Recent Articles By John Martellaro [RSS]

TMO Background Mode Interview with Indiana University Astronomer Dr. Catherine Pilachowski

· · Background Mode Podcast

Dr. Caty Pilachowski on Background Mode

Dr. Catherine Pilachowski is a professor of astronomy at Indiana University in Bloomington. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Hawaii. Her principal research interests include the evolution of stars and the chemical history of the Milky Way Galaxy from studies of chemical composition of star clusters. “Caty” got excited about astronomy as a youth reading the books of Asimov, Hoyle and Gamow. She told me about her serendipitous decision to attend graduate school in Hawaii where some very large telescopes were being built on Mauna Kea and how that ultimately led her to her current faculty position. We then chatted about her star cluster research and ended with some great tips for students who want to pursue a career in astronomy.

An Illustrated History of Apple's Mac mini

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Mac mini

For many, Apple’s Mac mini is a beloved computer. For others, it’s a dream rack mount server. Last year, Tim Cook told a customer, “I’m glad you love Mac mini. We love it too.” Rumors suggest we’ll see a new model this year, maybe next week in New York. In any case, if you’re a fan, sit back and enjoy this lovingly crafted, illustrated history.

T2M2 Utility Sheds Light on Time Machine Operations/Errors

· · Cool Stuff Found

When macOS Time Machine works, it does so swimmingly. But when it goes wrong, it can be hard to diagnose the problem. Worse, according to the developer, “Before Sierra brought the new unified log, it was easy to check for problems using Console. But from Sierra on, that has become increasingly complex, and most users would rather undergo root canal treatment than try to make any sense of what they now see in Console.”

“My solution is a free tool, The Time Machine Mechanic, or T2M2, which I built to analyse Time Machine entries automatically in [macOS] logs.”

And it now looks great in Mojave’s Dark Mode.

T2M2 Utility Sheds Light on Time Machine Operations/Errors

Volocopter Coming To Your Location

· · Cool Stuff Found

I’ve written about Volocopter before. Now, progress is being made, and it’ll be undergoing autonomous trials in Singapore next year. The expectation, according to engadget, “If the Singapore tests go well, the technology progresses as planned and the company can get regulators on board, you could be hopping into a Volocopter for your commute in about five years.” The best part? You won’t have to tip the autonomous pilot.

Volocopter Coming To Your Location

Apple Has Been Doubling Down on HDR Video

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HDR - Dolby Vision example

This tidbit is from February, but it has some interesting facts. First, H.266 is in the works and will offer 30% better compression than the H.265 standard used for 4K TV. It’ll be needed for 8K TV.

Plus, “Jason Power, Sr Director of marketing/broadcast at Dolby Labs, said that the progress made by Dolby Vision was further boosted when the codec was accepted at CES by Apple for its portfolio of video products, and where Apple was aggressively promoting High Dynamic Range (HDR) as ‘the new normal’ for broadcasters. There were now more than 200 titles available in HDR from Apple.” No wonder the iPhone XS/Max and XR both fully support HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

Intel's 9th Generation Chips Confront Moore's Law

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Intel 8th gen Core.

Moore’s Law appears to be coming to a grinding halt, and Intel is confronting that reality with new ideas to speed up it’s 9th generation CPUs. The Verge writes: “But for the most part, the new chips have the same things last year’s chips had: more cores. And the reason is pretty simple: Intel still hasn’t managed to move on from its 14nm manufacturing node to the next step, its repeatedly delayed 10nm process.”

TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Fiction Writer & Biographer Alec Nevala-Lee

· · Background Mode Podcast

Alex Nevala-Lee on Background Mode

Alec Nevala-Lee is a science fiction novelist, essayist and biographer. He’s known for the scifi novels: The Icon Thief, City of Exiles, and Eternal Empire. He’s written for Analog Science Fiction, and he’s had essays and non-fiction published in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Daily Beast and more. We chatted about growing up in California, the influential book that inspired him to become a writer, his early career, life at Harvard, and quitting his job to become a struggling – then successful novelist. Alec also shared a bit about his writing tools and techniques. Finally, we explored his new biography entitled: ASTOUNDING, a critical look at the life, writing and mutual influences of four famous scifi authors: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard during the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the 1940s and 50s.

Experiment: Go Without an iPhone For a Week. Apple Watch Only

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iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3

Could you do it? Give up your iPhone and depend on just an Apple Watch? “Loup Ventures went phoneless last week. That is, some of the Loup team turned off our iPhones for a full week and only used Apple Watches for connectivity. It was freeing. And frustrating.”  There’s a lot of substance in this report, including a discussion of the “Eisenhower matrix” a “four-quadrant graph … meant to help people analyze where they’re spending time.” Fascinating stuff.