Dobrý den! Welcome to the 39th issue of Latest Strikes, your opinionated weekly recap of all the great things happening in Lightning. Last week we got Voltage partnering with Google Cloud, a new fancy hardware product, a very welcomed collective initiative and ton of new releases!
By the way, before we start, I'll be in Prague the whole week to attend the BTC Prague conference and some satellite events (such as the dev/hack/day). If you're there too I'd love to meet, so feel free to hit me up!
BitMEX renewed Rene Pickhardt’s grant for 6 additional months, helping him continue his research on routing reliability in the Lightning Network.
Voltage x Google Cloud
Lightning Infrastructure Provider Voltage is partnering with Google Cloud to expand its offering in more hosting facilities and location. Basically, individual and companies will be able to have their Voltage Lightning node running on Google Cloud's servers. That's huge!
As many of those kind of updates, it is both a good and a bad thing. The good thing is that Voltage users can now leverage one of the best hosting providers there is, which will provide them with high availability and reliability. The point of concern is that the more Lightning nodes there are running on the same provider's infrastructure, the easier it is to attack the network. More prosaically, if Google Cloud suffers a mishap, the more Lightning nodes running on their servers, the bigger the impact on the overall network.
At the time of writing, Google Cloud is already the biggest hosting provider for Lightning nodes, with 30% of the share.
New Umbrel Hardware
Umbrel launched a new hardware product! Called Umbrel Home, it's basically a small but powerful computer which comes with Umbrel OS preinstalled so that all you have left to do upon receiving it is plug it in.
Regarding the $700 price tag, of course you'd be able to get the same machine for cheaper (or a more stocked one for the same amount of money), but this product is tailored for people who want something that looks good and works out of the box. The price doesn't seem to high for me: Umbrel takes a reasonable margin, and the user pays for the plug-and-playness and the ease of use.
This new product comes as regular Raspberry Pis are more and more recognized as poor machines for running Bitcoin and Lightning nodes. When it comes to Lightning especially, they're often not powerful or reliable enough to provide an hassle-free experience.
Of course, as some have pointed out, the lack of an additional slot to add another SSD for redundancy is a pity, especially for storage or Lightning use cases, where data redundancy is paramount to safeguard against the failure of a drive. But still, that's an interesting product for sure!
Once again, well done Umbrel!
Yet Another Cool Lightning Use Case
lnshort.it is a cool url shortener, where you can pay with Lightning to have your own short link redirect to the page of your choice for a set amount of time. With prices ranging from 5 sats for 1 week of redirection, to 100 sats for a whole year, the service is quite affordable and greatly demonstrates the power of Lightning for micropayments.
On top of that, lnshort.it has some smart features. For example, you can shorten your node's public key instead of a regular link. Just create a redirection as you would with an url, select "Lightning node", and the shortened link will bring visitors to a simple page from where they can see your node's public key, as well as additional information. For example, if you want to connect to LN Markets node, simply head to https://lnshort.it/lnmarkets/. Shorter than
Wallets & Tools
WebHooks in Alby & ZapSplitter
I missed it last week but that's not reason for not mentioning it today: the Alby Wallet API now has webhooks! This means that services that plug to an Alby Lightning wallet can now be automatically and instantly notified when a payment is received or sent in the wallet. Examples of such services include podcast player Podverse or, on the producing-side of podcasting, podcasting service Conshax. Having webhooks means that those services no longer need to constantly poll an Alby wallet's API to learn about new transactions, but will instead be automatically notified as the transaction occurs.
As always, the Alby team created a new service to showcase this new feature. ZapSplitter allows you to create splits à la Lightning Prisms: when someone pays your Lightning Address, the payment will be automatically split between a set of Lightning addresses, in proportions that you set up. For example, any payment sent to email@example.com will be split equally between 5 Geyser crowdfunding projects I chose. Cool!
Major BTCPay Server Release
A new BTCPay Server major release is here, with an improved form builder UI (honestly it looks better than some services specifically designed for form building), customizable roles, the ability to hide sensible information (such as amounts) from the interface, and more.
Building forms in BTCPay is paramount in an e-commerce use case, where you need some information (such as delivery address) from your customers. On the other hand, customizable roles come in very handy when a whole team is involved: you can now set specific rights for the cashiers and the store managers.
On top of that, this release also ships an updated LNBank plugin. LNBank is an accounting system that plugs on top of a BTCPay instance, allowing you to allocate the funds to specific custodial sub-wallets (accounts). For example, you can create an account for your dad on your own instance: he will be able to use your Bitcoin and Lightning infrastructure to send and receive payments, but needs to trust you because ultimately the funds remain yours, are only you control the private key. This new release brings a nice "alert" feature that will notify users when the sum of all funds credited to accounts exceeds the total Lightning node balance ; as well as API access to accounts and LNURL Withdraw support. Nice!
We got some nice software releases last week. As we'll see in a moment, all of them include bug fixes for Core Lightning latest update which contained breaking changes with regard to how millisatoshis amounts are handled.
There's a new Zeus pre-release available for testing, which brings the ability to attach notes to transactions, payments and invoices ; enhancements to the point of sales feature (still only on Square terminals) ; as well some bug fixes.
Ride The Lightning got an update too, with circular rebalancing in Eclair and fixes to how circular rebalancing is handled in LND, as well as other minor enhancements and bug fixes.
Group Transaction On Machankura
Machankura released an interesting new feature called "clans". Machankua enables people in (currently) 8 African countries to use Bitcoin and Lightning from a simple feature phone, with just a phone number. The service is, of course, fully custodial, but is still very interesting in that it provides an easy to use wallet to anyone in the supported countries. It doesn't use internet, but rather a mobile communication protocol called USSD that is present on all mobile phones, and already widely used for other mobile money services.
With the new "clans" feature, users can create a clan, a group of users, to which they can invite their friends or family. The clan has its own Lightning Address, and funds received are credited to the clan itself. Members of the clan can then propose to distribute the funds to all members, or to send them to another phone number/username in the Machankura system, or straight to another Lightning address. Decisions in the clan are reached through vote, with the threshold required to reach consensus determined by the clan's admin(s) at the clan's inception.
Lightning Prisms In Core Lightning, With Bolt12
I've already mentioned Lightning Prisms several time in this newsletter, and even in this issue. As you can tell, I love the idea. There's a new tool, specifically crafted for Core Lightning users, which allows them to create their own prisms with Bolt 12 Offers. Cool!
Looking for an exotic method to back up your Core Lightning channel state? Lnscribe is here for you! This plugin allows you to export, encrypt and then inscribe your node's channel state onto the Bitcoin blockchain, using the ord wallet.
Pros: your channel state is here forever, encrypted. In case of a failure of your node, you'll be able to retrieve it (provided you noted down in which transaction it was inscribed), decipher it (provided you backed up your private key), and relaunch your node on a new machine. But for this to work, you need to be sure that you're indeed restoring the latest state, and note some previous state. Indeed, restoring an earlier, revoked state will be perceived as a cheating attempt by your counterparties, which will then rightfully sweep all the funds in retaliation.
Cons: your channel state is here forever. It just changed because you forwarded a payment? Need to inscribe the new state. Received a donation? Same. Paid for a beer. I'm afraid we'll need another inscription. Jokes aside, a Lightning channel state typically seems like something a bit too dynamic to be efficiently backed-up on as pricy a medium as the Bitcoin timechain.
Robosats v0.5.1 is out! Robosats allows you to buy and sell Bitcoin (on-chain and Lightning) in a peer-to-peer, privacy-preserving fashion. This new release brings some nice Lightning enhancements, both on the coordinator and on the client sides.
Coordinators (which, basically, host the trade offers and are responsible for trade execution) can now use a Core Lightning node, and they can voluntarily send donations to the developers automatically for each trade that happen on their instance, via keysend.
Users can enjoy a full re-work of the self-hosted app (a Robosats instance can be accessed either via a browser (preferably Tor) or a self-hosted frontend), as well as a rework of the lnproxy feature which allows user to conceal their Lightning node's identity when receiving funds on Lightning.
Spec & Implems
A new Lightning initiative was born last week. "Scaling Lightning" aims to "build a testing toolkit for the Lightning Network protocol, its implementations, and applications that depend on the Lightning Network". In other worlds, having tools and a common, active signet to test Lightning implementations and applications, feed research works, welcome newcomers, etc., in an environnement that mimics the real Lightning Network as closely as possible but without any real funds at risk.
Un nouvel oeuf a éclot ce matin
Dans un déchirant chahut de morceaux de coquilles
Qui arrosant le monde de débris anciens
Tapissent l'aire entière d'un lourd manteau calcique.