Next installment in my Next saga

I have to admit to flying a little blind here, as lately I’ve been too busy to keep up with the Bitcoin Forum, including the Devcoin thread, much less the Next Forum. So while I generally learn that Mt. Gox sneezed after watching the Bitcoin price drop and looking up the news on CoinDesk to find out what in the world happened, I don’t find out that the Next network hiccuped until my wallet client plain quits working.

I’d been happily running the most recent version of the Next client, version 5.11 for the past week or two, but not longer than that. The previous version I’d been running had collapsed and I’d asked joefox what I needed to do. After a day of craziness I tried again to install and run 5.11 and it’s been working just fine ever since. I even managed to add 4 NXT to my balance by forging two blocks, as well as forge two more empty blocks.

Last night my husband and I went out on a date and I came home to the client indicating negative blocks. Normally I could fix this by simply closing it, then reopening it. This time that did nothing. Remembering a previous email from joefox I decided to check and see if a new version of the client had been released. Sure enough, the page which lists current Next software indicated a different version, 0.7.3, was being used.

Good, I thought. All I have to do is upgrade to the new version and things should work fine. So I turned off my computer (no sense running it all night with no chance to forge anything) and went to bed.

This morning I got rid of the old version and installed the new version. Then I tried to run it. At first it got hung up on an old block and wouldn’t budge. So I uninstalled it and re-installed it. This time it appeared to be working but both my client and server are showing me all kinds of things I wouldn’t expect to see, including ridiculously high (as in 800,000 or a million) target percentages, a timer that tells me I’ll generate the next block within seconds, unconfirmed transactions that do not show up in upcoming blocks (the blocks instead remain empty), lots of debug messages in the C command prompt window. The most interesting irregularity is that my very first forged transaction of two NXT has been replaced with 190 NXT. Sadly, though, the block chain is sticking to the original number.

I’m still running it but am pretty sure it’s not working properly. I’ve emailed joefox and I’ll see what he says. I could check the forum if I get too antsy. But I’ve learned with NXT to just be patient. It’s much easier to get my specific questions answered than to try to hunt through the forum for a clear answer.

Joefox has mentioned some Windows based clients that work more like other PC wallets, and I’m thinking it might be time to try one out. Joefox says he really likes a particular one so I checked its web site and notice that in the last few days its developer has released two emergency upgrades, and it looks like another one is on its way.

My growing conclusion is that for the time being, the NXT network is inherently unstable. Wallet client upgrades are fueled by the need to deal with some bug in the system. Once the bug is resolved in the upgrade, users do not have the option to continue using an old version. At some point your wallet will quit working. The funds will still be there, but you won’t be able to access them until you upgrade. This means that Next users need to keep up with the Next Forum in order to get the news and be sure to upgrade in time. This also means that Next users are upgrading their wallets on average every couple weeks or more.

All these issues really hinder Next’s ability to be widely adopted as a currency. If I’m running a business and I take NXT in payment I am going to have to devote time to simply maintain my ability to accept it. This may not be very convenient if my business is keeping me very busy. One workaround is that I could simply accept payments using my Vircurex address. So far it seems that Vircurex is keeping up with the latest upgrades as they do for all the currencies it supports. Later on when Cryptsy supports it I’ll be able to use my Cryptsy address. So there are workarounds. However I don’t think it’s realistic to expect merchants to jump at the chance to get paid in NXT when they never know when their wallet will quit working. It really should not be a requirement to keep up with a forum or any kind of informational site just to hold or spend the money.

If the Next developers can solve their network stability issues, and if they can develop a software that will continue to work long after an upgrade has been released, then Next has a lot of potential as a currency. Until then having anything to do with it is more of a roller coaster ride journey into high risk speculation than anything else.

On the bright side I have earned and will earn a lot of Devcoins writing about it :)

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