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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TMO Background Mode Interview with Computer Historian and Author David Greelish

3:46 PM May. 22nd, 2017 | 00:38:08 - Download: MP3 Version (AAC Version Coming Soon)

Josh Centers is the Managing Editor of and has published several Take Control Books. His latest book is “Take Control of Apple Home Automation.” And so, I invited him to make a return appearance on Background Mode to chat about that very subject. The...

Podcast Archives

  1. May. 22nd, 2017
    Background Mode Podcast
    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.

  2. May. 15th, 2017
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    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.

  3. May. 8th, 2017
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    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.

  4. May. 1st, 2017
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    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.

  5. Apr. 24th, 2017
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    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.

  6. Apr. 17th, 2017
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    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.

  7. Apr. 10th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with KGW TV Anchor & Digital Trends Host Stephanie Stricklen

    Stephanie Stricklen has been a career-long KGW TV Portland, OR News Anchor. She tells the story about how when she was younger, it wasn't her plan to be in front of a camera. "It just worked out that way." But the seeds were there. She became the EIC of her high school's newspaper and decided on print journalism as a career. In college, via internships, she discovered the "adrenalin inducing" experience of TV news. Stephanie has covered the Olympics for KGW, and that took her to Salt Lake City, Greece, Italy, China, Canada and Russia. A tech nerd and Apple fan, she's also into aviation and has flown with the Navy's Blue Angels. Today, she works with Digital Trends as a host and still anchors with KGW. Amidst all that? Raising a daughter with her husband.

  8. Apr. 3rd, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Medical Epidemiologist Dr. Steven Lamm

    Dr. Steven Lamm is a medical epidemiologist. He studies epidemics, diseases that occur much more frequently than would be expected, their causes and control. Dr. Lamm is the son of a professor, and that caused him to want to make his own unique contribution to society. He started with the idea that chemistry and biophysics would give him all he needed to know about disease at the molecular level. But the micro view didn't work. So he moved from the microscope to the macroscope as he was getting his M.D. degree. He's an expert in the mathematical analysis of risk assessment for various agents, like arsenic, in the environment. We had a wide-ranging chat about his research, but don't miss the part about his fascinating investment in Google Maps back in its infancy.

  9. Mar. 27th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Microsoft Chief Creative Architect Ben Rudolph

    Ben Rudolph is a Microsoft Chief Creative Architect. That means he's responsible for consumer, retail marketing. In Ben's words, "his team ... builds the experience that turns shoppers ... into fans of Microsoft. That involves everything about how the Microsoft brand shows up to consumers in the retail environment." That may not have been of interest to Apple fans just a few years ago, but the arrival of CEO Satya Nadella has changed all that. Ben and I chatted about his early career interest in being a physician and the path that led him, instead to Microsoft. Then we got into the Microsoft's Surface Studio that sent shock waves through the Apple community last year. We also discussed the refreshing new corporate mission of Microsoft under Mr. Nadella. This interview will take Apple fans where they've never gone before.

  10. Mar. 20th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode Interview with Astronomer & Science Communicator Dr. Phil Plait

    Dr. Phil Plait is an astronomer and a very popular science communicator. His blog, Bad Astronomy, "covers the entire universe, from subatomic particles to the Big Bang itself, astronomy, space exploration, and the effect of politics on science." Like many young astronomers, Phil's interest in astronomy ignited when he first saw Saturn and its rings through a telescope. He earned his Ph.D. working on the study of supernovae with the Hubble Space Telescope. We chatted about his career, his enduring work in amateur astronomy with his telescope, his love for science communication, why people who don't believe in the Apollo moon landings are wrong, the study of a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet collision with Earth, how climate change is affecting us, and the recent discovery of a nearby solar system with Earth-like planets.

  11. Mar. 13th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode Encore: Former Apple Senior Director Michael Gartenberg

    Michael Gartenberg is currently the analyst in residence for Before that, he spent three years as Apple's Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to Senior VP Phil Schiller. In his second appearance on Background Mode, we caught up on the latest news and things we couldn't get to last summer. Michael told me about the nuances of being an Apple marketing manager and Apple's different marketing groups. He explained how one just has to already know what to do as an Apple employee. Then he discussed his fondness for the iPhone SE and delved into its sales numbers and merits. Finally, we moved on Apple's October 2016 "Hello Again" event, explored the new MacBook Pro, computer touch philosophy and the Microsoft Surface Studio impact. Michael tells a joke.

  12. Mar. 6th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode: Interview with Six Colors Editor-in-Chief Jason Snell

    Jason Snell is one of the best known Apple technical journalists. He's the Editor-in-Chief of the Apple focused website Six Colors, and he told me the intriguing story about how that name came to be. Previously he was Senior VP and editorial director at IDG, publishers of Macworld, PCWorld, and TechHive. Jason always knew he wanted to be a journalist, and he told me the story about, as a kid, standing on his back porch in a rainstorm and pretending to do a live TV weather report. In 1991, he created InterText, one of the first online fiction magazines. Today, Jason writes and podcasts about everything Apple. In our show, Jason shared his thoughts about many of the most timely and pressing topics related to Apple today: the Mac and iPad futures and the Apple TV.

  13. Feb. 27th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode: Interview with CNET Senior Editor & TV Reviewer David Katzmaier

    David Katzmaier is a CNET Senior Editor and TV reviewer, something he's been doing for most of his career. He started at a small review website in New York and, later, a friend went to CNET and brought David on board where he's been since about 2000. David is an expert on TV technology, and so we delved into the Retina effect, generic High Dynamic Range (HDR), Dolby Vision, 10-bit color, TV brightness levels, color gamuts, Hybrid Log Gamma, edge lighting (with light guides) vs. local dimming, the pros and cons of OLED vs. LCD, H.265 compression, 120 Hz refresh sample and hold, 4K streaming standards and the best time of year to buy a new TV. Phew! If you're into UHD/TV tech, you'll love this grand tour of today's state-of the-art.

  14. Feb. 20th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode: Interview with Open Source Developer & Former Apple Manager Jordan Hubbard

    Jordan Hubbard, the co-founder of FreeBSD, spent a dozen years at Apple bringing coherence to the UNIX core of Mac OS X. Apple calls it macOS today, but in the early years, there were lots of rough spots integrating the partly FreeBSD core into a viable consumer Mac OS X. Jordan was also instrumental in modernizing Mac OS X with features like MacPorts, Launchd, Grand Central Dispatch and application sandboxing. Today, his work complete at Apple, Jordan is an open source developer. We talked about the early development of Mac OS X derived from NeXT and even the earliest BSD origins. Along the way, we also chatted about Jordan's childhood memories as an 8-year old being an electronics geek with Radio Shack as his Mecca. If you love macOS, don't miss this insightful historical tour.

  15. Feb. 13th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode: Interview with Astrophysicist Dr. Christine Corbett Moran

    Dr. Christine C. Moran is an astrophysicist who specializes in computational astrophysics, high performance computing and big data visualization. She's interested in the gravitational force, which she's described as the most beautiful and mysterious of all of nature's fundamental forces. In her undergraduate life, she studied both physics and philosophy, great background for her Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Zurich. Along the way, she's also worked for, notably, SpaceX and the M.I.T. Media Lab. She's also a Mac user and iOS app developer. We talked about her interest in gravity, computation, and hobbies: flying and martial arts (Kung Fu). Also, in November, 2016, she returned from the South Pole (radio) telescope where she did research on the Cosmic Microwave Background. Come take a cosmic journey with John and Christine as she tells her story.

  16. Feb. 6th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode: Interview with with Tech Community Facilitator Jonathan Bernstein

    Jonathan Bernstein is an attorney. He's an Apple product expert. He's worked for the Federal Election Commission. He's on the board of directors of the legendary Washington, D.C. Apple Pi Users Group. He's involved with the Silver Spring, Maryland Citizens Advisory Board where he's active in facilitating communication between citizens and local government. Oh, my. After Jonathan told me a little bit about his background, being the son of a rabbi father and pediatrician mother, it soon became clear where his roots of public service originated. Out of law school, he clerked for a judge in the U.S. Claims Court, and that eventually connected him to the FEC. We chatted about Jonathan's unique gift for bringing people together utilizing technology. He'll inspire you with collaboration methods you never realized were possible.

  17. Jan. 30th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode: Interview with Science Journalist and Author Maryn McKenna

    Maryn McKenna is a science journalist and author. Her undergraduate degree was in 16th century theater and 20th century poetry. That led to a small theater company, but after a few years, she realized that a paying job would be a very good idea. When Maryn realized she really wanted to be a writer, she was off to graduate school and journalism. After graduation, she discovered that the only jobs in journalism were business related. That led to a career in investigative journalism and eventually, she landed with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covering the CDC. In time, Maryn became an expert on bioterrorism, the over use of antibiotics with both humans and animals, superbugs, food policy and the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service. (Yes, that's real.) Her stories, at times, were scary, so brace yourself.

  18. Jan. 23rd, 2017
    Background Mode Podcast
    TMO Background Mode: Interview with 9News/KUSA TV Anchor/Reporter Kyle Clark

    Kyle Clark is a 9News TV news anchor and reporter in Denver. His parents were both teachers and, early on, inspired him to learn and then explain to others. When Kyle was in grade school, his father gave him an Apple IIGS and encouraged him to learn about it. By and by, Kyle learned to use computers not as a pastime but as a tool. He majored in journalism and politics as an undergraduate, and, later, work at a small radio station convinced him he wanted to be in broadcasting. Today, in addition to being a Channel 9 news anchor, he's launched a 30 minute news analysis show called Next. His show brings understanding, context, and a sense of community to the news. Listen in to hear how he convinced his station to embrace his successful, Next idea.

  19. Jan. 16th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode: Interview with Innovation Fellow for the TechCongress Dr. Chris Soghoian

    Dr. Chris Soghoian is an expert on the technology and politics of privacy. Most recently he's been the Principal Technologist with the ACLU. In 2017, he's one of three Innovation Fellows for the TechCongress where he'll assist in federal policymaking. Chris earned his Ph.D. with a research focus on the role internet and telephone companies play in enabling government surveillance, and he's also known for his work with the FTC and the Do Not Track initiative. Chris started life as a tech geek, and computers were always a part of his life. That led to an undergraduate degree in computer science. Then he interned at Apple and IBM. But a significant event changed his direction in life, and he gained a newfound appreciation for attorneys. Chris makes some interesting observations about today's assaults on our privacy.

  20. Jan. 9th, 2017
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    TMO Background Mode: Interview 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. It all started when Steve Jobs gave Gene Roddenberry an original Macintosh in 1984, and the young Rod started experimenting with MacPaint. Ever since then, Rod has been an Apple enthusiast. 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. And he's currently working with the CBS All Access Star Trek: Discovery. Rod's foundation funds small grants focused on early-stage unconventional ideas that can disrupt and serve the greater good for mankind. Rod and I chatted about all this plus his passion for preserving the Earth's oceans.  We covered a lot of ground in this fascinating interview. You won't want to miss it.