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Oculus GO - The little sideloading guide Answered

It seems making an Instructable these days requires lots of pictures, detailed steps and tons of instructions.
So before I try to paste my attempt here, I will point something out for the support team:

1. There is little point in including pictures of a VR headset or how to plug a USB cable in.
Same for images showing a DOS window and the command typed in it - they are the same as in the instructions...
2. With little to no option to create an Instructable that requires actual code usage and properly embedded picture, let alone good editing options: How do you suggest one would accomplish this taks?
3. With no category to post such Instrucables it is my personal opinion that these catergories need quite some updates!
They are still the same as years ago despite life evolving around it...

If you just went into the mobile VR world then you might feel a bit restricted compared to what you know from your smartphone.
Over the months firmware updates provided us with some much needed things but a bit is still left out. In this Ible I will try to show way to get a bit more out of your GO. Be aware that a lot of it still requires a bit of manual work and a computer.

If you are just curious then please read on and you might still find something interesting that you did not know yet.

Getting started...

One thing we certainly need is a way to access the GO and to install additional apps on it that are not available in the store.
For this we need to activate the developer options. Unlike your normal Android device this step works only from the device you paired with your GO. Go into the settings and there look for the developer mode. Once you try to activate it Oculus requires you to sign up for a developer account. All this of course needs to be confirmed through Email activation, you know just to make it complicated and get more info about you ;) From there it is straight forward and like on any Android. Activate USB debugging, pair with your computer by USB cable and on the GO authorise the connection. Please also tick the box to make this permanent as otherwise you will be prompted every time. In case you are not so familiar with this just Google how to use ADB on Android - it is simple. I will add the required files and drivers in a later step dedicated to it.

If you need more help getting the right options done or where to find them, please consider the great help for this offered on the Oculus developer sites. It makes sense to spent some time there as you find a lot of good info that might come in handy once you really want to get serious.

ADB - A must have...

You will find the drivers and all, as said, a bit later.
ADB is the Android Debug Bridge. It allows us to get access to the (user)available file systems, do some basic tests and if supported even flash a firmware or make a backup.

If you already used ADB for another Android device then you will only need the drivers for the GO. Otherwise you need to set up the enviroment for the Debug Bridge first. In the downloads will be a simple installer for this purpose. It is vital that you authorise your computer on the GO, best to tick the box to make it permanent.

If you open a command prompt where you have ADB installed you can do some simple tests. Setting all required paths and system variables in Windows would allow you to access ADB functions from any folder on your computer. The later might be easier if you do not want to copy all related files into your ADB folder. Makes no real difference though and is up to your preferences.

The command ADB devices should show you now that your GO is connected by listing it. If nothing shows up then please check the USB debugging option is set in the developer options. A reboot might help too in some cases. With this sorted we are good to go, almost at least...


How to install "unknown" apps?

As you might have noticed there is no playstore and all available stuff in the official store is VR based.
Getting some essential apps on it seems to be impossible.

Again the help offered by Oculus in the developer sections is a vital source, so please don't be afraid to read there ;) There are two basic ways of doing things on a device with so many restrictions.

1. Just use ADB install packetname Where packetname is the filename for the app in question, for example Netflix.apk. With all apps you need in one place this is quickly done.

2. Use a dedicated app installer or manager for the job. I will include one that actually works with the downloads. Same fore more detailed instructions.

The thing is though that only apps designed and signed for VR will show up in your normal launcher. All other (supported) Android apps will show up in "unknown sources" in your library. Apps not supported for this purpose won't show anywhere! For them you need a dedicated launcher, which will be placed in the "unknown sources" section ;)

Why do I spoon feed you here you might wonder? To be honest: If you already read some terms and basics it will be much easier to remember. Repetition is the key ;) I see little point in providing a simple to follow list of intructions as a week later you would struggle to do it again without the list in front of you.


Our first unknown apps!

Deciding what you might need in apps is one thing, knowing in what order you can safe hours of your life is another.
I simply don't think you want to juggle with ADB whenever you want a new app that is not available in the official store. So for starters we will need something that is able to install apps for us. And since we can't use it without something to find and start it we also need an app starter. Basically like HALauncher for Android TV.

The detailed instructions for this can be found with the downloads. First the app starter is installed, it will provide us with a living room like view onto a big screen. On the screen you will find all apps that are otherwise invisible to you. Some might tempt you to try them out - just don't! Unless you really know what you are doing you have a good chance to do something bad. Use the apps you know and the apps you added but none of the tempting system apps you might see.

The APK installer will show up there too and is used to make installing apps a bit easier. You can copy them now onto your GO's internal storage and use the app installer to install them - how easy is that? Another option I included is the Aurora store - a fork of the YALP store and able to work without any playstore requirements. Downside is that the VR controllers are not fully supported yet as it is more aimed at TV sets. A BT touchpad works though if the controller or a gamepad fail. I only included Aurora as it could be a nice alternative one day with full VR support. Just search or browse for all the apps available in the playstore and install what you like. Be aware though that not everything will work with the remote. Some games and apps can be operated with a game controller though.

It is getting nicer already ;)

By now you might have already installed some things as you just could not wait to skip to the downloads.
Well, can't really blame you, can I?

Anyways, we now have the option to install more apps that we know from our non-VR Android devices. Oculus might make it harder in the future though - or they see it the same way and offer ready to go options one day. Till then it is up to you....

Youtube VR might be nice but it is also still quite buggy and lacks some basic features. So getting a modded Youtube app could be a way out if you need comments for example. Kodi is still a must have for many Android users, especially the sport nuts with us. A filemanager is also something most Android users value. I will include some but again it comes down to what YOU prefer here. And with a basic way to install apps now you can also remove them again if you decide they don't work as expected.

Get a bit used to the app launcher and how to install apps. Sideloading is fine for those used to it but some might prefer to just copy some apps on the GO and them use the installer with the remote. In the near future we will get support for external sorage, so using a USB stick or SD card in a reader will make the USB cable obsolete for file transfers. Some headsets already support it, so chances are by the time you read this yours will too. Although it still is a good way to keep your GO charged while copying big files ;)

Precautions and Words of Wisdom

It all sound nice and easy now but there are dangers you need to be aware of!
Installing apps or games that are not fully designed for the GO or VR use can mean crashes. A lot will work but that does not mean it will keep doing so. A firmware update could one day end the support for sideloaded apps that are "non-VR". Especially messing with the app launcher can mean sudden disaster. Things you normally can not see are often hidden from you for a good reason. I will take no responsiblity for problems you caused by misusing system apps !

Console emulators are a lot of fun and there are ways to even stream them from your PC in reasonable quality on a low end computer. But these and some demanding games also cause a lot of CPU usage. As the system is not optimised for 2D content it can mean that your battery runs out faster. In some cases you might not see the warning to charge, so be aware of time when immersing yourself.

Stay away from any app or game that requires playstore components! Play Games for leaderboards might be no issue, especially if you don't need this feature. Online gaming like multiplayer actions will not work if it requires Google services for it! Similar story for hardware you don't have. If it is only designed for touchscreens than it might not work with the remote. And if it does not support gampads either... Apps that only support the wrong display orientation are a no go too.

What Non-VR Stuff Actually Works on the GO?

A lot and it will be possible to do even more.
There are already streaming options for your own videos like Skybox, Moonplayer and they all support DLNA servers too. So watching normal, 3D or VR movies from a media server is no problem at all already. Getting games to work is another story all up. ALVR is a good platform to stream VR games from your PC to the GO. Unlike the Rift you won't even need an overpowered gaming PC for it. Virtual Desktop is a paid app but well worth the money if the support and features keep going as they do right now. With it you can use your computer or laptop from the GO. Watch movies, surf the net, play games. The GO more or less becomes a normal Windows computer only that you have the screen right in front of you.

It will certainly be possible to code a simple VR app that works as a shortcut for non-VR apps. Like how right now you get the pic and description for a VR exerience and a button that starts the stream in the player. Downside is the requirement to certify such an "app" to make it visible in the normal launcher.

Downloads and Instructions....

Finally you get to the point where you can actually download something :)

To make it all a bit easier and to ensure I won't miss a vital bit I did a factory reset on my GO to start from scratch :(

Things might change in the future, so I will include the instructions as texfiles with the download.
If I see a real requirement for screenshots I will include them with corresponding filenames.
I think this way it is easier than scrolling through an Instructable as you can just print it all directly.
Those without an account (yet) might value this too.

Based on the feedback, questions and general comments I will change the contents of the download accordingly.
Same for download links to avoid bloating up the download with outdated files.
Easier for you (if you read this a few months from now) to download the newest files directly from the source.
So don't be too disappointed if the download seems to contain less than what you expected.
What seems to be missing will have links in the instructions.
No files will come from unverified or unsecure sources!
Whatever I include in the downloads directly will be checked for malware of all kinds.
The same standards are true for the sources I provide.
So no clickbait, ad sponsored re-directors or such crap.

Please read the detailed instructions carefully, then read them again while actuall following the steps on your GO or computer.
Do not blindly read it and jump onto doing it the first read!
For ADB commands just copy and paste them - I might write some batch files though, so check for them in the instructions and make use of them.
Things might not work out as planned, so if in doubt double check all the steps taken.
What is in the provided instructions is tested on my GO's and works on the firmware version current of this writing.

Download the guide and files from Filefactory

In case the PDF in the download is not detailed enough, just ask in the comments ;)

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Downunder35m

9 months ago

In case you can't figure it out, the password for the RAR is: Downunder35m