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Uber, Didi Kuaidi Race In China As Uber Pledges To Be In 100 More Cities In A Year

Uber doubled its promises of Chinese expansion when its CEO said Tuesday it will be in 100 new Chinese cities in a year. The U.S. ride-hailing giant is pushing forward in China despite intense — and capital-heavy — competition from Didi Kuaidi, the homegrown, newly-merged company that has raised Uber-sized funds to hold on to its lead in China.

Cloud Computing

Google Compute Engine adds bigger VMs, autoscaling

Google Compute Engine, the company’s IaaS cloud computing offering, got a face-lift today with the announcement that new autoscaling features and 32-core VMs would be available to the general public.

Autoscaler, according to an official blog post, is the same system that Google itself uses to dynamically scale the number of VMs being used by a given application based on load — users set utilization targets, and the autoscaling system spins up or shuts down VMs in order to keep, say, RAM utilization at 50 precent. The idea is to remove the need for extensive capacity planning and management, Google said.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing


Everything Samsung announced today at IFA 2015

A man walks at the Samsung Electronics' headquarters in Seoul January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

All eyes were on Samsung at consumer electronics exhibition IFA in Berlin today, though there weren’t any high expectations for major product launches.

If you missed the event, here’s the gist of what the company did announce.

SmartThings Hub

The Internet of Things featured prominently on the agenda, with the Korean tech giant launching a new SmartThings Hub to help manage all your connected home appliances.

The $ 99 hub was developed by SmartThings, a company Samsung acquired last year, and can be used to connect things like security cameras, smart thermostats, and other smarthome gadgets.



Feeding into this, Samsung also unveiled SleepSense, a smart sleep-tracker that connects to your home appliances.

The SleepSense is a contactless sensor that’s placed under your pillow to analyze your sleep patterns, and the ultimate goal is to improve your sleep. To do so, it connects up with your TV, air conditioning, music system, and other smart home contraptions — all managed through a mobile app.

It can turn off your TV when it senses you’re asleep, or turn your coffee machine on when it reckons you’re awake in the morning.


Above: SleepSense


Samsung unveiled a new washing machine at IFA today, but it’s no ordinary spinner.

The AddWash is touted as “the world’s first washing machine that allows consumers to add laundry at any point of the wash cycle.”

Say wha’? It really is quite genius — you can add items of clothing to the main cycle mid-wash. Press a button to stop the drum, and throw in those garments you forgot without having to drain the main compartment.

This is also a connected washing machine that can pair with your Android and iOS devices, letting you monitor and manage a washing load remotely, while receiving update alerts.


Above: AddWash


Related to the Internet of Things, Samsung revealed it was working to integrate SmartThings with BMW cars, with notifications from the SmartThings Hub displayed on the car dashboard. The SmartThings app will also let BMW drivers lock / unlock their car, and view the technical status of their vehicle.

Similarly, an integration between a new Car Mode for Galaxy app and Volkswagen will let drivers take calls, control music, and more using touch or their voice. This partnership will also see the Volkswagen Car-Net e-Remote app integrate with the Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch, letting drivers locate their parked car, or even turn the air-con on from their wrist.

HDMI 2.0

The new HDMI 2.0 specification, announced by HDMI Forum back in April, will be landing on Samsung’s SUHD and UHD TVs — the first on the market to support the standard.

The company said it will issue a firmware update shortly, letting viewers display a broader High Dynamic Range (HDR) from external devices. It basically means a higher level of contrast between the lights and darks to create a clearer picture.

First Ultra HD Blu-ray player

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) gave the go-ahead to license a new Ultra HD Blu-ray format last month, and at IFA today, Samsung was one of the first companies to announce an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

No details such as price or launch date yet, but it’s expected to arrive in early 2016.

Samsung at IFA

Above: Samsung at IFA

In related news..

This wasn’t revealed at IFA, but it’s relevant anyway. Samsung and Barnes & Noble launched the latest version of their tablet / e-reader combo.

Costing $ 400, the The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Nook is available now in Barnes & Noble stores across the U.S., and online at

VB’s research team is studying web-personalization… Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.


Microsoft Azure welcomes R language, with more to come

Revolution R Enterprise (RRE), a version of the R statistics language produced by a company recently acquired by Microsoft, is making its way to Microsoft Azure in a technical preview.

Speculation has abounded regarding how Microsoft would handle Revolution and its associated products, post-acquisition. One likely scenario was to offer R as a service — a cloud-hosted resource for scientific and statistical number-crunching. Now both Microsoft and Revolution are a step closer to doing exactly that.

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Instagram Revamps Direct Messaging Feature

Today Instagram has updated its iOS and Android apps with new features for its messaging feature called Instagram Direct. Instagram originally launched Instagram Direct in 2013 to privately share photos with one person or small groups. Every month, about 85 million out of Instagram’s 300 million total users use Instagram Direct to send private photos. Some of the updates includes threaded messages and the ability to send content from your feed as a Direct message. The threaded messages makes it easier for users to interact with each other because you do not have to create a new conversation every time you want to send photos or videos. There is a quick camera feature so that you can seamlessly respond with a photo or a video in a Direct Message. The size of the emoji in Instagram Direct has been enlarged to really express your thoughts without having to type regular text. And Instagram Direct now lets you name your groups and add up to 15 people to the conversation. Simplifying The Process Of Sharing A Post About 40% of the comments on Instagram are “mentions.” Mentions on Instagram happen when a user wants to share a photo with friend by tagging them with the @ symbol. This usually happens when someone sees a photo that is inspiring or funny. Instagram has now added an arrow icon next to the “like” and “comment” icons under every post. When you tap on the arrow icon, you will be able to send that post to a friend or group as a message using Instagram Direct.  After you share that content with your friends, tapping on the photo or video takes you back to the original post. Hashtag pages and location pages can also be shared with the arrow icon at the top right-hand corner. Your Privacy Will Not Change Photos and videos belonging to users that have their accounts set to private will only be visible to approved followers. Essentially, the photos and videos that you send on Instagram Direct are only visible to people that can already see them.  This is not the only recent major change Instagram added to its app. Last month, Instagram started allowing users to post photos in larger formats other than a square — including portrait and landscape orientations. The updated Instagram app with these features are within version 7.5 for iOS and Android. You may not see it yet because it appears to still be rolling out. Below is a video demo of how the new features work:

Cloud Computing