Saturday, February 08, 2003

A small bug with Authorware 6.5. OBP and wmv files

Recently a developer posted to the macromedia.authorware newsgroup, voicing concerns that his wmv file would play in authoring mode, but not when packaged. He received this error "Unable to load external movie driver for: movieName.wmf. Possibly the driver is missing or there is not enough memory."

After some exploration I realised that his problem was caused by an error in OBP (the One button Publishing feature). It seems that OBP does not pick up the fact that the file a6wmp32.xmo is required for movie files that use the new Windows Media Player support within the Movie icon. I mailed Macromedia about this and Stefan van As replied with the full solution.

The OBP settings are held in an ini file called Xtras.ini which by default should be located in the folder C:\Program Files\Macromedia\Authorware 6.5. The version of the file distributed with Authorware 6.5 contains a small error. The [movies] section should be replaced with this updated text:-


If you cannot spot it, the problem is that the first several lines begin with two periods in the original file - they should actually begin with only a single period as shown above.

link to the web browser version macromedia.authorware newsgroup

newsreader link to the macromedia.authorware newsgroup


Design issues

Readers will be familiar with the fact that I am studying right now. Part of my studies involves looking at web and multimedia design. As a developer, my knowledge and understanding of design issues is generally limited to what "feels right", what I see elsewhere and what "works" for me and my colleagues. Often this means I get involved in heated discussion with designers more interested in pretty stuff than they are in usability.

The University's tutors are keen to express upon us that Jakob Nielson is the usability guru. He has certainly published a lot of useful information, and his web site is a great resource.

Web page design

He has published a great book called Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed which I bought and have used as a reference not just for home page design, but also for other aspects of web and multimedia design. I'll be sure to buy more of his books soon!

The book lists a total of 113 recommendations for home pages, backed up by statistical studies. Many recommendations are based on the frequency with which something is encountered on the web (e.g. the left-hand navigation area) whereas others are based on studies of useability preferences and on legibility.

Whilst the recommendations are useful in isolation, the book really begins to shine with its critiques of 50 major home pages using Nielson's recommendations, therefore helping the reader to see where the recommendations are applied. It is interesting to note that the book also makes it easy for the reader to times where some of the recommendations may be set aside for other considerations.

Other usability resources

While discussing this with Amy Blankenship, Amy shared her favourite resource for web usability from the site. The Webreference Articles page lists loads of good resources. The whole site is also a valuable resource, and well worth exploring.


Sunday, February 02, 2003

Whether the Weather be Hot

I was working in London this week. It snowed. About 3 inches at most so far as I could see. London came to a complete standstill.

London, apparently, did not realise it was winter.

I was supposed to travel to Germany on Saturday to visit the EuroTAAC venue and perhaps even finalise some arrangements. The snow fell on Thursday. Stanstead airport was still recovering, having closed overnight Thursday. So I arrived at the airport just in time to learn that all morning flights had been cancelled because they had decided that there was no way to catch up with the backlog of flights.

My flight was, of course, a morning flight :-( I left before the heat from all the flared tempers overwhelmed me.



Things are hotting up for the EuroTAAC conference. It's now only a few short weeks away until the annual European Alternative Authorware Conference, held this year in Friedrichshafen, South-West Germany.

This year we have again attrected the best Authorware gurus in the World both for pre- and post-conference training and for the three days of high-quality presentations. Three days of the hghest quality education in the use and extension of Authorware, and int he delivery of e-Learning via web and Learning Management System. All this for only £350.

Following popular request both from attendees and from presenters, we have several double-length sessions taking place so that the presenters are not having to rush through what is often complex and highly valuable information.

If you are concerned about the cost of travelling to Germany, don't be. We have secured the best hotel in the town for the conference for only 75 Euros per night per room (single or double occcupancy). And we have posted a large number of travel tips.

Watch this space for more information as it becomes available.

New stuff

Following are some new and updated product announcements from the last few weeks in no partucular order ...

Apurva has been writing a series of u32 tutorials. You can find his site here Sadly it is still impossible to bookmark pages on his site, so you have to navigate to the u32 Tutorials section using the menu on the left.

Apurva and Andrew Poulos of Apixel have released an updated version of alListView. To download the latest version and to read more about alListView go to:

Andew Poulos' has written a new article contribution for the Macromedia Designer & Developer Center: Tips for Manipulating Images and Text in Authorware 6.5: Get creative with your text display using these helpful suggestions.

Apixel and Apurva Lawale are pleased to announce the release of alMenu.u32. alMenu.u32 is an 32 bit Authorware UCD that creates menus with the ability to customise the colours used. A fully functional evaluation version of alMenu.u32 can be downloaded from

DirectXtras is pleased to announce a new MacOS X compatible version of DirectOS Xtra. A fully functional evaluation version of DirectOS Xtra can be downloaded from: Not that the OSX version will work only with Director MX.

Apurva and Andrew Poulos of Apixel have released a new speech recognition UCD for Authorware - alSR.u32.It can work in one of two ways:
- free dictation, where it attempts to recognize any and all spoken phrases
- command and control, where you first setup a set of rules (a text grammar file) against which spoken phrases are checked. Only complying phrases are accepted. This results in significantly more accurate recognition. You need to have a speech engine installed on you computer. More information, a fully functional trial version, sample files, and documentation is available from:

WHEW - December and January were busy months!


Happy New Year!

Forgive me, I have been rather neglectful. Between holidays, work and school I have not posted anything here for several weeks. Not since LAST YEAR :-O I am ashamed. I promise to be less neglectful in the future.

In the meantime there have been many new additions to the Authorware world that I must catch up with. Since you get to read this in reverse chronological order you will have learnt about them before you saw this ... so now you are confused :-)