Jaspervdm - Progress update thread - March to May 2020

To keep the community updated on my progress, I will be posting weekly in this thread. Here’s what I’ve been doing in week 1:

  • Node API: Don’t error on missing output. When the wallet queried a node to sync the status of its outputs, any output that aren’t confirmed (yet) would show up as an error in the logs. This alarmed users unnecessarily and had the side effect of suppressing real errors such as data corruption. This is now fixed.

  • Wallet: fix sending to https wallets. Unfortunately in v3.1.0 sending to any https listener would give errors. After some investigation it turned out that the underlying problem was caused by a dependency. A new version of the wallet, v3.1.1 will be released shortly which addresses this.

  • Wallet: detect and display reverted transactions. In short: any confirmed transactions that suddenly disappears due to a re-org will now show up as “reverted”. Running the “info” command will also show these funds. If the transaction is included in a block again it will also be updated in the wallet. For more information, see the pull request.

  • Grinscan: linking in/outputs. This work is not done on a public repostitory like the others but since it helps anyone in the Grin ecosystem I’m mentioning it anyway. Since this week Grinscan is performing a rudimentary analysis of mainnet block contents, by comparing the inputs/outputs/kernels with previously broadcasted transactions and grouping them accordingly. This will allow anyone to check if and how much pre-fluff aggregation occurred for their transaction. Here’s an example block without aggregation: https://grinscan.net/block/590958 and an example with aggregation: https://grinscan.net/block/591102

See you next week!


March 9-15
I have spent most of last week refactoring the node p2p communication layer. In v3.1 (and older) the node uses blocking code. It spawns 2 threads for every connection: a reader and a writer. These threads attempt to do locking reads and writes with short timeouts in a loop. This is not very resource efficient, as each thread uses a bunch of memory and possibly wastes cpu cycles when there is nothing to read or write.

I have been working on moving the p2p layer to asynchronous code, using the async/.await functionality that was stabilized in Rust a while ago. This means that there is a multi-threaded runtime that manages all connections and only tries to read/write when necessary. This should reduce resource usage and also opens up possibilities for future improvements, such as having a single thread that is responsible for processing headers/txs/blocks.

At the end of last week I managed to do an initial sync from scratch using async p2p code. However, there is still a bunch of work to be done before the PR can be reviewed and eventually merged. Since there is still a lot of blocking code in the node that interfaces with the p2p layer, it is kind of awkward at times having to juggle synchronous and asynchronous contexts, so I will be spending more time trying to refactor code to simplify this. There are also some stability issues that need to be addressed. I will provide another update next week.

Stay safe everyone


Hi! Can I use this repo safely? https://github.com/jaspervdm/grin/releases

There’s no longer a need to. https://github.com/mimblewimble/grin/releases/tag/v3.1.1-beta.1 now has the compatibility fixes that were originally in Jasper’s repo.

Progress since last update:

  • We have released version 3.1.1 of the node which should fix all “illegal instruction” errors on startup for the linux binaries. If you still get this problem for v3.1.1 (or higher), please open an issue for it on the grin repository
  • I have continued to make improvements to the async p2p code. Managed to fix some issues regarding resource usage, particularly around spawning threads. I’m still seeing some connection stability problems that I am trying to hunt down and fix. They are likely caused by contention on a lock, so I’m looking into possibly replacing some of it with message passing. Once these issues are fixed I will ask the community to help testing it and give me feedback on its stability!



Hi all, time for me to give another update.

A few weeks back it became apparant to me that the work on async p2p was not of very high priority, since we have the grin v4.0 release planning. Since there are only 2 hard forks left, my time would be better spent on issues that are either consensus breaking or would greatly benefit from a HF (because they introduce new p2p messages, for example). This is why I decided to pick up spec and implementation of a desired feature called parallel IBD.

New nodes that are joining the network, need to download the chainstate. Unlike most other blockchains, we do not need to download all historical data to fully validate the state. In particular, we do not need to download and verify all outputs that have been spent in the past. For technical reasons up until recently we could only download the required data from a single peer at a time and verify it once it has been fully downloaded. This meant that the initial synchronisation was bottlenecked by the bandwith and honesty of that single peer.
Due to consensus changes in the previous Hard Fork we have the technical capability to parallelize this download, meaning we can request chunks from multiple peers at the same time, which can be mostly verified independently. This should decrease the synchronisation time significantly.

However the grin node does not yet make use of this new capability. It requires new messages on the peer-to-peer network, which would be easy to introduce in the next Hard Fork. Specifying and implementing these messages is what I have been working on for the past while. The specification work can be found in this PR, with implementation progressing simultaneously. There are still a few details that are under discussion in the PR and need to be hammered out but I am confident we can get the work done before the next release is out.

It has been a while since I gave the last update. My bad for the inconsistency, I will make sure I post updates in this thread more frequently to inform you of the progress I am making.