walterbyrd writes "Streaming services are ailing. Pandora, the giant of its class and the survivor at 13 years old, is waging an ugly war to pay artists and labels less in order to stay afloat. Spotify, in spite of 6 million paid users and 18 million subscribers who humor some ads in their stream, has yet to turn a profit. Rhapsody axed 15% of its workforce right as Apple's iTunes Radio hit the scene. On-demand competitor Rdio just opted for layoffs too, in order to move into a 'scalable business model.' Did no one wonder about that business-model bit in the beginning? Meanwhile, Turntable.fm, a comparatively tiny competitor with what should have been viral DNA, just pulled the plug on its virtual jam sessions this week—and it just might be the canary in the coal mine."
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Nerval's Lobster writes "Bank of America has issued a research report suggesting that the crypto-currency Bitcoin could become 'a major means of payment for e-commerce' on its way to emerging as 'a serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers.' The bank attaches a 'maximum market capitalization' of Bitcoin at roughly $1,300, based on its position as a 'major player in both e-commerce and money transfer' as well as 'a significant store of value with a reputation close to silver.' Bitcoin has come close to exceeding that theoretical ceiling in recent weeks, although its valuation dove today after the People's Bank of China decided to declare it a volatile 'currency' without real legal status; that financial institution is also concerned about its use in money laundering and black markets. Bank of America sees Bitcoins' advantages as low transaction costs, its finite supply (which will protect its value), and its increasing attractiveness as an alternative to 'traditional' cash. As with the People's Bank of China, however, the bank sees the currency's extreme volatility and lack of legal backing as a bad thing, and frowns at the possibility that regulators could step in and increase transaction costs. 'A 50 minute wait before payment receipt confirmation is received will prohibit wider use,' the report adds. 'This is less of an issue for two parties that know each other because they trust the other will not double spend, but when dealing with an anonymous counterparty this creates a high level of unhedgeable risk.' Without a 'central counterparty' to verify transactions and thus mitigate that risk, Bitcoin could fail to break into wider use."
itwbennett writes "Broadcom Chairman and CTO Henry Samueli has some bad news for you: Moore's Law isn't making chips cheaper anymore because it now requires complicated manufacturing techniques that are so expensive they cancel out the cost savings. Instead of getting more speed, less power consumption and lower cost with each generation, chip makers now have to choose two out of three, Samueli said. He pointed to new techniques such as High-K Metal Gate and FinFET, which have been used in recent years to achieve new so-called process nodes. The most advanced process node on the market, defined by the size of the features on a chip, is due to reach 14 nanometers next year. At levels like that, chip makers need more than traditional manufacturing techniques to achieve the high density, Samueli said. The more dense chips get, the more expensive it will be to make them, he said."
quantr writes with this excerpt from Bloomberg: "China's central bank barred financial institutions from handling Bitcoin transactions, moving to regulate the virtual currency after an 89-fold jump in its value sparked a surge of investor interest in the country. Bitcoin plunged more than 20 percent to below $1,000 on the BitStamp Internet exchange after the People's Bank of China said it isn't a currency with 'real meaning' and doesn't have the same legal status. The public is free to participate in Internet transactions provided they take on the risk themselves, it said. The ban reflects concern about the risk the digital currency may pose to China's capital controls and financial stability after a surge in trading this year made the country the world's biggest trader of Bitcoin, according to exchange operator BTC China. Bitcoin's price jumped more than ninefold in the past two months alone, prompting former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to call it a 'bubble.' 'The concern is that it interferes with normal monetary policy operation,' said Hao Hong, head of China research at Bocom International Holdings Co. in Hong Kong. 'It represents an unofficial leakage to the current monetary system and trades globally. It is difficult to regulate and could be used for money laundering.'"
Ocean Consulting writes "CNN is reporting that over two million passwords from web service companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo have been captured via a key logging virus. The story is based on information released by security firm Trustwave. The report critiques how bad people are at making secure passwords, but does mention the use of Pony Botnet Controller."
sfcrazy writes "The creator of the most sought after 'Android' of the world has been secretly working on creating a robotics division within Google. The search engine giant has acquired over seven robotics companies recently to create the robotics unit which is being headed by none other than Andy Rubin himself. Andy made the disclosure in an interview given to the New York Times." Their initial goal is to automate the woefully manual process of electronics manufacturing.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Spotify wants to change the perception that it's killing artists' ability to make a living off music. In a new posting on its Website, the streaming-music hub suggests that songs' rights-holders earn between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, on average, and that a niche indie album on the service could earn an artist roughly $3,300 per month (a global hit album, on the other hand, would rack up $425,000 per month). 'We have succeeded in growing revenues for artists and labels in every country where we operate, and have now paid out over $1 billion USD in royalties to-date ($500 million of which we paid in 2013 alone),' the company wrote. 'We have proudly achieved these payouts despite having relatively few users compared to radio, iTunes or Pandora, and as we continue to grow we expect that we will generate many billions more in royalties.' But does that really counter all those artists (including Grizzly Bear and Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500) who are on the record as saying that Spotify streaming only earns them a handful of dollars for tens of thousands of streaming plays? Let's say an artist earns $0.0084 per stream; it would still take 400,000 'plays' per month in order to reach that indie-album threshold of approximately $3,300. (At $0.006 per stream, it would take 550,000 streams to reach that baseline.) If Spotify's 'specific payment figures' with regard to albums are correct, that means its subscribers are listening to a lot of music on repeat. And granted, those calculations are rough, but even if they're relatively ballpark, they end up supporting artists' grousing that streaming music doesn't pay them nearly enough. But squeezed between labels and publishers that demand lots of money for licensing rights, and in-house expenses such as salaries and infrastructure, companies such as Spotify may have little choice but to keep the current payment model for the time being."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The state of Oregon blames Oracle for the failures of its online health exchange. The health-insurance site still doesn't fully work as intended, with many customers forced to download and fill out paper applications rather than sign up online; Oracle has reportedly informed the state that it will sort out the bulk of technical issues by December 16, a day after those paper applications are due. 'It is the most maddening and frustrating position to be in, absolutely,' Liz Baxter, chairwoman of the board for the online exchange, told NPR. 'We have spent a lot of money to get something done—to get it done well—to serve the people in our state, and it is maddening that we can't seem to get over this last hump.' Oregon state officials insist that, despite payments of $43 million, Oracle missed multiple deadlines in the months leading up to the health exchange's bungled launch." (Read more, below.)
Pseudonymous Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto (whether that name represents one person or several) is believed to hold many millions of dollars in Bitcoin. Various attempts have been made to pin down Nakamoto's identity; the IB Times reports today that a (sadly anonymous) analysis points to George Washington University economics professor Nick Szabo, based on textual analysis and some other clues, such as Szabo's expertise in digital currency and his role as founder of GoldCoin. Szabo's blog Unenumerated is fascinating reading, whether or not this analysis is right.
snydeq writes "With eight qualified candidates for every 10 openings, today's talented developers have their pick of perks, career paths, and more, InfoWorld reports in its inside look at some of the startups and development firms fueling the hottest market for coding talent the tech industry has ever seen. 'Every candidate we look at these days has an offer from at least one of the following companies: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Square, Pinterest, or Palantir,' says Box's Sam Schillace. 'If you want to play at a high level and recruit the best engineers, every single piece matters. You need to have a good story, compensate fairly, engage directly, and have a good culture they want to come work with. You need to make some kind of human connection. You have to do all of it, and you have to do all of it pretty well. Because everyone else is doing it pretty well.'"
thomst writes "Robert Barnes of the Washington Post reports that the US Supreme Court has declined to hear petitions from Amazon.com and Overstock.com requesting that a decision by the New York State Supreme Court permitting that state's 2008 law requiring sales taxes be collected on Internet sales, even if the seller has no 'business presence' in New York. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that Amazon's relationship with third-party affiliates in the state that receive commissions for sending Web traffic its way satisfied the 'substantial nexus' necessary to force the company to collect taxes, and New York's Supreme Court had affirmed the ruling. The Federal high court's refusal to hear the petitions leaves the state law in effect, even though it appears to conflict with the Court's 1993 decision in Quill v. North Dakota."
cagraham writes "According to IBM's latest Data Benchmark report, 21.8% of all online Black Friday sales were made from mobile devices. Mobile traffic, meanwhile, accounted for 39.7% of all Black Friday traffic. Interestingly, iOS users accounted for 18.1% of online sales, while Android users accounted for just 3.5%. The data come from IBM's real-time monitoring over 800 U.S. online retailers. The report also notes that tablets generated less traffic than smartphones, but accounted for almost twice the number of sales. Overall, online sales for Black Friday grew 18.9% year-over-year."
BitVulture writes "Richard Stallman took time to air his views on the crypto-currency that has become virtually as valuable as gold. In an interview with Russian media giant RT, Stallman praised Bitcoin for allowing people to 'send money to someone without getting the permission of a payment company'. But he also warned against a major weakness of Bitcoin and called for the development of 'a system for truly anonymous payment' online."
CowboyRobot writes "In November, Denmark-based Bitcoin Internet Payment System suffered a DDoS attack. Unfortunately for users of the company's free online wallets for storing bitcoins, the DDoS attack was merely a smokescreen for a digital heist that quickly drained numerous wallets, netting the attackers a reported 1,295 bitcoins — worth nearly $1 million — and leaving wallet users with little chance that they'd ever see their money again. Given the potential spoils from a successful online heist, related attacks are becoming more common. But not all bitcoin heists have been executed via hack attacks or malware. For example, a China-based bitcoin exchange called GBL launched in May. Almost 1,000 people used the service to deposit bitcoins worth about $4.1 million. But the exchange was revealed to be an elaborate scam after whoever launched the site shut it down on October 26 and absconded with the funds. The warnings are all the same: 'Don't trust any online wallet', 'Find alternative storage solutions as soon as possible', and 'You don't have to keep your Bitcoins online with someone else. You can store your Bitcoins yourself, encrypted and offline.'"
The L.A. Times has a short but compelling article about the state of the art (and coming state of the art) in dedicated networking technology in one of the applications where you'd expect the customers to care most about it: connecting financial trading centers. Milliseconds count, and the traders count milliseconds. From the article, one example: "[New York-based networking company] Strike, whose ranks include academics as well as former U.S. and Israeli military engineers, hoisted a 6-foot white dish on a tower rising 280 feet above the Nasdaq Stock Market's data center in Carteret, N.J., just outside New York City. Through a series of microwave towers, the dish beams market data 734 miles to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange's computer warehouse in Aurora, Ill., in 4.13 milliseconds, or about 95% of the theoretical speed of light, according to the company. Fiber-optic cables, which are made up of long strands of glass, carry data at roughly 65% of light speed."
The much-discussed health care finance sign-up website HealthCare.gov has benefited from the flurry of improvements that have been thrown at it in the last several weeks. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokesman Aaron Albright told Fox News Saturday that "[w]ith the scheduled upgrades last night and tonight, we're on track to meet our stated goal for the site to work for the vast majority of users." CMM spokeswoman Julie Bataille. "said the installation of new servers Friday night helped improved the response times and error rates, even with heavier-than-usual weekend traffic." If you've used the site this weekend, what has your experience been like?
CowboyRobot writes "The incentives are high for many businesses and government agencies to not be too heavy handed in combating the global botnet pandemic. There's money to be had and, with each passing day, more interesting ways are being uncovered in how to package the data, and how to employ it. It used to be that the worlds of bug hunters and malware analysts were separate and far between. In the last couple of years the ability to analyze malware samples and identify exploitable vulnerabilities in them has become very important. Given that some botnets have a bigger pool of victims than many commercial software vendors have licensed customers, the value of an exploit that grants reliable remote control of a popular malware agent is rising in value. In many ways, botnets have become a golden goose to those charged with gathering intelligence on the populations of foreign entities. The bulk of the victim's data is useful for mapping populations, communication profiles, and as egress points for counter intelligence exercises. Then, given how many botnet victims there are, the probability that a few 'interesting' computers will have succumbed along the way is similarly high — providing direct insight in to a pool of high value targets."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports that the U. S. government has agreed to pay software maker Apptricity $50 million to settle claims that the U.S. Army pirated thousands of copies of the firm's provisioning software. The report indicates 500 licensed copies were sold, but it came to light an army official had mentioned that 'thousands' of devices were running the software." $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.
v3rgEz writes "Wish you were a little more organized? Have trouble finding that archived contract when you actually need it? Don't feel too bad: The National Security Agency has the same problem, claiming that its contract database is stored manually and impossible to search by topic, category, or even by vendor in most cases."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Economist Edward Hadas writes in the NYT that developers of bitcoin are trying to show that money can be successfully privatized but money that is not issued by governments is always doomed to failure because money is inevitably a tool of the state. 'Bitcoin exemplifies some of the problems of private money,' says Hadas. 'Its value is uncertain, its legal status is unclear, and it could easily become valueless if users lose faith.' Besides, if bitcoin ever really started to take off, governments would either ban it or take over the system says Hadas. The authorities might be motivated by a genuine concern about the stability of a shadow monetary system or they might act out of self-preservation because tax evasion would be too easy in a parallel economy. 'Part of the interest in virtual currencies like bitcoin is that their anonymity can provide a convenient cloak for criminal activity. Part is technological — this is a cool idea. And part is speculative — gamblers bet that bitcoin's value will increase,' concludes Hadas. 'Truly private money is an inferior alternative to the money that comes with the backing of a political authority. After all, no bank or bitcoin-emitter can be as public-minded as a government, and no private power can raise taxes or pass laws to unwind monetary excesses.'" Could be there's something good about money that can't be manipulated by law. Some people at least think there's plenty of value in Bitcoin and similar currencies, despite the risks. And those risks at present probably aren't enough to comfort the unfortunate Welsh fellow who (HT to reader judgecorp) "has realised he threw out a hard drive containing 7500 bitcoins, worth £4 million at today's prices. It is now under four feet of garbage in a landfill site the size of a football pitch."