HomeTezosDevelopmentQ&A with Mike Reinhart of Obsidian Systems on Tezos baking

Q&A with Mike Reinhart of Obsidian Systems on Tezos baking

It was first announced back in March of 2018 that the Tezos Foundation had tapped Obsidian Systems, a small software firm based in New York, to begin development on tools to make Tezos baking easier and more accessible. Since that time, Obsidian has delivered on the goal and continues to provide tools and support for anyone wishing to become part of the Tezos network by operating a baking node.

On June 30, to coincide with the Tezos Betanet launch, Obsidian released their first version of a Tezos Wallet and Baking Application for the Ledger Nano S. This marked a breakthrough for Tezos since it would be possible, from the very start of the chain, to bake securely using the Ledger Nano hardware wallet. Beyond the wallet and software to enable Ledger support, Obsidian has continued working on supporting bakers, most recently by releasing a monitoring program, called Kiln, to keep track of your Tezos nodes and ensure continuous uptime.

Recently, Tezos Insider was able to connect with Mike Reinhart, the Tezos Project Manager at Obsidian Systems, to ask about baking and his thoughts on the Tezos project in general.

Have you been pleased with the growth in Tezos baking as the platform becomes more decentralized?

With over 470 potential bakers less than 3 months into mainnet, there is plenty to be pleased about. The network continues to become more decentralized over time. Even still, there is room for improvement. I think we’ll see a few jumps in the number of solo-bakers within the next year as, for instance, baking UIs improve.

Do you think home-baking or solo-baking will become bigger in 2019 as the tools and software become easier to use?

Absolutely. There are multiple efforts to produce secure ways of baking that don’t require any command-line knowledge, including our own. Within 2019 it is completely possible that Tezos will be among the easiest protocols to directly participate in, if not the easiest.

Over-delegation is a challenge right now for many delegation services. What else can be done to encourage more solo-baking and home-baking?

Better tools and software for bakers, particularly better interfaces, are definitely key. There are also several quality guides available. I also encourage people who are interested in baking to join our Slack group (by sending an email to tezos@obsidian.systems). Its members are very knowledgeable and have always been helpful to new bakers getting started.

The market for delegates will continue to naturally drive innovation and opportunities. For instance, Cryptium Labs also just launched ‘Baking as a Service’ for those who are interested in solo-baking but lack the time or resources. It would be nice to see baking workshops pop up in cities around the world where people could learn from existing bakers!

Eventually, there are likely to be baker-in-a-box devices, like Coinmine, that are cheap and widely available.

Is Obsidian working on Tezos Dapps to utilize the chain or solely focused on tools for baking right now?

Right now our primary focus is ensuring decentralization and security of the network, but in the future, we’d happily consider assisting with application development.

We continue to improve our Tezos Wallet and Tezos Baking applications for the Ledger Nano S, but our primary focus is now Kiln. It already does a great job of monitoring nodes, and soon it will monitor bakers as well. Around the end of next quarter, it will run a node and a baker for you.

Has Ledger been responsive in helping to add Tezos support to their Ledger Live application?

The Ledger team has always been great to work with. We’ve coordinated releases of Tezos Wallet and Tezos Baking nearly every month.

The first step is to getting Tezos fully supported in Ledger Live is to get our applications out of Develop Mode. It looks as though Tezos Wallet will make that leap very soon.

We’ve seen a couple of patches applied to the Tezos source recently for spam transactions on the network and an update to fix errors with node resource exhaustion related to LMDB. Overall Tezos seems very stable, what’s your view of the project as a developer on the security and ruggedness of the platform?

Any project that manages to ship a production network is bound to need a few tweaks and see a few attacks, similar to the spam attacks Ethereum has experienced. We’ve seen both in the first few months of Tezos mainnet being live, and the network was swiftly hardened as a result.

More generally, I’m very confident in the security and ruggedness of the platform. Because Tezos is written in the functional programming language OCaml, its code and smart contracts are easier to formally verify, resulting in less bugs. It’s code is also split into modular layers to facilitate smooth upgradability whether driven by community vote or necessity.

What attracted you most to working on Tezos versus other blockchain platforms?

Tezos has a fantastic community filled with productive and enthusiastic developers. I think that’s a side effect of Tezos being built with great technology. People recognize it has all the pieces necessary to be a blockchain that stands the test of time.

With the current crypto market downturn, does Tezos have an advantage since baking remains profitable even when the price of Tezos goes down compared to proof of stake coins?

I think that is one advantage. It is true that a market downturn can risk profitability for block producers. For comparable proof of stake projects that have higher system requirements or less block producers, that becomes a serious issue. The accessibility of baking has proven to be beneficial for both decentralizing the network and protecting profits. Someone can safely get started with an old laptop, a Ledger Nano S, and 1 roll of tez.

Tezos also has an advantage because it’s community has continued to grow as people recognize the project’s value, no matter the market conditions. Developers all over the world are improving the protocol, developing baker tools, and building applications on top of Tezos. That’s Tezos’ true advantage.

Featured image courtesy YouTube/Tezos
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Managing Editor of Tezos Insider. Nathan is a full-time software developer with a love for studying and learning every facet of cryptocurrency and blockchain. He is also an avid blogger and enjoys writing about crypto and other technology-related topics.