Tired Of The Cat-and-Mouse

Facebook just announced their plans for the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset. You probably won’t be surprised, but they want more of your user data, and more control over how you use the hardware. To use the device at all, you’ll need a verified Facebook account. Worse, they’re restricting access to the wide world of community-developed applications by requiring a developer account to be able to “sideload” non-Facebook software onto the device. Guess who decides who gets to be a developer. Hint: it’s not the people developing software.

Our article suggests that this will be the beginning of a race to jailbreak the headset on the community’s part, and to get ahead of the hackers on Facebook’s. Like every new release of iOS gets a jailbreak within a week or two, and then Apple patches it up as fast as they can, are we going to see a continual game of hacker cat-and-mouse with Facebook?

I don’t care. And that’s not because I don’t care about open hardware or indie VR developers. Quite the opposite! But like that romance you used to have with the girl who was absolutely no good for you, the toxic relationship with a company that will not let you run other people’s games on their hardware is one that you’re better off without. Sure, you can try to fix it, or hack it. You can tell yourself that maybe Facebook will come around if you just give them one more chance. It’s going to hurt at first.

But in the end, there is going to be this eternal fight between the user and the company that wants to use them, and that’s just sad. I used to look forward to the odd game of cat and mouse, but nowadays the cats are just too well bankrolled to make it a fair fight. If you’re buying a Quest 2 today with the intent of hacking it, I’d suggest you spend your time with someone else. You’re signing up for a string of heartbreaks. Nip it in the bud. You deserve better. There are too many fish in the sea, right?

What are our options?

49 thoughts on “Tired Of The Cat-and-Mouse

          1. Downside to that is the creators and websites you are visiting won’t get anything to keep the lights on.. But you presumably value their content as you are engaged with it.

            (This from the perspective of somebody who does use an ad-blocker, with increasing frequency because the greedy fat cats at the top of the alphabet empire among others have decided to throw in more advert than content and still pay the creators fuck all – While I can’t say I like adverts, I’m not unhappy to have ads at the right level of deployment – keep it from being obnoxious, much less advert than content and I’ll go along with it as it pays towards the content creation/website costs – sometimes I might even like or find the advert useful… Being a targeted ad for watchers of content – 3d printer fillament/recycling suppliers advertised on a printer heavy makers channel. A nice compact mitre saw system on the woodwork heavy etc etc.)

      1. Because not everyone gets the newsletter, and we thought you might want to read it nonetheless. I put a ton of work / thought into them, honestly.

        If you don’t like them, we republish the newsletter editorial every Saturday morning at 7:00 AM Pacific time. That’s the article to skip. :)

  1. … all this over two displays, two lenses, one or two head-straps, and two or three cameras?

    if it only works with facebook, then what exactly does it do? i thought it was for augmented reality? there is no reality on facebook, i know this because i read yahoo news.

    unless its voiht compatible(or is it vohit?), or compatible with ANY (retro andor rs232-enablable) 3D-enabled videogame, it is useless to me AND EVERYONE WHO WAS PROMISED 3D HEADSETS FOR VIDEOGAMES 30 YEARS AGO. watch any tech-related movie, youll see what i mean; they have these things plugged-into 386’s and 486’s for games running in DOS. load of broken promises. why would i give my hard earned money to someone thats been working oh so hard to make sure my dreams are STILL crushed?

    i have been waiting on it for DECADES, it can wait another 20 or 30 years.

    1. me too – i expected a pair of micro writer + devices bolted to each hand and a fully immersive (vector graphic) vr as the standard PC interface by the end of the 80’s. boy was i disappointed

    2. It’s like those concept cars with reverse seats so you can have a meeting or something…looks cool, but makes you carsick. VR vr shit didn’t change in 30 years indeed, still strapped into some awkward interface. Anyway. Reality is enough really

        1. In fairness the concept and technical side of implementation haven’t changed…
          Just the pixel density, full colour and the hardware to give good refresh rates for that smooth experience. With in many cases superbly precise 3d positioning systems… I mean its exactly the same thing… Just done in a way that is really useful if your eyes function correctly so you get the 3d effect, and you are not hugely prone to travel sickness (though that doesn’t stop it being very useful for some uses it does put limits on what you can do in it).

          P.S. The only thing I really agree with ‘then’ on is the awkward interface comment – many headsets really are a faff to get set up for you and plugged into, with cable trip hazards and heavy enough to be less than perfectly comfortable.

        2. I destroyed all “coomers” at 3D Dino Wars.

          The bullet arc would sail to the next spawn point before they even REZd.

          My best deRez chain was 4 moves deep and we had to use bumpers. I did feel weird..

          I took off the helmet. From ZERO and no one intrested… to a crowd of 300 in the San Jose arena at a small booth? Even the demo providers were stunned awkward.

          I guess it was the wrong 15 minutes? Then again, those days? Nothing was really known. We didn’t have online identies well at least that cringe moment of throwing that failed 3 pointer during DONKEY BASKET where it bounced off the head of the donkey won’t be remembered.

          Heck. :( I felt so bad for that donkey. It was terrible on my part.

    3. I bought one, with a heavy heart, and will be selling my old headset.
      My old one had a thick short wire (3m) that barely worked with another 3m extension. It required a 1000$+ computer to run decently. The controller batteries lasted a couple of hours before needing a recharge.

      The quest 2 by comparison is 2 generations ahead. it works independently, so you can take it with you and show it to other people or even use it outside. The head tracking is much better and works in most light conditions. The hand and finger tracking is a miracle it to me. It can still be used with the “old” PC games, even wirelessly.

      I’ve created the developer account, installed another sideloading app (not that you need it) and never saw facebook again. The semi-official sideloading app phones home and decides what you can install, it feels like it was done by fb to have a mock competitor. There are other options or you can just use adb, it’s Android after all.

      I think people dissing this have never tried it. Just like with apple, it’s always a love-hate relationship.

  2. My limited interest in these devices has now dropped to 0.0 after reading this.
    If we follow this trend, everything you “buy” (and I use the term loosely) short of food (not sure about clothing!) will have some kind of annuity or spyware component

    1. “We´ve detected you have been eating too much protein and not enough fibers, mr. Steve. Our system has selected some packages of fiber-rich cereal and they are being delivered to your home and charged to your account, as per our Terms of Service that ou agreed on when signing.”

    2. Hate to tell you, but food has an expiry date too…
      And most of us probably have a subscription with the supermarket for our weekly shop.
      And there’s lots of licenses and laws about making and selling food.

  3. People have the option to buy a jail cell, or not to give an extremely abusive company money. If people choose not to give that company money and avoid use of their products and services, that company will eventually go away. Unless it is collecting information that is far too valuable and has government backing.

    It is not like it has ever been wholesome:

    Zuckerberg did create the “Facemash” site to rank ‘hot’ women before facebook.

    And then there is this:
    Zuck: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard
    Zuck: just ask
    Zuck: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
    Friend: what!? how’d you manage that one?
    Zuck: people just submitted it
    Zuck: i don’t know why
    Zuck: they “trust me”
    Zuck: dumb fucks

    1. I just noted that you wrote this in the article –

      a company that will not let you run other people’s games on their hardware.

      – just to remind , I consider a piece of hardware that i buy for my money , mine …
      Not theirs … This mean that I should have all rights and full control over the use and what i do with it …
      Not limited by a company that think it still owns it after i brought it ….

      ( does all this looks familiar ?)

      Better create open source VR instead .

      1. In Europe Asia & Russia, by law what you buy is yours, but in the US its very much NOT YOURS and if you dare touch it in any other way then the product maker intended, and dare talk about that publicly? you will be sued for everything you have.

        Sounds crazy, but its bscly the reality. (that said its pretty much impossible to manage these days so these kind of lawsuits are few and far apart now, but the laws are still there)

        Also there is open source VR standards already, Oculus was part of them but i doubt Facebook kept that going when they essentially axed Oculus over the past months.

  4. My first thought was “the hacker community is too small to have enough influence over something like Facebook, and the general public really only care about whether it’s fun, so nothing you can do about it.”

    But then I considered things like Arduino and raspberry pi, and how (along with helpful people on this site and at the likes of Adafruit, etc.) they have engaged so many more people and become such a worldwide phenomenon, and I think we really do have influence. Limited compared to fb, but real.

    As someone commented above, is the hardware really that advanced? It’s just a couple of high ppi screens and some sensors, right? Surely there is adequate open source software out there to run a VR game. I think the only thing standing in the way is people that want to play VR games enough to design an open platform.

    If you could come up with an adaptable platform design and get an indie game available on steam or something, maybe the big developers would start investing in the project and develop games for it.

    After all, the reason fb bought oculus is to control it, right? I would think developers would welcome the existence of a competitive system with less control.

    1. I think if it were a couple of high PPI screens and some sensors it would have been mainstream 20 years ago. It’s actually a hard problem if no-one has really cracked it yet.

      I get FB’s position, they aren’t in the technology business, they are in the data harvesting business. If you want to buy a headset from someone in the technology business you’ll pay more, but you will own it.

      Or not. Last time I tried to check my WiFi system from my phone I was suddenly required to create an account before I could access the interface. So I guess I don’t own my WiFi anymore, even though I did when I bought it.

      1. The problem with the hardware is that you have to wear it on your head. As such, it really needs to be optimized for weight and comfort. This is even before you get into issues of optimizing the optics for things such as eye relief, FOV, eye box size, image quality, etc. Optimizing for weight and comfort means custom hardware, and custom hardware means expense. Optimizing all those other things means lots of prototypes, and that also means expense. This is not a project for the non-well-funded, assuming you want something that you can really use for an appreciable amount of time.

    2. On open-source VR: that’s what Oculus essentially was before it was bought by Facebook.

      Palmer Luckey sold Oculus to FB. Part of the deal was a promise to never require FB accounts to use it.

      Facebook bought Whatsapp. Part of the deal was a promise to not use it to harvest user data.

      Both of these promises were broken, and the principals of the companies left FB. I presume, but this is speculation, that they have very lucrative agreements to not comment on the specifics. That’s the biz.

      Palmer has offered to match the $5000 bounty on the Quest 2 jailbreak, BTW.

      1. What is your point. law crazed freak. make a org with GPLv3b and have diversity crowds destroy conventions?

        Seriously what was good was Nagios.. before they went closed.

        Before that was Netcool before Tivoli. And the Chair person soul his hate-domain AND chairmanship to IBM.

        You see to NEVER UNDERSTAND. it’s like your brain block or something. Anyone not you is not allowed. Correct?

        If the project doesn’t have funds and food for people they will sell it for food and work…

        You keep tripping on your own feet with this concept… in this mortal “realm”.

        Laws = Locks. Even bad locks keep good humans out. But bad locks keep good people from protecting themselves properly.

        Now if we “knew” there was a heaven or hell. Do you think the crime rate would be lower or higher?

        Your life is an entire string of broken promises you succ off Apple and reject good articles based on your persona preferences and you have a complete null vision of the damage you have done toward others.

        Al is probably the only one that can fight you on your hypocrisy. Just go sit down and quit being a cursed pickle.

  5. I don’t like (to say it politely) (and don’t use of course) Facebook. I am worried by these news (as for everything that talks about even-more-spy-from-whoever) but not surprised.
    I agree that hackers (as in “whitehat”) will eventually find a way to make $device work without $company, BUT
    -it may take A LOT of time
    -it may take A LOT of effort and maybe too much (they are not sooo many really skilled whitehats out there, sadly) and stuff like digital certificates and TLS and stuff are a really good thing but can be horribly nasty if you try to analyze stuff
    and mostly: You will definitively break any End-User-Agreement and probably some local laws and this is worrying because it could get you into BIG trouble. In my country reverse-engineering is only allowed in really specific cases so you have to be very careful in what you do (or in what you talk about and to who). And about any company has laywers and lots of money to pay them, at least much more than i have and lets not even talk about the psychological impact of “you are getting sued” / “you may go to jail”.

    So yes, we should boycot everything that is collecting (too much) data / spying / doing anything nasty. But as somebody said above, a lot of people does not care and will just see the “fun” aspect of $device or $service, like for Facebook, Android (there is Google behind this! They business is data-collection! Don’t be naive!), …

    Sad world. Sorry for bad english…

  6. For VR gear, it may make sense to take the commercial gear and use all the hardware/mechanical bits as well as all the electronic bits that are not locked down, and just replace the locked-down bits.

  7. And I was watching Ready Player One with my kids just the other day… We really need to make sure there is adequate and genuine diversity in that space, and that requires FOSS and FOSH, nor should we be so naive as to believe that anyone in power, of any political persuasion, is going to be supportive in that. The recent interference by the big tech companies in the democratic process is evidence of what you can expect. It is not about Left and Right anymore, it is about free vs proprietary, with a takeover of society by commercial oligarchs being the end game that we need to avoid. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem at all with genuinely open and compassionate capitalism, and I do think that is possible, rather than being an oxymoron that we can snark about.

      1. I am hopeless like that, I can’t even watch a lot of videos if the footage is handheld without starting to feel motion sickness. Getting blasted with eye candy and advertising would have me pulling off the headset in seconds.

  8. After reflecting on this for a few days, what really disgusts me about the proposed jailbreak against the Quest system is that it’s in self-defence. When it was hackers making game consoles or phones able to do _more_ than they were intended, it kinda felt groundbreaking and liberating.

    Here, it’s trying to defend ourselves against a crappy system that’s not merely intended to make more money by selling upgrade options, but rather to protect the user’s privacy, which is BTW a fundamental human right.

    That part just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Even though maybe the cause is more important in a way, giving money to a company that engages in such practices is fundamentally wrong, even if you can undo their bad actions.

    1. It’s even worse than that. If you set up a developer account, they warn you that anything you do that’s against their TOS is subject to termination. This means if you sideload or browse anything illicit, illegal, pornographic, pirated, etc. they allow themselves to brick your device. Not sure if that is limited to the account or to the actual hardware.

      People also don’t realize that most VR gear on the market now relies on external cameras instead of the previous-gen TOF sensing, so they see even more than you see. They also save the layout of your play area ‘somewhere’.
      VR is in a state of wild west now, FB is just trying to cash in early until the regulations arrive, but there’s no guarantee that the other players are not already doing that.

    2. It is. Really.. Your fault? For allowing them to keepi it in the dark. Renessa wants to know the location.. of your iPhone.

      Remember. YOU. SHILLED. FOR FTDI! The Mr. The. Law. The. Abiding. The. Social. The Justice. The salesmen love you.

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