Report: Android OS coming to virtual reality headsets

Google has reportedly hired a team to build a version of the Android operating system for virtual reality headsets, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Vice president of product management Clay Bavor and engineering director Jeremy Doig are leading the VR team, which includes “tens of engineers,” according to the WSJ report. Like Android for mobile phones, the VR version will be available for any virtual reality company to integrate into its headset.

David Coz and Boris Smus demonstrate Cardboard at Google I/O.

David Coz and Boris Smus demonstrate Cardboard at Google I/O.

Bavor helped create Google Cardboard, a stripped down virtual reality headset actually made from cardboard. VR goggles can actually be made from very inexpensive components — in the case of Cardboard, just two lenses and a cardboard case that straps in a mobile phone. The phone itself, which presents two nearly identical images on a split screen to give the impression of a 3D virtual world when viewed through the lenses, does most of the work.

At last year’s Google I/O developers conference, Google actually showed off several applications created specifically for virtual reality. Besides apps for Cardboard, there was also a short film drawn by former Disney animator Glen Keane. Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects team converted the “Duet” drawings to a 360 degree film that could be viewed on phones.

While everyone has been busy racing to build the best virtual reality headset, a leading operating system has yet to emerge. It’s currently a fragmented space that feels secondary to creating games and other content. Google is obviously in a good place to develop a respectable option.

Ubuntu to add torrent search to Unity desktop

Ubuntu will add a new default scope set for Unity to allow users to conduct BitTorrent searches directly from the desktop, according to TorrentFreak. The feature, developed by Ubuntu software developer David Callé on Google+, is designed to “embed free culture” directly into desktop UI — and Ubuntu Founder Mark Shuttleworth called it “super-useful.” Ubuntu Linux’ status as an open-source OS makes it a natural home for torrent searching, but embedding that capability into the Unity GUI does dip into murky legal territory. However, it is a practical and important tool for many, despite ISPs’ complaints about it, and it will likely make many open-source advocates very happy.

Apple releases Mavericks update to remedy Gmail sync problems

Apple’s free OS update, Mavericks, has gone along fairly swimmingly — except for Gmail users who use the desktop Mail app for communications. But the bugs that caused improper syncing and general problems are now fixed, as TechCrunch reports that the Cupertino company’s latest patch will solve those woes. “Mail Update 1.0” is a patch, released today, that improves syncing with Gmail and works better with custom mail settings, along with miscellaneous stability fixes for the OS itself. The patch itself is bare-bones, but will do the trick to remedy those atrocious email-related migraines.

Microsoft releases Windows 8.1, finally brings back Start button

Let’s be honest: Windows 8 has been fraught with problems. Completely overhauling a well-known desktop interface versatile enough for mobile has left Microsoft attempting to shoehorn Windows 8 into both desktops and tablets — users are left with a steep learning curve. Windows 8.1 is now here (and free for Windows 8 users), and promises to be easier. Along with little performance changes, Windows 8.1 features an updated search system, a greater focus on Sky Drive,  Internet Explorer 11 and the return of the familiar Start button. Download the system — along with updated apps — on Microsoft’s website.

How to identify the exact model of your old Mac

When you’re getting ready for a major OS upgrade — say, from Snow Leopard to Lion — it helps to know the exact specs of the Mac that you have. Here’s a simple way to figure it out, plus a list of resources to get additional help.

This is big: OS X Lion Update is App Store only

The next version of OS X will also be sold only through the Mac App Store. This is yet another step away from traditional media distribution as Apple will effectively be cutting out other means of software distribution like Amazon.