Qtum Mainnet Results December 25–31

Changdeok Palace (창덕궁) by Jordan Wooley, VPN traffic exiting Seoul, Seoul Olympic Park — flickr user by nagyman

Here is the weekly chart review of Qtum Mainnet performance with the usual charts and graphs, and a tutorial on using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with your Qtum staking rig. There are good reasons to use a VPN in your general Web surfing, and even better reasons to use one when mining crypto currency. This week the educational feature looks at VPNs and how (and where) Qtum nodes connect through a VPN.

I am a community member and independent researcher, not affiliated with the Qtum Team, but I do appreciate their technical guidance and the robust discussions in the community, and these cool stickers.

Charts and Graphs

Data sources for this review of the Qtum Mainnet performance come from the Qtum Explorer, the blockchain, logging from the qtumd server application and encrypted Telegram messages from Pangyo.

Unique Reward Addresses

For the week, unique addresses per day peaked at 294 on December 28th. For the entire week, there were 964 unique addresses, vs. 946 last week, showing healthy participation by small and medium-sized stakers.

Wallets winning multiple blocks stayed about the same as last week.

Active Transactions per Day

The number of transactions per day declined from last week, perhaps due to the holidays. Active transactions gives the count for transactions above the two baseline transactions for each block.

You can also see the transaction chart at QTUM Explorer.io and at the bottom of the Qtum Explorer home page.

Block Spacing Variation

From December 25 to December 31 there were 3 blocks with more than 20-minute spacing (vs. 6 last week), with the greatest spacing for block 71,003 at 24:34. Average block time is holding steady around 144 seconds.

New Network Weight

The daily “New Network Weight”, shown below, is a daily calculation based on a 10-day exponential moving average of blocks won and known balances for big wallets:

A network weight of 19.9 million represents an annual return of 4.4%, as shown on the annual return chart:

based on 600 blocks per day

A Little More on Transaction Fees

As a follow-up to last week’s report on transaction fees, I did some additional analysis and found the actual low fee transactions sent from the hardware wallet — 47 of them. Now these transactions are on the blockchain, so there was a happy ending. Last week’s report is updated with this info.

VPNs — Can you see me?

For the tutorial this week, we investigate Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and how they work with Qtum staking wallets.

Vincent Diamante on Flickr

You may want to consider using a VPN as a security and privacy feature for your crypto mining activities. With a VPN your Internet traffic cannot be seen by 1) your Internet Service Provider (ISP), 2) big brother, or 3) hackers (you can still get malware though). VPN providers offer an application that runs on your computer to make an encrypted connection to their remote server, where your traffic is decrypted and placed on the Internet.

Your ISP cannot look inside the VPN encrypted traffic to see what sites you are surfing (wait, how did my ISP know I was searching for edible underwear?), also your IP address is hidden, translated to the IP address of the remote server provided by your VPN service. You can also use a VPN to bypass geofencing restrictions.

Crypto miners may also be worried about the bandwidth usage signature that identifies their network as hosting bitcoin (Qtum) miners, which may make them a more attractive target for hackers. Also, there are applications that can monitor node peering IP addresses and correlate to blockchain transactions (sends), figuring out which IP addresses are winning block rewards. If you are connecting to the network through a VPN, you don’t have to worry about any of this, because your node IP address will be from the VPN server and not your actual Internet connection.

You could play some games with this by using the VPN to connect your staking rig through international servers, for example, in a country not represented on the Qtum Nodemap, so that suddenly, there was a node in Casablanca, etc. After enabling a VPN, your node should drop off the Nodemap in about a week.

I won’t go into details about selecting a VPN, but when it comes to privacy and security, some services are better than others (read about it here or here).

If you do install a VPN, you would typically select an exit server nearby to reduce the latency of the connection to the Internet. Don’t connect to servers in Seoul (unless yours is one of the 600+ nodes in ROC). I had to tweak the VPN settings a little to get them stable, selecting the “best server” for a particular city, and setting to “automatically reconnect”. Also, I would recommend that you have a good stable staking setup before activating a VPN, because troubleshooting is more difficult, for example, through the VPN CanYouSeeMe.org doesn’t work to check if port 3888 is open.

Another thing I noticed about the peering connections after turning on the VPN was that all the IPv6 connections were dropped. With VPNs, you are worried about “leakage” where your IP address might leak out even with the VPN turned on. This will happen if you still go back to your ISPs DNS (Domain Name Server) to look up IP addresses, so good VPNs will provide their own DNS. Another issue seems to be that IPv6 addresses are not always routed through the VPN, so the VPN can just cut them off.

It is also possible for a monitoring node to connect to many other nodes (you could do this easily with the Qtum network— I’m looking at you, Nodemap) and look for the first node to relay a new block, and capture the IP address for that node. Blockchain.info does something like this for their “Relayed By” information, and they are able to identify the large bitcoin mining pools. The “addrlocal” field below shows the IP address for the node, and this will show the VPN exit server address for those peers connecting with the VPN enabled. Note that the blocks do not carry any IP addresses, but it is possible for monitoring nodes on the network to correlate node IP addresses with Qtum wallet addresses.

Ping Time

As you know, Qtum Proof of Stake (PoS) mining proceeds at a leisurely pace in 16-second increments, so a few more milliseconds of latency with the VPN enabled should not a big deal. I wanted to check this out by looking at the ping times.

>qtum-cli getpeerinfo
[
{
"id": 1,
"addr": "42.33.140.123:3888",
"addrlocal": "135.23.65.157:23569",
"services": "000000000000000d",
"relaytxes": true,
"lastsend": 1563586912,
"lastrecv": 1563586910,
"bytessent": 204216,
"bytesrecv": 138312,
"conntime": 1563583815,
"timeoffset": 0,
"pingtime": 0.0781,
"minping": 0.068727,
"version": 70016,
"subver": "/Satoshi:0.14.8/",
"inbound": false,
"addnode": false,
"startingheight": 8607,
"banscore": 0,
"synced_headers": 75092,
"synced_blocks": 75092,
"inflight": [
],

Ping means Packet Internet Groper, and tells how fast your computer can talk to another node on the Internet, for example, the peer info above shows a ping time of 78.1 milliseconds. The fastest pings I have seen to other Qtum nodes over the network are around 15 milliseconds, and the pings can extend to hundreds of milliseconds, if the node is on the other side of the world. Regular readers of these reports know what happens next: I grab a bunch of data, crunch it in Excel, and show some charts.

I started with a list of the peer connections using getpeerinfo and got the ping times before activating the VPN. For this node there were 123 connections with an average ping time of 170 milliseconds:

Activating the VPN, (without restarting the node) the connection count dropped for an hour or two and then made connections with an average ping time of 187 milliseconds. Approximately half of the peers were carried over after the VPN engaged. All the IP6 peers were dropped.

To explore the ping times and network effects, I selected a VPN exit server in Seoul, Republic of Korea, which is the location hosting 270 nodes according to the Nodemap. Do you think my pings would get faster using the VPN to snuggle up to all these nodes in Seoul? There were 123 connections with an average ping time of 204 ms (the two longest pings of 755 and 797 ms are chopped off on the chart below):

I also wanted to see where the peers were located for a VPN exiting in Seoul. The nodes should form up with regional network graphs. Remember that the nodes work by relaying unconfirmed transactions and new blocks between themselves.

First, here is a distribution of the top 10 countries from the Nodemap earlier today:

The Republic of Korea and USA lead. The leader between these two had been changing almost daily, now ROC has pulled away. For a node using a VPN server in Seoul this distribution doesn’t change much:

The “Other” group included a single peer in each of these countries: India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, and Sweden. With a node running in your home office or cloud hosting provider it is globetrotting and peering with Qtum nodes all over the world.

Next week: you are new to this space and technically curious. How can you experiment with the Qtum blockchain, install the wallets and put them through their paces, practice backing up and restoring the wallet, and even get free test coins to play with? Next week: all about testnet.

Graham Hills on Flickr

We end the report along with our VPN server in Seoul and wish everyone a Healthy, Happy and Block Rewarding New Year. Raise a toast with some fine Soju and have a great 2018!

새해 복 많이받으세요

JB395

Seoul by Agustin Rafael Reyes on Flickr

References

‘Eavesdropping’ Attack Can Unmask Up to 60% of Bitcoin Clients, Coindesk, June 2014

How do I see the IP address of a bitcoin transaction? StackExchange, 2012

Korea Drone 4K — Land of Morning Calm (Busan, Geoje, Seoul), YouTube, November 2017

See my previous reports on Medium.

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