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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Physics Professor and Jazz Musician Dr. Stephon Alexander
Dr. Stephon Alexander is a theoretical physicist specializing in cosmology, particle physics and quantum gravity (String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity). He received his BSc from Haverford College and Ph.D. from Brown University. He also explores interconnections between music, physics, mathematics and technology though recordings,...
Jul. 13th, 2020
Physics Professor and Jazz Musician Dr. Stephon Alexander – BGM Interview
Dr. Stephon Alexander is a theoretical physicist specializing in cosmology, particle physics and quantum gravity (String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity). He received his BSc from Haverford College and Ph.D. from Brown University. He also explores interconnections between music, physics, mathematics and technology though recordings, performance, teaching and public lectures.Stephon tells his story about growing up in the Bronx amidst a very diverse group of students. Encouraged by his parents and teachers, he showed great curiosity and intelligence. Still, as person of color, he faced many challenges as he worked towards his Ph.D. We chatted about the mind of the physicist, physics intuition, music, the role of mathematics, String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity as well as events before the Big Bang. If you are a young student, dreaming of becoming a physicist, this show is a must - full of inspiration and insights.
Jul. 6th, 2020
Partner, Many Tricks Software Rob Griffiths – BGM Interview
Rob Griffiths worked for Apple (1990-95), founded macosxhints.com in 2000, went on to write for Macworld Magazine, has done some podcasting, and is currently a partner at Many Tricks Software, makers of great Mac utilities such as Moom, Witch and Name Mangler.Rob recalled his early years with the T.I. Silent 700, Commodore PET, and Apple II. At Colorado State University, Rob realized programming was not for him and followed a business track. Later, after graduate school, he landed a job with Apple. We chatted about his career, moving on to great years at Macworld Magazine, and then his current partnership at Many Tricks Software. We then delved into WWDC 2020, challenges as an Apple developer, the transition of Macs to Apple Silicon, and the evolution of macOS as a partial touch-screen OS. Good stuff here!
Jun. 29th, 2020
Former Apple Senior Director Michael Gartenberg (#11) – BGM Interview
Michael Gartenberg spent three years as Apple’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to SVP Phil Schiller. He is currently a freelance writer and has become a regular guest here on Background Mode. This BGM Interview is his 11th appearance.We explored the WWDC 2020 Keynote in detail. We started with the production values and layout and how some elements of this new kind of presentation might show up in future events. Then we turned to the Mac on Apple Silicon transition and some of the considerations for users. Later, there was a healthy discussion of iOS 14, Scribble and then macOS 11 Big Sur's design language and how that differs from the nature of the Mac for UNIX users. Michael always delivers keen insights on how Apple markets its products and always helps us better understand the WWDC Keynote.
Jun. 23rd, 2020
Science Communicator Dr. Kiki Sanford (#9) – TMO Background Mode Interview
Dr. Kiki Sanford makes her ninth appearance on Background Mode. Kiki is a neurophysiologist with a B.S. in conservation biology and a Ph.D. avian neurophysiology from the University of California. She's a popular science communicator and creator/co-host of This Week in Science (TWIS) podcast and radio show.In this episode, we spend the first segment clearing up some confusion about COVID-19. Mask theory of use, the value of lockdowns, how the U.S. is doing compared to Europe, how blood type affects the body's response, presymptomatic vs. asymptomatic, and what we know about how the virus survives on surfaces. In part II, we discussed how computer neural networks trained to learn like developing human brains also need something akin to sleep. Also, how dogs have a genetic desire to save their owner from trouble. And more. As always, Kiki is delightful as she makes science both fun and interesting.
Jun. 15th, 2020
TMO UK Associate Editor Charlotte Henry (#6) – TMO BGM Interview
Charlotte is the Mac Observer’s UK Associate editor, based in London. A self described media junkie, she has also written for City A.M. (London’s daily business tabloid,) Computer Business Review, and The Times, amongst others. Her new book is: Not Buying It.In this episode, Charlotte and I dig deep into Apple TV+. We look at its current market share and growth potential based on a zero sum game, the possible addition of live sports, and a customer satisfaction survey. In passing, Charlotte believes that the naming conventions Apple has used for its Apple TV hardware and software have created a giant mess of customer confusion. We explored some new shows and also examined the character of Apple TV+ content compared to other streaming TV services.
Jun. 8th, 2020
Apple Industry Analyst Rene Ritchie – TMO BGM Interview
Rene Ritchie has been covering personal technology for over a decade. He currently hosts his own YouTube channel where he provides news analysis and insight on Apple and related technologies and culture. He also co-hosts MacBreak Weekly on the TWiT network and writes a column every Monday for iMore. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of iMore.Rene and I discussed an incredible range of Apple topics: the MBP's awful 720p FaceTime camera, the aging iMac design, the future of iMac Pro, the Butterfly keyboard, Rene's enthusiasm for Apple and the trustworthiness of the company. I also got to know Rene better as we chatted about growing up with Macs, his love of Apple Watch bands, Pokémon and years of studying martial arts. Rene finished with several tips for video podcasters.
Jun. 1st, 2020
Writer and Podcaster Antony Johnston – TMO BGM Interview
Antony Johnston is a New York Times bestselling writer and podcaster. The Charlize Theron movie Atomic Blonde is based on his graphic novel; his Brigitte Sharp thrillers are critically acclaimed; and Dead Space, his first videogame, redefined its genre. He also hosts a writer's podcast.Antony told me about how he transformed his career as graphics artist into successful graphic novels and video game scripting. Later, on his Mac, he delved into novel writing (with Scrivener), most notably the Brigitte Sharp thrillers. Antony recounted how his graphic novel The Coldest City came to be made into a theatrical movie, Atomic Blonde. And to top it all off, Antony told me about his podcast "Writing and Breathing," a show about "why, how, and what we write," in which he chats with fellow authors of all kinds.
May. 26th, 2020
Parallels Dir. of Sales Engineers Victor Fiss – TMO BGM Interview
Victor Fiss has had a distinguished career leading teams to implement, integrate, and manage enterprise wide systems. As Director of Sales Engineers, he oversees coordination of pre-sales and post-sales delivery for Parallels solutions. He is responsible for the team’s goals and initiatives with sales, product management, development, and worldwide customer support.Victor and I explored everything about Parallels Desktop on the Mac. What it is, how it works, supported OSes, support for Metal, external GPUs, games, working at home issues and support, macOS VM clients, adjustments at Parallels amidst COVID-19, embracing OS agnosticism, the Parallels Toolbox, the Remote Application Server, and a brief discussion of Parallels Desktop on ARM-based Macs. It's all right here.
May. 18th, 2020
TMO Contributor Kelly Guimont (#11) – TMO BGM Interview
Kelly Guimont is a long-time podcaster, Contributing Editor for The Mac Observer, the host of the Mac Observer's Daily Observations podcast, and a tech support guru.In her 11th appearance, Kelly and I chat about our favorite TV shows of the 1980s as well as some of our favorite, recent movies. I open segment #1 with a fond recollection by both us us for Miami Vice (Starz), then similar feelings about Hill Street Blues (Hulu). A Kelly favorite along with me was: Magnum P.I. (Amazon). In segment #2 we critiqued Knives Out (iTunes), Onward (Disney+), Saving Mr. Banks (Netflix) and superb scifi The Lost Room (Amazon). Join us as we explore together what's great about these shows.
May. 11th, 2020
Technical Columnist Chris Matyszczyk – TMO BGM Interview
Chris Matyszczyk is the President of creative consultancy Howard Raucous LLC. He advises corporations and individuals on content creation, advertising and marketing. For the last 13 years, he has also written the Technically Incorrect column first for CNET and now for ZDNet. He also writes the Absurdly Driven column at Inc.Chris has a witty, irreverent, playful writing style at times. Over the years, several of his articles have caught my attention for my Friday column, Particle Debris, and we chatted about them. Plus, I've always wanted to hear his career story and how he got started as a technical columnist. In this interview, you'll get a sense of Chris's wry humor, and he'll keep you laughing the whole show.
May. 4th, 2020
Assoc. Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Jud Brewer – TMO BGM Interview
Dr. Jud Brewer is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and associate professor in psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Brown University, as well as a research affiliate at MIT.As an addiction psychiatrist, Dr. Jud has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments for smoking, emotional eating, and anxiety. He is the author of The Craving Mind: from cigarettes to smartphones to love, why we get hooked and how we can break bad habits. In this sparkling and entertaining interview, I pepper Jud with questions about his chosen career, consciousness, mindfulness, reward-behavior, breaking bad habits and how to cope with the isolation and stress of our current pandemic. You should get into the habit of listening to Dr. Jud!
Apr. 27th, 2020
NASA Aerospace Engineer Dr. Craig Hunter – TMO BGM Interview
Dr. Craig Hunter is an aerospace engineer at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia with research experience in experimental, theoretical, and computational fluid mechanics, aerodynamics, and aeroacoustics. He has developed technology-enabling software tools and analysis methods for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation, aerodynamic design, and jet noise prediction.In 2008, Craig founded Hunter Research and Technology to create innovative and compelling apps for the fledgling Apple iPhone, namely Theodolite, Pro Compass and Nav Camera.Craig is an expert pressing high-end Macs into service for scientific computations. We chatted about his Ph.D work, work at NASA in CFD and jet engine noise simulations, his recent computational review of a US$31,000 2019 Mac Pro, and his iOS app side-business and how that market has changed over the years. Heady stuff.
Apr. 20th, 2020
Programmer, Author, Podcaster Rosemary Orchard – TMO BGM Interview
Rosemary Orchard describes herself as a geek, nerd, and programmer. She works full time as a developer of web applications, but her real loves are automation and productivity. She's also a book author and podcaster.Rosemary told me the story about how she started with computers and programming. After a bad experience with a Toshiba notebook and Windows Vista, she bought a MacBook Air for her university work—and loved it. At this point, she was still pursing human languages, but in time gravitated towards, instead, creating computer software that would make peoples lives easier. And she never looked back. We talked about her Web app development, her books (one on Shortcuts) and finished with how she learned to podcast. Today she does two. You'll enjoy hearing how Rosemary's career has developed.
Apr. 13th, 2020
Novelist Christopher Moore – TMO BGM Interview
Christopher Moore is the author of 17 novels, including Lamb, Coyote Blue, The Serpent of Venice, The Stupidest Angel, and NOIR. Chris published his first novel, Practical Demonkeeping in 1992, and his latest novel, Shakespeare For Squirrels, will be released on May 12th.We chatted at length about how Chris came to be a very successful novelist. I asked about the influence of author Harlan Ellison as well as his favorite and best selling novels. We explored his writing technique as we delved into two of my own favorite novels, The Stupidest Angel and NOIR. ( He writes on his Mac and uses Scrivener to outline and MS Word to compose. ) If you love Chris's work, you'll be entranced by his charming anecdotes in this stellar interview.
Apr. 6th, 2020
Writer and Raconteur Bob ‘Dr. Mac’ LeVitus (#2) – TMO BGM Interview
Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus is a writer, book author and raconteur. He writes for the Houston Chronicle and The Mac Observer, and he specializes in the "Dummies" books about Apple products like the Mac, the iPad and iPhone.In this episode, Bob and I focus on the practice of working from home. We covered work strategies and techniques, workspace and hours, software vs. paper tools, clothing and eating, task management, multitasking vs. single focus and more. We delved into microphones and cameras for a Mac as well as some video conferencing apps and touched on the notion of spending time learning unfamiliar but essential internet technologies. We closed with a discussion of music to work by and a great library app called Libby.
Mar. 30th, 2020
TMO UK Associate Editor Charlotte Henry (#5) – TMO BGM Interview
Charlotte Henry is a London-based technical journalist. A self-described media junkie, she writes about Apple — and now for the Mac Observer as well as our UK Associate Editor. She has also written for City A.M., Computer Business Review, the Independent on Sunday and CapX. Her new book is: Not Buying It.In this episode, Charlotte and I discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the TV entertainment and streaming industry. We look at the diversion of theatrical releases to streaming, whether indoor theaters will ever return to normal, possible changes to production methods, throttling of streaming speeds, a possible return to more feel-good movies, the impact on binge watching, series vs. movie watching during lock-down, and Charlotte's reaction to Disney+. Plus, John reveals a very personal secret!
Mar. 23rd, 2020
TMO Contributor Kelly Guimont (#10) – TMO BGM Interview
Kelly Guimont is a long-time podcaster, Contributing Editor for The Mac Observer, the host of the Mac Observer's Daily Observations podcast, and a tech support guru.In her 10th appearance, Kelly and I chat about our favorite streaming TV shows of late. I open segment #1 with a critique of Amazing Stories: "The Cellar" (Apple TV+), then rave reviews for a shared favorite, Star Trek: Picard and a Kelly favorite: Westworld S3 (HBO). In segment #2: Kelly: The Expanse (Amazon), Wynonna Earp (SyFy). John: Outlander (S3) (Netflix) and Night on Earth (Netflix). Join us as we explore together what's great (and not great) about these shows.
Mar. 17th, 2020
Musician and Programmer John Nastos – TMO BGM Interview
John Nastos is a multi-instrumentalist, music composer and improvisor, saxophonist, an iOS app developer, book author and is currently on faculty at Portland State University as a Jazz Saxophone Instructor.John is one of those special people who is an accomplished jazz musician, iOS developer and author. He tells a fascinating story about how he got started as a jazz musician and the people who mentored him. Along the way, he also fondly adopted the Mac, and that stood him well when it came time to develop some very popular, technical music apps that had never existed before. As an instructor, John teaches his students the principles behind music improvisation. His first book, The Mechanism lays out those core concepts. John is a gifted speaker and educator, so don't miss this show.
Mar. 9th, 2020
Founding Director, End Climate Silence Dr. Genevieve Guenther — TMO BGM Interview
Dr. Genevieve Guenther is a scholar and author. She is affiliate faculty at the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School in New York and the founder and director of End Climate Silence, an activist organization helping the news media cover the climate crisis.How should climate scientists use effective language skills and storytelling to convey scientific research? How can they speak effectively to both fellow scientists and the lay public? How can they avoid what's called semantic ambiguity so that their choice of words isn't twisted by deniers? How can the media learn to couch severe climate change events in proper science context while not appearing unduly biased? Dr. Genevieve Guenther chats with me on all this and more in a most engaging and informative discusion.
Mar. 2nd, 2020
PCMag Lead Mobile Analyst Sascha Segan – TMO Background Mode Interview
Sascha Segan is PCMag.com's Lead Mobile Analyst. He has reviewed more than 1,100 smartphones, tablets and other gadgets in more than 15 years with PCMag. Sascha is also a multiple award-winning travel writer.We chatted about how he got started in computing, and it was a familiar story. "...published the high school newspaper, literary magazine and foreign language magazine on an SE/30." Along the way, Sascha discovered that he loved helping people and showing them how tech works. We talked about the future of foldable smartphones, how the butterfly MBP keyboard drove him to Windows, a (presumed) Apple iPhone/iPad event on March 31, and what's in store for the 5G iPhone 12. Sascha understands 5G and phones deeply, and so this was a very informative show.