Author: Michael Kwan

Reviewing video conversion software

I got my hands on some new video conversion software about a week ago. The Fedex guy came by, dropped off a manila-coloured envelope, and got me to sign on his little handheld communication device. Opening up this bubble-wrapped package, I discovered a DVD case with M2Convert Multimedia Software inside. On this single burned CD (it was quite obvious that it was a CD-R), I got full versions of their conversion solutions, for the iPod, PSP, Creative Zen, smartphones, and the complete package known as M2Convert Professional. I reviewed it for Mobile Magazine, so check that out by clicking on the link below. Here’s a screenshot of the program in action, and while it’s nice that it comes with a boat load of support for a number of different file formats and codecs, I found its performance slow and somewhat cumbersome, especially for a video converting newb like myself.Click here for the full...

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Homebrewing on the Nintendo DS made easy

The homebrew scene for the Nintendo DS is huge, arguably even bigger than the audience devoted to the Sony PSP. Up until now, however, the enthusiasts were a little on the “geek” side of things, and the Average Joe (or Jane) video game player was intimidated by all this talk of flash cartridges, clients, kernels, PassMe devices, and the like. Then along comes what may be the easiest system for the Nintendo DS to date: the outrageously-named but incredibly simple to use DS-Xtreme from DS-X. Let’s get something out of the way. The primary reason why a lot of people would consider getting something like this is to play illegally downloaded games on their DS. Yes, the DS-X can do that and it makes the process idiot-proof, but — of course — technically they can’t sell the consumer on that feature. On the record, I don’t condone the practice, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you want to do. I got a test unit to fiddle with, and have since posted up a review for Mobile Magazine. Here’s a short excerpt: Pretty well any NDS “homebrew app” will run like a dream on the DS-Xtreme. It may take a second or two for it to load, but as soon as it does, there doesn’t appear to be any slowdown. I found this was true both...

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Arts Club: Griffin and Sabine

The Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver puts out a number of mainstream acts like Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap some years back and Beauty and the Beast this holiday season, but they also showcase a fair amount of lesser known talent as well. Although born abroad, Nick Bantock has been living in BC for some years now, most recently finding his way as a fiction writer. He has produced at least two trilogies of verse, the first of which — Griffin and Sabine — has been adapted for the stage. I had the esteemed opportunity to attend the opening night to this lyrical play at the Granville Island Stage and here are my thoughts. The premise is fairly straight forward. Griffin is a one-man postcard company living in London, creating some rather fantastic art and paintings. Sabine is an island girl, living in a not-so populated area of the world (I didn’t catch the name, but it’s probably something like the US Virgin Islands or the like, the actual location doesn’t matter all that much). The twist is that Sabine, since she was a young girl, could see every piece of art that Griffin produced as he produced it, despite the fact that he is on the other side of the earth. The image of his painting would unravel right before her in her mind’s eye, and she made it...

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Is paper obsolete?

I recently wrote an article for LoveToKnow Party about Evite invitations and it got me thinking. Are paper-based…well, anything… obsolete? We turn to email to correspond with people, rather than the old post office method. We use Acrobat (PDF) files, instead of shooting over a fax. Heck, even for taking notes in class, more students are turning to laptops rather than an actual notebook (side note: it’s kind of funny, really, that a “notebook” could refer to a pad of paper or a portable computer). Are we lacking the personal touch? People don’t meet in person as much anymore, yakking it up over instant messengers instead. But what about when it comes to wedding invitations? Or how about the pre-planning events, like when you want to send out bridal shower invitations? Now, I can perfectly understand when you’re organizing casual get togethers, like a poker game, birthday party, or a night of go-karting, but for something as personal (and important as a wedding, can you really opt for a cold message in someone’s email box? Does it not make you look cheap? Maybe I just have weddings on the mind, because I went to so many this past summer. Maybe I overuse that wonderous evite site, relying on it a little too much for keeping track of RSVPs. Bleh. Maybe I’m just...

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Check, raise, all-in. The world of online poker

I’m sure you’ve noticed. Poker is no longer “just a game.” It’s no longer restricted to smoke-filled casinos. It’s about as mainstream as it comes, and a big part of this phenomenon is the internet. Sure, the World Series of Poker has been around for a long time, but with the World Poker Tour catered for television, more and more people have jumped on the checking, raising, and betting fiasco known as Texas Hold ’em. I admit. I’ve been bit by the poker bug too. There are plenty of online poker sites out there — Poker Room, Party Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and so on — and there have even been some millionaires made as a result, the best known of which is Chris Moneymaker (his name is a little too appropriate). One site that I’ve come across during my journeys is Blogger Poker Tour. It’s not new; this is their “second season”, whatever that means, but who would have thought combining the somewhat geeky practice of blogging with the “cool” game of cards. Check it out if you want, stick to the home game tourneys (like me), or dare to be different and play Euchre instead. No matter what you do, it seems like poker is here to stay and it’s only going to get bigger. After all, who could have guessed that Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, and...

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Make money blogging

A growing number of people — myself included — are starting to make their primary income online. Some have tried selling random trinkets, others may sign up for those sketchy pyramid schemes. I haven’t tried either of those, but since I enjoy writing so much, being a blogger for a living has been a natural fit. But can you make money blogging? Yes and no. Prominent bloggers, like Darren Barefoot and Ross the Intern, don’t have too much trouble getting enough exposure these days, but what around the rest of us? With the proliferation of sites like MySpace, Blogger, and so on, more and more folks are having a significant online presence, even if a relative small number of people visit their blogs. Here at Beyond the Rhetoric, traffic has been modest, but this is far from being my primary source of income. The Google ads provide a touch, but I want to dabble in a couple of other streams. One such stream is Blogsvertise. How legitimate they are… well, I don’t know that yet. No harm in trying, though, I guess. It’s no get rich quick scheme — those never work out — but it’s worth a shot. Are there any services you have tried? Did they work? Were they scams? Leave a comment and let us all in on the...

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Vancouver’s booming housing market about to burst?

It’s no secret that it’s been a seller’s market in Vancouver when it comes to real estate. These past couple of years, we’ve seen prices skyrocket on even the most modest of developments, spurring on more and more condos. The building boom has been huge, shifting entry-level suites from the mid 100ks to the low 300ks. In fact, even when you look into the surrounding areas like Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, New Westminster, Surrey, and so on, prices there for a simple 600ish square foot condo start in the $250,000 range. That’s no small sum. But it seems that things are finally starting to shift. As we gear up for the 2010 Winter Olympics, I fully expect the condos to keep going up (along with the prices), but a recent report has indicated that, compared to last year, we have started seeing a change. Last year, there were far more potential buyers than there were available units, but the reverse appears to be true, if only by a small margin. It won’t become a buyer’s market any time soon, but this latest report predicts a more “even” playing field wherein neither buyers nor sellers have an outright advantage. Outside investors are still happily picking up apartments and condominiums with the plan to flip them for a profit, as interest rates appear to be staying steady (or possibly even dropping),...

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Open Season: Just another cartoon

There are far too many of these movies these days. Open Season is the latest in a long string of computer animated films that feature talking animals. While the animation is cute and the voice actors somewhat entertaining, the plot is far too formulaic and predictable. That said, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and your discerning critical eye (or perhaps if you’re just accompanying some young children to a cheap Sunday matinee), you can still find some enjoyment in Open Season. Featuring the voice talents of Martin Lawrence (as Boog the Bear), Ashton Kutcher (of Punk’d and That 70s Show) Debra Messing (of Will and Grace fame), Patrick Warburton (perhaps best known as “Putty” from Seinfeld), Gary Sinise (CSI: NY), Jon Favreau (multi-millionaire and Monica’s boyfriend Pete Becker from Friends) and so on, Open Season — like so many talking-animal animated films before it — brings out the big well-known “real” actors to do the voices of bears, deer, beavers, and a porcupine who won’t stop creeping me out with “buuuuuuddddyyyy”. The premise of the movie is simple: we have a bear (Boog) that was rescued as a young cub by a park ranger (the town reminds me a little of Ketchikan, Alaska for some reason). He grows up to perform for tourists in an outdoor theatre (which looks a lot like some of the stages atop...

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Little Miss Sunshine and The Illusionist: Reviewed

I caught a couple of movies this past week or thereabouts, so I thought I’d quickly share my impressions of these silver screen wonders with you, my flick-catching public. Up to bat for this pick-up game are Little Miss Sunshine (starring Steve Carell of 40-Year-Old Virgin and The Office fame) and The Illusionist (starring Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, and Paul Giamatti). Little Miss Sunshine is a strange indie flick that follows a young girl as she embarks on a journey to win a national beauty pageant, appropriately named Little Miss Sunshine. While that may not sound very appealing to the vast majority of people out there, the dark humour and quirky events along the way make this well worth the price of admission. Steve Carell is great as Frank Hoover, a renowned Proust scholar and a recent suicide survivor. Abigail Breslin is unforgettable as little Olive Hoover, Frank’s niece and Little Miss Sunshine contestant. While primarily a comedy, there are a few darker moments and lines where some may be disturbed. Grade: A- The Illusionist takes place in turn of the century Vienna where Eisenheim the Illusionist (played by Edward Norton) earns himself quite the name as an extraordinary magician (some even call him a wizard with supernatural powers). He can “speed up time” and grow an orange tree in mere seconds, turn his gloves into crows, and make...

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MediaREADY Aero MP3 players with “eye-popping style”

There’s this feeling I get in my gut when the primary marketing point of a new product is that it sports “eye-popping style and color selection”, and then the press release isn’t even accompanied by any photos. That’s exactly the case with the unveiling of the Aero line of MP3 players from MediaREADY. They say that this new set of players follows on the success of the Glider line before it, but I’ve never heard of that either. Maybe I’m just out of the loop. In any case, the flash-based Aero players come bundled with Tunebite 3.0 trial software,...

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Michael Kwan
Hi, I'm Michael. By day, I'm a freelance writer. By night, I'm still a freelance writer. I'm also a proud father, a voracious foodie, an avid traveler, a gadget geek, and a thinker who thinks he might be thinking too much. Beyond the Rhetoric is a reflection of my eclectic entrepreneurial life.

Read more about me and what I can do for you.


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