Is There A Future For Luxury Tech?

I remember when I was about 14 walking into Harrods and seeing a couple of mobile phones, made by a company I’d never heard of, selling for an insane amount of money. At the time I was ignorant enough to assume that because it cost so much, it must be able to do something that my Sony Erricsson W810i couldn’t do. That company was Vertu. A luxury phone producer owned by Nokia that produced phones that were priced as high as £210,000. That’s more than your average Aston Martin.

These phones were before the time of iPhone. Before decent smart phones had actually been released and before the design of a mass produced tech product could be considered a luxury design. People had phones that were made of cheap plastic and all it took to sell a phone was one killer feature. Usually a slightly better camera than the competitor. But what killer feature did the Vertu phones have? Nothing. Inside they were Nokia phones. They were made in England, some made with some of the most valuable materials. Diamonds, Leather, Gold. Everything about them had a luxury feel.
But hey that was 2006 and now it’s 2012 and Nokia have just sold Vertu. They’ve sold it to a holdings company for an undisclosed sum and retained a 10% share.

My question is, especially in a day and age where Apple’s manufacturing techniques are so impressive and everyone and their mums has an iPhone, is there any room for luxury tech companies? Each and every tech company is making better products out of better materials and every single person I see is after the best phone when it comes to there next buy. They are not after something that weighs a kilo and is plated in gold. No, they want that cheeky little Apple, they want to be able to do everything the iPhone can. Exclusivity is no longer something people long for, they long for the best. The only chance a luxury phone vendor would have these days is with Android or maybe Windows Phone.

Then you’ve got Bose, Bang and Olufsen and the luxury audio industry. Bose supposedly thrived off marketing techniques before the Internet 2.0 era. Nowadays you’ve got reviews of audiophiles popping up on Amazon and effecting the ratings. People claiming that it’s nothing but an overpriced joke. I’m not one to judge but the luxury audio industry is still doing alright. Bose and B&O both design beautiful products much like Apple. Just like the iPhone is not necessarily the best phone out there, Bose and B&O might not make the best audio products but they still design beautiful products. We see it again with Dre Beats products. I don’t like Dre audio what so ever. In fact I cannot stand how they sound, I cannot stand the connotations that go with the brand but I can understand why people buy them. They buy them for the same reason people by iPhones.

Laptops are also an interesting one. People by Apple MacBooks for the sake of it. Not many people harness half the power their MacBook has but they just love the look of them and the luxury connotations that go with the brand. Sony Vaio used to be renowned as a Windows equivalent of Apple design however they’ve dropped their notebook prices massively. You can pick up a Vaio for half as much as you used to be able too.

Celebrities, footballers, the super-rich and all that. What are they doing to get their fix of  luxury technology these days? Their just not. They use the iPhone like the rest of us, they may be getting the top of the range speaker systems, the biggest TV’s imaginable but they are all made by the same vendors you and I use. Granted they may ‘protect’ their iPhone and iPad in Louis Vuitton sleeves but it’s still the same device. Is Dre audio is just another Bose? I really do wonder what will happen to Vertu now. I don’t think I’ve actually ever seen anyone with one in real life. B&O, Bose and the like have a chance, Dre has shown that celebrity endorsement and good marketing can sell poor quality headphones for hundreds of pound and still be considered luxury. Apple is the new standard of premium which everyone compares against and the future of luxury tech is not certain.

Black Mesa


I’ve not played a game from start to finish in what seems like forever. It even seems like a long time since I’ve actually sat down and dedicated any amount of time to gaming. I’d love to say that it’s because I’ve grown up a bit, but that’d be a lie. Games are awesome.
My gaming rig blew it before I left home and I thought I’d install Steam on my MacBook Pro before I left to see how it ran seeing as my ThinkPad has next to no graphical power what so ever however is all Steam did on my Mac was crash. Haven’t played a single game of Team Fortress 2 since I’ve been here.

Alas, just about every website I’ve ever visited started raving about the release of Black Mesa. A fan-made restoration of the original and critically acclaimed Half-Life game. I had to play this. 10/10 reviews everywhere, a chance to work out what on earth I’ve been doing on Half Life 2 all this time and to finally understand that joke GLaDOS made in the first portal song.  So I installed it on my ThinkPad and hoped it would run smoothly. Fortunately it ran pretty smooth throughout. Maybe not the best frame rates, and slow down here and there (although I hear lots of people have had lag). I finally finished the game last night.

Now, I’ve not played the original Half Life but Black Mesa near enough follows the story of the original however has had a heavy overhaul on the visuals. This video below can show you the differences between the original and the community project:

As you can see it’s a pretty amazing feat. This another great example of the online community and without getting to philosophical, a great example of how the internet is great for the world. These people have given away this game for free, they’ve dedicated 8 years to their lives to re-create one of the greatest games of all time for a new generation of gamers.

I’ve had an absolute blast playing this game, I’m very inclined to go back to my other Half Life games and play through them now. I really love how a bunch of people took the original game and developed it, Valve haven’t kicked off, they’re even distributing via the steam platform.

I urge any fan of first-person shooters, games or anything related to go get download Black Mesa and play through it. You won’t regret it. Check it out here, is all you need is a copy of a source game to run it and a fairly competent machine.


What Facebook should do with Instagram

Don’t integrate with an app. Facebook apps are the bane of my life. I don’t want to sign in to use your app, I don’t want to like your page to read an article. I just want to get where I was going like I used to when the internet was composed of simple links. In fact, this is one of the only ways that Facebook has slowed down the consumption of media, by forcing you to get involved with a page and receive constant updates from some page is just a way to make me say ah right you know what I’m just gonna leave it.
I know countless people who want to read a yahoo article that has shown up as something someone else has read on their new feed. They simply google the title to avoid signing up to that stupid yahoo app that shows every article you’ve read.

Instagram thrives on the way that you can use it like twitter. You can constantly upload without annoying people. In fact, uploading pictures is encouraged and people enjoy scrolling through individual photos. So the way Instagram is set up at the moment is perfect. You only share to Facebook when you tap the Facebook upload button. That’s how it should be. However there is currently no way to see all your Instagram photos in an album or as a collection on Facebook. The guy’s over at Facebook are no doubt planning heavy integration of the recent $1 billion acquisition but it’s not needed.

The last thing anyone wants is to have to click on one of those bloated apps and fowl icons with ever incrementing numbers showing up on the side bar. No, what they should do is do what they do with the mobile uploads folder now and just link it to Instagram. Just like any other album that shows up in your photos section, show all the photos that you have posted to instagram and that’s it sorted. So incredibly simple, yet the best way they can do it, if they mess with the formula to much, they could ruin Instagram. One of the little annoyances about Instagram is however, how awful the website is. It feels like it’s a closed community, I’m sure having an album like this can ensure it feels more open, more available to the online crowd.

Other things that they could do could include crossing over the likes. For example if three people have liked it on Instagram and four on Facebook. There you have it, seven likes. Simple idea yet effective. Notifications could also be used on both. Instagram notifications could show up on Facebook but not the other way round.

Basically, my whole idea for an ideal is that they keep Instagram separate from Facebook whilst integrating Instagram into Facebook and not the other way round.

This Week (and the previous) – American Learning Style, Phones, Social.

I’ll start by apologising about my website being down for a few weeks. I’ve had some problems with my hosting and it’s probably more a problem for me than you, but either way I’m sorry.

Anyway, so I’ve started “class”. After a fair amount of admin problems I was able to take the 4 modules for the semester that I had planned to take from home. The admin problem came in the form of ‘pre-requisites’. The reason this was a problem is because I technically don’t have one. I only have a year in Computer Science from Kingston University and that is by no means the same. After a few days and chats with various members of staff from each course, I was finally allowed to take my classes. Database Management Systems, Operating System Principles, Theory of Computing and Enterprise Networks. All of them thus far are pretty enjoyable however due to not having these pre-requisites, I am in a little bit of a predicament. That predicament being that I have had to fill countless gaps in my knowledge in able to be able to keep up. The majority of the courses I’m taking are considered graduate level here in SFSU however I’ve only really done one year of CompSci. I’m the youngest in all my classes by far. I can tell there is a huge difference between our learning style and the American University style.
You may have heard about how the grading is completely different such as there are continuous tests throughout the year, homework set and projects as well as final year exams that accumulate your final grade but the way it’s all organised is completely different. When I went to the CompSci office to explain that I can’t have done PHYS230 because I’m a Computer Science student from abroad, I was asked whether I knew anything about magnets. I was baffled. Yes, Computer Science is a science, it shares many skill requirements with other sciences but we define our course so early compared to here that you should of already theoretically of done 2 years of various science and maths courses before you even do Computer Science. I guess it works but it’s so different from at home. It works though and everyone in my classes who have the pre-requisites (note: all) seem very up to the challenge.
I’m doing alright thus far though, I don’t feel like I’m drained in work although sometimes it can be a bit stressful (especially C programming) but when it’s done it’s a real satisfying feeling. The work is constant and all counts towards the final grade, which in turn counts to my final degree grade. Kind of daunting how it all means so much where as my first year, despite doing really well has no leverage on my final grade.

In less academic news, I’ve bought myself a new phone. I’ve noted before how bored I am of my iPhone and I’ve now got a Windows Phone. I’ve purchases a Lumia 710. It’s pretty entry level yet it still does a lot of tasks notably faster than my iPhone 4 ever did. I really like it to be honest, I think Microsoft are really on to something here and whilst they may have been late to the game, I think the combination of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will gain them a fair amount of market share. Especially looking at some of the handsets that Nokia and HTC have announced recently. I’m still using my iPhone in WiFi areas though just to keep in contact with people using WhatsApp messenger. I’ll get a review up of the Lumia 710 and my general thoughts on Windows Phone in due course.

As for the social life, every little party I’ve seen on American TV and Film gives a relatively good impression of what it’s really like. Beer Pong, red cups, music and all that. There has literally been one almost every weekend since I’ve been here and they’ve always been a great laugh and have had a great crowd. The music is more R&B over here as one might expect over here on the west coast however there have been a few clubs I’ve visited that play absolute raging dance music and that’s been pretty awesome. I’ve got a ticket booked for Tiesto in October down at San José State University which should be great and the other day we had the Cataracs play on campus. That was a shock to the system, waking up at 10am hearing “Like a G6” blasting as they did their test set. It’s a shame that wasn’t a bit later because if it was in the evening I would of been well up for it but I was pretty tired that day.

I’ve also been to a San Francisco Giants game. Managed to get tickets for the bleachers for next to nothing ($8 I believe) and went on a random night against the diamond backs. It was really good fun, absolutely packed and the atmosphere was great. AT&T park is really something although like most stadiums once your in there it was absolutely extortionate. I’m now an avid fan of sunflower seeds as well. They are disgracefully addictive although I haven’t quite got the stage where I can eat loads at a time. A skill I’m sure I’ll master after a few more games.

It’s been a good few weeks now and I’m definitely settled in. I even said the infamous words of  “I’m going home” in reference to the flat when we were out the other day. I’m lacking on the photograph scene but I will get out to the city and surrounding areas more soon but as it happens I’m pretty busy with Uni work. It was never going to be an easy ride this year (although staying up til 3am wondering whether I’ve missed a semi-colon isn’t something that I had in mind) especially with the culture change, course level and me being absolutely useless but so far so good and I’m really enjoying it.

Catch you next week! Hopefully my website will stay up from now on as the server change I’m sure was for improvements!