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Nov 18, 2006
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Homebrew Review #1
The Homebrew Channel

Platform: Wii
Version: Beta 8

Remember how excited everyone was when Custom Channels were released? I know I was. Finally, I was able to have a seperate channel for each piece of homebrew I used. Not only did it look cool to have all of these Custom Channels in your Wii Menu, but it was practical as well. Want to use your NES Emulator? Then just click on the channel and it loads the appropriate program. Simple? Yes. But after a while, having a seperate channel for each program becomes a pain. The Wii Menu becomes cluttered and each channel you have installed takes up precious memory from the very sparse amount that the Wii has availiable. If you're anything like I am, you like to have your Wii Menu looking nice and clean and you'd love to have all that extra space back for VC and Wiiware games. Luckily, Bushing and company heard our plea and have released the best thing to happen to the Wii Scene since the Twilight Hack: The Homebrew Channel.

The Homebrew Channel is essentially a channel that you can install to your Wii which allows you to access all of your homebrew from one snazzy looking interface. One look at the channel is all you need to know how much work has went into it. Selecting the channel introduces you to a beautiful looking wave animation accompanied by one of the catchiest tunes I've ever heard. If you didn't know any better, you'd think it was an official Nintendo Channel. Yes, it looks that good. Using the channel is easy enough. You start it up like any other channel and it will load any homebrew or apps you have on your SD card. You can then select the one you wish to use and it will load up for your use.

Before you can do any of this however, you'll have to do a bit of work...you didn't think it would be that easy did you? Actually, the work is where the fun comes in! You can fully customize the icon and description for each application making it simple to adjust everything to your style and preferences. Doing so is as easy as grabbing BlankSlate (props to killplaystation), which is essentially a blank .png file sized to be usable with the HBC and a meta file which you can then alter to describe the app in any way you wish. When you've finished customizing the icon and description you can then take both files and drop them into a folder along with the app itself. It doesn't really matter which way the folders are named as long as they are contained in the apps folder you will be creating on the root of your SD card. The beauty of having the HBC read the files from the SD card itself is it doesn't take up space from the Wii's memory. The HBC can also utilize SD Gecko for using homebrew but I have been unable to test this as I did not have the proper gear to do so but it's another option offered.

Updates are easy to install using the HBC as well. When an update is availiable, the HBC will download it automatically from the internet. This makes it easy for lazy people like myself to update the channel without having to go through an installation process each time.

As good as the HBC is, there are some flaws. One issue I have is for most homebrew emulators, you need to have seperate folders for ROMS and save files. This was the case with normal channel installations and all folders needed to go onto the root of your SD card for them to be able to read and save games. This hasn't changed with the advent of the HBC. Not that this is the fault of the creators but it would be much simpler and cleaner to have everything in the corresponding folder of the emulator rather then having one folder for apps and then shoving all of the save games and ROMS onto the SD card's root. For inexperienced users, this could be a hassle and it just annoys the crap out of me. Another issue is sometimes when installing the updates, the system can crash for no reason at all and you have to keep attempting the update until it finally works. This happened to me when I updated from Version 7 to Version 8. I can't forsee it becoming a constant issue but it was frightening at the time as it seemed my Wii had quit and it even refused to boot several times afterward.

In closing, The Homebrew Channel is a great piece of software which makes using the various forms of Wii Homebrew out there a breeze to use and organize. I'd recommend it to anyone out there who enjoys homebrew as much as I do but would like to lessen the impact on the amount of memory your Wii has and clean up the clutter on the main menu as well.

The Good
---> Easy to use and install
---> Fully customizable
---> Great looking and very well made
---> Reads directly from your SD card and uses hardly any memory
---> Updates automatically from the internet to the latest version

The Bad
---> A lot of files that the apps use need to be stored on the root of your SD card instead of in the same folder as the app
---> May have been a anomally but I had horrible issues with updating the first time

Additional information about The Homebrew Channel can be found here.
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    KennieDaMeanie @ KennieDaMeanie: They have good freebies here and there