The EnterPage 8-01

 

The Source for ToolBook and VBTrain.Net News

from Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation

HTML version available at: http://www.plattecanyon.com/ep/ep8-01.htm

 

January 14, 2005

In This Issue

Introduction

TOP STORIES

Seats Available for January 24th ToolBook Training Class

One-Day TBCON Events in New Orleans and Orlando

Announcing the VBTrain.Net Design Awards

Looking for "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 2004" Beta Testers

TBCON 2005 Preview

Tracker.Net is the Lowest Cost LMS

Come Visit Us at the Training and eLearning Producer Conferences

TOOLBOOK TIPS AND NEWS

Plug-In Pro Tool Spotlight - First and Next Background

Expert Information from the "Learning & Mastering ToolBook" Series

OpenScript Tip

Actions Editor Tip

VBTRAIN.NET TIPS AND NEWS

VBTrain.Net Tidbit

MORE NEWS AND INFORMATION

Come See Us: The Platte Canyon World Tour

Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline

Coming in the Next Issue of The EnterPage

About The EnterPage

Information on Subscriptions

 

 

With the "hustle and bustle" of the holidays over, we wanted to share some news from the Platte Canyon universe as well as some ToolBook and VBTrain.Net tips and tricks.

 

We are looking forward to the 2005 edition of The ToolBook & VBTrain.Net conference, and this issue of the EnterPage gives some details to help in your planning. We also let you know about other opportunities to get together in person.

 

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter. For those of you who are our customers, thanks for making 2004 one of our best yearís ever. For those who are members of the ToolBook or VBTrain.Net lists (or who just want to see what all the excitement is about), thanks for your contributions!

 

 

Top Stories

 

Seats Available for January 24th ToolBook Training Class

Do you want to escape to the warmth of Phoenix in January? Do you like individual attention? If the answer to either one is yes, this is your chance. We only have one student so far for our ToolBook Training class beginning January 24th. The five-day hands-on course is only $1650 while the four-day version is only $1400. Plus you receive a FREE copy of our upcoming Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 2004 CBT, which is normally $495 on its own. Better yet, two or more attendees from the same organization receive 30% off (this session only). Here is a link for details:

 

http://www.learningandmastering.com/landm_course.aspx

 

One-Day TBCON Events in New Orleans and Orlando

 

If you are interested in a full-day training session on ToolBook or VBTrain.Net but canít wait for TBCON this summer, join us in New Orleans (Sunday, February 27, 2005) or Orlando (Sunday, June 5, 2005). The New Orleans event is before the Training conference and the Orlando one precedes ASTD. The price is $285 per person, which includes lunch, snacks, and beverages. Here's a link for more details or to sign up:

 

http://www.tbcon.com/1dayevents.aspx

 

Announcing the VBTrain.Net Design Awards

 

Platte Canyon is pleased to announce the first annual VBTrain.Net Design Awards to be given out at The ToolBook & VBTrain.Net User's Conference. $200 first place and $100 second place awards are available in the categories of "Best VBTrain.Net Training Application" and "Most Innovative Use of VBTrain.Net." Applications created using VBTrain.Net controls or Exam Engine are eligible.

 

Here is a link to learn more and to enter:

 

http://www.tbcon.com/vbtrainawards.aspx

 

 

Looking for "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 2004" Beta Testers

 

At long last, we are going to beta with the new Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 2004 training CD. We have a couple more beta testing spots. If you know ToolBook well and have the time to give the training program a thorough run through, please send an email to Chris at cbell@plattecanyon.com. All beta testers receive a free copy of the shipping CD.

 

 

TBCON 2005 Preview

 

We're already getting excited about the 2005 version of The ToolBook & VBTrain.Net Userís Conference, to be held August 1 - 3, 2005 (preconference training July 30 and 31) in Colorado Springs. Our SumTotal friends and ToolBook masters Tim Barham, Charley Delaney, and Denny Dedmore will be sharing their knowledge once again. After a one-year hiatus, Peter Jackson will come all the way from Australia to "wow" you about the inner workings of ToolBook DHTML and other topics. Other faculty highlights include noted author Tom Hall, simulation expert Lee Jay Karns, and XML guru Mike Cline.

 

For the first time, Chris Bell is bringing his popular "Learning & Mastering ToolBook: The Class" to the preconference. He will be leading hands-on classes focused on getting started, simulations, the Actions Editor, and media/questions. Lee will dig deeply into simulation in his two preconference workshops as well. Jeff Rhodes will teach you all about .NET and VBTrain.Net controls in his workshops.

 

Pricing remains low as always:

 

Off Campus ($720)

Loomis Double ($825)

Loomis Single ($895)

Apartment Multiple Occupancy ($945)

Apartment Single ($1,145)

 

All prices include meals. Everything except "Off Campus" includes lodging as well. Prices rise by $50 on June 1 and another $50 on July 1. Preconference workshop pricing ranges from $150 for one workshop to $555 for all four.

 

You can learn more and sign up at http://www.tbcon.com.

 

 

Tracker.Net is the Lowest Cost LMS

 

Our Tracker.Net is creating quite a stir in the industry. In addition to adding customers like British Airways and EADS Telecom, brandon-hall.com has included Tracker.Net in its "Low-Cost Learning Management Systems:

17 Products for Limited Budgets" report as well as its "LMS KnowledgeBase 2005." As part of their marketing effort for this latter product, they listed the price range for various numbers of users. For 500 users, the range was $8,980 - $234,150. At 100,000 users, the range was $11,980 - $5,340,000! What product owns the $8,980 and 11,980 prices? You guessed it, Tracker.Net. See the ranges for yourself at:

 

http://www.brandonhall.com/public/dispatch/jan5-05.htm

 

 

Come Visit Us at the Training and eLearning Producer Conferences

 

If any of you are planning to come to the Training conference in New Orleans (February 28 - March 2, 2005 with a one-day TBCON event on February 27), please stop by our booth (830) and say hello. If you just want to visit the expo, send us an email (info@plattecanyon.com) and weíll mail you a free Expo Pass. Hereís a link for more information about the conference.

 

http://www.trainingconference.com

 

The following month, Jeff will be presenting a session on "Talking SCORM with ASP.NET" at the eLearning Producer conference in San Francisco. His session is on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 4:15 PM. Jeff and Chris will be doing a product showcase on "Creating and Tracking e-Learning with VBTrain.Net, Exam Engine, and Tracker.Net" on Wednesday, March 16 at 10:15 AM. The rest of the time, theyíll be at booth #18. To learn more about the conference, go to:

 

http://www.elearningguild.com/pbuild/linkbuilder.cfm?selection=doc.740

 

ToolBook Tips and News

 

Plug-In Pro Tool Spotlight

by Jeff Rhodes

 

First and Next Background

 

One of the common "gotchas" in ToolBook development is inadvertently getting extra backgrounds in your book. This can create a sizing and performance issue in DHTML and a maintenance headache with any type of deployment. It can happen by copying and pasting pages from another book (be sure to use the Plug-In Pro ďView a PageĒ tool in any case, but thatís a different EnterPage), using Paste Special and choosing to create a new background, or from the "New Page" bug in ToolBook 2004 that sometimes gives you a new background even when you ask it not to. To fix the problem, you need to first recognize that you have extra backgrounds and then figure out which pages are using it. The Plug-In Pro has a couple of buttons to help for both of these. The "First Background" button gets you started by taking you to the first page of the first background in your book. You then click the "Next Background" button to cycle through the rest of your backgrounds. In each case, the Plug-In Pro takes you to the first page of the background. When you see what LOOKS like the same background more than once, you know you have a problem. Once you know that you have multiple backgrounds, you can use Denny Dedmore's tool available through the Developer Tools menu to join them together.

 

If you want to learn more, check out the help topics:

 

http://www.plattecanyon.com/help/pluginpro/Going_to_the_first_backgrou.htm

 

 

http://www.plattecanyon.com/help/pluginpro/Going_to_the_next_backgroun.htm

 

More information on Plug-In Pro is available at:

 

http://www.plattecanyon.com/pluginpro.aspx

 

 

Expert Information from the "Learning & Mastering ToolBook" Series

by Chris Bell

 

The product of running the Sim AutoBuilder Recorder is a TBR file. We import the TBR file into ToolBook using the Insert Simulation from Recording menu item. That's really all that we need to know about TBR files. But if you're really interested in digging deeper, here's what you'll find:

 

A TBR file is a zip file with a different extension. This means that you can open it with WinZip, PKZip, or another unzip routine.

 

Inside the TBR zip file, we find two types of files:

 

BMPs - these are the captured screens. One image per step. These are the same images that you'll see if you were to click "preview" at a step while going through the TBR import wizard.

 

XML file - this is the data file that the simulation import process uses to create the simulation. It is a highly structured and detailed account of the full capture. Every menu item, button, dialog box, is represented here for reproduction in ToolBook.

 

Have fun digging into the file!

 

 

OpenScript Tip

by Jeff Rhodes

 

The OpenScript, Actions Editor, and VBTrain.Net tips in this issue are related to HTTP Post and come from "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 2004." For the first two, we show how to HTTP Post to a web server with your "visitor" information. In the VBTrain.Net tip, we see how to log that information to a database and return the previous visitorís information to the client.

 

Here is the OpenScript for the "Post" button

 

to handle buttonCLick

†† local object fieldID

†† local stack returnVal, studentNumber, newDate, oldDate, oldLoc, url

 

††††

†† if sysLevel = "reader"

†††† fieldID = field "location"

 

†††† --Set up parameters to pass to web

†††† get ASYM_SetHTTPPostParameter ("location", text of fieldID)

 

†††† --Send message to web

†††† url = "http://www.learningandmastering.com/tbcbt2004examples/userCountAndLocation.aspx"

†††† returnVal = ASYM_HTTPPost(url)

†††† if returnVal contains "<font" -- error message

††††††† studentNumber = "XX"

††††††† newDate = "NA"

††††††† oldDate = "NA"

††††††† oldLoc = "The server is currently unavailable."

†††† else

††††††† oldLock = item 1 of returnVal

††††††† oldDate = item 2 of returnVal

††††††† studentNumber = item 3 of returnVal

††††††† newDate = item 4 of returnVal

†††† end if

†††† text of field "newNum" = studentNumber

†††† text of field "newDateAndTime" = newDate

†††† text of field "prevDateAndTime" = oldDate

†††† text of field "prevLoc" = oldLoc

†† end if

end buttonClick

 

We grab the studentís location from a field on the ToolBook page and set that as a parameter using ASYM_SetHTTPPostParameter(). We then call the ASYM_HTTPPost() method, passing in the location of the .aspx page we want to post to. That page returns a comma-delimited set of return values. We parse that and set the text of corresponding fields.

 

 

Actions Editor Tip

by Jeff Rhodes

 

Letís look at the Actions Editor implementation of the code to post a studentís location to an .aspx page and then display the return values in ToolBook fields.

 

-- On click... -----------------------------------------------------------------

Define local variable "dateTimeLocationString" (Initial value: "")

Define local variable "oldLoc" (Initial value: "")

Define local variable "oldDate" (Initial value: "")

Define local variable "studentNum" (Initial value: "")

Define local variable "newDate" (Initial value: "")

 

Set HTTP Post parameter "location" to text of field "location"

HTTP Post to: "http://" & gPostLocation & "/tbcbt2004examples/userCountAndLocation.aspx"; store return value in dateTimeLocationString

If "dateTimeLocation" = ""

Display alert: "Could not connect to the server. One possible cause could be that you are running Exported DHTML that is not located on a web server."

Else

Execute Shared Actions "item"; store return value in oldLoc

Set text of Field "prevLoc" to oldLoc

Execute Shared Actions "item"; store return value in oldDate

Set text of Field "prevDateAndTime" to oldDate

Execute Shared Actions "item"; store return value in studentNum

Set text of Field "newNum" to studentNum

Execute Shared Actions "item"; store return value in newDate

Set text of Field "newDateAndTime" to newDate

End if

 

We start by setting the "location" parameter based on what the student entered. We then post to the designated location. One slight change compared to the OpenScript logic is that we stored the web site itself in the gPostLocation global variable. That allowed us to set it to "localhost" for testing the .aspx page and then just change the global variable to "www.learningandmastering.com" when we were ready to go live. To parse the return value, we use Denny Dedmoreís "item" shared action, available at http://www.toolbookhelp.com/downloads/actions/shared/index.htm. It isnít all that efficient to call it four times in a row, but we didnít want to complicate things in this case by writing our own action to return a single array.

 

 

VBTrain.Net Tips and News

 

VBTrain.Net Tidbit

by Jeff Rhodes

 

Those of you who read the Actions Editor and OpenScript tips know that we are going to look at how to implement the posts that we covered in those sections. The idea is to write each "visitorís" information to an Access database and then send the previous visitorís details along with the total number of visitors as the return value. Note that we include a Visual Studio .NET solution containing this and other examples on the Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 2004 CD.

 

Here is the "code behind" for the userCountAndLocation.aspx page.

 

Private Sub Page_Load(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles MyBase.Load

 

†† Dim newLocationId As String = Request.Form("location")

†† Dim newDateId As DateTime = Now

†† Dim returnString As String = ConfigureDbString(newLocationId, newDateId)

 

†† Response.Write(returnString)

End Sub

 

In the Page_Load code, we grab the location parameter from the "Request" collection. We also get the current time, which we are going to write to the database. We call the ConfigureDbString() function to get the return value that we need. We then Response.Write that value to return it to the calling program.

 

 

Private Function ConfigureDbString(ByVal locId As String, ByVal dateId As DateTime) As String

 

†† Dim conStr As String = String.Format("provider=Microsoft.Jet.OLEDB.4.0;Data Source={0}database\example.mdb", Request.PhysicalApplicationPath)

†† Dim oleDbConId As New OleDbConnection(conStr)

†† Dim selectCommandId As New OleDbCommand("MostRecentUsers", oleDbConId)

†† Dim oldLoc As String

†† Dim oldDateString As String

†† Dim oldTimeString As String

†† Dim returnString As String

 

†† selectCommandId.CommandType = CommandType.StoredProcedure

 

†† If oleDbConId.State <> ConnectionState.Open Then

†††† oleDbConId.Open()

†† End If

 

The code above creates the connection string to the Access database on the server. Notice the use of Request.PhysicalApplicationPath to dynamically figure out the local path to the file. This allows you to move the whole project around without needing to recompile. We use the connection string to make the OleDbConnection object. The next step is to make a "command" object. In this case, we use the "MostRecentUsers" query stored in the database. It has this SQL statement:

 

SELECT Visits.* FROM Visits ORDER BY Visits.visitDate DESC , Visits.visitTime DESC;

 

†† Dim readerId As OleDbDataReader = selectCommandId.ExecuteReader

 

†† If readerId.Read = True Then

†††† oldLoc = readerId("location").ToString

†††† oldDateString = CDate(readerId("visitDate")).ToShortDateString

†††† oldTimeString = readerId("visitTime").ToString

†† End If

†† readerId.Close()

 

This next set of code creates a DataReader, which is used for a fast, read-only grab of the results. Its .Read method puts us on the first row, which corresponds to the most recent visitor. We grab that visitorís location, date, and time.

 

†† Dim sqlText As String = "INSERT Into Visits(location, visitDate, visitTime) VALUES (?, ?, ?)"

†† Dim insertCommandId As New OleDbCommand(sqlText, oleDbConId)

†† Dim locationParamId As New OleDbParameter("location", OleDbType.VarWChar)

†† Dim dateParamId As New OleDbParameter("visitDate", OleDbType.DBDate)

†† Dim timeParamId As New OleDbParameter("visitTime", OleDbType.VarWChar)

†† Dim numUsers As String = "1"

 

†† locationParamId.Value = locId

†† dateParamId.Value = dateId

†† timeParamId.Value = dateId.ToLongTimeString

 

†† With insertCommandId.Parameters

†††† .Add(locationParamId)

†††† .Add(dateParamId)

†††† .Add(timeParamId)

†† End With

 

†† With insertCommandId

†††† .CommandType = CommandType.Text

†††† .ExecuteNonQuery()

†† End With

 

We now add our current visitor to the database. For that, we create our own "Insert" query. We need to introduce a new object, the OleDbParameter. We add a parameter for each piece of data. They correspond to each ? in the insert query. We add the date and time separately so that we can sort by both (see query above). We then call the command objectís ExecuteNonQuery() method to actually write the new row to the database.

 

†† With selectCommandId

†††† .CommandText = "UserCount"

†††† numUsers = .ExecuteScalar.ToString

†† End With

 

†† returnString = String.Format("{0},{1} {2},{3},{4},", oldLoc, oldDateString, oldTimeString, numUsers, dateId.ToString)

 

†† If oleDbConId.State = ConnectionState.Open Then

†††† oleDbConId.Close()

†† End If

 

†† Return returnString

End Function

 

The last test is to read the number of users. For this, we use another stored query:

 

SELECT Count(Visits.userId) AS UserCount FROM Visits;

 

Note the use of the ExecuteScalar() method. We can use it rather than a DataReader since we know the return value is a single number. We then format the results into a comma delimited string.

 

 

 

More News and Information

 

Come See Us: The Platte Canyon World Tour

Here are the upcoming conferences and events that we have firmed up at this time:

 

 

TBCON One-Day Event
New Orleans, Louisiana
February 27, 2005
http://www.tbcon.com/1dayevents.aspx

 

Training Spring
Booth 830
New Orleans, Louisiana
February 28 - March 2, 2005
http://www.trainingconference.com

 

eLearning Producer
Booth 18
San Francisco, California
March 14 - 17, 2005
http://www.elearningguild.com/pbuild/linkbuilder.cfm?selection=doc.740

 

TBCON One-Day Event
Orlando, Florida
June 5, 2005
http://www.tbcon.com/1dayevents.aspx

 

ASTD International Conference & Exposition
Booth 1521
Orlando, Florida
June 6 - 8, 2005
http://www.astd.org/ASTD/conferences

 

Training Fall
Long Beach, California
October 17 - 19, 2005
http://www.trainingfall.com

 

 

Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline

 

Weíre getting close on the "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 2004" CBT as we mentioned and have also been working quite hard on Tracker.Net version 3. After those, look for SCORM 2004-enabled versions of LmsApi and Question. Stay tuned!

 

Coming in the Next Issue of The EnterPage

         Getting Ready for TBCON

         Another Plug-In Pro Tool Spotlight

         More OpenScript Tips

         More Actions Editor Tips

         More VBTrain.Net Tidbits

         Expert Information (from the "Learning and Mastering ToolBook..." Series)

         More

 

About The EnterPage

 

The EnterPage is distributed four times a year, with occasional special issues. Individuals who have expressed interest in Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation or its products receive The EnterPage. Suggestions for articles or proposals for article submissions are welcome. Send information to EP@plattecanyon.com. Back issues of the EnterPage are available at http://www.plattecanyon.com/enterpage.aspx.

 

 

Information on Subscriptions

 

To subscribe or unsubscribe, please send a message to EP@plattecanyon.com. Please include your name and company with new subscriptions.

 

 

All content Copyright Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation, 2005.