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Tech wrap: Amazon-smart TV streaming; Google's new tech; Ebola death; talking laptop flight ban; Google trademark upheld

Bulldog

May, 17 2017, 6:23 AM

In today's Bulldog wrapup of science and technology news:

The details:

Amazon's streaming TV software will appear on a new line of smart TVs designed to blend streaming TV services and over-the-air channels, but not cable packages.

The TVs from Element Electronics will be sold under the Element and Westinghouse brands and will cost more than regular smart TVs from either brand. Officials say the TVs have better hardware for reliable streaming and aren't designed for casual viewers who buy TVs only to never hook them up to the internet.

While Samsung and LG are still developing their own smart TV systems, many other manufacturers have abandoned in-house efforts and are turning instead to streaming TV companies such as Roku, and now Amazon. The in-house efforts have largely been weak because few streaming services bother designing apps for them, and they don't have big teams to look for security threats.

For the new TVs, Amazon's Fire TV remote is getting common TV controls such as volume, while the on-screen menu is being adapted to incorporate live TV. Besides the rows of icons for various apps and streaming content, there's now a row just for shows currently available through an antenna. There's also a row for connected devices, such as game consoles and DVD players.

Google is about to provide the latest peek at its digital services and gadgets as it seeks to become an even more influential force in people's lives.

The overview will come Wednesday during Google's annual conference for thousands of computer programmers.

Google is expected to give the crowd a look at new twists in its Android software for mobile devices. Executives are also likely to detail plans for expanding the reach and capabilities of a voice-controlled digital assistant currently available on some smartphones and an internet-connected speaker called Home. Some of the unveiled products won't be out until later this year.

Many of Google's products are vying against similar offerings from Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

Wednesday's keynote takes place at an outdoor theater near the company's Mountain View, California, headquarters.

The World Health Organization says a second case of Ebola has been confirmed by laboratory testing amid an outbreak in a remote corner of northern Congo.

WHO said Tuesday that among the 20 suspected cases, two now have tested positive for the virus.

Ebola was blamed for more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa during 2013-2016. Congo has already experienced seven much smaller outbreaks.

So far three people have died in Congo's Bas-Uele province, an area more than 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from the capital, Kinshasa.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola, which is spread through the bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms. A new experimental vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against the virus, though quantities are currently limited.

U.S. and European officials will discuss Wednesday plans to broaden a U.S. ban on in-flight laptops and tablets to include planes from Europe.

The move would create logistical chaos on the world's busiest corridor of air travel — as many as 65 million people a year travel between Europe and North American on over 400 daily flights, many of them business travelers who rely on their electronics to work during the flight.

The ban would dwarf in size the current one, which was put in place in March and affects about 50 flights per day from 10 cities, mostly in the Middle East.

Airlines have said it is merely a matter of time before the ban is put in place, but the prospect has alarmed officials in the European Union, who want to know more about any new threats and the disruption such a move would create.

There is also the question of the relative safety of keeping in the cargo area a large number of electronics with lithium batteries, which have been known to catch fire.

Experts say a bomb in the cabin would be easier to make and require less explosive force than one in the cargo hold. Baggage in cargo usually goes through a more sophisticated screening process than carry-on bags.

The original ban focused on certain countries because their equipment to screen carry-on bags is not as effective as machines in the U.S., analysts say.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security met last week with high-ranking executives of the three leading U.S. airlines — American, Delta and United — and the industry's leading U.S. trade group to discuss expanding the laptop policy to flights arriving from Europe.

The airlines still hope to have a say in how the policy is put into effect at airports to minimize inconvenience to passengers. The initial ban on passengers bringing large electronics devices into the cabin hit hardest at Middle Eastern airlines.

A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit that aimed to cancel Google's trademark by arguing that "google" is now synonymous with searching the internet.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday it was not enough to show that people use the verb "google" generically to refer to searching the web. The lawsuit had to show that people understood "google" to mean internet search engines generally, and not just Google's search engine.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit said the lawsuit did not present enough evidence to support such a claim.

Richard Wirtz, an attorney for two men who filed the lawsuit, said the ruling further expands the wide monopoly already granted to trademark owners.





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