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MOST prices & info on products are out of date, with the exception of the Chameleon Pigment Suppliers list (updated most frequently). The date of any updates are noted at the top of each page/entry.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Sales

Links checked 12/12/13

I am happy that Thanksgiving is officially over but now the Black Friday sales craziness starts although I do not intend to partake out in public; stores will be a madhouse. Why do they call it Black Friday? Anyway, here’s a few sales announcements that just landed in my in box.

Coastal Scents is having a sale of  “50% off everything in the webstore” now through November 29th. Offer not valid on combos, kits, collections or packaging products… which really doesn’t make it “everything” but whatever. Free shipping over $50. SALE EXPIRES 11/29/2011 AT 9:00AM EASTERN STANDARD TIME.

The Conservatorie sale: Our The Conservatorie Cyber Monday sale is bringing you unmatched savings in our biggest sale of the year. On Monday November 28th from 7am – 8am we are offering you 30% off on everything! That's for 1 hour only.

That's not the end of the savings. For the next 24 hours after that, we are offering 15% off our entire store. Forget someone special? Here's your chance to make it right! These sales are first come first served, so get in early because supplies may not last.

30% off – Monday November 28th from 7am – 8am
coupon code: CYBER30

15% off – Monday November 28th 8am to Tuesday November 29th 8am
coupon code: CYBER15

PLEASE NOTE: Your purchase must be completed by 8am to receive the 30% discount. This means payment processing must be completed – if your order is in your cart at 8am but not yet paid for, the 30% discount will not apply. Get your order completed quickly to make sure you lock in the best savings!

The Premier Nail Source is having a Black Friday BOGO sale on selected items. Free shipping on orders over $99.00

Nailite Inc is also having a Black Friday sale on selected items. Free shipping on orders over $99.00

Happy Shopping -MK

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beat the Hackers

Links checked 12/12/13.
 
When I wrote this, I was on a Windows 7 computer so I can't swear that these tips/ideas work equally well on Windows 8.
 
So I spent the last three days ensuring my computer was in fact no longer infected from Trojans and hijacks and I've been doing a bit of thinking. This is not the first time I have had this problem, nor will it be the last because as many programs as there are out there, there are just as many hackers looking to get their kicks from invading what is not theirs. It was said once before by a friend that I seem to have a lot of trouble in this department but that's not exactly true, I just happen to have a better feel for when my computer is not behaving properly. Aside from being married to a man with a 15 year long computer tech career and the patience of a saint, I go poking my little nose into all aspects of my pc's operation, every system folder there is and all those areas a good tech looks at for problem solving.

Hackers and hacking is such a huge topic, even Playboy magazine did an article on it and I have to say, it was depressing. The U.S government's Department of Defense, according to the article, has had a worm in its network for three years but hasn’t been able to eradicate it. Last year hackers were able to implant a virus in the system of a uranium-enrichment plant in Iran that caused the centrifuges to fail at more than 10 times the normal rate. As they pointed out, this was something in virtual space causing real-world damage. Think about it, these people are bored, proud of what they do and persistent, some of them are just plain mean. If our own governments can't stop them, you think the Average Joe in cyberspace can?

No, we'll never stop them entirely. As long as you continue to access the internet, you are vulnerable; the only way to "lock down" a computer is to have no internet connection at all. "The immediate concern is that the internet could turn into a cyber South Bronx circa 1979- a neighborhood where crime is so commonplace that we stop going there."

Once, about 10 years ago, I witnessed a live action hijack of my father's computer, this person taking hold remotely and opening windows and entering passwords as quickly as I tried to shut the computer down. And if you think running anti-virus software like McAfee, Nortons or Trend Micro and paying for a yearly subscription is going to stop these hackers from trying (and sometimes succeeding), you're wrong. All it does is slow them down.

This last incident of mine was caused not by my own stupidity on clicking where I shouldn't (as my boys have done) but by doing my normal thing- window shopping. I was doing a Google Search for magnifying cabochons, clicked on a link to a legitimate jewelry supply store and was immediately hijacked. That hijack was spawned by a live person that has malicious code attached to the store, most likely completely unknown to the website owners. Followed on the heels of this hijack were multiple trojans in rapid succession and within the next few days, I finally found that little bastard Trojan downloader. Not the first time that’s happened either- I’ve gotten hijacked going to Nail Gal, the Community Nail Polish Gallery.

You can be proactive though and help to eliminate a lot of threats at the outset: use common sense, a few programs and be more secure. Just because a thief can break your window and enter your house doesn't keep you from locking the door, does it? I'm going to give you some education here and a few tools with which to arm yourself.

Let's start with the common sense stuff that apparently is not always common sense for some people.

If you are running a Windows based operating system, password lock your account and don't make it any easy one; when my husband has to service my pc, he has to ask me for the password, it's too complicated for him to remember. Yes, it can be a pain to log into your own pc every time you boot it up but it makes it more difficult to be hijacked. You also need to password lock your Safe Mode Account too.

No password should ever be the same as any other you use. Make it long, mix your caps and lowercase, use numbers and it should all be random, nothing personally relevant (like using your birth year as a PIN # for your ATM card). If it is peronal, make sure no one would understand the reference but you. This security measure is entirely obvious to me but for convenience sake, hubby tends to use the same password for everything with only slight variations which is a big no-no... he uses his own pc for gaming but not much else. My husband hates my passwords but Fort Knox would love me.

Do NOT save passwords or account information on your computer and don't allow websites to save that information for you. Even if that info was in a password locked document, it is not safe. The same goes for auto-completion of entries (in your browser) for these things.

When possible, use web based email such as Yahoo, Hotmail etc. Some viruses spread through sending emails to those in your address book but this is not possible if the email is web based as opposed to using Microsoft Outlook or a similar email program installed on your pc, because addresses are not being stored on your hard drive.

Don't be a dummy and open attachments or emails from senders you don't recognize. If you must, download it to your computer first, virus scan it and then open it. Always choose "save" instead of "open" or "run" for that very reason on most things unless a program you are intentionally using specifies otherwise.

Again, with emails, if the subject line reads "Re: " but the sender is unknown, exercise caution opening them. They can't "Re: " you if you've never emailed them, there's nothing to respond to. And don't go clicking links in odd emails either.

The temporary files your computer saves should be deleted periodically and there are temp files in more than one place on your pc. You will acquire many of these simply by browsing the internet and they can be deleted by going to your internet options/browsing history in Internet Explorer. Cookies hide there and not all cookies are harmless. Temporary files can also be deleted by doing a disk clean up on your hard drive(s). There are other ways as well but I'll get into that later.

Your Disk Defragmenting tool from Windows is more valuable than you might think. If you view your pc as a big stack of papers, the defragmenter’s job is to put everything back in order that gets moved during operation. If you defragment often enough, you’ll also observe patterns here than can alert you to a potential issue- like if it spends an inordinate amount of time on one section of your pc it doesn’t normally. This doesn’t necessarily mean you do have a problem though so don’t assume you do, verify the issue with other programs.

Hubby claims half my problems with hackers and viruses come from running Windows XP instead of Windows 7 which he’s been trying to talk me into for years. He says Windows XP has too many vulnerabilities to exploit, much like trying to plug all the holes in a ship before it sinks. The Java platform in particular on XP is a favorite target of Trojans and worms.

That was the common sense, now we’ll move onto antivirus and protection programs.

The majority of viruses are going to go into the drive Windows OS is in and any drive you install programs to but that doesn’t mean they won’t go elsewhere so you should do a full scan once in a while with a thorough program. Also, not all viruses are going to cause trouble right away- some attach to files or programs and will not activate until you access them which means they can lay dormant on your system and go undiscovered. Others may replicate every time you restart because they are buried in the startup, even after being removed/cleaned.

There are paid programs with yearly subscriptions and free programs that do most of the same things and no single program is going to catch everything. So what’s the difference between a paid antivirus program and free ones? I asked Hubby this and his response was that some have better scan engines and update definitions more frequently, meaning they are going to catch more and stop more. I will also add that they give you added control over your firewall but most people don’t know enough to go tweaking the settings. Besides, if you bothered to watch and track the traffic that hits your pc during the course of a normal day, it would make you paranoid.

If you want to go the paid route, he recommends ESET or Trend Micro- each company has a variety of protection programs. The caveat here is that if you don't pay the yearly subscription fee, once the 'script is up, you don't get updated virus definitions. ESET and Trend Micro also have free online scanners although in the event of a serious infection, you may not be able to get to them. To ESET’s credit, their online scanner picked up some things this evening that everything else had missed.

I personally dislike the hefty subscription fee so going with free, my first suggestion is Ad Aware by Lavasoft, specifically Ad-Aware Free Internet Security. They have a paid version with some additional features but the free version gets the job done, updated definitions included. It will pick up a lot of infections and most of your internet cookies and, if enabled, has live protection that will run in the background. If you use this enough and pay attention, you see patterns in its scanning which can alert you to suspicious activity just by how long it takes to scan a particular area (like with the defragmenter). A full scan and a custom scan are going to look for the same things but the full scan is going to take a while depending on the size of your hard drives. The custom scan allows you to decide which drives you want it to scan, saving time.

Second is Microsoft Security Essentials. There’s not much in the way of additional tools included with this program but it's live protection finds a lot of my Trojans, alerts me to hijacks the second they happen (if I didn’t already know) and removes/stops the threats. This also has full scan/custom scanning options.

Third is Spybot Search & Destroy by Safer Networking. They currently have two versions available for download but the second is still in the beta testing stages. I’ve used both but am at the moment using the original because the second, while having much more live protection and built in tools, eats up a lot of system processes when running in conjunction with other programs like the ones mentioned above. Spybot v.1 (the original) also has a Secure Shredder tool which enables you to load temp files stored on your pc and “chop them up”, effectively destroying them.

What do you do if you suspect you have an infection? Yes, I have advice for that too but get your shovel ‘cause it’s time to go digging, or at least acquire a program to do the digging for you. Assuming you’ve used your other programs, online scanners and either been unable to find it or eradicate it all, you can use a couple “behind the scenes” tools.

Trend Micro’s Hijack This. This is an effective program but unless you’re a tech, you may not know what you’re looking at so it would be a good idea to run it when your pc is operating normally and familiarize yourself with what appears in the log. This way, when something abnormal pops up, you’ll recognize it for what it is… but as the program itself warns, exercise caution when deleting entries; “if you are not a professional user Trend Micro encourages you to submit your log file to one of the HijackThis forums.”

Trend Micro’s RootkitBuster and Kapersky Lab’s TDSSKiller are both antiroot-kit utilities which can be helpful in finding and removing things buried deep within your system. They do the same thing but they aren’t going to find the same things, at least in my experience. If they find something, it usually is a problem so you should allow it to clean them out and then delete anything in quarantine. For TDSSKiller, once program loads, click on Change Parameters and select BOTH Additional options and then run the scan. RootkitBuster will not work on 64bit systems.

I’m only satisfied when one after another, all these programs come clean… for however long it lasts.  Knowing hackers and their ever-evolving code, it won’t be very long. With a few programs, I can generally service my pc without my husband’s intervention but that’s not due to just experience, I’m not afraid to look things up if I don’t know what they are. There are a multitude of support forums out there for that reason- MK

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Franken #350 Turn it Up

This is actually an older entry back from summer time but if it weren't for previously written ones, I'd have little exciting to tell you. On the bright side for me, I am enjoying my music immensely but missing my supplies. Absence makes the heart grow fonder or so they say.

#350 Turn it Up is the franken polish that started the craving for new, bigger, chunkier glitters in more colors than I already owned although it doesn’t contain many from my stash. Instead this is comprised of a whole host of store bought glitter polishes and because it is, suspension isn’t an issue at all.

I like this one so much I took lots of pictures.

Photo taken in outdoors sunlight.
Turn It Up is standing in the back. In front are L.A. Colors Treasure Island and Glistening Purple, both from the Color Craze line, Sinful Colors Call You Later, Wet ‘n’ Wild Party of Five, L.A. Colors Aqua Crystals, Sassy Sparkle and Jewel Tone, also from the Color Craze line.

Photo taken indoors under lamplight.
Shown here is Turn It Up again with my red and silver large hex glitter samples from TKB Trading.

Paper swatch of Turn It Up.

Macro shot of bottle.

For the manicure if it can be called that, I layered it over a basic black polish for contrast. Yes, I am messy. No matter how hard I try, I’m messy.

Outdoors, full sunlight.
My pinkie is the only one that grows fast, like you couldn’t tell.


Outdoors in the shade

Indoors under lamp light

I wore this one for a couple weeks which is probably the longest I ever kept a single polish on. It struck me as being very colorful and loud, hence the name. -MK

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Liebster Blog Award


Links checked 12/12/13
 

Rules 
- Copy and paste the award on your blog.
- Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
- Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
The only qualification is having less than 200 followers and of course you must be nominated.

First off, let me say that I was surprised but honored to be given this award by our fellow blogger, Frankenstyna (blog of the same name) about a week ago. I love your username, lady, never fails to make me smile. Thank you for thinking of me when you had to choose your favorites, I know the choice couldn't have been easy with so many wonderful blogs out there.

So it's now my turn to pick favorites and pass on the award and I think this is a fine way to pass on some recognition too. I tried to choose all franken polish blogs for mine because there are a lot fewer out there than regular swatch/review blogs but it seems that they are mostly so popular that there are too many followers to qualify. Instead, here are a some other choice picks. Technically speaking, these are in no particular order.

1. Jim from Men and nail polish gets to be "#1" because it's a man. While yes, men wearing nail polish has become popular enough that they have their own line, not many are going to be open about it in cyberspace or in real life so I have to give this man props for doing that. 

2. Kim from feedkmayeorchids is my second choice because not only does she have more than a few frankens on her blog, I like her makeup pics and nail art too.

3. Johanna of Paillette from a little nail polish journal has plenty of posted frankens and lots of swatch pictures too. The brands she has featured go from higher end salon quality to "drugstore" brands, many of which are available locally. This I can appreciate.

4. Liis K of I. R. Pale doesn't post frankens but one of the reasons I love her blog is that she has lots and lots of pigment swatches, of particular interest to me were those from The Conservatorie. Without I. R. Pale, I don't know that I would have given them a second look. She appears to be taking a break from blogging but you should still check her out.

5. Annika Noir from Nails by Noir is my most recent read-worthy discovery. Her blog strikes me as classy because it is in design and the nail polish jewelry she makes is too. Also, because she is a Swedish lady, she swatches brands I've not seen much of and certainly don't own.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seasonal Changes

The color scheme here changed as the season changed but I'm not ready to let go of greens and embrace dead browns and yellows. As much as I love Kentucky during the fall, this year's leaves-color change happened too rapidly and the weather hasn't been nearly sunny enough.  Gloomy days contribute to my moody days and all the rain killed off the pretty leaves. Bah.

I've decided to take a break for a while from franken polish making, researching and all the other endless tasks that go along with it. It's been two years, I've been doing polish related work nearly every day since the beginning and I am burnt out. Somewhere along the way it stopped being fun and exciting or inspiring. When I started this blog, I was eager to share what I learned and I wanted very sincerely to inspire creativity in other people; I wanted women to see this was fun and that anyone could do it, you didn't have to be an artist or a polish aficionado or even know a whole lot about makeup. Maybe that sounded like a lofty goal but I've loved art my entire life and this was just another form I wanted to share. But if I'm not inspired, I don't know how I can possibly do that.

I put all my stuff away yesterday, polish, pigments, glitter, supplies, swatches and all the rest and while it was a little sad, it will free up more time and money for that other major passion in my life, music. I sacrificed a lot of potential music to buy polish supplies, forgot all about who released a new CD, who was worth listening to that was new, until I'm two years behind. It was time to make a choice and music won.

I have a small backlog of entries to post and I will keep up with questions/comments, followers and the like. In the meantime, enjoy your holidays- it will be Thanksgiving and then Christmas before you know it. -MK