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C2008 - Why does my packaged file RUN so slowly?

by - Joseph Ganci

I'm having the most peculiar problem with Authorware that I just can't seem to understand. I'm hoping that you can help. I've recently completed an Authorware piece for a client using version 4.0. The goal is to run the piece directly from CD-ROM. But, I am also creating an install routine that will allow the user to install and run the program directly from their local hard drive. Here's my problem. I've tested the performance/speed/compatibility of my beta CD-ROM on several different machines. It seems that the faster the computer processor is and the more RAM that it has, the poorer the performance of the program. For instance: If I take the CD-ROM and run it on a 233Mhz Pentium computer with 32MB of RAM and a 24X CD-ROM it runs beautifully. The performance is very acceptable. If I run the same CD on a Cyrix 300 Mhz with 64MB of RAM and a 20X CD-ROM, the performance is even better. But, if I try and run the CD on my Pentium III, 500Mhz machine with 128MB of RAM it runs like a dog. Very poor performance. When I provided the client with a beta version of the CD-ROM, he tested it on his 233 Mhz Pentium desktop. No problems and he was very satisfied. When he tried to run it on one of the 450Mhz Pentium Pro production machines with 64MB of RAM, again it was very slow and unacceptable. Have you ever encountered such a problem like this? All indications seem to point to the actual processors speed and manufacturer more than the speed of the CD-ROM drives (considering that they are all very close in speed around 20X) I'm very dumbfounded by this. Do you think that there is something about the architecture of these newer/faster processors that just isn't jiving well with Authorware?

Here are a few more specifics about my project.

1. The Xtras folder is about 2.5 MB.
2. The Aware .EXE is about 1.8 MB.
3. All of my media elements are saved external to the program in a folder called ""images"". They are .GIF images and .JPGs.
4. The program runs at 800 x 600.
5. I'm using the V12 database engine (Scripting Xtra) to have Authorware talk to a database flat file of user records.
6. I didn't use any libraries.

I know what you may be thinking. It's the V12 scripting Xtra. Actually the Xtra itself IS quite large (around 1.2 MB) and I know that all of the Xtras have to be loaded before the program will run. This is not the problem though. It's after the program is running that the performance problems come up. For example, there might be 250 records in the database (relatively small in my opinion) and trying to page between each record is where the real problem is. It might take several seconds before the next record appears. But....the same exact program, running from the same exact CD-R will run lightning fast on the Cyrix 300Mhz or the Pentium 233Mhz. So, I'm more inclined to blame the faster processors rather than the V12 Xtra.

I know that there are all kinds of different tricks that can be used to place and name the media elements so that they physically appear closer to each other in a certain order on the CD-ROM. And, if you completely defrag and optimize your hard disk before writing the CD that you'll have better performance. Well, I didn't use any of those ""tricks"". But again, I will cite the example of the program running fine on different (usually slower) machines. Very strange!

Unfortunately it's too late in this particular project to switch to a different authoring application. But, if the problem is with Authoware itself and it's compatibility with PIII computers and faster processors, I might consider switching to Toolbook for future jobs. Thank you in advance for you help. I truly do appreciate it.

There may be several reasons that you are having this problem, but I am inclined to think that the processor is NOT it, unless the problem were in reverse: the slower the processor, the slower the execution. I have several questions and comments and would love to hear if any of these did the trick for you. I would try them one at a time, so you can determine where the real problem is.

1. Despite the fact that the problem is happening after everything is loaded, I would still try to pare down your Xtras folder. I notice your Xtras folder is quite large. Aside from the V12 Xtra, what other Xtras are you including? Take out any Xtras that are not needed (use my knowledge object if it helps you - it's on my web site), and see if that improves things.

2. Some previous versions of Authorware, which may include 4.0, had problems with very slow speeds if the executing files were in the root of the CD. Moving them to a subfolder made all the difference. My understanding is that this has since been fixed, but 4.0 may still contain the problem.

3. Speaking of 4.0, are you not using 4.03? This update helped fix a lot of problems and may fix yours as well.

4. Video drivers can be a prime culprit as well. I once had a course that ran beautifully on many machines but on a couple of different machines, they ran absolutely ridiculously slow. For instance, if there was an on-screen button to click, clicking it would result in a 60-second wait for it to go to the down state, then another 60 seconds for it to come to the up state! Updating the video drivers on those particular machines to a newer version fixed the problem there. In other words, it was not an Authorware problem. Why, then, did it appear in Authorware and not in Word or another business app? The reason of course is that Authorware taxes video memory much more since it is juggling multimedia, even if it just transitioning graphics.

5. GIFs and JPGs are compressed formats. If you switch to uncompressed BMPs, your CD files will be much bigger but you may find that reading larger files from the CD will be much faster than reading in smaller files and uncompressing them in memory, which is what Authorware has to do with GIFs and JPGs.

6. Authorware has no problems I know of with PIII machines. Switching to Toolbook will very likely not solve your problem and will just compound the cost tremendously. My sources tell me that Toolbook might be dropped in the near future as Asymetrix (now called has changed its entire focus in an attempt to stop their financial hemorrhaging. They have lost money for almost 12 straight years trying to sell Toolbook. Good thing Paul Allen has so much money!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thank you so much for responding to my e-mail. I took your advice and tried a few of your suggestions and the speed of my Aware piece has dramatically increased while running from CD-ROM...Again, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I know your time is very valuable. I truly do appreciate it. Now I think I'll go out and buy your latest book!

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