First published: 16th May 2018
ComputerWorldHK reported on the opening of a blockchain store in Wanchai so I decided to visit and see what the excitement was about.
The shop, called 31BLOCKCHAIN, is at G/F, Toi Shan Sheung Wui Building, 167-169 Hennessy Road and it features their Acute Angle PC (AAPC), with a small, stylish triangular case, 254mm x 210mm x 40mm. This can be used as a traditional desktop computer (when connected to a keyboard and monitor), and it also participates in the Acute Angle Cloud. Users can share their unused CPU, bandwidth and storage in return for Acute Angle Coins. The AAPC is priced at HK$7880.
On further enquiry, I was told that the AAPC is their only product, it is first-generation, and it is sold out. So 31BLOCKCHAIN is not, currently, fulfilling the promise of providing a retail-level entry into the blockchain market.
The AAPC product can be evaluated in terms of its hardware and software:
|CPU||Intel Apollo Lake N3450，14nm Quad-Core, up to 2.2 GHz|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 500|
|RAM||LPDDR3 up to 1866 MT/s 8G|
|Ethernet||RJ45 Giga Lan|
|Video||HDMI 2.0 supports 4K output|
|USB||USB3.0 X 3|
|Headset interface||3.5mm standard jack socket|
|Power||12V 2A mains adapter|
The hardware is sufficient for general office tasks and playing HD video. It is notable that the CPU is a low-power (6W TDP) chip intended for notebook computers, indeed, a notebook with a similar specification such as the Lenovo Ideapad 120S-11IAP (less memory, 4G, but including screen and keyboard) can be bought for around HK$2500, which makes HK$7880 for the AAPC look very expensive.
The AAPC is packaged with Windows 10 Home Edition and the Acute Angle Cloud Software. The Acute Angle Cloud Software is available on GitHub and offers Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), distributed file storage system and Content Delivery Network (CDN). The blockchain uses Delegated Proof of Stake (DPOS) which is claimed to solve the problems of the proof-of-work (POW) and proof-of-stake (POS) mechanisms, offsetting the negative impact of centralization by implementing scientific and technological democracy. The registration procedure described in the shop, and some of the FAQ answers on the website indicate that the MAC address of the AAPC is required, so participation in the Acute Angle Cloud is, for the most part, restricted to owners of AAPCs. According to a leaflet from the shop, 30,000 AAPCs were sold in the first two online sales events since the start of 2018.
So the software allows sharing of resources with tens of thousands of other AAPC users. There could be some benefit for torrent-like services: nearby nodes streaming HD content to you when you want, and your AAPC doing the same service for others when it is idle. The benefits of participating in distributed file storage are more one-way: if you need less than your local storage, you will always be a net provider, and if you have more you will always be a net consumer. How this changes with the need for redundant copies, for when remote nodes are offline and disaster recovery scenarios, is unclear.
The leaflet suggests that there are other possibilities, "The applications are whatever you can envision." It follows up with an example that I find very worrying:
An example of a website or application could be an emergency response provider. With such an application, you could ask for an ambulance, have the network receive the request, and get a response from anyone in it without having to wait for a call-center.
Call me a traditionalist, but when I need an ambulance, I do not want a small desktop PC. It doesn't even have wheels! Seriously, there is a vast disconnect between the needs of the requester and the capabilities of the network. Until the sign-up procedure includes questions about paramedical qualifications, vehicle ownership and location, and until the device can reliably monitor the ongoing availability of the paramedic and vehicle, there is no way for "the network" to provide the real service required.
The AAPC is an over-priced computer with a pie-in-the-sky blockchain service built-in. Will the current hype over anything blockchain-related make it popular?