Flash MX 2004 Projects are a Joke

Today we decided to use the new “Projects” feature in Flash MX 2004 Professional to manage a fairly large interactive piece we’re doing at work. We started setting up the project in Flash after reading about the benefits of using Flash Projects to control versioning and make sure the files are in a central location. It didn’t take us long to discover that Flash Projects have a ways to go before they are usable for the type of project we’re doing.

Basically, the only thing we wanted to do was create a project that would keep track of several Flash files on the server and allow us to check them out, work on them locally, upload them automatically to the server when we checked them back in and then publish them based on our settings at one time. Simple enough, right? That’s what we thought.

This is where Projects fall flat. If I create a file and add it to my project, anyone else who wants to use the same file has to manually add it to their project, there’s no way for new files to be automatically added to all the participants project. This wouldn’t be a problem with a 5 or 10 file project, but once it gets bigger than that, adding every file manually gets pretty tedious.

In addition, there’s no easy way to have the same folder structure in the Flash Project as on the hard drive and/or the server–you have to manually create folders in Flash to manage that.

Those are the obstacles we could get around. The one that we really didn’t like was the fact that the only way to add a file that you didn’t create to your project was to use the Finder (mac) or Windows Explorer (PC) to browse to the server, download the file to your local hard drive, add it to the Flash Project in Flash then start using it. If you didn’t do that, you could get the file from the server, but once you went to check it back in, Flash complained that it couldn’t check it in because the file didn’t exist on the local drive.

We didn’t even get far enough to get into the publish profile settings… by that time, we’d had enough.

The solution? We set the entire project up as a Dreamweaver site. Everything works perfectly there, in addition, we can use Dreamweaver to edit text files, external ActionScript and XML files without opening up another application. If you’re thinking about using Flash Projects to manage a large project, I’d suggest you wait until it matures a little. Right now, Dreamweaver seems to be the tool that will work for us.


The Gadget Cycle

It seems like every couple years, the gadget cycle starts up again. My cell phone, the Sony-Ericsson t68i has been replaced by a succesor (and I’ve decided just to cancel service all together), the digital camera– a Sony DSC-S75 with it’s 3.3 megapixel resolution is now begging to be replaced by a Canon Digital Rebel or something more powerful, my Panasonic PV DV-401 video camera which was once one of the smaller cameras in existance is also seeming pretty antiquated and even my fairly new h1915 iPaq PDA is starting to show it’s age. On top of it all, my laptop, a Dell 1.13ghz Inspiron 8100 is now feeling pretty slow compared to computers that almost triple it’s speed. Yes, I find myself at the end of one gadget cycle and wanting to begin another.

I think it would be cool if there was a plan you could get on that would always assure you to have the latest and greatest gadgets. You pay a certain amount each month and when a new model comes out (either that or at a set interval) you are automatically upgraded to the newer device when you send in your old one. It wouldn’t be a lease–you’d own them so if you broke it or lost it, oh well, that’s the end of that. I’m sure there’d be a market for this type of plan… anyone know of a company that does it already?


Two Years….

Max (my son) turned two today. We had a little celebration with some friends–he LOVED it. I just can’t believe I’m a father… much less that I’ve been one for two years now. It really is great–despite the hard times and the times where I feel I just don’t have enough patience, it is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I love that kid!


Painting and Re-Painting

Today we (we meaning Jenny 😉 painted our bathroom. Twice. It’s almost impossible to tell what a room is going to look like as a new color before you paint it. Sometimes you just have to do it then find out what it looks like afterwards and hope for the best. Well, we found out pink isn’t the best…

I think it would be great if painting companies let you submit pictures of your room as one color then returned a photoshopped the image showing the room as the new color. Of coure there are all kinds of problems inherent to that process, the biggest being that even if they did a perfect job you’re still only looking at a tiny picture and not actually in the room, but it would make it a little easier.

After all is said and done, we’re very happy with the new color and this old house continues to become more of a home to us.


Storyboarding Content Tool for Flash

Lately at work we’ve had some “issues” trying to figure the best way to get content from the hands of content developers (the people who write the tech manuals) to instructional specialists (the people who develop training or other courses) to the Flash programmers and Graphic Designers who are developing multimedia training pieces as the final product.

Currently, there are no existing tools (that I’m aware of) that allow you to “storyboard” content to hand over to a Flash (or Director or Authorware) programmer and have them be able to recognize what interactions need to take place and what content needs to go where.

Depending the size of the course we’re developing, this can go from being a minor inconvenience to a show-stopper. There needs to be a way for the content to be organized and easily retrievable, but at the same time easy to input and provide some way of previewing what the final output might look like so the instructional specialists can get a better idea of what they’re working on.

We’ve developed a tool in Microsoft Access which does basically what we need, but leaves much to be desired due to the inherent flaws in Access (trust me, there are lots of them). I’m interested in learning more about what other people are doing to solve this problem, or if there is a tool out there that had been fine tuned to this process.


Content Management Resources

A few useful links to sites that will help you decide on a Content Management System. I used these today at work.
· OSCOM – Open Source (free) content management information.
· CMS Review – “The mission of CMS REVIEW is to give you the resources you need to choose the best content management system for your organization.”
· CMS Matrix – Allows you to view the features of, and compare, several top Knowledge Management systems.
· Cylogy – Cylogy is a company that specializes in CMS consulting. These are the people to pay if you’re willing to pay big bucks for both a recommendation for a CMS and the CMS itself.
· CMSWire – CMS Wire provides commentary, news and product information on several content management systems.
· CMS Watch – CMS Watch is a site that provides analysis and reports about web content management solutions.

Most of these sites link to other, similar sites, so if you’re in the process of researching content management, better create a new folder in your bookmarks.



It seems like there is hardly any time for just sitting around and visiting anymore. With work, family and the Internet and everything else that seems to come up, it’s a rare moment that I find time to relax and get to know someone better.

Tonight I had the opportunity do so and it was great. I met a guy about 55 years old, into Cadillacs. His wife recently broke her shoulder and was recovering. Nothing extraordinary, but it really felt good to just sit down and have some time to talk to someone without everything else getting in the way.

Try it sometime. It’s nice.


And You Thought Your Job was Complex

You’ve probably never thought about how it would be to deliver papers, or the details of what goes into it. Today is your lucky day. I have a first hand account of exactly what goes into getting that paper on your doorstep each morning. This is an IM conversation I had with a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the especially good parts in purple. I’m (obviously) Marcus.

Paper Deliverer: I’m shooting for waking up at 1:30 to set up my inserts since they decided it would be funny to make me deliver 2 inserts on a single piece paper day
Paper Deliverer: tuesday is just ONE section that I have to worry about
Paper Deliverer: grab, fold, stuff…
Paper Deliverer: well I can fit 2 full size sections in the front seat of my truck…
Paper Deliverer: then it’s (from door to center) grab, slide onto next stack closer to me, fold, stuff
Paper Deliverer: not hard enough to even think about…
Paper Deliverer: well with inserts, some are full size, some aren’t, depends on the company advertising, and they’re going to be thin (think one sheet of paper) so if there are 2, and one’s a 3×5 booklet and the other’s a slick sheet of card stock, then that’ll make it 10x harder at least
Paper Deliverer: think grab from floor, grab from far side of seat, slide onto main sheet, fold, stuff
Paper Deliverer: usually it’s step one) first delivery: **** dental’s dumpster with ads…
Paper Deliverer: step 2) fold single piece paper
Paper Deliverer: but I’m going to try to put it all together to deliver everything that they want me to deliver
Paper Deliverer: since they’re giving me like 2 bucks for it
Marcus: do you seriously dump the ads in the dumpster?
Paper Deliverer: 1 penny per insert I believe which at 2 pieces times 320, that’s like 6 bucks
Paper Deliverer: whoopty doo
Paper Deliverer: and yeah, if they give me an ad on a tuesday, into the dumpster it flies
Paper Deliverer: unless it’s easy to roll with the main sheet (on a single insert day)
Marcus: why? are tuesdays no-ad days?
Paper Deliverer: it’s a single piece, I rest my hand on the stack and fold the top paper in half and in half and stuff it into a bag
Paper Deliverer: don’t even have to think going down the road
Paper Deliverer: now think trying to gauge a single piece of card stock off
of a pile with the light off going down the road and grabbing one off the top
and then putting it on another one, and then putting both of those on top of
a newspaper and folding it into quarters and then putting it in a bag and then
chucking it out the winder, knowing that you have to be somewhere more important
at 7:00

Paper Deliverer: at least monday, wednesday-friday, while being 2 piece newspaper
days, are 2 FULL sections, easy to grab a single one off of the top

Marcus: heh… the minutia of delivering papers
Marcus: i would have never even thought about it
Paper Deliverer: oh I know, me neither
Marcus: can i use those quotes if i don’t attribute them to you?
Marcus: ?
Paper Deliverer: and think, the newspaper carrier knows exactly what you drive,
where you park it every day, possibly which light you leave on, etc

Paper Deliverer: even though you don’t get the paper
Paper Deliverer: brb, I smell a carbonization smell ((insert name here)’s cooking… )
Paper Deliverer: what do you do with someone who tells a bold faced lie and then acts like they don’t know they’re lying?
Marcus: depends on who they are

The conversation is truncated here to protect the innocent. There it is. Now you know.


Downloadable Internet Radio

In a previous entry, I mentioned Your Mac Life, an internet-only live radio talk show. At the time, I was contemplating the marketability of such an effort. Recently, I came across some others who have taken the concept and added a twist–one I really like.

Steven, at Acts of Volition, has produced and DJ’ed several 45 minute radio sessions available for download in mp3 format. For each one, he’s taken a different theme and picked several songs that fit it. I think it’s great–the shows are entertaining–much more entertaining and informative than having someone just recommend a few songs.

It looks like a couple other sites have done the same thing. Mathcaddy just came out with a show and there’s a new site, LugRadio where four guys produce a downloadable talk show on open source software.

This type of entertainment–informative and fun at the same time–is almost destined to success. It’s something that’s not too hard to produce but could potentially generate a wide following. The only obstacles will be 1. bandwidth (at least for a lot of people), and 2. the RIAA or their equivalent in whatever country you might be. Personally, I feel that if it came down to the artists themselves, most would be in favor of this, but unfortunately in the backwards world that is corporate music, that is not the case.

Kudos to those of you producing radio in this format (Incidentally, what?s it called? iRadio?), keep up the good work and if you need bandwidth… well, maybe I can help.


Content Management System Information and Comparision Links

Content management systems are something that I am very interested in. By nature (or by lack of study, I can’t figure out which) I am not a programmer, but I am however, a web developer and I have a very real need to present my clients (and myself) with an easy way to manage and store content online. Using static HTML for everything is not an option.

I’ve written previously about the CMS WebGUI, which I currently use for several websites and I’m very impressed with so far. WebGUI is due for the new, version 6.0, release sometime this or next week which will add several features, including making it 100% template driven–by far the most important feature for me, as a designer.

At work (I’m a defense contractor) SCORM compliance is a big deal. Tonight I disovered (via Seb’s Open Research) Workforce Connections, a GPL ‘ed CMS that is made to be SCORM compliant. I’m going to have to give this a test install. If it’s easy to use, this could make life much better at work. It’s based on Zope and runs on Linux with Apache.

Recently I also discovered CMS Matrix which is a site that, though sponsored by WebGUI, attempts to give an objective comparision of the different major content management systems avaiilable. It’s a great resource.

Other good sites are OpenSourceCMS which lets you try the various content managment systems before you install them and CMS Info which keeps you up to date on the latest and greatest in CMS’s.