Daily Deals: up to 40% off Razer laptops and gaming accessories, HomePod back down to $200, and more

Welcome to our Daily Deals column, where we round up the best tech deals from around the web. Here you’ll find discounts on everything from Apple products to accessories, video games and much more. But you better hurry, these prices won’t be around forever!

Got a Smart Bulb? Here’s How to Set It Up | MakeUseOf

Have you got a new smart bulb to eliminate some of the mundane tasks, like switching on the light every night, out of your life? You’ve made a wise decision. Before you can do that, you need to set up your bulb properly.

Here we take a look at using a free and universal app to set up, configure, and use the features of your smart bulb. Let’s get going with that.

A smart bulb, for the most part, is just an ordinary bulb that plugs into your power socket and lights up your room. It’s called a smart bulb because it comes with connectivity options like Wi-Fi that let you control the bulb from your smartphone. You can be anywhere in the world and still turn your bulb on and off from your smartphone.

Related: The Difference Between a Lifx and a Philips Hue Smart Bulb

The smartness of your bulb just doesn’t end there. It offers a few other useful features as well.

While you can definitely plug your smart bulb into a power socket and use it as a normal bulb, you will need to set it up properly to use its smart features.

Setting up a smart bulb requires using an app. Smart Life is one of the universal apps that you can use on your iOS or Android devices to configure your smart bulb. This app works for a number of other smart devices as well; you can make it your default app for managing all your smart devices.

Whether you’ve used this app before or not, using it to configure a smart bulb is as easy as this:

  1. Download, install, and launch the free Smart Life app on your Android or iOS device.
  2. Create a new account if you don’t already have one, and finish setting it up.
  3. Once you’re on the main screen after logging in, tap the + (plus) sign at the top-right corner to add a new smart device to the app.
  4. The app will ask you to choose the device that you want to add. Tap on Lighting in the left sidebar and select your smart bulb from the right-hand side pane.
  5. Select your Wi-Fi connection and enter its password. Then, tap Next.
  6. Plug your smart bulb into a power socket and turn on the socket switch.
  7. Turn your bulb off after a few seconds. Then, turn it on again after waiting for a few seconds. Do this three times and your bulb will be ready to be paired.
  8. Your bulb will start blinking rapidly. At this point, check Confirm indicator rapidly blink and tap Next in the app.
  9. Once your bulb is added to the app, enter a name for your bulb and tap Save.

You’re now ready to start controlling your smart bulb from your smartphone.

2. How to Smartly Use a Smart Bulb

You can use your smart bulb in many different smart ways. This smartness is not only limited to turning your bulb on and off from your smartphone. There are a few other features that add to the smartness of your device.

Some of these features are as below.

1. Change the Color of Your Bulb

Most smart bulbs allow you to change the color of the bulb light. This way, you can make your room green, red, blue, or whatever your favorite color is.

This is how you do that:

  1. Tap your bulb in the Smart Life app.
  2. Tap the Colour option at the top of your screen to change your bulb’s color.
  3. Use the slider on your screen to change your bulb’s color.

2. Turn Your Bulb On/Off After a Specified Time

If you only want to keep your bulb on or off for a specific amount of time, you can enter that time in your app and your bulb will turn on or off, depending on its current status, when your specified time has elapsed.

You can set a timer for that as below:

  1. Tap your bulb in the Smart Life app.
  2. Select the Left time option at the bottom-left corner.
  3. Enter a time period after which you want your bulb to turn on or off. Then, tap OK.

3. Turn Your Bulb On/Off With Schedules

Schedules let you automate tasks like turning your bulb on and off at specified times on select days. This basically eliminates the hassle of manually pressing buttons to use your bulb every day.

As long as your smart bulb is connected to the internet and its power socket is on, your predefined schedules will run just fine.

Here’s how you set up your first schedule with your smart bulb:

  1. While on your bulb’s screen in the app, tap Schedule at the bottom.
  2. Select Add on the resulting screen to add a new schedule.
  3. Specify your schedule settings by selecting a time, a frequency, whether to switch the bulb on or off, and so on. Then, tap Save to save your schedule.

Smart bulbs are useful and there are certain scenarios when they prove to be even more useful. Here are some ideas when your smart bulb can really help out.

Related: 10 Annoying Problems in Your Home Solved by Smart Devices

If you aren’t home and you’re worried about someone breaking into your home, you can use the schedule feature for your bulb to pretend that someone’s at your home. With scheduling, you can get your bulb to automatically turn on, say at 7pm, and this will make others think that someone’s home.

If you find yourself not in a good mood, you can create a scene for your bulb that automatically changes the bulb color. For instance, if you like to see the blue calming color when you’re angry, you can set up a scene that changes your bulb’s color to blue.

Then, all you need to do is tap on this scene and it will perform the specified action for you.

It isn’t wise to use your smart bulb as just a normal bulb. With the easy to follow instructions above, you should be able to set up as well as learn to use your bulb in a smarter way in no time.

When you use a device like a smart bulb, you want to make sure it’s protected from the outsiders. Securing your smart home devices is vital for a safe and reliable home network.


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The Pirate Bay: Expert Appears to Reconsider Existence of VPN Provider Logs

Back in June, movie companies Svensk Filmindustri and Nordisk Film, supported by anti-piracy partner Rights Alliance, began legal action to try and pick up a trail on The Pirate Bay.

In an effort to get closer to the location of the site and then presumably its operators, Rights Alliance filed requests with Cloudflare and subsequently filed a lawsuit in Sweden against VPN provider OVPN.

According to Rights Alliance, The Pirate Bay had used OVPN to shield its location and the company should therefore have useful information to share.

The case has taken multiple twists and turns since but on the whole, a successful outcome in the case appears to have been leaning in favor of OVPN, which insists that as a no-logs provider, it has nothing useful to hand over.

Testimony From Expert VPN Company Penetration Tester

Earlier this month, however, Rights Alliance handed testimony to the court from an expert with substantial experience with VPN services. Jesper Larsson works at security company Ox4a but is involved with Cure 53 where he says he “regularly” performs penetration tests against the ten largest VPN providers in the world.

We covered his opinion in detail in our earlier report but it essentially concluded that it should be “considered extremely likely” that the user or identity associated with the specific type of VPN configuration allegedly used by The Pirate Bay would have been stored in a database at some point.

“OVPN should thus be able to search its VPN servers for the given IP address, or alternatively search in their user databases or in backups of these to locate a given user or identity,” the opinion read.

While in ordinary circumstances that would be a reasonable conclusion to reach, in our report following the filing of the expert’s opinion, we published statements from OVPN indicating special circumstances, ones that suggested that it is unable to search its userbase or recover data from backups from the period in question. This is something that Larsson probably wasn’t aware of at the time.

Has the Expert Hired By Rights Alliance Reconsidered?

OVPN founder David Wibergh is part of a pretty large Telegram group which has around 339 members. According to screenshots made available by him, Jesper Larsson is also a member of that same group.

On August 22, 2020, a user of the group posted a link to our article of August 21 which reported that Rights Alliance had hired Larsson to assess the security and potential logging abilities of OVPN. As previously noted, the article also presented comments from OVPN on the limited usefulness of databases and backups in this matter, which were only made public after Larsson’s opinion was filed.

As the image posted by OVPN and reproduced below reveals, a discussion ensued – including a response from Larsson himself.

OVPN Larsson

All comments are in Swedish but Wibergh has provided commentary and translations.

“[T]hree days after his remark in the Patent and Market Court – [Larsson] seems to have changed his position in a group conversation on Telegram. In the conversation, Jesper comments on our business. Jesper first states that he ‘believes that ovpn has clearly done a good job with its integrity and privacy’,” Wibergh writes.

In a follow-up comment, Larsson says: “I guess the account with the static IP-address is not linked to any ounce of PII data that can be traced to any person or organization”

Wibergh notes that ‘PII data’ stands for Personally Identifiable Information about an individual.

“The security specialist’s statement in the group conversation thus seems to be in direct conflict with his conclusions in the statement to the court,” Wibergh says.

“It will be exciting to see what the Rights Alliance now comes up with as their own expert agrees that OVPN does a good job regarding integrity and privacy, and that he does not believe that there is any identifiable information to retrieve.”

For clarity, it’s worth noting the sequence of events. While Larsson appears to have changed his opinion on the existence of useful information at OVPN, that came after Wibergh’s commentary on the company’s backup procedures. These were a response to statements made in the earlier technical opinion, suggesting that backups (if they exist) would be useful.

Other Events Over the Course of the Case

Rights Alliance’s case against OVPN has been running all summer but it hasn’t been straightforward. First of all, it is based on a simple and direct conflict – Rights Alliance insists that OVPN has information to hand over on The Pirate Bay and OVPN insists that it does not.

The battle, therefore, has centered on both parties trying to convince the court that the other is wrong, with both sides producing statements and testimony, such as that provided by the third-party security expert, to back up or add weight to various claims.

However, OVPN is questioning the claim that Rights Alliance “is run by independent consultants” since the movie companies’ case is being run by Rights Alliance chief Sara Lindbäck who has presented comments by her colleague Anders Nilsson (concerning how OVPN’s systems work) as ‘evidence’ when OVPN’s lawyer believes it shouldn’t be considered as such.

“With regard to the memorandum referred to as ‘evidence’, it is noted that – as previously submitted memorandums – it was written by an employee at the Rights Alliance, ie. the applicants’ representatives,” OVPNs lawyer wrote.

“In OVPN’s view, this is to be seen as a supplementary submission to the Applicants rather than evidence,” he continued, adding that in any event, the submission is “speculative and vague” since the person writing the memorandum doesn’t appear to know how the company’s system works at all.

OVPN suggests that this type of educated guesswork, carried out by outsiders who have no real knowledge of how the company operates, has become a feature of the case on more than one occasion. However, the bottom line is that it does not have the information requested so cannot hand it over, no matter how the requests are framed.

OVPN believes that a final decision from the Patent and Market Court (PMC) should arrive in September.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.


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Chadwick Boseman’s Final Tweet Breaks Twitter Record | MakeUseOf

Chadwick Boseman, the star of the hit movie, Black Panther, sadly passed away on August 28th, 2020. His final post on Twitter received an outpouring of likes, becoming Twitter's most-liked Tweet of all time.

Boseman's last Tweet was a statement from his family that announced his tragic death. The post states that Boseman had been battling colon cancer since 2016. Despite having to cope with chemotherapy and surgeries, Boseman still managed to shoot several films.

Since the time the Tweet was posted, it has garnered 7.5 million likes and counting. This breaks Twitter's records as the most-liked Tweet ever. There are also millions of replies to the Tweet that are filled with fans' condolences.

Twitter confirmed that Boseman's Tweet has broken the platform's records in a statement to Variety, saying:

Fans are coming together on Twitter to celebrate the life of Chadwick Boseman, and the tweet sent from his account last night is now the most liked tweet of all time on Twitter.

In honor of Boseman, Twitter brought back the Black Panther emoji that appears alongside #BlackPanther. Twitter also sent out a Tweet in memory of Boseman, noting that the deluge of likes is "a tribute fit for a King."

Boseman's Tweet broke the record previously held by former US President Barack Obama. In 2017, Obama Tweeted a quote from Nelson Mandela. This was sent out following the Charlottesville, Virginia car attack that killed and injured activists protesting a white nationalist rally.

Obama's Tweet topped out at over 4.3 million likes. The likes on Boseman's Tweets have greatly surpassed this number, and the likes are still continuing to pile up.

Fans of Boseman can turn to Twitter to hold Black Panther watch parties, as well as celebrate the life of Boseman. Even though social media has the reputation of starting drama and amplifying controversies, the heartfelt reactions to Boseman's Tweets prove that social media can still have a positive impact.


Google Maps Now Displays Traffic Lights on Android | MakeUseOf

Obviously, you shouldn't spend too much time looking down at your phone while you're driving. But if you are looking at your phone, Google Maps is going to provide you with a bit more useful information, as it's now showing traffic light locations to users on Android.

It appears as though Google has rolled this new feature out to all users overnight, which means it should appear in your Google Maps app automatically.

The initial report from Android Police speculated that you would need to turn on traffic layers to get the feature up and running, however, it seems that most users are seeing traffic lights within their maps automatically.

The traffic light symbols appear in the middle of an intersection whether you're browsing the map or navigating to a location. The icons automatically adjust to match the size of the map, which makes them easy to spot if you're just glancing at your device for directions.

Having traffic lights appear directly on Google Maps is a great new feature because it makes it easier to plan your routes. No longer will you have to guess whether you're going to hit a light on the way to the store---you'll see exactly where they are as you browse Google Maps.

Unfortunately, it appears that this new feature has only rolled out to users in the United States. Google Maps navigators in Europe are reporting that they don't see any change to Google Maps on their devices.

Additionally, this update looks to apply to Android devices only. I tested it on iOS and on a desktop web browser, and traffic lights didn't show on either.

Of course, Google may roll the feature out to more countries and devices as time goes on, but for now, this looks to be exclusive to Android users in the US.


What Is BlackRock Android Malware and How Can You Avoid It?

BlackRock malware is yet another threat that Android users have to worry about. This newly-discovered malware can attack a variety of different apps, stealing your information in the process.

Before you download another app, make sure you know what BlackRock malware is, and how you can protect yourself.

In May 2020, security company, ThreatFabric, discovered a digital danger that affects Android devices: BlackRock malware.

However, analysts quickly discovered that BlackRock malware actually isn't a new threat. BlackRock malware stems from the leaked Xeres malware source code, which is a type of LokiBot banking Trojan.

Despite being based on a banking Trojan, BlackRock malware doesn't just affect banking apps. It also targets shopping, lifestyle, social, entertainment, and even dating apps. This widespread coverage makes it especially dangerous.

In fact, it has 337 apps on its target list, some of which you might use on a daily basis. Its target apps aren't limited to one country either---it tackles apps across Europe, North America, and Australia.

ThreatFabric displays the entire target list in its report. Some apps on its list include Gmail, Netflix, Snapchat, eBay, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook Messenger, PayPal, and more.

So far, BlackRock malware hasn't been found on the Google Play Store. It currently attacks apps downloaded from third-party sites, but this doesn't mean that BlackRock malware will never appear on the Google Play Store. Aggressive hackers can still find ways to bypass Google's security protocols.

When BlackRock malware appears on your device, an unknowing user might never realize it. It uses a tactic known as an "overlay," which is a phony window that pops up over a legitimate app. The overlay blends in with the app, so it's difficult to tell whether the pop-up is part of the app or not.

The window will prompt you to enter your login information and credit card number before you can even start using the legitimate app. This allows it to get hold of your information right off the bat.

It infiltrates your device in the first place by getting Accessibility Services permissions. When you install an infected app, it'll prompt you to enable a fake Google Update. Accepting the "Google Update" allows it to intervene with your device.

If you aren't familiar with an Android's Accessibility feature, you should know that it's one of the most powerful functions on your device. It's meant to help Android owners with disabilities, but Accessibility Services can be used to hack your phone as well. This feature can automate a variety of tasks for the user, including tapping the screen, reading text aloud, and even creating captions.

Giving BlackRock permission to use Accessibility Services allows it to create the overlay you'll see when opening the target app. It also gives the malware additional abilities, as it will then proceed to use an Android DPC (device policy controller) to grant itself administrator privileges.

In other words, it doesn't just steal the sensitive information you type into its overlay---it can actually do much more than that. Not only can BlackRock intercept SMS messages, hide notifications, and lock your screen, but it can also engage in keylogging. That said, you definitely don't want this malware on your device.

As mentioned earlier, BlackRock hasn't yet been found on the Google Play Store. But just because it's currently attacking apps from third-party app stores, that doesn't mean that it'll never find its way to Google Play.

ThreatFabric states that it "can't yet predict how long BlackRock will be active on the threat landscape." In the meantime, it's important to keep some precautions in mind before downloading apps.

It's not a bad idea to have an antivirus app on your smartphone, but unfortunately, an antivirus app won't stop the BlackRock malware. When BlackRock infiltrates your phone, it has a feature that blocks you from using an antivirus app.

As soon as you open an antivirus or an Android cleaner app, such as Avast, Kaspersky, McAfee, BitDefender, or Superb Cleaner, BlackRock will immediately redirect you to your Home screen. This prevents you from removing the malware using an antivirus app.

So, if you download a sketchy app from a third-party store, and think that an antivirus app will keep you safe from all threats, think again.

You should keep an eye on app permissions no matter how legit an app may seem. Some apps ask for permissions that have nothing to do with the core function of the app.

For example, a flashlight app obviously doesn't need access to your SMS messages. This is a sign that you should uninstall the app immediately.

Since BlackRock malware asks for Accessibility Services permissions, you'll want to look out for any apps that require that specific privilege. If an app is legitimately for disabled users, has good reviews, and is from the Google Play Store, you can likely trust granting the Accessibility Services permission. Otherwise, avoid giving that privilege to any apps that don't need it.

Google Play Protect was put in place to scan your installed apps for malware as soon as you download them, as well as scan them periodically once installed. Third-party app stores don't have this safety feature, so you're pretty much on your own in terms of security.

The lack of security protocols on third-party stores has allowed BlackRock malware to thrive. To lower your risk of encountering BlackRock malware, try to avoid third-party apps stores, and refrain from downloading APKs.

Hopefully, BlackRock malware will never hit the Google Play Store. There's really no telling if the actors behind BlackRock malware can find a loophole in Google's security policies, but if they succeed, BlackRock malware could accrue a substantial number of victims.

If BlackRock ever does get onto the Google Play Store, it wouldn't be too surprising. After all, several apps containing Joker malware still managed to make their way on the Google Play Store despite Google's strict security protocols.