Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A conversation with Steve Jobs: a dream

I just awoke from a dream. In it, I met and had a conversation with Steve Jobs shortly before his death.

Steve and I met in a casual setting. We encountered each other by chance in an Apple Store. Of course, in reality our conversation would have probably been cut short as he was mobbed by hordes of adoring fans. But somehow, this didn't happen.

In my dream, Steve was walking through the store, and suddenly he paused by a video or a still image of the Safari logo on the wall. He suddenly stopped and asked nobody in particular though facing the direction of my friend and me, "What browser do you use?" Somehow I sensed that he was talking about mobile browsers, so I answered, "Safari, of course." At this point in my dream, the person I was with at the store faded into the background as Steve began asking me questions.

"Why?" he asked aloud. He wanted to know why I used Safari on the go rather than any other browser. I explained to him that it simply offered the best browsing experience, the same rich experience as the desktop; you get to see the whole Web page, wherever you are, without being dumped to an awful "mobile-friendly" version of a site. I explained how my relative youth and good eyesight influenced my desire to see the actual site scaled down on a Retina display. Oddly, I think at this point we walked several feet over to some sort of tall apparatus in the store and Steve began testing my eyes while we continued our conversation. (Hey, dreams aren't always terribly realistic.) I discussed how people of my parents' generation (roughly the same as Jobs' but a little older) may have a different opinion about reading text so small on such a small screen, in spite of the fine resolution of the iPhone. I explained that I had been thinking about a solution to the problem. Steve smirked a bit as I explained that obviously they couldn't use a garish round magnifying glass to see the screen better, and I told him that I had been pondering a solution, including the possibility of a seamless, smooth, flat, magnifying layer with tapered edges that could be placed on top of the iPhone's display surface (in reality, I had never imagined such a thing prior to my dream).

Steve pondered my responses and continued his inquisition. I reveled in the opportunity to have my brain picked by the master. I secretly wondered for a moment if this would lead me to a job in the creative inner circle at Apple. The conversation then shifted to what type of phone my mother uses. I began to tell him about how I had tried to convince my mom to buy an iPhone but she hadn't yet. The wheels in his head were turning. Steve's brilliant mind was trying to figure out what could be done—what he could do—to capture the imagination of those who didn't yet use an iPhone. His inner passion was to bring the world to nirvana though embracing great technology. "What does she use?" he inquired. "Some stupid flip-phone, a Samsung I think. Just some horrible dumbphone." I explained that I had shown her several of my iPhone's features that I believed she would enjoy using, but that every time I did she always cut me off and said that was enough. (This is not reality, by the way. My mom actually does want an iPhone and is considering getting one.) I expressed my incredulity about her not comprehending that an iPhone would simplify her life, that she would never again have to take horribly grainy pictures on her low-res dumbphone camera, that she would be able to sync all her photos to her iPhoto library and check her e-mail in Mail while on the go. I then explained that she did, however, have an iPad, and that she uses it for Mail—but mostly she just uses it to play Words With Friends with her retired friends and current coworkers (this is reality).

At some point as the conversation continued, we were far from the Apple Store, lying on our backs in a grassy field staring up at the sky while discussing how to bring the world to technological enlightenment. Somehow, he and I both knew that his time remaining on the earth was short. We shared this bit of knowledge through an unspoken connection between us, and others who had been near us in the Apple Store seemed unaware of this most unfortunate fact. But for the most part, Steve seemed at peace with it. He was just trying to make the most out of the little time he had left. Perhaps this all took place after he resigned as CEO. But somehow, I knew, and he knew that I knew.

I awoke. This, of course, was all just a dream. A fantasy. But I was grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with Steve Jobs before his death about the thing he was most passionate about in life: making the world a better place through great technology.

Although I don't normally have cool dreams like this, you can follow me and my passion for technology and other things on Twitter and .

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Netflix Doesn't Care About You

If you're a current Netflix customer with a DVD or Blu-ray plan and you also stream movies with Watch Instantly, Netflix has a clear message for you: We're lowering our prices (which really means we're jacking them up sky-high, but you're stupid enough to believe us, right?), and if you don't like it, buzz off; we don't really even care about you, anyway.

Let me provide some context. Prior to today, Netflix already offered a $7.99/month plan for streaming only (or "Watch Instantly" in Netflix parlance). If you wanted to rent DVDs by mail, you paid $9.99/month and you also got streaming as a bonus (originally there was no streaming-only plan, and streaming was first introduced as a bonus for DVD customers). If you wanted the option to get Blu-ray discs instead of DVDs for titles where Blu-ray was available, you paid an additional $2/month.

Today Netflix announced that they're now offering a DVD-only plan for $7.99/month, a totally new option. Good for them; everyone should be happy, right? Well unfortunately that's not the only change Netflix made. The company also announced that it will be increasing the cost of the DVD plus streaming plan from the current $9.99/month to $15.98/month ($7.99 + $7.99; you pay full price for both the DVD and streaming plans, with no discount for bundling the two).

So basically, you get absolutely no improvement to your service whatsoever, but you now have to pay 60% more (an additional $6 more per month, which translates into $72 more per year) than you were paying before, and you get nothing new in return.

Remember how I said you could pay an additional $2 more per month on top of the old $9.99 plan to get Blu-ray discs when available? Netflix didn't say anything in their announcement about Blu-ray, but logging into confirms that there will still be an additional $2/month Blu-ray fee on top of the new $15.98/month plan. This means that if I decided to go with the new Blu-ray and streaming plan (which Netflix intends to opt me into on September 1st), I would go from paying $11.99/month to $17.98/month (over $215/year). Notably, more than half of what's in my disc queue right now is only available on DVD, not Blu-ray.

So why am I bothering to write a big ol' rant about all this? Netflix is a business, and it has the right to change its pricing structure and plans as it sees fit. I just find it extremely disappointing that a company that has historically been an innovator and leader in movie rentals is taking a major turn in the wrong direction with this egregious price hike (while simultaneously claiming to be "offering our lowest prices ever" in typical doublespeak PR-spin fashion). Maybe on some level this move could benefit the company, since Netflix will likely increase its revenue even if a significant percentage of current DVD or Blu-ray customers were to abandon Netflix completely or switch to one of the $7.99 plans. On the other hand, it's a fact that Netflix is going to lose loyal customers over this, and it's going to damage the company's perception amongst potential, current, and soon-to-be former customers.

If you're frustrated with Netflix over this boneheaded move, don't worry; there are plenty of options available to you. I'm not aware of other companies that offer a subscription plan that includes both discs and non-disc rentals for one flat rate, but you can easily mix and match from various services if you're unwilling or unable to pay Netflix's burdensome new prices.

If you want streaming or downloadable rentals:
  • Hulu ( offers streaming of many TV shows and movies for free (with advertisements)
  • Hulu Plus costs $7.99/month and offers access to more content in higher definition on more devices, and although it unfortunately doesn't preclude you from advertisements, it may be a better fit for you than Netflix if you're more interested in TV shows than movies
  • Amazon Instant Video ( currently has about 6,000 videos (movies and TV episodes) for individual rental or purchase, all of which can be viewed at no additional charge for Amazon Prime members (Amazon Prime gives you free two-day shipping on all Amazon-fulfilled orders for a flat rate of $79/year, which breaks down to about $6.58/month)
  • Apple's iTunes Store ( has lots of movies and TV shows for individual rental or purchase (no monthly subscription option is available)
  • Blockbuster ( offers individual streaming rentals (some of which are free), but their software is only compatible with Windows and their device support is rather limited
  • You can downgrade your Netflix plan to $7.99/month for unlimited streaming only (
If you want DVD or Blu-ray rentals:
  • Redbox ( is a really inexpensive option (typically $1 or $1.50 per DVD/Blu-ray, which you rent from a local kiosk), but their selection is very limited and mostly consists of popular new releases plus a few video games
  • You can try your local video rental store for items that Redbox doesn't stock (search your local phone directory or try searching or for the phrase 'video rental near' followed by your city and state)
  • Blockbuster also has a rent by mail plan for $11.99/month (with Blu-ray and video game rentals included) which allows up to 5 trade-ins per month at local Blockbuster stores (which is great if you still have a Blockbuster store in your area) and claims to get some new releases up to 28 days before Netflix and Redbox
  • You can downgrade your Netflix plan to $7.99/month for DVDs only, or $9.99/month with Blu-rays included (

Do you know of any other good Netflix alternatives? Please leave a comment.

As for my family, we're not the least bit interested in spending over $215/year on movie rentals, and we're strongly considering putting our account on hold on August 30th for 90 days ( to give Netflix a chance to reconsider its pricing structure, after which we'll probably cancel our membership. Frankly, this could be a good opportunity for Netflix customers to consider cutting out some distractions in their lives to focus on more important things.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Missing Friends in Japan

When I was a young boy in the 1980s, my family used to host Japanese students at our home, and we even had one stay with us for a year.  In 1989, my parents and I visited Japan for a month and stayed with some of their families and met many wonderful people.

As you can imagine, last week when the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, I was immediately concerned about all our old friends there.  Thankfully, Google Person Finder was quickly updated to include a registry for people seeking information (or able to provide information) about people in Japan who might have been affected by the disasters.  At the time I'm posting this, there are over 161,000 name records in the registry.

So far I've only received information about one person that we've added to the registry, who thankfully was in Peru at the time of the disasters (although I suspect her house in Sendai may have been damaged).  I have not yet heard anything about three families that we added to the registry a couple days ago.  If you have any information on the following people, please submit an update to Google Person Finder via the links below and post a comment here on this blog.

  • Hisako Abe from the Aoba-ku area of Sendai
  • Yuji and Mari Mori from Natori City (Miyagi Prefecture)
  • Yuji and Erika Hayasaka from Ishinomaki (Miyagi Prefecture), who have at least two young children: a boy about age 9, and a girl about age 5 or 6
    UPDATE, 5 June 2011: All of these names have been removed from Google Person Finder, but I still have not heard anything about these families.  If you have any information about these families, please leave a comment.  I review all comments on this blog before publishing them, so please specify if you wish for your comment to remain private.
    UPDATE, 8 October 2011: We heard from Erika this week! She and her family are fine, but her car and her workplace were destroyed and about 7,000 people from their city lost their lives.

We know many other people from Japan, but these are the only people for whom we have a mailing address who live in the area of Japan most affected by the disasters.  We have not had contact with these friends within the past couple years, so they may have moved since we last spoke with them.

If you have any information about other people from Japan, please check Google Person Finder and submit the information you have.

Please consider making a donation to a reputable organization participating in relief efforts, for example the American Red Cross or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here are direct links for making secure donations online:

Also, if you are a religious person, please keep the people of Japan in your prayers.  It is easy for those of us who have not been directly affected by a disaster to forget about what has happened, but many people are suffering due to the loss of everything they had, including and especially their loved ones.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Over 1 Million Podcasts Downloaded!

This week I reached a significant milestone as a podcaster:

My podcasts have been downloaded over 1 million times!

I'm most well known for the JoshMeister's LOST Podcast, which accounted for the largest share of episode downloads.  The podcast I currently produce is MacTech Live, the official podcast of MacTech Magazine.  You can find links to all my shows, past and present, at

Some people who deserve special thanks include:
  • Ryan Ozawa, founder of the Lost Podcasting Network, without whom my LOST podcast probably never would have become as popular as it was
  • Orien Colmer (Big-O), who became a good friend of mine through LOST podcasting, was later a host on my short-lived Tech Pulse podcast, and cohosted MacMod:LIVE (the precursor to MacTech Live) with me
  • Anthony King, cofounder of MacMod, who was a regular host on Tech Pulse and invited Orien and me to start MacMod:LIVE
  • Neil Ticktin, editor-in-chief and publisher of MacTech Magazine, who kept the podcast alive after acquiring MacMod
  • Alex Castex-Porter (congested), Jack and Jay Glatfelter from The Lost Podcast with Jay & Jack, Andy Page (DarkUFO), Josh Spivack (Spivvy) and Amanda Hafer from The Lost Flashbacks Podcast, Cliff Ravenscraft from GSPN's Weekly Lost Podcast, Matt and Steve from The Smoke Hatch, Curt Yanko from the Black Rock LOST Podcast, Jon Lachonis (DocArzt), Sam McPherson from Lostpedia, Master Nak, diesel929, baileybear, KateJack, kane, MsAmaris, shelley5, James721, PsychoBabblinMom, Robin C., Aerc, Matthew K., Bob Naidus, Judy L., Mark Hunter from Podcast User Magazine, Mister Payne, Jeff Roney from RoneyZone Radio, Code 42, Audioengine, LogMeIn, and the many others who have participated in, promoted, donated to, or sponsored any of my shows

To everyone who has downloaded my podcasts, thanks a million!