Reading: In the President’s Secret Service

There is nothing like being sidelined at the start of your winter holiday by a violent case of stomach flu making its way through the family. Well, as this was our fate this year thanks to some inconsiderate partygoer, about the only positive outcome was some late night reading time that my recovery afforded.

While my to-read stack has been accumulating during many months of busy work and family life and is now three full bookshelves long, I simply grabbed off the pile of recent Christmas gifts and dove in.

In the President’s Secret Service by Ronald Kessler provides a brief history of the Secret Service along with many anecdotes about several of the more recent presidents and their families. While tabloidish at times, it also makes a serious case to the management of the Service and its sponsors in the federal government to modernize their equipment, improve the retention of agents, and either expand their budget or limit their scope.

Lyndon Johnson, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and the entire Carter family are depicted as nearly deplorable at times, while Ford, Reagan and both Bush families honorable and respectful. Rather than introduce a spoiler, I’ll let you discover for yourself the nickname given to LBJ by those exposed to his bare character. An assessment of the current administration is polite but guarded.

As someone with both a fascination of and tremendous amount of respect for a group of dedicated professionals willing to take a bullet for their client, I found the book to be both a quick, entertaining read, but also a somewhat depressing case study of poor management and unevolved thinking.

Kessler, Ronald. In the President’s Secret Service.

Ask yourself how many shots you would have saved if you always developed a strategy before you hit, always played within your capabilities, never lost your temper, and never got down on yourself.

Jack Nicklaus

The winter break is upon us and our thoughts shift from the marketplace to the mountain. Crisp nights, bright fires, warm mugs and quality time with family and friends.

Mac Plus Emulation & HyperCard on Mac Pro

You’ll always remember your first. For me, it was a Mac Plus. Purchased by my parents as a family Christmas gift in the mid-eighties, it later ended up in my room and quickly became the center of my universe.

The killer app for me was always HyperCard. Of course at the time I had no idea how prescient that experience would be, since the hypertext driven world wide web did not exist yet nor did my resulting career.

While’s I’ve kept that original Mac in working order (including the original 20MB external hard drive), at some point parts are bound to fail and my trips down memory lane will be over (especially attacking conveys in the Pacific).

Enter Mini vMac, a Mac Plus emulator for modern computers. Now assuming I can successfully migrate the contents of that SCSI hard drive (connected to a computer with LocalTalk but no TCP/IP networking) to the disk image running in the emulator, my Mac Plus can live on indefinitely (that is until 10 years from now when I’m emulating Mac OS X to run the Mac Plus emulator).

It’s only took a couple of hours to get cooking. Notice the top (black and white window) is actually the Mac Plus (running a HyperCard stack I created in the early 90’s), with the purple window being VNC giving me access to the desktop of a headless G4 running OS 9 (for the SetFType utility that does not run on Intel Macs), then some OS X finder windows with access to the G4 shared drive to move the disk images back and forth, and of course Safari with the emulator site.

Note how much more real estate I get to use these days compared to the original 9 inch screen. It really is amazing when you step back and think about it.

Following a fresh install of System 6.0.8 from Apple, I had success! Welcome back Larry, John, Steve and Bruce. Mounting disks is easy, just drag them onto the emulated screen and they mount. Don’t have to worry about only having one floppy drive!

And for those a little more curious, back in my early teens I developed several HyperCard projects, including this piece of shareware that generated random yet pronounceable words (perfect for passwords) based on a consonant/vowel/number structure you could customize.

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting the physical Mac Plus onto the internet via a LocalTalk to Ethernet bridge, or perhaps just getting the SCSI hard drive accessible via some kind of adapter to Firewire. I’d be curious if anyone else has undergone a similar effort–let me know. In the meantime, I’m off to sink a convoy!

Imagine a world where everyone was constantly learning, a world where what you wondered was more interesting than what you knew, and curiosity counted for more than certain knowledge. Imagine a world where what you gave away was more valuable than what you held back, where joy was not a dirty word, where play was not forbidden after your eleventh birthday. Imagine a world in which the business of business was to imagine worlds people might actually want to live in someday. Imagine a world created by the people, for the people not perishing from the earth forever.

From The Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger