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,...
Mar. 12th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Encore Interview with Tidbits Managing Editor Josh Centers
Josh Centers is the Managing Editor of Tidbits.com 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 book is a complete guide and starts from the very beginning of the design and wiring process and the use of various hubs. Josh clearly explained how to use Apple’s HomeKit home automation platform to control smart devices in the home, such as lights, outlets, thermostats, and more. And he's very frank about various myths surrounding home automation. We also chatted about beginner security concerns as well as the ability to maintain control and terminate any service if necessary. If you have an interest in home automation, this show is must listening.
Mar. 5th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Take Control Books Publisher Joe Kissell
Joe Kissell is a writer and author with over 60 technical books to his credit. He's a contributing editor with Tidbits, and recently became the owner and publisher of the Take Control series of eBooks. Early in his career, Joe had a strong interest in language and holds a Master's degree in Linguistics. Along the way, however, he also got very technical with computers, and that landed him a job as a product manager with Nisus. Subsequently, Joe was a software developer for Kensington. In 2017, he accepted an offer from Adam Engst to acquire Take Control Books. Joe and his wife run that business—currently using a brand new iMac Pro. When not editing, Joe pursues T'ai Chi, cooking, walking and travel. Joe tells his career story, chock full of technical serendipity, with awesome charm.
Feb. 27th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with VP of Marketing for Mayfield Robotics Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews is the VP of Marketing for Mayfield Robotics. They make the companion robot called Kuri that was recently shown to our Jeff Gamet at CES 2018. Having been a very interested observer of emerging robot technology, I invited Chris to be on the show. We talked about how Mayfield Robotics was formed, the founders, how the company got its name, the human and engineering design principles behind Kuri, what mistakes were avoided, how Kuri protects family privacy and security, the nuances of Kuri's physical design, how Kuri communicates with the family, its processing power, the price and the shipping status. Kuri is probably going to be my first family robot, so tune-in as Chris explains how Kuri works in fascinating detail. You may want one too.
Feb. 19th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Axios Energy & Climate Reporter Amy Harder
Amy Harder covers energy and climate change for Axios. She writes a weekly column called the Harder Line that reports on trends, has exclusive scoops and analyzes the news driving the debate about energy and climate. Her coverage includes congressional legislation, regulations, lobbying, and international policy actions affecting the United States. Amy holds a B.A. in Journalism with honors. In our interview, I asked Amy about some of the most important issues of her coverage: what is "clean coal," how does global warming affect climate, do all conservatives deny global warming, what is a good website for scientific information, what is her workday like, and what could scientists do to better to communicate with the public? Come meet and listen to the reporter who has a terrific grasp of these important topics.
Feb. 12th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Legislative Counsel for the EFF Ernesto Falcon
Ernesto Falcon is Legislative Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). His primary focus is on intellectual property and open internet issues. Ernesto and I chatted about the key issues surrounding net neutrality, the stakes for business and consumers, how the FCC's recent ruling might be combatted, ongoing legal efforts to restore net neutrality, the key players, potential legislation, and what consumers can do to help. But before we got into all that, Ernesto talked about how he became an attorney and his experiences leading up to joining the EFF. For example, during his tenure, Public Knowledge and the EFF scored a major victory for consumers by rallying the Internet community to defeat the SOPA act. Ernesto fills in a lot of important details in the fight for net neutrality that you'll want to hear.
Feb. 5th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Architosh Founder & EIC Anthony Frausto-Robledo
Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP is a practicing architect and the founder and editor of the award-winning Architosh.com website. Educated in Boston, he has been an architectural professional for over 30 years and was a senior designer with the distinguished Boston architectural firm Koetter Kim & Associates before launching his web consultancy, BritasMedia. Anthony and I chatted about Apple's ups and downs with technical professionals, his creation of architosh.com, the state of architecture app support on the Mac, what kind of system the pros need, and what might be in store for the 2018 Mac Pro. Even if you're not a architect, you'll find Anthony's perspectives interesting and informed.
Jan. 29th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Tech.pinions Technical Journalist John Kirk
John Kirk is a former trial attorney, financial advisor and business coach. About a decade ago, he burst on the scene with the most delightful, literary, and informed opinions and analysis of Apple, its foundations, customer approach, and products. His writing became legendary for its literary references and his ability to punch through to the real heart of all Apple matters. We chatted about how he first embraced the Mac, successfully used the Mac in his law practice, earned his gig at techpinions.com, and why some observers of Apple go wrong. We also delved into the psychology of consumer choice, Apple being back on track with the Mac, how Apple embraces the future, what it choses to leave behind, design issues related to future Macs, and the legacy of Steve Jobs.
Jan. 22nd, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with WUOT Morning Radio Host Victor Agreda
Victor Agreda is a freelance voice actor, WUOT (Knoxville) Radio Morning Edition Host, and former Editor-in-Chief of The Unofficial Apple Weblog, affectionately known as "TUAW." Early on, as a student at the University of Tennessee, he had an equal interest in English and electrical & computer engineering. By and by, he discovered that writing and journalism were what he was really good at. And yet, thanks to his engineering background, his first job out of college was as a Webmaster. We chatted about how he's done stand-up comedy, founded Superpixels Studios, does voiced acting, does puppeteering, became the E-i-C of TUAW, worked with Angry Dad Gamer on YouTube, and finally, how he landed the job as a NPR Morning Edition host. Victor is a fascinating, delightful fellow to listen to.
Jan. 15th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Interview with Asst. Dir. of Operations at NWRDC John Welch
John Welch is the Assistant Director of Operations at the Northwest Regional Data Center at Florida State University. Over the last 30 years, he's become an expert Mac IT administrator, using UNIX systems and the UNIX-based Mac to work with them. He's worked for the military, major businesses and several universities such as MIT and FSU. John told me about the incredibly serendipitous events that led to each of his many IT jobs. In the second segment, we chatted about macOS server, Apple in the enterprise (Apple's approach and strengths), and perspectives on the recent High Sierra root access security snafu in light of several other historical Mac events that he lived through. John also provided his insights about the new, amazing iMac Pro. His deep experience with Macs makes for great listening.
Jan. 8th, 2018
TMO Background Mode Special Edition #3 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 this very special edition, Michael and I chat about what we think Apple will ship in 2018. We go from certain, HomePod, to very speculative, a new Mac mini, and everything in between. iPhone 11? iPhone 9? Coffee Lake MacBook Pros? At the end of the show we also offer up some fantasies about what we'd personally like Apple to do.
Dec. 18th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Technical Journalist Dr. Gina Smith
Dr. Gina Smith is a technical journalist and author. She's well-known for her biography of Steve Wozniak: iWOZ: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It which was a New York Times bestseller. And she's written several other science books. She is also a former correspondent for several ABC News shows including Good Morning America. Gina also hosted a nationally syndicated talk radio show with co-host Leo Laporte for more than a decade. Recently, she earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. We talked about her career which started in chemistry, how she was mentored and evolved as a tech journalist, the writing of the iWoz book, and what she disliked most about TV news. She also told me the famous "Gil Amelio" story which you don't want to miss.
Dec. 11th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Encore #2 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 (TWIS) podcast and radio show. This is her third appearance on Background Mode. In this episode, Kiki and I once again get geeky with science: an in-depth discussion of 1) Whether it's a bad idea for our AI agents to have human names, 2) How attitudes about some science affects all science budgeting, 3) The wholistic system effects of climate change, 4) A fascinating discussion about the human microbiome and how the digestion of key nutrients affects whole body health and 5) How astronomers use Pulsars to detect gravitational waves. Kiki has a special way of inspiring one to learn about ... everything, so don't miss this very special guest.
Dec. 4th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Ecovacs Head of Marketing Christopher Caen
Christopher Caen is the Head of Marketing at Ecovacs Robotics, a company well know for its robotic vacuum cleaners and window cleaners. Christopher has a balanced academic background, being both accomplished in English as well as computer science. His first job was as an summer intern at Atari where he worked in marketing, something that immediately appealed to him. Later, at Paramount, he co-founded the Paramount Technology Group which developed interactive programming and games. Christopher's career-long expertise in marketing took him to Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Informix and NEC. We talked a lot about internet of things (IoT), modern security practices, and how modern IoT products create a business model that requires a new understanding of and relationship to the customer. If you're interested in robotics and IoT, this is a must listen.
Nov. 27th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Former TUAW Editor Michael T. Rose
Michael T. Rose is currently a Principle Solution Engineer at Salesforce.com. But you may know him best as a writer, editor and podcaster at The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) from 2006 until its untimely demise in 2014. He also hosts the Aftershow podcast with Kelly Guimont. Michael studied English at Carnegie Mellon University, but his first job after graduation (at P.ink America) took him down a technical path that endures today. Later, he worked for Entertainment Weekly as well as Life Magazines in New York where he also became interested in improvisational theater. He also does stand-up comedy in his spare time. At the Unofficial Apple Weblog, Michael worked with a notable group of writers who, along with him, are legendary. Listen in as Michael tells his unique story about his technical work, acting and writing.
Nov. 20th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Special Interview with Former Apple Executive and Tech Analyst Michael Gartenberg
Michael Gartenberg is a former Apple Senior Director of Product Marketing and reported directly to Phil Schiller. Currently, he's a technology analyst and has also been a frequent guest on Background Mode. In this special edition, I asked Michael about his thoughts on his new iPhone X. We covered all the bases: pricing, build quality, Face ID setup and use, the camera, the super-retina AMOLED display, inductive charging, the feel in the hand and balance, the new uses for the side button and battery life. If you've been on the fence about this new iPhone X from Apple, you'll want to hear Michael's thoughts about Apple's thinking and his own experiences with the "most impressive product Apple has ever done."
Nov. 13th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview With Mac Observer’s Editor-in-Chief Bryan Chaffin
Bryan Chaffin is the Editor-in-Chief of The Mac Observer. He was born and raised in Texas, and it was in Austin where he met Dave Hamilton. In 1997, Bryan was writing for a website named Webintosh. Later, Bryan bought a half-intest in the publication. Soon he realized he needed someone to run the business side of the website, so he sold his half to Dave Hamilton and they rebranded it as The Mac Observer, launching on December 28, 1998. We reminisced about how an invitation from Bryan led to my first article at the Mac Observer in October, 1999. In the second segment, we chatted about two of Bryan's notable, recent articles, iPhone encryption and Apple's tax situation. We finished with a discussion of Bryan's books, both technical and science fiction. Great stuff.
Nov. 6th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Tidbits Managing Editor Josh Centers
Josh Centers is the Managing Editor of Tidbits.com. He was born and raised in Tennessee except for college years in Kentucky. He always thought he'd leave Tennessee someday and move to California, but it turned out that the people he ended up working with had come from California, so he stayed. Josh grew up loving Macworld, MacWeek and Macaddict, but his favorite was TheNet. Early on, he developed a sense that he'd someday write about tech for a living. In the second segment, we talked about some of the popular Apple topics, ordering an iPhone X at 0200 in the morning, the Mac mini, ARM processors for Macs, the coming Mac Pro, MacBook Pro keyboards, the Apple TV struggles, the Amazon Firestick and Kodi. We had a heck of a good time.
Oct. 30th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with GraphicConverter Creator Thorsten Lemke
Thorsten Lemke is the founder of Lemke Software and the creator of the Mac app called GraphicConverter. This app is now used by over 1.5 million customers worldwide. I asked Thorsten about his early years when he was learning Pascal and BASIC on his Commodore C64 and later Atari ST. Thorsten wasn't sure what he wanted to pursue in high school, but he knew it would be technical. Then, around 1992, with his new Mac, he had a need to convert photos and clipart between file formats. After a lot of file format research, the simple GraphicConverter app on Mac OS 7 was born as shareware. Little did Thorsten know at the time how this Mac app would grow into a major application today. Thorsten tells the amazing story of his career as an Apple developer.
Oct. 23rd, 2017
TMO Background Mode Interview with Mystery Writer Elizabeth Craig
Elizabeth Craig is an accomplished mystery writer and novelist. Her works include the Southern Quilting Mysteries, Memphis Barbeque Mysteries, and Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries. Elizabeth grew up fascinated by the Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden mysteries as well as the works of Agatha Christie, especially Hercule Poirot. Later, she majored in English in college and just knew she would become a writer, but lamented that there weren't any courses that actually taught one how to write fiction. She learned on her own. We chatted about how she came to write, the art and craft of writing, and some of our favorite TV mystery shows. Elizabeth's career is inspiring, and today she teaches other fiction writers the basics at her blog. Even if you've never aspired to mystery writing, you'll want to hear her story.
Oct. 16th, 2017
TMO Background Mode Encore Interview with TMO Contributor Kelly Guimont
Kelly Guimont does TextExpander technical support for Smile Software. She's also a podcaster and a TMO Contributor. And she joins the TMO Daily Observations (TDO) Podcast with me on most Wednesdays. On a recent TDO episode, Kelly revealed that she holds her iPhone in a very special way with one hand. Just how she operates the iPhone in that mode and how she manages her apps created a very interesting follow-up discussion in this podcast. Kelly also shared her thoughts on the latest iTunes, version 12.7., that eliminated app support. (Apple has since mildly reversed course.) Kelly and I really let loose here, so don't miss the fun!