SIGMA is here
by Malcolm MacLeod — Gulden Lead Developer
It has once again been a busy few months for the development team, with work split up amongst multiple different projects all of which are challenging in their own right and even more so when all going on simultaneously.
Earlier in the year we saw the release of our first “unity” based wallet for Android; since then a lot of work has gone into further improving the “unity” backend and implementing a new iOS app on top of it.
With a lot of great work from both Rits and Willem this is now a reality, and all of our wallets now run on mostly the same backend codebase while still retaining native user interfaces.
Thanks to the shared code a lot of these improvements filter back into our Android and Desktop wallets as well and in the longterm this will mean a better experience for everybody.
While obviously the initial releases occasionally see some regressions in functionality and performance this only improves over time and with the iOS wallets are still seeing frequent updates since the initial release things will only continue to get better.
While a shared backend may not sound that impressive it is actually a huge accomplishment and will have huge benefits for us going forward in terms of being able to put out more frequent features/updates faster, with less work and with more consistent quality.
It also makes it easier to keep things running on a day to day basis.
Development of Phase 4 has been ongoing and substantial progress has been made. The ‘2.2_development’ branch is now 1437 commits ahead of ‘master’ and growing daily.
While we are very near ready for testing and then release, something we are very eager for, we are not quite there yet.
It is important to understand that while we call this ‘Phase 4’ and indeed the ‘PoW2 Phase 4’ changes this branch contains are the main highlight, the 2.2 branch also represents a lot of other ‘less prominent’ work fixing a huge variety of little performance niggles and other issues with the coin and codebase.
A decentralised project like Gulden is like a living entity that needs constant and ongoing development not because new features are always needed but because without this development everything slowly starts to get slower, work slightly less well and eventually break. Left alone without maintenance software quickly becomes unusable.
This update is therefore crucial for the coin, not just for the fancy new features, which of course we are all anxious for, but for a far more important reason, to provide new and existing users with a smooth experience.
Most of the ‘fancy new features’ of course are also designed around chain stability and ultimately usability. PoW2 for instance is a project of necessity not something done purely to be flashy or appealing…
As important as ‘Phase 4’ is in this regard, over the last months frequent chain stalls have become more and more of an issue for our userbase. Dealing with these stalls further started to noticeably impact my time and energy making it difficult to work on what I wanted to work on, and as such out of necessity another project long on our roadmap frustratingly had to come first and take priority, and that project is SIGMA. Ideally this would have come after Phase 4 but necessity has dictated otherwise.
In late August we announced SIGMA, our new proof of work algorithm which will replace Scrypt.
(More on SIGMA here https://medium.com/@Gulden/an-introduction-to-sigma-the-new-cpu-friendly-algorithm-for-gulden-5cee3a2ad62d)
The algorithm is designed to be ASIC/GPU resistant and also to be updateable in future with minimal work in such a way that any progress on GPU/ASIC implementations can be stopped in their tracks.
This represents a new era for Gulden where mining should be a ‘level playing field’ and that we will do everything in our capabilities to keep in that way. Note this does not necessarily mean that you are going to get rich overnight mining with your ten year old computer, or that someone elses newer far more expensive computer will not be faster at mining than yours.
It does however mean that for the same expenditure on power most people should get roughly the same output without anyone being able to gain a massive advantage via certain hardware, that the best hardware to mine with is likely usually going to be hardware you already own, and that those with cheap/free energy or hobbyists are able to have a shot at mining.
While nothing can stop people spending huge amounts of money trying to build larger setups its unlikely to be hugely profitable for them…
Since then we have been working tirelessly on it, along with some community members who have been extremely helpful in testing performance on a wide array of machines, and things are looking really good.
It has been a really huge effort to get here this quickly, but today 1 October, only about a month later we are ready for release.
SIGMA has been set to activate on 16 October and is ready to be released in a phased manner. We will notify exchanges and similar first about the update so that they have plenty of time to do it.
Initial releases for regular users who need to upgrade in a hurry (e.g. will be away on the 16th) or early adopters will become available over the coming days — with beta builds already available for the testers.
There are still various minor improvements to be done (including a pretty mining user interface) which will take place over the coming week, so for those who are not in a rush it is better to wait for the follow up releases which will come out between now and the 16th instead of rushing to upgrade to this first version.
SIGMA wallet software will be available tomorrow in the afternoon (2 October) at Gulden.com.
This year has been a busy one and has flown past far faster than I would have liked, and of course no matter how much we achieve we always wish we had achieved more. That said this has been a massive year for Gulden in terms of development with lots of large and important updates coming out.
We are not done yet however, the remainder of the year will see us doing further minor improvements on SIGMA, the iOS and Android wallets, and finally pushing to try and get Phase 4 out.
We are hopeful that we can get it out in the last quarter of the year and will be pushing for exactly this with everything that we have.
However it is not going to be easy, there are effectively only 2 ‘working months’ left in the year, with various people generally being unavailable during various parts of December, and there are a huge amount of other day to day things with running Gulden that come up.
Sometimes despite our best efforts things take longer than expected as a result, in the event we don’t manage to get ‘Phase 4’ out by end November it will then be something to look forward to very early in 2020.
In 2020 we have lots of big plans as well, we expect with both SIGMA and “Phase 4” active our chain will be operating very smoothly and with lots of problems solved, this will free us up to finally work on various more ‘user visible’ projects as opposed to focusing simply on keeping things running, and we have quite a few of these projects lined up. We expect 2020 to be a great and exciting year.
While I am very greatful/privileged to work on Gulden and enjoy the work we are doing, I do have to pay the bills and earn a market related salary I cannot work for free.
Running a project like this is a full time job in itself and requires planning to prevent things like running out of money long before it actually happens. Paying the salaries of several developers as well as all sorts of other behind the scenes costs related to development (theres more than you might expect) is not cheap.
Rijk has done a great job of doing this, running the project and keeping us funded to get this far, but nothing lasts forever, funding needs to be sustainable in the long term and in discussion with GAB a new model to ensure we are funded well into the future in a sustainable way has been agreed upon.
Without this funding it is not possible to keep doing the work we do, so I do hope that the funding model will be accepted graciously by the community and that I can look forward to many more years of working on the project.