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Rage Racer

The third console instalment of the Ridge Racer series. This sets on a more darker tone, with more realistic looking graphics and a completely revised soundtrack inspired by industrial drum and bass.­

Grand Prix

The main game mode where you complete a series of races. Like the previous game you start in bottom place and have to finish in third place or higher against the computer controlled cars. There are five classes in total with a bonus sixth class and an extra GP, which is unlocked by completing the main GP mode.

Medals are awarded depending on what place you finish in. As you play the game you will need to replay a few of the races to build up your credit in order to purchase new vehicles, as you move up the GP class the competitors cars also get faster

Unlike the previous games in the Ridge Racer series, cars are handled differently with you only starting from one car, instead of four being available. When more races are completed, credit are awarded which allow you to spend them on buying new cars or upgrading your existing car, which will be required in order for you to progress though the next class of GP. Different cars have different specifications, with some having better handling, acceleration or top speed. Some of the later cars are in manual transmission only which requires you to manually change and shift gears.

The Grand Prix mechanic would be expanded heavily in it’s successor – Ridge Racer Type 4.

Time Attack

The mode that no one ever uses, here you get access to the fastest models of the cards with the goal of having the fastest time.

Tracks

Like the previous Ridge Racer PlayStation games, they all use the same track with some variations in them, Rage Racer is no exception as all tracks have the same starting area but then branch off into different sections and bends, which then combine back together at the end of the lap. This gives the premise of the tracks being set in the same urban city or a town.

The tracks follow a specific design and were designed around the PlayStation’s limitations, as most tracks feature bends that obscure the environmental view as to prevent pop in and to keep the game running at 30fps. Slope and hills are also used to this effect and are incorporated as a game mechanic as for manual transmission vehicles you have to drop down a gear in order to maintain your speed. All of this was used in the next Ridge Racer Game (Type 4) to greater effect and shows how Namco was able to make the most out of the PlayStation hardware which was becoming mainstream at this point.

The environments themselves feature a European look judging from the building design, and some Greek style columns can be seen with the first track, which contrasts from the Japanese look of the city in the first game.

However the quantity of the tracks is part of the games downfall, with it recycling the same tracks as reversed and mirrored. It would have been nice to race on the original tracks from Ridge Racer and Revolution, or include the Rave Racer tracks which was already released to the arcades by the time Rave Racer came out. The fact that most tracks are reused limits the variety and questions the value of the game, eventually you are going to get bored of these tracks. It’s even worse when you compare it to the Rush and Crusin series of game which feature way more tracks that are independent from each other.

Mystical Coast: The started course for the game, driving past the waterfall into the tunnel, then pass down onto the coast area with Spanish/meddidertain style housing and then into some ruins until you reach a tunnel that takes you back to the starting line

Over Pass City: starts the name as Mystical Coast where you pass the waterfall but the tunnel takes a different direction into the main city, here there are very steep hills past the tram and steep curves as you return to the starting line. This is the longest course in the game.

Lakeside Gate: Tricky since there are a lot of sharp turns where you need to drift sharply. Reaching top speed isn’t much of an issue here but having a car that you can control well is necessary. There’s a lot of tunnels and cave/hill like scenery when then proceeds into a rural area with some open scenery.

The Extreme Oval: A simple track designed for cars to reach their top speeds, but has one sharp turn within a tunnel.

Music

As someone who regularly listens to drum and bass, the music in Rage Racer was a pleasure to listen to with many songs taking inspiration from the industrial rock and break beat samples of the era. With many tracks being inspired by popular tracks of the era. They are also similar to music that was used in Namco’s other games, like in Tekken.

Conclusion

As a Ridge Racer game it takes the series into a more serious setting with its GP/credit based mechanic and its realistic art style but as a racing game it falls short due to lack of content, especially with the amount of tracks.

The game as not been released on any digital platforms, which is odd since this is an entirely Namco game that does not feature any licensed cards or music.

Rugrats: Search for Reptar

A baby’s gotta do what a baby’s gotta do

Sony’s best exclusive

One of my favourite childhood games from the PlayStation, objective of the game is to find Tommy’s Reptar pieces that are scattered all around the house by completing various mini games. Rugrats Search for Reptar was only released for the Sony PlayStation

First we need to talk about the Pickles Home, what has been rendered entirely within the games engine, and servers as a gateway to the mini games that need to be completed. It’s a pretty nice house consisting of 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living area, kitchen and a study room, along with a garage. Its very faithful to the TV show, at least from the episodes I’ve seen, a lot of cartoon shows tent to remodel the house to suit the plot. It’s probably one of my favourite cartoon house alongside the Simpsons house which I got to explore in Virtual Springfield. Whilst rendered in a 3D environment, the art style tries to be faithful to the shows animation.

Some areas of the house are locked out initially, but when you enter a specific level they are available like the garage, I put this down to memory limitations of the PSX because some rooms that were previously explorable are disabled in some levels. An example of this was the Chuckie’s glasses level which opens the garage area, but removes the basement and garden area for that level. Some objects of the house can be interacted with, mainly Tommy’s toys which can be thrown or picked up.

Activities

Easy

Chuckie’s Glasses

Its raining outside and Angelica decided to play Hide & Seek with the babies, volunteering Chuckie’s to find them. However to make it fair, she takes his glasses, using Chuckie, you have to find and tag the babies (Phil, Lil, Tommy) and race them back to the play pen. It’s fairly easy and you get to explore the Rugrats house as you play, there’s no time limit and if one of the babies win you simply have to find that Rugrat again, although its gave over if they beat you three times.

Ice Cream Mountain

Stu wants to go golfing, he take the kids and promises a huge ice cream mountain, based on an episode in the show. There are 10 levels and to play, you walk to the ball, press the triangle button to start the power meter and press triangle again to hit the ball when the meter is in the right spot. Some require a power shot, others only require a small amount.

Grandpa’s teeth

The level starts off in a playground where you and Chuckie can play on one of the slides/rides. When your done, you can progress through the level into some sort of maze where the goose is hiding with grandpas teeth. Once you navigate the maze, a second segment starts where you have to chase the goose that has Chuckie, using Spike to catch up to it. The third stage concluded with you throwing hockey pucks at the goose (Hopefully PETA didn’t play this game), whilst trying to avoid Chuckie.

Cookie Race

You just have to race and beat Angelica to the kitchen. The house has been slightly altered and some areas have been blocked off, meaning you have to go the long way round. This is fairly easy since Angelica is quite slow but the controls can be a hindrance since its easy to run into an object.

Medium

Visitors From Outer Space

You control Angelica in a spaceship where the babies have been abducted. Avoid the TV robots/aliens and navigate to the lower levels (you can still explore the ship) where you will meet an alien fish thing, who will disable the gravity. Angelica can then float through the air vent and navigate to one of the pod escape ships where she meets the babies, somehow? Based on a real Rugrats episode.

Mr Friend

This one sucked, basically you have to throw objects at Mr Friend and destroy it. First you have to deal with one, then three will spawn. Its challenging since the hit detection is very inconsistent and the controls are digital which makes it hard for Tommy to aim, also some of the throwable objects will just clip through Mr Friend.

Let There be Light

Stu overclocks his Amiga and causes a power cut, so its up to Tommy to restore the power. This level has the pickles house in darkness, with the textures being darkened for effect. There are ghost’s that roam around the house that can drain Tommy’s health, use the flash light to zap them away. First part see you navigating the house in near darkness to the kitchen where you find the Pickles fridge, but Tommy is unable to open it by himself so he needs the help of Spike to open it for him, which starts the next segment when you have to find Spike.

Circus Angelica

The Rugrats are tasked with performing with Angelia’s Circus, and have to perform a variety of tricks. This isn’t really difficult but the controls can be a major problem since you have to be accurate when it comes to Chuckie’s part, and if you fail twice the game is over.

Hard

Hard basically means long, as there are multiple objectives that have to be completed for the activity.

Incident on Isle 7

Set in a supermarket, Grandpa takes Tommy shopping for some Reptar cereal, Tommy breaks free and is left to explore the store. First section sees you exploring the different sections of the shop, until to reach the seafood section where a bunch of lobsters get loose. You then have to avoid or kill the lobsters and navigate through the various areas that have spillages that can cause Tommy to fall. Lastly you will reach the boss section where you have to stun the main Lobster in order to hit a switch.

Toy Palace

Set in a toy store, Stu loses Tommy and Chuckie after they decide to go solo. They explore the toy store zone in the hope of finding Reptar. Everything seems to cause damage in the first part, and the last part can be frustrating since you have to collect the blocks in order to reach the switch, some of which are located on shelves. The jumping is inconsistent has there is a delay before Tommy jumps, resulting in him falling a few times. Tommy and Chuckie also have a habit of repeating their dialog endlessly.

7 Voyages of Cynthia

You control Spike (Poorly) in this level as you navigate the sewer, Spike is very vulnerable to damage and will take a hit over every minor collision. The second stage isn’t any better since you have to avoid the mud which will reduce his health. The final stage is easy as you just need to find Cynthia before the time runs out, except she spawns in a random place.

Activities

Cookie Race – Same as the main version

Egg Hunt – Also in the main game, Angelia wants to hog all the easter eggs, so its up to Tommy to find them all before the time runs out, I guess the cookies weren’t enough for Angelica?

Gold Rush – Also available as a bonus game, Phil and Lil need to collect all the coins before time runs out, Same as egg hunt really

Mini golf – Can be played with multiple players, but instead of split screen, its more of a pass the controller for each turn kind of affair. There are 10 courses to play through.

Emulation

Recommended emulator: BeetlePSX or Mednafen, Duckstation works just as well.

One of the issues that occurred when playing this game in Duckstation was some cutscenes not playing, or the ones that did play would end early, and some of the Rugrats would be played randomly around the house, like in the screenshot below where Angelica is present in the kitchen, and cannot be interacted. This would often happen if you start the game in training mode first, then exit via the door which starts the main game. Angelica’s model is in the training map so maybe the game forgot to remove her from the world?

Angelica has seen some deep shit…

The hide and seek game is mainly affected, with the Rugrats randomly appearing around the house once they have been beaten to the playpen

Not a very good hiding place Tommy…

Tommy and Phil have been found, but instead of being in the play-pen, they are in the living room. This issue also occurred with the older builds of ePSXe where rugrats would randomly appear around the house, and issues with cutscenes playing. I’ve not tested it in modern ePSXe (this was around ver1.6)

Rugrats untextured object

An untextured toilet? Found in the cookie race level. I remember something similar occurring on the actual console itself so possibly not an emulator issue. The light above the mirror is also affected in both the cookie race and Chuckie’s glasses.

Navigating the Disc

Opening the SLUS_006.50 in Notepad++ and scrolling to line 168 reveals a few menu name strings, one of which references a Debug Menu, wonder how we activate this?

All the game data is present in the DATA folder, and each of the levels are broken up into different DB folders, with DB00 being the Pickels family home. Inside each folder are multiple BIN folders that follow the name convention. DBxxANM.BIN might refer to the animations for that level. Unfortunately these formats are likely built using proprietary game tool exclusive to N-Space, so there isn’t really much to play about here. Maybe we could rename and swap a few files around and experiment what happens when the game tries to load data intended for another level?

External Links

Rugrats coming in November for PlayStation! (archive.org)

n-Space, Inc., Developers of interactive and innovative video games. (archive.org)

THQ | United States | Title | PlayStation (archive.org)

Motorola V547

The Motorola V547 is based upon the V500, and has a similar feature set however the V547 is slightly lighter and adds support for video capture and improves the battery life slightly. The display is capable of displaying 65k colours.

Although the device can play MP3 files, it does not have a dedicated MP3 player function, also the phone only has 5.5Mb of memory that cannot be expanded, which is very limited for a phone that supports a VGA camera and video playback, you certainly cannot use it as a music player, barley having enough storage for one MP3 song

Starting Up…

Homescreen

The four icons in a middle corresponds to the shortcuts than can be accessed using the phones directional pad buttons, and can be configured to the users preference. There is also a clock display at the bottom left, which can be set to either digital or analogue.

Unfortunately this phone has a lot of O2 branding (Phone provider in the UK), which results in a lot of O2 icons and link to online services.

Phonebook

List all contacts saved in the handset and the SIM card, when stored on the phone, additional information can be saved, you can also set a picture for the contact, save a voice name so you can speak to call the contact

Calls

Lists of received and previously dialled numbers appears here

Messages

SMS messages can be sent and view here, you can also send email’s and Multimedia messages (MMS).

Office Tools

My Service (SIM Application Toolkit)

If the SIM card inserted supports the SIM-AT, a list of applications can be accessed in the My Services menu

Calculator

A basic calculator is offered, along with a currency converter which can be configured with the exchange rate

Datebook

Basically a calander, can be set to a month or a week view. Events can be added and set to reoccur daily, weekly or on a specific date of a month. Timer events can also be set here.

Shortcuts

New shortcuts can be added to the shortcut menu, and the list can be reordered

Voice Records

A list of recorder voice notes, and the ability to create a new one. To record, there’s a voice button on the right side of the phone that needs to be held in order to record, releasing the button stops the recording, and you are limited to 50 seconds per recording.

Alarm Clock

Multiple alarms can be set, each alarm can have have a unique ringtone set

Dialling Services

Quick Dial

Chat

Simulates a threaded style view of SMS messaging, messages from the sender and recipient can be seen in one view

Games & Apps

One game comes installed here, FotoFunPack2 and Wakeboarding Unleashed

WebAccess

The web browser can be used to access WAP and HTML sites using the built in GPRS modem

Web Shortcuts

Saved pages and bookmarks, the bookmarks can be accessed here

Multimedia

Themes

Three themes are available here, Scarlet, Moto and Silver. Themes change the wallpaper and the phones colour scheme.

Camera

The handset uses a VGA camera, the viewfinder supports zoom and brightness adjustment. Annoyingly photos captured aren’t automatically saved, you have to manually select save. This ties into the phones design, since Motorola intend for you to take a and send photos without the intention of saving them, the phone having only 5Mb of memory adds weight to this theory and the fact the phones presents the option to send first, before saving.

Pictures

Images captured by the camera are saved here, along with any pictures received by an MMS message or received by Bluetooth.

Sounds

Ringtones are saved here, MP3 files are also stored here and the handset is capable of playing full length MP3 songs, but with only 5Mb of memory, you are limited to only one song, if that.

MotoMixer

Motorola’s ringtone creating application

Videos

Video clips captured with the camera can be played back ere, the phone saved in the 3gp container format

IM

Settings

Personalise

Settings like the home screen layout, which include the function of the home shortcut keys, and the left/right soft keys. The clock type can also be set here.

The main menu can be configured as either an icon grid view or a list view, and the menu order can be reordered.

There are 3 themes that can be set, Moto (Blue), Techo and Neon, themes includes the colour of the menus and the background wallpaper screen

Greeting message can be set when the phone turns on

Wallpapers that can be set, either from the built in images or a photo taken by the phones camera. Like in Windows, if an images does not match the screen resolution, you can set the scaling method to either Centre, Tile or Fit-to-screen

Screensavers are similar to wallpapers but are animated, and can be set to displayed after 1 or 2 minutes of inactivity, when the handset being open.

Ring Styles

Profiles can be set here, default ones to choose from are Loud, Soft, Vibrate, Vibrate and Ring and Silent. Pressing detail will let you customise the profile and set alert tones for various different features of the phone (Calls, IM, SMS, VoiceMail, Alarms, Data calls, etc) Ringtones are in MP3 or Midi format, and Motomixer created ringtones will also show up here.

Connection

Bluetooth settings, you can set up a handfree device and change settings like the phones Bluetooth name, set the device to be discoverable. External Sync can also be set for an external server, which allows contacts to be synchronised.

Call Divert

Call diverts can be set here

In-Call Setup

Initial Setup

Basic settings can be changed here, date and time, one touch dial, display settings like the backlight duration and backlight timeout. The device can be set back to factory default settings from here using the security code (default: either 5 or six zeros, 00000)

Phone Status

Battery meter showing how much power is remaining, also software and firmware information versions is displayed here.

Headset

Settings for auto answer after a few seconds, which can be changed, and the ability to enter voice dialling .

Car Settings

Settings for when a handsfree device are connected, and a car charger accessory

Network

View a list of available mobile networks and the bands the phone can connect to, when searching for networks, T-Mobile (Now EE) comes up in the list

Security

Configure PIN/PIN2 and the phones security codes. Call barring ca be set here.

Java Settings

Configure internet access settings for Java applications

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)

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

Pace Di4001NC

Pace Di4001NC

The Di4001NC was a cost reduced cut down version of the Di4001 series of ntl set top boxes. One of the noticeable differences is the removal of the second card slot, in favour of just a single smartcard slot for the smartcard. The second card slot was originally designed for Mondex cashcards, which never launched.

Another removal was the ethernet port, despite the box still having a built in cable modem, the IEEE1284 port has also been removed, along with the audio output

Pace Di4001NC Rear

From left to right:

  • Power Input
  • RF Out – outputs the RF modulator, does not pass through the cable signal
  • TV & VCR Scart
  • IR Input & IR Output – No official function
  • RS232 – No official function
  • Cable Input

The RF output no longer includes an internal combiner, which means you will no longer be able to tune in cable channel’s via the RF tuner. Instead only the modulated output of the set top box will remain. This was due to the intention of removing the analogue channels, and to prevent the DVB-C channels from being tuned in on modern digital TV sets.

Pace Di4001NC mainboard

Well it looks very similar to the Di4001, but on closer inspection you can see the components removed, also in this model there aren’t any stickers covering the various chips.

Pace Di4001 C-Cube AViA

From left to right;

C-Cube AViA-600L – MPEG2 Decoder

C-Cube AViA-GTX – Graphics Accelerator

C-Cube AViA-iNX – Transport Demodulator

Di4001NC

The removal of the ethernet and IEEE1284 controllers, the ethernet port seems to remain but is not wired internally.

Hitachi HD6417709

A closer look at the Broadcom DAVIC processor and the mysterious Pace chip, of which the sticker covered some of it on the previous model. At the very top you can see the main processor, which is unchanged since the previous model (Hitachi SH3)

Hitachi SH-3 HD6417709

Pace 909 6162800, ORBIT 61628

Broadcom QAMLink BCM3120KTB

Engineer Mode

To access, hold the Up/Down buttons upon bootup, and release when DIAG appears on the front panel display.

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Default frequency settings, this would carry any software updates the STB would download upon boot up

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Some version numbers, as well as the Network ID. This box appears to be running CR3.2

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Further information in relation to the software versions on the STB

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Since this revision lacks the internal combiner, you cannot control the outputted cable feed

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Service status of the box, indicated that the signal is OK and the regional information

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Signal information for the current frequency, this is the same frequency as the default frequency

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Information relating to the DVB-SI, and the amount of services received

CAT – Encryption systems

PAT – Channel numbers

TDT – Updates the time & date

EIT – Event info, current program

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Information for the inserted smartcard, the credit amount and the pairing status

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

A log of events generated by the STB

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Signal strength status, but this time for the DAVIC tuner (also known as DVB_RC)

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Same as above but for the upstream

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Browser settings, for the Liberate navigator client

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Current date and time, this cannot be set, but is retrieved from the network stream, the STB has a built in CMOS battery

Bootloader version and flash information

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Memory information, according to these values the box has 16Mb, with 4Mb Flash

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Information relegating to the MPEG decoders. You can also set the remote control configuration here and enabled the rear in or outputs, this has little effect since the software does not support this

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

No PPV events…

Pace Di4001NC diag screen

Flash memory information, the capacity, bad flash sectors and where the image came from.

More Information

NTL CR3 Software – Software this box runs on

Pace Di4001N – Another model/revision of an ntl box

Pace Di4000N – a STB from another ntl platform

Using ntl CR3 Guide on Virgin Media 2021

Previously I connected a former ntl box (Pace Di4000N) running an old outdated version of its guide software to a modern Virgin media network in attempt to see what would happen, the result was it could load the TV guide listings somewhat (now & next) but the channels would be out of order. There was also no chance of receiving any channels, since the NetID didn’t match my area.

ntl bromly CR3 on modern Virgin Media

I came across an ntl: Langely box (Pace Di4001NC) which still had an older build of its software installed, which was later build than the Di4000 box described above. It can take a few boot attempts to get it to load the TV channels, sometimes it gets stuck on the loading screen.

Well it defaults onto channel 321 upon bootup

Attempting to browse TV listings via the TV Guide browser, some listings do come through whilst others seem to be missing

At least program synopsis works somewhat

From what I’ve researched, ntl used a proprietary iEPG system for its listings, which may have used the regular DVB SI for program listings, with the iEPG handling the extra stuff that the regular DVB-SI didn’t cover. This could apply to channel genres and maybe the numbers themselves

Adding events to the diary, which is similar to the personal planner in Sky Guide

Information for a future event

A list of channels, ntl CR3 had the ability to reorder the channel list to the user preference, a feature that was lost when it was replaced by the Virgin Media UK2 software. (UK1 in some areas)

Further list of channels, These are not in EPG order, rather the box assigns them channel numbers by itself

List of channels using the favourite channels feature

And finally some system and technical information

Still no channels come though, likely due to the Network ID being incorrect, and with the Di4001 boxes, they were designed to set their own Network ID. In practice however it seems to cycle through the different Network ID’s that Virgin Media use, perhaps the box was not designed to handle multiple Network ID’s?

ntl CR3 on modern Virgin Media

Connecting an old ntl box running ancient (by cable standards) software to a modern Virgin Media network. Whilst Virgin Media is the sucessor to ntl there are a few possible roadblocks to this;

  • VM no longer broadcast their channels in MPEG2 with the exception of a few off air slates and radio channels.
  • The DVB-SI that VM broadcast may not be consistent with what the software is expecting
  • The STB itself may be looking for something that VM are no longer transmitting

Getting the box to boot was a struggle itself, just connecting it to a cable feed is not enough since the box will get stuck on the starting up screen, I left it overnight and the box was still trying to start up

Forcing a boot (holding Up+Down and letting go once LDR appears on the display) wouldn’t work either

What worked in the end was to power up the STB will the cable feed disconnected, this will cause the box to display NIT on the front panel LED display. Connecting the coax feed, the box will then proceed to the start up screen and after around 5 minutes a channel will be displayed.

ntl guide cr3

Well the box managed to load something, lets see what we get…

ntl tv guide cr3

The main EPG, showing the many channels or streams Virgin broadcast

ntl digital 2002

What’s disappointing is nothing can be tuned, you can select a channel but nothing will play, not even radio channels. Potentially this could be the NetID mismatch causing this , since the STB originated from a different area of the network.

ntl guide 2002

Looks like software update streams for the various tivo box models currently in use with Virgin Media.

ntl virgin media

ntl pace di4000n
ntl nagravision
ntl pace
ntl dvb-c
ntl liberate tv navigator
ntl sky
ntl reminder

To breakdown what works and not

  • Channels Numbers exist but its not the order that Virgin use, the STB seems to place them consecutively in the EPG, i.e starts at 1 and goes up to 350
  • There are issues selecting channels over 255 in the guide, trying to select a channel number over 255 causes the box to pull a channel from the top section of the EPG, i.e selecting channel 260 causes channel 5 to get selected instead.
  • Only now and next information is loaded, no further schedule information is available
  • Subject search does not function
  • Channel genres do not work, selecting Entertainment or Sports shows no channels.
  • Various hidden streams and channels appear in the guide
  • Changing channels using the + and -, the list is out of order and the STB seems to jump between different channels.
  • Program reminders work and can be set

Maybe changing the Net ID will at least allow the radio channels to be opened

Exploring the Cisco Tivo CT8620

To access the engineering mode, unplug the Virgin media Tivo box and hold down the Up + Down arrow buttons on the front panel to the STB (not the remote), continue holding until Starting Up disappears off the screen, typically around 50 seconds.

Screens were captured through the HDMI output, I’m not sure if tis will work via the Scart connection.

The first frequency the tivo checks when it is booting up, typically contains firmware updates

STB information and local network ID

Various MAC and IP address used by the STB networking interfaces

Signal information

Information found in the DVB signal information tables

For tuner 2

Hard disk information