“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

ALERT: Superfish is on the Prowl

Yep, the hijacking crapware Superfish is after us. It is relentless. So I went to the Microsoft Store.

Wait, there’s more. I rarely tackle technology on Spittin’ Grits, but Superfish and hijacking crapware must be outed. This grotesque piece of work called Superfish is boring its way deep into your computer, and the consequences include your on-line identity and safety. I’ve spent several days reading about this menace because it is that serious a threat. So here goes.

Like most of you, I am an ultra-ordinary computer user, so I subscribe to a readable techy site, How to Geek; I owe those geeks a serious Thank You. It began for me with the most horrible-est piece of junk that I was aware of: The ethically challenged Ask toolbar. You’d better see if you have it. Look at the toolbar of your browser, located just under the URL line. If you have it, go here to read about it on How to Geek. That step led to reading several articles on horrible add-ons and adware. That led to an article that really caught my eye: it contained words like “Windows,” “Lenovo” (an up-to-now maker of highly rated computers), “hijacking” adware, “browsers,” “https,” “SSL” (which I had never heard of), “root certificate” (which I had never heard of), “scary,” “fake,” and “hacker.” The headline read Download.com and Others Bundle Superfish-Style HTTPS Breaking Adware, located here.

That article sounded ominous, with all those words together in the same sentence, ominous enough that I went looking for what this stuff was, because I was in the market for a new computer; I was looking at a Lenovo computer.

First I came to a tech article on arstechnica with the headline Lenovo PCs ship with man-in-the-middle adware that breaks HTTPS connections [Updated].

Uh-oh. I was going to buy a Lenovo computer at a retail store. What a close call that was.

“SSL” stands for “Secure Socket Layer.” Without this technology on web servers hackers/criminals can steal all your personal information, your ID, and rob you blind in a heartbeat. Yikes! This IS the “root certificate.” And Superfish bored into it.

Some people and almost all businesses, most importantly, your financial institution, apply for an SSL certificate. The granting agency verifies all the information about the persons or businesses to ensure they are who they say they are: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Bank America, Best Buy, most retail stores, credit unions, pizza franchises, everything you can think of have the SSL certificate to ensure users’ safety. After being thoroughly verified, these places are sent the SSL "root" certificate to put on their servers. Some businesses, of course, like Amazon and Facebook and Twitter and on and on have a gazillion servers. The servers are the internet’s skeletal make up. The rest of us ordinary users ride the servers like riders on bikes, skates, trains, boats, planes, anything mobile, and up to now we’ve enjoyed a relatively free ride, since others were looking out for our safety and privacy.

No more. Once Superfish and other hijackware bored their way into servers, the “Private: Keep Out” door is opened wide, to all manner of hackers and criminals, and there we stand naked behind that door.

Those hijackware borers are not to be confused with the “normal” obnoxious, sometimes dangerous, crapware, malware, and adware that come on Windows’s operating system and are picked up by the major browsers: Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and search engines like Yahoo.

They are the repulsive pop-ups and worse. Those are bad enough, and the major players like Microsoft, Google, and others have been complicit in this ethically challenged behavior; it makes your PC run like molasses in the winter of 2014-15 and opens you up to hackers/advertisers. That’s why when you open your browser to go somewhere, ads pop up that have been following you, recording you, and know what you like.

So how do you know if a business or financial institution has a secure SSL root certificate?

When I go to my financial institution via Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox, I first see on the address bar that it turns green, although it doesn’t stay green. Then I see https://, and the ‘s’ is significant. Then on the far left of the URL bar I see a small padlock. The site is “secure,” that is unless something like Superfish bored into the root certificate.

My own view of American businesses, as unpopular as it may be, is that they are inherently amoral, right out of the box. Too many, including the “too big to fail” Wall St. banks, are immoral and may be into illegal stuff. Many are at least unethical. They all depend on consumers, but they want consumers, lots of them, who don’t know or don’t want to know what they are getting. Thank goodness for the watchdogs. They are the ones who discovered the ton of crapware, adware, malware, and most importantly, the hijackware. I would no more go to a retail store to buy a PC right now than I would believe that the big banks are not into sub-prime loans -- again.

But I need a trustworthy computer. That’s why I went to the Microsoft store, to buy one of their guaranteed “sterile” computers. Their sterile “Signature” line of PCs are free of any viruses, adware, crapware, and hijackware. If they don’t do what they advertise, I have recourse.

The only recourse current PC users with a Windows operating system have against the bad stuff inside their computers is to go to a Microsoft store and have them remove the crap. And we must put pressure on the computer giants; no one will do it for us.

In fairness, Google has pledged to make some changes regarding crapware. You can read about this here on How to Geek. On the other hand, there’s Yahoo. Here’s what the HTG geeks have to say:

Contrast this [the Google page] with searching for “vlc download” [a software] on Yahoo… Every single thing you see on the screen is an ad for crapware, some of which is pretty much malware. In fact, you can keep scrolling, because there are even more ads for crapware when you scroll down, and you have to scroll near the bottom to find the real download location. In order to get all the ads in a single screenshot, you have to use a tablet in portrait mode.

The moral of this techy tome is that we will have to look out for our interests, including knowing more about what is under foot and listening to the watchdogs’s barks.

Seventy Years Ago: Pushing into History

By January 1945 the Allies were beating back Hitler’s forces in the Ardennes, what history would call the Battle of the Bulge. Winston Churchill asked Joseph Stalin if the USSR forces could take over the offensive forces into Poland to relieve the beleaguered Allied Forces on the western front pushing toward Germany. It worked: by mid-January, the Soviets had freed Poland from Nazi control. (In clearing out the Nazi scourge, the troops came upon Auschwitz, which was the first discovery of the horror the Nazis levied on Europe’s Jews and others. See the previous post.) 

At the end of January, General George Patton’s Third Army crossed the Our River. The Allies by this time were in push-back mode, and it would not be long until World War II would be on its way into history.

The U.S. Army Air Forces were finally on the offensive, and February ended with what would soon become the Allies’ victory in Europe.
On February 22, George Washington’s birthday, seventy years ago today, my father left San Severo in Italy in his P-51 Mustang as wingman to the flight leader, Capt. Roger Zierenberg. It was a fateful day for him -- and his family, including two yet-to-be-born children. That story is here.

An almost unbelievable twist of fate occurred twenty years ago, in 1995, when Anton Volgger, living in the South Tyrol in northern Italy, went exploring on the √úbertal Glacier in the Stubai Alps above his village of Ridnaun (Ridanna in Italian). He stumbled onto the crash site of dad’s plane. It was about almost a decade later, in a second twist of fate, that this exploration came to the attention of Roland Domanig, part of a group of air crash archaeologists, in Austria; then it was another half-a-decade and another twist of fate before he found me and sent the cold-contact e-mail in September 2013 asking me to replay if I were indeed the right person. (That story is here.)

Dad survived and returned home in 1945. Several years later he was stationed in Munich, Germany, as part of the Allied Occupational Forces that were sent to help Germany rebuild itself. It appears that one of the first things dad and mom did, maybe it was 1949, was to return to the village where dad ended his descent from Zuckerhutl, where he landed in his parachute.

In looking for and finding the 35mm slides that dad took during his assignment in Munich, we found many that he took in Ridnaun/Ridanna. One of them is this, of my mother leaning on the Woodie and looking down into the Ridnaun Valley. The 11,000 foot Zuckerhutl is the center peak in the distance. Others photos can be seen here and here.
My mother leaning on the Woodie that she and dad rode in
on their trip into the Ridnaun Valley in 1949.

The day dad went down, he was several months away from his 30th birthday on May 7. He would spend that birthday wandering the streets of Moosburg begging for food. General Patton liberated his POW camp only a few days before, April 29, 1945. Today he would be several months shy of 100. That story is here and here.

Below are several sites for posts dealing with dad’s World War II ordeal:
June 22, 2009, Father’s Day
February 20, 2013
Feb. 21, 2013
Nov. 9, 2013
A Cold Day in Italy
* The details of his February 22, 1945, mission are housed at the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB, in Montgomery, Alabama, which holds more than 500,000 historic Air Force documents: http://www.afhra.af.mil/. I drove there to see these original records on microfilm after e-mailing in advance a request for mission reports from that date. The staff had made copies and had them on the reading desk when I arrived. I am especially grateful for their help and support. [AFHRA’s IRISNUM call numbers for these documents were 00248401 and 00248402].
The AFHRA database is searchable on the web at: http://airforcehistoryindex.org/
The Lt. Col. John Thomas Cravey WWII USAAF and USAF Careers Collection© is the copyrighted property of Joanna Cravey Hutt and Susan Rebecca Cravey for their sole use. The collection includes but is not limited to the contents of three scrapbooks displaying letters, pictures, icons and other visual matter; 35 mm slide transparencies contained in the original storage tins; black and white photographs related to Lt. Col. Cravey’s USAAF and USAF careers; e-mails and letters donated to, given to, or addressed to the owners regarding the careers; private records; and other visual and audio materials.

Too Big to Forget: World War II Anniversaries

On the cold first day of January 2015, I stood on the tarmac at the Birmingham, Alabama, airport at 10:24 a.m. Like a colt in a bare, winter meadow, the wind blew freely around the runways. The Delta personnel on the ground passed around earplugs to each of our small group of about 10, explaining that when the plane turned off the runway to pull into its slot, it would be loud. We spotted the plane coming in for a landing from the east. My sister was on that flight in order to join our group; when she boarded in Atlanta, she introduced herself to Major Choi as instructed. They would be the only passengers to exit the plane until the ceremony ended.
The flight was bringing the remains of my father’s first cousin, Major Peyton Mathis, Jr., home at last after being MIA and presumed dead for 70 years. Major Choi was on the flight to escort those remains, to be transferred to the family with the Honor Guard on the ground, in a formal ceremony, as the Delta passengers watched from their windows. (See the previous post for details leading to this Homecoming.) This formal military ceremony was structured, yes, but very moving and emotional; members of our small group were not the only ones to fight back tears.

The military Honor Guard, with Major Choi, transport Mathis’s remains from the plane, to be transferred to the waiting family.
I wondered, “This is the first day of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Could this New Year’s Day ceremony for Peyton be the first event of this anniversary year?”
Many Alabama news outlets ran this bitter-sweet story of a U.S. flyer returning to his home to be laid to rest after 70 years hidden on Guadalcanal; it also ran in a few national print publications. But none remarked on its place in the context of this year’s anniversary.
Oh, yes, anniversaries of all stripes come and go and come and go. Some anniversaries go out with a whimper; some, like one’s birthday, simply end. Some are simply too big to be ignored; they should arrive as a supernova, having built up over the eons like those mega-dense white dwarf stars in our Universe that carry a dense mass disguised by its camouflaged power. I hope that the next five years of World War II anniversaries do not pass unwatched until we look around only to realize we have lost all those veterans and sufferers and survivors and wives and support workers who link us to such a monumental history lesson. I hope fervently that my granddaughters, who will be young adults when the 100th Anniversary of World War II arrives, will feel deeply their direct connection to that history.
To have even childhood memories of World War II, you have to have been born before about 1938. My father returned home in 1945; I was short of two. Even Baby Boomers, born between 1944 and 1964, could have only indirect memories, and it’s frightening to think how few of that group will still be around to celebrate the 75th and 100th anniversaries.
World War II -- its history, its lessons for humanity, its survivors and its fallen -- is simply too important to fade into a misty past.

If only one event could stand for all the lessons the War holds for humanity, it would be this one:
On January 27, a weather event in the northeast captivated the media and their viewers/listeners for hours and days while a truly monumental event was taking place in Poland. That day marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi death camps. Some 300 survivors were there, and many expressed their sorrowful recognition that fewer and fewer will be able to attend future anniversaries. Many expressed their greatest fear – not that they would not be able to attend future anniversaries, but that humanity could forget.
Seventy years ago that day, a contingent of the Russian Army arrived at Auschwitz not knowing what they were going to find. What they found was beyond gruesome, beyond horror, beyond human.
Survivor Roman Kent presented his moving account of his experience with his call to remember:
I am often asked how long I was in Auschwitz. My answer is I do not know. But what I do know is that one minute in Auschwitz was like a day; a day was like a year; a month, an eternity. How many eternities can one person have in a single lifetime. I don’t know that either.
“Remember”: this was the work my father frequently uttered to me during the Holocaust. . . . How can I ever forget. . .? I wondered if the cries from youngsters [torn from their mothers] ever penetrated Heaven’s Gate. . . .We survivors DO NOT WANT OUR PAST TO BE OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE. . . .
Kent quoted from Primo Levi’s excruciating Survival in Auschwitz (1947), as he repeated the need to never forget.
Levi defined how Auschwitz should be remembered in a 1986 interview with The New Republic:
The war can be explained, but Auschwitz has nothing to do with the war; it was not an episode in it, nor an extreme form of it. War is always a terrible fact, to be deprecated; but it is in us, it has its rationality, we “understand” it. There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred. It is a hate that is not in us; it is outside man, it is a poison fruit sprung form the deadly trunk of fascism, although outside and beyond fascism itself. If understanding is impossible, however, knowledge is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Conscience can be seduced and obscured again: even our consciences.
Other Resources:
The 2005 PBS “Frontline” presentation Memory of the Camps, created from footage found in stored in a vault of London's Imperial War Museum, can be viewed on line here.
HBO’s “Night Will Fall,” made from the original footage taken by British film makers, under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock, is currently running; check for local airing times. We must remember.

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