Background Mode Podcast

Join The Mac Observer's John Martellaro every week for fascinating interviews with tech industry pros and luminaries. It's more than a show about what they do; it's about who they are.

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Sander Berents on Background Mode.

TMO Background Mode Interview with macOS Software Developer Sander Berents

Aug. 20th, 2018 - 7:44 PM | 00:34:09

Sander Berents has been fascinated by astronomy since childhood when he started using his older brother’s telescope. In his teens, he also became immersed in BASIC and assembly language programming with his TRS-80. Later, he earned an M.S. in astrophysics. His earliest jobs involved computer...

Podcast Archives

  1. Aug. 20th, 2018
    Background Mode Podcast
    TMO Background Mode Interview with macOS Software Developer Sander Berents

    Sander Berents has been fascinated by astronomy since childhood when he started using his older brother's telescope. In his teens, he also became immersed in BASIC and assembly language programming with his TRS-80. Later, he earned an M.S. in astrophysics. His earliest jobs involved computer programming, and nowadays, he's an independent, professional macOS software developer and the developer of the macOS app called Observatory. Version 1.0 was released in April 2016. We chatted about the development of Observatory, written in Objective-C and C++, which has several important features for astrophotographers: plate solving, image stacking and a digital blink microscope used for discovery. This app can also be used as a non-destructive photo library for astrophotos. Sander chatted about life as a developer and explained a little bit about how astronomers use his app.

  2. Aug. 13th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Host of The Carson Podcast Mark Malkoff

    Mark Malkoff is a comedian, filmaker, and the host of The Carson Podcast in which he talks with guests about legendary talk show host Johnny Carson. His guests include stand-up comics who debuted on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, individuals who worked on the show, and entertainers who were influenced by Carson. I chatted with Mark about his early jobs on various TV shows, sketch comedy, and video projects. As a comedian, he'd always been fascinated by Johnny Carson. It was Peter Jones (PBS) who encouraged Mark to do a podcast all about Carson's Tonight Show. Mark told me about how he lines up guests and how he prepares. In 180+ podcasts, Mark has learned a lot about Mr. Carson's personal life and the details of show's production. Mark enthusiastically shares it all.

  3. Aug. 6th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with NightCap Camera Developer Chris Wood

    Chris Wood is the developer of the iOS photography app called NightCap Camera, an app that specializes in low-light photography, be it terrestrial or astronomical. Chris told me the story about his technial evolution as a developer, coming out of a M.S. degree and the IT, database and network world. It was the allure of the original iPhone's graphics that whetted his appetite for programming in Objective-C . His big break came with the iPad 2 which had a fairly strong graphics processor (for its time). That led to the development of the acclaimed iPad app called Camera Boost. Later, the experience Chris gained led to the NightCap app and its descendant NightCap Camera. Chris and I chatted about the evolution and capabilities of this excellent app that even novice photographers should own.

  4. Jul. 30th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Special Edition Chat with Kelly Guimont: TV Mysteries

    Kelly Guimont is a Contributing Editor for The Mac Observer and Social Media Manager for Smile Software. She first appeared here in December, 2015 to tell her career story and has returned several times for interesting technical discussions. In this special edition, we chat about our favorite movie or two, and how, for some movies, the music has become a thing in itself, the soundtrack of our lives. Then we delved into the legendary BBC/CBC mysteries: Foyle's War, Murdoch Mysteries, Shetland, Death in Paradise, and Broadchurch. For most of these mysteries, we look at their celebration of place that becomes an integral part of the show. Join us as we explore together what makes these shows so cool. 

  5. Jul. 23rd, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Novelist and Freelance Tech Writer Dan Moren

    Dan Moren is a novelist, freelance tech writer and prolific podcaster. He's written for Tidbits, Fast Company, Popular Science, Yahoo Tech, and Tom’s Guide. He was a senior editor at Macworld for many years and continues to write the excellent Stay Foolish column there every Friday. Today he also writes for Six Colors and hosts severable popular podcasts, including Clockwise and Inconceivable! We chatted about his years before Macworld and how he launched his career by writing about Star Wars for a newspaper (most interesting) and later bumped into Jason Snell at a Macworld Expo. Dan told me the story about the development of his SciFi novel, his favorite Mac and his favorite writing tools for both fiction and tech. Finally, Dan briefed me on the many different podcasts he hosts.

  6. Jul. 16th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Amateur Astronomer Mike Weasner

    Mike Weasner is a noted amateur astronomer, known for his book on the Meade ETX telescopes, early iPhone astrophotography and work with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in Arizona. Very early in life, Mike fell in love with astronomy, and that led to a B.S. in astrophysics. Via ROTC, Mike later joined the United States Air Force, where he served as a fighter pilot (A-7D), instructor (T-38), and a manager in the Air Force's Space Shuttle Program Office. After his USAF duty, Mike spent 23 years as a program manager with TRW/Northrop Grumman. We chatted about his Air Force days and some interesting flight experiences. In the second segment, we talked about the construction of his observatory, evolution of his telescopes, astrophotography of asteroids, supernovae patrol and his work with the IDA.

  7. Jul. 9th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with University Psychologist and Podcaster Dr. Robert Carter

    Dr. Robert Carter is a Ph.D. Psychologist at Texas A&M, a long-time Apple enthusiast, and the co-host of the Tech Doctor podcast. He's very well versed in assistive technologies, having been blind since birth. Robert tells an amazing story about he's coped with his disability through the years. It started with using a portable typewriter in grade school, discovering the Apple II at age 18 and a speech synthesizer plug-in card, and ultimately using Apple's extraordinary VoiceOver technology on the Mac—and now iPhone. We chatted about the techniques he uses to read and write, including the use of the Hims BrailleSense Polaris display. We finished with a discussion of his Tech Doctor podcast, and its focus on assistive technologies, and how the evolution of AI and robot technologies look to really help those with disabilities.

  8. Jul. 2nd, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Encore Interview with Freelance Tech Jounalist Kirk McElhearn

    Kirk McElhearn is an expert technical journalist for all things Apple. He was a Senior Contributor at Macworld for 15 years, is known as "The iTunes Guy," and writes about Macs, security, iTunes, books and music. Kirk has also written several "Take Control Books," including tutorials on iTunes, Audio Hijack and Scrivener. In this encore appearance, Kirk and I chatted about the evolution of photography at Apple, the emergence of the iPhone as a pocket supercomputer-camera, AI technologies and facial recognition used in iPhone photography, lens and CCD technologies, Aperture vs. iPhoto/Photos, managing digital assets, and how sophisticated software has allowed the average user to take great photos. And more. We finished with a discusion of Kirk's new podcast (with Jeff Carlson) called PhotoActive which is all about photography and the Apple ecosystem.

  9. Jun. 25th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Fiction Novelist Steven Brust

    Steven Brust is a popular science fiction author with 31 novels to his credit. He's known for the Vlad Taltos series as well as the Khaavren romances. He's also a musician: drummer, guitarist and banjo player, and he has a solo record out, A Rose For Iconoclastes. Like many writers, as we pondered on the show, he has a cat. We chatted about his early career as a computer programmer and the life-changing event that launched him into writing science fiction. Steven's career has been filled with a fortunate series of happenstances, "luck," both in the cover art of his novels and his choice of themes. Inspired by Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, Steven writes what he'd love to read himself, and that has worked amazingly well. You'll enjoy our chat about all things science fiction.

  10. Jun. 18th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Georgia Tech Roboticist Dr. Ayanna Howard

    Dr. Ayanna Howard is a professor of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology. She's also in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Ayanna received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California. I asked Ayanna how she became inspired by robot technology. Like many of us, it was via science fiction on TV. In graduate school, robotics was still immature, so she wisely elected to pursue electrical engineering. Her first job was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) working on vision, fuzzy logic, and neural network methodologies. Today, she leads her students in the areas of assistive robots in the home, therapy gaming apps and remote robotic exploration of extreme environments. Our discussion covered the whole field of robotics, so tune in and hear all about the state-of-the-art from an accomplished roboticist.

  11. Jun. 11th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with IDA Astronomer Dr. John Barentine

    Dr. John C. Barentine is an astronomer, historian, author and science communicator. He is currently the Director of Conservation for the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in Tucson, Arizona. He earned his master’s degree in physics at Colorado State University and his Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. Throughout his career, he's been involved in education efforts to help increase the public understanding of science. We started with a brief segment on his early career as a observing specialist at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. In the second segment, we chatted about his work at the IDA in Tucson, the organization, its goals, and why it's so important for all of us who live on planet Earth to be able to look up on a clear night and see stars.

  12. Jun. 5th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Freelance Tech Journalist Rob Pegoraro

    Rob Pegoraro is a freelance technical journalist who writes about interesting problems and possibilities in consumer technology. Previously, he was a technical columnist for the Washington Post from 1999 to 2011. Lately he has written for Yahoo Finance, USA Today and The Wirecutter. Rob graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1993 with a degree in international relations without taking a single course in journalism or computer science. But along the way he discovered his real talent: learning new things about computer tech and then explaining it to readers. Rob told me how his time with the Washington Post was both rewarding but also prepared him for a better family life as a freelancer. We chatted about Google I/O 2018, the Android platform, his writings about the FTC, the GDPR, 8KTV, and his recent DIY update of his 2009 iMac.

  13. May. 29th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Mobile Nations Editor Russell Holly

    Russell Holly is a Contributing and Managing Editor at Android Central, under the Mobile Nations umbrella. Formerly, he was with geek.com. Over the years Russell has become an Android expert with focus on mobility, smartphones, tablets ... and iOS as well. He also writes about Virtual and Augmented Reality. I took the opportunity to ask Russell about the security aspects of Android, and he had some unexpected answers that will be of interest to Apple-centric listeners. (Get the scoop on Android from a genuine expert.) We also discussed Android's "notch envy." Moving on to Chrome OS, Russell explained what Google is doing with Android app integration and how that fits in with Google's education initiatives. We finished with a revealing discussion of Virtual Reality and the future of Oculus Rift and the less expensive, stand alone Oculus Go.

  14. May. 21st, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Founder, CEO of StaceyHankeInc, Stacey Hanke

    Stacey Hanke is the CEO and founder of StaceyHankeInc. She specializes in training business leaders in leadership, body language habits and how to choose words wisely. Her clients include those in finance, health care, government and the military. She's the author of Influence Redefined - Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday. She's also co-author of Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A To Z To Influence Others To Take Action. I asked Stacey to be on the show because of her expertise in leadership and influence. These days, there is much discussion about the proper exercise of leadership as well as how executives (and authors) trigger people into taking action. Stacey and I chatted abut how her upbringing and how a very special mentor prepared her to become an acknowledged expert in leadership.

  15. May. 14th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Music Composer John Lunn

    John Lunn is a classically trained music composer in London. He's probably best known for scoring the TV drama Downton Abbey — for which he received two Primetime Emmy awards. His recent work includes the scoring of the feature film Electricity and the hit TV shows: The Grantchester Mysteries, Shetland, and The White Queen—for which he received a Primetime Emmy nomination. John and I chatted about how he always wanted to be a music composer and the journey that made his dream a reality. I asked him about the various mechanics of scoring a TV show, his tools (Mac, Logic Pro), the production process, and how the music is keyed to the scene to produce desired emotions. I played sound snippets and he explained the instruments. If you love his music and the TV shows he's scored, this is show is essential listening.

  16. May. 7th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Special Edition #4 With Former Apple Executive Michael Gartenberg

    Michael Gartenberg spent three years as Apple's Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to Senior VP Phil Schiller. In his fourth encore appearance on Background Mode, Michael and I chat about expectations for Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) to be held June 4-8, 2018. We delved into potential improvements to HomePod, the state-of-the-art of Siri, the competition with Amazon's Alexa, possible changes to iOS and watchOS, the state of the Mac, the much anticipated Mac Pro, what we'd like from macOS 10.14, Apple's recent issue with premature product announcements, and the MacBook evolution (and its keyboard). We also discussed Apple's discontinuation of AirPort products, and why that's something Apple may or may not need to be involved with anymore.

  17. Apr. 30th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Encore #4 Interview with Science Communicator Dr. Kiki Sanford

    Dr. Kiki Sanford is a neurophysiologist, a popular science communicator and creator of This Week in Science (TWIS) podcast and radio show. This is her fourth appearance here. In this episode, we chat about some some very interesting recent topics on TWIS. 1) Researchers showed that mini human brains implanted into mouse brains survived and functionally integrated into the host tissue. 2) Magnetoreception in birds is possible thanks to a protein in their eyes. They may actually have a heads-up display in their eyes for the Earth's magnetic field. 3) Amazon's announcement of its Vesta family robot project. 4) A new, non-invasive patch is being developed to allow diabetics to monitor their gluscose levels. Kiki has a special way of inspiring us to learn about science, so don't miss BGM's most popular guest.

  18. Apr. 23rd, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Astrophysicist Dr. Brian Keating

    Dr. Brian Keating is an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. His specialty is cosmology, and he is the father of the original BICEP project (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) that sought to unravel one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Big Bang. He is also the author of over 100 scientific publications. We chatted about his early years at age 12 in New York and the spark that ignited his interest in astrophysics. And then we got very geeky on cosmology. Brian recently published a terrific, courageous book about his team's research, some life lessons, the challenges of scientific research, and he makes some valuable suggestions concerning changes to the Nobel Prize award process. After listening to our chat, you'll want to read his excellent book.

  19. Apr. 16th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Gravitational Wave Astrophysicist Dr. Chiara Mingarelli

    Dr. Chiara Mingarelli is an astrophysicist currently working at the Flatiron Institute's Center for Computational Astrophysics where she's a Flatiron Fellow. Chiara received her Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2014, and her specialty is the study of gravitational waves: ripples in spacetime born of a cataclysmic collision of distant, super-massive objects. She's been a Marie Curie International Fellow at Cal Tech and has worked at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. We chatted about her early years, how she was inspired by the night skies of her hometown in Canada and her early years studying mathematics and physics. There were definitely some challenges in her early career, but her mathematician father nurtured her through. If you're curious about gravitational waves and Pulsars, this is the show for you.

  20. Apr. 9th, 2018
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Ruby Receptionists CTO Katharine Nester

    Katharine Nester is the CTO and Chief Product Officer for Ruby Receptionists, a virtual receptionist service. She owes early influence to her father, a computer engineer, and that led to her B.S. degree in computer science from the Univ. of Calif. at Berkeley. Her first job was as a Hewlett Packard software engineer. Katharine is an active member of Portland’s growing tech community where she advocates for more inclusive environments to support women and minorities in the field and is a benefactor of App Camp for Girls. We chatted about the founding of Ruby Receptionists, early technical decisions that were made and how it operates. Katharine tells a great story about her personal career arc as well as what it's like to be the CTO of a company that supports 7,600 other companies.