TweetDeck is a Twitter client that helps you keep track of everything on your timeline. It’s core feature is a multi-column view that lets you group your tweets together however you’d like. You can add friends to groups, so their tweets will always show up in a particular column. A column can also be configured for search, so you’ll see any tweets with your search term in them. I often use search when watching a prime-time TV show live, to see what other people are saying about it, or to see if anyone picks up on some subtlety that I may have missed. It can make TV watching a very interactive experience.

Handbrake is a video transcoding application. Most people use it to shrink videos down to a size that their iPod/Phone can handle. For transcoding software, it’s very easy to use, with presets for a lot of common formats and handheld devices. Select the file and what you’re going to use it on and you’re ready to go. The software also has all of the nitty-gritty options that you could possibly need to fine tune the video output you get from it. Finally, it’s multi-threaded, meaning that it will use all of the available processors on your system which gives it a huge performance increase.

A few months ago Google rolled out Google Mobile Sync. This syncs your Google calendar and contacts to your mobile phone. On Windows Mobile, you don’t even need any software for it. It runs right through the built in Active Sync interface in Windows. Syncing happens very quickly, and it is very smart about resolving conflicts when both the mobile and on-line calendars change. I was surprised to see that Sync also pulled the photos from my phone that are associated with contacts and put them into GMail contacts as well.

Bonus Tip: When you’re using Google calendar, or a widget, use natural language to enter your events. “Lunch with Jim 12:30 Tuesday at Quiznos” Google will figure out and fill in the date, time, event and location and set up the appointment automatically.

My new computer with Vista-64 arrived yesterday, and now that I’ve got the majority of my data copied over and programs installed, I’m compiling my thoughts on both Vista and the 64-bit environment.

The first thing that I noticed is that you need to be careful to look for the 64-bit downloads for the software that you’re installing. I ended up downloading and re-installing things several times after I ran a program and realized that it was running in 32-bit mode.

How can you tell if something is running in 32-bit mode? Open up task manager and look at the processes tab, in the image name column look for a *32 after the name of the file. If it’s there, then it is running in 32-bit mode. I’ve also noticed that programs that run as services, such as backup and AV programs, run their configuration applications in 32-bit mode, but if you look at the all process tab, I’ve found that the underlying engine that actually does the scanning or backing up runs in 64-bit mode.

Here are some of the programs that I use regularly and their 64-bit status.

  • Firefox – The 64-bit version is called “Minefield” You can have this and Firefox installed simultaneously, and they share extensions, preferences, history and cookies. This is convenient so you don’t have to maintain two separate copies.
  • JungleDisk – You’ll need to download the 64-bit version of JungleDisk. Every part of the application runs in 64-bit.
  • Adobe Flash – Flash is not yet supported in 64-bit browsers, both Minefield and Internet Explorer. The good news is that it runs just fine in the 32-bit browsers running in Vista 64.
  • AVG Anti-Virus – The free version of AVG runs in 64-bit mode. Note that only the scanning engine does this, not the front-end configuration application. Also, there’s no need to dig around for a different installer, the 64-bit one is included in the normal Windows installer download.
  • PicasaPicasa does not yet have a 64-bit version for Windows. I have had no problems running the 32-bit version, however.
  • GIMP – The GIMP has an experimental 64-bit version. The installer actually requires you to check a box that reads “I promise I won’t bother the developers if I can’t get this to work” before it lets you install it. I haven’t done a lot of work in GIMP yet, but I have yet to run into any problems with it.
  • VLC – The free Video Lan Client (VLC) does not have a 64-bit version yet. I have had no problems running the 32-bit version, however.
  • Itunes – Itunes has a 64-bit version, you’ll need to do some digging to find it through Apple’s site. Here’s the link to Itunes 8.1, the newest available at the time of this post.

As for drivers, I was able to locate 64-bit drivers for my printer, scanner, bluetooth adapter and video card from their manufacturers’ without any problems. All of this hardware is under 3 years old. I would expect some problems finding updated drivers for hardware that is older.

Although it got a bad rap to start, I’m quite impressed with Vista overall. Some of my favorite features that I’ve found so far include:

  • Start menu search – Open the start menu and start typing. Windows will immediately show you what matches your search from both programs on the start menu and your documents folder. If the one at the top of the list is the one you’re looking for, just press enter, otherwise select it from the list on the left side of the start menu.
  • Windows Flip 3D – Instead of switching between windows using Alt-Tab, try Win-Tab. If you’ve got Aero Glass Enabled, you’ll get a cascaded preview of each open window to flip through. A nice effect, and it can help locate the window you want when you’ve got a lot of windows open.
  • Aero Glass – The top-of-the-line theme for windows. It includes translucent window borders, minimize and maximize animations and glowing window controls. Normally I’ve immediately turned off all of the eye-candy on a new install of XP, even reverting back to the Windows 2000 style taskbar, but Microsoft got it right this time. The animations and other eye candy do not seem to effect the performance, and with a decent graphics card, are actually handled in the GPU and not in the main processor.
  • User Account Control – Although many people are annoyed by just how often this pops up, I find it an excellent tool for securing your computer. The theory behind it is that any time a program wants to make changes to a protected area of the system (install a program for example) Windows will alert you to this and require you to enter the password for the administrator account. This is an excellent way to keep malware from installing itself automatically in the drive-by download fashion. It’s unfortunate that so many people turn it off.

I just purchased a new computer from Dell with Vista 64-bit. I’ve heard that the transition to 64-bit is often a rough one, so I’ll be keeping track of my progress here. To start, I visited the Windows Vista Compatability Center and checked that my major hardware will still work with the OS. This included my laser printer, scanner, and of less importance a card reader, Bluetooth adapter and a new TV tuner. The existing hardware was 1-3 years old and all of it will work just fine.

I opted to go with Vista Home Premium and I’ll save my money until Windows 7 comes out later this year and upgrade to the highest level then. With the exception of remote desktop, there’s nothing that I’ll be missing out on by having Home Premium.

I didn’t go with top of the line components but close. I do a bit of video editing, a lot of photo editing, and not much gaming. Here are the specs:

  • Dell Studio XPS 435MT
  • Core i7-920 processor, 2.66GHz, quad core
  • 6GB DDR3 1067MHz
  • 22″ Widescreen Full HD LCD Dell monitor
  • ATI Radeon HD4670 with 512MB memory
  • 640GB SATA Hard drive, 7200 RPM
  • Vista Home Premium 64-bit
  • 2-16X DVD+/-RW Drives

This is a major step up from my current 7+ year old system (frequently updated) that I built myself. Current specs are:

  • AMD Athlon 1.2GHz
  • 1GB PC133
  • 17″ 4:3 LCD Dell Monitor
  • ATI Radeon All-In-Wonder 7500 64MB
  • 500GB PATA hard drive, 72oo RPM
  • XP Pro 32-bit
  • 16X DVD+/-RW Drive
  • 52X CD-RW/-RW Drive
  • Unidentified burning smell (main reason for upgrade)

Look for my new 64-bit M@’s Picks, and anything else that I learn about taking the step to 64-bit in the next month or two.