Reading up on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology

Last year, I was reading up on Bitcoin, blockchain and beyond. Since then, there have been several interesting developments in distributed ledger technology (DLT).

If you’re new to the technology, I highly recommend this introductory, plain English guide to blockchain.

I also came cross this great article defining criteria to avoid pointless blockchain projects and its follow-up on four genuine blockchain use cases.

R3 Corda

For one, R3, which I thought then and still think today shows a lot of promise, has released the code for Corda, its distributed ledger project. They also published a non-technical whitepaper as an introduction and two webinar videos: Introduction to Corda and Corda Developers’ Tutorial. There is alos this excellent non-technical 18 second definition of DLT by Richard Gendal Brown, CTO of R3.

R3 also offered its code to the Hyperledger project.

Hyperledger

Hyperledger isn’t a distributed ledger, per se, but contains multiple DLT projects, e.g. Fabric, which is backed by IBM. While you can run Hyperledger Fabric on your own machines, IBM also gives developers an opportunity to play with the technology in their cloud Bluemix.

Unlike Corda, which was built from the ground up for the financial services industry, finance is only one of the industries Hyperledger is targeting. There are, however, a number of projects underway in the financial services that use Hyperledger, as their proof of concept tracker shows.

One of those projects was undertaken by Germany’s central bank Deutsche Bundesbank and the country’s largest exchange operator Deutsche Börse. A November 2016 speech by Carl-Ludwig Thiele, member of the executive board of Deutsche Bundesbank contained mostly questions about the new technology. His speech from January 2017 already presented a prototype to handle simple settlement, payment and corporate actions.

Conclusion

There are a number of interesting projects underway to apply distributed ledger technology to finance.

Still, a lot of questions to be addressed regarding distributed ledger technology, as this position paper by SWIFT and Accenture from last year points out.

The Germany IT industry association Bitkom looks at some of these, e.g. legal ramifications of distributed ledger technology in banking (in German).

It is interesting to see though that regulators and central banks are already actively involved even though distributed ledger technology is still in its infancy in the financial services industry.

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Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum

Paderborn is home to Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum, the world’s largest computer museum (according to them), and for some reason I had never been there. Even though the weather wasn’T ideal, I decided to make the two hour trip to Paderborn and pay this museum a visit.

Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum

In the end I spent about three hours there, having seen only a faction of the 1000 items they have on display. The exhibition is very interactive and great fun for visitors of all ages.

Exhibits

Xerox Alto

The Xerox Alto, introduced in 1973, it featured innovations such as a mouse, graphical user interface and Ethernet, but was never commercialized.

MITS Altair 8800

The Altair 8800 from MITS, the micro computer that made Bill Gates drop out of Harvard and start Microsoft, when he saw it on the cover of Popular Electronics.

Elektromechanische Telefonvermittlung

Partial view of an electro-mechanical telephone exchange that allows you to see and hear your call getting connected, as you dial a number on one of the phones to reach the other. The first time in 25 years that I’ve used a rotary phone.

 Zuse Z11

CEU Campus Tour

When I was in Budapest for our 10-year MBA reunion, a classmate had organized a tour of the brand-new CEU campus. As you enter on Nador utca 15, you’re greeted by this quote from George Soros.

CEU Soros Quote

The entire new campus so beautiful, functional and full of well-designed details, it kind of makes you want to go back to university again.

CEU Staircase (1)

CEU Staircase (2)

CEU Library

CEU Atrium

 

CEU Hallway (1)

There are little study areas with computer screens around every corner.

CEU Hallway (2)

Even the benches on the roof have power outlets, so you can sit there with your laptop and get work done. Though I doubt, people would want to work there, when the can instead enjoy the sun and a view of all of Budapest’s architectural highlights.

CEU Rooftop (1)

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Back in Budapest after 10 Years

I graduated from Central European University (CEU) in 2007, so for the ten-year reunion, I added a 36 hour visit to the city at the end of my Vienna trip.

Parliament

A lot has improved in the city. Gone are the Soviet-era buses and metros cars on the M2 metro line I took to class every day.

Instead trains and stations have been upgraded and squares such Kossuth tér and Deák Ferenc tér are looking great.

Ferriswheel

Szechenyi Fürdö

Outside the city center, however, it’s a different story. Városliget (above) is well maintained, full of people and no place to sit down. Népliget (below) is full of benches nobody wants to sit on and looks like it had been untouched since the 1980s.

Nepliget (2)

Nepliget (1)

Same along Kerepesi út where the CEU dormitory is. Sure, they installed some new benches there, but overall the area was almost unchanged since I had last seen it 10 years ago.

Kerepesi ut (2)

Kerepesi ut (1)

And the M3 metro line still features its original trains, signage and depressing color scheme.

M3 Metro Line

Pictures from Vienna Part 2: Modern Architecture

Even though its beautiful old architecture is the highlight of every Vienna trip, the city features amazing examples of modern architecture as well. At Vienna International Center, for instance.

Vienna International Center

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Or the area of new construction around Central Station.

Bahnhofsdach

Wohnhaus am Bahnhof

A great example of combining old and new architecture is modern mumok situated among the old buildings of the Museumsquartier.

Mumok

Pictures from Vienna Part 1: Old Architecture

Vienna was the latest destination on my Capitals of Europe list.

This city is so amazingly beautiful. It’s impossible to walk around and not be impressed by grand architecture everywhere you turn; with one exception, see end of this post. Particularly on the ring streets that opened up for development in 1865 after city fortifications there had been demolished.

Domkirche St. Stephan Klein

Karlskirche Klein

Hofburg Klein

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My favorite place was the quiet park behind Palais Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein-Palais Klein

Even though other parks such as Volksgarten were pretty great, too.

Volksgarten

Beach-feeling along Donaukanal on this hot summer day as cafés had put out beach chairs.

Donaukanal

Standing out from all the grand buildings is this house on Liechtensteiner Straße that dares to be ugly.

Altes Haus Liechtensteiner Straße Mitte