I haven’t made a secret that life has been, well, kind of a bitch lately. With the tires and rims being stolen off my car being a sort of pinnacle to reach. Well, wait. Let’s go back in time a bit. Cue the Wavy Way Back Machine!
There’s a kid sitting in a movie theater watching Star Wars for the first time. Then it gets to the part with flying through the trench. And this kid thinks to himself, “Gosh!” How awesome would it be to be able to fly a spaceship? Through a mechanical trench?
Then vidogames show up. Eventually they get past the “aliens on the top to blow up the good guy ship on the bottom” phase. In 1983, Atari releases the Star Wars arcade game. It’s a first person vector game and it includes, yes, the trench sequence. And this kid thinks to himself, “Holy shit!” The kid grew up some, but his vocabulary grew up a lot.
Over the years games got better, the kid got older and Star Trek: The Next Generation came along. With TNG came The Holodeck, which would be (if it could exist) a major change in the human race. Around that time, a thing called “virtual reality” was beginning to be noticed. Virtual reality was a far second place to what The Holodeck could do, but VR was reachable. Not 1990s reachable, but it could get there.
Finally, a few years ago, we got some other tech guy with a goofy name who was destined to be super rich. He brought an affordable virtual reality device to the world. Some may argue about the word “affordable,” but to me, anything less than 100 pounds and several thousand dollars makes it affordable.
And this kid, who at that point was actually an old man, started to get interested. Then a developer’s version was released. Then a second developer’s version was released. And even though this guy could afford to get one, he wanted to wait until it was ready for the masses. He wanted a version that would be more than acceptable than “proof of concept” or “it’ll work like this” or “your eyes will only bleed a little bit.”
That day arrived. And, because nothing can be easy, another company came out with the same type of thing at exactly the same time.
Now, this kid (now old man) has enough problems buying soup. You know, because there’s so many different types and which would he really want? Which soup will be a good experience? Which, out of these 52 flavors will stimulate his taste buds? Never mind that he could, if he really wanted to, buy one of each and try-em & toss-em at will. No, he’ll just get one, thank you very much, even if it takes hours to figure out which one.
So now there’s two competing VR devices. Both are fairly expensive by now. Both require one major update to his computer to work. So our subject does the smart thing: he replaces his video card first. Everything else in his computer is top-notch. Everything else was way overkill when he got it six years ago and it’s still over the top now, really. Everything thing else would work, just not the video card. He replaced it.
Research. He did research. Lots of research. Lots of reading forum comments, Reddit comments, blog posts– whatever information he could find about the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive he found, read, and absorbed like a fat glasses-wearing sponge.
A decision was made. He knew which one he was going to get. He made the decision and then he would go visit his mother and, when he got back home, he would push the button and make the rather expensive purchase.
That’s when he saw the tires and rims of his Challenger were missing. That, of course, means extra expense at least to the tune of $500, which is his deductible.
Our subject, I don’t mind telling you, went mad. Not noticeably. No, if you looked at him or talked with him he would have been amazingly calm. He would have shrugged and said something like, “Shit happens, right?” But inside… inside he was broken. The only thing keeping him up right was sheer will power. There’s a whole other backstory, see, that I won’t get it into. Let’s just say that a lot of events led up to this point and some would find it amazing that he lasted as long as he did.
So. Broken. And he decided, well, maybe he just didn’t need a VR thingy, anyway. After all, when would he get time to use it?
But he kept thinking about, our friend did. Every delay of getting his wheels back. Every time the insurance dude wouldn’t call him back. Every time he looked at a news story about a family during Christmas time he would think about it. Until he finally said, “Hey, so life hates me. If I can do this thing I want to do, then maybe I should do it anyway and say ‘fuck it!’ to cosmos.”
And so he did.
Wait, hold it. Don’t go anywhere. The story isn’t over. This isn’t the movies where the hero does his heroic act and then the credits roll. No, there’s more.
When he made the decision not to get the Rift, Amazon started a sale that included the Rift and a $100 gift card. It was supposed to be a one day deal, to his understanding, but he kept checking every day. And every day that option was available. It infuriated him. When he finally clicked on the buy button and realized he was some $600 poorer he stuck with it.
Then the gift card shipped. He checked the order page so he could track it because he likes tracking things. He likes to know when things leave, say, Dallas (not in this case) go to Georgia, flies back to California, flies into Dallas, drives to Austin, sits in the processing center for two days, leaves Austin, returns to Austin an hour later, sits in the processing center for a few more hours, and then gets on the truck for delivery.
Anyway, then he looks down at the breakdown for the charges: the Rift cost $499 and the free gift card cost $100. In all honestly, our guy would have been pleased as punch if the Rift cost $499 and there was no gift card. But, whatever, right?
So the gift card arrives and is clipped to his front door. No biggie. It’s just $100. A day later his Rift arrives and is left sitting in front of his apartment door. Luckily, his boss allows him to leave work early to get to the package before it’s hauled off by wheel thieves.
So now this guy, who, you remember, has been waiting for this moment (even if he didn’t quite realize it at the time) since 1977 can finally open the box and hook up the Oculus Rift. He does. Well, he tries to. His monitor, you see, has an HDMI connection going to the video card. The Rift requires an HDMI connection. The new video card has, in total, one (1) HDMI connection.
Okay. Well. He needs a DisplayPort cable. Or maybe an adaptor? He has tons of crap laying around. He roots around and sees that he does not, in fact, have an HDMI to DisplayPort adapter. If he needed a VGA connection he’d be gold.
Fair enough. Small setback. Order a DisplayPort cable from BestBuy he does because they have them in stock and it should be ready to pick up in an hour. Meanwhile, he decides to hook up the rest of the stuff because they need USB 3 connections and he’s got them in spades.
He plugs in the USB cable for the headset and is met with a green checkmark! It’s good! He plugs in the cable for the head tracking sensor and is met with a red x. An X? In red? It’s bad!
Probably something minor. He heads to the web and looks up the problem. It seems that the Oculus Rift works officially with one USB chipset. One that is not in his computer, anywhere. He updates the drivers to the USB controller he does have, as some Internet people have had good luck with that.
Good luck is not in our hero’s vocabulary. It doesn’t work. Time to get a new USB 3 controller card. One with, mind you, a very specific chipset. Does BestBuy have one? No, they do not. Speaking of BestBuy, it’s been well over an hour and he still hadn’t heard about picking up his cable. Because… they don’t really have one. He cancels and gives up for the night.
For the USB card he checks Fry’s, Altex (Altex, for God’s sake!), Walmart, HEB. Nothing. Nobody in the area has this thing. Order it from Amazon. Next day, this time, because he’s desperate. Drop in at BestBuy to see why cable never made it. Because they never had it. All right! Technology!
Early in the morning, the USB card arrives. Our friend opens his computer and the box for the card. It requires a SATA power connection. Luck! We have one open SATA power connection! Bad luck! It’s about three feet too short to reach the card! The card came with a SATA to Molex cable and a SATA power Y-cable. Neither of these would help.
No problem. Our friend is going to Fry’s to get a DisplayPort cable. He just also needs to pick up a SATA power extension. Easy peasy.
“You need a what?” said the sales guy.
“I need a SATA power extension cable,” I said.
“Like this?” he handed me a bag with a cable in it.
“No, that’s a SATA data extension.”
“That’s a Molex extension. It would be like that, but it would have SATA connectors on both ends.”
“You need a what?”
“A SATA power extension.”
“That’s a SATA data extension.”
“Let me find someone else that may know.”
Another salesman comes over.
“You need a what now?”
I sighed. “A SATA power extension cable.”
“That’s a Molex power extension. It would be like that, but with two SATA power connectors.”
“Oh! We don’t have that.”
“Okay, well, let’s see,” I said. “How about a SATA to Molex converter and a Molex to SATA converter?”
“Yes, we have both of those.”
Okay, that might do the trick, if the computer didn’t catch on fire. Then it was time for the DisplayPort cable. They had one. They also had a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter that supported 4K.
The new, way more helpful, sales guy asked me, “Do you want both?”
“No,” I said, “I think I want to tempt fate one more time and just go with the cable.”
“Okay, I’ll write up the ticket for all this then.”
He handed me a slip of paper. I looked at it.
“You know, I think I will get the adapter, too.”
“No problem. I’ll go and get it and add it to the ticket.” He went off, got the adapter, handed me a new piece of paper.
“If you change your mind again before you make it to the cashier,” he said, “just tell the to go with the first order.” He gave me a big smile like he knew I was going to change my mind six times on the way to the front of the store.
But that didn’t happen. I got it all. I mean, our friend did. The subject of this whole thing. He got it all.
He put his bag o’ stuff down on an over crowded folding table and took out the Molex adapters. One was the wrong kind. That meant this wasn’t going to work.
Okay. Now what? The power supply is modular and he didn’t use all the Molex ones. Find the box with the power supply cables, grab a Molex one and plug it into the power supply! Then use one of the SATA to Molex adapters! Simple! The correct cable was found and it turned out that there were no empty spots left on the power supply to plug it in.
But, wonder of wonders, there was another empty SATA power connector. If it could be fed behind the motherboard (it could) it just might reach! Unravel the cable and it turns out there’s at least five empty SATA connectors. Take the back of the case off and there’s about fifteen more sitting back there. Hilarious. The cable was threaded behind and then out next to the card and it had power! One problem surmounted!
He closed up the case and looked at the bag that still held the new DisplayPort cable and HDMI adapter thing. It was sitting on…
Go on. Guess. Guess what that bag was sitting on, on top of that over crowded folding table. I’ll wait.
Yes. It was a DisplayPort cable. The one, in fact that came with the monitor that was causing such a fuss. It was sitting there the whole time. How did it get missed over the course of a couple of days? Who knows! Even worse, I cut out the whole part when our friend thought it came with a DisplayPort cable and rummaged through the box it came in to see if it was taped to some of the styrofoam. But, no, it was right there. On the table. Which begs the question: Why was the HDMI cable ever used at all? WHY?
So. Change the monitor to use the original DisplayPort cable. Put all that crap back in the bag to be returned. Because, you see, none of it was needed. At all. Only the USB 3 card was really necessary.
So, to bring this to a close, the Oculus Rift was installed. And it works. And loading up Elite: Dangerous for the first time was… magical. Almost, but not quite, flying through the trench of the Death Star.