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Update Complete? No, Ethereum's New Software Isn't Stable Just Yet

Ethereum’s fork may have executed earlier this week, but that doesn’t mean developers are ready to call the software transition complete.

One of the biggest-ever changes to the world’s second-largest blockchain, ethereum’s hard fork was a risky and complex process. To transition successfully, all nodes (the computers that run the software) were required to universally install upgrades – a transition that was expected and encouraged to occur simultaneously across the global platform.

However, in the case of the Byzantium fork, that’s not exactly what happened.

As the upgrades were released mere days before the hard fork, a sizeable portion of the network has yet to make the shift. In fact, at press time, only 25.1 percent of Parity and 58.4 percent of Geth, the most popular ethereum clients, have upgraded, meaning roughly 45 percent of the network is running the new software.

The short testing runway also had other impacts: namely, previous iterations of the software were retracted due to critical faults that could have exposed the network to denial-of-service attacks, or created incompatibility between nodes, leading to a split of the network.

As a result, some may be wondering whether ethereum is safe to use, and given the state of affairs, this remains an open question. For one, there are a few types of faulty software clients out there, and several contain a “consensus bug” which could lead to the inadvertent creation of multiple ethereum blockchains.

For this reason, ethereum core developer Gavin Wood told CoinDesk he would “urge caution” to any major players taking on large-scale projects until the upgrade is deemed to be fully stable.

Risks remain

Aside from the faulty nodes that have yet to upgrade, there’s also a chance of security bugs in the current Byzantium software.

The most severe and frequent of these is the consensus bug (as mentioned above), which occurs when nodes cannot communicate and the blockchain splits into incompatible chains. Developers are now said to be running tests to try and locate these risks, hoping to catch any before they active.

According to Wood, if the network does contain this bug, it will take time to show itself. “I don’t think anyone believed the network was going to self-combust on block 4,370,000,” Wood said.

Rather, if there is a problem, it will come to light over the following days.

And if this does happen, Wood is confident the developer team will release debugged software variations quickly, to avoid any excessive damage to the platform.

Regarding the faulty software that is already out there, lead security developer for ethereum Martin Holst Swende said this isn’t a cause for concern. 

If consensus splits happen as a result of running the old software, he assured: “They’ll simply be dropped off the chain, [then] look into it and update their client.”

Of course, ethereum is no longer monitoring these nodes, so if a bug does show up, it won’t be visible on any of the blockchain explorers. Further, should the bug be exploited on the older software, we’re unlikely to hear about it, beyond the “noise on Reddit,” according to Holst Swende.

Lessons learned

However, speaking on an online forum, ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin wrote that one or two months of further testing will be required before Byzantium can be deemed fully secure.

This might seem like a long time for a software that has been under such heavy development, but that’s not to say there wasn’t extensive security tests prior to release. Speaking on Reddit, ethereum developer Afri Schoedon said that Byzantium code had been available for several weeks before the hard fork, and was consistently passing all security checks before the bugs were discovered.

Ethereum relies on a number of security screening processes, but the one that probably didn’t get sufficient airtime prior to release is what’s known as a “fuzzer” – an automated testing process that can draw out the most subtle of code weaknesses.

This is a new security check for ethereum, and as core developer Peter Szilagyi explained, “It takes polish and effort to really make it part of the workflows.”

He continued: “Rest assured that the fuzzer will be a much more organic part of the next fork preparation.”

The fuzzer is now running to ensure the safety of Byzantium, and, so far, no bugs have been discovered since the hard fork. And while the whole experience has led some developers to vouch for more careful updating in the future, the ethereum team doesn’t seem keen on dialing back its more aggressive approach to blockchain upgrades.

As Schoedon said:

“Lesson learned for future hard forks. Probably we will only decide on a block number after all client implementations are prepared.”

Seismograph image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Interested in offering your expertise or insights to our reporting? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Ethereum's Gavin Wood Is Calling for More 'Conservative' Hard Forks

Etheruem’s blockchain may now be in the process of upgrading to new software – but that doesn’t mean notable developers aren’t reflecting on the process that was.

For example, while the update appears to have been successful, at least one provider of ethereum software notably struggled with preparations for the rollout. As reported by CoinDesk, UK-based Parity Technologies, used by nearly 25 percent of the network, was beset with bugs through the weekend, a development that spurred speculation about last-minute delays.

But while that specter has been avoided, Parity founder and CTO Gavin Wood is now speaking out on the issues, citing the upgrade process as one that is rife with “lessons to be learnt” for the community of developers working on the second-largest blockchain by total value.

In response to requests for comment, Wood outlined his belief that it is perhaps too early to deem the so-called Byzantium code upgrade a successful one, noting the danger zone around a hard fork can extend for several days. Looking ahead, he said he feels that more foresight should be put into whether client software providers are ready to make the shift.

Wood told CoinDesk:

“There needs to be a more conservative approach to the specification, development, testing and deployment for major protocol alterations like Byzantium… It should be ascertained to as great a degree as possible that all major implementations are in consensus before any determination of a hard fork block.

Wood went on to use this most recent fork as evidence, describing it as a situation in which most software users were asked to make big upgrades with little time to do so.

As continued bugs were discovered, he said developers ultimately had to make a difficult choice, one of the reasons it remains to be seen just how smooth the rollout will prove.

“It was really a choice between requiring most users change their software within 48-72 hours to postpone the fork versus possibly or probably requiring a particular subset of the network to update their software at a much shorter notice should a problem be discovered,” he explained.

Building on this, Wood went on to propose a number of changes he might favor, including scheduling retreats with various software providers or using smart contrast to “dynamically postpone” a problematic hard fork.

Still, as these steps weren’t taken this time around, he advised caution for those using the network in the days and weeks ahead.

“I’m generally optimistic that even if further ‘zero-day consensus’ problems are found by our auditors and tools, we can roll out the antidote upgrades before they become problematic,” he said.

Rachel-Rose O’Leary contributed reporting.

Gavin Wood image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Unlike Bitcoin? Ethereum Hard Fork Byzantium, Smooth and Pleasant!

Ethereum’s Metropolis hard fork is planned, it upgrades the base for scalability and private transactions,  was in its roadmap so everybody in the community were prepared for this event, and therefore was all around consensus for it.

It consists of two hard forks: Byzantium, and Constantinople (the latter expected to be implemented during the year of 2018).

Byzantium was successfully initiated and executed several hours ago, so it is officially the Ethereum’s fifth hard fork.

Here is a picture on Twitter of Ethereum’s creator Vitalik Buterin optimistically, enthusiastically celebrating with other developers, overcoming this important upgrade, this one hurdle among other on the road of making the Ethereum, “Worldwide Ethereum Computer of Internet of Things and Internet of Value”.

As stated to CoinDesk, unofficial release manager for Byzantium, Hudson Johnston, noted that the new software is now stable, and steadily rolling out across the distributed network, a fact he said can be attributed to “the hard work (of) developers, users and miners across the ethereum ecosystem.”

The scalability issue seems to have improved as blocks are filling with higher number of transactions, smooth and with more efficiency.

Read also: ETHEREUM: Lighter, Faster, Private; Price Rise?

Until now with Byzantium release everything is going according to plan, and not like the hard fork of last year where there was a consensus from majority in the Ethereum’s community to hard fork, there were still those miners that didn’t upgrade the new software and thus resulted in an alternative chain called Ethereum Classic (ETC), like a direct competitor and with price slashed more than 60 percent.

Also, all of these developments in Ethereum ecosystem today are in harsh contradiction on what is happening or expected to happen in next Bitcoin’s two hard forks, scheduled on September 15 and October 18, and it is feared that will produce two new alternative and competing split-chains with two new coins.

Related Article: Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Diamond, What Else?

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Hark Fork Byzantium Unfolds Without Any Problems – Ethereum Price Surging?

Ethereum has been officially updated to Byzantium, the cryptocurrency’s 5th hard fork to occur. Creator Vitalik Buterin is seen celebrating the successful transition with the other developers on social media.

Over the last few days, Byzantium software was constantly withdrawn due to critical bugs found in the code. Developers corrected the bugs at the last possible moment, but not without considering to delay the fork to have a more stable launch.

ETH prices remained relatively stable both before and after the fork’s execution, rising around $40 October 13 and maintaining new levels since.

This takes ETH towards the upper end of its price spectrum, which this year saw all-time highs of around $410 and a July low of $146.

Regardless of the frenetic increase of investment in Ethereum this year, Byzantium is a bundle of changes and improvements to the protocol that has been in development since 2015. Know as Metropolis, its roadmap currently extends to an unknown date in 2018, when another hard fork will initiate, called Constantinople.

Metropolis is a large-scale upgrade that is broken in two phases Byzantium and Constantinople. Byzantium occurred at block 4.37mil, however Constantinople does not have a formal release date yet, but it is expected to occur sometime in 2018.

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Ethereum's Byzantium Hard Fork Is Running Smoothly, Developers Say

Although it’s still very early days for ethereum’s Byzantium upgrade, developers indicate that the hard fork is running smoothly so far.

Speaking to CoinDesk, unofficial release manager for Byzantium, Hudson Johnston, said that the success of the fork can be attributed to “the hard work (of) developers, users and miners across the Ethereum ecosystem.”

Changes enacted by the upgrade mean that blocks will be created faster, but miners are rewarded lower fees for the effort.

While the impact on ethereum’s infrastructure will be substantial, it looks like the network is undergoing an adjustment period. Currently, some blocks are being mined in as little as 1 second, but others are dragging out to nearly a minute – substantially longer than the pre-Byzantium average of 25 seconds per block.

Further, blocks are filling with relatively high numbers of transactions. That’s good news for scalability, as ethereum can, in theory, continue to grow without slowing down the network.

According to the ethereum fork tracker, mining on the pre-Byzantium blockchain has ceased. This is also positive news for ethereum, as it means a relatively low chance of competing currencies, as happened last summer with the split that produced the rival asset, ethereum classic.

That said, according to ethereum developer Casey Detrio, there’s still a chance that someone is mining the old blockchain – but probably at very high cost.

In the days prior to the fork, developers and node operators (such as mining pools) were given some last minute toil, as faults found in Byzantium software led to continuous re-releases. The issues saw ethereum developers working around the clock to get the corrected software out on time, and node operators working over the weekend to install the updated software.

At press time, a high proportion of nodes are yet to install the Byzantium update, though the figures are slowly changing and an ongoing trickle of nodes is arriving to the hard fork fashionably late.

Although the price per dollar of ether dropped somewhat in the run up to the fork, prices peaked close to the monthly high of $350 immediately after, according CoinMarketCap. At press time, ether prices have dropped back to $337 – the same level seen immediately prior to the fork.

Newton’s cradle image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Ethereum Executes Blockchain Hard Fork to Byzantium

Ethereum has officially updated.

At 5.22am UTC, the fifth hard fork to occur on ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency by market cap, enacted a batch of ethereum improvement protocols (EIPs) designed to improve the platform.

The price per dollar of ether oscillated wildly in the run up to the hard fork, before rising 2 percent in the last hour to $348, according to CoinMarketCap data.

First introduced in the ethereum roadmap in 2015 under the name of Metropolis, that large-scale upgrade encountered some substantial delays, leading it to be broken into two phases – Byzantium and Constantinople (the latter still having no formal release date).

As Byzantium was a planned fork with minimally contentious changes, there’s been very little disagreement among the community about the merits of the code changes executed by Byzantium. However, the event is still notable in that it’s ethereum’s first major upgrade since interest in the technology skyrocketed this year, which has been largely correlated to the popularity of ICO tokens using ethereum’s ERC-20 token standard.

The process was at times a little sticky, though, with ethereum developers encountering some pretty nasty surprises in the run-up to the deadline.

Over the last few days, Byzantium-enabled ethereum software was continuously retracted due to critical bugs found in the code. Developers pushed out corrections just in time – but not without seriously considering postponing the fork.

According to blockchain analytics website Ether Nodes, nodes running faulty software are currently 65.3% Geth and 30.4% Parity, the two main ethereum clients. As previously detailed by CoinDesk, the faulty software could cause a consensus issue, leading the network to partition, or expose the platform to denial-of-service attacks.

However, there is no sign of a minority fork according to current fork logs, and developers are celebrating the transition on social media.

Yellow mosaic image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Upgrade Countdown: How to Observe Ethereum’s Fork as it Unfolds

With $30 billion in jeopardy, all eyes are most likely to be on Ethereum tomorrow as it pursues to maneuver one of its most significant updates ever.

Will all software clients move up to the refreshed blockchain? Or, on the other hand will a new, contending token be made? That is precisely what the market is watching and holding up to see when Ethereum hits block 4,3700,000, planned to happen tomorrow at around 6:00 UTC at press time.

The initial segment of a bigger, multi-part update, the so-called “Byzantium” code will make the blockchain lighter and quicker, making it ready for better decentralized applications (dapps), while likewise improving system security and privacy.

New highlights aside, however, Ethereum developers are generally optimistic about the upgrade. In spite of the fact that developers on the most well known clients have had to correct a bunch of bugs in the days leading up to change, there’s confidence that the upgrade will ride smoothly.

New and seasoned investors won’t likely want to take others’ word for it, however. So, in case you’re anxious to see with your own eyes, here’s how to observe the upgrade in real time:

Mining Hashrate

As soon as the fork happens, clients will need to track how much of the ethereum ecosystem moves over, and how rapidly they do so.

As long as miners are mining on the old version of ethereum, it will stay operational (and profitable). If that endures for a considerable length of time, it could prompt a split (despite the fact that ethereum devs think this is very unlikely due to specifics in the code).

Developers aren’t going in blind either – as of now, the Byzantium code has has experienced testing to give a thought of how the fork would play out. For instance, prior this week, all miners on a test version of the network made the migration, a small (however reassuring) indication of what’s in store.

The most ideal approach to watch this is on the Ethereum Foundation’s website, which will demonstrate what percentage of Ethereum miners that have moved over to the recently upgraded blockchain when the fork happens.

Fork Countdown

Adding uncertainty to hard forks is their dependence on block numbers as a way to signal upgrades. Basically, as opposed to have everyone change their  software at a particular time, users depend on the numbered blocks in the blockchain itself as a method of coordinating.

Along these lines, nobody knows precisely when the hard fork will happen. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no real way to watch out.

To track when the block number will be hit, Singapore-based smart contract organization CodeTract has discharged a fork countdown, indicating what number of blocks remain and approximately, how much time is left until the fork happens.

By current projections, the hard fork seems as though it will execute on early Monday.

Nodes

But, miners are not the only stakeholders in Ethereum who need to upgrade; developers, users and companies running nodes, which store a full copy of the ledger, also need to download new software or risk falling behind.

Ether Nodes tracks how many node operators are running clients compatible with Byzantium.

Geth, the most well known Ehereum client, released fork-ready software in version 1.7.1. Furthermore, Parity, the second most well known client, released 1.7.4, which is compatible and fixes some consensus bugs.

At this moment, 60% of Geth nodes and 27% of Parity nodes have upgraded to a hard fork-compatible version. With under a day left before the fork, most node operators still need to upgrade.

Price Changes

If you’re worried about the price of ether, you can turn to coinmarketcap, which will be updating in real time as the fork happens.

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Hours to Go: How to Watch Ethereum's Fork as It Happens

With $30 billion on the line, all eyes are likely to be on ethereum tomorrow as it seeks to navigate one of its biggest-ever updates.

Will all software users upgrade to the updated blockchain? Or will a new, competing token be created? That’s exactly what the market is watching and waiting to see when etheruem hits block 4,370,000, scheduled to occur tomorrow at around 6:00 UTC at press time.

The first part of a larger, multi-part upgrade, the so-called “Byzantium” code will make the blockchain lighter and faster, paving the way for better decentralized applications (dapps), while also enhancing network privacy.

New features aside, however, ethereum developers are mostly optimistic about the upgrade. Although developers on the most popular clients have had to iron out a pair of bugs in the days leading up to change, there’s confidence that the upgrade will be smooth.

New and seasoned investors won’t likely want to take others’ word for it, however. So, if you’re eager to see for yourself, here’s how to monitor the update in real time:

Fork countdown

Adding uncertainty to hard forks is their reliance on block numbers as a way to signal upgrades. Simply put, rather than have everyone change their software at a specific time, users rely on the numbered blocks in the blockchain itself as a means of coordinating.

Because of this, no one knows exactly when the hard fork will take place. Yet, that doesn’t mean there’s no way to keep an eye out.

To track when this block number will be hit, Singapore-based smart contract company CodeTract has released a fork countdown, showing how many blocks remain and roughly, how much time is left until the fork occurs.

By current projections, the hard fork looks like it will execute on early Monday.

Mining hashrate

Once the fork happens, users will want to track how much of the ethereum ecosystem moves over, and how quickly they do so.

This is a key metric to track. As long as miners are mining on the old version of ethereum, it will remain operational (and valuable). If that persists for long enough, it could lead to a split (although ethereum developers think this is unlikely due to specifics in the code).

Developers aren’t going in blind either – already, the Byzantium code has undergone testing to give an idea of how the fork would play out. For example, earlier this week, all miners on a test version of the network made the migration, a small (but encouraging) sign of what to expect.

The best way to watch this is on the Ethereum Foundation’s website, which will show what percentage of ethereum miners that have moved over to the new blockchain when the fork happens.

Nodes

But, miners are not the only stakeholders in ethereum who need to upgrade; developers, users and companies running nodes, which store a full copy of the ledger, also need to download new software or risk falling behind.

Ether Nodes tracks how many node operators are running clients compatible with Byzantium.

Geth, the most popular ethereum client, released fork-ready software in version 1.7.1. And Parity, the second most popular client, released 1.7.4, which is compatible and fixes some consensus bugs.

Right now, 60 percent of Geth nodes and 27 percent of Parity nodes have upgraded to a hard fork-compatible version. With just a few days left before the fork, most node operators still need to upgrade.

Price

Of course, there may be more immediate reasons you’re worried about a split.

If money’s on the mind, you can always be sure to monitor the price of ether. For that, you can turn to our ethereum price page, which will update in real time as the fork happens.

Stadium seats via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Interested in offering your expertise or insights to our reporting? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Ethereum DoS Attack Vulnerability found Before Byzantium Upgrade

A new updated version of Ethereum’s Geth software had to be released with the Byzantium Hard Fork at the door step as a DoS (denial-of-service) attack vulnerability was found.

The software release was announced by the team that runs ethereum’s mos famous client after discovering the bug, despite data from analytics site related to the blockchain – Ether Nodes showcasing only 1.9 percent of Geth nodes which is a relatively low rate.

With Geth comprising about 75 percent of all ethereum nodes, the vulnerability could leave nodes running the previous Byzantium-compatible release more susceptible to DoS attacks after the hard fork.

Explained by ethereum developer Casey Detrio on Reddit, the vulnerability stems from an oversight in one of the new Byzantium features. The risk is that this bug could be exploited by an attacker who wants to take ethereum nodes offline – a form of attack that the ethereum community has dealt with in the past.

Other ‘bug fixes’ news and data are presented by other ethereum node software teams just a couple of days before the planned hard fork and first step of the Metropolis upgrade.

The second in-follow as the largest ethereum software client – Parity, on Oct 14 Yesterday, just announced a new software version as an answer to a certain “consensus bug”. As a result of the error, the network could have partitioned during the update/hard fork.

This Update is quite a technical One

“The fork is pretty uneventful. Everything went smooth on Ropsten, and it appears like all else is on track for a healthy transition,” said Stephen King, principal and co-founder of Ethereum-based real estate app RexMLS.

Despite the mass optimism around the whole idea, it will be a difficult change for the user to completely grasp it, as it is a very technical update – described by Alex Van de Sande.

The issues unearthed by the tests have been of an unexpected severity, which brought some of the developers to put on question their touch and approach on the whole upgrading process.

Internal discussions are also underway about the possibility of postponing Byzantium, but this approach also poses risks. This strategy would require all nodes to update their software so that the software change is triggered at a later time – a complicated prospect with such little time before the fork.

“Updating is not necessarily a quick and easy process for users with extensive infrastructure. The second concern is that there may be more undiscovered consensus bugs that could be found after the activation block, which would then result in needing to perform emergency client updates.” – Detrio

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Ethereum Developers Find Geth Bug as Byzantium Upgrade Approaches

Ethereum’s Geth Software developers will release a new version just before the Byzantium hard fork, after the discovery of a denial-of-service(DoS) attack vulnerability.

The software release was announced by the team that runs ethereum’s most famous client after discovering the bug, despite data from analytics site related to the blockchain – Ether Nodes showcasing only 1.9 percent of Geth nodes which is a relatively low rate.

With Geth comprising about 75 percent of all ethereum nodes, the vulnerability could leave nodes running the previous Byzantium-compatible release more susceptible to DoS attacks after the hard fork.

Explained by ethereum developer Casey Detrio on Reddit, the vulnerability stems from an oversight in one of the new Byzantium features. The risk is that this bug could be exploited by an attacker who wants to take ethereum nodes offline – a form of attack that the ethereum community has dealt with in the past.

Bug fixes have been coming from other ethereum node software groups ahead of next week’s planned fork as well.

The second in-follow as the largest ethereum software client – Parity, on Oct 14 Yesterday, just announced a new software version as an answer to a certain “consensus bug”. As a result of the error, the network could have partitioned during the update/hard fork.

This Update is Quite a Technical One

“The fork is pretty uneventful. Everything went smooth on Ropsten, and it appears like all else is on track for a healthy transition,” said Stephen King, principal and co-founder of Ethereum-based real estate app RexMLS.

Despite the mass optimism around the whole idea, it will be a difficult change for the user to completely grasp it, as it is a very technical update – described by Alex Van de Sande.

The issues unearthed by the tests have been of an unexpected severity, which brought some of the developers to put on question their touch and approach on the whole upgrading process.

Internal discussions are also underway about the possibility of postponing Byzantium, but this approach also poses risks. This strategy would require all nodes to update their software so that the software change is triggered at a later time – a complicated prospect with such little time before the fork.

“Updating is not necessarily a quick and easy process for users with extensive infrastructure. The second concern is that there may be more undiscovered consensus bugs that could be found after the activation block, which would then result in needing to perform emergency client updates.” – Detrio

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