Book Review: ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Bitcoin’ by Matthew R. Kratter

I first discovered Matthew R. Kratter when, on a whim, I picked up his book A Beginner’s Guide to the Stock Market. After reading that, I started following his channel on YouTube and as he delved more into cryptocurrency, specifically Bitcoin, he became just one of two channels that I actually listen to and take their insight seriously. The other channel is Crypto Tips, for those who might be wondering.

Kratter’s stock market book was rather good so when he announced this one, I was pretty excited.

So this is a pretty short book and in fact, I read it in a single sitting.

However, for something only 60 or so pages, it is chock full of not just useful information but great information. Kratter knows Bitcoin exceptionally well and this is, hands down, the best book I’ve read on the subject, as it takes something that is complex and overly technical to the average person and explains it very simply and thoroughly.

My favorite part of the book was the section where he answers common questions and dispels common myths and concerns. While I’m 100 percent on board with Bitcoin, there are still worries I’ve had, even keeping up on it for almost a decade now. Kratter put some of those real concerns at ease and this is something that I’m sure I will continue to reference, as time goes on.

I enjoyed this so much and thought it was pretty close to perfect that I also got copies for friends who are interested in the crypto space but very apprehensive about it, even though they see my success with it.

Frankly, this past week has exposed major flaws and deep corruption in the Wall Street system, as hedge funds have fallen to Redditors with an axe to grind.

DeFi is the way of the future and the true road towards freedom. There isn’t a better time than now to get on board.

This book will help you get there.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Matthew R. Kratter’s other books, online courses and his YouTube channel Trader University.

Film Review: The Fifth Estate (2013)

Also known as: The Man Who Sold the World (working title), The 5ifth Estate (alternative DVD spelling)
Release Date: September 5th, 2013 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Josh Singer
Based on: Inside WikiLeaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg; WikiLeaks by David Leigh, Luke Harding
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney, Moritz Bleibtreu, Peter Capaldi, Dan Stevens, Alexander Siddig

Participant, Reliance Entertainment, Dreamworks Pictures, 128 Minutes

Review:

“Man is least himself when he talks with his own person. But if you give him a mask, he will tell you the truth. Two people, and a secret: the beginning of all conspiracies. More people, and, more secrets. But if we could find one moral man, one whistle-blower. Someone willing to expose those secrets, that man can topple the most powerful and most repressive of regimes.” – Julian Assange

Wow! This movie was an utter disappointment and honestly, a fucking disaster!

I should be clear from the get go that the performances were good and the shitty end result of this picture didn’t really fall on the shoulders of the actors. Hell, this film actually has a tremendous cast and that’s why I finally decided to give it a watch despite all the bad things I’ve heard about it since it came out.

I haven’t read the books that were used to write this film’s script but I know enough of the WikiLeaks story to know that this was a lot of bullshit. Also, I’m not sure how you can take such an exciting story and turn it into something this fucking dull! I mean, it’s got to take a real cement brained dullard to make the WikiLeaks and Assange story this damn boring!

Yes, I expected it not to be up to snuff but I at least expected the cast to kind of make up for the film’s technical and narrative shortcomings. Again, the cast is good but everything else is so bad that it barely even matters that they’re there.

In fact, I have to give this film a low score and the final tally is still going to be well below average, even though I gave it two bonus points for the actors.

This was a long, sloppy, boring film. It didn’t look that great and visually came across as really pedestrian. There weren’t any shots that stand out in my mind, as everything seemed to be shot like a television show that was on a tight schedule.

I don’t know how you can make a completely uninspiring movie out of a very inspiring person. But kudos, I guess.

This is shit.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other films and documentaries about cypherpunk culture and whistleblowers.

Documentary Review: Citizenfour (2014)

Release Date: October 10th, 2014 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Laura Poitras
Cast: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney, Jacob Applebaum, Ewen MacAskill

HBO Films, Participant Media, Praxis Films, Radius-TWC, 113 Minutes

Review:

For those who don’t already know the story of Edward Snowden, this does a good job of laying out all the facts and events that led to the situation he finds himself in, today.

While millions of people want him to get a presidential pardon, which I agree with, I think it’s important for those who don’t really know his story to actually learn about it because so many seem to easily accept the “traitor” label that’s been applied to him by those in the former Obama Administration.

What’s best about this, is that it actually stars Snowden. The cameras follow him, as he traverses through the muck while trying to get all the secrets he’s discovered out there.

Additionally, this features those who helped Snowden leak his secrets.

For the most part, this was really good and it makes its point well.

There’s not much to say about the contents of the film, as people really should watch it play out for themselves.

It’s well presented and it at least gives Snowden a voice.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other films on cypherpunk culture, specifically on hacking and leaking. I’ve reviewed many, here.

Documentary Review: Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain (2018)

Also known as: Decentralized: The Story of Blockchain (working title)
Release Date: October 26th, 2018 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Alex Winter
Written by: Alex Winter
Music by: Bill Laswell
Cast: Rosario Dawson (narrator), Alex Winter (interviewer), various

SingularDTV, Futurism Studios, Breaker, 84 Minutes

Review:

After watching Alex Winter’s documentary Deep Web, I was left wanting more. He followed that one up a few years later with this, which covers similar topics but with the majority of its focus on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

What I liked most about this film is that it describes these complex things and ideas really damn well. It makes this somewhat palatable for the layman.

Also, this interviews several people who know what they’re talking about while also featuring comments from many of blockchain and crypto’s detractors along with some great rebuttals.

A big part of the documentary follows the story of Lauri Love, a British hacker and activist that was wanted by the United States for alleged activities as a member of the hacker collective Anonymous. His story is really damn interesting and the film does a solid job of telling it.

If you have an interest in this stuff and haven’t seen this documentary, you should probably check it out. Alex Winter does great work and presents these subjects well.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk stuff like blockchain, cryptocurrency, hacking, etc. Especially, those by Alex Winter.

Book Review: ‘Ghost In the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker’ by Kevin Mitnick

This was suggested by Amazon when I bought This Machine Kills Secrets, so I bought it as well, as I figured it’d also be a pretty intriguing read.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed.

Kevin Mitnick is now a computer security consultant but before that, he was the most wanted hacker in the world, who was arrested in 1995 and spent five years in prison.

Luckily for us, he’s also a good writer and had one hell of a story to tell.

The crimes he was charged with were 14 counts of wire fraud, 8 counts of possession of unauthorized access devices, interception of wire or electronic communications, unauthorized access to a federal computer and causing damage to a computer.

His story is pretty exciting even before all that though and this autobiography had me from the get-go, as Mitnick went all the way back to his childhood and explained how he got into hacking and all the shenanigans he did while trying to perfect his craft.

The stuff about his early years was pretty exciting and this was immediately better than most autobiographies, which just summarize fairly mundane or normal childhoods.

Once you go beyond that and into adulthood, things pick up even more and Mitnick wrote a compelling tale about a high-tech skill but told in a way that any layman could understand.

I don’t want to ruin all the details and spoil the book for those who may have an interest in it. All I can really say is that it’s damn good, one of the best on its subject and that almost anyone will probably enjoy it.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other books about cypherpunk culture and hacking.

Book Review: ‘This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information’ by Andy Greenberg

This was the book I always wanted but didn’t even realize was out there until recently, after reading Julian Assange’s Cypherpunks book and telling a friend that I wanted something more broad.

I’m glad that my friend pointed me towards this and it’s actually kind of weird that it flew under my radar but it also came out after I was done writing about politics and economics and was sort of ignoring that stuff for a few years in order to reacquire my sanity.

This is damn solid, though, and more than that, it’s damn thorough. This covers so much ground in just a few hundred pages and is honestly, a real wealth of knowledge and a great outline of the key moments that happened within cypherpunk culture.

I wanted something that really went into a good amount of detail about Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, as well as the other players within the movement that wanted to expose secrets and bring not only transparency to the world but some sort of justice.

Out of all the stuff I’ve read on cypherpunk history and culture, this book shoots up to the top of the list. It’s well written, well researched and presented in a way that is very easy for the layman to follow.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other books about cypherpunk culture, hacking and cryptocurrency.

Documentary Review: The Hacker Wars (2014)

Release Date: October 17th, 2014
Directed by: Vivien Lesnik Weisman
Written by: Vivien Lesnik Weisman, Meredith Raithel Perry
Music by: Dicepticon, Christopher Lord, Ytcracker
Cast: Andrew “weev” Auemheimer, Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond

Over 9000 Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

I heard good things about this documentary quite awhile ago but I never checked it out till now.

I was reminded of it while watching Alex Winter’s Dark Web, so I thought that I should also watch this. Plus, I’ve been watching a lot of similar documentaries, lately, as well as reading several books on cypherpunk culture.

This was an engaging watch but that also has a lot to do with me being fascinated by the subject matter and due to my own personal history within what became the cypherpunk movement.

I liked that this picked a few key people and their situations and focused on them, allowing these hackers and other cypherpunk personalities the chance to tell their own story and espouse their philosophies behind why they do what they do. Whether you agree with their viewpoint or not, it’s still pretty enthralling stuff.

All in all, this was well presented and I thought that it was pretty fair to all parties involved. Out of all the similar documentary films I’ve watched on the subject, this one really stands out because many of the players were actually involved in it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk culture.

Book Review: ‘Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet’ by Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Muller-Maguhn & Jérémie Zimmermann

Overall, this was a pretty engaging book but it also wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, which is more of an autobiographical piece by Julian Assange, his work and his philosophy behind it all.

Instead, this reads like a conversation between four people who are talking about the cypherpunk movement.

It covers a lot of the stuff I had hoped it would but there’s that part of me that wanted something more personal and much deeper from Assange.

For those that care about this stuff, this is still most definitely a worthwhile read. Although, there probably isn’t a lot here that’s new knowledge.

However, for those who are just learning about this stuff and who didn’t live through the history of the WikiLeaks saga in real time, you’ll probably be shocked by a lot of the things that are covered here.

Regardless of your level of knowledge, though, this is definitely worth the shelf space in your library if you have an interest in tech history, freedom, conspiracies, coverups and wanting the truth to always come out.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other books about cypherpunk culture, hacking and cryptocurrency.