exactly the agreed amounts.  We all independently write those amounts into our genesis blocks (that way no one can cheat, since we all independently create the same genesis block).  We all now run our bitgold nodes.  We could have coinbase transactions that have to be signed by every member of the gold group, not issued with every block, just when needed when new gold is imported into the system.

Haven't we now got a gold trading system?  All the advantages of bitcoin (save one*), and perfectly acceptable to the masses who don't like bitcoin but do like gold (like the fuddy-duddies on mises.org).

Want some gold?  You buy it from one of these initial gold dealers, and they send that gold to your bitgold address.  You can trade it with whomever you like, just as with bitcoins, and the gold traders aren't involved (other than running the bitgold miner nodes, and hence taking the transaction fees, so they are happy).  When gold is removed from the system, it's a simple matter of deleting the address to which that gold has been moved (again, requiring trust).

I'm not actually advocating that we do this (although it would work).  Haha!  Tricked you.  It's actually an argument for the fuddy-duddies.  Here is the final step...

bitgold is so convenient and successful that nobody ever actually goes and claims their gold.  Why would they?  What if, at this moment, 99% of the gold vanished?  Literally.  It gets zapped by aliens.  But... nobody knows that it's happened.  Nobody need care.  Trade is happening as it always has.  Nobody actually wanted the gold (and for those that did, the 1% that's left will be fine).

Ignoring some minor differences about how the coins/gold was introduced to the chain, we've gotten to a point where bitgold is equivalent to bitcoins.  Goldbugs of the world, and mises.org fuddy-duddies: where is your god now?

* We have to trust that the gold brokers really are honest.  But people who like gold already have that problem.  Very few gold bugs are actually buying physical gold, they are buying a promise of gold.

(I wasn't sure if this should be in economics; but I think the idea of bitgold is good enough on its own that it can go in disussion).

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BitcoinPorn
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July 14, 2011, 05:01:17 PM
 #2

I will invest in the Weedcoins http://forum.bitcoin.org/index.php?topic=9493.20 before this zany Gold based currency you are making up.   I am not sure if I fully have ever understood the value of gold, other than the value placed on it by whomever wants it I guess, so I'm not sure if I can fully grasp why someone would want to lace their Bitcoin with gold lol.

Is that how gold transactions really normally go?  Just slips of paper and a promise?  Feel free to make fun, I am this ignorant on this topic.

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July 14, 2011, 05:24:20 PM
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ignoring some minor differences about how the coins/gold was introduced to the chain, we've gotten to a point where bitgold is equivalent to bitcoins.

Perhaps I'm not following your point exactly.. but wouldn't the trading value of these hypothetical bitgold coins be linked to whatever value gold is trading at?  
ie  if 1 bitgold coin = 1 ounce  .. then 1 bitgold coin (1 BGC) will always be valued at at least* whatever 1 ounce is trading at.
The value bitgold coins are traded at may be at a premium for the convenience factor of easy transferability provided by the blockchain based system..
and presumably this premium could fluctuate just as wildly as bitcoins. You've pegged* the base value only.

Now.. whether or not the underlying gold actually exists - if people trust it's backed by that gold then sure.. the lower value remains pegged to the gold price.


This is where I don't understand your claim to equivalence to bitcoins.  Bitcoins don't have any such pegging system and so have no lower bound.


*regarding lower value peg: I say 1 BGC would be  'at least' valued at whatever gold unit it represents - but I guess there could be certain unlikely situations where it's less because people really would prefer to have the physical stuff..
e.g plausible rumours that the internet is about to collapse, imminent alien invasion,government crypto crackdown, a very effective virus running around stealing BGC or wikileaks releases the fact that your gold has been zapped.

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July 14, 2011, 05:43:44 PM
 #4

Let's say I am an owner of gold and a seller of gold certificates.  People would like to use gold, but it's hard to buy and sell things with it.  I am honest; and trusted (people already buy my certificates).

snip


This would be utterly pointless.

If people have to rely on a central counterparty to redeem their certificates for gold (or anything else - people have proposed that share registries might be maintained in a bitcoin block chain but again that would be pointless) that central counterparty might as well maintain the database of who owns what. There's no benefit to having a complicated distributed database like bitcoin for that when all the risk is already concentrated in a central counterparty. If your central counterparty is going got cheat you then they will. If the government forces the central counterparty to take some action then they will. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference if the central counterparty keeps the records of who owns what in a simple spreadsheet.
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July 14, 2011, 05:59:10 PM
 #5

Let's say I am an owner of gold and a seller of gold certificates.  People would like to use gold, but it's hard to buy and sell things with it.  I am honest; and trusted (people already buy my certificates).

snip


This would be utterly pointless.

If people have to rely on a central counterparty to redeem their certificates for gold (or anything else - people have proposed that share registries might be maintained in a bitcoin block chain but again that would be pointless) that central counterparty might as well maintain the database of who owns what. There's no benefit to having a complicated distributed database like bitcoin for that when all the risk is already concentrated in a central counterparty. If your central counterparty is going got cheat you then they will. If the government forces the central counterparty to take some action then they will. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference if the central counterparty keeps the records of who owns what in a simple spreadsheet.

But the central party doesn't record who owns what - it needs to be trusted only in so far as it issues certificates (or bitgoldcoin) only up to the value of what they hold in their vaults.  As the OP stated, you have the advantage of being able to transfer it to whoever you want via the internet.
That the central party needs to be trusted, or can be shut down by governments is a disadvantage compared to bitcoin - sure - but presumably it's the transferability, non-revocability, and double-spending protection that is the benefit.   
It's not so great from a purely libertarian perspective, nor from the point of view robustness and points of failure/attack - but it's a far cry from utterly pointless.

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realnowhereman
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July 14, 2011, 08:08:21 PM
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Let's say I am an owner of gold and a seller of gold certificates.  People would like to use gold, but it's hard to buy and sell things with it.  I am honest; and trusted (people already buy my certificates).

snip


This would be utterly pointless.

If people have to rely on a central counterparty to redeem their certificates for gold (or anything else - people have proposed that share registries might be maintained in a bitcoin block chain but again that would be pointless) that central counterparty might as well maintain the database of who owns what. There's no benefit to having a complicated distributed database like bitcoin for that when all the risk is already concentrated in a central counterparty. If your central counterparty is going got cheat you then they will. If the government forces the central counterparty to take some action then they will. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference if the central counterparty keeps the records of who owns what in a simple spreadsheet.

1. You didn't read to the end, when I was mainly using all that to make a point that gold is no better than bitcoins.

2. Given how useless gold is, people probably do only do one thing with their certificates... "redeem" them.  Once they are tradeable without the involvement of the issuing authority, I doubt they would ever need to be redeemed.  So.. the certificating parties database needn't even exist.

3. The certificating authority doesn't need to know who owns any particular unit of bitgold; they are just the creator of it.  What if I bought bitgold from you in exchange for bitcoins?  Or vice versa.

4. There is nothing the government can do to the issuer, other than take their gold from them.  Government's stealing gold would probably cause a bit of uproar.

As I said, I'm not actually advocating.  I doubt enough of us have enough gold to make this practical.  But "utterly pointless" seems a little harsh.

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July 14, 2011, 08:28:13 PM
 #7

Haha, good one! I was actually starting to believe you're serious, since propositions like this one have actually appeared here before. Also, good point Smiley

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July 14, 2011, 08:33:36 PM
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 I was mainly using all that to make a point that gold is no better than bitcoins.


Which you failed to do.

There is a striking difference between BGC and BTC.

The BGC has a minimum lower value of whatever size chunk of gold a coin represents whereas a BTC has a minimum lower value of zero.



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July 14, 2011, 08:46:23 PM
 #9

I will invest in the Weedcoins http://forum.bitcoin.org/index.php?topic=9493.20 before this zany Gold based currency you are making up.   I am not sure if I fully have ever understood the value of gold, other than the value placed on it by whomever wants it I guess, so I'm not sure if I can fully grasp why someone would want to lace their Bitcoin with gold lol.

Is that how gold transactions really normally go?  Just slips of paper and a promise?  Feel free to make fun, I am this ignorant on this topic.

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realnowhereman
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July 15, 2011, 03:01:30 PM
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I was mainly using all that to make a point that gold is no better than bitcoins.


Which you failed to do.

There is a striking difference between BGC and BTC.

The BGC has a minimum lower value of whatever size chunk of gold a coin represents whereas a BTC has a minimum lower value of zero.

Why exactly can't gold be worth zero?

"Because it was always so", right?   There is no non-zero minimum value for anything.

Besides, that wasn't what I said anyway.  In my thought experiment I said "the gold vanishes".  It mades no difference though, because nobody would know it'd vanished.  So: people didn't want the physical gold, they wanted the promise that the issuer couldn't magic more gold from thin air, they wanted something that could be used for trade.  Bitcoin can supply those properties, so what do we need gold for?

I'm trying to show that if gold were easily tradeable via trusted certificates (or a bitgold chain), nobody would ever want to redeem their certificate for physical gold.  Therefore they didn't want gold; they wanted some of the properties of gold.

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July 16, 2011, 03:57:39 PM
 #11


I was mainly using all that to make a point that gold is no better than bitcoins.


Which you failed to do.

There is a striking difference between BGC and BTC.

The BGC has a minimum lower value of whatever size chunk of gold a coin represents whereas a BTC has a minimum lower value of zero.


Why exactly can't gold be worth zero?

Because it isn't trading at zero, and isn't about to be... not because it *couldn't* be. Right now -  it's vastly more likely for bitcoin value to go near zero than gold.

"Because it was always so", right?   There is no non-zero minimum value for anything.
We're viewing a hypothetical system based on gold - which currently, and barring crazy scenarios such as a monstrous solid gold asteroid landing peacefully somewhere near manhattan - will have a non-zero value it's traded at.
It is non-zero in almost any circumstance imaginable. The same can't be said of bitcoin (yet). No point throwing some extra spanner into the hypothetical situation such that suddenly the world doesn't want to buy gold.

Besides, that wasn't what I said anyway.  In my thought experiment I said "the gold vanishes".  It mades no difference though, because nobody would know it'd vanished.  So: people didn't want the physical gold, they wanted the promise that the issuer couldn't magic more gold from thin air, they wanted something that could be used for trade.  Bitcoin can supply those properties, so what do we need gold for?
I get what you're trying to do - and I'm explaining why it doesn't make sense.
People in your scenario *do* want the physical gold to be there. If they wanted 'the promise that the issuer couldn't magic more gold from thin air' then they sure as hell wanted the promise that the gold couldn't disappear into thin air.

That it still works when that promise is secretly violated doesn't mean the gold was irrelevant. Gold has real value in that people know they can get X USD for Y ounces. This means an instrument based on that gold has a minimum that matches this.

The 'promise' is that worst comes to worst - the gold *could* be retrieved and traded at whatever gold trades at.
That 'nobody ever actually goes and claims their gold'  is only a function of people's belief in the promise.
The promise gives your BGC a lower bound on value. (Which cannot be zero unless gold goes to zero!)

Bitcoin has no promise of an underlying commodity to redeem... so it doesn't have *that* lower bound.
It's lower bound is the lowest of what people think bitcoins should be worth due to their use in trade.
(close to zero if people worry that government/hacker/corporate/crypto-scientist actions could wreck the system)


I'm trying to show that if gold were easily tradeable via trusted certificates (or a bitgold chain), nobody would ever want to redeem their certificate for physical gold.  Therefore they didn't want gold; they wanted some of the properties of gold.

The critical desired property being - that gold has a value in exchange.

Most of the frozen pork belly traders in Chicago never wanted to redeem their slabs of dead pig either..   they too just 'wanted something that could be used for trade'. Their only interest in trading pork belly futures was to make a profit.. so their only interest in the underlying pork belly was that *somebody* (the meat industry) valued it.
Now that there is reduced demand for frozen pork bellies - the CME has just this month delisted frozen pork bellies futures and options.
That pork belly contracts were convenient for speculators to trade amongst each other is a property of the financial instrument that isn't true of slabs of meat.
Obviously there are significant differences between frozen meat and gold - but the value relationship to the underlying commodity remains.

It's similar to the concept of biasing in electronics where a particular circuit operates at a certain voltage and the signal dances around that level.
The bitcoin value dances above zero - the BGC value would dance above whatever value gold trades at.

I was mainly using all that to make a point that gold is no better than bitcoins.

After all my long-winded argument about why the gold-backed BGC you dreamt up would *currently* be better than bitcoin (from a value perspective - not in all aspects!), if you want to make the argument that gold is *in principal* no better than bitcoins, or *in future* may be no better - then I'd tend to agree.

If bitcoin were massively entrenched in the economies of the world and widely held valuable - then yes - I think bitcoin would be superior to gold in terms of practical use in trade and value storage.

Gold would remain superior as an emergency value store in the minds of those who think the internet could collapse, technology regress, world war could break out or other semi-apocalyptic visions could come to pass.

It's that simple physicality which gold bugs will always value, so I don't see your argument persuading them that bitcoin is *now* better than gold, and even in some future where bitcoin dominates - people would probably want some of their portfolio in gold.








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July 16, 2011, 04:15:22 PM
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Oh.. there is one hypothetical scenario I can think of which might frighten some gold bugs and doesn't involve magic gold asteroids.

What if some development in nanotechnology allows efficient extraction of gold from seawater and other currently non-minable deposits?

Still.. pretty 'out there' for now I think.
Another risk might be bitcoin being seen as a superior value store and thus reducing demand for gold Wink

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July 16, 2011, 05:15:53 PM
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It's that simple physicality which gold bugs will always value, so I don't see your argument persuading them that bitcoin is *now* better than gold, and even in some future where bitcoin dominates - people would probably want some of their portfolio in gold.

I think we essentially agree.

I'm not arguing that people now trading want bitcoin as much as they want gold (that is manifestly untrue).  More, I'm trying to counter the opinion that goldbugs seem to hold that there is something inherently valuable about gold, and something inherently bad about bitcoin.

That just isn't true; their argument is essentially anthropic: gold is valuable because it is valuable.  There is no reason we can't say $COMMODITY is valuable because it's valuable.  Therefore bitcoin is valuable because its valuable.

I don't seek to disprove the worth of gold; I seek to show that if gold is valuable, then bitcoins are valuable.

Now... a quick word about "lower bound of zero".  If you want to argue that gold has a non-zero lower bound, fine, but then bitcoin must have a non-zero lower bound.  It has properties that make it worth something.  Even if that something is $0.000000001.  In that case we're simply talking a matter of scale not of truth.

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July 16, 2011, 06:29:09 PM
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It's that simple physicality which gold bugs will always value, so I don't see your argument persuading them that bitcoin is *now* better than gold, and even in some future where bitcoin dominates - people would probably want some of their portfolio in gold.

I think we essentially agree.

I'm not arguing that people now trading want bitcoin as much as they want gold (that is manifestly untrue).  More, I'm trying to counter the opinion that goldbugs seem to hold that there is something inherently valuable about gold, and something inherently bad about bitcoin.

That just isn't true; their argument is essentially anthropic: gold is valuable because it is valuable.  There is no reason we can't say $COMMODITY is valuable because it's valuable.  Therefore bitcoin is valuable because its valuable.

I don't seek to disprove the worth of gold; I seek to show that if gold is valuable, then bitcoins are valuable.

Now... a quick word about "lower bound of zero".  If you want to argue that gold has a non-zero lower bound, fine, but then bitcoin must have a non-zero lower bound.  It has properties that make it worth something.  Even if that something is $0.000000001.  In that case we're simply talking a matter of scale not of truth.

If gold is valuable, then $COMMODITY is valuable.

set $COMMODITY = my poo.

Hmm, your formula doesn't seem to be working.

But I agree with your argument that bitcoin has value. Gold is valuable because it has valuable properties (unlike my poo). Bitcoin is valuable (or not) according whatever properties it holds (or does not). Gold and bitcoin share certain properties, but they are not entirely identical. We should start talking to goldbugs by first telling them about the properties bitcoin shares with gold. Then, when they agree on those, educate them about bitcoins unique properties.


bitgold is so convenient and successful that nobody ever actually goes and claims their gold.  Why would they?  What if, at this moment, 99% of the gold vanished?  Literally.  It gets zapped by aliens.  But... nobody knows that it's happened.  Nobody need care.  Trade is happening as it always has.  Nobody actually wanted the gold (and for those that did, the 1% that's left will be fine).

Ignoring some minor differences about how the coins/gold was introduced to the chain, we've gotten to a point where bitgold is equivalent to bitcoins.  Goldbugs of the world, and mises.org fuddy-duddies: where is your god now?

This example also explains how to take over bitcoin with another digital currency. Start by making the currency backed in bitcoins, and give it some unique properties (e.g. instant transaction confirmations, better payment support, w/e). One-day you realise people don't bother converting their new currency back into bitcoins...

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
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July 17, 2011, 02:26:00 AM
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You don't want to re-purpose bitocin to do your digital gold trading. You just want a public key based cryptographic contract system.

One example would be Open Transactions (but i couldn't manage to get it compiled for windows, tons of bugs non-c++ pro errors on my part, maybe it works on linux)

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July 18, 2011, 02:43:54 AM
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You don't want to re-purpose bitocin to do your digital gold trading. You just want a public key based cryptographic contract system.

One example would be Open Transactions (but i couldn't manage to get it compiled for windows, tons of bugs, maybe it works on linux)

Actually, this is untrue:  The Moneychanger (OT GUI) developer works on Windows, and I even build it myself and send him a DLL whenever I update the library.

I only have 32-bit Windows at home though, so I can't vouch for 64-bit Windows at this time.  But I have no problem building it.

I will probably just post the DLL here pretty soon, so you can use it without having to build it.

But! I have to build it depending on the API you will use.  (Usually I build the Java API... if you want it for some other language, let me know and I'll see if I can get you a binary...)

I have always said, I will support people who are using OT. If you have trouble building it, that is no excuse.

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July 18, 2011, 08:32:30 AM
 #17

If gold is valuable, then $COMMODITY is valuable.

set $COMMODITY = my poo.

Hmm, your formula doesn't seem to be working.

I chose $COMMODITY on purpose.  Not $ANYTHING_YOU_LIKE.  If your poo becomes tradeable, then it becomes a commodity and my "formula" would be true.

As it happens, you picked a bad example.  Excrement does have uses, and therefore has value to someone.

My point is, and has always been, that there is nothing special about gold.  Any argument one makes to say what it is that makes gold valuable will apply to other things too.  The only one that doesn't is "gold is the only thing that is gold"; and that's just a circular argument, so tells us nothing.

But I agree with your argument that bitcoin has value. Gold is valuable because it has valuable properties (unlike my poo). Bitcoin is valuable (or not) according whatever properties it holds (or does not). Gold and bitcoin share certain properties, but they are not entirely identical. We should start talking to goldbugs by first telling them about the properties bitcoin shares with gold. Then, when they agree on those, educate them about bitcoins unique properties.

Agreed.  I didn't mean to imply that I think bitcoins are gold.  What I mean is that whatever the useful subset of properties are that gold has that makes it valuable are the same properties that make bitcoin valuable. Bitcoin, in my opinion, has additional properties, but I don't think that matters for comparisons with gold.

This example also explains how to take over bitcoin with another digital currency. Start by making the currency backed in bitcoins, and give it some unique properties (e.g. instant transaction confirmations, better payment support, w/e). One-day you realise people don't bother converting their new currency back into bitcoins...

I anticipate that once digital, distributed currencies become normal, that this is how competition between them will occur.  One advantage that is often missed about Bitcoin (and subsequent currencies) is that it will make competition between them very easy.  It will be so simple to switch between these electronic currencies that people will switch to the one that suits them best.  We'll all benefit from that, as we'll end up with the best rather than the best compromise.

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July 18, 2011, 01:08:58 PM
 #18

You don't want to re-purpose bitocin to do your digital gold trading. You just want a public key based cryptographic contract system.

One example would be Open Transactions (but i couldn't manage to get it compiled for windows, tons of bugs, maybe it works on linux)

Actually, this is untrue:  The Moneychanger (OT GUI) developer works on Windows, and I even build it myself and send him a DLL whenever I update the library.

I only have 32-bit Windows at home though, so I can't vouch for 64-bit Windows at this time.  But I have no problem building it.

I will probably just post the DLL here pretty soon, so you can use it without having to build it.

But! I have to build it depending on the API you will use.  (Usually I build the Java API... if you want it for some other language, let me know and I'll see if I can get you a binary...)

I have always said, I will support people who are using OT. If you have trouble building it, that is no excuse.


There I fixed my post, I am sure it was my fault somehow. But I have a java and embedded c knowledgebase, So if I couldn't figure it out there has to be a lot of other people in the same boat.
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July 18, 2011, 01:55:32 PM
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There I fixed my post, I am sure it was my fault somehow. But I have a java and embedded c knowledgebase, So if I couldn't figure it out there has to be a lot of other people in the same boat.

FYI I just checked in more fixes based on your feedback, and will be posting some builds soon as well (I'll announce it.)

I just now built this latest version of OT on Mac Snow Leopard 64 bit, Ubuntu 32bit x86, and Windows Ultimate 32 bit x86. (For Java mode OT-API.)

I had to reinstall Windows anyway, so I went through the whole process tonight from a fresh install, and I updated the INSTALL-Windows notes, as well as the three vcproj files (OTLib, CPP_Windows_API and JNI_Windows_API).

But anyway, sorry about the hassle and I should have some binaries available soon, at least for the above platforms.

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July 18, 2011, 03:59:52 PM
 #20


Here are some binaries...

https://github.com/FellowTraveler/Open-Transactions/downloads

You will still have to download the code (to get the data_folders, etc), but at least you don't have to actually compile anything.

I posted the OT API for Java, for Windows 32bit, Mac x64, and Ubuntu x86. (i.e. you still need the Java files from the code as well, to use the OT Java DLL.)

===> You may also need to install some of the dependencies. Depending on your platform, I don't know if it's going to try and dynamically load up ZMQ or Protobuf, in which case it would fail without them. I haven't posted full install files -- just binaries so you don't have to build OT. Another example is, for Windows, you may need to install the VC++ 2008 Redistributables as well as the VC++ 2010 Redistributables (which would normally be in the install program, if we had one.)  There are notes in the INSTALL docs that come with OT.

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