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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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NASA Aerospace Engineer Dr. Craig Hunter - TMO BGM Interview

Dr. Craig Hunter is an aerospace engineer at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia with research experience in experimental, theoretical, and computational fluid mechanics, aerodynamics, and aeroacoustics.  He has developed technology-enabling software tools and analysis methods for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation, aerodynamic design, and jet noise prediction.

In 2008, Craig founded Hunter Research and Technology to create innovative and compelling apps for the fledgling Apple iPhone, namely Theodolite, Pro Compass and Nav Camera.

Craig is an expert pressing high-end Macs into service for scientific computations. We chatted about his Ph.D work, work at NASA in CFD and jet engine noise simulations, his recent computational review of a US$31,000 2019 Mac Pro, and his iOS app side-business and how that market has changed over the years. Heady stuff.

Programmer, Author, Podcaster Rosemary Orchard - TMO BGM Interview

Rosemary Orchard describes herself as a geek, nerd, and programmer. She works full time as a developer of web applications, but her real loves are automation and productivity. She’s also a book author and podcaster.

Rosemary told me the story about how she started with computers and programming. After a bad experience with a Toshiba notebook and Windows Vista, she bought a MacBook Air for her university work—and loved it. At this point, she was still pursing human languages, but in time gravitated towards, instead, creating computer software that would make peoples lives easier. And she never looked back. We talked about her Web app development, her books (one on Shortcuts) and finished with how she learned to podcast. Today she does two. You’ll enjoy hearing how Rosemary’s career has developed.

Novelist Christopher Moore - TMO BGM Interview

Christopher Moore is the author of 17 novels, including Lamb, Coyote Blue, The Serpent of Venice, The Stupidest Angel, and NOIR. Chris published his first novel, Practical Demonkeeping in 1992, and his latest novel, Shakespeare For Squirrels, will be released on May 12th.

We chatted at length about how Chris came to be a very successful novelist. I asked about the influence of author Harlan Ellison as well as his favorite and best selling novels. We explored his writing technique as we delved into two of my own favorite novels, The Stupidest Angel and NOIR. ( He writes on his Mac and uses Scrivener to outline and MS Word to compose. ) If you love Chris’s work, you’ll be entranced by his charming anecdotes in this stellar interview.

Writer and Raconteur Bob 'Dr. Mac' LeVitus (#2) - TMO BGM Interview

Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus is a writer, book author and raconteur. He writes for the Houston Chronicle and The Mac Observer, and he specializes in the “Dummies” books about Apple products like the Mac, the iPad and iPhone.

In this episode, Bob and I focus on the practice of working from home. We covered work strategies and techniques, workspace and hours, software vs. paper tools, clothing and eating, task management, multitasking vs. single focus and more. We delved into microphones and cameras for a Mac as well as some video conferencing apps and touched on the notion of spending time learning unfamiliar but essential internet technologies. We closed with a discussion of music to work by and a great library app called Libby.

TMO UK Associate Editor Charlotte Henry (#5) - TMO BGM Interview

Charlotte Henry is a London-based technical journalist. A self-described media junkie, she writes about Apple — and now for the Mac Observer as well as our UK Associate Editor. She has also written for City A.M., Computer Business Review, the Independent on Sunday and CapX. Her new book is: Not Buying It.

In this episode, Charlotte and I discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the TV entertainment and streaming industry. We look at the diversion of theatrical releases to streaming, whether indoor theaters will ever return to normal, possible changes to production methods, throttling of streaming speeds, a possible return to more feel-good movies, the impact on binge watching, series vs. movie watching during lock-down, and Charlotte’s reaction to Disney+. Plus, John reveals a very personal secret!

TMO Contributor Kelly Guimont (#10) - TMO 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 10th appearance, Kelly and I chat about our favorite streaming TV shows of late. I open segment #1 with a critique of Amazing Stories: “The Cellar” (Apple TV+), then rave reviews for a shared favorite, Star Trek: Picard and a Kelly favorite: Westworld S3 (HBO). In segment #2: Kelly: The Expanse (Amazon), Wynonna Earp (SyFy). John: Outlander (S3) (Netflix) and Night on Earth (Netflix). Join us as we explore together what’s great (and not great) about these shows.

Musician and Programmer John Nastos - TMO BGM Interview

John Nastos is a multi-instrumentalist, music composer and improvisor, saxophonist, an iOS app developer, book author and is currently on faculty at Portland State University as a Jazz Saxophone Instructor.

John is one of those special people who is an accomplished jazz musician, iOS developer and author. He tells a fascinating story about how he got started as a jazz musician and the people who mentored him. Along the way, he also fondly adopted the Mac, and that stood him well when it came time to develop some very popular, technical music apps that had never existed before. As an instructor, John teaches his students the principles behind music improvisation. His first book, The Mechanism lays out those core concepts. John is a gifted speaker and educator, so don’t miss this show.

Founding Director, End Climate Silence Dr. Genevieve Guenther — TMO BGM Interview

Dr. Genevieve Guenther is a scholar and author. She is affiliate faculty at the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School in New York and the founder and director of End Climate Silence, an activist organization helping the news media cover the climate crisis.

How should climate scientists use effective language skills and storytelling to convey scientific research? How can they speak effectively to both fellow scientists and the lay public? How can they avoid what’s called semantic ambiguity so that their choice of words isn’t twisted by deniers? How can the media learn to couch severe climate change events in proper science context while not appearing unduly biased? Dr. Genevieve Guenther chats with me on all this and more in a most engaging and informative discusion.

PCMag Lead Mobile Analyst Sascha Segan - TMO Background Mode Interview

Sascha Segan is PCMag.com’s Lead Mobile Analyst. He has reviewed more than 1,100 smartphones, tablets and other gadgets in more than 15 years with PCMag. Sascha is also a multiple award-winning travel writer.

We chatted about how he got started in computing, and it was a familiar story. “…published the high school newspaper, literary magazine and foreign language magazine on an SE/30.” Along the way, Sascha discovered that he loved helping people and showing them how tech works. We talked about the future of foldable smartphones, how the butterfly MBP keyboard drove him to Windows, a (presumed) Apple iPhone/iPad event on March 31, and what’s in store for the 5G iPhone 12. Sascha understands 5G and phones deeply, and so this was a very informative show.

TMO Editor-in-Chief Bryan Chaffin (#2) - TMO Background Mode Interview

Bryan Chaffin is the co-founder and Executive Vice President of The Mac Observer. He is also our Editor-in-Chief. He’s been working lately as co-author of a new edition of iPad For Dummies, and so I enlisted him to discuss the future of the iPad.

We chatted about how the iPad has made enormous gains in CPU and graphics power over the last 10 years. But iOS and then iPadOS not so much. In the early days Apple wasn’t quite sure where the iPad would go, and that’s perhaps a factor in its development. We examined how multi-tasking has been implemented, the prospects for larger displays, home screen operations, consumption vs. productivity, the stagnation of sales, and whether there needs to be a new product between the iPad and Mac. Bryan resurrects the notorious concept of the ::gasp:: toaster-fridge. There’s much more.