Thursday, March 24, 2011

Point-of-Sale with Bitcoins

I've been thinking a lot about Bitcoins lately. For those of you who are too lazy to click links, Bitcoins are a brand new cryptocurrency. They're backed by some heavy-duty economic theory and secured by modern cryptography. They're entirely digital and decentralized. You don't need any banks or anything to transfer Bitcoins from one person to another, just one of their unique Bitcoin addresses and a handful of IP packets. The last I checked, 1 BTC = $0.84 USD.

So I got to thinking about issues that might occur in the event that Bitcoins catch on. First, they'll need some fancy symbol that you can type with shift and 4. I recommend a B with lines through it.

Secondly, there needs to be a convenient way for Bitcoins to be used out in meatspace. There needs to be a quick, point-of-sale-type way to transfer Bitcoins from one entity to another. I have a couple of thoughts for this.

The obvious solution is smartphones. Anyone with a smartphone running a Bitcoin client could, for example, scan a QR code for the Bitcoin address of an establishment at the register and transfer money that way.

The second thought would be if everyone carried their Bitcoin wallets around on a thumb drive, encrypted with a PIN number or some such. Then a cashier could transfer the money on a computer behind the counter, or, even better, a dedicated PIN-pad-esque device.

Anyway, just a couple of thoughts about Bitcoins in the real world.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gnome 3.0 and KDE4's netbook interface

There's been some kerfluffle over GNOME 3 removing minimize and maximize buttons. Here's my two cents!

I've been using KDE4's lovely netbook interface fairly extensively for a couple of months now, and I've grown to love it. Although minimize and maximize both still exist, at least, their importance is greatly diminished. All windows are maximized by default, and minimization is accomplished with smart hiding. I.e., if I click the activity with which I launch applications in the activity switcher in the panel, all windows get hidden.

This is only annoying (and easily remedied at that) once in a blue moon, when I'm trying to drag and drop between applications. Otherwise, it makes sense and is exactly what I want. One application has all of my focus at a time, which is exactly what I do on other desktop environments anyway. Everything else is just an alt+tab away.

I believe this is a tentative step in the right direction, but Gnome is going about it all wrong. Features in flux shouldn't be removed for removal's sake (which is what seems to have happened,) but de-emphasized by other smart design chioces.