Joanna Penn is a best-selling thriller novelist. She’s published over 20 books and sold over 450,000 copies in 74 countries and five languages. She’s most famous for her ARKANE series described by readers as ‘Dan Brown meets Lara Croft.’ Joanna is also an entrepreneur who teaches writers how to hone their craft. I interviewed Joanna about her past which includes a Master’s degree in Theology from Oxford. Joanna spent years working on computer code before she realized that she wanted to write fiction. And she’s a self-admitted techie, using a Mac and Scrivener. Today, Joanna leverages her background in theology and psychology plus extensive travel to write her thrillers. We talked about the craft of writing fiction and finished up with whether AI agents will ever put us both out of work.
Recent Articles By John Martellaro [RSS]
The personal computing industry is changing quickly. Again. Not long ago, there was a simple migration from Mac and PC desktops to notebooks. Then, Apple finally got the simple tablet right in 2010. However, basic tablets can’t do it all, and so Apple warmed to the iPad Pro concept. But the dust isn’t clearing. Rather the market is exploding in use cases and advanced technology. John tries to make sense of it all.
Hewlett-Packard has just announced a desktop PC to drool over. It’s about the size of a Mac mini but has many more features. First, it’s stackable. One can add modules like Bang & Olufsen speakers, an optical drive, an external drive module, and a VESA mounting plate. It logs on with an optional fingerprint sensor. Power and I/O is via USB-C, but it also has conventional USB-A ports, a port for Ethernet and DisplayPort video. There’s an Intel Core i7 and you can put a whopping 32 GB of RAM in it. There’s a lot to like about the way HP has approached this new, beautiful product. Available later this month, starting at US$429.
Once upon a time, Apple was famous for saying “no” to harebrained or even some legitimate product ideas. That was an essential strategy for Apple to emerge from its troubles in the 1990s. Now, however, a much larger company is increasing its surface area to the customer. That, combined with Apple’s organizational structure, is creating some problems that we’re seeing today. John explains.
Apple’s competitors are sensing Macintosh weakness and are making bold moves. The MacBook Air hasn’t been updated since March, 2015. The Mac Pro, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini are very long of tooth. The latest iMac is coming up on a year old, and only the MacBook looks fresh. Soon, there may be much blood in the water.
Liz Marley is a software engineer for the Omni Group. Early in life, there never was a time when Liz didn’t have computers. At age four, she started with her dad’s Apple IIGS, and she was encouraged to use it freely. Later, she majored in Computer Science at Harvey Mudd college and soon thereafter landed a job as a software tester. Over the years, her career has taken a series of interesting twists. From software coding to testing to being a product manager and then back to coding. In fact, her work with App Camp For Girls led her to a remarkable career decision and turn of events at the Omni Group. This is must listening for everyone interested in computer programming as a career.
Siri, as we’ve know her (or him), has been both a blessing and a frustration. The technology, when it works is brilliant, but when its limitations are exposed, it can be very frustrating. Our appetite for a stellar chatbot companion has merely been whetted, and we’re about to get it. From Apple. On its terms. With privacy.
On August 18th, Parallels updated its Parallels Desktop for Mac to version 12. This has been an annual tradition with Parallels, and each new version brings a host of new features and performance improvements. This year is no exception. And while the new features seem to be fairly modest on the surface, they always seem to strike the right balance and give customers what they’ve been asking for.
Cindy Cohn is the Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Founded in 1990, the EFF is a nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. The EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism and technology development. It has won some important court cases that preserve our rights online, including the use of encryption. (Which wasn’t always a given.) Cindy and I talked at length about her career, notable cases she fought and the work of the EFF, especially in the Apple vs. FBI conflict last spring. Cindy starts with notion that “privacy is fundamental to human dignity and… we can’t have a free society unless people have a private space.” Even if that means law enforcement has to work a little harder. Cindy explains it all.
Amazon’s Charlie Kindel, Director of Alexa Smart Home, will be speaking at the CEDIA conference in Dallas on September 16. He’ll talk about the inspiration for voice recognition that came from Star Trek, the original series. This interview by CEDIA provides a foretaste of the presentation and includes an inspiring video of Captain Kirk voice querying the Enterprise computer. What’s also cool and interesting is Mr. Kindel’s description of how customer privacy is maintained with the blue and red indicator ring. He also points to the website a customer built to celebrate Alexa. This is nifty corporate messaging.
The old, unconsidered notion about 4K UHD TV is that it’s a gimmick by the TV industry. The assumption has been that 4K resolution can’t be utilized unless one sits really close, and the familiar HDTV is good enough. In fact, the industry is about the business of implementing a gradual, exciting technology roadmap. While this means that 4K UHD TV will be gradually including more advanced technology elements than simple resolution improvement, it also means buyers will have to be careful when and how they migrate away from older equipment. It’s all on Friday’s Particle Debris column, page 2.
It’s not surprising that Apple is warming up to the idea of machine intelligence and AI agents with its $200 million purchase of Turi. The company needs to do that to remain competitive with Google and Microsoft. But, over and above that, the beneficial side effects will have even deeper implications for Apple as a company and its future.
One of my favorite actresses, Amy Adams, plays a linguist, charged with understanding the alien visitor’s language. It seems the arrival of very smart science fiction films like Ex Machina, Interstellar and The Martian are inspiring a new breed. This looks to be one of them. Coming November 11th.
The early iPads were a sensation. It seemed that Steve Jobs had brought forth the successor to the Mac. However, things have not gone as planned with the iPad, and Apple is scrambling to construct a clearer branding and imperative for the iPad. Even Microsoft senses the difficulty and has poked fun at Apple’s newfound toaster-fridge mentality.
Peter Cohen is the managing editor of the Backblaze blog. Previously, he’s written for Macworld, The Loop and iMore. Peter talked about how, as a kid, he had a TI-99/4A with bit-mapped graphics. He drew images on graph paper, converted the patterns to Hexadecimal codes and wrote to the display with Basic. The result was color graphics of spaceships shooting at each other. When he first saw the 1984 Macintosh with MacPaint, “it was like the top of my head blew off.” In the second segment, Peter and I chat about how Tim Cook is doing, Apple and its desktop Macs, whether the iPad Pros can replace the Mac and robotics. Peter is very much tuned in and speaks with wisdom on all these subjects. You’ll want to tune in too.
The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein reminded us that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. (TANSTAFL). The same applies to TV. If you watch TV over the air, there will be commercials. Lots. If you subscribe to cable, most channels will also have commercials. If you stream or buy content that doesn’t have commercials (Blu-ray or the OTT services) you will pay what the industry sees fit for you. While cord cutting looks to be appealing cost-wise, for now, the industry is never going to settle for decreased revenues in the long run. A recent Hulu decision proves that.
It seems that too many corporations and banks want to create rival alternatives to Apple Pay. They have their own agenda for inserting themselves into the payment process, but always seem to forget that putting themselves ahead of the customer with half-baked, potentially problematic systems is never the right thing to do. Most will have to learn the hard way.
Much has been written now about the moral guidance for autonomous cars and trucks. It’s a difficult problem that involves quantifying then instantiating into software the logic of life and death decisions. It would be nice for society to have more time to ponder, but the pace of technology leaves us precious little time for that. Machines are going to make moral decisions very soon. Shall we let them?
Apple is long overdue for a refresh of its Macintosh line. The last Mac mini update was October 2014. The 2013 Mac Pro has never been updated. The last MacBook Pro (15-inch) was updated in May of 2015. The company still sells a 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro with a SuperDrive. Only the iMac and MacBook lines are less than a year old. The Verge lays it all out and questions why Apple isn’t keeping most of its Macs more current. Yet there are glimmers of hope. It’s all on page 2 of Friday’s Particle Debris.
Dan Burcaw is a former Apple Senior Manager and founder of several notable businesses. In 1999, Dan was the co-founder and CTO of Terra Soft Solutions, developers of the legendary Yellow Dog Linux. That Linux, running on PowerPC was well received by the U.S. Government, businesses and the U.S. Navy. Later, after graduating from college, he worked for Apple as a Senior Manager in retail. In 2008, he founded Double Encore in Denver, a company that specialized in producing iOS apps for clients such as The PGA Tour and Turner Broadcasting. Most recently, Dan was a Senior Director, Product Management at Oracle where he led efforts to build a mobile app marketing capability. Dan is currently working on his next big, secret project. Come listen as Dan describes his fascinating career arc.