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
John on Charlotte's New Podcast - Media+ Interview
John moves to the guest chair for a change and sits down with Charlotte Henry on her podcast Media+, where they discuss new shows on TV+.
May. 6th, 2019
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.
Apr. 29th, 2019
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.
Apr. 22nd, 2019
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.
Apr. 15th, 2019
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.
Apr. 8th, 2019
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.
Apr. 1st, 2019
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.
Mar. 26th, 2019
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.
Mar. 18th, 2019
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.
Mar. 11th, 2019
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.
Mar. 4th, 2019
TMO Background Mode Interview with TMO Podcaster and Journalist John Braun
John Braun is a software engineer, multiple patent holder, a Mac Observer Contributor and co-host of the Mac Observer's podcast Mac Geek Gab (MGG). That podcast launched in 2005, and John has co-hosted 750 episodes to date. We chatted about John's early interest in computers and science, influenced in part by his father, an engineering manager. John started off partial to chemistry, but later specialized in computers. He holds aa B.S. in Computer Engineering and an M.S. in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. John told me about early work with computer bulletin boards, his career at Pitney Bowes, how he got to know Dave Hamilton and then joined the Mac Observer, how he prepares for the weekly podcast, and all about his two current Macs and why he loves them.
Feb. 26th, 2019
TMO Background Mode Interview with Houston Chronicle Technology Editor Dwight Silverman
Dwight Silverman is the technology editor for the Houston Chronicle. He manages the TechBurger website, and writes about personal technology for HoustonChronicle.com, Chron.com and the print edition. Previously, he was the senior web producer for premium products, managing HoustonChronicle.com, the Chronicle's iPad app and E-edition. He also worked as the social media manager and technology blogger for the Houston Chronicle and Chron.com. We chatted about becoming a technology journalist in the early days, his work at various newspapers, dealing with unusual writing assignments, how he fell into the Apple/Mac sphere, writing books about the Mac, and his evolution at the Houston Chronicle. We closed with a discussion of te streaming video business and how Apple will break into the business now dominated by Netflix and Amazon.
Feb. 18th, 2019
TMO Background Mode Encore #6 Interview with Science Communicator Dr. Kiki Sanford
Dr. Kiki Sanford makes her sixth appearance on Background Mode. Kiki is a neurophysiologist with a B.S. in conservation biology and a Ph.D. avian neurophysiology from the University of California. She's a popular science communicator and creator of This Week in Science (TWIS) podcast and radio show. In this episode, we chat about the science of rising sea levels, neural networks and vocoder technology trained to recognize brain patterns related to listening to human speech, how learning two human languages in childhood positively affects the brain, rebooting the human immune system, whether intelligence is sexy, and the colonization of Mars and whether it will be commercially exploited or preserved by all nations like the Earth's Antarctic. Dr. Kiki is always a delight to listen to and learn from.
Feb. 11th, 2019
TMO Background Mode Interview with Princeton Theoretical Physicist Dr. Paul Steinhardt
Paul Steinhardt is the Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton University, where he is on the faculty of both the departments of Physics and of Astrophysical Sciences. He co-founded the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science and is currently the Director of that prestigious research institution. He has a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard, and his research interests include cosmology, inflation theory, dark matter and specialized solids, including QuasiCrystals. We chatted about the early influences of his father and, later, Dr. Richard Feynman when he was an undergraduate at Caltech. Then we chatted about cosmic inflation, the Multiverse, Dark Matter, and finally QuasiCrystals, the subject of his latest book. Dr. Steinhardt is a preeminent physicist working at the limits of human knowledge. Come listen and enjoy.
Feb. 4th, 2019
TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Writer & Skeptic Dr. Michael Shermer
Michael is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic Magazine, a former monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101. He is also a noted science writer and the author of New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, and The Science of Good and Evil. His newest book is: Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia. We chatted about Michael's early religious views, interest in psychology, his doctoral work, and his path to becoming a professional skeptic. He explained the logical traps people fall into (motivated reasoning) as we turned to climate change, human fantasies about ghosts and psychics, the founding of Skeptic Magazine and the influence of Dr. Carl Sagan. Really good stuff here.
Jan. 28th, 2019
TMO Background Mode Interview with Veteran Technology Reporter John Markoff
John is a former New York Times reporter reporting nationally on science and computing. He's been an adjunct faculty member of the Stanford Graduate Program on Journalism. In 2013 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. John has published several books on the computer industry. Currently he's a Research Affiliate at the Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences researching a biography of Stewart Brand, the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog. We talked about his early days of computing at InfoWorld and Byte, as well as the Kevin Mitnick affair. We also talked about the current breed of young journalists and the importance of community newspapers. We delved into a mutually favorite topic: the problem with personal robots: cost vs. capability vs. expectations. Don't miss this wide-ranging discussion with John.
Jan. 21st, 2019
TMO Background Mode Interview with the CIO of CoSN Susan Bearden
Susan is the Chief Innovation Officer for the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) in Washington D.C. From 2016 to 2017 she was a Senior Education Pioneers Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education. She also participates in the EdTechChat Radio podcast for the BAM Radio Network. After a discussion about Susan's fascinating career progression from musician to IT specialist to Education Technology specialist, we launched into a discussion of "digital citizenship," also the title of her book. It basically encompasses how to be a smart, informed, ethical user of the internet. The book is aimed a both teachers and parents. Things like cyberbullying and internet safety are covered. Later we got into a discussion of tools for education, including AI. We finish with Susan's amazing perspective on whether robots will ever replace teachers in the classroom.
Jan. 14th, 2019
TMO Background Mode Interview with TMO Contributor Andrew Orr
Andrew is a Contributing Editor at The Mac Observer assigned to the morning news desk. He is also a science and nature lover, with a special interest in botany, as well as an amateur nature photographer. I asked Andrew about growing up in Michigan and his early interest in writing. He also started using computers when he was young and recalled how had to eradicate a virus from an Windows XP PC at age 13. Later he studied computer security at Bay de Noc Community College, and he attributes his technical writing success to the combination of his writing skill, interest in science, and experience with computers. Andrew told me how he was discovered by The Mac Observer and the tools he uses to collect and report the news each morning.
Jan. 7th, 2019
TMO Background Mode Interview with Journalist & TMO Contributor Charlotte Henry
Charlotte is a London-based technical journalist. She writes about Apple — and is now The Mac Observer's newest regular contributor. She has also written for City A.M. (London’s daily business tabloid,) Computer Business Review, The Independent on Sunday and CapX. Her first book, Not Buying It, will be published in June. I asked Charlotte how she got started in technical journalism. The first factor derived from the fact, that, as a youth, there were always new technical gadgets showing up in her home. The second was via her early interest in music creation on a Mac during her college years. We chatted about her first news blog and then meeting Jeff Gamet on the British Tech Network. Finally Charlotte shared some of her personal interests when she's not writing: music, soccer and mystery novels.
Dec. 31st, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Astrophysicist Dr. Jill Tarter
Jill is a Ph.D. astrophysicist known for her work in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. She's the former director of the Center for SETI Research (2000-2012) and Adjunct Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy at USC until 2014. Currently, she's Chair Emeritus for SETI Research at the SETI Institute. I asked Jill about how she got started with computers as well as astrophysics, her Ph.D. work and how she became involved with SETI. Then we delved into some of the broader issues of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including the Drake equation, searching for ET technosignatures, searching with the right technologies, and what the social perspectives might be of an advanced, spacefaring civilization that survived its aggressive phase. Jill is an expert on SETI, and you'll enjoy her awesome insights.
Dec. 17th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with CNET Journalist Shara Tibken
Shara Tibken is a senior reporter/journalist for CNET News, focused on Samsung and Apple. She previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal. She grew up on a farm in Iowa, where her mother was a teacher, and Shara became an avid book reader. That led to a desire to be a writer, meet people and learn new things. We chatted about her progression from Simpson College to interning for a small newspaper in North Dakota to landing a job with Dow Jones Newswires/WSJ and finally CNET in 2012. We talked about her recent investigation of rural broadband issues in Iowa, which is terrific, as well as future 5G smartphones, Samsung's development of foldable smartphones, Samsung mimicking Apple and more. Shara gets into interesting technical detail on all these topics.