Saturday, November 23, 2013

Setting up the Rift on a MacBook Pro

Wrote this up for someone else, so thought I would post it here too. This was my experience setting up the Rift on a MacBook Pro running OS X 10.9.

For connecting the Rift, I simply followed the instructions that came with the Rift.  Basically, I connected the Rift power box to my computer using both the USB cable and the HDMI cable that came with the Rift and then I plugged in the Rift power cable. The only issue I had here was that I needed a converter (HDMI to miniDisplayPort) that was not included in the Rift development kit.  It is easy to forget to connect one of the cables, I’ve done so more than once,  so be sure to check all connections first if you have any issues running the Rift.

For the display setup, Oculus recommends using the Rift as an extended monitor in most cases, but I found that did not work for me. The primary display defaulted to the Rift which meant my menus, windows and  mouse were all on the Rift portion of the display.  Because looking through the Rift shows two overlapping images of the desktop, actually selecting anything located there was nigh impossible. I was never able to get any demos to run properly on the Rift display.

The other option is mirroring, which is what I chose to do. There are two downsides to mirroring:
  1. Performance can suffer, specifically, screen tearing can occur.  Tearing on the Rift can be very distracting and it is the reason Oculus recommends extended displays. So far this has not been a serious issue for me, but I expect I may need to revisit this issue in the future.
  2. Optimizing the resolution for the Rift display (1280 X 800) doesn’t allow for a lot of screen real estate for doing work.  To simplify switching between the resolutions for the “built in display” and the “Rift display,” I made sure to check Show mirroring options in the menu bar when available in the System Preferences Displays panel. That way, I can easily switch back and forth using the display menu now located in the top right of the menu bar.
Using a single monitor isn’t ideal for Rift development as it doesn’t allow you to both see your development project and the results at the same time. But as my current system doesn’t have triple-monitor support, to add another monitor, I would  need to purchase an HDMI splitter. HDMI splitters have their own issues though, in addition to the expense of buying a good one.  For the time being, I will stick with mirroring.