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The CIA wants to upgrade its cloud tech without DoD’s JEDI drama

The CIA wants to upgrade its cloud tech without DoD’s JEDI drama

The CIA is ready to update its cloud technology, and multiple reports this week indicated that the agency has begun a multi-billion-dollar procurement process. A CIA spokesperson was tight-lipped when asked to confirm.

That could be because an agency used to working in secret simply wants to avoid all the attention that the Pentagon’s JEDI cloud procurement process got, and quietly go about its business. As we’ve learned, when you’re dealing with large cloud vendors like Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, and the contract involves billions, fireworks tend to follow.

What we do know is that the CIA’s plan is part of a process known as Commercial Cloud Enterprise (C2E). In a March 2019 presentation (pdf) by the Directorate of Digital Innovation, a division of the CIA, the department outlined its vision for C2E. It would be broad and include infrastructure, platform and software cloud services supporting a broad range of users, with a variety of security clearances and a worldwide presence. The price tag: “tens of billions.”

The procurement process would be in two phases. In the first phase, they would pursue multiple vendors to provide “foundational cloud services.” In Phase 2, the department would layer on platform and software services on top of that Phase 1 foundation.

“The principal C2E Program objective is to acquire cloud computing services directly from commercial cloud service providers with established records for innovation and operational excellence in cloud service delivery for a large customer base,” the department stated in the presentation.

It’s worth noting that it’s been almost a year since this presentation, and things have likely changed. In fact, Bloomberg Government reported this week that the RFP has dropped the platform and software services component. According to Nextgov, the draft RFP was released this week with a final request for proposals coming in the spring and a decision due in September.

The intelligence community also outlined its broader cloud strategy for the foreseeable future in a document (pdf) published by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) last June called “The Strategic Plan to Advance Cloud Computing in the Intelligence Community.” It outlines in broad strokes a plan for a U.S. intelligence technology future centered on the cloud, and concludes that with the explosion of data, a future in the cloud is imperative to help deal with all of it:

Information is exploding in volume and velocity and challenging our ability to expeditiously collect, analyze, and draw conclusions from disparate data sets. Additional manpower will not close the resulting gap; we must leverage leading edge technology. The future IC cloud environment presented herein will effectively function as a force multiplier to enhance our effectiveness and address mission challenges.

The CIA was an early adherent of the cloud when it chose Amazon to build a $600 million private cloud in 2013. That was a big win at the time for Amazon and the broader cloud services transition, because it wasn’t as mainstream then as it is now. The Atlantic called it a “radical departure for the risk-averse intelligence community” in a 2014 article.

Cloud technology has certainly evolved in the seven years since the CIA last did this exercise, and it makes sense that it would want to update a system this old, which is really ancient history in technology terms. The CIA likely sees the same cloud value proposition as the private sector around flexibility, agility and resource elasticity, and wants the intelligence community to reap the same benefits of that approach. Certainly, it will help store, process and understand an ever-increasing amount of data, and put machine learning to bear on it as well.

By now, we know all about the Pentagon’s JEDI cloud contract procurement story. Over a two-year period from the time the Pentagon chose the cutesy Star Wars-influenced name for the $10 billion, decade-long, winner-take-all project, the procurement has been a drama-filled free-for-all. Even now, months after Microsoft was declared the winner, Amazon is protesting the decision, putting that award in doubt.

This is not the way government technology procurement typically goes. It’s mostly out of the public spotlight, covered by the government trade press, but largely ignored by mainstream tech publications. Perhaps that explains why the CIA, in need of a cloud update, has decided to be a bit more discreet about its plans.

Coronavirus Fears Will Leave Empty Seats at a Top AI Conference

Coronavirus Fears Will Leave Empty Seats at a Top AI Conference

Qiang Yang, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was looking forward to AAAI, one of the big artificial intelligence conferences, which takes place in New York this week.

Yang was due to present an award-winning paper describing a way for an AI algorithm to perform image recognition by drawing from different datasets without ever revealing their contents. He decided to cancel his trip due to the global health emergency triggered by the coronavirus in China. Yang estimates that around 800 attendees from mainland China, about a fifth of the 4,000 registered for the conference, will miss the event due to a travel ban imposed by the US on Monday.

“It’s a big pity,” Yang says via WeChat from his home in Hong Kong. “In a way it shows how AI advancement depends on the efforts from both the US and China, among others. AI is truly a global effort.”

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health emergency last week. The deadly and contagious virus has infected more than 24,000 people, killing 490, with more than 3,000 in a critical condition, according to the latest information from the China’s National Health Commission.

With the virus still spreading rapidly from its epicenter of Wuhan, much of China has effectively ground to a halt as businesses suspend operations and people remain indoors. But the global nature of modern supply chains, research operations, and academic work means that ripple effects are spreading across business and technology even more rapidly.

A spokesperson for the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, which organizes the event, was unable to say precisely how many researchers from China were due to attend this year. Yang says that many of the Chinese researchers who will miss the event have chosen to stay up all night in order to present via video call instead.

The effect of the outbreak on the AAAI conference shows the strength that China has built up in fundamental AI research in recent years. China already produces more scientific papers on AI than the US, and research published last March by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, suggests that the quality of those papers is rising rapidly.

The absence of many Chinese researchers is undoubtedly bad for progress in AI and the industry this drives. As one of the year’s most prominent and popular gatherings, AAAI is an important place to discuss important ideas, hatch startup plans, and hire hotshot students.

The situation points to a close relationship that still exists between US and Chinese academia, despite the competitive tension felt by the governments in Washington and Beijing. Few areas of technology are not now somehow tied to China. The country is a major hub of manufacturing and business but increasingly also an epicenter of research.

At a photonics industry event held in San Francisco this week, for instance, some Chinese companies were in attendance, having arrived before travel restrictions went into effect. But the show floor also had to be hastily rearranged, with plants and seats replacing booths, to hide the fact that other Chinese companies were unable to come.

Prolonged travel restrictions will affect many technologies that rely on international collaboration and competition. Both LG and ZTE announced this week that due to the coronavirus they will be absent from another global tech and business gathering, Mobile World Congress. Held at the end of this month in Barcelona, the event is a major showcase for advanced smartphones and communications technologies including the next generation wireless technology known as 5G.

Beginner’s Guide to EU VAT for Easy Digital Downloads

Beginner’s Guide to EU VAT for Easy Digital Downloads

If you sell digital goods to customers based in the EU using the Easy Digital Downloads plugin, you’ll need a way to collect, process, and store EU VAT – regardless of whether your company is based in the EU or not. The easiest way to do this is by using the Easy Digital Downloads EU VAT plugin.

It automatically charges customers the correct VAT, removes VAT for registered EU businesses, and keeps a record of the customer’s IP address to help you comply with EU VAT rules and regulations.

In this article, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step tutorial to show you how you can ensure your Easy Digital Downloads store is compliant with EU tax laws. But first, let’s take a quick look at what the EU VAT law is and who is required to comply with it.

What You Need to Know About the EU VAT Law

Scala Hosting: An Overview and Review

Scala Hosting: An Overview and Review

Choosing a hosting provider for your WordPress site is a serious task. You want to make sure that your online content is in good hands, and that navigating and managing your account is straightforward.

Scala Hosting offers Managed Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting to protect your site’s performance and make maintaining it easier. Plus, with in-house technologies for account management and security, you can keep your costs down.

In this review, we’ll introduce you to Scala Hosting and show you five reasons to choose it for your WordPress site. Let’s get right to it!

An Introduction to Scala Hosting

Scala Hosting, like other hosting providers, is a company that stores customers’ websites on their servers. This arrangement is what makes it possible for visitors to access your WordPress site.

There are many different types of web hosting. While it offers a wide variety of plans, Scala Hosting is best

4 Legal Pages Your WordPress Site Needs

4 Legal Pages Your WordPress Site Needs

There is a lot of content you need to have in place when first launching your WordPress site. In your rush to put together an appealing homepage, write a compelling About section, and make sure your blog or product categories are navigable, it’s easy to overlook the need for legal pages.

While they may not help you land conversions, these key pages can provide vital protection for you and your brand. If you implement them correctly, they can save you from minor fees and major lawsuits alike.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to four standard legal pages for WordPress sites. We’ll explain what each should contain, what types of websites need them, and how to craft your own. Let’s dive right in!

1. Privacy Policy

A Privacy Policy informs users how you collect and utilize their data on your site. There are several regulations that require this legal

How to Create a Lifestyle Blog With WordPress (In 5 Steps)

How to Create a Lifestyle Blog With WordPress (In 5 Steps)

Although it seems simple enough on the surface, there’s a lot that goes into creating a lifestyle blog. Getting started involves making several important decisions that will affect the success of your site.

However, with a little research, you can select the best services and tools for you. When you get off on the right foot, a lifestyle blog can be an excellent source of income.

In this post, we’ll provide a quick introduction to lifestyle blogging and what it entails. Then we’ll share five steps for creating yours. Let’s get started!

An Introduction to Lifestyle Blogging

The term ‘lifestyle blogging’ is a little vauge, likely because it encompasses such a wide variety of content. There are as many ways to participate in this industry as there are to live.

Essentially, lifestyle blogging is an umbrella term for content about the author’s daily life and interests. Some subjects this might cover include:

  • Fashion and beauty
  • Food, cooking, and baking
  • Crafting and DIY projects
  • Minimalism
  • Family and parenting
  • Culture or location-specific topics (for example, daily life in New York City or Los Angeles)
  • Travel and digital nomadism

This niche is one of the most popular on the web, largely because it gives authors the ability to write about almost anything they want. It’s also fairly easy to monetize (which we’ll discuss more shortly).

In fact, some lifestyle bloggers report that they’re able to make thousands of dollars per month. However, keep in mind that these content creators put many hours into building and maintaining their sites. Success won’t come without a little elbow grease.

How to Create a Lifestyle Blog With WordPress (In 5 Steps)

Anyone can start publishing content on the internet, but not everyone creates a profitable lifestyle blog by doing so. Here are five important steps for setting up your site for success.

Step 1: Choose a Hosting Provider and Domain Name

In order to make your lifestyle blog available to visitors, you’ll need to store it on a server and create an address for it. Hosting providers enable you to do the former, and registering a domain name will take care of the latter.

Since you’ll be using WordPress to create your website, we recommend looking into Managed WordPress hosting plans. This will help you take care of several maintenance tasks related to the platform.

Popular inexpensive WordPress hosts include Bluehost and SiteGround:

The Siteground homepage.

As for a domain name, you may be able to get one through your hosting provider. The other option is to use a dedicated registrar such as NameCheap:

.com domain registration with NameCheap.

Hosting and domain registration are both ongoing expenses for your site. You’ll want to budget at least $4 per month to host your site. You can expect a .com domain to run for around $10 per year.

Step 2: Install WordPress on Your Server

Once your blog has a place to live and an address, it’s time to move in. This means installing WordPress on your new server.

If you choose a Managed WordPress hosting plan, you probably don’t have to worry about this step. The platform is likely either already installed for you, or can be with the click of a button.

In the event you selected a different type of hosting, you may need to install WordPress manually. The first step is to download the platform:

Downloading WordPress.

This will provide you with the files that make up WordPress. Next, head over to your hosting account and access phpMyAdmin. This platform will enable you to set up your WordPress site’s database. (If you don’t know how to do this, your hosting provider’s support team will guide you.)

In phpMyAdmin, add a new database by typing a name for it into the relevant field and clicking on the Create button:

Creating a new database in phpMyAdmin.

Then, navigate to the Users tab and create the username and password for your WordPress account.

After that, return to the files you downloaded earlier. Find the one named wp-config.php and open it. Look for the code that reads:

Replace the database name, username, password, and hostname with the relevant information from phpMyAdmin. Then save and close the file.

Finally, you’ll need to upload your WordPress files to your server. You can do this using File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and an FTP client such as FileZilla. You’ll find the details you need to log in on your hosting account profile.

Once your files are uploaded, type your domain into your browser. You should see the WordPress installation script:

The WordPress Installation script.

Follow the instructions to finish the process.

Step 3: Select a Blogging Theme

Once you complete Steps 1 and 2, your WordPress site is up and running. Now you need to transform it into your lifestyle blog, starting with picking a theme.

WordPress themes are primarily responsible for your website’s appearance. However, many of them also include unique features, which is why it’s wise to choose one that caters to the type of site you’re creating.

You can find free blogging themes in the WordPress Theme Directory:

The WordPress Theme Directory.

There are also several online WordPress marketplaces where you can shop for premium themes:

The CSSIgniter theme marketplace.

Although more expensive, these products may be worth the investment as they often provide additional features and customization options.

Step 4: Activate Key Blogging Plugins

In addition to themes, WordPress uses plugins to add advanced functionality to your website. When it comes to lifestyle blogging, there are a few key features for blogging that you’ll want to make sure to incorporate.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your site so that it ranks higher in search engines such as Google. This is key for driving traffic to your blog and building your readership.

WordPress has several plugins that provide suggestions for improving your SEO. Yoast SEO is a popular choice:

The Yoast SEO plugin.

When writing your posts, you’ll likely need to include some images. This can clarify your content and make it more interesting. Optimizing your media files to prevent them from slowing down your loading times is wise.

You might use a plugin such as Optimole to accomplish this:

The Optimole image optimization plugin.

A content schedule will help you stay on track when it comes to publishing new posts. WP Scheduled Posts can help by incorporating a calendar in your WordPress dashboard:

The WP Scheduled Posts plugin.

Finally, in addition to writing your own posts, you may want to supplement your content with curated articles. WP RSS Aggregator enables you to share your favorite sources easily:

The WP RSS Aggregator plguin.

Like themes, there are both free and premium WordPress plugins. All of the ones mentioned above have free versions available at no cost in the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Step 5: Publish and Monetize Relevant Content

Content is the bread and butter of any blog, regardless of niche. Before you start writing, however, it’s important to note that there are two ways to publish in WordPress – posts and pages:

The Posts and Pages sections in the WordPress back end.

Pages are for static content that doesn’t change often. This may include your homepage, about section, legal disclaimers and disclosures, and more.

Posts are how you’ll publish the majority of your site’s content. These are timely articles on subjects relevant to your audience’s interests.

You’ll need both posts and pages for your lifestyle blog to succeed. Once you start building up your content backlog, you can monetize your site to generate revenue from it.

There are several methods for doing this you might consider. Three popular ones are:

  • Ads. Traditional advertisements from brands that you place in your sidebar, header, and/or footer. You can choose between Pay-Per-Impression (PPI) or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads.
  • Affiliate marketing. This involves promoting brands you like and use, and is a very popular way for lifestyle bloggers to monetize their content. The companies you partner with will give you special tracking links to post on your site, and you’ll receive a commission from any sales that result from your readers clicking on them.
  • Sponsorships. Similar to affiliate marketing, sponsored posts involve partnering with brands to recommend their products to your readers. However, this is a one-time deal, unlike affiliate promotions which are ongoing.

You can monetize your blog using one or a combination of these techniques. Curated content can also be monetized in similar ways to take it a step further.

Conclusion

Starting a new lifestyle blog with WordPress takes a lot of work. However, with the right information, you can make the best decisions for your site to get it up and running smoothly.

In this post, we covered five steps for creating and launching your new lifestyle blog:

  1. Choose a hosting provider and domain name.
  2. Install WordPress on your server.
  3. Select a blogging theme.
  4. Activate key blogging plugins.
  5. Publish and monetize relevant content.

Do you have any questions about how to set up your lifestyle blog with WordPress? Leave them in the comments section below!

Featured Image Credit: Danielle MacInnes.

About Will Morris

Will Morris is a staff writer at WordCandy. When he’s not writing about WordPress, he likes to gig his stand-up comedy routine on the local circuit.

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