Ridge Racer V

One of the launch titles for the PlayStation 2, Sony’s follow-up to the popular PlayStation. Like the first Ridge Racer, this was one of the first games developed and released for the PlayStation 2 and was built from the ground up for that console. Ridge Racer V brought us 60fps which was a staple of the arcade versions but was something that the home console versions had always lacked. Although Namco did treat us to a 60fps build of the original Ridge Racer that was bundled as a bound for Ridge Racer Type 4, a lot of sacrifices had to be made in order to reach that frame rate. RRV gives us an insight as to what the PS2 is capable of, and what to expect from a new generation of racing games.

Although it seems Namco has forgotten to count, with Ridge Racer V being the fifth console installment, it’s not counting the three arcade titles, plus you have Ridge Racer 6 which was released in the same year. The numbering scheme is about as inconsistent s as Microsoft’s

Ouch, you could cut yourself on those jaggies (look at the neck)

Oh and no Reiko, instead she was replaced by Ai Fukami (Fuck-a-me) who appears in the intro. Unlike the R4 intro, the cars don’t stop for Ai as they did for Reiko.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhQhZyNKqhM

Straight away you will notice how sleek the menu and navigation system are compared to previous titles, borrowing design concepts from Tokyo Racer Drift which was released on the Dreamcast. Each menu selection plays its own quick animation which gives a nice touch to the game, and reminds me of the menu icons from the original WipEout that was created by the Designers Republic.

Whilst the game gives the appearance of reflections, they are not real-time but the game casts generic reflections of trees onto the car to simulate it. This is affected by your car’s position on the track, steer to the left and on the edge of the track and you can see the reflection of trees on your car, even if that part of the track has no trees at all. I guess real-time reflections were beyond the scope of the PS2 at the time of release, or Namco didn’t have enough time to implement this.
Speaking of graphics, you will know how aliased the cars are in addition to the track objects. The PS2 had an unconventional form of AA which took developers some time to get used to and as a result, some games have bad aliasing due to how their field scanning is implemented, as the games run exclusively in interlaced mode. I’m not sure if later releases (Greatest Hits, Platinum in Europe) fix this, or if it’s fixed in the Arcade Battle version.

Race Modes

GP Selection Screen

Grand Prix

Like in R4, RRV features its own unique Grand Prix. This is a departure from one we saw in R4 with the four teams being missing along with their managers can choose your own team name and colour but that’s it. As for the cars, we have a choice of different car manufacturers and models, including Danver & Himmel. These are fictional brands that are used throughout the Ridge Racer, and possibly in Namco’s other games.
Each car has its own unique stats, including top speed, acceleration, handling and control style (Grip or Drift).

Standard Basis GP: Consists of four rounds of different courses, at first you must place 4th or higher to progress to the next found, then 3rd, then 2nd and then 1st for the last race. Winning this GP will unlock a new car based on the machine you have chosen to race with which can then be used in the Extra GP’s. You will also win a trophy, which can be viewed later in the game.
Alternatively known as Frontal GP in Normal difficulty and Fountain GP in Hard mode.

Extra Heroic GP: Tracks have been shuffled around, finish standings are the same as the basis GP, only you now race on the extra car you unlocked.
Known as Bravely GP in normal, and Spartan GP on hard difficulty.

Extra Blast GP: This series uses a sudden death type of gameplay, where if the clock timer runs out, then you are ejected from the race. As you race you will pass through checkpoints which extend the time. If you are familiar with the arcade versions of Ridge racer this will seem familiar to you. For these races, you will still need to satisfy the qualifying rank to progress. Known as Gale Gp in normal, and Tornado GP on hard.

Extra Knight GP: These tracks are now completed in reverse mode.
Also known as Balon GP on normal, and Duke GP on hard.

Extra Throne GP: You race on the airport oval track, with your car being equipped with an oval engine. This is a single long near-circle-shaped track similar to the Rage Racer tracks. Top speed is the priority here.
Known as Monarch GP on normal and Tyrant GP on hard difficulty.

Maxim class: This is unlocked by beating the Tyrant GP on hard difficulty, which opens up the Ultimate GP.

Music track selection screen

Duel

Unlocked later in the game, it’s a 1 vs 1 mode against another opponent. When you beat them, you unlock their car which can then be used in the extra GP.

Time Attack

The goal here is to beat the rival times and come in first, which will unlock that rival for challenge dal. This will also increase your car standing number.

Car selection screen

Other Modes

  • Design: Similar in concept to the decal feature in R4, you can customize the colour and patterns on your team’s car. Here you can only change the colour combinations.
  • Garage: View cars that you have unlocked by winning the GP races with that car, along with any unlocked engines.
  • Records: Best lap times and the player names for time attack mode

Courses

In GP Mode, a quick tour of the race track is played

RRV included a brand new set of courses, most of which are based on the original course from the original Ridge Racer game, But these new courses are interlinked somewhat, with many taking place within Ridge City but branching out into different paths that take you into a different direction, with some leading you into the main downtown whilst others take you onto the highway. The tracks are fixed, it’s not an open world like Burnout paradise, instead different paths are blocked off depending on which track you select, very similar to how it functioned in Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Type 4.
Speaking of which, none of the tracks featured in those games appear in Ridge Racer V, only the track from the first arcade game, or which many of the RRV tracks are based around.

Despite this, you get a good feel of the Ridge Racer city,
Some tracks can be raced at different times of day, such as Day, evening & night. Unlike the first Ridge racer game where the sun will set or rise during the race which results in a day/night cycle, The sky will remain constant through the race, giving the game a realistic passage of time. This is the case even with the 99 trial.

  • Park Town: Probably the first track in RRV you will race if you follow the Grand Prix, this starts off the same as Above The City but then branches out to a different track which gives an alternative view of Ridge City, of which the scenery consists of high-rise building. A tram/monorail system can be seen in some parts of the track.
  • Outer Pass: This track looks a lot like the original track from Ridge Racer judging from the course map, but it’s set using the background roads that we can finally race in. It starts off on the bottom road where you can see the onpass ramp for Park Town and Sunny Beech before it leads to its own side of the tunnel. Towards the end it branches back to the original track before diverting back to its own path. A few sharp turns make this track more challenging and there’s an extra turn where the seaside part is.
  • Above the City: Starts off the same as park town but branches to its own path, again filled with buildings and highways, although there are a few parts of open grass and trees, it’s clear there’s less scenery diversity than in R4.
  • Bayside Line: One of the longest tracks in the game, complete with sharp turns. This one takes you out near the highway and then branches back to the start of Outer Pass.
  • Greenfield: The advanced track from the original Ridge Racer, now updated with modern visuals.
  • Sunny Beach: It’s the original track that we all know and love, only now its been modernized 7 years later, and has been remastered of sorts. Compared to the original there’s been a few changes with different skyscrapers and building placement, and minor changes to the shops opposite the beach area where the first checkpoint resides. Sadly the Pac-Man easter egg no longer appears in the building at night.
  • Airport Oval: Unlike other tracks, this one takes place independent of the other tracks, it’s a large oval-shaped track designed for top speeds, although there is a sharp turn that will require a drift, depending on your car. Since the other tracks feature low-flying airplanes, it can be assumed this is the Ridge City airport.

Additional Notes

This is one of the games that insist on funning in 480i mode (or 440i mode, PS2 games use this weird resolution) and trying to force it to 480p using GSMode results in only half the screen being rendered, as such there is no official way to run this game in progressive mode.
It’s a shame because this game has some bad aliasing, and could benefit better from progressive scan. Even the lap timer suffers from noticeable interlacing effects.

The game does not fare better with emulation either, with various texture and shading issues in PCSX2, and even had issues running in Sony’s official PS2 emulators on the PS3 and PS4. Supposedly this is due to how Namco implemented the texturing and shading for these games:
https://github.com/PCSX2/pcsx2/issues/2427#issuecomment-590020696
https://github.com/PCSX2/pcsx2/issues/3278
The intro sequence is also messed up and requires switching between hardware and software rendering modes in order to display.

Saving to a memory card larger than 8MB may take a while to read and write. With a 128Mb card it took a minute to save the game. I’m not sure if replacing the MCM IOP driver could help with this, or just break/corrupt the file entirely.

Conclusion

Whilst in some regard it’s a step back from Ridge Race Type 4 with the reduction of cars, tracks and the story mode, you have to take in mind the game was possibly developed in a short timeframe that R4 had, and Namco’s desire to have is a launch title for the PS2, the 1999 copyright date is very telling of this and one of the few games on the PS2 to have this copyright date. As a launch title it makes a huge splash with its high resolution, 60fps gameplay, and the intro sequence with Ai, possibly the highest poly model on the PS2.
But this would be the only installment of Ridge Racer for the PlayStation 2 whilst the original PlayStation enjoy four mainline Ridge Racer titles, the PS2 would only have RRV and R: Racing Evolution which is more of a spinoff rather than a follow-up game. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that a proper followup to Ridge Racer would be released for the PlayStation Portable. And even then, it’s considered a compilation game rather than a true sequel. Ridge Racer 6 for the Xbox 360 would be the proper sequel with unique tracks. As for why only one title? Possibly due to higher budgets required for PS2 development and the popularity of sim racing games like Gran Turismo. Hopefully we get another proper Ridge Racer titles from Namco at some point in the future.

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004

An update to Windows XP Media Center, again intended for OEM use. Very little has changed on the desktop side with most of the enhancements being done to the Media Center program. Again this version was intended solely for OEMs, so only OEM-type product keys can be used. When installing on an OEM system, like my Dell XPS Gen5, activation was automatic and I don’t remember it prompting for a product key. On VMWare, it’s a different story with it being locked out of the OS on the initial boot-up.

Some issues may occur regarding product activation since this is a Dell OEM copy, to get around this:
Spam F8 upon boot up
Select Start in Command Prompt
When the Command prompt window appears, enter ‘explorer’ and wait for the setup prompt to finish, this will reboot the PC automatically

Version Information

ComponentVersion
Internet Explorer6.0.2800.1106.xpsp11.020828-1920
Outlook Express6.00.2800.1106
Windows Media Player9.00.00.3005
Windows Messenger4.7.0041
Windows Movie Maker1.1.2427.1

The desktop remains the same as a default Windows XP, with the only noticeable difference being the Media Center icon on the Start Menu. A new Online Spotlight option is now present, This would take you to an online website, displayed within the Media Center application (possibly using the Internet Explorer engine) that would have provided further information with using Media Center.

Play DVD

The main DVD player, again we have difficulties playing DVD discs due to the lack of hardware MPEG2 decoder. You would think they would support software rendering by now.

My Videos

Videos stored in the My Videos folder are located and played back here. This does not include Recorded TV, which has its own section. Video playback requires a supported graphics card that will provide acceleration, that VMWare (Or its driver) does not support.

My Pictures

Similar has before, photos can be displayed as a single image or as part of a slideshow. Media center supports the common file formats and will display images from the My Pictures folder, or the Shared Pictures

My TV

TV functionality is still a mystery, as my DVB-T tuner adaptor is still not recognized by the Media Center Application. From looking at the help files, Media Center has full PVR functionality with the ability to schedule recordings, pause live TV & rewind. You can now watch TV in slow motion, which is useful for sports events or frame by frame to check if anything has been missed (or for any subliminal messages).
As with the previous version, you can configure the TV source to be through an antenna, using a satellite or a cable feed. The latter two probably need a set-top box along with an infrared blaster to control it.
Pay-Per-View also appears to be supported, but I’m unsure how this is implemented. Possibly it interacts with your cable box’s PPV application?
As for the TV listings, as Microsoft has killed off the EPG servers we are unable to load any channel listings.

My Music

Little here has changed compared to the previous version. Music stored in the My Music folder can be played or organized into a playlist, and played through the media center application.

More Programs

Additional programs that integrate into Media Center are displayed here, which can include games or links to the website. Dell has bundled a few WildTangent games that are intended to be played using the Media Center remote.

Otto: The objective is to turn all of the squares into your colour, whilst avoiding the enemies.

Gem Master: Similar to Sega Columns, clear the board by matching three or more colours together

Shutting down within media center

Windows Home Server

Microsoft Server operating system spin-off, intended for home users who were looking to create a home server to back up their files and share their media across multiple PCs and devices, like the Xbox 360. Built off the Windows Server 2003 codebase, it bares a resemblance to Windows XP and is generally compatible with it.

Install

So this took a few attempts to install, as Microsoft had implemted strict system requirements.

Attempt 1

Failed due to using a SCSI drive instead of an IDE or SATA drive, as the installer did not support VMWare’s SCSI controller which was enabled by default. Another issue was the VM memory was set too low, as Windows Home Server needs at least 512MB to pass the install

Attempt 2

Failed because the virtual hard drive was not large enough, by default VMWare created a 40GB and the installation needs 65GB

Attempt 3

Failed again because the first hard drive was 40GB, even though an 80GB HDD exists on the virtual system, it wants the primary disk to the over 65GB.

Attempt 4

Managed to make inroads into the install but after completing the setup wizard, the system restarted to a blank screen and would reboot back into the setup wizard where it would begin from the start.

Attempt 5

This time I removed both hard disks and created a new blank 80GB and attached it to IDE 1 master. Again it installed but rebooted to a blank screen,

Attempt 6

This time I created a new blank 80GB SATA disk and installed it to that. I managed to get further as at this point the install was completed and rebooted into a setup sequence similar to Windows XP, and then it BSOD

Attempt 7

Same as above but replace SATA with IDE, eventually we are able to get this cunting thing to install. At this point, the install identifies itself as Windows Server 2003 which the OS was possibly based on. Later we reboot again aback into the Windows Home Server and install the setup design looks remarkably like Windows Vista with its light auras,

Eventually we get to the desktop but the setup isn’t finished yet, and the system is rebooted once more.

Although it wants to check the disk, maybe its procedure: You can skip it but it will nag you every time it boots, so might as well get it done with.

After that we are back into the install to complete once more, this is getting like Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs where we had to reboot a fair few times before we got a usable system. I’m guessing it’s using the same setup procedure? It does look remarkably similar to FLP.

So to summarize, to install Windows Home Server in VMWare:

  • Have an IDE Hard Disk, 80GB or larger
  • Set at least 512MB of memory, more is recommended but remember this is a 32bit operating system

VMWare will autodetect the ISO image as Windows Server 2003, which is technically correct but will cause it to set the default virtual machine settings incorrectly.

Desktop

Here we see a unique desktop background that looks similar to the ones that appeared in Windows Vista.

Windows Home Server Console

This is the main user interface for setting up and configuring your home server. As this was intended to be used by a home user who may not be knowledgeable about servers.

Computers & Backup

A list of computers that are linked with your home server. This requires the installation of the Home Server Companion software in order to function on the client machine. Once added, you can schedule backups on a fixed scheduled basis.

User Accounts

You can add multiple user accounts who are then able to log into the server. Each user has their own folder to store their files in. Typically default folders will include a Picturer, Music & Videos folder.

Each user can set their own password for secure access, and user accounts can be disabled at any time.

Shared Folders

By default, there are five folders, Music, Photos, Public, Software & Videos. All are dedicated folders to help store and share files on your network. Very similar to a typical home NAS drive. Each user account also has its own folder, of which only the user themselves has access to the drive, although this can be configured by the server administrator.

After the installation, a link to the server’s network share is placed on the user’s desktop. No network drives are mapped.

Server Storage

A list of all volumes currently connected to the server shows the disk status and the capacity. The storage usage is displayed.

Windows Desktop Search

The version comes included with the operating system which replaces the Windows XP style search and is more akin to the one found in Windows Vista (Windows Search was also available as a downloadable upgrade for Windows XP) Benefit here is a full indexed search that looks in your documents folders.

Start Menu & Themes

By default, the Start menu is barren compared to a regular Windows install since this is really intended for server management rather than day-to-day application use. But we can easily customize it to look like the regular Windows XP Start Menu.

The Windows Classic theme is set by default, and upon attempting to change it appears the Luna themes from XP are missing or are not included. Even when trying to install additional themes has little to no effect (Like the Zune or Media Center Royale theme)

To enable the use of Luna themes, the Windows Theming (Visual Styles) service must be enabled by enabling it within the Windows Service management console. Once enabled, a Luna theme can be set, even the default themes included in XP are now available.

Windows Media Player 10 comes integrated into the operating system, along with Internet Explorer 6 and Outlook Express (6.00.3790.3959)

Component Version
Internet Explorer6.0.3790.3959
Windows Media Player10.00.00.3997
Windows MessengerDoes not appear to be installed
Outlook Express6.00.3790.3959
Windows Movie MakerDoes not appear to be installed

Software Compatability

Installing Anti-Virus software seemed to be problematic, with Windows Live OneCare and Avast refusing to install. Possibly this requires the server versions of these applications?

Zune software also failed to install

Internet Explorer – Version 6 comes included, but we cannot install regular versions of Internet Explorer 7 or 8. Unless there are specialized versions of these that were released, it appears these browsers are not supported, despite running Service Pack 2. (A specialized build of Internet Explorer 8 can be found here)

This probably ties into the fact Windows Home Server isn’t a consumer operating system, so later versions of Internet Explorer were not released.

Still, DirectX 9.0c comes integrated into the OS and in testing a few titles seem to work ok.

Graphis drivers should be fine, although be aware this is running on the Server 2003 codebase (NT5.2) so I’d recommend using Server 2003 drivers instead of XP. This is also a 32bit only operating system.

Windows Home Server Companion

This is a utility that is installed onto a Windows XP system to allow full compatibility with the Home Server and is required to use the Home Backup features. It requires a version of Windows XP running Service Pack 2, although it runs as fine on Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs.

This isn’t required to access files on the server, as you can do this over SMB as long as the server is part of your Workgroup (All must use the same workgroup name, typically MSHOME or WORKGROUP)

Shutdown

Power Packs

Major updates were released as ‘Power Packs’ which added additional functionality to the Home Server component, particularly Power Pack 2 which adds support for Windows Media Center for editions of XP and Vista that were released around the same period. The Home Server companion was also upgraded to take advantage and adds a link to the shared folders to the media menu. This allows pictures and music stored on the server to be streamed directly to the media center PC.

Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs

Because calling it Windows XP Basic Editon wasn’t elaborate enough…

Logon screen

Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC (FLP for short) is basically Windows XP but for old systems and was intended to be used in an Enterprise environment since it was only offered through this channel. It was not made an option for OEM or Retail channels and was intended to be used for computers that were previously running say Windows NT or 98, who wanted to run an XP-based os but due to the limited specifications were unable to run the ‘Full fat Xp’.
As this was released in 2005, and 98/NT4 was due to lose support the next year, this OS was intended to be an upgrade path for those old PCs that were still running those operating systems but were not capable enough of running Windows XP.

Install

You will notice that this installs differently compared to stock Windows XP, and using a newer Windows Installer. Gone is the blue install screen. This is similar to what Windows Vista would use, and the Longhorn Beta’s (Pre-Reset) would install in a similar method.

After the installation has been completed you are prompted to reboot your PC. After the initial reboot, you are treated to a configuring screen, of which you are prompted to reboot again, and again. There are several reboots needed before the install finished and we are presented with a desktop.

Well, it looks just like a regular Windows XP install, minus the desktop background which has been replaced with a regular solid blue colour.

A lot of personalization themes are missing, there are very few screen savers or desktop backgrounds available, although the desktop styles can be changed.
I’m curious as to why Luna is included and selected by default? Surley an OS intended for low-end usage would use the Windows Classic theme, or maybe there is very little performance difference between the two?

So let’s see what missing and if anything has been removed or added.
On a note, a fresh install is using 1.33GB (post-VMWare addon installed)

Windows classic theme with 16bit colour

The security center from the XP service pack 2 is included and will warn that updates are not enabled and that no antivirus software is installed.

Windows Media Player 10 is included with the OS and was the latest release at the time, Again I’m confused why this is included instead of Media Player 9 or 8, which would have helped reduce the install size

There are no built-in games with this build, and they cannot be optionally installed (The Windows components section is missing)

No option to add Windows components

Windows Messenger 4.7 comes with this build also. Strangely the audio tuning wizard does not work, just giving the error message when we try to open it

An observation I found was how Windows handles an application crashing, an error message appears in the same fashion Windows NT 4 would crash, with no option to generate a useful error report, no apology, just a notification that the program has crashed.

Software Testing

Curious to see how it handles software of the era it was released in. Most 32bit Windows software should run fine, though I wonder how well DirectX games will run. DirectX 9 does come included with the OS preinstalled.

Sonic Stage

Sony’s music player software for their Walkman music player (Think of the iPod but better), this can playback ATARC files, which was Sony’s own file format, and could connect and purchase music from the CONNECT store, which they shut down in 2008

Unreal Tournament

A DirectX-based game, but can run in software rendering instead. Here it works but is prone to graphical glitches, possibly due to the VMWare graphics acceleration

San Francisco Rush 2049

One of my favorite games in the San Franciso Rush series, and only 17 years until it becomes reality. Runs without any issues

Norton Internet Security 2006

Standard Anti-Virus and security software by Symantec

WordPerfect 2006

An alternative basic office suite similar to Microsoft Office suite included a word processor and a spreadsheet application.

Matchware Mediator

Similar to Adobe Dreamweaver, this lets you build rich multimedia pages

Microsoft Intellipoint & Intellitype 6.2

Utility commonly bundled with Microsoft keyboard and mice, adds additional functionality that is not covered by Windows but can be used with third-party keyboards. I like to use it because it adds a volume indicator when using the volume keys on a keyboard that features one.

Upgrades

By default Service Pack 2 is included, and service pack 3 can be installed as an optional upgrade. Internet Explorer 7 and 8 can also be installed as upgrades to Internet Explorer 6.

Support for Windows FLP ended on the same date as Windows XP – April 2014.

Well, I’m not sure what happened but I seem to have broken the OS, at least when it comes to shutting down. A few errors with winlogon.exe come up, before the OS BSODs completely.

Uh Oh

Windows XP Media Center Edition

Windows comes to the TV

One of the many editions of Windows XP, this time intended for use in the living room and to react to the growing popularity of media centers of the era like the Tivo in the US, and the Sony PSX DVR in Japan.

Install

Mostly appears the same as Windows XP Professional and even identifies itself as such.

Has its own boot screen, which would disappear in service pack 2

Desktop

The desktop will resemble a stock version of Windows XP. The only difference you will notice is the Media Center icon in the start menu.

Media Center

This is the main attraction to the Windows Media Center edition and is only included in these editions of Windows XP. It’s intended to be controlled using the media center remote which would have been included with the Media Center PC, although third-party remotes, along with their dongles would come available. As such it’s fiddley to use with just the keyboard and mouse.

MyTV

The place where your TV channels are located. Here you can browse the TV Guide, also known as an EPG, and set up and configure recordings that allow your PC to become a DVR (Digital Video Recorder, like a Tivo or Sky+) There are various options to set up your TV signal, either through cable (with or without a set-top box), satellite or terrestrial/antenna signals.

Settings up the TV signal requires you to connect to Microsoft and provide your Zip or postal code (only US zip codes work, my postcode wasn’t recognized at all despite my locale being set to the United Kingdom)

I was curious to see if my DVB-T tuner was recognized over USB, since Freeview had only recently launched back in 2002 when this operating system was released, Sadly this was not the case as DVB-T wasn’t supported, despite being a thing in 2002 (Freeview in the UK launched in 2002, and we had DTT since 1998 with the launch of ONdigital, however, the USofA uses ATSC which Media Center might support since Microsoft tends to be US-centric for its first generation products)

In a way this is the successor to Web TV for Windows that shipped with Windows 98

My Music

Music tracks ripped from an audio CD will appear here, and sync with Windows Media Player so any tracks added with also appear in Media Center. Presumably, this would also support DRM music from either MSN Music, since this predated Playsforsure or the Zune DRM (Microsoft had a lot of music stores).

My Pictures

Photos and image files located in the My Pictures folder will be displayed here and can be played in a slideshow. Images can be sorted into albums if you have sorted them into folders within the My Pictures folder. Pictures can be sorted by name or date

My Videos

Similar to Pictures, but videos are shown instead. We seem to run into the same issue with playing DVD video as documented below, likely due to requiring graphics acceleration for video playback.

Windows Media Player doesn’t seem to give a shit and will play the file regardless, so why can’t Media Center?

Play DVD

I was unsuccessful in getting a DVD movie to play, and I believe this is due to the lack of a hardware MPEG2 decoder that is required to play back DVDs. This was a Microsoft OEM requirement and meant some TV tuner cards were incompatible as they decoded MPEG2 in software instead, using the main CPU to do the decoding.

As VMWare lacks a hardware MPEG2 decoder, Windows Media Center and Media Player are unable to play back DVDs in their current form. Even after installing the K-Lite codec pack, we are unable to play.

We might have better luck installing on an actual system from the era, specifically one with a graphics card that has onboard MPEG2 decoding, assuming Media Center is compatible with it. I should note that some ATI All-In-Wonder graphics cards of the time also used software decoding to reduce costs and had issues getting their cards certified for the media center due to this implementation. As for why Microsoft did not allow for software decoding, it could be because of multitasking concerns if the user tries to do something else whilst watching a DVD, or DRM concerns. In contrast, the Xbox console decodes MPEG2 in software on its Pentium 3 processor, but it’s unknown if the GeForce GPU accelerates this somewhat.

Maybe later versions are more flexible when it comes to decoding but for now let’s skip ahead.

Conclusion

And that’s it, its pretty much Windows XP with an added Media Center application bundled in. As for why it wasn’t sold as a software upgrade package was due to Microsoft imposing strict hardware specifications in order to use Media Center, specifically with the processor, hardware MPEG decoding, 3D graphics acceleration and an IR remote and sensor. Microsoft really didn’t want anyone using this on hardware that was subpar or missing any components in order to give a consistent experience for the end user.

Version Information

These version numbers will change once later service packs are installed.

ComponentVersion
Internet Explorer6.0.2800.1106.xpsp1.020828-1920
Outlook ExpressExact same as Internet Explorer
Windows Media Player8.00.00.4487
Windows Messenger4.7.0041
Windows Movie Maker1.1.2427.1
DirectX8.1 (4.08.01.0810)

Windows XP Starter Edition

Diet Windows XP

A very crippled version of Windows XP intended for use in developing countries and for users new to desktop computers.
One of the limitations is you can only run up to three programs at a time, and Windows Explorer will prevent you from opening more. So what counts as a program?
Well, it seems anything that has an icon on the taskbar. Background programs or programs that hide in the system tray don’t seem to count until you click on them. One example is MSN messenger which will run in the background, but we cannot get to the main window if we have three programs already running.
Also because of this, it likes to group applications into the same icon on the taskbar even if we only have one instance running. Opening Internet Explorer and creating a new window is a good example of this.

The screen resolution is limited to 1024 by 768, not a huge issue since that screen resolution was common back when this was released, although it seems a silly limitation to implement. I’m also not sure how it handles widescreen resolutions. After installing the Vmware tool and trying to resize the resolution by expanding the window, Windows just restored the resolution back to 1024×768.
There probably are ways to get around this, via the use of registry modifications but then you might as well install a properer version of Windows, not Diet Windows XP

Install

The installer is the same as every other Windows XP installer and even identifies as Windows XP Home Edition

Desktop

Well, it looks like we’re stuck with the Windows Classic theme, no Luna themes here. In face we don’t even have the ability to customize the classic themes, all colour schemes and even the theme tab of the display properties has been disabled.
I even tried to install the Royale and Zune themes but they have no effect. The only thing you can customize is the background (Only ships with one) and the screensaver, which included two exclusive screensavers.

Another annoying thing is the removal of context menus, the ones that come up when you right-click. Why they removed that I have no idea.

Programs

There are a few bundled programs that are exclusive to this edition of XP:

Getting Started

A user guide of sorts for new and inexperienced users which goes through the basics of using Windows, and how to perform common tasks like browsing the internet, Email, listening to music and importing photos from a digital camera. All of this runs within the Windows HTML help engine

Video Help

A more interactive version of the Getting Started program, complete with sound and visual demonstrations. Some of these would be presented in a different language

My Support

Very similar to the Getting Started program, but resembles a knowledge base website and provides more information on using the various applications on the computer. Also includes a glossary.

Change Language

A utility to change the systems language is likely intended to be used by a system builder since the average user won’t use this often.

Control Panel

Seems we are stuck with the category view, with no option to use the traditional classic view

Also, there are a few options here that are non-functional, like the option to set up a windows workgroup or a home network since it does not exist in this version, but the link to it still remains. You would think Microsoft would remove the link to it at least.
This does make it difficult to share files other a network with the lack of direct Samba support, FTP seems to still be functioning.

Windows Firewall is set to be always on and cannot be directly controlled.

Screensaver

Image Spiral

Wind Silk

Conclusion

In terms of compatibility, it seems to be a regular version of Windows XP, with support for DirectX 9.0 that gives 3D gaming support.

16bit programs will also run without any issue, although DOS compatibility will be the same as Windows XP

You have to wonder why this even existed, as Windows XP was already a few years old at this point & PCs of the time shouldn’t have too much trouble running it, and even if it did you would prefer to install an older version like Windows 2000 or ME.
Possibly Microsoft wanted to curb piracy in these developing countries and fend off competing Linux distributions. But again why would you prefer a legal but crippled version of Windows over a pirate copy that has little to no restrictions for the end user?

Microsoft would also make starter editions of their successive operating systems, Windows Vista and Windows 7 starter editions but would ease up on the restrictions

Version Information

These version numbers will change once later service packs are installed.

ComponentVersion
Internet Explorer6.0.2900.2180.xpsp_sp2_rtm.040803-2158
Outlook ExpressSame as Internet Explorer
Windows Media Player9.00.00.3250
Windows Messenger4.7.3000
Windows Movie Maker2.1.4026.0 (This build brings up the Windows version in Help, About)
DirectX9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

Beating the iPad by 8 years (What’s a Newton?)

One of the many editions of Windows XP, Intended to be used on portable tablet PC systems, this can be seen as an early implementation of Windows for Tablet systems, something which is more common today than it was in 2002 when this version was released. Major differences stem from the pen and touch support and the inclusion of the tablet input panel.
This kind of makes this version of Windows suited to touchscreen-based PCs, at least they can use the added touch functionality. System requirements are mostly the same as XP Professional, with it being heard for use with the mobile variants of X86 processors like the Transmeta Crusoe or the VIA/Cyrix M3, there is no ARM version.

Despite being branded for Tablet PCs, there is nothing stopping you from using it on a regular desktop PC, although some of the added features will be of little use unless you have some sort of touch functionality, like a Wacom graphics tablet. Pretty much all Windows software that can run on regular XP editions will function here.

Install

Not an issue with the build, some weird VMware trickery it tries to do.

Installation is very similar to a traditional Windows XP install and even reveals itself to be Windows XP Professional in the installer. It’s only after the install we see the first signs of Tablet PC Edition.

Post-Install

Shortly after the first boot completes, we are treated to a tutorial that explains how to navigate Windows using the Pen and Touch controls. This may differ compared to OEM branded versions as they may include special tutorials included by the manufacturer themselves, especially if any additional features or capabilities have been added.

Once we get to the desktop it looks like a typical Windows XP install, the only major difference is the keyboard input panel to the right of the start button, this will bring up the Tablet PC Input panel which is used to type.

Tablet Components

Microsoft bundled a few extra applications to help and complement the use of a tablet PC. Some OEMs would also include their own software.

Get Going with Tablet PC

A tutorial that runs after you first log in and will go through the basics of using your tablet device, it will also ask questions in regards to what features your device contains and the type of stylus used. You can run this later at any time since it’s accessible from the start menu.

Sticky Notes

Before its well-known debut in Windows Vista as a desktop gadget, Sticky Notes first appeared here albeit in a different incarnation. Here we can only capture drawing done by the stylus or mouse. Audio can also be captured by using the record option. From using it, there does not seem to be a way to enter text based notes, nor can the background colour be changed. Flags of different colours can also be added, but this seems to be only cosmetic, it does not activate anything in the journal.
Notes can be exported in the EMF image format, which can then be opened in the Windows Picture and Fax viewer. Compared to other image formats, this one seems to handle text a lot better, especially when zoomed in up close. Originally this format was used for Clip-Art in older versions of Microsoft Office.

Windows Journal

Acts as a literal notepad or scratch book where you can jot down notes written using the stylus. You also have the option to write in a regular pen or use a highlighter, and an eraser can be used to delete writing. Images can also be added and removed.
Text cannot be entered unless you manually add a textbox and position it on the page.
Windows Journal viewer was later made as a separate download from Microsoft, which allowed for Journal files created to be viewed on regular editions of Windows XP

Inkball

A game that was later included in Windows Vista, the objective is to guide the ball into the hole using your style to draw black lines which cause the ball to bounce and reflect in the opposite direction, later levels feature multiple coloured balls with the objecting to ensure the correct coloured balls enter their respective coloured holes.
Vert difficult to play with the mouse since the cursor will disappear, making it difficult to determine where your pen is located.

Keyboard Input

As tablet PC devices lack a physical keyboard, an onscreen keyboard is included to make text entry and input easier. This is not the same as the On-Screen keyboard that came with Windows 2000 and is still included here, the Input panel being larger and more suited to a touch screen.

Conclusion

Although this wasn’t the first version of Windows to be designed for a mobile or portable device, as the Windows CE line of operating systems were intended to be used on PDAs and smartphones of the time, and there was also Windows Pen Computing, a touch input based OS that was similar to Windows 3.11. But it pushed the NT line of operating systems into a more mobile direction and with the arrival of the ultra-portable Sony VAIO UX Micro PC models which started the handheld PC market, and the upcoming netbooks and tablets which would become popular years after the release of XP Tablet PC Edition

Regarding the touch input and control, Microsoft would later incorporate pen and touch-based interfaces into all editions of the operating system, foreseeing as they could be standardized on future systems. Windows 7 introduced a new pen and handwriting recognition, whilst Windows 8 would make touchscreens the center point for its user interface, this would come at the expense of general usability, and traditional users would feel ostracized by the new interface.

Version Information

ComponentVersion
Internet Explorer6.0.2800.1106.xpsp1.020828-1920
Outlook ExpressExact same as Internet Explorer
Windows Media Player8.00.00.4487
Windows Messenger4.7.0041
Windows Movie Maker1.1.2427.1
DirectX8.1 (4.08.01.0810)
Inkball1.0.2201.0

TopGear Daredevil

Shortened to TG daredevil in PAL-land

One of the launch period games for Sony’s PlayStation 2 and part of the Top Gear series of games (Not the TV show) although this one was developed by Papaya Studio’s

The Trailer/opening

From the trailer and the title of the game you would think this would be some sort of Burnout or Need 4 Speed type game, as the trailer features two racers having a dual set in the urban city-like landscape (think Midtown Madness) with some optional stunt tasks,

The actual gameplay

You just drive around collecting cunting coins. That’s it

The single-player mode has the choice of four locations, Rome, London, Tokyo and San Francisco. The objectives are the same, collect around 20 0r 25 coins before time runs out in order to progress and unlock the next level. There are a few powerups scattered around the level which will help make it easier to complete the level.
The locations are nice and detailed and have a GTA-esque quality to them, certain street objects can be destroyed and you can drive into certain buildings, some of which contain hidden coins or powerups. You can say the graphics are nice until you play Crazy Taxi or San Francisco Rush on the Dreamcast, which blows it out the water and that features pedestrians also. Then again maybe the game was set in 2020 and the pedestrians were in a lockdown.
Still, there’s a nice blur effect that appears when you complete a level, try doing that on the Dreamcast…

There are a choice of cars throughout the game, many of which will have to be unlocked. I believe this is done by completing the levels, but might also be achieved by collecting the spanner items hidden per map.

Still, where are the races? Or the duels? Or the stunt modes?

MultiPlayer

A lot of the content is hidden behind the multiplayer mode, which is fine if you have a companion to play with. Would it be too much to ask to have an AI player, at least to compete against?

Conclusion

There are games that do this better, like Midtown Madness, San Francisco Rush, or Midnight Club. The main appeal of this game would have been its launch title status for the PS2, something to play on your new console whilst you waited for better games to be released.

Fun Fact: The game’s font is based on the Ren & Stimpy fontface


The ending cutscene

Ridge Racer 64

Ridge Racer, now 64bit

Released in 2000 and was the first Ridge Racer that was released not on the PlayStation. Very similar to Ridge Racer Revolution but with a different track appearance and a new soundtrack.

There are signs of a limited draw distance, as you can see a billboard-like objects that pops into view when you move close, this occurs on long stretches of the track, mainly near the start line. The N64 exclusive track does not seem to suffer from the issue, possibly due to it being designed for the console’s limitations, the other tracks were designed for the arcade hardware and the PlayStation respectively.

On the actual console itself it is not as noticeable. But on an emulator with an increased resolution, you can definitely see the pop-in.

A minor annoyance is the same replay audio track plays after each race. Why not play another track at random like Type 4 does?

Bootup animation which is reminiscent of the PlayStation boot screen

Tracks

All tracks from Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution appear here and are considered updated versions with some scenery changes. Given this game was released in 2000, that’s 7 years compared to the arcade original released, Let’s see what changed in Ridge city:

The original Ridge Racer track has appears since the arcade original to Revolution. There the city looks similar to how it’s presented in Ridge Racer V, which also came out around the same time for the PlayStation 2. Below is a comparison of the arcade version of Ridge Racer, and Ridge Racer 64, Showing the differences between the track details.

The seaside area has been updated with different shop buildings but remains the same with its palm trees

Hmmm, one of the shops on the left appears to have been removed

Still some construction on the add-on section, you would think this has been completed by now but after 7 years – nothing. Funnily enough, Ridge Racer V shows this to be a grass area, with no construction at all.

Maybe planning permission is an issue in Ridge City?

An exclusive track appears that only appears in this game, set in the desert which is a significant departure for the Ridge Racer series.

Cars

Most cars from the earlier games also appear here and are the main focus of the game as there is a dedicated car attack mode to unlock new cars, which can be used in Grand Prix mode. The teams from Ridge Racer Type 4 also make an appearance in car design form only, it does not feature the managers from Type 4. Car designs from the early Ridge Racer game also make an appearance.

Nintendo DS

The game was ported, or remade somewhat on the Nintendo DS. The graphics have seen a downgrade due to the limited 3DS graphics capabilities.

BT TV Games

BT, or Youview rather have introduced a new games channel/app/services to their selection of apps that are provided with the service. These are in a similar style to the games offered previously to Sky (Gamestar and PlayJam) and the ones offered on cable where they run directly off the STB and have to be loaded each time they are accessed. The games are rather simplistic in nature due to the limited capabilities of the hardware that Youview is based on, which was originally released in 2012.

Still, better late than never. On a similar note Sky also offered a similar service through their Sky Q service, and Virgin Media offered buyable games on their Tivo platform (Unsure if this is present on the 360 box, which is a different software platform)

Tetris

The game we all know and love. The background music plays for a minute, stops, and fails to loop. This leaves you with eerie silence. A leaderboard with high-score is available, and you can enter your own name. This only appears to show personal players’ scores, it does not show scores from other players online.

Rummikub

I have no idea what the fuck this game is about, the instructions are too long and I lack the attention span to even care. I try to put numbers on the board but the thing won’t let me. I guess its like Scrabble with numbers?

Pongal

Football/soccer-themed pong game. The opponent AI seems to have been lifted from Mario Party since it’s possible to win by doing nothing. The options menu lets you change the game’s difficulty and the speed of your opponent.

SuperMaze

A simple maze game where you control a ball that highlight the squares of the maze when moved, The objective is to highlight all the maze squares which will progress you to the next level. Music sounds like a Butlins/Thomas Cook advert

Bubble Jam

Puzzle quest-type game, the objective is to clear the board by popping bubbles of the same colour in segments of three or more.

QuizTV

A bunch of Buzzfeed-style questions that consist of ‘What kind of character are you?’ or ‘How well do you know this show’ – Most of these will appeal to an American audience with very few subjects regarding British TV shows or music.

Carrot Mania Space

A platform game, you have to collect all the carrots in a level whilst avoiding the rival foxes. This game seems to have a few achievements implemented.

Letter Wizard

A countdown/wonderment style game where you have to find a word in a scrambled set of letters. You can swap certain letters out and receive bonuses for longer words or for using certain letters.

Super Collapse

Here you have to try to clear the board of all colours, whilst a new row is added every 10 seconds. You can only delete in blocks of three or more.

Gem Matcher

The controls on this game are a joke, will the up and down buttons being used to adjust the angle, but the left key will quit the game and the right key will bring up the help screen, which takes a few seconds to load. As for the gameplay itself, you have to aim and throw gems in order to clear the screen by adjusting the angle, along with the power of the shot. Some gems take more shots in order to break. Like Tetris, the music on this game does not loop and will stop after a few seconds.

Summary

Overall it’s a good addition to the Youview service, though there are some early quirks present that will hopefully get ironed out within the coming months. There are a few performance issues with some of the games, particularly with SuperMaze. As this was running on the BT TV Pro box, this might be more of an issue with older Youview units.

Still in the future we could see more games being added to the service, in addition to more TV gaming providers like PlayJam (Who still exist) and even cloud gaming services like PlayStation Plus (Formely PlayStation Now), Google Stadia or Xbox Live Cloud. BT already offer Xbox Gamepass as part of their broadband and TV bundles. Still this will require dedicated controller support which will have to be included within the Youview software.

See Also

Sky Interactive and game screenshots