Monthly Archives: December 2020

BT Youview in 2020

BT’s main TV service, basically Freeview with a few subscription channels and streaming services built in.

User Interface

The interface is quite different compared to what Sky or Virgin use with this reliance of pictures/tiles to browse through different programs. All which rely on an internet connection.

The MyTV section shows recordings made, and programes on your watch list. Currently Nowtv supports this, programs you bookmark to watch later will then appear here.

Bad things? Well you cant directly access the apps or recording through the remote, you have to highlight the banner and press left, which I found clunky. They should but colour button shortcuts to access these areas. It would be far easier if you could press the green button to go directly to the apps section, and the yellow button to go directly to recordings then these buttons are unused on the banner. The search option is also redundant since there is a dedicated button on the remote to access search.

It’s worth mentioning also that the remote does not have a dedicated apps or recordings button, so in order to access them you have to press the Home button to call up the banner, then press Right to select MyTV.

TV Guide

The main TV guide interface. The guide is presented using a grid like design which shows programmes broadcast today. You can also navigate to programs broadcast in the future which will give you the option to record or set a series link. The guide can also give recommendation’s on that to watch next and what’s being broadcast now.

Series links can also be set, but unlike Tivo they are not as intelligent. You cannot configure them to exclude certain broadcasts such as reruns, or to record certain seasons. The Youview box will just blindly record whatever is scheduled on that channel. It does ignore repeated episodes broadcast on +1 channels.

Subscription Channels

The NowTV channels appear here, along with the regular BT channels if you are on one of their classic entertainment packages. These channels are streamed through the IP connection. the selection offered by NowTV is quite limited compared to the classic TV packages that BT had provided previously, and rumors suggest they plan to adopt only the NOWtv packages, meaning that other channel packages will be discontinued. This wouldn’t be so bad if NOWtv actually offered channels that BT previously offered.

BT Player

BT’s main store for its TV programs where they can be purchased. Some stuff may be bundle into the existing subscription like the AMC programs. This requires an active BT broadband subscription and connection.

UKTV Play

A nice looking service let down by its horrible search interface. Seriously why not just display a qwerty keyboard on screen? Also you cannot use the keypad on the remote to type in search items, Why?

CBS

Catchup services for CBS’s free view channels, and also include Horror channel also

Britbox

Britbox was a recent addition to the service an is a collection of older programs previously broadcast by BBC and ITV (similar to the UKTV channels of the past) with promise of new original content.

Whilst the interface is nice, the on screen keyboard used in the search is terrible an no , you cannot use a USB keyboard.

Netflix

Netflix is fully supported, and it even supports the use of a USB keyboard for its search! Probably the only service on here to actually support that.

Nowtv

The main attraction to BT’s Youview, all of the Sky Sports/Movies and entertainment on demand is delivered through here. sadly it’s not a good experience, being slow to respond for that appears to be a very basic interface. The search keyboard is OK but you still cannot use a USB keyboard, meaning you must use the on screen keyboard, you also cannot use the number keys on the remote to enter letters.

Thankfully you can watch and record the NowTV channels in the guide so you are now wholly reliant on the app.

Amazon Prime Video

my5

Works well, but we are still unable to use a USB keyboard in order to search.

itv Player

Provides access to all of itv’s shows and has a god awful search keyboard. No USB keyboard support either. Rather than include a proper working keyboard for search they would rather virtue signal

All4

Channels 4’s on demand service (that mysteriously disappeared off Freesat…)

BBC iPlayer

Misc onDemand

Whilst Youview support’s MHEG5 text services, certain streaming extensions are unsupported, instead these services must be accessed via the Youview apps section

Settings

Help & Support

Error Messages

Summary

  • Ideal as a smart TV platform, as all the popular apps are supported
  • Interface is OK, but colour buttons are underutilized, and common features are hidden under menus (like MyTV/Recordings)
  • Poor support for keyboards for entering text, although Youveuw supports USB keyboard for control, this cannot be used to enter text with the exception of Netflix.
  • Even though the remote number pad has alphabet letters on, this can only be used for the Youview search function, you cannot enter text for the catch up apps using the remote, unless you use the directional pad. This makes it time consuming to enter text.
  • No support for external hard drives
  • Unable to stream recordings to other Youview boxes, or to smart TV’s running the Youview app.

Fun with the Sims – Console Version – Part 3

GameCube edition

With the Xbox version of The Sims I discovered a way to load story mode sims in the normal sandbox mode of the game,which would allow all Story mode lots and sims (Landgrabb, Roomies, Peacock, Party Guys/Girls) to be fully playable. Normally you are not able to control and play these sims directly except for Dudley/Mimi and whichever Roomies/Party sims you have picked to move in with. There is a way to trick the game into loading these lots and treating it a a normal sandbox mode save by renaming some ngh files around.

Ngh files are like an archive or the character files and house files used by the game. If you are familiar with the PC version of the original game they are equivalent to the Userdata folder, but in the form of a single file. ngh files on the disc serve as the default savegame when the player starts a new game, and are then converted/signed and saved to the memory card of the console, or the hard drive in the case of the xbox. Since the game stores template ngh files on the disc, we swap the files around , ie the default and story files over we can load story lots in the sandbox mode of the game. Sadly ngh files cannot be extracted, unlike the ARC files so we cannot manipulate the files individually as we would with the PC version.

To do this on the GameCube, it s a bit more complicated, since the Gamecube deals with ISO files for its backups, as opposed to the xbox which lets you rip and store the files as is on its hard drive, no ISO images needed. and since most modded dashboard have a file manager built in you are able to manipulate the game files on the xbox itself. Gamecube images on the other hand have some sort of protection mechanism which makes editing no so straight forward without some additional software. That being GCRebuilder.

You will need a Gamecube capable of loading backup game, or a soft-modded Nintendo Wii with a Gamecube controller and memory card support. At least with the Gamecube have the option of using the Dolphin emulator which makes it easier to test the game. I’m using both Dolphin and a Nintendo Wii with DIOS-MIOS installed to run Gamecube backups.

Editing the Gamecube ISO images

GCRebuilder is a Windows based utility but will work with wine or lutris. For this we are going to trick the game by renaming a few files that the game uses to load the default neighbourhoods. Since the files us the same format, we can rename then if we want to load lots in another mode.

  1. Select Image, Then Open
  2. Select the iso file, in this case it would be Sims backup iso
  3. Once loaded, Right click root (near &&SystemData folder), then select Export
  4. Once it has fully extracted, close the image by selecting Image, then Close
  5. Choose the folder to export it too, this will export the contents of the disc to the folder for editing
  6. Navigate to the folder with the extracted contents, there should be a root, and within that a Runtime folder where the files are located.
  7. Swap the chall, default and story files around by renaming them
  8. Rebuild the image

chall.ngh – used for the 2 player challenge mode

default.ngh – default neighbourhood for the play the sims mode

story.ngh – default neighbourhood used for the get a life game mode. Most of the sims and lots are hidden are available in a level based format. There are some sims here that were never meant to be controlled with.

You will want to backup the default.ngh file, and rename the story.ngh or chall.ngh to default.ngh to trick the game into starting a new file with the swapped ngh file. Once you save the game, you can restore the original iso/disc since the lots/sims will be saved onto the memory card.

  1. Select Root, then Open, and then navigate to the folder that has the extracted sims files and select the root folder.
  2. To rebuild the new iso file, choose Root, the Save
  3. Finally, Choose Root, then Rebuild
  4. Test the image using the Dolphin emulator

Pre Made save-files

Download (Box)

Download (OneDrive)

The save files have both the story and the challenge mode sims and lots into pre-made neighbourhoods that can be loaded in ‘Play the Sims’ mode

Unfortunately you can only have one save file per memory card unlike the Xbox or PS2 versions, this means that unless you have two Gamecube memory cards that you can swap, you can only have one neighbourhood installed along with one story mode save. This is probably due to the Gamecube memory cards having only 512KB, versus the 8MB PS2 and the 4GB user formatted storage in the Xbox.

With a real Gamecube, you can use an Action Replay, or a equivalent device to copy the save file. With the Wii, depending on if the Wii is soft-modded and what home-brew the Wii is running to run Gamecube backups, DIOS-MIOS and Nintendont allow you to create virtual memory cards or you can use home-brew utilities to copy save files from a FAT32 memory stick to a real Gamecube memory card, providing your Wii console model has Gamecube memory card slots.

A look at SkyHD (Freesat from Sky)

The DRX595 – Sky’s basic multi-room digibox also used for Freesat from sky installs. One of the last Sky boxes that have non recording capability. While these boxes have a good selection of channels thanks to the Sky EPG listings, the lack of on Demand and streaming apps are a huge turn-off… unless you have an existing smart TV or streaming STB / Bluray Player.

This is due to how Sky had implemented on demand on their HD platform, instead of each service using it’s own streaming app, all catch and on Demand services use the Sky Anytime system, where programmes are downloaded onto the subscribers box. Since the DRX595 lacks a hard drive to store this on, there is no on demand support

The DRX595 does come with a fully equipped HD remote with the playback buttons, and the front panel indicator shows a recording and playback light, hinting the ability for the box to set remote recordings from another Sky+ HD box. Or maybe the ability to connect an external hard drive to it’s USB 2.0 port?

Search and Scan banner that appears when you change channels, and can also be viewed by pressing select or the arrow buttons on the remote.

Pressing the i button brigs up a short synopsis of the program

When you view an encrypted channel that’s not part of your package, pressing red takes you to the MySky upgrade screen. Unlike other platforms Sky does not hide unsubscribed channels, they remain in the EPG

Viewing upto 8 hours of schedule in advance, despite the digibox having 7 days worth of listings stored in its memory

Pressing help gives you options for subtitles or audio description.

TV Guide

Tabs are used to switch between the different channel guide categories. There’s a dedicated guide for the local channels but since there is only one local channel I’m not sure of the purpose of this?

Search

The search feature, you can use the remote or the original Open/Sky keypad or the Sky Navigator. You will need to reprogram the keyboard in order for it to work on the HD digibox, but all of the alphabetic keys will work.

  1. On the Sky/Open keypad – Press TV
  2. Press and hold Select and Blue together until the red led on the remote flashes twice
  3. Press 2
  4. Press Select, the red LED should flash twice
  5. Test by pressing the Sky button, then try the Tv Guide button

You will need to repeat this procedure if you replace the batteries in the keypad.

Settings

Picture – This digibox can output up to 1080i, 720p or 576 (SD PAL), here it is set to 576 for capturing HDCP purposes. Scart Control set the scart auto switching feature for when the digibox turns on, whilst the video output lets you toggle between PAL and RGB

Sound – The digibox can output stereo audio or Dolby Digital through the optical or HDMI output

Signal – Checks the signal levels, unlike the old Sky guide this display’s information for the current channel you are tuned to, rather than the default transponder

Options

Not sure why this exists? seems to cover the same as the settings menu. Here you can change the subtitles, customize the TV guide and add additional channels

Non EPG channels can be added and view through the options menu, here you can see now and next listings only, and can save up to 50 channels. This is useful to add local tv channels, alternative ITV and Channel 4 regions or services that are testing on Sky.

Parental Controls

Interactive

Sky had previously pioneered the use of interactive TV via its platform, where customers could buy, manage their finances and play games through the digibox, sadly today all that remains here is the My Sky services, which just allows you to view your Sky account through the digibox. No way to play Beehive Bedlam…

Sky News

Sky News previously had an interactive services which shows different, sadly this requires on of the more later SkyHD or SKy Q boxes.

BBCi

The only digital text service remaining on Sky, BBCi just displays news and weather forecasts. The service is designed for both HD and legacy SD digibox’s.

Fun with The Sims – Console Version – Part 2

Last month I looked at the console release of The Sims in depth, mainly studying the game files and the format that they are stored in.

One type of file that took my interest was the ngh files, specifically the story, chall and default.ngh files. I know these had some bearing on how the game stored the default neighborhoods.

The Sims Xbox
The level 3 house
The Sims Xbox
Party Girls household in the level 5 house

The story and chall/challenge files were essentially customized neighborhoods, even to an extent we were able to extract and load them on a standard PC copy of the game, albeit with some workarounds but the lots and to some extent, sims were mostly playable, minus some missing objects that were exclusive to the console version.

I wonder what would happen if we swapped these files around, like if we tricked the game into loading the story neighborhood in play the sims mode, in theory it should allow us to play the story mode sims and their respective lots in a sandbox style mode, along with full customization. What happened if we added the chalange/multiplayer lots into the mix?

The Sims Xbox, Roomies
The Roomies

To do this we need access to a modified console, since we will be modifying the games data files.

File List

Story.nghDefault files for ‘Get a Life’ mode
Chall.nghDefault files for the Bonus multiplayer modes
Default.nghDefault neighborhood for the ‘Play the Sims’ mode

Getting Started

For this I used the Xbox version of the game, purely due to the fact it is running a soft modded dashboard with FTP access, which makes it easier to manipulate the files without having to rebuild iso images. Before we start. Ensure you have backed up your games files, specifically the ngh files that we will be swapping around.

To to this we simply rename the ngh files to the one we want to trick the game to load, so to create a sandbox neighborhood with story lots and sims we simply rename story.ngh to default.ngh. We might have to change the original default.ngh to default2.ngh to prevent file conflicts.

Loading Story lots in Play the Sims mode

Possible – Works well and all story mode sims appear without any issues. The level 4 house does exist and appears in the map screen but cannot be selected since this lot is not accessible directly from the game – the lot appears on 4 Sim Avenue which was disabled by the game quite late in development, im not sure if they’re is a way to access the lot with cheats or debug actions. It does appear for a short second before moving away to the next lot.

The Sims Xbox menu
Unoccupied families, some debug sims appear here

Some sims are duplicated (Dudley/Mimi Langrabb) and some test sims exist such as Jane House. In the xbox version there is a sim called DJ Tooter who never appears in the actual game, and seems to be slightly corrupted as is thumbnail uses an image from the Pc version.

The Sims Xbox Create a Family
This surprised me, the games CAS is normally limited to 4 sims per family, but here we have up to 8 sims without any issues
The Sims XBox create a sim
Editing pre-made sims causes them to lose their custom thumbnails

All of the above sims and lots can be moved in and played without any restrictions. No issues with saving or loading lots.

Loading Story lots in Challenge mode

Varies a lot, some lots work but you cannot complete any objectives. Some lots don’t load correctly

Loading Challenge lots in Play the sims mode

Possible – outcome is the same as when we imported the files into the PC version, only this time we have access to all objects and sims looks the way they are intended instead of the default face/skins. Interesting is some families have more than 4 sims, in fact one family has 8 sims, yet the game runs fine although switching between them is far from ideal since you have to spawn the button multiple times to cycle though the sims. Normally the game limit’s you to a max of 4 controllable sims per lot. Some sims here are copies of the story mode sims, with some differences with the personality points. There are a lot of unoccupied sims, which serve as the NPC’s for these mode’s.

The Sims xbox original
You can see the a house on 4 Sim Avenue, which is not normally accessible from the game

Not all lots are playable, one lot appears (The Frat House) in the neighborhood view but we cannot access it despite there being a family that is occupied in the lot. They don’t have a telephone so you are unable to call or invite them round but they do attend party’s and will walk by the lot occasionally. Other lots don’t appear on the screen, because there are only space for 6 lots and this mode has 8. We are missing one of the Handyman/maid lots which exists in the game but we cannot make it appear since they are mapped to houses 08 and 09 which do not show up in game, the console neighborhood only holds up to 6 lots.

Loading Challenge lots in Get A Life mode

This one works somewhat, the game tried to load the Dream House at the start of the game, but loads the Maid’s house instead, and we are unable to complete any of the objectives needed to progress through the level the game also ends after a minute and quits back to the main menu screen.

On the Gamecube version though the dolphin emulator, if we use the level skip debug command, we can load the first level, however sadly we hit another road block where we get endless dialogue boxes from MOM. The script gets stuck in an endless loop since the sim in question does not spawn on the lot. Unfortunately we are unable to continue past this point,even with the debug commands.

Loading Sandbox/Play the Sims lots in Challenge mode

Only some lots load, many load a blank lot with no sims. Sadly we are not able to complete any of the challenge mode, and some lots load to a blank lot with the game stuck at 3x Speed, since there are no sims on that lot and the build and buy modes are disabled in this mode.

Loading Sandbox Play the Sims lots in Get A Life mode

Not much luck with this one, game crashes when trying to load the dream mansion lot. Possibly because this hood does not have enough sims to populate, or the lot does not exist.

Downloads

Xbox Premade Save Files

Works best on a modded xbox with an FTP supported dashboard,

There are two files, one for the Story mode sims and the other for the Challenge mode sims. Both neighborhoods have all playable families and lots with a couple being inaccessible due to limitations with the ‘Play the Sims’ mode of the game

Xbox: copy to E:/UDATA/4541002F/

If your Xbox is not modified you need to use software that can write to FATX volumes, along with a supported USB drive and a XBOX to USB cable or Action Replay. You will then need to use the Xbox dashboard to transfer from the memory unit back onto the hard drive.

Download Link:

https://app.box.com/s/qxdhk0ivy6uivypnxn3hrgybz0qyv7ul

Can the same be done on The Sims Bustin Out?

Probably Not.

The NGH files look to be embedded into one of the many arc files, which is a customized format used by the game. We can extract the game files using the same QuickBMS script, however I have yet to come across a NGH file. It’s possible Bustin Out uses its own structure that makes it incompatible with the format that the PC and console versions use.

If you look at the Bustin Out lots, they seem to look similar to the first console release in terms of build mode tools, but some lots have custom backdrops, like Tinsel Bluffs having a city/mountain backdrop and Casa Calente having a seaside backdrop. The original console version however had a standard stone wall surrounded by green grass, in style with the neighborhood theme.

The sims themselves however may be compatible, they both have the same personality system, and the create a sim items are mostly the same in terms of customization.

To be frank with the Sims Bustin out, as much as I liked the game, the free-play mode was disappointing compared to the previous since console installment. With only 3 Freeplay lots there isn’t much room for a proper sandbox style game which limits what you can do. Also EA had designed 5 careers that were exclusive to Free Play mode

I can’t understand why the other Bustin out premade sims were not fully playable, whilst you could control them you they were unable to progress through their careers, or where you able to marry or move them out or switch them to a different career. I understand that those sims are tied to some goals but surly if you have completed all goals you should be able to unlock the ability for proper control of these sims, since they are no longer needed to fulfill your sims goals. Some sims were not controllable at all (Dudley/Mimi Landgrabb, Bella and Charity if your sim was a male) It seems like EA wanted to focus on the story mode of the game rather than the sandbox as to not distract from the PC version of the game, which had it’s seventh expansion pack around the time of Bustin Out’s release, as-well as the upcoming Sims 2.

See it in action

The Sims – Story mode sims in Freeplay mode – YouTube

Virgin Media Tivo in 2020

Virgin’s ageing TV Platform originally released in 2011. Here’s a look at the current interface on a Cisco CT8620. The Tivo box has been recently deactivated and is due to be sent back, so features such as OnDemand and Interactive apps will no longer function.

Virgin Media Home

TV Guide

TV Listings, grid view
TV Guide, in list view
Customising the TV Guide
My Shows, where all recordings reside
This would show any upcoming recordings
Pressing Ok brings up a mini guide banner
Appears every-time you change channels

Radio

Settings

Parental Settings

Setting a manual recording

Appears when you power on the Tivo box from the mains
Change power and standby settings, set the Tivo box name if you use remote recordings