Thursday, December 05, 2002

Scooby Doo

I am slowly getting into DVD movies. They usually have so much extra stuff that you are obliged to use a PC to view them. Last year my girlfriend was wonderful enough to buy me Shrek for Christmas. If you haven't seen it, you should rush out now and watch n on your best PC screen. The animation quality is nothing short of stunning. And the Xtras on the disc are sooper qool too.

I just bought Scooby Doo - hence the title of this entry. All I need now is the time to watch it :-(

On a work note. Has anybody tried Macromedia's Contribute yet? Impressed?

There is also an update for Dreamweaver MX, taking it up to Dreamweaver MX 6.1, or Dreamweaver 6.1? Whatever. It includes an update to DW so it too can work like Contribute, plus some bug fixes.

At last, a book on standards-compliant training

I broke the first page I tried to post with this information. I cannot see how to fix it, hence two titles :-(

Carol Fallon and Sharon Brown of Integrity eLearning have written a book called E-Learning Standards: A Guide to Purchasing, Developing, and Deploying Standards-Conformant E-Learning

If you need a guide you through standards compliance - AICC, SCORM etc - then here is your new favourite book.

At last, a book on standards-compliant training

Apurva is putting together some tutorials to show us how to build our own u32s in C. I understand Chris Swenson of Dazzletech and MojoMole fame is going to help with this project by adding information for Delphi programmers. Go to Aurva's site and select the U32 tutorials link.
Sorry, due to the format of the site, I have not managed to get a direct link.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

And now for something a little more personal

I found a great book for my studies at UCLAN. There is only one copy in the University library and it seems like a popular book, so I decided to buy it. Off I went to my favourite on-line book store (no names) and tried to order it.

No joy on the UK site, the book is out of print :-(

Try the US site.

Cool, they have it. Not only that they have a link to an organisation that has copies at 25% of list price :-) Lovely. Let's order it.

Ehem ... nope. You need a US address, we won't mail overseas. :-(

No sweat. i have a good friend in the US and I visit regulary. I'll mail it there and collect it :-)

So pleased was I, that I contacted a fellow student. He asked me to buy him a copy too for such a great deal. 3 minutes later, order accepted :-)

Two days later I get a mail Sorry we are out of stock. GRRRRRRRRRRRRR :'-(

What company fails to know what they have in stock these days. Oh well. Back to the drawing board.


DirectImage Xtra updated

DirectXtras has announced an update to DirectImage Xtra. More in the words of Tomer Berda:-

New in Version 3.0
• Images may now include multiple frames / layers. A new set of functions was added for manipulating the image frames.
• The Xtra can now import from and export to image file formats that support multiple frames / layers, such as animated GIF, Photoshop (PSD), DCX and MNG files.
• New methods to enhance an image: imageContrast(), imageModulate() and imageNormalize().
• New imaging effects: imageMorph() and imageCoalesce().
• New methods for importing to and exporting from image objects, with alpha channel support: imageLoadFromImage() and imageSaveToImage().
• The Xtra now natively supports MacOS X.
• The Xtra is now available for Authorware.
• imageGetColorCount() was added to count the number of unique colors in an image.
• Various minor bug fixes and improvements.

Please visit for a complete licensing information and fees.

Bring a new dimension to interactive learning with the i3D Xtra

The former owners of EuroTAAC have released a 3D Xtra for Authorware. These wonderfully talented developers are going to change the way we use Authorware! More in the words of Erik de Bruin.

i3D Xtra, the world's first native Authorware Xtra for 3D content. This easy to use Xtra enables you to create a 3D interactive world within Authorware based applications.

A powerful solution for 3D interactive training, 3D product presentations, creative panoramic and VR applications, custom animated scenes and 3D games in Authorware.

i3D Xtra gives your e-learning projects extra impact, functionality and most of all impressive new interactive possibilities.

Download a fully functional evalution version at

Thanks guys!

Oops ... I have been slacking!

I have been a busy boy for the last week or so and have fallen behind my Blog duties. Fear not. Today will be a bumper day as I post lots of announcements for new Authorware add-ons. Read on.

Oh ... since this shows in reverse chronological order you have already read the announcements. Did you enjoy them?

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Need a laugh?

Thanks go to Amy Blankenship for this link to The Flat Earth Society. Thanks for this Amy :-)

Monday, November 04, 2002

More updates to toys for Authorware!

Andrew Poulos of Apixel and Apurva Lawale have announced updates to alListView.u32 - it's now at version 1.03. Updates include:-

• Unicode support
• Custom fonts
• Custom colors for individual items

For more details and a trial download, documentation and example files, visit

If that is not enough, Apurva Lawale has announced a bugfixing update to alTools.u32. Find it on his web site.

Friday, November 01, 2002

More cool things for AW 6.5

Hot on the heels of Wednesday's note about the new spell-checker in AW 6.5, Ron Lubensky has realeased two great new KOs for Authorware 6.5. I'll let him tell you in his own words:-

"With the release of Authorware 6.5 I'd like to introduce two items that may be of interest, available from

"1. The Find & Fix Command does just what it says. Have it search for icons in your file based on a range of criteria, including your own custom "find" script. Then have it modify the found icons or their neighbours. You can set it to change the icon properties or you can write a "fix" script that does more substantial work. The command settings and scripts are saved as XML and can be reused later or transmitted to somebody else using the Find & Fix command. There are lots of options and subtleties to it, so I've included a Help file too. I use it constantly in my own development work, saving me heaps of time. Experiment with it and see if you find it useful too.

"2. AW6.5 now uses the same WinterTree spell checker that all the other Macromedia products use. I've created a Spell Check Knowledge Object that makes spell checking available to your own commands, Knowledge Objects and even applications. It can check the contents of string variables and WinCtrls.

"In addition, most of the Knowledge Objects and Commands previously available have been updated to Authorware 6.5. If you migrate your developments from AW6.0 to AW6.5 and used one of my products, you should obtain the newest version so the wizards can open. Your existing registration codes remain valid."

Nice work Ron!!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Little Extras in AW 6.5

Did you know the AW 6.5 now supports the use of full-colour desktop icons? I stress desktop icons to make it plain I do not mean the icons you use to build your flow! Those who like to use the new XP icons will love this feature. MicroAngelo is the favourite tool for editing your icons.

Did you know Authorware 6.5 has a new spell checker? Hmmm. Missing from the documentation is it? Well "Gee whizz" I hear you say. Before you dismiss it as insignificant, take a lool at it. Open an existing AW 6.5 file and launch the spell checker by selecting Xtras > Spelling, or Alt+X+S and have a play. In particular, take a look at what is hiding behind the options button. Phonetic suggestions anyone.

P.S. ...
More ammunition for those that say Flash is the answer to every problem. Flash has no spell checker ;-)

Sunday, October 27, 2002

New stuff for Authorware - alMessageBox

Do these guys never stop? Andrew Poulos and Apurva Lawale have a little production line of great u32s for Authorware. Their most recent addition is alMessageBox, a great little utility that offers more power than the in-built MessageBox KO and functions of Authorware 5 and 6. "it displays a message box, much like a normal message box, except that you get an additional 16 icons to choose".

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Earthquakes? In ENGLAND?

Manchester in the UK has been victim to (at last count) over 40 earthquakes in the last month! All are of small magnitute, but big enough to scare people out of their high-rise offices and homes. I found an interesting link that tries to reassure us "Though they are unusual, earthquake swarms have happened before in other regions of the UK".

But the UK is not used to such seismic activity - some people in Manchester are going to be worried right now.

Map of recent quakes
Manchester University has excellent maps and information
Keele University has even more information

Incidentally if you view the map above, you may be interested to learn that I live very close to the red spot that is above and to the left of Blackburn.

A few weeks ago there was a larger quake in Dudley, near Birmingham "which caused minor damage to chimneypots and a church spire". This was at around 1 am. I was in bed - and it's a rare thing thing for me to be asleep so early! My bed was rocking and furniture rattling and they woke me up. Dudley is over 100 miles away!

We are not used to this sort of thing in the UK. At this rate we could beat Los Angeles into the sea!

Friday, October 25, 2002

Thought for the day

Insignificance has an important place in our lives.

Authorware 6.5 - Wincontrols help update

Andrew Poulos of Apixel fame has kindly revised his help file for Winconrols. This help file fully documents the Wincontrols u32 complete with all the updates in Authorware 6.5. This is a must-have document. Get it while it is hot!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

TAAC 7 Updates

From Mark Henry of Rampant Lion Interactive, Inc.

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we've completed some great
updates to the
TAAC7 website:

Here's a small sampling of what we have available:

• Download TAAC7 Presentations and Keynotes
    (select resourses->downloads)

• Share with us your opinions in our hand-dandy TAAC7 Survey
• Missed TAAC7? Don't fret, checkout the TAAC7 Videography
• Need to see, before you buy? Download the Videography Sampler

As always, great stuff from Mark!!!

Handy Windows shortcuts

This is a handy set of Windows shortcut tips from Paul Glizow.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Have you seen how cheap RAM is?

I decided today that I need a little extra RAM in my laptop. Nothing outrageous. Just 256Mb extra if possible. My machine is a Dell Inspiron. I love it. I take it everywhere with me. I am a sad geek. OK, a happy one :-).

So I called Dell and they will happily supply me with 256 Mb of RAM for a mere £65, including taxes and delivery (roughly $100). Not so long ago, that same RAM would have cost a few hundred - $$s or ££s.

I looked a little further and found some other surprising prices at Novatech, a British company. And their PC RAM prices are equally stunning, with 512 MB o PC2100 DDR selling for a mere £98.70, including taxes and (I think) delivery. No wonder the number of people running up against the 2Gb RAM bug that Authorware 6.0 and earlier have when running NT, 2000 or XP. There is a workaround, but Authorware 6.5 has it licked.

Monday, October 21, 2002

ELearning - a complicated process

Mark Steiner has put together an interesting article on eLearning projects on the Macromedia Designer and Developer Center.

"Today's emerging technologies are enhancing human cognitive, affective, and social capabilities at an astonishing rate. Nowhere is this more evident than in the e-learning arena. Recent advances in e-learning (which I loosely define as computer-supported collaborative learning and experiential simulation) now enable guided, inquiry-based education to overcome barriers of time and distance."

View the complete article.

Ugrading to Authorware 6.5

I have seen many people posting massages that they are having difficulty updating older Authorware projects to Authoware 6.5. The problem is that Authorware is only ever able to open files from the previous version.

Although a "point upgrade", Authorware 6.5 is effectively a full update for the purposes of updating older files. This means that 6.5 can open 6.0 files but it cannot open 5.0, 5.1 or 5.2 files. Or 4.0 files for that matter. So people upgrading direct from AW 5.2 to 6.5 have been concerned.

But Macromedia have been wise to this concern since Authorware 6.0. On the Authorware 6 CD there is a folder "D:\Macromedia\Previous versions of Authorware", where D is the CD drive. In this folder are special, fully-working, Not For Commercial Use versions of Authorware 3.5, 4.03 and 5.2. You can use these to progressivly update files as ancient as those produced by Authorware 2.

Authorware 6.5 has a similar folder, but only goes back to Authorware 4.03.

Slow delivery of CDs

Some people have complained that their boxed copies of Authorware, complete with CDs, are taking a while to arrive and this has caused them difficulties when wishing to upgrade. I believe these delays are settling down. In the meantime if you have a problem with upgrades you have a number of options. Here's a couple of them:-

• Locate a copy of the 6.0 demo. You can find it on recent Macromedia demo discs. It is also on the CD that comes with Jennie Thorton's book Authorware 6, inside Macromedia.

• Find a local Authorware developer who is willing to update files for you.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Authorware v.s Flash MX

People often want to know what are the relative strengths of each tool. Following is a sample of the many conversations on the macromedia.authorware newsgroup:

[1] Utilizing identical content, activities and questions (including format of activities and questions), which platform is a more efficient development platform and why?

Identical content? Identical is not really going to happen, but "equivalent" is close enough. Authorware is the better tool for the development of training - it has been designed for that task and has many features that make the job easier and faster than with Flash.

[2] If a team develops the same course with the same content, activities and questions, utilizing the same graphics, animations, audio and video, which is more bandwidth efficient. Why?

Essentially they are the same. 10Mb of data is 10Mb of data, regardless of whether it is Flash or AW. Exactly how the user experiences it will vary according to the skill of the developer and the speed of network connection. Both tools make it possible to stream content and to preload (OK, AW does not actually stream, but it appears to from the user perspective) .

[3] What are the advantages of each platform? Where does each platform excel?

There is a lot to say, but in short :-

• Flash does cool vector graphics, Authorware does not.
• Flash is true OOP, Authorware is not.
• Flash has players for several platforms, Authorware for just two - Mac and PC, although anywhere you can run a Windows emulator you can run Authorware content. Whilst Flash has all these players, in reality many of the players are not up to date. Some only support Flash 5 - or even Flash 4.
• Authorware has access to the Windows API, U32, Xtras and DLLs for extensability. Flash does not.
• Authorware can read/write/move/copy, generally manipulate files on the user's machine, Flash cannot.
• You can play almost any media inside Authorware, including Flash. You cannot do the same with Flash - in particular you cannot play Authorware files in Flash.
• Flash has sickly internal video support, and can play external Mp3s and Jpegs.
• Authorware can play most movie and audio formats, and media of any type (just about) can be external for Authorware.
• Authorware is designed from the ground up as a training tool.

I have not covered all of the pros and cons. More detail is available from Macromedia's own site and from numerous public discussions.

Monday, October 14, 2002

It's official! I love wireless networking

I got to try out the wireless network at UCLAN today. How cool :-D I can sit in the canteen, or in the pub around the corner and surf the net, or the University network. I can even access my University desktop via the Citrix logon thingummy. Don't you just love these technical terms?

A word of warning though, to anyone using a 'public' network like that. I discovered that I could see files on some other users' machines. Then I realised I had folders on my machine shared over the network too. Be careful out there!

Accessability in Authorware 6.5

There have been interesting discussions on the Aware list this week about the new Text to Speech features. Particularly about delivery over the web. If you are interested in this stuff you should take a look at the following notes, and follow the threads to their conclusion:-

6.5 - text to speech through the web player...

TTS Switch - AW 6.5

We are all going to need to know more about this over time. Thanks go to Ron Lubenski for putting together the Accessability KOs!!!

Saturday, October 12, 2002


Bob Tartar (see below) posted the following list of technote updates to the Aware List and to the macromedia.authorware newsgroup. The updates are invaluable to those updating to Authorware 6.5.

Installing Authorware 6.5 (TN 16600)
Preview option is not available via One Button Publishing (TN 16589)
Where to find new feature documentation in Authorware 6.5 (TN 16585)
Registration error message appears when launching Authorware 6.5 (TN 16578)
Authorware 6.5 Release Notes
Authorware 6.5 and Macintosh computers (TN 16553)
Broken link in Authorware welcome screen (TN 16095)
Installing Authorware 6 (TN 15860)
Flash MX in Authorware (TechNote 16556) - Discusses Flash MX support in AW 6.0 & 6.5.
Converting older files to newer formats (TechNote 16546).
Authorware files are not backwards compatible (TechNote 16545).
Authorware 6.5 and Macintosh computers (TechNote 16553)

Thanks again Bob!!

Are Macromedia taking Authorware more seriously?

For a long time, users of Authorware have felt that Macromedia have been treating Authorware as - to use a favoured colloquialism - a "red-headed step child". Authorware gets little marketing and hardly a mention in the e-Learning literature that comes out of Macromedia. Admittedly this is becuase Authorware has a mainly Corporate market and it makes little sense marketing the tool to the same people who use Flash. Yet somehow Authorware survives as a major player in the field of education delivered by computer - be it delivered on hard drive, via cd, over a LAN, via the web or from an LMS.

More importantly Authorware continues to make a healthy profit for Macromedia.

Those who frequent the >Aware List have been surprised and pleased to learn that Macromedia has appointed Bob Tartar to to act as Community Manager for Authorware, something he already does for Director. To quote his introductory announcement:-

My job as Authorware Community Manager will be to monitor the Authorware forum and Aware list, post product related news, assist developers where I'm able, and provide feedback from the Authorware developer community to the Authorware product development team.

You can read the entire note in the Aware List archive.

Among other things, Bob has actioned changes to the way Macromedia presents Authorware on their web site - something that has long been a cause of irritation for the dedicated Authorware developers.

A heartfelt thanks goes out to Bob!

Friday, October 11, 2002

Flash integration

More and more people are integrating Flash inside Authorware. Whilst Flash is becomming a powerful tool, it still lacks a great many features that Authorware has to make the development of training applications a breeze, so integrating Flash like this is a perfect way to offer the gorgeous graphics and effects of Flash whilst maintaining the power of Authorware.
All is not roses

There is a slight problem though. When you roll over a button in Flash the cursor automatically changes to a hand with pointing finger. This feature vanishes when you import the Flash file using the Asset Xtra. Here is one way to work around this issue:-

Place a display icon right after the Flash icon. Type this expression in a text field in that display :-


Note it should be all on one line. Remember to set the display icon to Update Displayed Variables. Finally, make sure the display icon has been placed on the flowline directly after your Flash sprite.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Authorware 6.5 Subtle Visual Changes

One thing in Authorware 6.5 that has slipped in very quietly is the fact that there have ben a couple of very subtle changes to the interface. Take a closer look at the tool bar across the top of the workspace. And take a look at the icon pallet. Don't see the difference? Fire up an earlier version of Authorware and compare the two.

A bonus for those using XP
It does not end there. If you are using XP you will see that Authorware has now taked on more of the look and feel of XP. Open up and Properties sheet or maybe the Functions dialogue. See how, for instance, buttons, radio buttons and drop-down lists now have the XP-style look and feel? Of course if you have Windows XP themes switched off you will not see this.

How did they do that?
Look in your /macromedia.Authorware 6.5 folder for a file called "Authorware 6.exe.manifest". If you want to see similar subtle changes to your earlier versions of Authorware, you can just drop that same file into the Authorware 4, 5, or 6 folder. Note that this only effects Authoring, it has no effect on delivered applications. In fact you are not licensed to distribute this file.

Monday, October 07, 2002

What's this? Technology?

You have no idea how happy I was today to learn that the university has a wireless network that I can tap into.

The bad news is that I have to find a university electrician to authorise my laptop as safe to draw university electricity. If only I could get someone to answer that phone (sigh).

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Zips are still growing

Today I decided it was time to buy that USB Zip drive I have been promising myself.

So I headed off to my local PC store. I used my motorbike so I could enjoy the continued unseasonably warm weather here in the UK. Arriving at the PC store I was told by the security guard that I could not enter the store with my rucksack, which I wore knowing I needed something in which to carry my long-awaited purchase.

"You can't come in with that" says he.

"Why?" askes a surprised Steve.

"We've been losing stock, so we are not letting people bring bags into the store".

Not wishing to debate the finer points of the irony that since he has failed to stop people removing things they are not entitled to he is now employed to stop people bringing their own belongings into the store, I told him "Well you'll be losing customers too, treating them like that" and stomped off in a suitably childish huff.

Thus commiting myself to a 3 hour treck around Preston, Lancashire on a Sunday, trying to find an open store that could sell me a USB Zip drive. Thankfully I did eventually find one. However, when I got it home and installed, I launched the (annoying) movie that is burned onto every new Zip disc, only to discover that I could have purchased a new Zip 750 for less than I bought the 250 for. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Let's get the ball rolling!

I was pleased to discover that my local university, UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire), has several undergraduate and postgraduate courses aimed at at Multimedia. Oddly they are split between the Computing and Technology departments. With some apparent duplication. Weird. The trend of UK educational establishments offering more courses for our industry is growing. I even found a module on HCI design. Amazing.

Anyway I decided on Monday that it would be interesting to explore the options they have, as it would be nice to formalise the work I have been doing for the last (nearly) 6 years with an appropriate course of study. After several conversations, a couple of meetings and a lot of searches on the web, I found the answer. An MSc in Multimedia Computing.

I start Monday 7th October. I have already missed two weeks, so please wish me luck!

On a more work-related note. Have you tried out Authorware 6.5 yet? You really should. There are loads of excellent new features. One that really stands out is the addition of User Defined Functions. These can be internal or external, opening the way to a whole new way to work with Authorware. Look out, too, for the ability to use variables for button labels, pull-down menus, keypress responses and text entries.

This is brilliant stuff from just four engineers and a wonderful beta team.