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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Former Apple Engineering Director Don Melton
Don Melton is probably best known as the person who started the Safari and WebKit projects at Apple and his rise to Apple Engineering Director of Internet Technologies. These days he’s an aspiring writer, podcaster and recovering programmer. Don walks us through his early career...
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.
Apr. 10th, 2017
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.
Apr. 3rd, 2017
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.
Mar. 27th, 2017
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.
Mar. 20th, 2017
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.
Mar. 13th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Encore: Former Apple Senior Director Michael Gartenberg
Michael Gartenberg is currently the analyst in residence for iMore.com. 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.
Mar. 6th, 2017
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.
Feb. 27th, 2017
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.
Feb. 20th, 2017
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.
Feb. 13th, 2017
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.
Feb. 6th, 2017
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.