CNET reports that Facebook has experimented lately with a small group of users by offering people the chance to promote their own account status messages the old-fashioned way: by paying for them. The author of the linked article asks whether it's inevitable that "Facebook will have to start dinging users in earnest," post-IPO. Facebook still says "It's free and always will be," but that doesn't rule out paying for additional features — that's certainly a model that many game makers had adopted.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
mikejuk writes "The Goldbach conjecture is not the sort of thing that relates to practical applications, but they used to say the same thing about electricity. The Goldbach conjecture is reasonably well known: every integer can be expressed as the sum of two primes. Very easy to state, but it seems very difficult to prove. Terence Tao, a Fields medalist, has published a paper that proves that every odd number greater than 1 is the sum of at most five primes. This may not sound like much of an advance, but notice that there is no stipulation for the integer to be greater than some bound. This is a complete proof of a slightly lesser conjecture, and might point the way to getting the number of primes needed down from at most five to at most 2. Notice that no computers were involved in the proof — this is classical mathematical proof involving logical deductions rather than exhaustive search."
An anonymous reader writes "Shared in last quarter's FreeBSD status report are developer plans to have LLVM/Clang become the default compiler and to deprecate GCC. Clang can now build most packages and suit well for their BSD needs. They also plan to have a full BSD-licensed C++11 stack in FreeBSD 10." Says the article, too: "Some vendors have also been playing around with the idea of using Clang to build the Linux kernel (it's possible to do with certain kernel configurations, patches, and other headaches)."
bmsleight writes "Does it count as a hack if you change your own system? Vanity Fair report that during the bidding process for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the London Streets Traffic Control Center followed each vehicle using CCTV, 'and when they came up to traffic lights,' [bid committee CEO Keith] Mills said, 'we turned them green.'"
An anonymous reader writes "We've heard many times and from multiple sources that text messaging is declining. There are multiple reasons for this (BlackBerry Messenger, Apple's iMessage, and even WhatsApp), but the biggest one is Facebook (Messenger). Facebook is slowly but surely killing the text message. As a result, the social networking giant is eating into the traffic carriers receive from text messaging, and thus a huge chunk of their revenues."
Okian Warrior writes "A Milford, CT man was pulled over when a state police car radioactivity scanner flagged his car as being radioactive. The man had been given a cardiac exam using radioactive dye, and had a note from his physician attesting to this, but it raises questions about the legality of the stop. Given that it is not illegal to own or purchase or transport radioactive materials (within limits for hobbyist use), should the police be allowed to stop and search vehicles which show a slight level of radioactivity?"
dartttt writes "There was a very interesting session at the Ubuntu Developer Summit by Google developer Thomas Bushnell. He talked about how Ubuntu, its derivatives and Goobuntu (Google's customized Ubuntu based distro) are used by Google developers. He starts by saying 'Precise Rocks,' and that many Google employees use Ubuntu — including managers, software engineers, translators, people who wrote the original Unix, and people who have no clue about Unix. Many developers working on Chrome and Android use Ubuntu. Ubuntu systems at Google are upgraded every LTS release. The entire process of upgrading can take as much as four months, and it is also quite expensive, as one reboot or a small change can cost them as much as a million dollars across the company." Bushnell also mentions that Google Drive will soon be available for Linux. Other news out of UDS: there was discussion of a GNOME flavor of 12.10, Electronic Arts reaffirmed that they "won't delay their Windows work for Linux," and Unity 2D is likely to disappear in 12.10.
Qbertino writes "I'm in my early 40s, and after a little more than 10 years of web, scripting and software development as a freelancer and some gigs as a regular, full-time employee, I'm seriously considering giving my IT career a boost by getting a degree. I'm your regular 1980s computer kid and made a career switch to IT during the dot-bomb days. I have quite a bit of programming and project experience, but no degree. I find myself hitting somewhat of a glass ceiling (with maybe a little age discrimination thrown in there). Since I'm in Germany, degrees count for a lot (70% of IT staff have a degree) so getting one seems fitting and a nice addition to my portfolio. However, I'm pondering wether I should go for Computer Science or Business Informatics. I'd like to move into Project Management or Technical Account Management, which causes my dilemma: CS gives me the pro credibility and proves my knowledge with low-level and technical stuff, and I'd be honing my C/C++ and *nix skills. Business Informatics would teach me some bean-counting skills; I'd be doing modelling, ERP with Java or .NET all day. It would give me some BA cred, but I'd lose karma with the T-shirt wearing crew and the decision-makers in that camp. I'm leaning toward Business Informatics because I suspect that's where the money is, but I'm not quite sure wether a classic CS degree wouldn't still be better — even if I'm wearing a suit. Any suggestions?"
dynamo52 sends this quote from Ars about a breach involving a Bitcoin exchange: "More than $87,000 worth of the virtual currency known as Bitcoin was stolen after online bandits penetrated servers belonging to Bitcoinica, prompting its operators to temporarily shutter the trading platform to contain the damage. Friday's theft came after hackers accessed Bitcoinica's production servers and depleted its online wallet of 18,547 BTC, as individual Bitcoin units are called, company officials said in a blog post published on Friday. It said the heist affected only a small fraction of Bitcoinica's overall bitcoin deposits and that all withdrawal requests will be honored once the platform reopens." Reader linhares points out a forum post discussing how the attacker(s) hinted at a 'mass leak' in the near future. This attack comes shortly after a leak of a different sort — an FBI document (PDF) about Bitcoin found it way onto the internet. It seems they're worried about the virtual currency's potential use in criminal activities.
CWmike writes "CNET's Declan McCullagh reported last week on the FBI's argument that the massive shift of communications from the telephone system to the Internet 'has made it far more difficult for the agency to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities.' The law has already been expanded once, in 2004, to include broadband networks, but still excludes Web companies. The FBI says its surveillance efforts are in danger of 'going dark' if it is not allowed to monitor the way people communicate now. Not surprisingly, a range of opponents, from privacy advocates to legal experts, disagree — strongly. On key tech hitch with the plan, per ACLU attorney Mark Rumold and others: There is a difference between wiretapping phones and demanding a backdoor to Internet services. 'A backdoor doesn't just make it accessible to the FBI — it makes it vulnerable to others,' Rumold says."
wiredmikey writes with a followup to Thursday's news that Adobe was recommending paid software upgrades in lieu of fixing security holes in some of its applications. After receiving criticism for the security bulletin, Adobe changed its mind and announced that it's developing patches to fix the vulnerabilities. "Developing a patch, especially for three different applications, can be costly and time consuming. Developing these patches consumes development resources, then must run through a QA process, and the patch needs to be communicated and distributed to users. And for a company like Adobe with a massive customer base using its Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash Professional, the bandwidth cost alone can be substantial. For a popular product that was just over two years old, providing a fix to address a serious security flaw its what customers deserve. And while Adobe may have originally tried to sneak by without addressing the issue and pushing users to upgrade to its new product, the company made the right move in the end."
skipkent writes with news that Britain is planning to use high-tech, non-lethal sonic weapons to provide security at the Olympics this summer. The Ministry of Defense says they intend to use the devices primarily as giant loudspeakers. But if they find themselves in need of a way to disperse crowds, the weapons can project sound up to 150 decibels, causing physical pain within a few hundred meters. "It has been successfully used aboard ships to repel Somali pirates." The maximum range for alarms and warnings is 3km. "Police and military planners say they are preparing for a range of security threats at the Olympics including protesters trying to disrupt events and attacks using hijacked airliners."
An anonymous reader tips an article at CNN about the development of technology that automates the process of writing news articles. It started with simple sports reporting, but now at least one company is setting its sights on more complicated articles. Quoting: "Narrative Science then began branching out into finance and other topics that are driven heavily by data. Soon, Hammond says, large companies came looking for help sorting huge amounts of data themselves. 'I think the place where this technology is absolutely essential is the area that's loosely referred to as big data,' Hammond said. 'So almost every company in the world has decided at one point that in order to do a really good job, they need to meter and monitor everything.' ... Meanwhile, Hammond says Narrative Science is looking to eventually expand into long form news stories. That's an idea that's unsettling to some journalism experts."
Hugh Pickens writes "Dr James Hansen, director of the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who first made warnings about climate change in the 1980s, writes in the NY Times that he was troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves 'regardless of what we do.' According to Hansen 'Canada's tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now.' Hansen says that instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world's governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year."
fishmike writes "Online music storage firm MP3tunes, Inc filed for bankruptcy in a U.S. court, following its prolonged run-in with music publishing giant EMI Group over copyright issues, court filings showed. MP3tunes is a so-called cloud music service that lets users store music in online 'lockers.' Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc and Google Inc have similar cloud services."