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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Physics Professor and Jazz Musician Dr. Stephon Alexander
Dr. Stephon Alexander is a theoretical physicist specializing in cosmology, particle physics and quantum gravity (String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity). He received his BSc from Haverford College and Ph.D. from Brown University. He also explores interconnections between music, physics, mathematics and technology though recordings,...
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.
Dec. 10th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Special Edition #5 With Former Apple Executive Michael Gartenberg
Michael Gartenberg spent three years as Apple's Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to Senior VP Phil Schiller. In his fifth encore appearance on Background Mode, Michael and I chat about Apple's 2018 fall lineup of products. We talked about the Apple AirPower, still MIA. We examined the new 2018 MacBook Air and how the 2015 McBook was supposed to be the MBA successor—and failed. We looked at the new iPad Pros and how they may have broken through a computational barrier that will allow new capabilities. Finally, we looked at Apple's 2018 iPhone product strategy as well as the corporate decision to suppress unit sales numbers. Michael is well versed in Apple marketing strategies and is always a delight to have on the show.
Dec. 3rd, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Smile Software Evangelist Jeff Gamet
Jeff Gamet is the former Managing Editor of The Mac Observer (TMO), a position he held for 13 years. He's also a book author and noted podcaster. Recently, he left TMO to become the Smile Software TextExpander Evangelist.I asked Jeff to tell the TextExpander story, what it does, why it's essential, and how to get it. Then we chatted at length about his job transition process. That meant new tools, new logins, a new daily routine, a new team and new boss. I asked Jeff about the biggest challenge he faced as well as how what he learned at TMO carried over to his new job. I also asked Jeff how he felt about the change in his "voice" and change in public profile. We closed with some things Jeff will be doing in his new position at Smile.
Nov. 26th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Fiction Author Darren Beyer
Darren Beyer is a former NASA Space Shuttle engineer at Kennedy Space Center who worked on launching and recovering more than a dozen missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope. 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 entrepreneur, and, lately, an author.The first 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. We chatted about Darren's early life inspirations, his NASA career, an interesting experience with an astronaut, his scientific approach to SciFi writing, and how private industry may well send manned missions to Mars before NASA.
Nov. 19th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Climate Scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe
Dr. Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University, where she is the director of the Climate Science Center. She is also the CEO of the consulting firm ATMOS Research and Consulting. She received her undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Toronto and a masters and Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We started from basics in this chat and defined how science works via observation. Then we delved into the process of climate change research, successful computer models, the significant findings of climate science and whether some changes are exponential rather than linear. Finally, Dr. Hayhoe filled us in on some great resources for further reading.
Nov. 12th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Planetary Scientist Dr. Pascal Lee, Part II
This is Part II. Dr. Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist with the SETI Institute. He's also Chairman of the Mars Institute, and Director of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center. His research includes the history of water on Mars and planning future human exploration of Mars. Pascal has a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Space Sciences from Cornell University.In Part I, we chatted about his background and how he became a planetary scientist. We had just started discussing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), when an internet outage stopped us cold. So I invited Pascal to return for Part II and discuss his analysis of the Drake Equation and its implications for the existence of other advanced, intelligent life in our galaxy.
Nov. 5th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Encore #2 Interview 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. I invited Josh to return to Background Mode to chat about this latest iOS version that has many new features. After a brief story about how Josh got started in his tech writing career, we had a very interesting chat about the creation and editing process of the TC books. We moved on to a discussion of the new 2018 iPhones. After the break, we dug into the details iOS 12. Finally, we finished with a cool story about his latest 4K TV adventure.
Oct. 29th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Indiana University Astronomer Dr. Catherine Pilachowski
Dr. Catherine Pilachowski is a professor of astronomy at Indiana University in Bloomington. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Hawaii. Her principal research interests include the evolution of stars and the chemical history of the Milky Way Galaxy from studies of chemical composition of star clusters. "Caty" got excited about astronomy as a youth reading the books of Asimov, Hoyle and Gamow. She told me about her serendipitous decision to attend graduate school in Hawaii where some very large telescopes were being built on Mauna Kea and how that ultimately led her to her current faculty position. We then chatted about her star cluster research and ended with some great tips for students who want to pursue a career in astronomy.
Oct. 22nd, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Fiction Writer & Biographer Alec Nevala-Lee
Alec Nevala-Lee is a science fiction novelist, essayist and biographer. He's known for the scifi novels: The Icon Thief, City of Exiles, and Eternal Empire. He's written for Analog Science Fiction, and he's had essays and non-fiction published in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Daily Beast and more. We chatted about growing up in California, the influential book that inspired him to become a writer, his early career, life at Harvard, and quitting his job to become a struggling - then successful novelist. Alec also shared a bit about his writing tools and techniques. Finally, we explored his new biography entitled: ASTOUNDING, a critical look at the life, writing and mutual influences of four famous scifi authors: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard during the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the 1940s and 50s.
Oct. 15th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Planetary Scientist Dr. Pascal Lee
Dr. Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist with the SETI Institute. He's also Chairman of the Mars Institute, and Director of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center. His research includes the history of water on Mars and planning future human exploration of Mars. Pascal has a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Space Sciences from Cornell University. We chatted about how he spent his very early years in Hong Kong, inspired by American and British SciFi TV shows. Later, he migrated to Paris where he continued his education and, inspired by Dr. Carl Sagan, made his way to Cornell in the 1990s. He was Dr. Sagan's last teaching assistant. Next, we talked about his trips to the remote Canadian island, Devon, to study Mars-like conditions. We wrapped up with an introduction to his thoughts on SETI.
Oct. 8th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Encore #5 Interview with Science Communicator Dr. Kiki Sanford
Dr. Kiki Sanford makes her fifth appearance on Background Mode. Kiki is a neurophysiologist with a Ph.D. 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 some some recent topics discussed on TWIS that fascinated me. 1) Yale roboticists have developed skins with embedded actuators that can turn just about anything into robots. 2) A 127 million year old fossil was discovered in China that fills in another gap in the story of how dinosaurs became birds. 3) The new NASA exoplanet search mission, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is operational. We talk about its mission and how it compares to the Kepler spacecraft. This is just a sample; we covered much more cool science stuff.
Oct. 1st, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Former Apple Software Engineer James Dempsey
James Dempsey worked at Apple for fifteen years before setting out on his own in August 2011. As a software engineer at Apple, he worked on iOS, Aperture, and macOS releases Leopard through Lion, including half a decade on the Cocoa frameworks team. He's the founder of Tapas Software, developer of iOS and Mac software. We talked abut his "aha" moments in life starting with his college roommate's Mac Plus in 1986. His dream to work for Apple was eventually fulfilled in 1996, and James described what it was like to be an Apple evangelist in those days. But James is also an accomplished comedian, vocalist, ukulele player and has a published album. He's also routinely written special songs for WWDC each year. If you ever wanted to work for Apple, this show is must listening.
Sep. 24th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Technology Journalist Ryan Faas
Ryan Faas is a technology journalist and author who has been writing about Apple, business, enterprise IT topics, and the mobile industry for over a decade. He also spent a large portion of the past 15 years in the systems/network engineering and IT management fields as an IT director and systems administrator. He's worked for MTV Networks as well as being a former Apple Genius. Today, he is also a Contributing Writer for Computerworld. We chatted about how he became such an expert in enterprise matters as well as knowledgeable in multiple OSes. He told me why the wireless carriers decline to push Android updates as often as Apple, and he filled me in on what really going on with macOS Server. Finally, Ryan also predicted when Apple will go to ARM processors in the Mac.
Sep. 17th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Early Apple Podcaster Victor Cajiao
Victor Cajiao was born in Havana, Cuba, grew up in the U.S. and became well known in the Apple world for several different podcasts. He's an Apple tech geek as well as a musician (saxophone) and hobby photographer. Victor told me the story about how he came to the U.S. via a special initiative started by President Kennedy. The fascinating story continues as he eventually worked his way into a job with AT&T rising to the level of IT Technical Director. He also told me the story about how he fell in love with the Mac and then launched his podcast, The Typical Mac User. Victor recently retired from AT&T after 26 years and now travels the U.S. in his Airstream trailer. Recently, he's been sighted at Macstock, doing terrific demos of Mac technologies.
Sep. 10th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Academic Director of IT Bradley Chambers
Bradley Chambers has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Currently he's the IT director at a school in Chattanooga, and he's also a contributor to 9to5Mac via his weekly column: "Making the Grade." Bradley told me about his work as an IT administrator, how iPads and Macs are deployed, configured and repaired. There are some good tools for doing that, but they're also supplemented with Google docs and JAMF tools. His kids are taught programming at an early age with Swift Playgrounds, and it turns out that the iPad offers just what his students need for a K-5 curriculum. We finished with a discussion of a few of his recent columns, including why digital textbooks generally failed in the market as well as thoughts about the state of Apple's iBooks Author app.
Sep. 4th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Backblaze Director of Product Marketing Skip Levens
Skip Levens is currently the Director of Product Marketing at Backblaze, the cloud storage and backup company. He's very experienced in brand marketing and technology evangelism. Skip is a former U.S. Marine. After leaving the Marines, Skip went to work for Alain Pinel, a real estate company that embraced the NeXT computer, and that launched his successful crusade to work for Apple. We chatted about Skip's work at Apple in early internet technologies, then Developer Relations that involved him with supercomputers. We explored the rise and fall of Apple's Xserve and Xserve RAID as well as the evolution of his expertise in storage technology at Active Storage, Quantum, Symply Storage and now Backblaze. You can't have more geek fun than this show.
Aug. 27th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Sr. Mobile & Networking Developer Alf Watt
Alf Watt is an experienced software developer with expertise in macOS, iOS and wireless technology. He operates iStumbler Labs, most notably the Wi-Fi monitoring app iStumbler. He's also a former Apple employee. As a youth, Alf's first computer was a Commodore 64, and he leaned how to enter the code for computer games. Later, with a Mac plus, Alf learned HyperCard. Alf's first serious language, however, was Perl. At Apple, Alf became deeply in involved with Wi-Fi and Apple's AirPort technology, and that provided a foundation for his legendary iStumbler app. That app is now in Mac App Store. We finished with Alf's description of his new tool called KitBridge which allows iOS developers to bring apps to macOS. Alf is an engaging personality in the Apple world, and you'll enjoy his stories.
Aug. 20th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with macOS Software Developer Sander Berents
Sander Berents has been fascinated by astronomy since childhood when he started using his older brother's telescope. In his teens, he also became immersed in BASIC and assembly language programming with his TRS-80. Later, he earned an M.S. in astrophysics. His earliest jobs involved computer programming, and nowadays, he's an independent, professional macOS software developer and the developer of the macOS app called Observatory. Version 1.0 was released in April 2016. We chatted about the development of Observatory, written in Objective-C and C++, which has several important features for astrophotographers: plate solving, image stacking and a digital blink microscope used for discovery. This app can also be used as a non-destructive photo library for astrophotos. Sander chatted about life as a developer and explained a little bit about how astronomers use his app.
Aug. 13th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Host of The Carson Podcast Mark Malkoff
Mark Malkoff is a comedian, filmaker, and the host of The Carson Podcast in which he talks with guests about legendary talk show host Johnny Carson. His guests include stand-up comics who debuted on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, individuals who worked on the show, and entertainers who were influenced by Carson. I chatted with Mark about his early jobs on various TV shows, sketch comedy, and video projects. As a comedian, he'd always been fascinated by Johnny Carson. It was Peter Jones (PBS) who encouraged Mark to do a podcast all about Carson's Tonight Show. Mark told me about how he lines up guests and how he prepares. In 180+ podcasts, Mark has learned a lot about Mr. Carson's personal life and the details of show's production. Mark enthusiastically shares it all.
Aug. 6th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with NightCap Camera Developer Chris Wood
Chris Wood is the developer of the iOS photography app called NightCap Camera, an app that specializes in low-light photography, be it terrestrial or astronomical. Chris told me the story about his technial evolution as a developer, coming out of a M.S. degree and the IT, database and network world. It was the allure of the original iPhone's graphics that whetted his appetite for programming in Objective-C . His big break came with the iPad 2 which had a fairly strong graphics processor (for its time). That led to the development of the acclaimed iPad app called Camera Boost. Later, the experience Chris gained led to the NightCap app and its descendant NightCap Camera. Chris and I chatted about the evolution and capabilities of this excellent app that even novice photographers should own.