A Guide To A Good Life

Bespoke vs. Store-bought Suits

In this video, which is part of The Elegant Gentleman series, I talk about the following topics:

  1. The importance of a proper fit (also known as a cut) for your clothes, which only a good tailor can do. It matters because it not only makes you look good, but it allows for fluctuations in body weight and/or mass. A great suit will hide these changes in your body to a certain point, beyond which it will either start to show them or you’ll start feeling uncomfortable in the clothes, signaling that alterations or a new suit are in order. A poorly cut suit will generally not accommodate fluctuations in body weight, showing them right away, in unflattering ways. This ties into my second point, which is…
  2. The differences between bespoke (custom-made) suits and store-bought suits, one of those differences being a proper fit (discussed above). Bespoke suits fit better, naturally, since they’re made for your body from the start. Store-bought suits will feel like they’re off-the-rack 95% of the time and in my case, 100% of the time. Because my body is of an athletic build, whenever I go to the store to try on a suit, either the coat or the pants won’t fit me and in either case, any alterations that would have to be made are so significant that the suit would no longer look good.
  3. The importance of finding good materials cannot be overstated, since they are the stuff from which suits are made. They cannot be an afterthought. I suggest you go to fabric warehouses in your area (it may take some effort to find them) and pick out materials that you like. Educate yourself on the fibers used in the materials, then on the texture, the colors, the patterns and then you’ll be properly equipped to shop for fabrics. (Or you can find an honest and knowledgeable salesman who’s willing to explain that to you.)
  4. The price of a good suit isn’t set in stone and will vary widely, first based on where you live (larger, more famous cities bring up the price) and second based on what your tailor decides to charge. For example, where I live, in a small town in Southern Transilvania, I can get a good bespoke three-piece suit for about $175 – 250, and that includes the price of the fabrics, buttons and zippers, too. I hear that prices back in the US are somewhere in the area of $750 – 1,500 and there again they’ll vary based on the city and tailor shop.
  5. The one important characteristic that will make a suit much more expensive and rightfully so is whether it is sewn or glued together. You probably cringe when you hear “glued together” but it isn’t as bad as all that. This is also referred to as canvassed vs. fused. Suits have been glued together for decades. Basically, the outer and middle layers of the suit are pressed together with a hot iron and a special coating on the middle layer makes it stick to the outer layer. The lining is usually canvassed (or floating) on all suits. This allows the tailor to shape the suit much easier once it’s been cut, rather than sew it all together to give it its shape, which is laborious, requiring much more skill and time and therefore rendering the suit more expensive. There are actually three levels of quality: there is a fully floating canvassed jacket, a half canvassed jacket (where only the lapels and upper construction around the chest is fused) and a fully fused jacket. My suits are half canvassed, simply because my tailor doesn’t know and isn’t interested in working on fully floating canvassed jackets.

I hope this proves helpful to you! Enjoy!


What Microsoft Can Learn From Mac OS X Lion

This article makes a point which has been on the mind of Windows and Mac users for quite some time: namely, that Microsoft ought to stop selling so many versions of its OS. It’s confusing, it’s expensive, and from my point of view, underhanded.

What Microsoft Can Learn From Mac OS X Lion

They should take a cue from Apple, which has only two versions of its OS: its consumer version (for desktops and laptops), and its server version.

With OS X Lion, it looks like they’ll simplify things even more. It may ship with only one version, allowing those who want the server version to activate the server components as an add-on. Cheers for that!

Another point of contention for me is the ridiculous price difference between Windows and OS X. Windows can cost upwards of $300-500, depending on the version you choose, while OS X is just $129. Windows OS upgrades can cost anywhere from $200-300 dollars or more, while OS X upgrades are just $29.

The price difference is incredible, and I can’t help feeling cheated whenever I need to shell out that much money for a Windows license. What am I really getting in return, when I compare their OS with the Mac experience?


New, lower pricing on web use photo licenses

I’ve decided to try something different, and lowered the prices for the web-use photo licenses (the 1 megapixel sizes) to $3 for personal uses and $5 for commercial uses. These sizes are great for article illustrations, or for header images for your websites, or even for desktop wallpapers. A typical 1 megapixel image is a little larger than 1200×800 pixels.

This is essentially micro-stock pricing, but you get access to my premium image collection. I’m going to see how this works out in a few months’ time, and I may adjust the price back up if the economics don’t make sense.

If you’ve been on the fence about licensing a few of my images, now is the time to jump in and try things out. Have a go, browse my catalog and see what you like.

Make sure you read through my simplified licensing terms as well. Thanks!


A 27 GB hard drive for $276?

While cleaning up old paperwork, I ran into a receipt from late 1999, for a WD 27.3 GB hard drive with an Ultra 66 Cable. The price for that thing was $275.94 with taxes. Nowadays, I can get a 2 TB hard drive (that’s 2,000 GB) for less than $150. How times have changed!


CableJive SoundDock and iStubz cables

Back in 2008, I bought a SoundDock cable from CableJive, which allowed me to connect my 1st gen Bose SoundDock to my Mac. Since we bought our SoundDock, Bose has come out with a 2nd gen SoundDock, which has a built-in auxiliary input, making the cable unnecessary. Still, we weren’t about to buy a new SoundDock when ours was working perfectly well, and with the addition of a cable, we could make it work with our Mac, allowing us to have nice, premium sound.


I remember looking around for months for a cable that could do the trick. I knew it was technically possible, but no company I knew of made such a cable. Finally, I discovered CableJive. Back then, they were just going into business, judging by their website and lack of customer service. After placing my order, I got no confirmation whatsoever. I had no idea whether they received my order or not. The phone number they listed on the website wasn’t working, and nobody answered my emails. Thankfully, the cable arrived in the mail a few days later, and has been working ever since.

The build quality of the SoundDock cable leaves something to be desired though. The sleeve that fits around the cable at the end that has the thick, iPod-style adaptor is loose, and the plastic that contains the circuits that make the connection with the Bose SoundDock isn’t anchored well into the sides of the adaptor, making it flop around in there. Overall, I’d call the cable flimsy, and considering the price we paid for it at the time ($48), overpriced.

I can only hope their build quality has improved since then, and I’m glad to see that at least they’ve lowered the price to $40. It’s still a hefty price to pay for a flimsy little cable, but like I said, no one else makes them, and if you’ve got to have it, you’ll pay the price or go without.

Now I see they make these iStubz cables, which are basically short sync cables for the iPod and iPhone. The ones that ship with the phone are too long for most people’s needs, cluttering up one’s desk. I like the idea, and I also like the price ($8).



Now here’s my question: why is the iStubz cable, which is more complicated to make (I assume) than the Bose SoundDock cable, only $8, and the SoundDock cable $40?

Images used courtesy of CableJive.


The future is the past is the future

Back in late 2008, I heard of a technology that was touted as new: instant price matches, made available by scanning the barcode of a product in a store, through an iPhone app called Checkout SmartShop. I chuckled. This idea wasn’t new at all.


I worked for a company called BarPoint for a few months in 2000 or 2001, I can’t recall exactly. As you can see if you visit their domain name, it’s up for sale now. Back then, it was working just fine, and they were working hard to put together an online directory of products whose prices could be instantly matched from many stores. They even had gizmos with little barcode scanners you coud buy and carry with you to a store; they were little Palm PDAs outfitted with small add-on barcode scanners. These gizmos would connect back to the BarPoint servers via built-in dial-up modems, and would quote you prices from other stores.

BarPoint Wireless Devices

They had investors lined up, had cleared about two rounds of investing, had bonafide employees, etc. Unfortunately for them, it was the end of the dotcom boom. They were still burning through the cash and not generating any profits, because they didn’t get off the ground fast enough. I left as they started to cut employees. Other co-workers hung on through a company move from nice offices in downtown Ft. Lauderdale to a warehouse in Deerfield Beach (both in South Florida), and many efforts to revive the company. Things didn’t work out for them. You’re welcome to follow the site’s progress and slow death on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

What is obvious now is that they had two things going against them: the idea was ahead of its time, and the market crashed. Back then, this wasn’t so obvious. People thought the idea was cool and wanted to make it work. I thought it was cool and even thought they might somehow pull it together and start making profits, even after I left. I bought some stock in the company, only to watch its price sink to very near $0 over time.

The interesting thing about the iPhone is that it’s truly a game-changer. It penetrated the market quickly, and app development for it is so easy that you don’t need an army of people, like BarPoint did. You also don’t need to sell the devices, or worry that device adoption is reserved for a very small segment of the market. The iPhone is practically everywhere. I don’t even know if Kigi Software, the makers of the Checkout SmartShop, is a real company, or a dba name for one or two smart developers working from home. But that’s what’s cool about these times. The price for bringing an interesting product to the market is no longer prohibitive, like it was for BarPoint. Almost anyone can do it if they want to, nowadays. And the end product is something that kicks BarPoint in the rear quite effectively.

You simply enter the barcode into the iPhone using the numeric keypad, and you get instant price matches. Voila.

Enter UPCGet online price quotes

You can even find out where the product is being sold in other local stores, or read online reviews. It does everything the BarPoint product would have done if it could have gotten off the ground.

Get local storesGet reviews

Very nice indeed.


Premium gasoline dips below $3 per gallon

As I filled up my MINI a couple of days ago, I glanced at the pump and noticed the price of the premium gasoline: $2.77 per gallon. I couldn’t believe it. I left the pump running and ran toward the street sign to take a photo.

I just didn’t think I’d ever see premium gas dipping below $3 again. While I’m sure others welcome the change — and I can’t say I disagree when you consider the issue solely from the point of view of one’s bank account — I still say gasoline needs to stay above $3 at the pump, in order to encourage proper driving behavior and to make research into alternative fuels and technologies viable.

It wasn’t that long ago that I paid $4.45 at the pump to buy premium gasoline for my MINI. There’s a huge difference between $4.45 and $2.77, and I don’t like this sort of yo-yo behavior when it comes to gas prices. First it was too high, and now it’s too low. It’s not right. It needs to stabilize somewhere between $3-4 dollars per gallon, preferably somewhere between $3.00 and $3.50.

If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on a gasoline tax (which isn’t a new idea, but already in use in Europe), see this post from March of 2005.

I took the photo above with my Nokia N95.


Price wars are bad for everyone

I believe a lot in equitable pricing. A product’s price should be able to net its creator a decent profit — not a huge profit, not a tiny profit, because that makes it hard to go on, and certainly not a loss. That’s why I’m really annoyed with the recent price wars in the hardware industry. Scoble reports tonight on his blog that Seagate didn’t meet its projections in this last quarter because of horrendous price wars among hard drive manufacturers. An unnamed manufacturer was willing to lose over 100 million dollars just to maintain their foothold in the market. Beta News reports that AMD lost half a billion dollars in this last quarter, and that’s directly related to its price war with Intel.

This is bad. In the end, what was gained by the price wars? Companies lost money, their employees were overworked (to meet R&D and production deadlines), and everyone ended up stressed out. Did any company emerge as a winner? No, they didn’t.

I would love to see the frenetic pace of business and competition slow down to something more rational, more sustainable. I for one can imagine how stressful it must be to work in companies where you’re constantly pushed to meet deadlines, and more deadlines are coming at you down the pipe. I treasure the sense of accomplishment that I feel when I’ve just finished a project and know I’ve got a lull before the next one lands on my desk. No such thing goes on at these companies. Not only do they constantly have to find ways to tighten their belts and “restructure” by firing people, but at the end of the day, their bank accounts don’t really show the results of their efforts. What’s worse, they may even end up in the red.

I for one am willing to pay a little extra for my hardware, if I know that the pace of work at these companies is rational, and that employees there are treated well. Remember, we are all employees in one way or another. How would we like it if we had to work extra every day or got fired just so some Joe Blow can brag that he got his hard drive for $20 less?

[Added 4/20/07] Lest you think the consumer wins, think again. What we as consumers get out of this is bad design or bad quality control or bad customer service and support, or any combination of these three. The companies cutting prices have to skimp on something. You can’t rush things, cut prices AND provide a wonderfully designed and reliable products with great customer support. If you don’t believe me, see Julie’s comment below.