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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TMO Background Mode Interview with Car & Driver Magazine Editor-in-Chief Eddie Alterman
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...
Sep. 5th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Car & Driver Magazine Editor-in-Chief Eddie Alterman
Eddie Alterman is the Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver magazine. He fell in love with cars even earlier than most of us. His father was a car salesman in Detroit in the 1970s when cars weren't great, but it was still exciting. His dad would leave copies of Car and Driver magazine open on the dining room table for Eddie. It worked. Eddie imagined that all the editors who got to test cars were "living the best possible life." So Eddie designed his whole life around writing for a car magazine. It worked again. In the second segment we chatted about the romance of driving and also spent a lot of time discussing the technology and sociology of autonomous cars. Eddie had some great observations, based on his considerable experience, that will keep you pondering for months.
Aug. 28th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Encore #2: Former Apple Senior Director Michael Gartenberg
Michael Gartenberg spent three years as Apple's Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to Senior VP Phil Schiller. For his third appearance on Background Mode, we made a list of seven discussion items we both thought would be interesting. We got through two, but chatted about them in detail. The first was all about what's to be gained by Apple allocating about a billion dollars to create original TV content. In the second segment, we talked about Apple's struggles in the education market. Michael made some very interesting and very pointed observations. Don't miss this one!
Aug. 21st, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Bloomberg Consumer Tech Reporter Mark Gurman
Mark Gurman is the Consumer Technology Reporter for Bloomberg. As Mark recalls, there was never a time in his youth when he wasn't interested in technology. He told me that it was the iPod mini for his 10th birthday that wowed him. His love for the company that created the iPod made it feel very natural to get into reporting on Apple. In the second segment, we chatted about his seminal article in December 2016 on the state of the Mac, thoughts on the next Mac Pro, competition from Microsoft in the form of the Surface Laptop, how the Apple watch Series 3 may have LTE, how devious Apple has become in hiding its pre-release trademarks, prospects for an Apple robot and Apple's HomePod. Mark provided, as always, fascinating and insightful comments about Apple.
Aug. 14th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Colorado Charter School Academic Director Johanna Harth
Johana Harth is the Academic Director of a Colorado charter school. Over the last 12 years, she's gained enormous experience in how to match the curriculum needs of K-8 grade students with modern computer technology. Thanks to the technical influence of her father, and being very good at math, as a youth her plan was to become an engineer. She graduated from U.C. San Diego with a degree in industrial engineering. All was according to plan until some significant, serendipitous events changed her life. Just how she became the Academic Director of a charter school, and then became involved in computer technology is an amazing story. Johanna explained the school's migration from Macs to Chromebooks, when the students start with computers, how they use them and what they're taught about computers. It's a very, ahem, educational story.
Aug. 7th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Joy of Tech Co-founder Nitrozac
Nitrozac (Liza Schmalcel) is an accomplished artist and cartoonist. Along with her partner, Snaggy, she founded Geek Culture in 1997, and it continues to thrive. She's also the co-founder of the Joy of Tech webcomic. Nitrozac told me about growing up in northern Manitoba, Canada. She knew at a very early age that she wanted to become an artist, and she's been drawing non-stop ever since. After high school, she attended the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. Nitrozac suffered for a bit with not very capable computers before she went on to photography and communication design. Eventually, she met Snaggy the team has been at the center of our geek culture for two decades. And now, she's graciously provided a new self-portrait for us. It's the Nitrozac mystique!
Jul. 31st, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Hyperledger Project’s Executive Director Brian Behlendorf
Brian Behlendorf is the Executive Director of the Hyperledger Project at the Linux Foundation. He's also the co-author of the Apache Web server, now under the Apache Software Foundation. Plus, he holds a seat on the board of the Mozilla Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Brian has been one of the leading proponents of the open source software movement. Brian's parents met at IBM, and so computers became a natural part of his early life: the TRS-80 (he learned BASIC and gaming), Mac IIc's at school, and later IBM PC Jr. He studied physics at Berkeley, but in so doing fell in love with the internet. In 1991, he started thinking about a better Web server than the original from NCSA, and Apache was born. We chat about Brian's distinguished career and current work.
Jul. 24th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Author, Photographer and Pilot Maria Langer
Maria Langer is legendary for the 85 books she's written about computers from 1991 to 2012. That was merely the middle part of her career. Maria started her career with a bachelor's degree in accounting from Hofstra University. After a few stints as a financial analyst and auditor, she decided to dump the 9-to-5 grind and delved into writing computer books. Basically, if you wanted to learn anything about computers in those days, you read her stuff. Around 2011, that came to an end, and so, inspired by a childhood ride, she started helicopter pilot lessons. Today, she owns her own helicopter and tour business, working out of both Arizona and Washington. Maria and I are both aviation enthusiasts, geeked out about aircraft in our chat, and Maria tells some interesting stories about flying choppers.
Jul. 17th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with the CTO of It’s Borrowed Joe Moreno
Joe Moreno is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former U.S. Marine officer, a former Apple software engineer for nine years, and is now the Chief Technical Officer of ItsBorrowed.com. In high school, influenced by his father, Joe decided to join the Marines. He was also very much into computers and became a Marine programmer, working on production systems. Later, after the academy, he became a supply & logistics officer, and his skills caught the attention of Apple in 1998. He was virtually hired on the spot at a career fair for military officers. We spent some time chatting about Apple's recent history and his work with databases, WebObjects, Unix and Apple's online store. Listen in to hear us chat about iPhone ordering tricks from the Apple store during the annual September chaos.
Jul. 10th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Professor of Computer Science Dr. John Gustafson
Dr. John Gustafson is a professor of computer science, now at The National University of Singapore. He holds a Ph.D. in Applied mathematics from Iowa State University and also specializes in high performance (supercomputer) computing. (HPC). He's worked at Sun Labs, Clearspeed Technology, Massively Parallel Technology, Intel, and AMD. At an early age, he was fascinated by chemistry and also had a good sized electronics lab in his basement (thanks to indulgent parents). But by the time he started his undergraduate degree at Cal Tech, he'd settled on applied mathematics with physics as a second major. It was at Cal Tech where he met and was influenced by the Nobel Prize winning physicist, Dr. Richard Feynman. John, describes his career arc, and at the end has some great advice for young scientists just getting started.
Jun. 26th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with TekRevue Founder Jim Tanous
Jim Tanous is the founder of the TekRevue website. That's where you'll find a wealth of technical articles and reviews for Apple, PC and Linux products. He's also a regular contributor and editor here at The Mac Observer. Jim was always interested in computer technology, even from age seven. There was no computer at home when he was growing up, but his elementary school had Apple IIs, and he learned the BASIC language. However, Jim's father was an attorney, and Jim thought, all the way into his second year of law school, that he would become an attorney also. Then one day, he realized that he wasn't enjoying himself. That, in turn led, by his account, to becoming an Apple Genius. Tune in to find out how he made that grand leap.[Background Mode will return on July 10.]
Jun. 19th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Other World Computing Founder Larry O’Connor
Larry O'Connor is the founder and CEO of Other World Computing. Also known as MacSales, it's one of the most respected suppliers of Apple product upgrades and accessories. OWC started when Larry was in high school. Frustrated with the high prices of Apple II memory expansion, he found his own source and started selling on-line. His small company just kept growing. As growth continued, Larry resisted controlling partners or buyouts and stayed true to his vision: create a profitable, fun place to work for his employees, and take great care of his customers. I asked Larry about the challenges of managing a modern company with hundreds of employees. We also chatted about his concern that Apple has steered away from easily upgradable Macs. If you've thought about starting your own company, this episode is a must.
Jun. 12th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with iOS & Android Indie Developer Graham Dawson
Graham Dawson is an iOS and Android indie developer who specializes in meteorological and astronomical reference apps. He's the founder and director of Ajnaware Pty, Ltd in Australia and publishes apps under the name ozPDA. Graham holds a B.Sc. in physics and meteorology, and a Ph.D. in oceanography. Graham told me about his early interest in weather thanks to extreme conditions, especially snow. That's because, in his youth, he was skiing in Switzerland. Soon he had a weather observation station in his backyard, and he could think of nothing else as he entered his undergraduate years. Today, he publishes a wide range of apps related to the sun, moon, wind, weather and time. Some feature augmented reality. Thanks to his academic background, these apps have rock solid computational credentials. Graham told me how it all came to be.
Jun. 5th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Author and Linux Journal Sr. Editor Doc Searls
David "Doc" Searls is a book author, consultant, and Senior Editor at The Linux Journal. Doc was inspired by a high school teacher who thought he could write well and encouraged him. Doc, who was already thinking about journalism, started his career as a reporter and photographer at a small newspaper. Early on, he also worked at a university radio station where, he earned the name "Doc." That in turn, led to the founding of a successful ad agency. Today, Doc is an Alumnus fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and a Fellow at the Center for Information Technology & Society at UC Santa Barbara. He continues his work as a book author focusing on consumers and markets. Doc's career is rich and distinguished, and he shared some great stories with me.
May. 30th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Encore Interview with Science Communicator Dr. Kiki Sanford
Dr. Kiki Sanford is a neurophysiologist with a Ph.D from U.C. Davis. She's a popular science communicator and creator of This Week in Science podcast and radio show. This is her second appearance on Background Mode. For those who missed her first show, Kiki explained her upbringing and early interests in ecology, conservation and animals. Her Ph.D. work was on how finches store memories and navigate. In this encore appearance, Kiki and I get geeky with science: an in-depth discussion of epigenetics, the ecology of our kitchens, brain size (and language) in animals, probiotics, how wine protects the human brain, and her favorite subject: world domination by robots. We finished with a discussion about how you can support science research. After spending 40 minutes with Kiki, you'll want to be a scientist too!
May. 22nd, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Computer Historian and Author David Greelish
David Greelish is an author, podcaster and personal computer historian. Back when he was in college in the mid-1980s, he got a job in one of the early computer stores that was also an Apple dealer. They sold all kinds of PCs, but David fell in love with the Mac. While he couldn't afford one, his quest continued until he was able to acquire a used Lisa (that ran Mac software). Like many of us, he fell in love with the early computer movement, and that started his obsession with computer history. He's the founder of the Historical Computer Society, the Atlanta Historical Computing Society, and was Cofounder/Director of the first Vintage Computer Festival S.E. His interviews with industry luminaries are legendary. Take a walk down computer memory lane with me and David.
May. 15th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Astrophysicist Dr. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann
Dr. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann is an Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University. Her research specialty is black holes and gravitational waves. For as long as she can remember, she wanted to be an astrophysicist. In our interview she tells the story about, as a teenager, lying in a field under dark Montana skies and gazing at the Milky Way (the edge of our galaxy). She wondered about all those stars and planets and whether there were other civilizations out there looking up at their own starry skies. It was transformative. Today, she uses a Mac and supercomputers to study how black holes generate ripples in the fabric of spacetime and deepen our astronomical understanding and perspective. Kelly, her students and associates are also devoted Mac users, and she tells me why.
May. 8th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Writer and Editor Jennifer Ouellette
Jennifer Ouellette is a freelance science writer, editor and book author. Her work has appeared in Physics World, Discover, New Scientist, Physics Today, Salon and Nature. In 2010, she published the book "The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse." With a degree in English literature, Jennifer didn't start out intending to be a science writer. But thanks to serendipity, she landed her first job with the American Physical Society who discovered she could write really well. The thinking was that it would be easier to teach her physics than teach physicists how to write! It opened her eyes to the field. So how does one become a famous science writer? Jennifer tells a great story.
May. 1st, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with The Mac Observer Co-founder Dave Hamilton
Dave Hamilton is the co-founder, publisher and president of The Mac Observer. He's also the co-founder of BackBeat Media. And he's the co-host of the legendary Mac Geek Gab Podcast. Dave's interest in computers goes back to his high school days and his family's Apple IIc. As Dave describes it, his talent evolved from "getting into a pickle," so he had to learn himself how to fix things. At the University of Connecticut, he studied computer engineering, but also discovered his talent and passion for music. "Everything good that's happened in my life, I can trace back to music," he said. And that includes The Mac Observer because that's how he met Bryan Chaffin. Dave The Nerd tells the fascinating story of the creation of this publication with his customary boundless energy.
Apr. 24th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with The Verge Senior Editor Lauren Goode
Lauren Goode is both a Senior Editor at The Verge and the co-host of the podcast Too Embarrassed to Ask. Lauren didn't start out as a technical person. In high school, she was into competitive basketball and volleyball. But the seeds were evident as she became an expert with a camcorder. Her interest in basketball and English led her to Clark University. There, she developed her passion for writing and soon after she was working in media via cable TV. That's where her passion for video technology flourished. Later, at the WSJ and AllThingsD Walt Mossberg was her mentor. Today, Lauren writes for The Verge, and we discussed her specialties: wearables, smartphones and apps, and laptop technology. Recently, she's become involved with an interesting new series about cars, "Screen Drive," that you'll very much enjoy.
Apr. 17th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Computerworld Apple Holic Jonny Evans
Jonny Evans is a self-admitted Apple Holic who lives in the UK and writes terrific analysis of Apple for Computerworld. He has a lot to say, and so he also has his own blog called Apple Must. Jonny is one of the most insightful technical journalists to cover Apple. His articles are always compelling and well researched. Amazingly, Jonny started off as road crew for rock & rolls bands. Pretty soon he was organizing and promoting events. The leaflets got more and more sophisticated, and that led him to realize his passion for writing. One day, a writing job opening at Macworld UK appeared, and he landed the gig. In the second segment we covered everything Apple, and Jonny's informed perspectives really came out. You'll want to hear what he has to say.