Rust-Miniscript Planning Module for Efficient Bitcoin Txns.

on Harshil Jani

#computers #bitcoin #compilers

I have worked on the Rust-Miniscript project during my Summer of Bitcoin 2023 Internship. This blog post is about what actually is the Planning Module, Why we need it and How it solves the problem in the Bitcoin World. We will slowly transition in between over the work which I have done throughout the internship to make improvements on the Planning module.

Before we get into the details of Planning module, I would like to add information about all the parts of the projects and my understanding about them. The article is divided into sections and you can navigate into the sections which you are relating the most with. Reading all the sections should help new commers into the Bitcoin Development give more clear insights. Let’s get started.

# Bitcoin Scripts

Bitcoin Script is a simple, stack-based programming language used in the Bitcoin protocol to define the spending conditions for Bitcoin transactions. It is an integral part of how Bitcoin’s blockchain enforces security and control over the movement of funds. Bitcoin Script allows users to specify the rules that must be met in order to spend the funds locked in a particular output (also known as a “UTXO” or unspent transaction output).

Each Bitcoin transaction includes one or more inputs and outputs. The input of a transaction references a previous output (UTXO) and provides the necessary data to satisfy the spending conditions defined by the output’s locking script. The locking script, also known as the “scriptPubKey,” specifies the rules that must be met for the funds to be spent. The input includes a separate script called the “scriptSig,” which provides the data required to satisfy the locking script’s conditions.

Bitcoin Script operations include simple mathematical operations, bitwise operations, cryptographic operations, and conditional branching. It is intentionally designed to be limited in complexity to ensure security and prevent malicious or unintended behavior. This design choice is meant to minimize the potential attack surface and prevent vulnerabilities that could compromise the integrity of the Bitcoin network.


Partially Signed Bitcoin Transaction (PSBT) is a standardized format that allows multiple parties to collaboratively build and sign a Bitcoin transaction without exposing sensitive private keys. It’s designed to facilitate offline signing, multi-signature setups, and hardware wallet integrations, making the process of creating and signing Bitcoin transactions more secure and flexible.

PSBT enables the separation of the transaction creation process from the signing process, which is particularly useful for scenarios where parties want to maintain the security of their private keys while collaborating on transaction creation.

# Miniscript

Miniscript is a scripting language designed to make it easier to create and analyze Bitcoin scripts. Traditional Bitcoin scripting can be complex and difficult to reason about. Miniscript aims to simplify this process by providing a more structured and human-readable way to express spending conditions.

# Key features of Miniscript

# Fee Rate of a Bitcoin Transaction

Each bitcoin transaction is verified by a network of nodes and it requires a transaction fee to process the transaction on blockchain.

In case of multi-party transactions, it is important to agree on a transaction fee rate to prevent DOS attacks. To address this problem, rust-miniscript has implemented the absolute worst-case analysis for the satisfaction of weights and employs it to calculate the fees.

# Need for Planning Module

Since we already know we require the fee rate to be calculated. Now assume that for multisig transactions you would need 2 of 3 keys and you are sure enough that one of the key is not present for sure. Then you may want to avoid calculating fee on that key. But as per worst case implementation for k of n multisig transactions wallets were built such that by default n keys were required which means

satisfaction weight = n*weight of each key

To solve this problem of over-spending in case of asset unavailability, The planning module plays a vital role. It allows you to choose a spend path. So you can now choose k keys only instead of all n. This helps in reducing fee rates to k*weight of each key. (k≤n)

# What is Planning Module

A plan is represented by a particular spending path on a descriptor (rules for spending transaction output). It is a way using which we can analyze a choice of spending path without actually producing any signatures or other witness data.

To create a spending plan, We need to provide a descriptor along with keys or pre-image hashes and absolute and relative time lock constraints. Here we can also get which subset of the available keys and pre image hashes we will actually need to use. This is helpful for constructing a Bitcoin transaction.

Once we obtain the required signatures, hash pre images, etc. the spending plan can create a witness or script_sig for the input. Which can be used to sign the transaction and spend output defined by the descriptor.

Instead of building the Witness [ signatures, hash pre-images to verify ownership] , the Witness Templates are being built, Which contain placeholders instead of actual signature and preimage. This would help in determining the weight of the witness more accurately before constructing the actual witness.

The entire workflow using the Planner module should seem as shown below.


# Example to understand Miniscript and Planning

One part of my work was to write example tutorials for the developers who would need to use Rust-Miniscript as a crate into their wallet backend. Inorder to explain the entire workflow about the Miniscript and the Planning Module I am writing a sample example below.

Explanation : We are trying to write a policy which has key A AND [key B OR key C OR key D]

Spend Policy : and(pk(A),or(pk(B),or(pk(C),pk(D))))

Miniscript Output : and_v(or_c(pk(B),vc:or_i(pk_h(C),pk_h(D))),pk(A))

Bitcoin Script :


# Satisfaction Weight and Planning Module :

Considering these keys as a part of wsh descriptor which uses the ECDSA Signatures of length 72 Bytes. Satisfying this script would cost us approximates 4*72 = 288 Bytes. But there might be other costs added for pushing or dissatisfying the script.

The above is the case in Worst-Case Analysis.

Now with the planning module, We get to choose to select our path. For example the possible paths in the above policy would be

It is obvious that we can select the keys with least number of assets which here is combination of two keys which costs 144 bytes. And we can almost half the fee rate by choosing that spend path and develop PSBT Input.

This is exactly what is possible with the help of planning module by choosing a particular spend path.

As the work was in collaboration with BDK developers, We are waiting for the #481 to get merged and my PR is built on top of their work. The below is the PR which adds the APIs for obtaining all the possible planned spend path and counting the assets in linear time to check for the DOS attacks possibilities.

# Improvements in Planning Module

I have worked on the logics behind getting all the combination of plans for a given descriptor and policy. So, In the above example, we have the 7 possible spend paths. I wrote a method called get_all_assets which recursively checks into the different miniscript elements and returns a vector of Assets which can be built from the policy paths.

In order to be protected from DOS Attack we would need to check total number of plans. If it exceeds a certain threshold, we will simply reject the descriptor. This is important because in case if the algorithm tries to plan the satisfaction for all possibilities it would end up increasing the congestion over the network and we just don’t want this to happen.

We have two different functions for getting the assets and counting all the assets because getting assets happens in an exponential complexity but simple counting of assets should take less time if we can already compute the combinomatric formulation for miniscript elements.

Eg : AND(A,B) would give only 1 solution [(key A, key B)]

OR(A,B) would give 2 solutions [(key A),(key B)]

multi (k,A1,A2,A3,…,An) would give nCk possibilities.

# Challenges

When miniscript tries to finalize the PSBT, it doesn’t have the full descriptor (which contained a pkh() fragment) and instead resorts to parsing the raw script sig, which is translated into a “expr_raw_pkh” internally. We introduced the method substitute_raw_pkh to convert the expr_raw_pkh into pkh by looking at the available keys and their hases being stored inside of the Hashmap of PSBT Input. If the key is found corresponding to given hash, It will update to pkh.

For ECDSA signatures in BIP32 Derivations we get all the keys included for a given descriptor. And for Schorr Sigs in Taproot we get into tap_key_origins. Here we need all the keys in order to provide a verdict whether we want to satisfy them or dissatisfy them. Those keys are mapped with their key hashes and we simply replace expr_raw_pkh values with the PKH(key) to make it back into the non hashed form. This reverse translates the descriptor and we can retain its property back and finalize it for transaction.

# Conclusion

The planning module in Rust-Miniscript revolutionizes the way developers create Bitcoin scripts by offering a high-level, human-readable approach to defining spending conditions. This abstraction enhances security, readability, and efficiency, making it an invaluable tool for crafting intricate spending scenarios while minimizing the risk of scripting errors. Incorporating Rust-Miniscript’s planning module into your projects can significantly streamline the process of building complex Bitcoin transactions.

If you’re interested in maximizing the potential of Rust-Miniscript, exploring the planning module is an essential step on your journey to becoming a proficient Bitcoin script developer.

Please do consider contributing to this amazing project. You should not be restricted by the limited Bitcoin Knowledge. If you know basics of programming and bit of crux in rust language, You can always find some beginner friendly issues and make them look good for the project. 😉