Draft gbw-node frontend, part 6

Filed under: Bitcoin, Software — Jacob Welsh @ 21:32

Continued from:

The first of the input/output commands is to print a table of possibly-spendable outputs in the format required by the offline signer. While the Bitcoin protocol refers to transactions by 256-bit hash, the more compact confirmation coordinates (height, index) are included for convenience in the comment field. The queries are a bit lengthy, since we now join several tables to build the flat output file, but aren't doing anything too fancy once you break them down. The only difference when a tag is specified is the extra join to filter on its ID.

In some cases, BLOB fields need to be converted back to str.(i)

def cmd_unspent_outs(argv):
	unspent-outs [TAG]

	Display the unspent outputs table for addresses with the given TAG (or all watched addresses), as required by the offline wallet, ordered by age.
	if len(argv) > 0:
		tag_id = require_tag(argv.pop(0))
		r = db.execute('SELECT address, value, hash, output.n, block_height, tx.n FROM output \
				JOIN address ON output.address_id = address.address_id \
				JOIN tx ON output.tx_id = tx.tx_id \
				JOIN address_tag ON output.address_id = address_tag.address_id \
				WHERE spent IS NULL AND tag_id=? \
				ORDER BY block_height DESC', (tag_id,))
		r = db.execute('SELECT address, value, hash, output.n, block_height, tx.n FROM output \
				JOIN address ON output.address_id = address.address_id \
				JOIN tx ON output.tx_id = tx.tx_id \
				WHERE spent IS NULL \
				ORDER BY block_height DESC')
	for a, v, hash, n_out, height, n_tx in r:
		stdout.write('%s %s %s %s #blk %s tx %s\n' % (format_address(str(a)), format_coin(v), b2lx(hash), n_out, height, n_tx))

Idea: Add a command to print the outputs table for a given raw transaction. For example, this would enable spending unconfirmed or too recently confirmed outputs in a pinch, without requiring any further changes. Or more generally: all the data conversion code is already here so might as well make it accessible.

Next we proceed to the accounting commands, as they're really just another kind of output command. The balance of an address set is the total value of unspent outputs to addresses in the set.

def cmd_balance(argv):
	balance [TAG]

	Display confirmed balance of addresses with the given TAG (or all watched addresses).
	if len(argv) > 0:
		tag_id = require_tag(argv.pop(0))
		r = db.execute('SELECT COALESCE(SUM(value),0) FROM output \
				JOIN address_tag ON output.address_id = address_tag.address_id \
				WHERE spent IS NULL AND tag_id=?', (tag_id,))
		r = db.execute('SELECT COALESCE(SUM(value),0) FROM output WHERE spent IS NULL')
	bal, = r.fetchone()
	stdout.write('%s\n' % format_coin(bal))

Things get tricker for the register report as it attempts to usefully summarize several things in a small space. In particular, summing the incoming and outgoing value per transaction seems to require separate queries since the join criteria differ.(ii)

def cmd_register(argv):
	register [TAG]

	Display a tab-delimited transaction register report for addresses with the given TAG (or all watched addresses). Columns are:

	- confirmation block height
	- number of transaction within block
	- total deposits (new outputs)
	- total withdrawals (spent outputs)
	- running balance
	if len(argv) > 0:
		tag_id = require_tag(argv.pop(0))
		outs = db.execute('SELECT block_height, tx.n, COALESCE(SUM(value),0) FROM tx \
				JOIN output ON output.tx_id = tx.tx_id \
				JOIN address_tag ON output.address_id = address_tag.address_id \
				WHERE tag_id=? \
				GROUP BY tx.tx_id \
				ORDER BY block_height, tx.n', (tag_id,))
		ins = db.execute('SELECT block_height, tx.n, COALESCE(SUM(value),0) FROM tx \
				JOIN input ON input.tx_id = tx.tx_id \
				JOIN output ON input.input_id = output.spent \
				JOIN address_tag ON output.address_id = address_tag.address_id \
				WHERE tag_id=? \
				GROUP BY tx.tx_id \
				ORDER BY block_height, tx.n', (tag_id,))
		outs = db.execute('SELECT block_height, tx.n, COALESCE(SUM(value),0) FROM tx \
				JOIN output ON output.tx_id = tx.tx_id \
				GROUP BY tx.tx_id \
				ORDER BY block_height, tx.n')
		ins = db.execute('SELECT block_height, tx.n, COALESCE(SUM(value),0) FROM tx \
				JOIN input ON input.tx_id = tx.tx_id \
				JOIN output ON input.input_id = output.spent \
				GROUP BY tx.tx_id \
				ORDER BY block_height, tx.n')
	bal = 0
	for height, n, o_val, i_val in merge_moves(outs.fetchall(), ins.fetchall()):
		bal = bal + o_val - i_val
		stdout.write('%s\t%s\t%s\t%s\t%s\n' % (height, n, format_coin(o_val), format_coin(-i_val), format_coin(bal)))

A helper is used to join the two possibly uneven lists by transaction, inserting zeros for transactions found on only one side. Perhaps it could all be done in SQL with subqueries and some type of outer joins, but I wasn't quite seeing it, so resorted to the low level with an algorithm reminiscent of the merging step of classical mergesort.

# Merge ordered lists of total input and output values per transaction into single table with columns for both.
def merge_moves(outs, ins):
	i = o = 0

	while True:
		if o == len(outs):
			for height, n, val in ins[i:]:
				yield (height, n, 0, val)
		o_height, o_n, o_val = outs[o]
		o_key = (o_height, o_n)

		if i == len(ins):
			for height, n, val in outs[o:]:
				yield (height, n, val, 0)
		i_height, i_n, i_val = ins[i]
		i_key = (i_height, i_n)

		if o_key < i_key:
			yield (o_height, o_n, o_val, 0)
			o += 1
		elif i_key < o_key:
			yield (i_height, i_n, 0, i_val)
			i += 1
			yield (o_height, o_n, o_val, i_val)
			i += 1
			o += 1

Next, the input commands. For sanity's sake, we exclude newlines in tag names as implicitly required by the tags listing format.

def cmd_watch(argv):
	watch [TAG]

	Import a set of addresses to watch linewise from stdin, optionally named by the given TAG. Addresses can be associated with multiple tags using multiple watch commands.
	tag_id = None
	if len(argv) > 0:
		name = argv.pop(0)
		if '\n' in name:
			die('newline not allowed in tag name')
		tag_id = insert_or_get_tag_id(name)
	while True:
		l = stdin.readline()
		if len(l) == 0:
		addr_id = insert_or_get_address_id(parse_address(l.rstrip('\n')))
		if tag_id is not None:
				db.execute('INSERT INTO address_tag (address_id, tag_id) VALUES (?,?)',
						(addr_id, tag_id))
			except IntegrityError:

def cmd_push(argv):

	Import raw hex transactions linewise from stdin and send to bitcoind.
	while True:
		line = stdin.readline()
		if len(line) == 0:
		tx_hex = line.rstrip('\n')
		stdout.write('txid %s\n' % rpc('sendrawtransaction', tx_hex))

General or command-specific help, and a command registry allowing abbreviation:

def cmd_help(argv):
	help [COMMAND]

	Display help for a given command or list all commands.
	if len(argv) > 0:
		name = argv.pop(0)
		name, func = get_command(name)
		doc = getdoc(func)
		if doc is None:
			stdout.write('No help for %r\n' % name)
			stdout.write('gbw-node %s\n' % doc)
		stdout.write('''Usage: gbw-node COMMAND [ARGS]

Available commands (can be abbreviated when unambiguous):

''' % '\n'.join([name for name, f in cmds]))

cmds = (
	('help', cmd_help),
	('scan', cmd_scan),
	('reset', cmd_reset),
	('tags', cmd_tags),
	('addresses', cmd_addresses),
	('unspent-outs', cmd_unspent_outs),
	('watch', cmd_watch),
	('push', cmd_push),
	('balance', cmd_balance),
	('register', cmd_register),

def get_command(name):
	rows = [r for r in cmds if r[0].startswith(name)]
	if len(rows) == 0:
		die('command not found: %s' % name)
	if len(rows) > 1:
		die('ambiguous command %s. Completions: %s' % (name, ' '.join([r[0] for r in rows])))
	return rows[0]

When invoked as a program (as opposed to imported elsewhere e.g. for testing), we connect to the database, enable foreign key constraints, and boost cache size and checkpoint interval from the meager defaults. These can be tuned if needed to optimize the scan process for your machine. Finally we dispatch to the given command.

Ideally, we'd create the database from schema here if not found.

def main():
	global db
	signal.signal(signal.SIGINT, signal.SIG_DFL)
	db = sqlite3.connect(gbw_home + '/db', timeout=600) # in seconds
	db.execute('PRAGMA foreign_keys=ON')
	db.execute('PRAGMA cache_size=-8000') # negative means in KiB
	db.execute('PRAGMA wal_autocheckpoint=10000') # in pages (4k)
	if len(argv) < 2:
		die('missing command', help=True)

if __name__ == '__main__':

This concludes the node frontend. Congratulations if you've followed thus far! There's no magic in programming, just a ruthless decomposition of bigger problems into smaller ones, a search for useful and robust abstractions -- and of course a whole lot of background reading and practice.

In the next month or two I will be completing the missing pieces of the signer; meanwhile, the code here is quite ready to play with. Import some addresses, run a scan, run the reports, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

  1. Well, so far the only such case is format_address, so perhaps it should just be changed to allow passing a buffer. [^]
  2. It's looking like the COALESCE trick is pointless here, since rows are only generated by the join when matching outputs are present; that is, the SUM aggregation is always getting at least one row. Was I overzealous before? I don't recall if I observed an actual problem here rather than just in cmd_balance. It does no harm to leave in though, at least as far as correctness. [^]


Draft gbw-node frontend, part 5

Filed under: Bitcoin, Software — Jacob Welsh @ 19:02

Continued from:

Command implementations

The core scanning logic is in a helper function that takes a block's height and a memory view of its contents.

Referential integrity between blocks is ensured by scanning sequentially by height; that is, all relevant tx and output records from prior blocks will be known by the time we see the inputs that spend them. However, as far as I know this topological ordering is not guaranteed for the transaction sequence within a block (eg. tx 1 could spend outputs of tx 2, or vice versa) so we do separate passes over the transaction list for outputs and inputs.

def scan_block(height, v):
	stdout.write('block %s' % height)
	# [perf] computing every tx hash
	(blkhash, prev, time, target, txs), size = load_block(v)

The performance comment above was just to note some not-strictly-necessary work being done, in case the scan ended up horribly slow.(i)

An output is relevant if its script is standard and pays a known address. At least with foreign key constraints enabled, we can't insert an output until the tx record it references exists, but we don't know whether to insert the tx until we see if any of its outputs are relevant, so we again use a two-pass approach.

	count_out = 0
	n_tx = 0
	for (hash, size, txins, txouts) in txs:
		matched_outs = []
		for n, txout in enumerate(txouts):
			val, script = txout
			a = out_script_address(script)
			if a is not None:
				#print format_address(a)
				addr_id = get_address_id(a)
				if addr_id is not None:
					matched_outs.append((n, addr_id, val))
		if len(matched_outs) > 0:
			tx_id = insert_or_get_tx_id(hash, blkhash, height, n_tx, size)
			for n, addr_id, val in matched_outs:
				insert_output(tx_id, n, addr_id, val)
			count_out += len(matched_outs)
		n_tx += 1
	stdout.write(' new-outs %s' % count_out)

An input is relevant if it spends a known output. Recall that insert_input updates the corresponding output to create the back-reference, indicating it has been spent.

	# Inputs scanned second in case an output from the same block is spent.
	# Coinbase (input of first tx in block) doesn't reference anything.
	count_in = 0
	n_tx = 1
	for (hash, size, txins, txouts) in txs[1:]:
		matched_ins = []
		for n, txin in enumerate(txins):
			prevout_hash, prevout_n, scriptsig = txin
			prevout_tx_id = get_tx_id(prevout_hash)
			if prevout_tx_id is not None:
				prevout_id = get_output_id(prevout_tx_id, prevout_n)
				if prevout_id is not None:
					matched_ins.append((n, prevout_id))
		if len(matched_ins) > 0:
			tx_id = insert_or_get_tx_id(hash, blkhash, height, n_tx, size)
			for n, prevout_id in matched_ins:
				insert_input(tx_id, n, prevout_id)
			count_in += len(matched_ins)
		n_tx += 1
	stdout.write(' spent-outs %s\n' % count_in)

Assorted helpers: handling usage errors; looking up a tag ID that must exist.

def die(msg, help=False):
	stderr.write('gbw-node: %s\n' % msg)
	if help:

def require_tag(name):
	i = get_tag_id(name)
	if i is None:
		die('tag not found: %r' % name)
	return i

The entry point for any user command "X" is the function "cmd_X", having help text in its docstring and taking a list of any supplied CLI arguments past the command name.

First, the sync commands. The scan process commits one database transaction per block.

def cmd_scan(argv):

	Iterate blocks from bitcoind, indexing transaction inputs and outputs affecting watched addresses. May be safely interrupted and resumed.

	NOT PRESENTLY SAFE TO RUN CONCURRENT INSTANCES due to the dumpblock to named pipe kludge.
	db.execute('PRAGMA synchronous=NORMAL')
	height = db.execute('SELECT scan_height FROM state').fetchone()[0]
	blockcount = max(-1, rpc('getblockcount') - CONFIRMS)
	while height < blockcount:
		height += 1
		scan_block(height, memoryview(getblock(height)))
		db.execute('UPDATE state SET scan_height = ?', (height,))

def cmd_reset(argv):

	Reset the scan pointer so the next scan will proceed from the genesis block, to find transactions associated with newly watched addresses.
	db.execute('UPDATE state SET scan_height = -1')

Next, commands to query the watched address sets (not in the original spec but trivial and clearly useful).

def cmd_tags(argv):

	List all tag names.
	for name, in db.execute('SELECT name FROM tag'):
		stdout.write(name + '\n')

def cmd_addresses(argv):
	addresses [TAG]

	List addresses with the given TAG (or all watched addresses).
	if len(argv) > 0:
		tag_id = require_tag(argv.pop(0))
		r = db.execute('SELECT address FROM address \
				JOIN address_tag ON address.address_id=address_tag.address_id \
				WHERE tag_id=?', (tag_id,))
		r = db.execute('SELECT address FROM address')
	for a, in r:
		stdout.write(format_address(str(a)) + '\n')

To be continued.

  1. I've found the Python profiler quite useful so far compared to such guesswork; still, optimization is something of a balance between experimentally-driven efforts and not doing obviously wasteful things from the start. [^]

Draft gbw-node frontend, part 4

Filed under: Bitcoin, Software — Jacob Welsh @ 04:36

Continued from:

Common database operations

As an internal convention, a "get_X_id" function will return the database ID for the row in table "X" named by its bulkier external reference, or None if not found. Similarly, "insert_or_get_X_id" will insert a row if needed and in either case return the ID. Some of these have only a single caller, but I find that collecting the various similar queries in one place and wrapping them into tidy functions helps readability.

The mapping of Python to SQLite types is fairly straightforward, except that buffer is needed to specify a BLOB.

The "parameter substitution" feature is used throughout, avoiding improper mixing of code and data that could manifest as SQL injection or thrashing the compiled statement cache.

def get_address_id(a):
	r = db.execute('SELECT address_id FROM address WHERE address=?', (buffer(a),)).fetchone()
	return None if r is None else r[0]

def insert_or_get_address_id(a):
	i = get_address_id(a)
	if i is not None:
		return i
	return db.execute('INSERT INTO address (address) VALUES (?)', (buffer(a),)).lastrowid

def get_tx_id(hash):
	r = db.execute('SELECT tx_id FROM tx WHERE hash=?', (buffer(hash),)).fetchone()
	return None if r is None else r[0]

def insert_or_get_tx_id(hash, blkhash, height, n, size):
		return db.execute('INSERT INTO tx (hash, block_hash, block_height, n, size) VALUES (?,?,?,?,?)',
				(buffer(hash), buffer(blkhash), height, n, size)).lastrowid
	except IntegrityError:
		# XXX check equality?
		return get_tx_id(hash)

I now think we should indeed catch that condition (differing transactions with identical hash), especially given the possibility of TXID collisions. Perhaps I left it out from excessive worry about scan performance. Or just laziness.

The mixture of check-first and try-first styles seen above also doesn't sit well. The possibility of TOCTTOUs,(i) depending on the details of transaction isolation level, would seem to make a strong case for try-first. It's a minor point though; the worst case here would be an uncaught IntegrityError halting the program gracefully.

def insert_output(tx_id, n, addr_id, val):
		db.execute('INSERT INTO output (tx_id, n, address_id, value) VALUES (?,?,?,?)',
				(tx_id, n, addr_id, val))
	except IntegrityError:
		r = db.execute('SELECT address_id, value FROM output WHERE tx_id=? AND n=?',
				(tx_id, n)).fetchone()
		if r != (addr_id, val):
			raise Conflict('output differs from previous content', tx_id, n, (addr_id, val), r)

def insert_input(tx_id, n, prevout_id):
		input_id = db.execute('INSERT INTO input (tx_id, n) VALUES (?,?)', (tx_id, n)).lastrowid
	except IntegrityError:
		input_id = db.execute('SELECT input_id FROM input WHERE tx_id=? AND n=?',
				(tx_id, n)).fetchone()[0]
	db.execute('UPDATE output SET spent=? WHERE output_id=?', (input_id, prevout_id))

def get_output_id(tx_id, n):
	r = db.execute('SELECT output_id FROM output WHERE tx_id=? AND n=?', (tx_id, n)).fetchone()
	return None if r is None else r[0]

def get_tag_id(name):
	r = db.execute('SELECT tag_id FROM tag WHERE name=?', (name,)).fetchone()
	return None if r is None else r[0]

def insert_or_get_tag_id(name):
	i = get_tag_id(name)
	if i is not None:
		return i
	return db.execute('INSERT INTO tag (name) VALUES (?)', (name,)).lastrowid

Next up, we'll finally get to implementing the commands themselves. To be continued.

  1. The "time of check to time of use" race condition. You know, like sitting down when some trickster's meanwhile moved the chair. [^]


Draft gbw-node frontend, part 3

Filed under: Bitcoin, Software — Jacob Welsh @ 18:02

Continued from:


Bitcoin addresses are conventionally written in a special-purpose encoding and include a hash truncated to 32 bits for error detection. As the reference implementation explains:

Why base-58 instead of standard base-64 encoding?
- Don't want 0OIl characters that look the same in some fonts and could be used to create visually identical looking account numbers.
- A string with non-alphanumeric characters is not as easily accepted as an account number.
- E-mail usually won't line-break if there's no punctuation to break at.
- Doubleclicking selects the whole number as one word if it's all alphanumeric.

Of course, all these points would have been answered just as well by hexadecimal, and without the various burdens: case-sensitivity for the user (the surest way I've found to read these out is the fully explicit: "one five big-A three little-X ..."); more code for the implementer; and more work for the machine (as the lack of bit alignment demands a general base conversion algorithm).

We start with lookup tables to convert the digits 0-57 to the specified alphabet and back. I was once surprised to learn the scope of iteration variables in a Python "for" loop is not restricted to the loop body: a potential source of referential confusion, reflecting the language's casual approach to mutation. Thus, when at the global scope I like to ensure throwaway names, like "index" and "character" here, are safely contained in a function.

base58_alphabet = (string.digits + string.uppercase + string.lowercase).translate(None, '0OIl')
base58_inverse = [None]*256
def init_base58_inverse():
	for index, character in enumerate(base58_alphabet):
		base58_inverse[ord(character)] = index

To do base conversion we'll need to treat byte sequences as integers with the same ordering conventions as the reference code. Otherwise put: to decode from base-256 to abstract integers. Python 2 doesn't have a builtin for this. The algorithm is not optimal, but the base-58 part will be worse anyway.

def bytes_to_int(b):
	"Convert big-endian byte sequence to unsigned integer"
	i = 0
	for byte in b:
		i = (i << 8) + ord(byte)
	return i

To complete the bytes-to-ASCII converter we extract digits from the integer, least significant first, by iterated division with remainder by 58. Since the conversion to integer loses track of field width, the convention is to pad with the same number of base-58 zeros as there were base-256 leading zeros in the input. In further fallout from using a non-bit-aligned encoding, these are not naturally constant time or constant control-flow operations.

For the same bit cost of the error detection code we could have had error correction. But that would have required, like, math, and stuff.

def b2a_base58check(data):
	data += sha256d(data)[:4]

	leading_zeros = 0
	for b in data:
		if b != '\x00':
		leading_zeros += 1

	data_num = bytes_to_int(data)

	digits = []
	while data_num:
		data_num, digit = divmod(data_num, 58)
	digits.extend([0] * leading_zeros)

	return ''.join(base58_alphabet[digit] for digit in reversed(digits))

Converting back to bytes uses the inverse operation at each step, but now there are cases of invalid input to reject: digits outside the specified alphabet and corruption detected by the checksum. (The precise function decomposition is a bit arbitrary and asymmetrical I'll admit.)

class Base58Error(ValueError):

class BadDigit(Base58Error):

class BadChecksum(Base58Error):

def a2b_base58(data):
	digits = [base58_inverse[ord(b)] for b in data]
	if None in digits:
		raise BadDigit

	leading_zeros = 0
	for digit in digits:
		if digit != 0:
		leading_zeros += 1

	data_num = 0
	for digit in digits:
		data_num = 58*data_num + digit

	data_bytes = []
	while data_num:
		data_bytes.append(data_num & 0xFF)
		data_num = data_num >> 8
	data_bytes.extend([0] * leading_zeros)

	return ''.join(chr(b) for b in reversed(data_bytes))

def a2b_base58check(data):
	data = a2b_base58(data)
	payload = data[:-4]
	check = data[-4:]
	if check != sha256d(payload)[:4]:
		raise BadChecksum
	return payload

Finally we apply this encoding to Bitcoin addresses, which have a fixed 160-bit width plus an extra "version" byte that becomes the familiar leading "1".

class BadAddressLength(ValueError):

class BadAddressVersion(ValueError):

def parse_address(a):
	b = a2b_base58check(a)
	if len(b) != 21:
		raise BadAddressLength
	if b[0] != '\x00':
		raise BadAddressVersion(ord(b[0]))
	return b[1:]

def format_address(b):
	return b2a_base58check('\x00' + b)

All this format conversion groundwork out of the way, we'll start talking to the database and putting it all together. To be continued!


Draft gbw-node frontend, part 2

Filed under: Bitcoin, Software — Jacob Welsh @ 18:52

Continued from schema and part 1. Source:

What follows is a kluge and probably the sorest point of the thing in my mind. I will attempt to retrace the decision tree that led to it.

Ultimately what we're after is a way to examine all confirmed transactions so as to filter for relevant ones and record these in the database ("scanning"). Since on disk they're already grouped into blocks of constrained size, it makes sense from an I/O standpoint to load them blockwise. But how? We could read directly from the blk####.dat files, but this would go against the "loose coupling" design. Concretely, this manifests as several messes waiting to happen: do we know for sure that only validated blocks get written to these files? How will we detect and handle blocks that were once valid but abandoned when a better chain was found? Might we read a corrupt block if the node is concurrently writing? Much more sensible would be to work at the RPC layer which abstracts over internal storage details and provides the necessary locking.

Unfortunately there is presently no getblock method in TRB, only dumpblock which strikes me as more of a debugging hack than anything else, returning its result by side effect through the filesystem. I worried this could impose a substantial cost in performance and SSD wear, once multiplied across the many blocks and possible repeated scans, especially if run on a traditional filesystem with more synchronous operations than the likes of ext4. It occurred to me to use a named pipe to allow the transfer to happen in memory without requiring changes to the TRB code. I took this route, after some discussion with management confirmed that minimizing TRB changes was preferable. I hadn't really spelled out the thinking on files versus pipes, or anticipated what now seems a fundamental problem with the pipe approach: if the reading process aborts for any reason, the write operation in bitcoind can't complete; in fact, due to coarse locking, the whole node ends up frozen. (This can be cleaned up manually e.g. by cat ~/.gbw/blockpipe >/dev/null).

Given this decision, the next problem was the ordering of reads and writes, as reading the block data through the pipe must complete before the RPC method will return. Thus some sort of threading is needed: either decomposing the RPC client into separate send and receive parts so as to read the pipe in between, or using a more general facility. Hoping to preserve the abstraction of the RPC code, I went with the latter in the form of Python's thread support. I tend to think this was a mistake; besides all the unseen complexity it invokes under the hood, it turned out the threading library provides no reliable way to cancel a thread, which I seemed to need for the case where the RPC call returns an error without sending data. I worked around by making the reader a long-lived "daemon" thread, which ensures it terminates with the program, and using an Event object to synchronize handoff of the result through a global variable.

getblock_thread = None
getblock_done = Event()
getblock_result = None
def getblock_reader(pipe):
	global getblock_result
	while True:
		fd = os_open(pipe, O_RDONLY)
		getblock_result = read_all(fd)

def getblock(height):
	global getblock_thread
	pipe = gbw_home + '/blockpipe'
	if getblock_thread is None:
		getblock_thread = Thread(target=getblock_reader, args=(pipe,))
		getblock_thread.daemon = True
	if not rpc('dumpblock', height, pipe):
		raise ValueError('dumpblock returned false')
	return getblock_result

The astute reader may notice a final and rather severe "rake" waiting to be stepped on: a fixed filesystem path is used for the named pipe, so concurrent scan processes will interfere with the result of corrupted blocks and all sorts of possible failures following. While I'm not sure there's any reason to run such concurrent scans, at least this possibility should be excluded. I'm thinking the process ID would make a sufficiently unique identifier to add to the filename, but then the pipe will need to be removed afterward, and what if the process dies first? Yet more code to clean up possibly-defunct pipes? Or one could keep the fixed name and use filesystem locking. At any rate I hope this all makes it clear why I'm not too enamored of dumpblock.

To be continued.


What's on my mind

Filed under: Ego, Politikos — Jacob Welsh @ 20:46

As I continue shaking off the grogginess of a deep holiday blogging slumber,(i) it's time for a tack away from the recent technical series, fascinating as it is, to make room for some other thoughts that have been occupying my head the past couple days.

There were the occurrences of Mr. Ragavan dropping out of our academy and Mr. Datskovskiy reversing his previous confidence in its Master, based on an alleged lack of capacity for independent judgement. The matter was explored quite nicely I thought by Will Haack and commenters; all I really have to add is my own perspective, a narrow selection from the many available facts that I found most relevant, that I may shed light on myself as well as the subject.

I agree with Diana Coman's comment, as I understand it. MP asked her to stop advertising for the #asciilifeform channel; Datskovskiy took this as a demand to tune him out altogether, seemingly so he could consider his prediction fulfilled and sustain his view of MP as an unreasonable and overreaching madman. I'm not presently sure how I should interpret the invitation to leave, though I wasn't especially tuned in to begin with based on time constraints; I'm not inclined to contribute to building a Berlin Wall, as he puts it, if I don't have to, but at minimum it would give me pause about signing up for his ISP service knowing that I could be kicked out on such grounds.

The specimen of deductive reasoning that Datskovskiy took for finding a spine: it's not because it's not; I don't see the need; I'm not convinced; I don't think it conforms to idea. I'm not too surprised by Ragavan's attitude after how he spoke in our own main interaction. I will note that I don't hold it against anyone for having doubts. I know my own grasp of philosophy and what TMSR is really about remains limited; I've been wrong about plenty of ideological things; and we're all limited beings striving to navigate a complex world. As far as I can see, if he had wanted to avoid getting quite so tied up in knots, his best bet would have been to communicate more, or more clearly. This is a point that I still quite need to keep in mind myself.(ii)

What's been more on my mind though are some different relationships altogether. To be continued...

  1. I see myself as having been something of a compressed spring; once released, I overshot the neutral state, doing no writing at all, and am now having to pick back up the habits of time-sensitive existence. [^]
  2. As for instance about my getting stuck on drafting this article. [^]


Errata for gbw-node drafts to date, and Bitcoin txid collisions

Filed under: Bitcoin, Software — Jacob Welsh @ 18:11

I've discovered a few mistakes in my wallet code published so far, one from pure carelessness and two from insufficient cognizance of environmental hazards, which together seem interesting enough for a dedicated article.

The first is in the HTTP Basic authentication header in the JSON-RPC client: I slipped in an erroneous space character after the colon in the base64 input, in the course of a hasty and perhaps excessive last-minute style cleanup. I discovered this through basic testing as it broke authentication altogether. I will update the article but preserve the original file for whoever cares to diff.

The second, found in code not yet written up, is the obnoxious but standardized behavior of the SQL SUM function, whereby the sum of the empty set is NULL rather than zero. In Python this becomes the None object then my code passes it to functions that expect integers. I first tried to work around at the Python level, but soon found this to be awkward especially for queries returning multiple columns where some were perfectly well-behaved integers. A fix closer to the source of the problem is found in the standard SQL coalesce function, though having to use this as boilerplate around every use of SUM is not exactly satisfying.

The above fixes are in: draft2/

The third and deepest might not even be a problem in practice, but seems to warrant further investigation. From the schema:

CREATE UNIQUE INDEX i_tx_hash ON tx(hash);

The problem is that Bitcoin doesn't guarantee uniqueness of transaction contents - miners can use identical coinbase inputs - despite the fact that the implementation assumes unique transaction hashes! The possibility of collision was realized in 2010,(i) condemning all future implementers to bugwise compatibility, whatever that means. The Power Rangers in their boundless wisdom addressed this in BIP 30 except without solving all that much. Further discussions I've been chewing on include Mirco… Mezzo… Macroflation—Overheated Economy (archived) and of course the forum log. Takeaways so far are that 1) the sky is probably (still) not falling regarding Bitcoin itself, but 2) this could possibly be used by malicious peers to hard-wedge syncing TRB nodes.

The conservative approach for my program would seem to be leaving the schema as is and letting SQL throw an integrity error if you try to monitor the addresses in question. Relaxing the unique constraint should be possible with some further changes to the code, but the question would arise of how exactly the quasi-duplicate outputs should be interpreted. Please speak up in the comments if you know of further references or conclusions on this topic!

  1. Block pair 91722/91880 paying address 1GktTvnY8KGfAS72DhzGYJRyaQNvYrK9Fg and 91812/91842 paying address 16va6NxJrMGe5d2LP6wUzuVnzBBoKQZKom. [^]

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