Former Apple Engineering Director Don Melton - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Don Melton on Background Mode

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 starting with his aspiration to become a comic strip or comic book artist. His artistic talent led to a newspaper job which led to information graphics which led to work with Macs. His tinkering with the Mac revealed that he had a special talent for programming, and that ultimately led to his job at Netscape developing the Navigator browser. Later, a relationship with Andy Hertzfeld and Bud Tribble led to his job at Apple in 2001, chartered by Scott Forstall, to write a web browser. Don tells a fascinating story about the development of Safari for Mac OS X and the race to replace Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Productivity Coach Brittany Smith - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Brittany Smith on Background Mode.

Brittany Smith is a productivity coach who provides a variety of consulting services through her business, Devise and Conquer, that includes ADD/ADHD coaching, technology coaching, productivity consulting, and more. She is a self-designated “well-rounded geek.” She holds an M.S. degree in Cognitive Neuroscience.

In our chat, Brittany told me about her adventures with homemade videos, with a PC, as a youth. Her father was a podiatrist and her mother was a programmer, so there were always computers in the house. But the Vista version of Windows drove her into the arms of the Mac. In the second half of the show we delved into just what cognitive neuroscience is, her productivity and Apple tech coaching. Along the way we chatted about the influence of Star Trek (and Disneyland) on her career. Brittany sparkles in this interview.

Astrophysicist Dr. Brian Keating (#2) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Dr. Brian Keating on Background Mode.

Dr. Brian Keating is an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. His specialty is cosmology, and he is the father of the original BICEP project (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization). Last year, Brian published a terrific, courageous book about his team’s research, some life lessons, and the challenges of scientific research: Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor. It’s now out in paperback.

This time, we expanded on the discussion in his book about his quest for the Nobel prize. At the core: what the polarization of the cosmic background radiation tells us about the Big Bang. We also delved into the theory of the multiverse and its relationship to the anthropic principle. Finally, find out how you could win a piece of a 4.5 billion year old asteroid.

NASA Chair, Lib. of Congress Dr. Susan Schneider - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Dr. Susan Schneider on Background Mode

Dr. Susan Schneider is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at The University of Connecticut. She writes about issues in philosophy, AI, cognitive science and astrobiology. Within philosophy, she works on both the computational nature of the brain and the metaphysical nature of the mind. The topics she has written about most recently include radical brain enhancement, machine intelligence, consciousness, and the nature of persons. Her new book is Artificial You – AI And The Future Of Your Mind.

In our chat we covered many of the major issues of AI: the computational nature of the mind, consciousness, the question of whether consciousness is restricted to humans, extraterrestrial post-biological intelligence, AI implants in humans, and the ethical and cybersecurity issues of AI. Susan talks to AI issues you may have never thought about before. Join me in this awesome 30 minute virtual seminar on AI.

Thriller Novelist Carter Wilson - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Carter Wilson on Background Mode

Carter Wilson is the USA Today and #1 Denver Post bestselling author of six critically acclaimed, standalone psychological thrillers, as well as numerous short stories. He is an ITW Thriller Award finalist, a three-time winner of the Colorado Book Award, and his novels have received multiple starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. His latest novel, The Dead Girl in 2A, was released in July 2019.

Carter didn’t plan to become a novelist. It was really quite by accident. He got his bachelor’s degree from Cornell and planned to work in hotel services. Then, on a spring day in 2003, an exercise to ward off boredom during a continuing-education class evolved into a 400-page manuscript. Since that day, Carter has been constantly writing. We chatted about the craft of thrillers, his writing technique, killing off characters, and how he plans his storylines. It’s been an amazing journey.

Journalist & TMO Contributor Charlotte Henry (#2) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Charlotte Henry on Background Mode

Charlotte is a London-based technical journalist. A self described media junkie, she writes about Apple—and now for the Mac Observer as well. She has also written for City A.M. (London’s daily business tabloid,) Computer Business Review, and the Independent on Sunday. Her new book is: Not Buying It.

In this special edition of BGM, Charlotte chats about her reactions to Apple’s September 10 iPhone event. She noted how Apple is in a new balancing act, promoting hardware to sell services—and vice versa. Charlotte told me about how pleased she is with the new iPad and plans to buy one. Then we took a closer look at the value proposition comparing the iPhone Xr to the iPhone 11. Charlotte also filled us in on her experience watching the event in the Apple London flagship store.

Former Apple Senior Director Michael Gartenberg (#7) - Background Mode Interview

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Michael Gartenberg

Michael Gartenberg spent three years as Apple’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to Senior VP Phil Schiller. In his seventh appearance on Background Mode, Michael and I analyze Apple’s September 10, 2019 iPhone event: “By Innovation Only.”

We started with a discussion of the overall content and tenor of the event. Was the scripting more evident than usual? Is the format wearing thin? Why were there no success numbers touted as is customary? In the second segment, we looked at some of the new products announced. Michael and I also pondered whether some of the traditional inspirational and aspirational elements were in too short supply. And, crucially, why was Phil Schiller’s shirt tucked in? Michael is well versed in Apple marketing strategies and is always a delight to have on the show.

Tidbits Managing Editor Josh Centers (#5) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Josh Centers on Background Mode.

Josh Centers is the Managing Editor of Tidbits.com and has published many 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 13 and iPadOS 13.

In his fifth appearance on the show, Josh and I explored his latest article (Aug. 30) at Tidbits that explores a controversial user interface issue in iOS 13. Josh is blunt about Apple’s questionable use of the ellipsis. We then took a 30,000 ft. view of the current disarray in the area of IoT, home automation and security. As an aside, Josh and I hypothesize about a new Apple product. We finished with a discussion of what sets iPadOS 13 apart from iOS 13.

Astronomer Dr. Clay Sherrod (#2) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Dr. Clay Sherrod on Background Mode

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.

In his second appearance on the show, Clay and I talked about his latest book which covers the entire spectrum of the change in the Earth’s climate. We noted that climate science has deep roots into the planet’s history and is based on the scientific method. Not everyone speaks the language of science, and so it’s important to identify authoritative sources that can be trusted. We tried to cover as many aspects as we could to deliver a broad picture of the perils facing the Earth.

Archaeologist Dr. Sarah Parcak - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Sarah Parcak on Background Mode.

Dr. Sarah Parcak is an archaeologist, anthropologist, Egyptologist, and remote sensing expert who has used satellite imaging to identify potential archaeological sites in Egypt, Rome, and elsewhere. She’s written the first textbook in the field of satellite archaeology, called Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology. She holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in Egyptian Archaeology and is currently at the Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham.

Sarah told me how she became fascinated by Egyptology at an early age. And, yes, she was influenced by Indiana Jones. In college, inspired by her father’s aerial photogrammetry work, she took a remote sensing class, and that gave her the idea years later, to use NASA satellite photos to identify prospective archaeological sites. These satellite photos can also reveal signs of looting. Sarah described how climate change and poor funding is adversely affecting the science of archaeology.

Science Communicator Dr. Kiki Sanford (#7) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Dr. Kiki Sanford on Background Mode

Dr. Kiki Sanford makes her seventh 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 Elon Musk’s Neuralink, Tardigrades on the Earth’s moon, how Dark Matter may have actually preceded the Big Bang, how older parents tend to have children with fewer behavior problems, the latest findings from the exoplanet hunter, TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, and, finally, how climate change is affecting the size of some birds. Dr. Kiki is always a delight to listen to and learn from.

TMO Contributor Kelly Guimont - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Kelly Guimont on Background Mode.

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 many times for interesting technical and media discussions. In her 7th appearance, we chat about our favorite TV shows of late. John: Anne With an “E” (Netflix) and Outlander (Netflix). Kelly: Good Omens (Amazon), Stranger Things S3 (Netflix), and Battestar Galactica (SyFy). Join us as we explore together what’s great about these shows. We also put in a good word for Chuck Joiner’s new podcast Trek Favorites.

ZDNet Sr. Technical Editor Jason Perlow - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Jason Perlow is a a well-known technical journalist. He is also also a technologist with over two decades of experience in cloud computing, IoT, mobility, security, open source, enterprise systems architecture, Microsoft technology, and Software as a Service. Today, he is a Senior Technical Editor at ZDNet and an Information Security Threat Writer at Proofpoint.

Jason started his tech life at age 12 with an Apple II Plus thanks to a very technical father. But after college, Jason was hired by IBM and years later by Microsoft. The result was a standoffish approach to Apple. Today, however, Jason is all in with Apple, and he told me the story of how that happened. In fact, Jason thinks Apple and Microsoft should be working more closely together, and we explored his recent article about that.

Future Historian Steve Carper - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Steve Carper is a Future Historian, researching how the dazzling future that dominated the Golden Age of science fiction was created—starting with the technological frenzy of the late 19th century.

Steve writes a bi-weekly robot column at BlackGate.com and his latest book, published in June 2019, is Robots in American Popular Culture. This book examines society’s reactions to robots and androids such as Robby, Rosie, Elektro, Sparko, Data, WALL-E, C-3PO and the Terminator in popular culture.

Steve and I discussed his new book, covering some of the most famous robots of fiction and then all aspects of robot technology in our culture: robots as servants, enemies, lovers, children, successors and doubles. Where will the evolution of robots take our society next? Klaatu barada nikto.

Theoretical Physicist Dr. Jim Gates - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Dr. Jim Gates is a theoretical physicist and currently the Brown Theoretical Physics Center Director, Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, Affiliate Mathematics Professor, and a Watson Institute for International Studies & Public Affairs Faculty Fellow at Brown University. He is known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory.

We opened the show with a discussion of Jim’s early career, a B.S. with a dual major in mathematics and physics at MIT and, later, his Ph.D. in physics, also from MIT. In the heart of the podcast, Jim explained Superstring theory—its successes, failures and issues with dark energy. He also explained supersymmetry and supergravity for us. We finished with what’s considered the hottest topic in theoretical astrophysics. Jim is an extraordinary teacher and science communicator, so tune in and get your science hat on!

Science Fiction Author Darren Beyer (#2) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Darren Beyer is a former NASA Space Shuttle engineer at Kennedy Space Center who worked on launching and recovering more than a dozen missions. 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 author.

The 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. In this second show with Darren, we continue our previous discussion: Back to the Moon first or off to Mars first? With robot companions? Industrializing the Moon. Plus: Darren’s approach to the third novel in the Anghazi series and an explanation of how his characters achieve interstellar travel.

Director, Vatican Observatory Br. Guy Consolmagno - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Br. Guy Consolmagno earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Planetary Science from MIT and his Ph.D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona. He’s been at the Vatican Observatory since 1993 and is currently the director there where his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies. Br. Guy has co-authored two astronomy books as well as popular books such as Would you Baptize and Extraterrestrial?” He is a Jesuit Brother.

We chatted about Br. Guy’s post-graduate work, how he came to be at the Vatican Observatory—and then become the director. He explained why the Vatican has an observatory and how the Catholic Church is not anti-science. Actually he is just part of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that advises the Pope. And there was much, much more.

Founder, Bombich Software, Mike Bombich (#2) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Mike Bombich is the founder and president of Bombich Software, the developer of Carbon Copy Cloner. That’s a backup app for the Mac that has saved the day for many users. He’s a former Apple employee.

In this timely post-WWDC show, Mike joins me to explain the structure of APFS drives and the new read-only System files in macOS Catalina. He explained new features of volumes in macOS 10.15, especially how the System is isolated from the Data volume (which contains /Users). He also explained the new firmlinks that tie these two volumes together, making them appear as one. Finally, Mike explained how Carbon Copy Cloner external drives can no longer be HFS+ in Catalina but must become APFS.

TMO Contributor John Kheit (#3) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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John Kheit on Background Mode.

John Kheit is a New York attorney and a regular contributor to The Mac Observer. We share many common interests, including the 4K/UHD/HDR TV revolution, 8K TV and displays, Wi-Fi/5G technologies and the state of Apple.

In this special post-WWDC show, we chatted about author Kheit’s view of the new Mac Pro. He believes that while the 2019 Mac Pro will meet the needs of most technical and creative professionals, Apple also betrayed an important group of influencers, the Mac enthusiasts by not offering a lower cost model. We discussed various ways Apple could have achieved that goal, and that might suggest a future variation of the current model. John K. has strong feelings about this Mac and wasn’t shy about expressing them.

Former Apple Senior Director Michael Gartenberg (#6) - Background Mode Interview

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Michael Gartenberg

Michael Gartenberg spent three years as Apple’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to Senior VP Phil Schiller. In his sixth encore appearance on Background Mode, Michael and I analyze Apple’s 2019 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

We started with a discussion of the new 2019 Mac Pro and the Pro Display XDR. We also pondered why Apple SVP of Product Marketing, Phil Schiller, was noticeably absent from the stage. As an aside, Michael tells a hilarious story about SVP Schiller that happened back at WWDC 2013. Then we turned to Apple’s Catalyst system and some of the nuances of building and running iOS apps on a Mac. We also touched on iPad OS. Michael is well versed in Apple marketing strategies and is always a delight to have on the show.