Monthly Archives: May 2022

DirecTV: UltimateTV

Ultimate TV was a partnership between DirecTV and Microsoft, who were looking to expand their WebTV platform. The DISH Player had launched a year prior with DISH network, and has also used the WebTV platform as a basis of its DVR software.

DirecTV also launched a DVR with Tivo, known as the DirecTivo which integrated two DSS satellite tuners into the Tivo system, which allowed for two channels to be recorded at the same time. Something that could not be done on the regular Tivo’s of the time, which required an external set top box to be connected.

Hardware was manufactured by RCA and Sony who had also made standalone WebTV hardware. Receivers typically came with a 40GB hard disk and twin DSS tuners

My Shows

List of all recordings made, and any upcoming shows to be recorded

Another screenshot of the My Shows section, this time with recordings grouped by title name

More recordings of different episodes of the same show

At launch dual channel recording was not possible, and inital functionality c

Interactive

An interactive prompt, WebTV was one of the main interactive platforms

Pay-Per-View

PPV movie and events could be ordered and recorded

Favourite Channels

Separate lists can be made to store favourite channels

Category Search

Searching for a specific program, you can choose from various filters

Searching by actor and a combination of categories

Someone here was clearly a fan of Friends

Searching by Day

You can filter to a specific feature that a program supports, like subtitles

Search by age rating

Filtering by the period of day

Or by decade period

Or by a search term / keyword. This was similar to what Tivo had offered

Additional Search terms

DISH Player

Dish Network also had their own DVR which ran using the WebTV middleware, known as the DISH Player. This was very similar to the UltimateTV but was released one year prior. Two models were released, the 7100 and 7200, both manufactured by Echostar and feature a single tuner. The 7100 has a 8GB Hard Disk, whilst the 7200 has 17.8GB.

A software update was released in December 1999 that enabled full DVR functionality. Prior to that it was only possible to live pause TV for 30 minutes. A $10 subscription fee was required, reducing to $5 if you took out a WebTV subscription also.

Images were originally captured from iwantptv.com before the site went offline

Channel 1 is the PTV (personal TV) channel, which is where the DVR is managed. You can view recorded shows which the DVR can self manage, older watched shows are deleted automatically to make space for upcoming shows.

  • TV Home: The main screen where you can access the guide, personal TV and any other services offered by WebTV and DISH Network.
  • Settings: Change receiver settings
  • TV Listings: The main TV guide and search engine
  • Web Home: Opens the WebTV browser
  • Help: Gives you information on how to use the receiver
  • Purchases: Pay Per View shows will appear when when purchased
  • TV Sites: TV Channel related sites like Fox News, CNN, etc
  • Games: Basic games that have been downloaded to the hard drive
  • Notices: Displays any messages sent to the box like service announcements

Only satellite programs can be recorded, OTA terrestrial ATSC channels can not be recorded, only watched live.

Conclusion

Microsoft didn’t last long in the North American DVR market, and the WebTV based DVR’s would be replaced not long after. DirecTV continued their partnership with Tivo and would eventually introduce their own branded DVR’s running NDS XTV software. DISH would replace the DISH Player with their own DISH DVR models.

Part of the reason was the poor initial reception due to the poor and buggy software during the early years of WebTV DVR’s, with reports of freezing and missed recordings, along with audio and visual glitches. It would be some time before these issues were sorted out, and Microsoft wasn’t very engaging on the software side of things which made it difficult for DirecTV or DISH to push software updates.

This wouldn’t be the last we would see of Microsoft attempting to enter the set top box market, the Mediaroom middleware would launch and power the ATT U-Verse and BT Vision services, and would also demo the Microsoft TV Foundation Edition for the Comcast/Motorola DCT platform.

The Simpsons Bowling

A bowling game developed by Konami and released only in arcades. Here you can choose from a select amount of Simpsons characters, each with their own unique stats and ending animations.

Bowling has always been one of the main pastimes shown in the actual show and several characters have had plots involving bowling, or the location Barney’s Bowlarama, where Homer sets up a minor Bowling league, or where Marge tries to take an interest in Bowling and nearly end’s up having an affair. It would also appear in the background, Homer would occasionally be seen playing bowling.
With Bowling being a popular concept of The Simpsons, it’s inevitable they would make a game out of it.

Despite running on PlayStation-based hardware, the game was only released in arcades. It’s possible a home port was planned but was abandoned when Konami lost the Simpsons license

Gameplay

There are two types of game modes that can be selected:
Standard Game – Typical bowling mode, on default settings you can score up to 300 points across 10 frames.
Spares Game – Same as standard, but there is a money mechanic. The player needs to make the most money in order to win. The bowling pins are randomly selected and require a lot more strategy in order to win

The game has the option of a normal control scheme or an easier mode. The difference is the process of firing the bowling ball, the easy mode just requires you to spin the trackball to launch the bowling ball, whilst the normal mode requires you to press the 1P button when the icon moves in the green area, sort of like a QTE/Timing minigame. Both modes can then be chosen by the players instead of the arcade operator.

You can change your character’s starting positions, and adjust the curve on their ball with is a key component of scoring.

HP Vectra VEi8 (86Box)

Vectra is a line of desktop PC’s by HP that are targeted towards the business/Home Office segment, like the Dell OptiPlex or the Compaq Deskpro series of computers. Typically come with Intel Celeron/Pentium processors and onboard video.

The VEi8 can feature a Pentium II running at 350/400MHz or a Pentium III at 450/500MHz. with a Intel 440ZX chipset. Onboard video is the Matrox Millennium G200 with 8MB of graphics memory, which 86Box does not yet emulate

Not much branding here…

Recovery Disc

We have the option of restoring either a Windows 95 or Windows 98 image.

Windows 95 didn’t go as planned as we encountered a protection error upon boot up. At first I though the CPU used was too fast for Windows 95 as early builds had issues with CPU’s over a certain speed due to a race condition that’s executed upon boot up. A patch is available but you need to be in the Windows environment in order to install it. Downgrading the CPU and its speed had no effect in 86box.
Sadly I wasn’t able to fix this, and went for the Windows 98 option instead.

Post Install

There isn’t much to see here, since its pretty close to a vanilla Windows install compared to the Compaq Presario, just a few HP utilities. I guess the Vecta line were intended to be used in business and office environment who would prefer to control and maintain the software that they would install.

Upon the first reboot a tutorial is run which gives a basic demonstration on how to use a computer. This looks like some sort of Windows 3.1 environment and only appears once.

Installed Software

HP TopTools

HP TopTools

Looks to be a hardware diagnostic application that shows detailed information on your system.

McAfee

McAfee Antivirus and crash monitor are preinstalled by default and provide basic protection.

Supplementary Hardware

The real motherboard supports two floppy disks, and four IDE devices across two channels. Additional drives can be added by installing a SCSI adaptor in 86Box. Here I was using the Tekram DC-390 which Windows 98 detected as a AMD PCI SCSI controller automatically and installed a driver for it.
This wasn’t 100% perfect as adding a hard disk or a writable ZIP or Magneto optical disk would cause a blue screen upon boot up. Since we want to attached a writable drive to the computer, this was far from ideal
I tried installing a driver I found online but it had no effect, there is an issue when using this adaptor in 86Box. I switched it out for another PCI SCSI card, Buslogic but it had the same issue with a BSOD upon boot up when a writable drive is attached.

That’s a lie, it wouldn’t continue normally

Couldn’t find anything online relating to the BSOD above, any results turn up of that video of Windows 98 crashing in front of Bill Gates after plugging in a scanner.

In the end I tried to use another SCSI card instead, this time a ISA based card which required me to disable PCI IRQ steering for IRQ 10 & 11 to free up an IRQ slot for both the SCSI and the sound card.
Which made no difference, it still BSOD upon boot up.

I even mounted the image as write protected but it made little to no difference.
The rest of the devices (Zip 250/CD-ROM drives) worked fine, just hard disks and the magneto optical drives caused the BSOD.

I did notice an odd issue when I added the slave IDE hard drive, where Windows would BSOD with an error about drive D: which it would have been mounted as. Booting from the Windows 95 start disk and formatting as FAT32 seemed to fix it as after booting up the system was fine, and the new volume was detected and mounted in My Computer.
My guess is HP are using some unorthodox driver that interfacing when another volume or partition is added.

For networking the Realtek RTL8029 was used, which Windows 98 has built in drivers for.
3D acceleration is possible by adding a 3DFX Voodoo card, which Windows 98 will also have a driver for but you will be better off installing an updated driver instead.

In terms of expansion, the motherboard itself has 3 ISA and 3 PCI slots

  • ISA: BusLogic BT-545S, IRQ: 10, 0x334 DMA 7
  • ISA: Realtek RTL8029AS
  • ISA: Crystal CS4236B
  • PCI: S3 Trio64V+
  • PCI: 3DFX Voodoo graphics accelerator

Technical Manual

Uh Oh…

Simpsons Cartoon Studio

Create your own Simpsons episode

The games introduction and user interface, characters can be added from the main Simpsons roster. First the cartoon background is selected which are taken from the show. Props, characters and special effects are later added which can include music or speech quotes.

Whilst the program is easy to learn and pick up, the challenge is trying to get all the animations to line up with each other, since each character animations are set in pre-defined sequenced like a walking, jumping and running being separate set animations. If you wish to chain multiple animations together, care must be taken to ensure this is seamless since its possible for animations sequences to be placed freely in the frame, the previous animations might end on a different position to when the new frame starts resulting in jerky appearance. Custom animations cannot be made, you are limited to what the game has shipped with and for the additional Simpsons characters there are a limited amount.

The only real good use of the game is to make screenshots, getting good animation is a pain to do.

Changing the background image of the frame from the predefined section

Marge gets fed up with Krusty showing violent cartoons and takes matters into her own hands

Homer and Ned decide to have a race at the power plant

Principal Skinner, concerned with Bart’s grade tries to talk to Homer and Marge

Microsoft Windows

Installing the game which uses a 16bit installer which means it won’t install under a 64bit operating system, but will work finer if you manually copy the files over. Something crashed towards the end with a device read error. This didn’t seem to impact the game in any way as it still ran just fine.

Mac OS

There was also a Mac OS release which runs on the classic Mac OS

The Sims Hot Date

The third expansion pack and one that brought a major change to the mechanics of the game, the main one being the introduction of community lots and the concept of your sims leaving their lots (well they could technically leave to go to work in the base game)

Also included a nice jazzy soundtrack when editing or vising downtown lots.

Installing the game requires the original game CD, or the House Party disc if that expansion pack is installed, as the game will install the original audio files to the hard drive. Previously the game would stream the audio from the CD to save disc space at the expense of performance.
If installing over the Deluxe Edition expansion pack, the user will need to run the deluxe edition installer before they can play the game, this is because the deluxe edition was released after Hot Date.

No new neighborhoods have been included with this expansion, but if you are missing the created neighbourhoods from the House Party expansion (Hoods 5-8) then the installer will create them for you. They will be typical blank neighborhoods without any houses or premade sims.

Upon starting the game, new sims will be generated. These will be your townies that are used for downtown.

Downtown, a new sub-neighborhood. Each hood has its own version of downtown with its own generated set of townies. Sims cannot visit a downtown from another hood.

The user interface has been updated with new features

Original user interface
From Hot Date onwards

The house meter and the friend’s meter have been removed and have not been replaced. They were removed in favor of adding the inventory and interests panels.
The inventory panel shows objects that are stored by the sims, these can be gifts that have been received by other sims, or prizes won by various games.

Downtown

A new sub-neighborhood, and the first to be included in the Sims engine. There are lots that your sim can visit with other sims.

You can have different themed downtown lots that cater to a specific
Restaurants typically have a podium, a kitchen with a commercial over, and a dining booth or dining table/seats

Shops generally have till’s and can have clothes racks that sims can browse and buy new clothes, or skins as they are referred to. There are also entertainment lots that have activities like pool tables, pinball machines and slot machines

The default lots for Hot Date make use of objects from the base game and the expansion itself, but not objects from other expansions. With this in mind, you can create new downtown lots using objects or themes from other expansions, like a nightclub using the DJ booth and dance floor from House Party. A spare downtown lot exists (23 Wright Way) for this purpose.

Objects

The buy mode catalog has been updated, and new sub-categories have been added to help classify items better. Downtown lots also have their own categories, depending on what type of lot you wish to build. Here objects are sorted into shops, restaurants, outdoor

Niagra Love Tub

A hot tub that can seat two sims, who can cuddle and woohoo play

Dawnette Hooded Stove

An oven that occupies two titles, can be placed downtown and is required to operate a restaurant

Bachmeier Grand Piano

A more expensive piano, placing this downtown will spawn a dedicated piano player NPC

Boggs Home Canning Center

Allows your sim to make preserves at home to sell, also increases the cooking skill

Laguna Vista Instand Pond

A fish pond where your sim can feed fish and place boats, multiple sims can use this

Bel-Air Dining Booth

Sims will sit after they order a meal at the podium, works as part of a restaurant set otherwise function as a regular table and chairs

Kiosk

Items such as flowers, toys, chocolate, and a copy of the game itself are sold here and can be bought by your sim, A cash till nearby is required to order

Food Counters

Two exist, one for ice cream and another for burgers, bars also exist for drinks

Social Interactions

New social interactions have been added, and the social system has been revamped for each sim to better handle interactions. Many have been grouped into one main social interaction, which then has a few sub-interactions. E.g. Talk has the ‘About Interests’, ‘Gossip’ & ‘Brag’ interactions. Entertain has ‘Joke’ and ‘Juggle’ interactions.

Compaq Presario 4500 (86Box)

86box has been able to emulate a large amount of motherboards, and has recently added a few OEM desktop systems to its roster. These are mostly faithful to the original hardware to the extent that you can access their bios. Quite a few OEM recovery discs have popped up on Archive.org which will only run on those actual systems they were intended for, since they often include an OEM copy of Windows.


Whilst this emulates the motherboard and the BIOS firmware that was shipped, certain pieces of hardware are left unemulated like the graphics adapter or the soundcard. Fortunately you are able to substitute alternative components, but you might run into issues upon first boot up since Windows may not have drivers preinstalled. The machine here I’m trying to emulate is a Compaq Presario 4500, of which the specifications can be found here: http://h10032.www1.hp.com/ctg/Manual/bpb12296.pdf

Compaq QuickRestore Utility

This ran straight off the CD-ROM which was bootable from the BIOS and performed a few tests before initialising the hard drive, which had been newly created and had no partitions. After copying was done, the system rebooted and Windows 95 started up.
This utility did require me to enter the serial number of the system, which I was able to find online.

Setting Up Windows 95

After the first reboot Windows seemed to have problems finding the graphics driver and reverted to using the failsafe VGA driver instead, which limited us to 16 colours. At this point we were prompted to register our system and to fill out the registration form. I somehow doubt Compaq (Or HP as its now known) have the registration servers active.
After manually installing the graphics drivers for the S3 ViRGE that I had selected for the system, Windows went to the desktop and we are presented with the default Compaq desktop theme.

Bundled Applications & Utilities

Compaq Quick Access: Runs in the background and provides functionality for shortcuts to be used on the keyboard that would have shipped with the system. Here you can reconfigure the different ‘Easy Access Button’ to perform different function. By default they are used for the calculator and to open in the internet browser.
This utility also manages the on screen display, which appears when the volume keys are pressed or if one of the media control keys (Play, Fast Forward, Rewind) are used. I’m not sure if 86box is capable of passing these commands through since it only emulates a regular PC keyboard.

Compaq Diagnostics: Displays information about your computer system and the Windows OS. You can view the specifications here

SPRYNET Connection Manager: Manages internet connections for the dial up analogue modem, replaces the standard Windows utility.

The Palce: A third party application that was bundled with the system, it seems to be some sort of online chat room server, similar to IRC but uses animated avatars and colour backgrounds to give the illusion of environment. Users could join different room dedicated to certain subjects. This Compaq system would have come with a free trial allowance to entice the customer to subscribe, beck before social media mould datamine the hell out of you.
Sadly the servers are long gone.

SimCity 2000: Not sure what this is doing here, its just the network client and not the full game, maybe it was bundled with the Palace as a game that could be played using it? The full game is not bundled here.

Microsoft Works: The OG Oxymoron, this was a basic version of Microsoft Office bundled with OEM systems to give them basic Office functionality. It is considered productivity software suite which combines a word processor, spreadsheet and a basic database system. As it was a lot cheaper than Microsoft Office, it was commonly bundled with OEM systems to increase their value, although it was also available separately.

Money 97: Software to help manage your bills and bank accounts, before internet banking was widespread. I like the interface design and art used here, you defiantly wouldn’t expect to come across design like this in accounting software

AOL: Also bundled with the system and serves as the recommended ISP

Compaq Quickrestore For Compaq Presario 4500 Series

86box Github

The Palace (Archive)

Mac OS X Puma (10.1)

Windows XP caught us off guard…

Cheetah wasn’t well-received in terms of performance and compatibility and understandably so, given that this was a completely new OS environment with steep hardware requirements compared to OS9. With this in mind, Apple continued to improve OS X and released Puma a few months later.
System requirements were still the same, you still required 128MB for adequate performance (despite the iMac G3 shipping with 32MB as standard a few years before), for most users installing OS X necessitated a few hardware upgrades.

Install

Here we installed over Mac OS 9.2 as an upgrade which would have given us compatibility with the classic applications by using the classic environment. Compared to OS X Cheetah, more languages and print drivers are included. Again like Cheetah we miss out on the graphics acceleration and sound support.

Setup Assistant

Mostly is the same as the Cheetah version, a lot of the forums are compulsory like the address and contact details which is pointless in this version can no longer connect to Apple

Login Screen

Login screen

Desktop

Most improvements are made under the hood, the user appearance resembling the same as Cheetah.
Many of the existing applications that shipped with Cheetah were included in Puma, being slightly updated versions of Internet Explorer and QuickTime.

Browsing the filesystem using the Finder. Seemingly it has issues displaying the filename on CD/FAT filesystems

iTunes

iTunes makes its Mac OS debut in Puma. This version functions as a media player that is capable of importing CD’s and managing a CD library. A basic internet radio station is supported here, but the servers are no longer functional. I’m not sure if this build can sync with an iPod since it was released before the first iPod was released.

Mail

iMovie

Create and edit moves imported from a digital video camera, typically used on Mac with built-in Firewire. iMovie would later be included in the iLife suite.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer has been slightly upgraded compared to the previous release and is running a later build

Acrobat Reader

Acrobat reader is included with the operating system. One of the early features of OS X was the use of PDF rendering embedded into the operating system. A separate version is provided here since it includes features the embedded version lacks.

iDVD

For Macs with DVD drives and an MPEG2 accelerator, a DVD player is offered which was once offered in Mac OS 9. Since QEMU does not emulate an MPEG2 decoder and there is no graphics acceleration we are unable to access the interface.

System Preferences

The system preferences panel has been redesigned and applets are sorted into groups for easier navigation.

Imageviewer

Classic / Start up

Changing the startup mode, on an actual Mac will change which operating system boots the machine, but on QEMU it will brick your install. The classic environment will still work as normal

Screensavers

A nice selection of screensavers that take advantage of the new graphics engine.

System Profiler

Gives much more detailed information on your system, including the software components and the hardware installed in your Mac

Applications & Games

We had better luck getting apps to run in this version compared to Cheetah

The Sims

We were finally able to run The Sims, which we had failed to do previously. This was a Carbon-based app which was an API that allowed for use for Mac OS Classic and OS X. OpenGL is the main rendering engine used here, and this is integrated into OS X.

3D titles however are more of a problem with the emulator, which lacks 3D acceleration which means we have to rely on software rendering, and many games of the time were starting to require hardware T&L

Microsoft Office X

Microsoft’s popular productivity suite had a version specifically for OS X and takes advantage of the user interface elements. Functionality is similar to Office XP which was released at the time.

Norton

Norton had released their Utilities for OS X, which is a collection of software typically geared towards maintenance. Here you can run tasks that can check your mac’s hard disk, and access Norton AntiVirus if it’s installed.

PageSpinner

An HTML text editor for OS X and one of the first to be carbonized for OS X.

Windows Media Player

Opera

One of the other alternative browsers for OS X, If Internet Explorer or Netscape isn’t your thing. Curiously I did try Netscape navigator 6 but this required classic environment and wasn’t a native OS X application.

Mac OS 9.2

This was the last release of the classic Mac OS operating system, before it was discontinued in favour of Mac OS X. The emulator used here is a custom build of QEMU that has sound support.

QEMU config file, remove the ^ and collapse everything onto one line

qemu-system-ppc-screamer-fpu.exe ^
-L pc-bios ^
-M mac99,via=pmu ^
-m 256 ^
-sdl ^
-boot c ^
-drive file=quicktime.img,format=raw,media=cdrom ^ //CD-ROM Drive
-drive file=MacOS9.2.img,format=raw,media=disk ^ //IDE Master HDD
-drive file=Software.img,format=raw,media=disk //IDE Slave HDD

Up to four disk drives can be accepted by QEMU?OS 9.2, five if you use USB

Install

Mac systems will boot into a live cd like environment where the hard disk can be partitioned and formatted. In some circumstances, the Mac firmware can be upgraded here, which may be required to install.

The setup assistant that runs after you reboot following the install. It mainly helps with connecting to the internet or a network and configures sharing options

Applications

OS9.2 comes with plenty of bundled applications, many of which can be configured from the installer. This allows for you to pick and choose applications to install, and to disable un-needed applications

Apple Extras

A folder on the CD-ROM that has additional applications, similar to the VALUEADD folder on Windows discs that contain various optional utilities.

Apple Video Player

Plays back MPEG video and works best with an MPEG addon expansion card.

AppleCD Audio Player

The CD player of which QEMU does not pass the audio data to the virtual machine, so it wasn’t possible to test the CD Player functionality.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer Mac OS

Internet Explorer 5 shipped with Mac OS 9.2 and was the default browser on default installations. Unlike the desktop version, the Mac version used the Tasman rendering engine rather than the Trident engine the PC versions used. The interface is remarkably different with sidebars being used for favourites and history

Netscape Communicator

Netscape was the other popular browser of the time and was bundled with the operating system. This was the precursor to the Gecko rendering engine used in Mozilla Firefox

Outlook Express

Microsoft’s mail client for Mac OS, which was replaced by the Mail client for OS X

QuickTime

A view of sample channels in QuickTime, these would provide links to online video content such as trailers and previews. Similar to what modern YouTube is like now

Sherlock2

Sherlock was an integrated search engine for both local files and online websites. Various different categories could be used to find a certain website like in the shopping category you would find links to Amazon and eBay.

SimpleText

A basic text editor, like Notepad for Windows

Sound Support

A build of QEMU exists that enabled basic sound support using the Apple Screamer chipset which was used in the early Power Mac G3 (Minitower, not the blue/white version). By installing the latest QuickTime version for this operating system (QuickTime 5) it’s now possible to have basic sound support and acceleration.

Games and Third Party Applications

OS9 was compatible with many of the existing software for OS 8 and below

Simcity 3000: Works well but lacks content in comparison to the later unlimited release. Has a different intro and some music was changed compared to the later release which I’m more familiar with. All base cities and scenarios are present.

Duke Nukem 3D Atomic: Tested the PowerPC build, seems to work fine but the desktop seems to have issues after exiting the game

Driver: You Are the Wheelman: Did not work as it failed to start in software rendering mode, the game thinks there is a glide capable card upon startup but fails to load. Since OS9.2 came out around the same time as Driver I would assume this game would have worked as intended.

Unreal Tournament: Possible to run under software rendering, adequate performance at 640×480. Whish we had some 3DFX emulation in QEMU though. The master server for this game went offline a while back after GameSpy had shut down, but new master servers have been hosted and can be accessed by amending the unrealtournament.ini file

The Sims: Worked just fine but had to change to mac99-pmu as the mouse wasn’t being picked up correctly in-game, and would randomly recenter in the middle or off-screen which made it cumbersome to play

Microsoft Office: Office 98 was released around the same time and was the popular office utility suite back then, which had full compatibility with its PC counterpart

Uh Oh