Background Mode Podcast Logo

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.
Get In Touch:

Ice Age Ecologist Dr. Jacquelyn Gill - BGM Interview

Dr. Jacquelyn Gill is an Associate Professor of Paleoecology and Plant Ecology, School of Biology, Ecology and Climate Change Institute, the University of Maine. Her research interests include: Paleoecology, community ecology, vegetation dynamics, extinction, climate change and biotic interactions. She received her Ph.D. in Paleoecology from the Univ. of Wisconsin.

An outdoor life, science fiction, cave exploration and a professor who taught her how to ask questions about what she saw in the natural environment laid the foundation for Jacquelyn’s interest in Nature and Ecology. She tells a remarkable, instructive story about how she got admitted to her Ph.D. program. Then we chatted about just what Paleoecology and Biogeography are as well as the effects of animal extinction, recovering extinct animals from DNA, ecological models, and recovery from bad ecological trends. Jacquelyn is spellbinding in her description of her work.

TMO Contributor Kelly Guimont (#13) - 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 13th appearance, Kelly and I chat about our favorite movies and TV shows of late. I open segment #1 with a rave review of the series Warrior Nun (Netflix). Kelly has seen all 10 episodes too, and also gives it a thumbs up. John then reviews the documentary series Still Standing. (Amazon). Kelly tells us, with enthusiasm, about Bill and Ted Face the Music (iTunes) and Lovecraft Country (HBO). In turn, John delves into a critical review of Upload (Netflix). And there’s bonus material. Join us as we explore together what’s great (and not so great) about these shows.

TMO UK Associate Editor Charlotte Henry (#7) - 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. She is also a book author.

In this episode, Charlotte and I explore several streaming TV topics. We open with how Apple has built a coherent ecosystem that pleasantly entices customers to engage and stick with Apple TV+. Namely, strong content, theatrical releases such as Greyhound, services bundling, contingency bundling and quality content for kids. In part II, we explored research data from Reelgood that reveals how customers mix their streaming TV services. Reelgood published a fascinating, informative chart that we analyze. One upshot is that the newbies face an uphill battle. Charlotte knows her stuff, and it shows in this episode.

Astronomy Professor Dr. Emily Levesque - BGM Interview

Dr. Emily Levesque is a professor in the University of Washington’s astronomy department. Her research program is focused on improving our overall understanding of how massive stars evolve and die. She received her bachelors in physics from MIT and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Hawaii.

Emily knew she wanted to be an astronomer from the moment she saw Halley’s comet in the night sky as a child. As an undergraduate at MIT, she was already developing a technical interest in massive stars, the focus of her career. And so we explored massive stars in some detail: formation, evolution and the final fate for many: supernova. Is Betelgeuse, in our own stellar backyard, about to go supernova? Emily weighs in. We finished with a discussion of her new book The Last Stargazers.. It shares the tales and experiences of astronomical observing. And, finally, spiders and lasers.

Tidbits Managing Editor Josh Centers (#7) - BGM Interview

Josh Centers is the managing editor of TidBITS, as well as the author of many Take Control Books: Notes, Home Automation, Apple TV, co-author of Take Control of Preview. He also published Take Control of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13. And he’s recently joined The Prepared as an editor.

In his seventh appearance on the show, Josh explored the new faetures of iOS 14 and what he likes most—as he prepares for his forthcoming Take Control book. The App Libraries feature was at the top of his list. In segment two, Josh and I discussed a major, impressive research article he recently wrote about the often contentious relationship between developers and Apple and its handling of the App Store. We finished with thoughts on a next gen Apple TV 4K.

Physics Professor Dr. Brad Marston - BGM Interview

Dr. Brad Marston is a professor of physics at Brown University and Associate Director of the Brown Theoretical Physics Center. A graduate of Caltech, he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and did postdoctoral work at Cornell University. Brad is an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and is also an Apple developer.

Brad and I chatted about his computational and theoretical physics career. At Caltech, he attended physics classes taught by two of his heroes, the legendary physicists Dr. Richard Feynman and Dr. Kip Thorne. There, he developed his interest in quantum physics and computational models. Later, when he left Sun workstations behind, he adopted the UNIX-based Mac and Xcode as his tools of choice. That’s what he used to build his visual climate model, GCM, already compiled for Apple Silicon. Tune in and geek out with me and this amazing physicist and Mac guru.

H.S. Principal Dr. Amy Fast - BGM Interview

Amy Fast is a high school principal in the McMinnville School District in Oregon. She holds a Ed.D. degree. Previously, she’s been an elementary teacher, instructional coach, and assistant principal. She is also an education commentator and author of the book, It’s the Mission, Not the Mandates.

After a brief overview of Amy’s career and a discussion of her book, we dug into the issues facing educators amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We covered planning for remote vs. in-person classes, the technology of remote classes, teacher concerns about in-person class safety, funding for cleaning, effectiveness of remote teaching, mental health issues, and long-term changes to education in the post-pandemic era. Parents with schoolchildren and educators will find this interview enormously helpful.

IT Security Manager, NIST, Bob Gendler - BGM Interview

Bob Gendler is an IT Specialist in the Apple world and a Jamf guru. He holds a B.S. degree in Information Technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is now part of the Mac Management team at NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in Washington, D.C.

From a very early age, Bob fell into the world of Apple starting with an Apple IIgs and, as a teenager, a Power Mac 6100. Quickly, as an undergraduate, his specialty became system administration, and, later, that served him well landing the job at NIST. Bob filled me in on his latest project, the “macOS Security Compliance Project,” and the security problem the community faced with macOS. Basically, the new GitHub project leverages a library of scriptable actions which are mapped to compliance requirements in existing security guides or used to develop customized guidance. Bob nicely explains this crucial tool, his team, and who would benefit.

TMO Contributor Kelly Guimont (#12) - 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 12th appearance, Kelly and I chat about our favorite movies and TV shows of late. I open segment #1 with an extended review of the Tom Hanks movie Greyhound (Apple TV+). Next we turn to a Kelly favorite Black Monday (Showtime). I then talk about two favorite murder mystery TV shows Death in Paradise S9 (Amazon) and The Mentalist (Amazon). Kelly tells us about Romancing the Stone (DVD) and Billions (Showtime). Join us as we explore together what’s great about these shows.

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.