Taking on the Giants – The IAGON Solution

Taking on the Giants with Cloud Computing

Cloud computing services are currently highly centralised and are controlled by a select number of companies, the main companies being Google, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon.

This means, that these companies are in absolute control of vast amounts of data, which they can and will use as they please. And it also means that should there be a security breach, these companies could potentially leak this vast amount of data to anyone with ill intentions for its use. We’ve seen data leaks occur on multiple occasions, and these leaks continue to happen on a very frequent basis.

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What’s more, the need for increased computational processing power and and cloud storage is on a continuous uptrend, and with the development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, and the increased utilisation of Big Data, cloud storage and processing power services are only going to be in greater demand as we progress through the years.

And these services are already big business, but it’s growing at an amazing rate:

“The size of the cloud services market providing both storage capacities and computational    processing capabilities to companies and to corporates is estimated by 45 billion USD per annum and it steadily grows.” Source

Decentralising the Cloud Services Industry

So I was very interested to read about IAGON in this week’s @orignalworks writing contest.  It’s not every day that you hear someone say that they plan to take on the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM.  But that’s exactly what IAGON are planning on doing.

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IAGON aims to, in their own words:

“revolutionize the cloud and web services market by offering a decentralized grid of storage and processing. By joining the unused storage capacity in servers and personal computers and their processing power, we can create a super-computer and super data center that can compete with any of the current cloud computing moguls.”

They’re doing this through the creation of a decentralised cloud service network. This network will offer highly secure cloud storage services while also offering additional processing power for organisations and individuals who need additional computing resources for performing complex tasks such as processing Big Data and developing AI technology.  These services will be highly secure via military grade encryption and completely decentralised. IAG tokens will used by companies as the currency for paying for access to the network.

Individuals and organisations will be able to earn IAG tokens by “renting” their computers unused or under-utilised storage and processing power to the IAGON network.   And anyone will be able to purchase storage and processing power via these tokens.

The “mining” of IAG tokens is essentially undertaken through the provision of storage or processing power to the network. And this makes it possible for anyone to get involved in mining IAG tokens and participating in the network.

Big plans and bigger targets – can they achieve them?

There’s a lot to love about this project. And their goals are massive. Taking on the big players in the cloud services arena is a huge undertaking so you want to make sure you’ve got the right people around you and a solid strategy to make it happen.

IAGON have provided a very clear roadmap, which can also be viewed on the IAGON website. So far, all development of the project has met the deadlines listed on this roadmap.

You’ll find the roadmap here.

The first thing that impressed me about this project was that there are a lot of people giving this project a great rating, check out these scores:

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It’s a rare day that you see an up-coming project with ratings like this. The next thing that gives me confidence that this group know what they’re doing is the team.

The IAGON Team

The team behind this project is extensive and brings a wealth of expertise to the platform.  More importantly, the founders are highly qualified and experienced, and have employed the necessary people where their knowledge may be lacking.

See the full list of IAGON team members here.

It’s rare to see a platform with so many Doctors on the team. But with a project like this it’s not at all surprising.

And there are Partnerships

The IAGON team have brought on a number of partners into this project, which is a fantastic indication of just how much of a demand and support there is for a project such as this.  Below is a selection of some of the partners involved in this project, however even over the past couple of days there have been more announced

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The IAGON Main Net

IAGON have a functioning Main Net which, once the project has officially launched, will be comprised of the network of data centres and individual computers which have offered their under-utilised storage capacity for the storage of Big Data and any other information that users of the network choose to store on the platform.

What’s even more interesting, is that IAGON plan to implement the network on a hybrid blockchain/ tangle platform. I won’t comment on this given that I’m not technically astute enough to do this particular detail justice. However I did hear some talk of work taking place with IOTA to make this happen on one of the various YouTube interviews with the founders that you can find.

And the data centres and computers which have offered up their processing power will in-turn have their processing power combined into what can be considered a decentralised super computer which can be used to perform the complex tasks required for processing power intensive tasks such as AI technologies, speech recognition, robotics and so on.

And it is through this process that users offering storage and processing power to the network will earn IAG tokens, after corporations and individuals who need access to the network purchase their access using these tokens.

Decentralisation provides more than one solution

Creating a decentralised cloud services platform has enabled IAGON to solve two problems with the one solution.  Through a decentralised network, IAGON are able to provide a level of security that will prevent the types of data leaks that we’ve seen in this industry in recent weeks, months and years.

In addition to this, IAGON are able to combine the storage and processing power of data centres and computers globally to provide the level of processing power that is required to perform the increasingly complex tasks that we require with our rapid advances in the AI and Big Data processing space.

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Finally, IAGON will also be implementing machine learning and AI into their network which will allow the network to intelligently decide how to allocate storage and processing power resources to those who need them.  Using AI in this network will allow the network to continuously advance and improve on itself

Concluding Remarks

I think it’s quite obvious that I am a huge fan of this project. So much so that I have created an account and have submitted a mining application.  I’ll be offering part of my computers processing power and storage for use by the IAGON network right from the beginning.

I completely agree that we’ll be seeing a huge demand for cloud storage and processing services in the future, and IAGON are offering a fantastic solution to the limitations faced in this market.

Main Sale

The pre-sale for the project took place back in May this year, with the soft cap being reached. Now, the main sale is currently underway. So, if you want to get involved, then head on over to the website to find out more.

And if you want to get involved in setting up a mining account, then click here to get involved.

Learn more

Learn more about the project here.  IAGON are on Steemit!

iagon2018

Does earn.com really give free Bitcoin?

It does, but the real question is – Is it worth the effort?

I discovered a little website called earn.com from the #BeerSaturday creator @detlev.  Mr Detlev wrote about this site quite some time ago, and I’ve been using the site ever since with the view to write about my experience here on Steemit. Which I never really got around doing until now.

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Earn.com is a site where you get invited to complete simple tasks and in return you get paid a small sum of Bitcoin. The site claims that you can earn anywhere from $1 to $100 for completing tasks.  And it seems that if you have skills and high level knowledge in blockchain, engineering and other IT related skills then you may very well be able to earn at the higher end of the spectrum.  If you’re a well established investor or influencer then you might find yourself in demand in the platform as well.

You receive jobs by applying to be included on “lists” which match your skills and knowledge. And given that I don’t have a background in IT and my knowledge of Blockchain is entirely self taught, the lists that I am on are for all fairly low value tasks. As a result, I only get contacted by companies launching new ICOs and wanting me to sign up to their Telegram channel and other platforms. And by doing so, I receive the equivalent of $1 US dollar in Bitcoin per task.

So, for the minimal time that I’ve put into earn.com thus far, I’ve made around $25 in Bitcoin which I have transferred to Bittrex and converted into Steem Power. I should mention though, that through the process I’ve had to sign up to numerous email lists.  So if you’re going to get involved, I’d recommend setting up a separate email address so that you don’t get your main account spammed with endless emails for ICOs etc.

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It’s also very sporadic with the job requests. So while I’ve mentioned that I haven’t put much time into this, the time has been spread over numerous weeks. And it can be a little distracting seeing these job requests pop up from time to time.  The job requests also have a time limit on them, so if you leave them too long the will expire.

One of the good things about the site is that you can transfer any amount you like to an off site wallet. My first transfer was worth all of $11 in Bitcoin. So at least the site has passed my first and most important test:

Yes, you can actually earn Bitcoin from earn.com.

Will you make a tonne of money there? Probably not. Is it worth your time and energy? Maybe, but you could invest that time into creating content on Steemit and quite probably make the same amount of money, if not more.  Will I continue using earn.com? Well, I’ve just applied to be included on some extra lists which might lead to higher paying jobs, so yes, I’ll give it another month. And I’ll certainly report back if I make anything worthwhile from the site.

If you’re curious and want to give it a shot, you can get a little bonus by using my referral link, and naturally, I’ll get a little kick back as well.

Beer and Blockchain – When will mass adoption happen?

My days have been pretty quiet of late. My little man had surgery on his knee so I’ve been at home and looking after him for the past 3 weeks.

The little man himself.

This has meant that my ability to visit local breweries, which I generally write about for my #BeerSaturday reviews, has been severely hampered. One benefit of sitting at home with my pup is that I’ve been able to spend a lot more time on Steemit and researching cryptocurrencies along with reflecting on some of the cryptocurrency related services that I’ve been participating in.

And that led me to think about these beer reviews, perhaps it’s time to change these up where I’ll discuss something that I’ve encountered in the cryptocurrency space along with the beer that I’m drinking. I feel that this may fit better with the overall theme of my blog.

What will it take for mass adoption of cryptocurrencies to be a thing?

This week saw me enter the @orignalworks writing contest with this entry.  In the entry I discuss the GRAFT Network and their technology which has the potential to greatly aid in the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies.  Basically, what they are doing is creating a payment system that will allow businesses to incorporate cryptocurrency payments into their existing Point of Sale (POS) systems, and allow for these currencies to be automatically converted into Fiat or another currency of their choosing.  The technology and concept is fantastic, and will greatly help with cryptocurrencies becoming a part of every day society.

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But for cryptocurrencies to reach the mainstream and become part of our every day lives, we need to see them in all institutions and markets. So I was really pleased to see in the media yesterday an article about cryptocurrency courses now being offered at Russian Universities. And while this is nothing new in Russia, there was a similar article back in 2017, it is extremely exciting to see that courses are now being developed with a focus on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. It gives me hope that these types of courses will soon be offered across the globe. And if a course is ever offered in Australia, I’ll be one of the first to jump in to gain a formal qualification in this field.

And finally, today an article was published where Mike Novogratz (a former Wall Street Executive and founder of Galaxy Digital crypto merchant bank) claims that the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies is five to six years from taking place. This time-frame seems perfectly reasonable to me. Mike believes that cryptocurrencies need to “not feel like something new” before they become an accepted part of our lives.

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He also believes that the cost of technical talent and the doubts of conventional investors are holding back the acceptance of cryptocurrencies. And while the cost of talent may not decline any time soon, the doubts of investors (both retail and large scale) will certainly pass as more professional institutions start moving into the cryptocurrency space.

So it seems to me that with new systems being built to allow for easy use of cryptocurrencies for the purchase of goods and services, with educational institutions getting on board with the technology, and with the view that investors, both large and small, will start to be more trusting of the technology, a view that mainstream adoption of blockchain technology is quite realistic in my eyes.

What was I drinking while writing this?

A few days ago, I was able to escape the home briefly to grab some beer for a party that my Wife was holding. I found a Californian craft beer at my local bottle shop that sounded quite interesting. I haven’t had many American craft beers so was eager to give it a shot.

Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA

Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA

Ballast Point is a brewery that was established way back in 1996.  It was started by a small group of home-brewers, and is now a well established brewery in San Diego.

The Sculpin IPA is their flagship beer and they describe it as:

“inspired use of hops creates hints of apricot, peach, mango and lemon flavors, but still packs a bit of a sting, just like a Sculpin fish.”

The beer pours a deep amber, with a decent head that lingers for a while.  I love a good aromatic and fruity IPA, it’s these traits that keep me coming back to them. But with this beer, I found the aroma to be quite lacking.  There were some fruity notes, but it was mild, and there were strange malty notes as well, which don’t really belong in an IPA.  The carbonation is quite high, which again is a little unusual, and on the palate you’ll be hit with a powerful bitterness, fruity flavours, hops and malts.

This is a decent beer, it’s quite enjoyable. But the maltiness doesn’t belong in an IPA.  I found it a little off putting as I know it shouldn’t be there. But overall it’s still a pleasant brew and I’m happy to still have a couple of them sitting in the fridge.

The Beer Data

BeerTypeOriginABVRating
Two Birds Brewing Rye IPAIPAVictoria6.43.5
Bells Brewing Co. Malted Double IPAIIPAVictoria7.54
Odyssey Craft Brewing Caramel PorterPorterVictoria54
Fox Hat Brewing Co. Phat MongrelOatmeal StoutVictoria6.5%4

 

Want to buy a coffee with your Crypto? The GRAFT Network can help

My time as a store owner accepting cryptocurrency as payment

A few months ago, I created an online store called @steemitshopaus which sold Steemit and DTube merchandise.  One of the best things about my store was that it accepted STEEM, SBD and a selection of other currencies as payment for my products.

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The concept was fantastic however there were a number of problems associated with accepting cryptocurrencies as payment.  And the problems that I faced are essentially the same reasons that prevent many other business from accepting cryptocurrencies as payment for products and services. And it’s these reasons, among a few others, that are slowing down the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies.

Below is a summary of the problems that I faced as a business owner who once accepted cryptocurrencies as a method of payment:

Payments had to be manually verified

My store could not be automated as each transaction had to be manually confirmed before the product could be shipped.  This meant that I could not set up products to be automatically ordered and/ or shipped as payments were made, and significantly increased the administration workload involved in operating my business.

Currencies drastically change in values over short periods of time

When I set up my store, STEEM was valued at around US $6. But it didn’t take all that long for the value of the currency to drop to under $2.  The problem here was that if I hadn’t converted my STEEM to Fiat or another currency at the time of the sale, then I would have made a loss on the sales made. And I suffered this type of loss on a number of occasions.

Of course, there’s the flip side that the value of the currency may increase to well above the price that it was at when I made the sale, but that is a gamble that many merchants just aren’t willing to make. And is one reason why I had to pull my store down.

Transaction times can be slow

Transaction times for some currencies can be incredibly slow.  Transactions for STEEM are completed in a matter of seconds, however for currencies such as Bitcoin, the transaction times can be anywhere from 10 minutes to a number of hours, depending on the level of network activity.

BTC Transaction Times – 7 Day Average

Over the past 7 days, for example, Bitcoin’s transaction time has fluctuated between 7 minutes to 30 minutes. For many merchants, this time is simply not suitable for every day purchases.

For my online store, given that I had to manually check that the transaction had taken place before ordering and shipping my products, the transaction time wasn’t a worry.  But imagine if you were attempting to buy a cup of coffee with Bitcoin? No merchant, and no consumer for that matter, would want to wait 30 minutes to confirm that their transaction had been confirmed before handing over the cup of coffee.

Transaction fees are paid by the sender

While this may not be viewed as a significant problem, it can discourage the use of cryptocurrencies as a payment method given that every time a currency is used for a purchase, the person making the purchase has to pay for the transaction to take place in addition to paying for the product or service. This can be discouraging for the use of cryptocurrencies as a currency, and partly why many cryptocurrencies are simply used as investment vehicles rather than currencies that are used for transacting.

Stepping Closer to Main Stream Adoption

All of the above issues are adding to the difficulty of cryptocurrencies being adopted by the general public, and for businesses to willingly accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment.  The cryptocurrency community is realistically a small community of users when compared to the global population, so for our currencies to achieve much greater value and real usage, we need our currencies to be adopted by the general public and used for every day transactions in businesses who are willing to accept them.

Currently, the likes of Bitcoin and Litecoin are only effectively stores of wealth. But they don’t allow for ease of use.  So I was extremely excited when I read about The Graft Network.

The GRAFT Network

“Global Real-Time Authorizations and Funds Transfers (GRAFT) is a global, open-sourced, blockchain-based, decentralised payment gateway and processing platform that is available for anyone can use. Any buyer and business/ merchant can use GRAFT in a completely decentralised and inexpensive way.”  Source

The GRAFT network has the capability to allow any business or merchant to introduce crytocurrency payments into their existing Point of Sale (POS) systems.  What this means is that cryptocurrency payments, via a range of coins, can be accepted without the need to install new physical technologies into businesses.  The GRAFT network has been designed to allow businesses both large and small to start accepting cryptocurrency as payment and the network has been designed in such a way that effectively addresses the issues that I have described above.

The GRAFT network have completed their ICO and have a functioning MainNet.  The team have already released:

 

 

A Mobile Wallet

 

An app for finding stores that accept cryptocurrency as payment

 

And a mobile POS application for merchants

 

And even better, they’re working to integrate the GRAFT with traditional payment terminals.

It’s this type of technology that will allow for cryptocurrencies to become an every day pay of our life. And, as mentioned above, this technology addresses all the concerns that I have when looking to incorporate cryptocurrency payments into my business:

No more worrying about price fluctuations

It still stings when I think about the STEEM shirts that I sold when STEEM was valued at $6.00. I never converted that STEEM to Bitcoin or the Australian dollar.  As of today’s price, I essentially sold those shirts for about $5, which is less than what it cost me to make them.

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With GRAFT though, we won’t need to worry about the fluctuations in the price of a currency.  GRAFT have set up their system so that payments can be received in a cryptocurrency, and then automatically converted to whichever currency you like.

This also greatly simplifies the management of funds; merchants won’t need to handle multiple wallets and keys, they’ll only need to monitor the wallets and accounts that they choose to utilise as part of their business.

Virtually Instantaneous transaction confirmations

With the GRAPH enabled POS terminals, payments via a range of cryptocurrencies will be possible, and confirmations will be almost instantaneous.  This will be possible via both online and in store for businesses both large and small.

So with near instantaneous transaction times and the ability to automatically convert to a currency of your choosing, merchants will no longer need to worry about manually confirming that transactions have occurred. Cryptocurrency payment systems can be automated making the reopening of my online store look a whole lot more attractive.

Transaction fees can be handled by either party

With most currencies there is only one transaction type, the transfer. And when funds are transferred, there is often a transaction fee involved which is typically paid for by the person performing the transfer.

With the GRAFT network however, there are multiple transfer and payment types available.  The most attractive of these is the one where the transaction fee is paid for by the merchant, meaning that the consumer no longer needs to worry about the cost of the transaction.

Even better though, if the transfer doesn’t need to be instant, the sender can make transactions for free between wallets. This means if you need to send funds to a friend or family member, you can do so at no cost.

The GRAFT Roadmap

While there is still more work to be done, a lot of work has been done to enable mainstream acceptance of cryptocurrencies by small and large businesses.  The GRAFT team are well on their way in progressing through the milestones on their roadmap.

You can also view the engineering road map here.

Concluding Remarks

Overall, I am incredibly excited about the GRAFT project.  It is this technology that will help in bringing cryptocurrency into the lives of your every day consumer and driving this technology into the future.

There’s a lot more to this project than I have described here, such as the ability for transactions to be completely private and untraceable. And the fact that these types of projects essentially take power away from the centralised banking systems and place it back into the hands of consumers.

What mostly interests me is the fact that this project would allow me to re-open my online store and accept payment via cryptocurrency knowing that I won’t need to worry about manually confirming transactions and managing multiple wallets. I also won’t need to worry about the value of any given currency dropping substantially in value as I’ll be in a position to have all funds converted to the currency of my choosing.

There is a large and highly experienced team behind this project as well.  The founders both have extensive experience in payment processing and blockchain technology.

Check the team line up here

And seeing the extensive experience and the sizeable team working on this project gives me confidence that we’ll see some great news coming from this project in the near future.

More Information and Resources:

Formalities

This article is an entry into the @originalworks writing contest. You can see the details of this contest via this link and also check out the other submissions.

graft2018

Life is made complete by the people you meet – or made all the more disturbing

Life is made complete by the people you meet

I’ve always believed that you can’t really understand what life is really about until you’ve met people from all walks of life. And, thankfully, I’ve met an incredibly diverse range of people over the years who come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. I’ve met some incredibly interesting people over the years, and some incredibly scary people as well.

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There was the time I met a homicide detective in outback Northern Territory, Australia, who seemed to love murder way too much.  He spent the evening describing the murders that he had investigated in graphic detail and with an extreme level of enjoyment. It wasn’t so much his love of his work that worried me but the excitement that he expressed at how people had been killed.

I’ve also met some incredibly inspirational people, such as a paraplegic who was told he would never walk again after breaking his neck.  Not only is he now walking again, but he’s since become a highly sought after public speaker and has opened multiple businesses across the globe while raising his daughter as a single dad. His story alone would fill a book, which I’m sure he’ll write one day.

Darren’s Story

Of all the people that I’ve met however, there’s one person who disturbed me the most, but also gave me some incredibly bizarre stories to tell. I met this chap while working on a gold mine in central Western Australia, and we worked together for about 12 months.

Continue reading “Life is made complete by the people you meet – or made all the more disturbing”

How do you get your content noticed with no followers?

In recent days I’ve seen a couple of posts about established Steemit users discovering Steemit users who were creating amazing content but weren’t getting their content noticed.

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And I’ve also stumbled across a few Steemit users myself who really deserved much larger rewards and recognition than they are receiving. And not just from the perspective of quality content creation.  I have encountered highly active and very passionate Steemit users who simply deserve encouragement to continue working on their skills as a content creator. We can’t only reward those who create outstanding content, the users who are working hard to develop their craft need reward as well.

Based on these observations, it seems that it is getting harder to get noticed on Steemit these days.  

Continue reading “How do you get your content noticed with no followers?”

How Can You Benefit From Having Your Medical Data on the Blockchain?

I’ve moved interstate 6 times over the past 15 years for various reasons (well, mostly for work to be honest). And while this might sound exciting to some, relocating interstate means re-starting many aspects of your life over and over again.

Moving interstate isn’t just about starting a new job and finding a new place to live. It also means finding new social circles to spend time with, finding new hobbies, sporting teams and all the things we do with our day to day life.

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And there there’s the boring stuff – we have to organise for all our dental, medical and other records to be transferred to the new service providers who we also have to find in our new city as well.

Let’s take our medical records as a convenient example

Continue reading “How Can You Benefit From Having Your Medical Data on the Blockchain?”

Mr Banks Brewing Co. – An Exploration into IPAs

For the Love of IPA!

Today I found myself craving a good IPA so ventured to my favourite bottle shop. In my home town of Mordialloc, there’s a little bottle shop called Mordialloc Cellar Door which stocks an amazing selection of wine and craft beer.  Most of the beers are from local breweries which is excellent.  It means that if I don’t have time to go to a brewery, I can swing past the shop and grab a local brew. And the staff and owner try everything that comes through their door, so can offer you real advice about what they have in stock.

Mr Banks Brewing Co.

While there today I discovered a couple of beers that had just been added to their selection.  These were beers from a brewery called Mr Banks Brewing Co.  I’d never heard of this brewery before, so was incredibly surprised to discover that the brewery is located in Seaford, Victoria, which is a suburb only a few minutes south from Mordialloc.

The team at Mr Banks have been brewing since 2016, so they’re relatively new to the craft beer scene. But they already have a decent range of beers on offer which is excellent to see.

My bottle shop stocks two IPAs from this brewery, so since I hadn’t tried them before I grabbed both.

Mr Banks India Pale Ale

The first of the two was a nice and simple IPA. The beer pours a bright amber colour with a mild haze. It pours with a bright granular head and I was immediately hit with aromas of tropical fruits.  On the palate the beer has a moderately high level of carbonation, a dry mouthfeel and the fruits follow through along with a good level of hops intensity and bitterness.

This was a good and refreshing IPA.  It met all the usual expectations that come with an IPA from a small craft brewer. The is a great beer, but comes with no surprises. So if you’re looking for a good quality IPA then this is the perfect beer for you, just don’t expect any surprises.

Wheeze the Juice

Wheeze the Juice is a New England IPA.  The brewers state that it is a hazy IPA, and it’s definitely that. The beer pours with a large, white head that lingers only for a short while.

The aroma is of sweet fruits and slightly milder than the previous IPA. The carbonation is also less intense, but well balanced. On the palate the fruit flavours follow through and you’ll be surprised at the intensity of the bitterness.  This bitterness slightly overpowers the flavours of hops however not in a bad way.

The bitterness and fruit flavours lingers on your palate long after your sip, which is pleasant and refreshing. I could quite easily sip on this beer all night. It’s an excellent beer and disappeared all too quickly.

Overall Assessment

Overall, I am very pleased to have discovered yet another craft brewery that is so close to my home. And even more pleased to find that they make two IPAs that are well worth drinking.

If I were to choose between the two I would probably go with the Mr Banks IPA. This IPA is everything you want in an IPA and was highly enjoyable.

I think I’ll have to find some time to head down to this brewery in the coming weeks. They have a stout and some darker beers that look very interesting. Keep an eye out for a review from this brewery in the very near future.

The Beer Data

BeerTypeOriginABVRating
Two Birds Brewing Rye IPAIPAVictoria6.43.5
Bells Brewing Co. Malted Double IPAIIPAVictoria7.54
Odyssey Craft Brewing Caramel PorterPorterVictoria54
Fox Hat Brewing Co. Phat MongrelOatmeal StoutVictoria6.5%4

The Making of a Wildlife Photographer

The Making of a Wildlife Photographer

Back in 2014 I decided that it was time to find a hobby that I could practice and improve on for the rest of my life and throughout my retirement. I decided to do this after meeting a number of recently retired people who were all finding and learning new hobbies during their retirement rather than having a hobby that they were already skilled at by the time they reached retirement.

I have always had a love of our natural environment and wildlife photography was something that I had wanted to learn about for some time. So I decided to pick up a camera and try my hand at photographing the local birdlife in my area. I went out and purchased a simple DSLR camera and started photographing native birds.  I very quickly discovered that I was not at all a natural photographer, my first attempts at photographing birds were shocking to say the least.

This was about as good as the early days of my photography gets.

Thankfully I wasn’t so silly to think that I would be immediately good at this new and fascinating hobby.  I was looking for a hobby that would take time to learn, and required a decent amount of dedication and practice. I also realised that there was a lot to learn when it comes to DSLR cameras. They can be complex beasts and the better the camera, the more complicated it becomes.

A nearby bushfire turned the sun red on this evening.

After some time practicing my new hobby, I upgraded my camera, and this new one came with all the bells and whistles that you’d expect from a pro-level DSLR. I immediately knew that I was out of my depth with this camera. I needed to do a photography course.

A Journey to the Bunya Mountains to Learn Bird Photography

The Bunya Mountains are located in Queensland. Roughly 3.5 hours inland from Brisbane.  It’s a truly unique location and incredibly beautiful.

The surrounding landscape is all agriculture and quite sparse of vegetation.  As you approach the mountains you start to travel through changing vegetation communities, ranging from grasslands, to Eucalyptus forests, and then into lush rainforest.

And with the changing vegetation communities comes changes in the wildlife that you encounter. As you progress further up into the mountains, the more tropical species you encounter.  And by the time you reach the top of the mountain, all of a sudden you are surrounded by tropical bird species and a cacophony of bird calls. I had never heard anything like it.

King Parrots are common in the Bunya Mountains

Learning Bird Photography from a Pro

The course that I chose to do was run by a well known bird photographer who gained his fame by taking an award winning photograph of a Lyre Bird in its mating display. The course he ran turned out to not be just about how to use your camera to photograph birds. It encompassed a variety of skills that would aid you in getting that winning photo. We were taught:

  • How to position ourselves to get the best angle of the bird
  • What natural lighting best suits bird photography
  • What time of day is most likely going to get you the best results
  • The best camera settings to use to ensure our images were crisp and clear
  • What equipment we’d need
  • When a flash would be required and how to use it
  • What apps we could download to our phones to play bird calls
  • And finally, the ethics of bird photography i.e. how do take part in this hobby without harming the species we were wanting to photograph

The second to last point was one that interested me greatly. What we discovered was that if we played the call of some species when we knew that the species was nearby, the males would come to investigate and land near us.  This gave us a chance to photograph the bird before he got bored and moved away again. We tested this technique out on a Rose Robin, and this was the photo I was able to take when the little guy came for a look at us.

You can see that my skills had already greatly improved after this short time on the course.

Using this technique came with some warnings however. The bird call can cause some species stress when they hear them so, if using this technique, it’s best to play the calls sparingly and to understand how hearing this call might affect the birds in question.

The app that we used is called The Morcombe & Stewart Guide to Birds of Australia. If you are interested in Australian birds then this is an excellent guide.

The photography course only ran for 2 days, so I gave myself a couple of days after the course to practice what I had learned in the rainforest environment. It was here that I was able to collect some of my favourite photographs that I have taken to date.

A male Splendid Fairy Wren.

And I also discovered what it’s like to take an absolute fluke of a photograph. I was out hiking one day and had travelled roughly 20 kilometres by the time the day was almost finished. I had taken a few hundred photographs but knew that none of them were that great.

As I was exiting the rainforest I saw a flutter of wings out the corner of my eye.  With barely a glance I turned, quickly focused on the bird, and hit the shutter on my camera. What resulted from this quick reaction is below.

The Contemplating Yellow Robin.

And while this image isn’t perfect, it is still my favourite photo that I have taken to date. I love the pure black background, and the fact that you can only see a small amount of the birds face but still see the beautiful colourings on the birds body.

And without the knowledge that I gained from this course, I would not have been able to snap this image as quickly as I did. It was absolutely a fluke that I snapped the image in this manner, but I had the camera settings right that enabled me to take this image effectively and with a decent level of clarity.

So, while I was looking for a hobby to grow in skill over time, this course enabled me to quickly improve on my skills and add extra fuel to my passion for wildlife photography.  From here I have been on a number of photography expeditions around Australia, all to practice my chosen art of wildlife photography. Many ventures have resulted in zero good photos but some have brought me some fantastic images that I am very proud of.

An Australian Reed Warbler. One insanely fast bird that rarely stops for a breather.

I’ll always look back on my little Yellow Robin photo with a great sense of pride and achievement though, this was my first image that I was truly happy with and one that I look back on frequently.

Booze and Crypto – Does it mix?

Beer and Crypto – There’s nothing better right?

It looks like people have been trying to release alcohol related cryptocurrencies for some time now.  There was QYKbar which attempted to sell drinks via blockchain so that you could purchase your drinks using the QYK currency and consume them at any bar or restaurant that agreed to accept the token. Work on this project appears to have ceased as of April this year and their Telegram channel has been deleted.

And then there have been the various beer coins.  I’ve been able to find this one and this one that didn’t appear to make much progress at all. They both seem to have had similar goals which solely consisted of taking peoples money via whatever means possible.

Source 

Is there a legit booze based currency?

There is hope, and for good reason. The alcoholic beverages industry in the US alone is is a 220 billion dollar industry.  This is an industry that is ripe for disruption so blockchain technology has a real opportunity here.

I recently stumbled across Beerchain though the weekly Beer Drinking competition that I participate in on Steemit.  Beerchain have created their own Beercoin (an ERC20 token) and they’ve actually put a decent amount of work into getting the project off the ground.

Source

The coins are quite literally mined through the consumption of beer, which is both awesome and very unique. Essentially, a merchant (typically a brewery) will order QR codes from Beerchain who will then provide the codes for printing on the inside of bottle caps.  The brewer then distributes the beers, with Beercoin bottle caps fitted, to bars and other places where this golden fluid of the gods is sold.

The QR codes aren’t limited to just bottle caps however.  Bars and restaurants can also print the QR codes onto beer coasters and receipts as well, which is a nice way to ensure that this coin doesn’t only need to rely on brewers for the success of this coin.

Consumers who purchase these beers will then scan the bottle caps using the Beercoin app.  The QR code will then release whatever quantity of currency is assigned to that particular QR code.

The quantity of coins distributed via QR codes ranges from 1 coin to 10,000 coins.  Obtaining a high value QR code is rare (0.01% chance of discovery) however the potential to find a QR code with a high value QR code definitely adds some excitement to the “mining” process.

How it all works

Beerchain envisions that the value of the coins will centre around the price of a standard beer.  They plan to peg the price so that 100 Beercoins will typically purchase 1 beer. Pegging the price means that Beerchain will be required to purchase, burn and distribute the coins as they need to in order to ensure the price of the coin enables a user to purchase a standard beer with just 100 coins.

How will the Beerchain founders and staff get paid?

Beerchain plan to generate their income via advertising revenue and by collecting user data (which I imagine they’ll use to advertise products and services to). This is a bit of a shame given that one of the things I personally love about blockchain technologies is that it gives us a chance to create businesses that don’t rely on selling advertisements as an income stream. However, Beerchain is absorbing all transaction costs.  Given that this coin is an ERC20 token, there are small fees for transactions.  Beerchain will not be passing these transactions on to users which is quite a positive for the project.

What can you buy using Beercoins?

The founders believe that users will not only be able to purchase beer from participating vendors using this coin, but they’ll also be able to buy merchandise via the app and donate to charities.

The founders plan to peg the value of the coin so trading it on exchanges won’t be particularly attractive. Does this approach limit the potential of the coin? Maybe, and maybe not. I don’t think the founders see this coin as being a multi-million dollar business venture for themselves. They seem to be working hard just to get the currency being adopted by breweries and gamifying the currency to make it highly attractive to the every day person.

Source

One of their recent tweets shows that a brewery in Colorado has now started including Beercoin QR codes on all of their beers, which is awesome news and shows that we have a functioning blockchain here.

There are also plans to literally add games into the Beerchain app which could make the whole package even more attractive.

My verdict on this currency

The ICO for Beercoin came to a close at the end of June and sadly it didn’t reach  the soft cap. It seems that there were mixed feelings about this currency.  The team behind it don’t have a lot of blockchain experience and it’s application didn’t seem to bring a lot of excitement to the space.

But the team are pushing ahead and seeing that they have breweries getting on board now is excellent. Their social media presence is still very active, they are speaking at events, and they’ve released their Yellow Paper which are all good signs.

Personally, I think the concept is awesome. And I’d love to see Beercoin become a big deal. But the currency isn’t without its flaws. One review of the coin mentioned that this application doesn’t need blockchain technology and I agree that is probably one weakness here. All we really have here is a system for scoring points, and those points can be accumulated in such a way that allows for redemption for beer or other products and services. This is much like the rewards points given out by certain retailers. So is there really a need for blockchain technology here? Possibly not.

I’ve also noticed that the app is only available on Android devices at the moment and cannot find it for my iPhone. The lack of an iPhone app must surely be hurting Beerchain right now, and I find it odd that they’d claim that the app is available for iPhones when it clearly isn’t.

I do love the idea though, and will definitely support Beercoin if I see it in my local bottle shops or bars. It would be awesome to see people earning this currency in Australia, so hopefully we see it here one day.

Check out the Whitepaper here if you’d like to learn more about this coin. And while it’s probably obvious, I am in no way affiliated with Beerchain or own any of their currency.