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SpaceX’s internet-from-space Starlink system helping first responders fight fires in Washington

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Responders fighting wildfires in Washington are getting some extra help from SpaceX and the company’s internet-from-space Starlink initiative. SpaceX loaned the Washington Emergency Management Division a handful of user terminals that can tap into the company’s Starlink satellites, providing internet to rural areas where first responders are battling raging wildfires.

SpaceX is still at the very beginning of building out its Starlink constellation, which could consist of nearly 12,000 satellites when it’s complete. That number of satellites could beam broadband internet services to every spot on Earth at all times from relatively low orbits, potentially providing global internet coverage from space. There’s still a ways to go. So far, SpaceX has launched nearly 800 satellites, though dozens have also been taken out of orbit. SpaceX plans to start beta testing in the Washington area with the satellites that remain in orbit.

“What happened is that they happened to have satellites that could reach our area,” Steven Friedrich, a spokesperson for the Washington Emergency Management Division, wrote to The Verge in a message.

The Washington Emergency Management Division is using two of SpaceX’s user terminals to receive broadband from overhead satellites. One is located near Malden, Washington, which was devastated by wildfires, and another is located near a smaller fire dubbed the Sumner-Grade Wildfire in western Washington. “Without the terminal, internet would be nearly impossible to achieve” near the Malden area, according to Friedrich. “My understanding is this is the first [public] use of Starlink and the partnership their technical experts have had with our team in the state [Emergency Operations Center] has been invaluable,” Friedrich said.

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment. However, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk did respond to a tweet from the Washington Emergency Management Division about the terminals, noting that the company is “prioritizing first responders and locations with no Internet connectivity at all” with Starlink.

The Starlink system has been great for communication, according to Friedrich. Responders have used the terminals to coordinate where to drop water on the fires and to request additional resources and supplies from the agency. It’s also being used in Malden to help the public as they rebuild their homes. Friedrich noted that this kind of system could be useful in the future for other types of disasters, such as a major earthquake. Just off the coast of Washington, parts of the Earth’s crust are being pushed under North America in an area called the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Eventually, this could cause a devastating earthquake that could leave parts of the region without power for weeks. During that kind of disaster, communication issues would abound, says Friedrich.

“This is a device we could definitely utilize should we have more wildfires or even larger disasters,” he said.

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TCL starts selling Android-powered TVs in the US

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You no longer have to use Roku’s platform if you want a modern TCL TV in the US. TCL has started selling its Android TV-based 3-Series sets in the US through Best Buy. You can buy a 32-inch, 720p starter model for $130, or jump to a 40-inch 1080p scr...
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Caddy offers TLS, HTTPS, and more in one dependency-free Go Web server

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Production-ready in a few lines? Color us interested.

Enlarge / Production-ready in a few lines? Color us interested. (credit: Light Code Labs)

Yesterday, the Caddy Web server reached an important milestone, with its 2.0.0 release. Caddy bills itself as "The Ultimate Server," with no dependencies, automatic TLS certificate obtainment and renewal, and much smaller configuration files than Apache or Nginx.

Senior Technology Editor Lee Hutchinson expressed both curiosity about Caddy and his own personal inertia in the Ars slack:

Caddy is an app where every time i see it or think of it i say “I should mess with it, it looks neat” and then I never do. I’ve gotten so enmeshed in my haproxy - varnish - nginx stack that breaking out feels like more trouble than it’s worth.

I hadn't ever heard of Caddy until Lee mentioned it, but I know a call to action when I hear one.

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TikTokkers are clowning on President Trump’s bizarre antibiotics rant

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Donald J. Trump stands in front of a podium for the daily briefing on the Coronavirus crisis Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images

For weeks, President Trump has been giving daily briefings on the US pandemic response, often running more than two hours and often lashing out against perceived critics or veering off into attacks on sitting governors.

But while the hours of briefings have been frustrating for reporters, they’ve been unexpectedly good for content.

One audio clip from earlier this month has gone unexpectedly viral on TikTok, racking up more than 250 videos and more than a million views over the past week. The clip captures the president expounding on the brilliance of the novel coronavirus in both a vague and an authoritative way:

@kjoyhelm

If we were allowed to go to clubs rn, this is what the conversations would look like ##donaldtrump ##fyp ##foryoupage ##coronavirus

♬ original sound - iampeterchao

You can see the original briefing here. The speech came in response to a question about making coronavirus testing priority for food processing workers, which was linked to an outbreak in Denver. The president responded that testing needs are difficult to anticipate, which pivoted into a broader disposition on the sinister brilliance of the virus.

This is a brilliant enemy. They develop drugs like the antibiotics. Antibiotics used to solve every problem, and now one of the biggest problems the world has is, the germ has gotten so brilliant that the antibiotic can’t keep up with it. They’re constantly trying to come up with a new... People go to a hospital and they catch... they go for a heart operation — that’s no problem — but they end up dying from.... from problems, you know the problems I’m talking about. There’s a whole genius to it, we’re fighting, not only is it hidden but it’s very smart. And you see that in a case like Denver.

In broad strokes, he’s talking about antibiotic resistance, which is a real and scary problem, but it has nothing to do with the current pandemic. (Antibiotics fight bacterial infections like pneumonia, not viruses like the novel coronavirus.) So while it’s natural to wonder if a clip like this is taken out of context, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in context either.

Some doctors have even gotten in on the meme, using the audio as a stand-in for an unprepared medical student.

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Dr. Drew coronavirus supercut restored to YouTube after copyright takedown

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The supercut of Dr. Drew being wrong.

Everyone who is (or wants to be) anyone seems to have some opinion or advice about the current COVID-19 crisis. Many of those opinions have been, frankly, quite bad. And someone who makes his money from media appearances trying to disappear those opinions from the Internet after realizing those opinions were, in fact, quite bad, doesn't help matters any.

Dr. Drew Pinsky is up there with Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil on the list of "celebrity doctors whose name you probably know." He soared to fame in the 1990s and 2000s on the back of his TV and radio advice show Loveline. Pinsky, who performs and markets himself as Dr. Drew, is indeed a medical doctor—but he is not an epidemiologist or specialist in infectious disease. He earned his MD from the University of Southern California in 1984 and went to work as a physician, specializing in the treatment of addiction and chemical dependencies, in the decades that followed.

But not being an expert in infectious disease did not stop him from being widely dismissive of the potential threat from COVID-19 throughout the year, even as the threat continued to grow. Dr. Drew is taking the threat seriously now that more than 330,000 people inside the United States have tested positive for the disease and more than 10,000 have died. On Saturday, he released a video apologizing for his earlier comments, which he said were "wrong."

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Windows has a new wormable vulnerability, and there’s no patch in sight

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Close-up photo of police-style caution tape stretched across an out-of-focus background.

Enlarge (credit: Michael Theis / Flickr)

Word leaked out on Tuesday of a new vulnerability in recent versions of Windows that has the potential to unleash the kind of self-replicating attacks that allowed the WannaCry and NotPetya worms to cripple business networks around the world.

The vulnerability exists in version 3.1.1 of the Server Message Block 3.1.1 that’s used to share files, printers, and other resources on local networks and over the Internet. Attackers who successfully exploit the flaw can execute code of their choice on both servers and end-user computers that use the vulnerable protocol, Microsoft said in this bare-bones advisory.

The flaw, which is tracked as CVE-2020-0796, affects Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019, which are relatively new releases that Microsoft has invested huge amounts of resources hardening against precisely these types of attacks. Patches aren’t available, and Tuesday’s advisory gave no timeline for one being released. Asked if there was a timeline for releasing a fix, a Microsoft representative said: “Beyond the advisory you linked, nothing else to share from Microsoft at this time.”

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