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.

Play Latest Episode

Gregory Zuckerman on Background Mode

Wall Street Journal Special Writer Gregory Zuckerman

Dec. 3rd, 2019 - 6:36 PM | 00:32:22

Gregory Zuckerman is a Special Writer at The Wall Street Journal, a 23-year veteran of the paper and a three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb award—the highest honor in business journalism. At the Journal, Greg writes about big financial firms, personalities and trades, as well...

Podcast Archives

  1. Jul. 22nd, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    Theoretical Physicist Dr. Jim Gates – TMO Background Mode Interview

    Dr. Jim Gates is a theoretical physicist and currently the Brown Theoretical Physics Center Director, Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, Affiliate Mathematics Professor, and a Watson Institute for International Studies & Public Affairs Faculty Fellow at Brown University. He is known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. We opened the show with a discussion of Jim's early career, a B.S. with a dual major in mathematics and physics at MIT and, later, his Ph.D. in physics, also from MIT. In the heart of the podcast, Jim explained Superstring theory—its successes, failures and issues with dark energy. He also explained supersymmetry and supergravity for us. We finished with what's considered the hottest topic in theoretical astrophysics. Jim is an extraordinary teacher and science communicator, so tune in and get your science hat on!

  2. Jul. 15th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    Science Fiction Author Darren Beyer (#2) – TMO Background Mode Interview

    Darren Beyer is a former NASA Space Shuttle engineer at Kennedy Space Center who worked on launching and recovering more than a dozen missions. He also conducted astronaut training and had the honor of working onboard every Space Shuttle orbiter except Challenger. In late 1998, he left NASA to become an author. The result was the Anghazi series of novels, Casimir Bridge, released in 2016 to rave reviews thanks largely to his commitment to putting the science back in science fiction. The second installment, Pathogen Protocol was released in October, 2018. In this second show with Darren, we continue our previous discussion: Back to the Moon first or off to Mars first? With robot companions? Industrializing the Moon. Plus: Darren's approach to the third novel in the Anghazi series and an explanation of how his characters achieve interstellar travel.

  3. Jul. 8th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    Director, Vatican Observatory Br. Guy Consolmagno – TMO Background Mode Interview

    Br. Guy Consolmagno earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Planetary Science from MIT and his Ph.D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona. He's been at the Vatican Observatory since 1993 and is currently the director there where his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies. Br. Guy has co-authored two astronomy books as well as popular books such as Would you Baptize and Extraterrestrial?" He is a Jesuit Brother. We chatted about Br. Guy's post-graduate work, how he came to be at the Vatican Observatory—and then become the director. He explained why the Vatican has an observatory and how the Catholic Church is not anti-science. Actually he is just part of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that advises the Pope. And there was much, much more.

  4. Jul. 1st, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    Founder, Bombich Software, Mike Bombich (#2) – TMO Background Mode Interview

    Mike Bombich is the founder and president of Bombich Software, the developer of Carbon Copy Cloner. That’s a backup app for the Mac that has saved the day for many users. He's a former Apple employee. In this timely post-WWDC show, Mike joins me to explain the structure of APFS drives and the new read-only System files in macOS Catalina. He explained new features of volumes in macOS 10.15, especially how the System is isolated from the Data volume (which contains /Users). He also explained the new firmlinks that tie these two volumes together, making them appear as one. Finally, Mike explained how Carbon Copy Cloner external drives can no longer be HFS+ in Catalina but must become APFS.

  5. Jun. 24th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    TMO Contributor John Kheit (#3) – TMO Background Mode Interview

    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. In this special post-WWDC show, we chatted about author Kheit's view of the new Mac Pro. He believes that while the 2019 Mac Pro will meet the needs of most technical and creative professionals, Apple also betrayed an important group of influencers, the Mac enthusiasts by not offering a lower cost model. We discussed various ways Apple could have achieved that goal, and that might suggest a future variation of the current model. John K. has strong feelings about this Mac and wasn't shy about expressing them.

  6. Jun. 17th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    Former Apple Senior Director Michael Gartenberg (#6) – Background Mode Interview

    Michael Gartenberg spent three years as Apple’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to Senior VP Phil Schiller. In his sixth encore appearance on Background Mode, Michael and I analyze Apple’s 2019 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). We started with a discussion of the new 2019 Mac Pro and the Pro Display XDR. We also pondered why Apple SVP of Product Marketing, Phil Schiller, was noticeably absent from the stage. As an aside, Michael tells a hilarious story about SVP Schiller that happened back at WWDC 2013. Then we turned to Apple's Catalyst system and some of the nuances of building and running iOS apps on a Mac. We also touched on iPad OS. Michael is well versed in Apple marketing strategies and is always a delight to have on the show.

  7. Jun. 10th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    Professor of Astrophysics Dr. Jo Dunkley – Background Mode Interview

    Dr. Jo Dunkley is a professor of Physics and Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University. Her research is in cosmology, studying the origins and evolution of the universe. She holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from University of Oxford. Jo had an interesting path to her Ph.D. Her earliest love was mathematics, and soon she realized she could use math to answer questions about the real world. That led to a love for physics (at Cambridge) and getting her Master's. While there, she discovered relativity and astrophysics, but another event inspired her to go for a Ph.D. In the second segment, we chatted about her true love, using computer code on supercomputers to model the universe and analyzing the Cosmic Microwave Background (the detectable aftermath of the Big Bang). Also discussed: inflation theory, dark matter and theories of the Multiverse.

  8. 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.

  9. May. 28th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  10. May. 20th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  11. May. 13th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  12. May. 6th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  13. Apr. 29th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  14. 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.

  15. Apr. 15th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  16. Apr. 8th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  17. Apr. 1st, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  18. Mar. 26th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  19. Mar. 18th, 2019
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  20. 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.