Author Archives: drew1440

Nec e616

Released in 2003, The e616 was one of the first generation of 3G capable phones for the Hutchinson 3 network in the UK.

NEC were not a commonly known manufacturer of handsets in the UK, the market previously dominated by Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Siemens at the time, with Samsung and Sony (Who’s mobile division would merge with Ericsson). In Japan they were known for their i-Mode handsets

Introduction

Apologies for the poor image quality on some of these captures, since the only way to capture was using a camera pointed to the phone screen, which can yield in some weird effects on screen.

Bootup screen, there is a lot of 3 branding within the handsets firmware, it seems the handset was produced exclusively for Hutchinson 3G and was used in their international markets also.

Home Screen

The default home screen, the calendar can be set as the background, or the wallpaper can be displayed instead. The row of icons can be accessed by pressing the middle enter key, which acts as a shortcut bar or dock to access common phone functions. Items can be added here by pressing ‘Link this’ when you are in a menu.

There is also a task manager like function, which gives the impression that this is some sort of smartphone, perhaps Symbian based?

Main Menu

Menu scheme uses a grid like layout, shortcuts can be used by the number keypad. The quick menu is used to quickly access different phone functions without having to trawl through the main menu. Taskbar lets you select and reopen running background applications, a very smartphone like feature.

Messages

3Mail looks to be a remote email service provided by 3, to be an alternative to Blackberry push email that was offered at the time. Having email on your phone was still a high end feature that many phones were not capable of, and even the ones that did have severe restrictions in what emails could be displayed. Also many webmail email providers did not support third party POP3/IMAP clients, which these phones were classed as, so email would be part of the network provider.

Text messages can be composed and sent from here, the handset supports SMS and MMS Multimedia messages. There’s an option for a video message which is really a vieo clip attached to a multimedia message.

A full text editor is provided, with support for copy and paste and predictive text. An annoying feature is typing a message using the keypad, the phone makes DTMF sounds.

The phone also supports copy and paste, a feature that is rarely seen in feature phones.

Phonebook

Contacts can be created and saved to the phone memory or the USIM card

Settings

Handset Settings

Video Calls

One of the big appeals of 3G phones was the advent of video calling, where you and the recipient could see and speak to each other in glorious CIF resolution. Here you can change the picture quality and the camera orientation mode

Screen Settings

Set a greeting message and change the power on jingle

Network setup

Here you can change the network selection, choose if you want the device to connect to 3G exclusively, and any access points settings.

Security

Dial Lock – allows you to set a passcode that is entered via the keypad when the device is opened, when enabled you can only make emergency calls unless the code is entered

Side Key lock – prevents the side volume buttons from being pressed when the device is closed

Supplementary

Misc call settings, you can change the caller ID options, divers and waiting options.

Date and Time

Clear Settings

Changes settings back to their default factory values

Multimedia centre

Access to multimedia features of the phone,

Camera

Capturing picture using the external camera. Both the front and rear camera can be used however both are limited to CIF resolution which is a bit low for this class of phone. Typically phones of this era use VGA resolution camera. Different effects can be applied. Both still images and video clips can be captured.

Record Sound

Sound can be recorded, up to 60 seconds in length and saved as an amr file

Image Viewer

View images captured by the camera, or any images downloaded

Video Player

Videos captured by the camera or downloaded videos from three can be played here, Videos are stored in the MPEG4 format.

Music Player

Capable of playing the Midi ringtones, but can also play back MP3 encoded files, either on the built in phone memory or from the memory card, just be mindful of the 5Mb transfer limit. Music can be played though the headphones or through the built in speaker.

Sound Player

Same as the music player, but for the recorder voice clips stored on the device.

Toolbox

Calendar

To Do

Add, set and remove reminders, and specify when the phone should alert you

Alarm Clock

Up to five different alarms can be set, with the option to set the reoccurrence to a selected number of days.

Notes

Similar to the Windows notepad, a text editor that lets you save up to 9 separate documents. Text is composed similar to an SMS message.

Calculator

A calculator and a converter, the calculator is capable of simple sums, but scientific operations are not supported. The converter is cable to convert currency only, and has the option to specify the rate manually.

GPS and compass

Supposedly comes with a GPS feature built in, but I wasn’t able to get it calibrated, perhaps it’s dependant on the mobile network being functional?

Call Memo

Java

The phone has the ability to run Java J2ME applications that are published and downloaded by 3. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to load the Java applications over USB or Bluetooth using the PC Software, so there’s not much to do here. I tried copying the Jad and Jar files over manually using the USB connection below but it didn’t work, seems the only way is to use the built in browser and download the games via the 3G network

External Connection

Bluetooth

This phone supports Bluetooth however it is very limited compared to other handsets, there’s no file transfer, only dial up networking and audio headset is supported.

USB

The phone can connect to a Windows PC using a USB adaptor cable, and with the appropriate software installed. Here files can be transferred to and from the phone, and contacts can be synchronised using an external application

Synchronisation

You can Sync contacts, calendar and To do lists from an external server, similar to how you can sync with Outlook or Gmail, only back in these days you had to use the Three server.

File Manager

You can explore both the phone memory and the external memory card. Internally the device has 19Mb of available memory for use, and can support up to 128Mb of external memory, using the Sony Memory Stick Duo standard. You can also format the memory card, check its filesystem for errors and view the amount of space free for use.

Files can be copied or moved, or sent via the MMS if the file size is small enough, Bluetooth cannot be used to send or receive files.

Web browser?

When Three launched their 3G service in the UK, it was designed to be a walled garden where only 3 service could be accessed using the phones internal browser, and external web access was not supported. This meant it was not possible to browse WAP sites on the handset, the browser that ships with the phone is locked down to work with Three’s services only, and from the article below was supposed to be the Netfront browser.

ACCESS’ NetFront™ Microbrowser Selected for New NEC Handsets on Hutchinson 3G Network | ACCESS (access-company.com)

Windows Memphis Beta 3 (Build 1619)

One of the Beta 3 builds, closer to the final release build.

Despite being a beta 3 build, the boot screen used is from Beta 2.1

Install

Initial installation, looks very similar to the released product. The welcome program comes with an extra item dedicated to the beta guide which details whats been added in this beta phase.

Desktop

Booting for the first time

This build seems to have issues booting up in normal mode due to a botched device driver instillation when the OS was installed for the first time. To rectify this you will need to boot into safe mode and uninstall the corrupt device, in this case this was the network adaptor which was missing its hardware title. I’m not sure if this is an issue specific with this build or if its due to the hardware PCem is emulating (Could be with the emulator itself)

Tutorial

When Windows 98 boots for the first time, a welcome screen is shown giving the user an option to start a tutorial on showcasing the new features of Windows 98, and a section for users who are new to Windows itself. This is stored on the Windows 98 CD and is required to be inserted to run the tutorial. In this build there are some differences with the images and layout used from the final build.

WebTV Windows

Microsoft acquired WebTV and was intended to be used as an early precursor to the media centre applications as seen in Windows XP Media Centre edition. WebTV for Windows was to bring the WebTV guide interface to the desktop using the computers TV tuner. A TV Guide would be offered which delivers TV listings over the internet, whilst using analogue TV (Digital TV wasn’t widespread yet, US wouldn’t launch its digital terrestrial works from late 1998 onwards and cable slightly later)

Wavetop was a protocol to receive data from terrestrial broadcasts and was an early form of interactive TV. Web pages would be transmitted between the VBI of the analogue signal and would be related to the program being broadcast. A competing system was Intel’s Intercast

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 4 is bundled with the operating system and was integrated into the explorer shell.

Active Desktop

Active desktop was a feature that allowed a webpage to be set as a desktop background, with clickable hyperlinks.

If explorer crashed whilst active desktop was enabled, an active desktop recovery page was displayed instead which gave the user the option to re-enable the active desktop, this was to prevent explorer from crashing repeatedly should the webpage be the source of crashing.

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer was updated to be remodeled giving folders a web like view which was meant to be more visually appealing to the end user. In practice this made the explorer shell more sluggish and buggy, taking longer for the computer to rendered the explorer page. This could be toned down to a basic interface view, but the explorer shell would still be rendered in Internet Explore.

Internet Channels

Channels could be opened within a web browser such as Internet Explorer. These acted as an earlier method of RSS where website updates are pushed to the user, rather than having the user checking the website manually.

DVD Player

This build features a standalone DVD player application, however this requires a dedicated MPEG2 hardware decoder since CPUs of the time could not decode in real-time. Some video cards also featured partial MPEG2 acceleration and would feature their own DVD player software such as Cyberlink PowerDVD

No hardware MPEG2 decoder detected

Pressing F1 bring up the Windows help, which provides an HTML based help interface. Third party programs can also use this help system.

My Computer, with the channel sidebar enabled.

When Windows explorer crashes whilst active desktop is enabled, the recovery screen is enabled in the event of the web page being the source of the issues. The user can then manually restore the active desktop.

PCem Specs

Motherboard: Intel Advanced/ZP

Processor: Intel OverDrive MMX 200Mhz

Video: ATI Video Xpression (Mach64 VT2)

3D Accelerator: 3DFX Voodoo Graphics 3D Accelerator

Sound: Aztech Sound Galaxy Pro 16 AB

Mouse: Intellimouse PS/2 (Allows scroll wheel to be used)

Network: Realtek RTL8029AS

ntl CR2 EPG (2001 – Bromley)

Bromley areas (former Cable&Wireless) were running this guide up until 2002, where it was replaced by Bromley CR3

Not all customers in Bromley were running this version of software, ex-Videotron customers were stuck on CR1 software due to the poor network conditions that meant the area could not support two way communication, meaning no interactive or broadband support. They received a rebranded version of CR1 but without the Liberate browser.

Now and Next bar, surprisingly its transparent

Viewing program information

Main TV Guide home screen

Main TV guide EPG, channels can be filtered according to their genre, and programmes can be filtered by the day and time slot.

Subject search, similar to the A-Z listings, allows you to find a program based on its genre

Ordering PPV events

The settings area, where favourite channels can be managed, and the picture output preferences can be changed

Interactive home screen, since this was a web page loaded from the server, it could be updated independently from the EPG. Interactive services were non functional in ex-Videotron areas (parts of London)

BBCi home screen, looks similar to the Kingston version

TV Email, each customer could have a selected amount of email address to use, and could be accessed from the TV service.

TV Internet, was the main interactive portal for other services hosted on the ntl platform

See more interactive

Vs Telewest

Telewest software looks to be an earlier build from Dec 2000, whilst the ntl is a later build from Jun 2001. notable differences is the support of subtitles

Vs Cable & Wireless

Windows 2000 (Build 1671)

NT 5 was to be known as Windows 2000, the successor and replacement for Windows NT4. Designed to be an enterprise focused operating system with the consumer counterpart being Windows 98, and later Windows ME. Both of which use an updated Windows Explorer shell with a webpage like interface.

Install

The first stage of the install is where you select the volume to install NT5 on, and you are given a choice of which peripherals your computer will use. The install disk is bootable so providing your BIOS supports CD booting, you don’t need a boot floppy disk

Second Stage Install

The second stage of the install details with personalization and uses a graphical interface which appears different in the final release. Windows will ask for both the User and the company/organization name. From here you can specify any additional components that need to be installed.

The login screen, very similar to NT4

Windows NT5 BSOD

BSOD already and we haven’t got to the desktop yet. This is typically a bad sign and searching online didn’t yield much. Still we can boot in safe VGA mode without any issues.

Windows NT5 Desktop

I first tried to remedy this by removing any additional devices from PCem, the sound and network card was removed, along with the 3DFX Voodoo card. This still resulted in a BSOD

Epox P55-VA BIOS

Eventually I found somewhat of a resolution, which was to disable the motherboards onboard USB controller, which isn’t much use within PCem. Early motherboard that came with USB onboard were very primitive, and sometimes completely buggy. This combined with a beta operating system can spell trouble so its best to disable this. Funnily enough there is support for USB and 1394 devices in this build.

Windows NT 5 Desktop

The actual desktop which enabled active desktop by default. Everything has a webpage like interface with folders and buttons being links, by default you only need to click a folder one to select it.

This build did pickup and install a few device drivers by itself, but did not pickup the soundcard since I had disabled it on the account of the BSOD earlier.

This is an early form of device manager that is used to display a list of hardware devices that interact with your computer. There are a few quirks in this build, with some random error dialog boxes popping up that seems to relate to the management console.

Windows NT5 My Computer

The My Computer window, with an early sidebar design. Also note the navigation bar design and spacing

Installing the drivers

3DFX

This isn’t part of the operating system, but I figured I could show part of the 3DFX interface since I had intended to try running glide games on an old NT based operating system. Despite running the 3DFX install utility, games would refuse to detect the accelerator card, and looking in device manager indicated it had a problem loading the driver for the device.

Hardware Instillation

Trying to add a soundcard, and failing. A new wizard like user interface is supposed to make device hardware instillation more easier but it seems to be buggy in this build.

Disk Management

Trying to format and mount a zip disk. At first I couldn’t get Windows to mount the disk image I already had until I released these old builds of NT lack FAT32 support of which the drive was formatted as.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 4 is bundled with the operating system and is a major component providing the functionality of Windows Explorer. Like Windows 98 it has support for active desktop and channels.

Windows NT5 Outlook Express

Outlook Express 4 that is bundled with the operating system

Private Character Editor

Not sure what this is supposed to be, some sort of character map editor? Seems to crash a lot.

Printers

Windows NT5 Printers

The printer interface has been slightly altered, using the updated Windows Explorer engine

Power Management

Windows NT5 Crash

The result of trying to change the background wallpaper when you have active desktop enabled, Windows explorer crashed

Add Program Wizard

Looks like Microsoft had also intended to simplify the program install process, like the hardware wizard this takes you through a set of questions to install new software.

Removable Devices

Windows NT5 Device Removal

Windows features a device removal option that would allow you to stop a device, ready for it to be removed. That was probably intended for USB devices

Conclusion

Whilst I had intended to do more with this operating system, I found it too be too unstable and unfinished for general use and with lack of the ability to install 3D graphics and sound drivers limited what would be installed.

PCem Specifications

Motherboard: Epox P55-VA

Processor: IDT Winchip 2A/300

Video: Phoenix S3 Trio64

Sound: SoundBlaster AWE32

Network: NE2000

3D Accelerator: 3DFX Voodoo2

Telewest – 2002

Telewest redesigned their digital TV service in 2002, which saw the TV Guide software undergo a complete rewrite and redesign of the user interface, similar to what ntl undertook with their Bromley TV service.

Like ntl the TV guide was written entirely in Liberate TV middleware, and the entire interface is rendered using the Liberate browser. In contrast, the previous Telewest software used an EPG system developed by Pace, with the Liberate browser being added as a separate component what had to be loaded.

This meant the customer had to wait for the Liberate browser to load before they could access the interactive service, and on screen interactive prompt were not possible since the interactive stack was not running whilst the customer was watching TV.

Viewing TV on Demand listings

The Liberate middleware was upgraded to 1.2, which featured several programme and feature upgrades to the HTML browser used, one of which was the ability to use a mosaic style screen with different video feeds .As mentioned earlier, the Liberate intake now runs constantly, allowing for ‘press Red’ functionality to be used on TV channels, this was essential since Sky and ITVDigital had implemented similar interactive prompt features. These would also be instrumental for the upcoming Big Brother and Wimbledon 2002 interactive services, where customers could choose from different angles and feeds through the use of interactive, of which was not possible with Liberate 1.1 (The mosaic feature mentioned earlier)

A reminder alert for an upcoming program

Also new addition was the mini TV guide feature, where a small screen of the channel the customer was currently watching is displayed whilst the customer browses the TV guide or interactive. The exception to this is when they are browsing the On demand TV section, where the box changed to a Front Row preview channel, the reason being this was to allow the box to get up to date PPV listings rather than rely on cached data, and to do so it was necessary for the box to tune into a specific frequency that carried this data, preventing the use of mini TV.

A weird design decision since Telewest already had a functioning return path due to the internal DOCSIS modem inside the Pace box, why not use that to retrieve the PPV listings?

Adding Favourite channels

Viewing Favourite channels

Pressing reveals information on the selected program, and any program broadcast within the next 24 hours

View of the search and scan banner, known here as the Mini Guide like Sky you can view what’s on other channels

In 2003, a slight update was made to the interface layout, the Telewest Broadband branding is now in effect, and the layout is more square compared to the previous design.

ntl EPG (2001 – Langely)

The now and next banner has changed little since the previous software version

Another shot, this time from the Ireland version of ntl

The main guide interface has had a rebrand, and the main layout has been updated

Navigation for the TV guide has been made easier, a list based view is used as opposed to the grid based guide that can be found on Sky and Virgin.

A list of available channels on ntl

Viewing more information about a TV program

Help information, shows the connection status of the stb

Shows a changelog and improvements made for this version

The diary is similar in concept to the TV guide, programs that are to be broadcast in the future can be entered here, and the stb will remind you when the program is about to start

PPV movies were provided by Front Row, similar to Telewest

Front row listings

The settings page, you can change the screen settings such as the picture aspect ratio, the signal type (S-Video and Composite, with RGB being used in later STB revisions)

Early Pace Di4001 receivers outputted S-Video in place of RGB, newer models replaced this with RGB output

Message that appears when you are not subscribed to a channel or service

Interactive

Interactive was handled by a separate component known as the Liberate TV Navigator, which is the middleware used for the interactive services. The version used is 1.1, this early implementation was separate from the main Tv Guide, which mean interactive icons like the red button were not possible, since the middleware only runs when the Interactive button is pressed, this changed in later implementations, where both the TV guide and interactive functions are using the Liberate engine.

Interactive services were made available in this version, powered by Liberate TV navigator, these services were similar to the Bromley platform

Interactive home screen, these were microsites that were optimized for use on a TV

News section with different providers or channels

BBC news interactive

Unlike Ceefax, Digital text can render full JPEG and GIF images, like a web page

All about Xbox 360 Storage and USB

Looking at both the USB and the storage system of the Xbox, since they are both intertwined and there are differences across the major revisions of the Xbox 360

Background: Xbox Original

To understand the logic of the Xbox 360 storage, you have to look at the past. The original Xbox was one of the first consoles to include an internal hard drive as standard which allowed for storage of game saves, music that could be ripped from an audio CD, or DLC that could be downloaded from Xbox Live. For regular users this meant you did not have to worry about memory cards since the Xbox had plenty of internal storage for game saves and since this was on a hard drive rather than NVRAM like the Sega Saturn, which means saves could be lost should the internal battery die.

Unfortunately the hard drive in the Xbox was one of the more expensive components of the Xbox, and this was one of the reasons the Xbox never made any profit for Microsoft. With this in mind the 360 would be designed over two storage options:

  • A basic version that would mirror the storage options of the PlayStation 2/GameCube, where there would be no internal user storage, but an external memory unit would be used instead. The user would still have the option to add a hard drive should they run out of space on the memory unit.
  • An premium version that had a internal (or sideloaded) hard drive that brought all the benefits of the hard drive in the original Xbox.

Giving the end user choice may have been a good idea in hindsight, however there were issues and limitations that followed, which will be discussed later.

Type’s of storage available on the 360

Xbox Memory Unit: Offered from 2005 – 2010 and was the primary storage option for the initial core and arcade consoles, available in capacities up to 512GB, designed to be plugged into the front of the 360 and internally use USB, like the original Xbox memory unit. These are not directly compatible with the 360 S models since they lack the ports, however thirds party adapters are available that allow these old memory units to be uses on the S models.

You cannot use an original Xbox memory unit on the 360, or vice versa. Even though they both use USB and are formatted to FATX. No reason has been given for this as this could allow for the original Xbox saves to be migrated over to the Xbox 360.

For the early 360 models without a hard drive, the NXE made these memory units mandatory, since portions of the dashboard are stored on this memory unit.

Further Information

USB Mass Storage: This option was introduced around 2010, before the launch of the S consoles. You can connect a USB memory stick or an external hard drive and use it as additional storage for game saves, DLC or for games themselves (both downloaded and installed of the DVD). Ideally you were limited to 4GB of storage, this was later increased to 16GB, then 32GB and then to 2TB following the release of the Xbox One.

Not all devices can be used, USB flash drives that are not fast enough will not be approved for use, since the Xbox 360 performs a speed test when initializing the storage. This is because some games may malfunction if they cannot access the data fast enough.

Xbox Hard Drive: Generally the most popular form of storage since its fast and easy to set up, but there are some caveats. First was the hard disk design changed from the original models to the S model, whilst the drives are the same internally and could open the case and manually swap the drive over. This is because the hard disk enclosure was redesigned, on the original models the hard drive was connected either on top or on the side depending on the orientation your 360 console was in, whilst the hard drive for the S model was designed to slot inside the console itself.

Unfortunately you cannot use your own hard drive since it has to be formatted and partitioned using Microsoft proprietary format, and Microsoft has not officially released a formatting tool. If you wish to use your own HDD you must softmod the console, or reflash the hard drive itself to make it appear as a Microsoft drive, for which you are limited to 500GB capacity as this was the largest hard disk Microsoft had released for the 360.

The hard drive is the only storage medium that allows for backwards compatibility for original Xbox titles, since these games were reliant on using the hard drive for caching and user storage. These games will not run if the Xbox 360 does not have a hard drive. Some third party hard drives can also cause issues as they lack the partition 3 that stored the Xbox emulation and game data. This will need to be restored manually be the user.

Internal Flash storage: This was available for Arcade models released after 2008 that did not come with a hard drive. These models have either 256MB or 512MB of internal storage that was used for the dashboard, which became essentially when the NXE dashboard was released. Memory units and hard drives could still be used for these models. With the release of the 360 S, the 4GB model came with internal storage that was really a USB drive mounted internally to the console, like the Wi-Fi adaptor. This internal storage behaves like the memory unit. Some users have been able to modify and replace this internal storage.

HD-DVD: This addon also came with a built in memory unit, but was designed to be connected to the rear of the console and was intended to store a copy of the HD-DVD movie player. Not much is known about this unit so for now I wont discuss it further.

Storage Summary

Memory UnitUSB StorageSATA Hard Disk
CapacityUpto 1GB (512Mb per memory unit, upto 2 can be connected)Up to 4TB, upto 2 can be connected at onceUpto 500Gb for an unmodified console
SpeedUnknown, less than 480MbpsUp to 53MB/s (480Mbit/s) shared between different USB devicesUp to 150MB/s (1.5Gbit/s)
Availability Original models only, S model requires an adaptorAll ModelsAll Models
Can be used forSaves, Music, DLC, AppsGame installs, Saves, Music, DLC, AppsGame installs, Saves, Music, DLC, Apps

Game Installs: Games than can be installed from the DVD drive, this also covers games downloaded from Xbox Live using the games on demand service

Maximum Storage: Theoretically the maximum storage for the Xbox 360 is 5.505TB, with a 500GB SATA HDD, two 2TB USB drives/HDD and two 512MB memory units, along with a 4GB internal flash memory assuming a basic S model is being used. I’d say that’s enough for the entire Xbox 360 game library.

USB Ports

The amount of USB ports vary on the different models

Launch Consoles

USB 1 – Rear of the console

USB 2/3 – Front of the console, hidden behind the flap

USB 4/5 – Used for the Memory units

USB 6 – used on later revisions for internal storage

S Consoles

USB 1/2/3 – Rear of the console

USB 4 – Kinect port

USB 5/6 – Front of the console, hidden behind the flap

USB 7 – internal used for flash storage for 4GB S model

USB 8 – internal, used for WiFi adaptor module (Why not PCI express?)

Good idea to run Kinect games off USB storage?

USB has limited bandwidth which is shared across the different devices that are connected, in the case of the S models this included the internal Wi-Fi adaptor. This could potentially cause issues when running games that use I the Kinect sensor which uses the USB bus, and a USB external drive. There is a theory below that the Kinect/rear USB port has its own dedicated controller/bus, which gives it’s own bandwidth

Are all the USB ports the same?

No, or at least there are certain devices that can only be connected to specific ports:

Kinect – original 360 models: the Rear USB port was designed to run on its own bus, therefore a device connected has the full bandwidth that USB2 can provide which is why Kinect can only be connected to this port for the original models, the other USB ports seems to share bandwidth (possibly along with the memory units, this was referenced on an online podcast (Major Nelson, unfortunately the link is no longer active and does not appear in the podcast archives.)

Memory Unit Adaptors: Although the S models lack the memory unit ports on the front, Datel released a USB to memory unit adaptor that was intended to connect a memory unit to a PC to transfer and backup save files. The side effect of this was the memory unit can be used on the S model XBOX 360, despite Microsoft not officially supporting it. However only the front USB ports can be used, and the icon varies depending on which port you connect to. The left USB ports appears as Memory Unit A, whilst the right appears as Memory Unit B.

Sample adaptor: eBay, GAME

Miscellaneous

USB: I have noticed some differences in behavior between the front and rear ports of my Xbox 360 S, specifically with USB Memory stick when you turn it on. Sometimes of the flash drives are plugged into the rear and you turn it on, the 360 will not detect of mount the rive and you have to unplug and connect the drive before the 360 will recognize it. This never happens when you leave then plugged into the front. However as of 2021 this seems to have been rectified, so maybe a dashboard update has resolved this issue.

External Hard Drives: Use of external hard disks is recommended due to the speed and capacity they provide (external SSD’s can also work but will be heavily bottlenecked, and might be limited by the power that USB2 can provide) However I would advise to avoid the cheaper external hard drives that you will see on Amazon or eBay, purely because they are dumb in the sense that they do not spin the disk down when the Xbox 360 is powered off. They will keep the hard disk spinning constantly despite the host device being powered off, wasting electricity and reducing the lifespan of the hard disk if not property ventilated, essentially they are a false economy. A lot of the branded drives (Western-Digital/Seagate/Samsung) external drives do spin the drive down when the host has powered off and reactivate when they detect the device being powered on.

Xbox 360 Consoles & SKU’s

Xbox 360 Core: Launch entry level model – No internal flash user storage, no hard drive included but can be added later, memory unit required for NXE update,

Xbox 360 Arcade: Replaced the Core model, No internal user storage, No hard drive included but can be added later, memory unit required for NXE update.

Xbox 360 Arcade (Jasper): Same as previous Arcade model but with 256MB onboard user storage, no hard drive included but can be added later, Can take the NXE update without any additional storage needed, 512MB version later available

Xbox 360 Pro: Launch premium model, Shipped with 20GB/60GB hard drive which is required for it to boot post NXE dashboard, No internal flash user storage

Xbox 360 Elite: Revised premium model, Shipped with 120GB/250GB hard drive which is required for it to boot post NXE dashboard, No internal flash user storage

Models from this point forward are Xbox 360 S

Xbox 360 S: Glossy black case (later matte), Shipped with 250GB/320GB/500GB hard drive storage, No internal flash user storage, Requires hard drive to boot

Xbox 360 S: Matte black case, Shipped with 4GB internal flash memory, No hard drive included but has bay area for it to be installed, Hard drive not required to boot.

Xbox 360 E: Available in the same storage configurations as the S models (4GB flash or HDD)

NXE Update and storage: Because the size of the dashboard grew significantly with this update, additional storage was required in order for this dashboard to function. All Xbox 360’s have internal on-board flash memory, even the original core models and the ones shipped with a hard drive however this memory cannot be manipulated by the user. They contain 16MB of onboard flash which contains the dashboard kernel itself and the system software which is required for the 360 to operate. This was increased to 256Mb for the later arcade revisions so they could store the NXE update without the need of external storage. This 16Mb flash cannot be accessed directly by the user and was intended to be used for the dashboard itself

Letts Science Explorer

Science Explorer was a piece of software I remembered back in school which ran on RM Window Box PC’s (although it did not require it, able to run on 16 and 32 bit Windows systems). Designed as a learning tool for ages 7 to 11, it focused on a variety of different science subjects.

Letts Science Explorer

The user interface is reminiscent of early adventure games like Myst, it makes heavy use if CD-ROM technology to load pre-rendered 3D images that give the impression you are in a 3D environment, albeit with a heavily dithered colour palette. You are supposedly transported to a underwater science facility which provided learning activity related to science, with different sections dedicated to various subjects of science.

Whilst the software does install some files to the hard drive, Science Explorer is run mainly off the CD-ROM, since hard drives at the time had limited storage capacity. This means the software is constantly accessing the cd drive, A moderately faster drive is recommended since the program loads the images off the drive as the user navigates the facility.

Letts Science Explorer

Each user has their own account, which is accessed by entering their name which keeps track of what that they have learned, the subjects they have accessed and their test scores, however there are no passwords.

Map

Letts Science Explorer
Letts Science Explorer

User Interface: Like Myst you navigate thought the facility using the mouse, where the cursor changes to indicate the direction where you are going. Moving to a different area, the software loads a different image from the CD-ROM. You can teleport to a different area instantly (depending on the CD-ROM speed) rather than having to keep clicking on the screen to navigate, and you an jump to a specific component in the subject

Letts Science Explorer

Each subject has the same formula, a Briefing, Investigation and a Tell Me More

Investigation

An interactive exercise relating to the subject, this is like a practical exercise and can very depending on the subject. Either you have a problem to solve, or a test that you can carry out using various factors. One example was the sound insulation exercise, where you can discover which materials are better at insulating sounds of a different pitch.

Briefing

A introduction to the subject, the text on screen is narrated and is typically accompted by an image relating to the subject.

Tell me More

Gives additional information relating to the subject, may not be part of the curriculum but still interesting to know.

Fact Point

Letts Science Explorer

Gives a interesting trivia relating to the type of science.

Interesting, since this came out in the late 90s, where the tower of Pisa had been shut due to stability concerns. Thankfully they managed to stabilize the tower and was able to reopen.

Letts Science Explorer

Compatibility

Since this old software was designed to be run on Windows 3.1 to 95 & 98, it contains some 16bit components that prevent it from functioning on modern 64bit Windows systems. PCem v16 was used to emulate the Windows 95 environment that the software was designed to run on, which was running from a ISO image (PCem can access a physical CD-ROM drive on your host PC, but its slow and has a delay which leads to stuttering.

External Links

Archive.org

Ridge Racer

One of the first textured 3D racing games, and mostly known of being a launch title on the first PlayStation console. However it appeared a year earlier in the arcades. The arcade version runs on much more powerful 3D hardware, runs in a higher resolution, a higher framerate (60fps vs 30fps on the PS1) thanks to it’s Evans & Sutherland 3D hardware, which was previously used to power their simulations and CAD hardware.

Arcade

Released to the arcades in 1993 and running on the System 22 hardware, which was in direct competition with Sega’s Daytona USA and Midway’s Crusin USA.

PlayStation

The game was ported to the original PlayStation in 1994 as a launch title, and was considered to be an acceptable port of the arcade despite the downgrade made in order to run on the PlayStation hardware. The PlayStation port has support for the Namco neGcon controller, that allows the player to replicate analogue steering by twisting the controller as at the time the dual analogue controller wasn’t available.

Ridge Racer Hi-Spec

Runs in a resolution of 320×480 which is higher than the original release but less than the arcade version. The main attraction to this version is the 60fps upgrade and the gouraud shading, which enhances the graphics greatly. However there are only two cars on the track, with only 1 in time attack, and the texture quality has been reduced slightly. I had to disable texture filtering and display then unfiltered since it just looked like an N64 game. The polygon count of the cars and track may also have been educed, since the guide mentions optimised textures and polygons.

This build of the game was bundled on the Ridge Racer Type 4 bonus disc, and was not a standalone version of the game. It was meant to showcase a 60fps game on the original PlayStation hardware, and what sacrifices were needed no be made, as Namco were keen for later Ridge Racer titles to be running in 60fps. Ridge Racer V for the PlayStation 2 would be the first home game to be running at 60fps.

Zeebo

The game was ported to the Zeebo, a home console released in Brazil by TecToy and QUALCOMM, graphics have been slightly altered and the music is rendered entirely in MIDI.

Comparison

PSone on the left, using moderate enhancements in the Duckstation emulator with the Mame emulation of the arcade in the middle and the Hi-Spec version on the right, I wanted to see if I could get the PSone version to match the arcade in terms of image quality by upping the resolution to 640×480 and enabling texture filtering, something with System 22 lacked.

Arcade emulation seems to have issues rendering the flag, which is supposed to flap freely, maybe a physics issue with one of the Texas Instrument DSP?

The game isn’t a straight port and some design changes had to be made, the HUD has been changed around and the track objects have also changed. Some buildings have also been changed to be in line with the PSone limitations. On the right you can see the effects of the shading which affects the art style slightly, giving a more realistic look. The ground textures have also been altered.

It’s worth mentioning that System 22 also supported gouraud shading, but Ridge Racer did not utilise it until Rave Racer in 1995.

Sunset differences between the two ports, The Hi-Spec mode does not have a night time version.

Game over is rendered in 3D for the arcade version, a static image on both PSone versions.

Comparison of the night sky, In the middle of a race the sun will set on the intermediate and time trials courses, to simulate a Le Mans race, the arcade shot is taken from one of the attract demos.

Boundary Break (Arcade)

With the help of some cheats in MAME, we are able to disable the collision detection, allowing us to move outside of the track. This gives some interesting close ups of some in game environment buildings.

Ridge Racer System 22

A look of the city from a different angle

Ridge Racer System 22

In the first tunnel, there is a path that is blocked off and is inaccessible

Ridge Racer System 22

A closer look at the other tunnel, with a view of the cars, normally these aren’t directly accessible. Namco used lower resolution models of the cars, since you typically see these driving in a distance.

Ridge Racer System 22

Another closer view of the cars, the tunnels ends abruptly to the outside, and the cars just disappear, and respawn at the other side after a few seconds.

Ridge Racer System 22

Before the end of the tunnel, theirs an intersection to another tunnel, which leads to a dead end

Ridge Racer System 22

The ground near the bridge, you can see the low detail textures, since System 22 didnt support texture filtering, giving a minecraft appearance

Ridge Racer System 22

Another shot of the beach, sometimes if you break out of a track early on, your car remains on a higher evaluation allowing for a top down view for later sections of the game

A look at the buildings near the beach

Ridge Racer System 22

A closer look at the crowd at the start of the game

Tire Garage Starblade, one of the shops near the overpass. Starblade was a 3D rail shooter

The buildings lack modelling towards the rear, since this view would not be available normally in the game. Also note the gap in the Sky where a bit of the blue sky is visible. Seems Namco displayed an overlay across the sky when it was night time, something the MAME emulator has issues replicating accurately.

Italian tomato, some sort of resturant or obscure namco game?

A closer view of the construction site, the trucks are levitating…

Ridge Racer System 22

View of the city, some of the building’s are quite long

The boats in the beach section

One of the many restaurants near the beech, this building appears multiple times. Also this game predates lightning effects, as the game is supposed to in night time mode but the building appear as if its daytime, however in the starting section, the buildings do change to a night time effect.

A distant island, near the marina

Another restaurant building

Ridge Racer System 22

Alternative view of the dead end tunnel, I’d like to try and do this to the PSOne version.

Todo: Mjlonir emulator was capable of running the system 22 versions of Ridge Racer with graphics acceleration, but as it was based on an older version of MAME it suffered from a lot of emulation and graphics issues, and uses an outdated rom set. Vivanonno was another emulator that was worth a look at.

A look at: Adi’s Attic

Adi was learning assistant. I’m not sure if this would be classed as a game, it does contain a few games, but Adi is not considered a game in itself. Its kind of like Microsoft BOB, only more focused at primary and secondary school students, which had a focus on Maths and English exams.

Since the game was designed to run on Windows 95, I’ve captured these from a Windows 95 install running in PCem (Fantastic emulator), emulating a Pentium Overdrive based system. The game makes use in Intel’s Indeo technology and Microsoft WinG, not DirectX. Maybe this was to allow Windows 3.1 compatibility, but Adi is a 32bit application.

adi maths english

The splash screen, appears whenever you start Adi.

adi maths english

User selection screen each user has their own profile which was meant to track their progress with the math’s and English exercises and online activity.

adi maths english

Creating a new user for the first time, here you specify the Name, DOB, School Year and then your favourite traits. This would have been viewable online to other users, since Adi had support for online virtual classrooms, which as you have probably guess are no longer online.

adi maths english

Shortly after you will be transported to his attic, and its kind of a nice looking attic. This is where different sections of the application can be accessed. You can click on certain object to open different parts of Adi. Objects you can click on are indicated by the mouse cursor, which changes when you can select an item.

Objects will randomly animate if Adi is left unattended for a while, or you can animate the objects yourself.

adi maths english

Jukebox gives two options, Music and Background Music. Music allows you to play sample music from various genres, most likely from a generic sound library. Background music lets you select ambient music like city traffic and jungle rainforest sounds.

adi maths english

A picture editor lets you freehand draw on a canvas, basically MS paint but comes with some built in clipart.

adi maths english

Adi comes with a calculator, although you might as well just use the Windows one, unless you are already in Adi and need access to a calculator and Alt+Tab isn’t an option.

adi maths english
adi maths english

A notepad like component. This supports the use of passwords for certain memo’s

Simulations

adi maths english

These were an interesting part of Adi, these are like mini-games that learn you of real world issues, and how certain actions affect things like the environment or the economy. Although a bit relaxed since these simulations lack restrictions like budget, keep in mind this is aimed at kids.

adi maths english

Investigations the effect of water and waste pollutions near a seaside, you can change various options such as how clean the beaches are, if tanks should be cleaned at sea, the pesticides used in farming and the use of water treatment plants. Reminds me of SimCity where you had to be careful of the type of industry you zone in order to keep pollution levels in your city low.

Whilst this was engaging as a kid, its too sandbox, having something like a budget would be more realistic, i.e having cleaner batches reduced pollution but costs more since you would need to install bins and people to help clean the beaches up.

adi maths english

Set to emulate a random shithole in Africa, this investigates the effects on the savanna by local residents. A balance will need to be found to prevent the savanna from becoming dry, whilst keeping the residents happy and satisfied. Adding power and water infrastructure helps but again does not take into account the cost of such infrastructure.

adi maths english

The effect of pollution on a small valley/village, you have to balance the output of factory’s at the expense of the village health and the pollution of the environment.

The balance of nature, this explorers the relationship of Rabbits and Fox’s with human hunting, and how nature is a delicate cycle.

How a company works

adi maths english

A simulation of capitalism, you have to balance sales and market share with R&D in order to guarantee growth.

adi maths english

How a country gets developed, you choose what the type of war the country is currently in, the health and education of the population which has an effect on the population amount, farming and international investments.

Other Activities

adi maths english

The Solar System

adi maths english

Information relating to the solar system, from a time when Pluto was still a planet

Astronomy

Shows different consolations about Greek mythology

The Space Conquest

A timeline of different event from both the Russian and American space programs

Endangered Species

Animals that are at risk of being endangered, and animals that have already become extinct.

The Water Cycle

How H2O works

Online

There was an online component of Adi, where you could meet other users online and access chatroom and virtual classrooms. Unfortunately the online servers are no longer online.

adi maths english

Videos

Further Information

VIVENDI GAMES (UK) LIMITED – Overview (free company information from Companies House) (company-information.service.gov.uk)

Untitled (globalnet.co.uk)