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Twitter takes a big step towards news publishing with curated story timelines

Yesterday, 10:33 AM

Twitter is testing a new feature that assembles timelines based on major news stories, and presents them at the top of your feed above tweets from the people and brands you follow.

The trial (which has been rolled out to a small set of users in the US) involves stories hand-picked by human curators, but Twitter says the timelines will eventually be algorithmically-generated. The timelines are made up of tweets from a variety of sources – both news publishers and other accounts.

“People come to Twitter to see and talk about what's happening," Keith Coleman, vice president of product at Twitter, told Buzzfeed in a statement. We're working on ways to make it easier for everyone to find relevant news and the surrounding conversation so they can stay informed about what matters to them."

Breaking news

Like Facebook, Twitter is struggling to improve a tarnished reputation as a platform for untrue and deliberately inflammatory news stories. Last month, CEO Jack Dorsey admitted the site has "witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers."

Whereas Facebook has reacted to similar accusations by taking a step back, reducing the amount of news shown in timelines and putting greater emphasis on local stories, Twitter is trying to take back the reins.

However, the use of algorithms to generate news timelines could prove troublesome. Although Twitter hasn't yet explained how tweets will be chosen, but there's a risk of third parties discovering ways to game the system and push poor quality news under users' noses – as happened on Facebook.

It's also surprising that Twitter seems to be taking action before Dorsey's plan to assess the "health" of conversations on the site has even begun, but the test group is very small, and it's also possible that the site will be trialling many other options before deciding which to implement.

Via Digital Trends

No new security updates for Windows 7 users without up-to-date antivirus

Yesterday, 06:22 AM

Earlier this week, Microsoft rolled out new patches for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities in Windows 7 and 8.1. It was good news for fans of the older operating systems, but only those running compatible security software. Anyone without the right antivirus won't receive the update – or any future security patches, for that matter – and they might not be aware of it.

Microsoft began releasing patches for Spectre and Meltdown via Windows Update in January, but the updates weren't compatible with all antivirus apps and sometimes caused users' systems to crash.

To get around the problem, Microsoft suspended the updates and told antivirus vendors they must update their products to alter a registry key on users' PCs to signal that their software is compatible. No updated key, no security update.

Microsoft has now lifted this limitation for Windows 10 users (Windows Defender changes the key for you), but if you're running Windows 7 or 8.1 without up-to-date antivirus then you're doubly at risk. Not only are you not adequately protected from malicious software, you won't receive Windows security updates either.

Using a PC connected to any network without current security software is undoubtedly a bad idea, but How-To Geek has published a guide explaining how to update the key manually so you can keep receiving Windows updates anyway. 

Alternatively, take a look at our guide to the best free antivirus software to keep your Windows 7 or 8.1 PC secure.

Via How-To Geek

Best Linux distros for small businesses in 2018

Yesterday, 04:33 AM

Running a small business is no easy task. The last thing you need is extra complexity in your IT infrastructure – so why turn to Linux?

Well, it could (if you're lucky) actually turn out to be a less complex choice for many tasks, depending on the distribution you select. And, critically, Linux is free; at least if you don't figure in support costs. That's an overhead ticked off the list.

So what's the best choice for your small business? We've approached this selection with a few criteria in mind. Stability must come first: if you're putting a distro to work, uptime is critical. Solid support provision comes a close second.

We've also considered practical capabilities, which is why you'll find a couple of non-desktop distributions on our list.

Built on the solid foundation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) – and, indeed, officially funded by Red Hat as of 2014 – CentOS is undoubtedly a distro with strong credentials. Its default Gnome desktop is pleasant and reasonably familiar to most computer users, the RPM package management system is widely supported, and it's equally at home on workstations and servers.

CentOS harnesses the open source components of its parent OS, which actually make up the majority of RHEL. Only Red Hat's trademarks and a few proprietary components are omitted. Thanks to this unique partnership, updates tend to flow to CentOS only a day or two after they hit RHEL. In other words, this is enterprise-class Linux that anyone can use.

CentOS is now one of the world's most popular server distros, and is perfect if you want to build serious hardware appliances without paying for a Red Hat subscription. While the CentOS community can provide some useful advice free of charge, professional support is the key reason for using RHEL. Server prices for Red Hat combined with a support package start at $799 (around £600, AU$1,065) per year, so it could be prohibitively expensive for small business use.

ClearOS and CentOS are pretty close cousins. Both run many of the same packages inherited from RHEL, and can benefit from the swift Red Hat release cycle. But while CentOS is a functional desktop OS, ClearOS is designed primarily as a server platform and an alternative to commercial options like Red Hat Enterprise Server or Windows Small Business Server. The OS is administered entirely from a web interface, so you won't need a keyboard, mouse, or even a monitor connected to the machine once ClearOS is installed. 

Because of its tight focus, ClearOS is actually easier to use than most server operating systems. That web interface makes installing this operating system's various components a breeze, so you can easily set up a firewall for your business, manage an email server, install a file server or more – all safe in the knowledge that each of these components will (most likely) work perfectly together.

ClearOS 7 is supported professionally by a dedicated ClearCARE team. It also includes software packages that have been thoroughly tested for stability. Prices start at $108 (£80, AU$140) per year. You might also be interested in ClearVM, the team's virtualisation solution – the free version allows you to finely manage the precise performance of two virtual machines and eight CPU cores.

While CentOS is an open source OS based on a paid-for release, OpenSUSE works in reverse. This community-developed operating system is used as the basis for the commercially-supported SUSE Linux Enterprise. SUSE actually borrows a lot from Red Hat, including its RPM package management system, but isn't a direct clone.

OpenSUSE is one of the few distros to use the graphically-heavy KDE window manager by default, though you can also install Mate, LXDE and others. This means it can run on older hardware. In fact, if you're looking to run small web appliances, the latest version will run on a Raspberry Pi and includes a huge number of packages. 

OpenSUSE now follows a rolling release model, which means updates are regularly available without you having to manually upgrade every 18 months as before. This makes for a much more secure and stable operating system.

If you're running a small business, the security of your network should be as important a concern as the behaviour of your employees. IPFire ticks both these boxes at once. It's an all-in-one Linux appliance: install it on a machine which sits between your internet connection and your network switch and it'll do everything from managing IP addresses to protecting you with a firewall, and controlling what sites your workers are allowed to visit and when.

It does require a certain level of knowledge to get IPFire installed, and its unique nature – it's constructed from scratch, not forked from any specific version of Linux – means it won't be quite as easy to configure as other distros may be. Thankfully there are regular ‘Core’ updates, which incrementally keep IPFire up to date with the latest security and app updates.

IPFire is managed via a web interface and requires at least a machine with two network connections. There's an excellent installation handbook and paid support is available if necessary.

As the most popular desktop distribution of Linux, Ubuntu’s reputation might lead you to think that it’s best suited to home users. While Ubuntu's stability and flexibility for end users is very solid, there's also a free-to-use Ubuntu Server version to handle your backend tasks. This is based on Debian Linux, and can make use of Debian’s packages through the Apt package management system (to supplement its own offerings). This means you'll be able to get the software you need quickly and easily.

One of Ubuntu's strongest features is the level of support it benefits from. The vast user base means there's a raft of technical documentation available, and its generous community has answered just about every question you might have.

Ubuntu is released twice a year in April and October. The April releases are tagged LTS which stands for Long Term Support, and unlike the versions released in the autumn, these are maintained for five years. With Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, you're covered until 2021, which is a great advantage for long-term stability.

For those times when you need a little more help, the Ubuntu Advantage program is a reasonably priced support offering, starting from $75 (£55, AU$95) per year for virtual servers and $225 (£160, AU$285) for physical nodes.

Manjaro is built on top of Arch Linux, traditionally one of the more complex and obtuse Linux distros out there. This OS does away with that complexity, while sharing Arch's streamlined and fast environment, its latest 'bleeding edge' software, and its rolling release schedule.

This means you should never have to install a later version of the software – you'll get the updates as they're released, and your Manjaro machines will upgrade over time rather than being taken out of service.

The latest release of Manjaro 17.0.6 uses its own default dark theme which is based on Xfce, but other official builds use the KDE and Gnome desktop environments. 

Manjaro has made other improvements over Arch – a better installer, improved hardware detection and repositories full of stable software make it a solid choice for end-user systems. With some work you could probably build a server from Manjaro's Minimal Net edition, but other distros handle that aspect a lot better.

You could also find a prebuilt version amongst Manjaro's community editions which may suit your needs perfectly; check them out here.

We're entering the realm of more difficult distros here, and we're doing it without the safety net of a dedicated paid support structure, but give Slackware a chance if you're looking to build bespoke Linux systems.

It's the oldest consistently maintained Linux distro, having first emerged in 1993, and as such it doesn't make any assumptions about the way you're going to use it, giving you more control than most other types of Linux.

You're going to need control, though: its package manager doesn't resolve software dependencies, there's no fixed release schedule (new stable versions of Slackware tend to come out when they're ready, and the most recent release gap was around three years), and there are no graphical configuration tools.

But knuckle down, edit a bunch of plain text files, and you'll be able to create exactly the package you need for your business, all on top of a lightweight and bloat-free distro.

  • Linux Format is the number one magazine to boost your knowledge on Linux, open source developments, distro releases and much more. Subscribe to the print or digital version of Linux Format here.

Spotify India launch seems imminent, confirms CEO

Yesterday, 03:49 AM

Spotify might just be coming to India soon, according to its CEO, Daniel Ek. During the company’s annual presentation on Thursday, Ek stated that, “We are working on launching in some of the biggest markets in the world, places like India, Russia, and Africa which has a very rich musical culture.”

He didn’t provide any specifics as to when Spotify may release nationally but this confirms that Spotify definitely has India’s music loving audience on its radar. Previous reports have already told us that Spotify has leased office space in Mumbai. The report also shows that Spotify has 308 employees across 21 nations, that includes India as well as Brazil, Singapore and others. 

Daniel Ek

Spotify in India

India already has access to various music services like Saavn, Gaana, and Hungama. Even international music streaming services like Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play Music are already present in the Indian market. 

Once Spotify does come into the Indian market, it will have to compete against these established players to capture market share. 

Spotify shouldn’t be too worried though with 71 million paid subscribers, which is double Apple Music’s 36 million subscribers and Amazon Music’s 16 million subscribers. 

Tencent Music, which just Gaana’s strategic partner now, has over 120 million paying music streams but it’s service is limited to China for now. Interestingly, Tencent is also in an equity partnership with Gaana, which means they both have minority stakes in each others companies.

The company has recognised that most of its users are under the age of 34, making India an ideal platform to launch on with its current demographic dividend. 

Spotify globally

Spotify has already started expanding globally with launches in South Africa, Vietnam, Israel and Romania within the last week. The service is present in a total of 65 countries around the world within 10 years of it’s initiation. 

Aside of its plans of expansion, Ek also reiterated the plans of Spotify to go public on 3 April. 

He explained that, “You won’t see us ringing any bells or throwing any parties. The traditional model for taking a company public isn’t good for us.” 

Instead of Wall Street underwriting their public offering, the company is going down the unbeaten path of directly listing itself on the exchange.

The India music market’s revenue from streaming services is poised to cross Rs 3,100 crore by 2020 according to a report by Deloitte and with Spotify leading the world in music streaming, it only makes sense that the company takes advantage of this opportunity. 

Not to say that there won’t be heavy competition, but Spotify’s reputation and content should be enough to carry it through. 

  • Apple Music vs Spotify: See how the two music streaming giants fair against each other. 
  • Can't figure out which music streaming service is best for you? Here's our guide on what you should be on the look out for.
  • Music streaming has been around for a while, but the arguments in streaming are still the same. 

Sophos report shows two-thirds of Indian companies have been hit by ransomware

15 March 2018 - 08:43 AM

The Sophos report, published on Wednesday, highlights the vulnerabilities of Indian businesses. Not only have two-thirds of the companies have been targets of ransomware, one-third have actually been hit twice.

Three percent of organisations of the world have spent $13.74 million (Rs 89.23 cr) to fix the havoc caused my ransomware on their systems. India, alone, is responsible for $ 1.17 (Rs 7.6 cr) of that expenditure, making India’s share the highest of the lot. 

Sophos polled over 2,700 IT decision-makers in mid-sized firms across 10 nations, including India. Other countries to be included were the US, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, the UK, Australia, Japan and South Africa.

Why is this happening

Indian respondents claimed that these incidences took place despite the organisation running up-to-date endpoint protection in the event of a ransomware attack. According to the report and its data, this is mostly likely caused due to the fact that 70 percent of the companies did not employ any anti-exploit technology. This translates into the businesses becoming easy prey for complex threats and data breaches. 

Addressing the epidemic of unethical hackers Sunil Sharma, Managing Director Sales at Sophos India, stated, "We're aware of cybercriminals unleashing four different ransomware families in half-hour increments to ensure at least one evades security and completes the attack." 

So basically, the methodology that they employ ensures to find at least one loophole in the system if the company’s cyber security isn’t iron proof. 

To make matters worse, according to Sharma, "Persistent cybercriminals are deploying multiple attack methods to succeed, whether using a mix of ransomware in a single campaign, taking advantage of a remote access opportunity, infecting a server or disabling security software.”

 How deep is the problem 

The overall picture that forms after analysing the report is that despite the intensity and magnitude of the problem caused by ransomware, businesses in India still have no concrete line of defense. 

What’s worse is that over 70 percent of IT-professionals when asked, were unable to determine correct definition of anti-exploit technology. This is extremely important since it plays a critical role in modern attack prevention. 

The global average of devices being infected per organisation with is around 46.09 percent but in India that average increases to 54 percent. The most vulnerable sector is the healthcare industry with a ransomware average of 76 percent.

What can be done?

Business that allow BYOD (bring your own device) and WYOD (wear your own device) at work should revise their security policies to address this unique situation that is, essentially, a trend on the rise. 

BYOD may make things easier for employees, but does increase the risk factor, which should be taken into account. Not only that, but employees should be informed about the vulnerabilities of technology and how to keep their own data safe.

Technology is already on the war path to address this problem and the nature of cybersecurity is continuously changing. Cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cryptocurrencies have all opened a whole new world of threats that need to be addressed.