Ultra-minimal Bitcoin light client 🎈 🎈
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minimal chain tip tracking for simple light clients

What is Zeta

Zeta is an ultra-minimal Bitcoin light client.

What does Zeta do?

Zeta connects to Electrum servers, retrieves Bitcoin header information and stores it in a local DB. It maintains a connection to several electrum servers, and processes headers as they come in.

Zeta starts from a checkpoint, which are hardcoded. It ranks blocks by accumulated work from that checkpoint. We will eventually support specifying your own checkpoints.

Zeta now tracks prevouts associated with addresses in its db. To sync coins, just add an address to the DB using zeta.db.address.store_address(). You can also store keys (encrypted with a passphrase) using zeta.db.keys.store_key(). For each address in the DB, zeta will request its unspent prevouts, and subscribe to a feed of changes.


$ pip install riemann-zeta


Yes, surprisingly. We have configuration environment variables. Make sure they're set BEFORE you import zeta.

$ export ZETA_DB_PATH="/absolute/path/to/db/directory"
$ export ZETA_DB_NAME="yourdb.name"
$ export ZETA_NETWORK="{bitcoin_main|bitcoin_test}"
import os
os.environ['ZETA_DB_PATH'] = os.join('absolute', 'path', 'to', 'db', 'directory')


Command line (non-interactive, just syncs the db)

$ pipenv run python zeta/z.py


import asyncio

from zeta import z
from zeta.db import headers

async def use_zeta():

    # if you pass in a queue, you can get access to the electrum subscription
    header_q = asyncio.Queue()
    prevout_q = asyncio.Queue()

    # We return running tasks that sync the header chain and coins
    chain_task, coin_task = await z.zeta(  

    # NB: Chain sync may take some time, depending on your checkpoint
    #     You have to wait.


    # NB : returns a List of header dicts, heights are NOT (!!) unique
    #      we store ALL HEADERS we hear of, including orphans

    # NB: returns a List of header dicts. total difficulty is NOT (!!) unique

    # NB: returns a header dict. hashes are unique
    #     at least, if they aren't, we have bigger problems than Zeta breaking :)
    h = headers.find_by_hash("00000000000000000020ba2cdb900193eb8af323487a84621d45f2222e01f8c6")


if __name__ == '__main__':

Header, Key and Prevout Formats

See all types in zeta/zeta_types.py


$ pipenv install -d

Running tests

This will run the linter, the type checker, and then the unit tests.

We actually wrote unit tests!

$ tox

Infrequently asked questions

How is Zeta?

Very young and resource inefficient.

Why is Zeta?

Zeta is pure python, and has only 1 dependency (which is also pure python). We intended it to be lightweight and easily packaged. We will be using it in the wild shortly.

Does zeta support multiple chains?

Yes! It currently supports Bitcoin Main and Test networks. If we want to add support for other chains, we may need to add chain-specific DB schemas, which sounds like a lot of work.

Why are the hardcoded servers and checkpoints in .py files?

pyinstaller does not support pkg_resources. Putting the servers in .py files ensures they can be packaged in executables with 0 fuss. If the files get unreasonably large, we'll move them to json files and deal with pyinstaller

What else?

Future plans:

  1. Add some logic to check if the chain tip gets stuck (e.g. because of electrum errors)
  2. Implement merkle proof validation
  3. Validate electrum scripthash messages against headers