Bricked VR

Millions of Oculus Rift headsets bricked by expired DLL certificate!

Late Wednesday night whilst conducting a product review I was all set to step into the world of VR with the Oculus Rift. I had assembled a DXRacer Racing Sim setup (review coming soon!), connected the Logitech G920, fired up the PCTR VR rig and plugged in the Rift, then……. nothing; The headset was unresponsive.
A little concerned, I checked the USB & HDMI connections, wondered about Geforce drivers, restarted the Oculus Home app and that’s when this appeared:

It was around midnight and without the patience to try troubleshooting I turned to Facebook with the intention to upload the above screencap with an accompanying question, instead, I discovered the first of many, many similar posts asking the very same question.

Initially, I was relieved that I wasn’t alone, that it wasn’t one of the aforementioned USB or driver issues that can be incredibly hard to chase down. Further details of the issue arose through Reddit and Facebook, indicating that the issue was the result of an expired DLL certificate – that’s right, the tech equivalent of having the power cut off for forgetting to pay the bill!

This actually irritated me somewhat – Oculus is, of course, a division of a billion dollar company and overlooking my own relatively minor inconvenience, spare a thought for the VR arcades, developers, and those running presentations that very day who needed the hardware right now.

Back in time

Oculus were quiet on the subject for longer than many users believed appropriate, but a simple fix began doing the rounds to temporarily overcome the issue – setting the affected PC’s date back 1 or more days. This had the potential to cause other issues, but for those who absolutely needed their Rift then and there for important business (or gaming :)) then it was at least a viable option.

Official Response

Oculus put out semi-regular updates from a few hours after the event – though still not enough to satisfy some affected users – admitting that they were working on a fix. The biggest obstacle they needed to overcome was that the error completely disabled the ability to launch the Oculus Home app which was also their only way to force a software update.

Later that day an update was published to the official Oculus blog with instructions on how to fix the problem by visiting a URL containing a downloadable patch. This was followed by an email to all account holders echoing these instructions.

The email continued, outlining details of $15 in store credit to each user who had logged in since February 1st.

Outcome

For a technology trying to forge its way in a competitive market, this was not an ideal occurrence. VR – in all its flavours – is still in its relative infancy and this mishap may reinforce the conception – right or wrong – that the bar to entry is set too high in terms of a user’s technological ability.

Once Oculus did act they were swift, clear and apologetic. Spreading the message via email and social media was, unfortunately, the only way for them to send any kind of fix since they had essentially locked themselves out of their own software. Days later there are still numerous posts on Facebook Groups and blogs asking “What is this error? How do I fix it?” so the message has not got through to everyone, which is unsurprising.

From an IT perspective, such a problem should have been tested and fixed before pushing out to the masses, but then such testing would have taken place prior to the DLL certificate expiring.

That a billion dollar company can forget to renew a DLL certificate, something so small yet essential, should make the rest of us all feel a little more normal for forgetting to pay the occasional phone bill! This should not have happened; it did and was dealt with swiftly.
That it made very little noise on mainstream news shows that VR still has a long way to go to reach the masses, but I for one am a believer and think that this will be merely a small hiccup on the way to greater things for Oculus and VR in general. Just think, it could have been a lot worse!

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