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Archive for October, 2002


Little Extras in AW 6.5

Icons

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.

Spell-checker

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 😉

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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“.

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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.

Seismograms

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!

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Thought for the day

Insignificance has an important place in our lives.

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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!!

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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!!!

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Handy Windows shortcuts

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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