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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Brittany Smith on Background Mode.

Productivity Coach Brittany Smith

Oct. 14th, 2019 - 6:46 PM | 00:34:17

Brittany Smith is a productivity coach who provides a variety of consulting services through her business, Devise and Conquer, that includes ADD/ADHD coaching, technology coaching, productivity consulting, and more. She is a self-designated “well-rounded geek.” She holds an M.S. degree in Cognitive Neuroscience. In our...

Podcast Archives

  1. Jun. 4th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    Professor of Space Resources Dr. George Sowers – Background Mode Interview

    Dr. George Sowers holds an undergraduate degree in physics from Georgia Tech and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado in Quantum Field theory. He has worked for Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) where he was the chief scientist and vice president. Currently, he's a professor of Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines.We chatted about George's evolving career, from geologic engineering to physics to rocket launches with Lockheed Martin to General Relativity (GR) and Quantum Mechanics (QM), life at the ULA and finally to lunar mining. We pondered the philosophical differences between GR and QM, and then we turned to the benefits of mining water ice at the poles of our own Moon. We finished with some great advice for young engineering and physics students.

  2. May. 28th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview #2 with TMO Contributor John Kheit

    John Kheit is a New York attorney and a regular Contributor to The Mac Observer. We share many common interests, including the 4K/UHD/HDR TV revolution, 8K TV and displays, Wi-Fi/5G technologies, and the state of Apple.We chatted about the legacy magic touch of Apple exemplified by the launch of the iPhone in 2007. Has Apple lost the ability to surprise us with solutions to problems we didn't know we had? Along the way, the touchy subject of Apple's Butterfly keyboard came up. In the second segment, we discussed 8K TV, mostly with regard to 8K as a computer display, but also from the perspective of the near future of 8K television and what the HDMI 2.1 standard might bring us. J.K. has some strong opinions, so brace yourself.

  3. May. 20th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with iCEO of the Electronic Transactions Association Amy Zirkle

    Amy Zirkle is the interim CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA). Prior to joining ETA, she spent 17 years working as a Senior Economist focusing on technology matters including mobile payments in the developing world. She holds an S.M. degree from M.I.T. where she served as a Research Associate at the M.I.T. Media Lab as well as the M.I.T. Research Program on Communications Policy.Amy and I talked about her work at the M.I.T. Media Lab, the early days of electronic payments and their exploding growth today. We also chatted about the new tap & go cards, their security, and how they work. I asked about the CurrentC disaster as well as restaurants and gas stations and how they seem to lag behind modern payment methods. We finished with a discussion of the future of electronic payments.

  4. May. 13th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Historian Dr. Matthew Stanley

    Dr. Matt Stanley is a teacher and researcher in the history and philosophy of science. He holds degrees in astronomy, religion, physics, and the history of science and is interested in the connections between science and the wider culture. His Ph.D. is from Harvard in the history of science, and he is currently a professor at New York University.We chatted about how Matt came to be immersed in physics as well as the history of science and religion. He found that a proper modern perpective depends on an understanding of how science evolved throughout history. We also briefly touched on how science and religion don't really contradict each other. Matt told me about a very interesting class he teaches, his podcast "What the If," and his new book EINSTEIN’S WAR: How Relativity Conquered the World.

  5. May. 6th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Special Edition Chat #6 with Kelly Guimont

    Kelly Guimont is a long-time podcaster, Contributing Editor for The Mac Observer, the host of the Mac Observer's Daily Observations podcast, a tech support guru, and a Founding Volunteer of App Camp for Girls.Kelly first appeared here in December, 2015 to tell her career story and has returned several times for interesting technical discussions. In this encore special edition, we chat about our favorite TV shows of late. John: Stargate SG-1 (Amazon), Endeavour (Amazon), Electric Dreams (Amazon). Kelly: Daredevil & The Punisher (Netflix), The Goldbergs (ABC), and Westworld (HBO). Join us as we explore together why we like these shows and how, in some cases, our feelings have changed upon repeat viewing.

  6. Apr. 29th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Cosmologist Dr. Andrew Friedman

    Dr. Andrew Friedman is an astronomer, cosmologist, and data scientist. He's currently an NSF funded Assistant Research Scientist at the University of California at San Diego Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences. He is also a Research Affiliate in the MIT Program in Science, Technology and Society. He holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Harvard.We chatted about how science fiction inspired him as a youth to become a cosmologist. Also, how important it is to have a Ph.D. thesis advisor who's enthusiastically supportive. Then, we got into some cool topics of cosmology: using Type Ia supernovae to measure the rate of expansion of the universe, why infrared observations of those stars are helpful, whether quantum entanglement suggests a substrate on which spacetime resides, the multiverse, and the implications of the Planck length and Higgs field for our very existence.

  7. Apr. 22nd, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    TMO Background Mode Interview with Author and Artist Michael Benson

    Michael Benson works at the intersection of art and science as both a writer and artist. His new book, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece examines the four year long production of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Michael saw the movie 2001 at age six, and it had a profound influence on his career, especially in his art and science/photography books. We chatted about his book: how Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick met, Kubrick's view of the best scifi movies of the time, the development of the 2001 script, the depiction of artificial gravity in the legendary centrifuge apparatus, the depiction of aliens, the visual contributions of Douglas Trumbull, and the enduring influence this movie has had on our technology and psyche.

  8. Apr. 15th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Technical Journalist Lance Ulanoff

    Lance is a technology journalist, on-air expert, consultant, and influencer. He's been a senior editor at Online Windows Magazine, editor-in-chief of PC Magazine, and Chief Correspondent and Editor-in-chief at Mashable.Currently, Lance is a Freelance Journalist and contributor to Medium. He's appeared on Live with Kelly and Ryan, The Today Show and Good Morning America.We chatted about his early interest in journalism, but it didn't have a technical focus when he got his B.A. Lance describes how he got interested in tech journalism and his path towards becoming the editor-in-chief of PC Magazine for 11 years (2000-2011). Then we turned our attention to the Mac, Apple News+, AirPods, AirPower, and Apple TV+. Lance made a strong argument for how Apple should approach Apple TV+ content.

  9. Apr. 8th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Takeoff Technologies President Max Pedró

    Max Pedró is an eCommerce and financial services entrepreneur. Today, Max is the Co-Founder and President of Takeoff Technologies Inc.Takeoff Technologies aims at transforming on-line grocery retailing by developing a marketplace of efficient automated robotic fulfillment centers to solve the cost and immediacy issues of grocery shopping.I asked Max all the tough questions about having a robot pick groceries off the shelves and prepare for pickup or delivery. What about customer preferences for just the right piece of fruit or cut of meat? What about perishables? What about the security of the iOS app? Will they sell customer data? Can we use Apple Pay? And finally, how does the grocery chain obtain an ROI? Max has the answers in this fascinating interview.

  10. Apr. 1st, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview #2 with Producer Rod Roddenberry

    Rod Roddenberry is a media producer. The son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, he's following in his father's footsteps. Today, Rod is carrying on his father's work as a producer, the chief executive of Roddenberry Entertainment and the founder of the Roddenberry Foundation.We chatted about how Star Trek: The Next Generation was his first-love version of the show, the Star Trek philosophy, the show's split between CBS (TV) and Paramount (movies), what a producer actually does behind the scenes, extraterrestrial intelligence first contact protocols, the future of Star Trek with Sir Patrick Stewart, his previous work in preserving the oceans, and his foundation's mission. We also chatted about Rod's reaction to Apple's March 25 event and his current feelings about Apple.

  11. Mar. 26th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Astronomer Dr. Clay Sherrod

    Dr. Clay Sherrod's astronomical studies began, soon after his Ph.D. work, in 1970 with the Arkansas Sky, Inc., his private non-profit and educational research and educational program. Although now retired, the work, publications and outreach from him via the Arkansas Sky Observatory ranks among the top in private non-profit facilities.We chatted about how he got interested in astronomy at age 8. His grandfather, an educator who owned a country farm, was instrumental in introducing Clay to the night sky. In his Ph.D. work at Cornell, Clay studied under the legendary Dr. Carl Sagan, and he remembered Sagan fondly. We chatted about Clay's career in privately funded astronomy, his work philosophy, the integration of science and religion, and how his talents in music and art enhance his scientific thinking. Clay is a fascinating speaker.

  12. Mar. 18th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview #4 with Tidbits Managing Editor Josh Centers

    Josh Centers is the Managing Editor of Tidbits.com and has published several Take Control (TC) books. He's the author of Take Control of Apple TV and Take Control of Home Automation. He's been writing the Take Control books for iOS since version 8, and his latest book is Take Control of iOS 12.Josh is a great guest and very knowledgeable about Apple, so I invited him to return to Background Mode for the fourth time. In this show, we first discussed the technology and viability of foldable smartphones. Will Apple develop a foldable iPhone or iPad? Or not at all? In the second segment we took a close look at Apple's new original TV content and service. We pondered pricing, if not free, and how the March 25 "It's show time" event might play out.

  13. Mar. 11th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    TMO Background Mode Special Edition Chat #5 with Kelly Guimont

    Kelly Guimont is a long-time pro podcaster, Contributing Editor for The Mac Observer, host of the Mac Observer's Daily Observations podcast, a tech support guru, and a Founding Volunteer of App Camp for Girls.Kelly first appeared here in December, 2015 to tell her career story and has returned several times for interesting technical discussions. In this encore special edition, we chat about our favorite TV shows of late. John: Star Trek: Discovery, Saving Hope, and Being Erica. Kelly: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Doc Martin, and Wynonna Earp. Join us as we explore together what makes these shows so cool.

  14. Mar. 4th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with TMO Podcaster and Journalist John Braun

    John Braun is a software engineer, multiple patent holder, a Mac Observer Contributor and co-host of the Mac Observer's podcast Mac Geek Gab (MGG). That podcast launched in 2005, and John has co-hosted 750 episodes to date.We chatted about John's early interest in computers and science, influenced in part by his father, an engineering manager. John started off partial to chemistry, but later specialized in computers. He holds aa B.S. in Computer Engineering and an M.S. in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.John told me about early work with computer bulletin boards, his career at Pitney Bowes, how he got to know Dave Hamilton and then joined the Mac Observer, how he prepares for the weekly podcast, and all about his two current Macs and why he loves them.

  15. Feb. 26th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Houston Chronicle Technology Editor Dwight Silverman

    Dwight Silverman is the technology editor for the Houston Chronicle. He manages the TechBurger website, and writes about personal technology for HoustonChronicle.com, Chron.com and the print edition.Previously, he was the senior web producer for premium products, managing HoustonChronicle.com, the Chronicle's iPad app and E-edition. He also worked as the social media manager and technology blogger for the Houston Chronicle and Chron.com.We chatted about becoming a technology journalist in the early days, his work at various newspapers, dealing with unusual writing assignments, how he fell into the Apple/Mac sphere, writing books about the Mac, and his evolution at the Houston Chronicle. We closed with a discussion of te streaming video business and how Apple will break into the business now dominated by Netflix and Amazon.

  16. Feb. 18th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    TMO Background Mode Encore #6 Interview with Science Communicator Dr. Kiki Sanford

    Dr. Kiki Sanford makes her sixth 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 of This Week in Science (TWIS) podcast and radio show.In this episode, we chat about the science of rising sea levels, neural networks and vocoder technology trained to recognize brain patterns related to listening to human speech, how learning two human languages in childhood positively affects the brain, rebooting the human immune system, whether intelligence is sexy, and the colonization of Mars and whether it will be commercially exploited or preserved by all nations like the Earth's Antarctic. Dr. Kiki is always a delight to listen to and learn from.

  17. Feb. 11th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Princeton Theoretical Physicist Dr. Paul Steinhardt

    Paul Steinhardt is the Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton University, where he is on the faculty of both the departments of Physics and of Astrophysical Sciences. He co-founded the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science and is currently the Director of that prestigious research institution.He has a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard, and his research interests include cosmology, inflation theory, dark matter and specialized solids, including QuasiCrystals.We chatted about the early influences of his father and, later, Dr. Richard Feynman when he was an undergraduate at Caltech. Then we chatted about cosmic inflation, the Multiverse, Dark Matter, and finally QuasiCrystals, the subject of his latest book. Dr. Steinhardt is a preeminent physicist working at the limits of human knowledge. Come listen and enjoy.

  18. Feb. 4th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Writer & Skeptic Dr. Michael Shermer

    Michael is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic Magazine, a former monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101.He is also a noted science writer and the author of New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, and The Science of Good and Evil. His newest book is: Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia. We chatted about Michael's early religious views, interest in psychology, his doctoral work, and his path to becoming a professional skeptic. He explained the logical traps people fall into (motivated reasoning) as we turned to climate change, human fantasies about ghosts and psychics, the founding of Skeptic Magazine and the influence of Dr. Carl Sagan. Really good stuff here.

  19. Jan. 28th, 2019
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Veteran Technology Reporter John Markoff

    John is a former New York Times reporter reporting nationally on science and computing. He's been an adjunct faculty member of the Stanford Graduate Program on Journalism. In 2013 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.John has published several books on the computer industry. Currently he's a Research Affiliate at the Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences researching a biography of Stewart Brand, the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog.We talked about his early days of computing at InfoWorld and Byte, as well as the Kevin Mitnick affair. We also talked about the current breed of young journalists and the importance of community newspapers. We delved into a mutually favorite topic: the problem with personal robots: cost vs. capability vs. expectations.Don't miss this wide-ranging discussion with John.

  20. Jan. 21st, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    TMO Background Mode Interview with the CIO of CoSN Susan Bearden

    Susan is the Chief Innovation Officer for the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) in Washington D.C. From 2016 to 2017 she was a Senior Education Pioneers Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education. She also participates in the EdTechChat Radio podcast for the BAM Radio Network.After a discussion about Susan's fascinating career progression from musician to IT specialist to Education Technology specialist, we launched into a discussion of "digital citizenship," also the title of her book. It basically encompasses how to be a smart, informed, ethical user of the internet. The book is aimed a both teachers and parents. Things like cyberbullying and internet safety are covered. Later we got into a discussion of tools for education, including AI. We finish with Susan's amazing perspective on whether robots will ever replace teachers in the classroom.