The Phillip Newsletter (Winter 01999-02000)
Semi-annual report to Clients, Colleagues, and Prospects of Phillip Kerman                                                                                  Volume  3   Issue 2

Projects: …what amazes me is I actually get paid for having so much fun!

I wish I could say I went to Paris, France-rather Paris France, a new agency in town, came to me for help on a very small portion of a very cool site: The site is very impressive, and although I only programmed the Flash portion-I got to share in the spotlight when it received the prestigious award "site of the week" from Communication Arts ( More recently, they did an all-Flash site for the snowboard company M3 ( on which I did all the Flash programming. I expect this site will receive some well-deserved recognition too-a great combination of interesting content, well designed layout, music, and functionality.

Oswego Group provides lots of services-including digital printing. In the latest project using my help, we created an application for Birkenstock representatives which is knocking their socks off. The rep can search through hundreds of shoes (thanks to the V12 Database engine-see, Reviews, below), select the ones the client wants, how many, etc.… then either print out a catalog and spreadsheet right on the spot, or order a high-quality digital printout (via the FTP connected features using DirectFTP-see Reviews). Not only does this product look great, it's a nice example of a web feature which allows my client, Oswego Group, to provide a valuable product to their client. Since Oswego completed this project (and other similar projects), we've gone on to finish two more jobs just like it (and there's another two in the works)!

Yeah, I recycle… I recycled my JavaScript/Flash presentation from the Macromedia User Conference and wrote a technical article for the July issue of Macromedia User Journal. (The annotated version is still available online at: ) Although the gist of that article was that Flash 4 doesn't have the sophistication of JavaScript… I've since been learning (on projects like Paris's, above) that Flash 4 can do some amazing programming tasks. So, I wrote another article (for the November issue) on Flash 4's Action Scripts: "Flash and Your Inner Programmer".

The Flash classes at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art) are booking up like crazy… last I checked there were 30 people on the waiting list for the next class! PSU (Portland State University) has me doing a few Director classes. This just in: look for "Advanced Flash" classes from me as soon as I can figure out where to hold 'em! If you can't wait, consider a custom course delivered on-site, like several of my clients have done recently.

Wieden & Kennedy's Amsterdam office likes to call at all hours-though I must say, they are the ones usually adjusting to our time zone. The jobs range from a series of Flash screen savers (see Reviews, below) to Shockwave prototypes. (Now, if I can just figure a way for them to need me in Amsterdam.)

Last year at this time I finished a connected CD that Waggener Edstrom produced for the HP LaserJet 2100. Well, HP liked it so much they came back for more. This time, though, we finished the CD months before the new printer was ready! It was tough putting such a nice looking project that was literally 99% complete "on hold". But now it's done.

Garth Upshaw's "GarthsKidsStuff" just released a series of children's titles (CultureWorld: Celts, Ethiopia, Japan, Mayan, Sioux, and Vietnam). Created in Authorware, these are great examples of a simple idea which is relatively easy to produce. Kids learn about a culture then print and build a diorama of a scene from everyday life. All I did was build a template and the next thing I knew Garth had six titles completed that look awesome. (And he's about to crank out another twelve!)

In the super brief consulting category… I provided Director consulting for MTI, Exact Imaging Interactive, and Imagine Productions. I did a slightly larger job for Split Diamond Media which ended up as part of the Bones exhibit at OMSI (the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).

Speaking of museums… a west-coast semiconductor company provided The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York with a pretty cool test project-and I got to help! The American Century exhibit includes a test of the "PadPC"-a super-durable mobile Pentium 166MHz with a 800x600 touch-screen (not a flip-top screen). The Director program I built is similar to an audio guide but this one has closed captioning (not unlike my Beastie Boys CD Player), hyper-links to particular artwork, videos, pictures of other artwork not currently in the museum, and activities in the children's version. Really great content too. Although I usually pride myself on how I can work on a project and remain immune to the content-this was a rare exception. I really enjoyed learning the information.

Editorial: Hard thoughts on software…

In this issue's editorial I will attempt to dish out criticism to all those who deserve it-both software publishers and software users. First, the users. Before you can make a gripe about software publishers you have to be a licensed software user. (Kind of like 'the customer is always right'-but only if you truly are a customer.) It's not okay to simply buy one copy and then bootleg it all over your company. In my opinion, people in this industry are either completely legitimate or they have some fallacious rationalization for why it's okay that they steal software. Some of my favorite rational: 1) "We couldn't have built the business without bootlegging… we're going to become legit" (then that day never comes); 2) "We rarely have more than one person working with this software at a time"; 3) "That software is so expensive, I bought it originally, now they want too much for the upgrade!" I don't snoop through people's software licenses to check who's naughty and who's nice-but it's hard not to notice when people are pulling a fast one on the software publishers. Why am I explaining this? Am I going to become the self-appointed software sheriff? No. It's not my problem-but it's pretty annoying to realize that the honest folks are effectively subsidizing all the pirates. I suppose my point is: go ahead and rip off software (you're actually slowing advancement of the industry)… but if you do, at least admit to yourself you're a thief.

Now, for the software manufacturers. I've noticed an annoying little trend: skipping version numbers. Not just Windows 3.1 going to 95, at least there's some logic there. But Debabelizer 1.65 to 3? Freehand 5.5 to 7? Who are they fooling? On a more serious note-I'm in the initial stages of persuading software companies to make a commitment to customers. Namely, with any software purchase promise (as long as you're in business) the customer will always be able to download the installer for their licensed software-any time. Previous versions, while not supported, should also be available. The basis of this request is in two facts. First, more and more software is purchased via the web and the "original disks" don't exist… users have become software archivists. Why not simply require that we have our serial number and that's all? Second, old versions are sometimes necessary to overcome bugs (oops, I mean new features) or to upgrade old data files into the new format. Case in point-I've had several jobs recently for customers who built a project with version 3 of Authorware (which they owned, of course) and then purchased version 5 but couldn't upgrade the old files (without hiring me to first open the files in version 4). Many software companies already provide free downloads to users-but I think a formal commitment from publishers is a good idea.
(Next issue's editorial: The "Flash Movement": Flash's influence on art and popular culture. )

Presentations: One here, one there…

Flash 4 Subtly Awesome!
With well over 100 attendees, this was unlike any other meeting of the Multimedia | Internet Developers Group ( It just goes to show the momentum behind Flash 4 (and what happens when a meeting is announced in The Oregonian newspaper). The presentation served as both an introduction to Flash as well as an exploration of some of the new features in version 4. I planned to include mainly the new stuff… and after we overcame the typical objections (that Flash 4 requires a plugin-which is practically ubiquitous)… we got to the new stuff. Download the handout:

The Alternative Authorware Conference '99
I presented an "Authorware modified" version of my "Templates and Prototypes" presentation at this conference in Orlando Florida in October. It went pretty well. The conference sessions ranged from really great to really bad! (Of course, I hope mine was toward the "great" end of the spectrum.) One notable difference with EuroTaac (at which I'll present in The Netherlands this February) is they require speakers to provide a handout. The point? Presenters are wise to follow basic "Toastmasters" tips… or better yet, Edward Tufte's presentation tips:


Hot Words: Integrate these throughout the enterprise and core business strategies will remain mission critical.

Lots of words are used for nothing else but impression. As The Simpson's once brought to my attention… "Excuse me, but "proactive" and "paradigm"? Aren't these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important?" (from Hey, I'm all for learning the lingo and exploiting it… but some words have either past their prime or really miss the intended meaning.

Here are a few of my favorite hackneyed phrases:
Mission Critical-as opposed to everything else which, I suppose, is just fluff. The Enterprise-not to be mistaken for the "Starship Enterprise". Thinking Outside the Box-what box? Drill down-which makes me think of the dentist.

Other times, words borrow meaning from another hot word: Immediate Bandwidth, for example, when used to refer to human resource availability or Offline (as in "take this discussion offline"); Grow your business-which, I suppose, could be changed to "fertilize"… unless of course you're trying to "prune" your business.

Many times the fancy word has a more appropriate (albeit mundane) version which can be used instead: Legacy instead of "old"; Deployment when you could say "rollout" or "delivery"; Core instead of "primary" or "main"; Granular instead of "details"; Utilize where "use" would work fine.

Notice that most of these hot words are simply recycled. For our civilization to advance, we need to add words to our vocabulary. Here are two new words I propose we adopt:
Soo: I think we need another version of "so". "So" can still be used in cases of "I work so I can have money". But "Soo" will be for cases like "I work soo hard it makes my brain hurt". Someday "soo" and "so" will be as indispensable as "to" and "too".

Scirfuls: Maybe this is more of a slang term but I think it's useful. Use it anytime you see a visual artifact: white fuzzies around anti-aliasing… boxy video compression…fonts that break up-anything a Gremlin likely left behind… call it a scirful.

Reviews: Lots of software this time… more version numbers than Beastie Boys rhymes!

V12 Version 3 (
I can't say I've fully exploited the additional features of the recently released version 3-being a new user. But I can say this product gives you super fast access to databases. It's a little weird, the way you need to pre-process your database… but once you do, it flies! The database-in any database format needs to be opened, optionally indexed for faster searching, and then saved in V12's proprietary format. As a "V12" file, Director or Authorware can search and modify the file. I'm telling you, it's fast. For example, in the Birkenstock project (above) I wrote some Lingo to reduce a list of matching shoes as the user typed-much the same as new versions of Netscape and IE "suggest" URLs previously visited which match what you're typing. Basically, every keystroke told V12 to do a new search (of all 400+ shoes-can you believe there are so many?) and dump the result of matches into a Director list variable which all took less than 1/10 of a second!

Director 8: (

Direct FTP (
DirectXtras have other interesting products (such as DirectEmail for emailing and XtraAgent to control a Microsoft "agent"). Direct FTP was one of the most straight forward scripting Xtras I've ever used. Specify the FTP server, username, and password then simply specify the files you want to transfer. All the standard FTP functions are also available.

ScreenTime for Flash (
Simply converts your Flash projectors into full-fledged system screensavers (Mac or Windows). There are other competitive products like this one (actually, Mac Sourcery has one for Director too). The reason I mentioned it, besides being able to vouch for it because I've used it-is that you can add value to almost any project by offering a screen saver.

Fireworks 3 (
Three woos. I think of Fireworks as a model for testing new interface features. This upgrade really took some thought. Neat features never seen before-these look really useful. For example, Mac/Win gamma preview; "crisp", "strong", or "smooth" anti-aliasing; and the library (ever seen one in an image editing software?). Also Fireworks 3 is now scriptable via JavaScript… just like I told you so in the UCON review of my last newsletter. Lesson: read this newsletter and you'll be down with the multimedia zeitgeist!

Dreamweaver 3 (
Ho hum…practically woo-less. I guess if Fireworks gets to be version 3, so does Dreamweaver. Actually, there are a few nice things (like the history palette-finally the reality of multiple clipboards in lots of new software!). Personally, I don't think it's worthy of a new version number.

Tech Tips: You can always learn something… most of these I learned from others.

Director 7.02
The score preference for "Director 5 Style Score Display" is great if you're a Luddite… but what if you're getting tired of "inserting keyframes" or you want to "exchange member" without exchanging the whole sprite span? The menu "Edit Sprite Frames" and "Edit Entire Sprite" lets you toggle between the "whole span" view and something similar to the old Director cell-by-cell view. Check it out. I just happened to find it while teaching a Director I class.

Authorware 5.1
Where's the "case" statement in Authorware? In case you didn't attend the presentation from Ike Eisenhauer (of Zydigo Technologies) at TAAC '99… you just need two parallel lists-one of cases and one of corresponding actions:
cases:=[1,2,3, "beep", "jump"]
actions:=["n:=1", "n:=2", "n:=3", "beep()", "JumpFile(\"other\")"]
Then when you want to execute the correct case, set "whatCondition" and simply use:EvalAssign(actions[findValue(cases,whatCondition)])The epiphany for me was that evalAssign can execute another Authorware function from a string (like Director's "do").

Flash 4.x According to an official at Macromedia-since Flash engineers make a point of "not shipping known anomalies", there are no patches necessary or available for Flash. (I don't know if that makes me happy or scared.) Okay, here are a couple new interface enhancements you should know: double-click a layer's page-curl icon and get the layer properties (which now, at least, includes more than just the layer name); drag a layer to the trash-duh, I didn't realize this one; and frame properties/tweening/motion now has a "snap to guide" option. Here are a couple tips for when using "action scripts". The scope of all variables is "global" within the current timeline only. For variables that you want to use as globals, keep them at the "root" timeline by always preceding their name with "/:". So instead of "myVar=1" say "/:myVar=1". If you ever need to refer to this variable from within a movie clip… or if you created this variable in a movie clip-you won't need complicated relative references to use it. It's not quite as easy with "loaded" movies (through "load movie"). My second tip gives you a clue to the standard way of determining the mouse location. Create an empty movie clip and name an instance of it on screen "mouseLoc". Set an action (maybe in the first keyframe) to "drag movie clip-start" and set "mouseLoc" as the target-make sure you click "Lock mouse to center". Then any time you need to ascertain the mouse location use GetProperty("/mouseLoc", _x) or GetProperty("/mouseLoc", _y). The only drawback I have found is the default Flash "finger" cursor appears.


The Phillip Newsletter: is published twice a year by Phillip Kerman with editing services from Diana L. Kerman. Phillip is an internationally recognized expert in creating multimedia for training and entertainment. Specializing in Macromedia tools for six years, Phillip has produced rapid prototypes, adaptable templates for large projects, and software which enables easy-localization. While he's not re-writing his biography, he's either writing a technical article, teaching a class, learning some new web thing, or playing around with Director, Authorware, or Flash. And, like all autobiography biographers, Phillip occasionally refers to himself in the third-person.

Subscriptions are available for the asking.  Also, if you’d prefer an email version tell me.  or or +1 503 236-7721

Please distribute this freely to anyone interested in or involved with multimedia—including computer based training, sales
presentations, customer demo software, programming, graphics, video, audio, interface design……and the web (which includes everyone).

Any problems? email

Back to other Phillip Newsletters

Back to the Phillip Page

Last update: 21 December 1999