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Creative Vista Driver Modder Speaks Out 318

Posted by kdawson
from the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished dept.
hol writes sends a followup on Creative Labs shutting down the modder who made their drivers work with Vista. Wired is running daniel_k's response to the contretemps."
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Creative Vista Driver Modder Speaks Out

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  • Re:Idiots. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @03:50PM (#22934498)
    I doubt $146 is really going to make Creative any richer. I think it's more of an insult than a profit.
  • by Bombula (670389) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @03:53PM (#22934540)
    Can anyone elucidate the issues of fair usage and licensing as they apply to hardware? I'm assuming when you buy a piece of computer hardware you're not licensing it like you are with software, so you should be able to do with it whatever you please. But since it 'requires' software in order to run, then I can imagine how the issue gets a little murky. As an example, when I buy my car I expect to be able to use it however I please within the confines of the law - not how GM or Ford has licensed me to use it. And if I can find or write software that will control the car's hardware better and give me better performance, shouldn't I be able to use that software? Last I checked, there was no licensing/fair use law against overclocking, for example - even though overclocking is always done through software (bios).

    So while I understand Creative's beef about messing with their software, the reason this is a firestorm issue is that since the software in question is a driver the hardware becomes an inseparable part of the equation.

    And this leaves aside the whole other issue of crippling.

  • by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @03:55PM (#22934574)
    I agree. Who do you recommend though? ProSpectrum cards from MediaVision I actually liked quite a bit back in the day. Wonder if they're still around.
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zen (8377) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @03:56PM (#22934576)
    I don't really follow law too much, but isn't there a law about making money off of somebody else's product without their permission? I don't know what he did, but if he added to their code without modifying the original parts, then I would think he probably didn't violate any copyrights. But if he made money off providing a driver for a device he did not engineer, then I think Creative has a claim against him. Basically he 'deprived' them of the right to sell their own solution. Not that they had a solution, but you get the gist.

    Here's a couple similar situations: Microsoft has generic drivers that you can get through windowsupdate for many hardware vendors. Some are written inhouse at M$ and some are given to them by the vendors themselves. But they don't make extra money off providing these drivers, it's just an added service.

    If company X takes a GPL'd program and repackages it with a different name and a few changed buttons and sells it without offering modified source or recognition, everyone here would be up at arms over it. It wasn't their's to mess with. Same deal here.

    This guy did a great service to the community, but he undoubtedly did it by using some things that weren't his to use (code, hardware spec's, etc) and he got greedy and charged for it.

    Now, I don't think he should go to jail or anything, but giving back the money he 'deprived' Creative of in the first place should hopefully be the end of the complaint.
  • by kesuki (321456) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:00PM (#22934648) Journal
    It's way at the bottom of TFA but
    "Alchemy: My last ALchemy release (1.00.08) was completely unlocked and could be used with any sound device from any vendor."

    So the reason why they shut him down was he released a version of their software that would enable advanced creative only (software) features to say, work on an integrated sound driver. His bad, and he did that as a result of creative 'removing' all links on their support forms to his (working) vista drivers.

    According to his words in TFA he's still modding but 'not the forbidden mods' that creative really was upset at him for doing.

    He's lucky he's in Brazil, I guess.
  • Re:Naïveté (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Original Replica (908688) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:04PM (#22934688) Journal
    daniel_k's naïveté.

    I wonder what his IP rights are to his mods? Could he turn around and sue Creative if the issue a Vista patch that fixes the drivers in the same way that Daniel-K's mods did? But from the sounds of his response, he would never try to pursue that line.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:04PM (#22934690)
    The person "modding" the driver has a license to use that driver. The person receiving the driver must have a license because they have a creative labs card.

    So, there is no "infringement" here.

    Daniel should phrase what he does better, he isn't getting donations for the "driver," as this is a free download and already licensed by creative. He is getting donations for the "work" of modding. In other words, he is being paid for support not the driver.

    Thus he is not running afoul of any IP laws. He is lawfully applying his expertise to private customers running third party hardware and and software, which they have the right to use.
  • by klui (457783) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:08PM (#22934746)
    I didn't recognize the name but "Braziliantech" did ring a bell. He did some pretty good mods for Asus's A7V BIOSes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:15PM (#22934816)
    Seeing as how there won't be any Creative products in my future systems, which alternatives have people had success with? I'm not even aware of competitors in sound cards because I've always bought a Creative card since I started with my SB16, it was always a foregone conclusion that my next system would use the most advanced Creative card I wanted to pay for. Now that Creative is in the same do-not-consider bin as things like Sony and Belkin, what am I left with as alternatives?
  • by Tanman (90298) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:31PM (#22934986)
    Try modding your car's ECU software. Then, when you manage to blow a hole through your engine block because your badass turbo was pumping 20psi into your cylinders instead of 8, try having it covered under warranty.

    Now, if someone pays or otherwise gets these drivers and something goes wrong and they nuke their computer, is it somehow Creative's fault that they didn't give you the performance you wanted and you looked outside the box? It's pretty obvious that a hardware vendor would not, under any circumstances, want a 3rd party writing drivers for their system. They want total control there, and that's what Creative is doing here. The fact that the guy fixed something is irrelevant -- creative doesn't want you fudging up your sound card's ecu and blowing a hole in your computer, then calling them up and costing them more money.
  • by KikassAssassin (318149) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:33PM (#22935004)
    If I were to buy a new sound card right now, I'd get an HT Omega Claro Plus+. I've heard a lot of good things about that card.
  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:38PM (#22935082)
    Ok, I just had to chime in here... I happen to do audio development for a gaming company. Make no mistake, most on-board audio is absolute crap. The drivers very often have glitches/bugs, missing features, or simply emulate "hardware" features (badly) in the driver. Creative's X-Fi lineup is one of the few decent audio cards still available, and that's a pretty small percentage of our consumer base anyhow. Generally speaking, about 75% of our customers have on-board audio, with the remaining 25% scattered among add-on cards. The X-Fi has perhaps one or two percent of the total.

    That being said - the future is software processing anyhow. With multi-core machines being standard equipment on all new machines, it makes sense to simply devote part of a core to audio processing, and screw the hardware and the many, many troubles it causes audio programmers. Vista doesn't support audio hardware acceleration anymore (Creative wrote their own OpenAL pipeline to get around this). Our upcoming game will probably only support hardware acceleration on X-Fi class cards. Anything else, it's simply not worth it, and we'll switch to software mode.

    I'm not condoning Creative's actions by any means. It seems pretty obvious that they're a bit panicked about the tanking sales of PC audio hardware, and so are making idiots of themselves by irritating their few remaining customers. Stupid...
  • by toleraen (831634) * on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:42PM (#22935140)
    I believe the situation is that Creative licensed certain technologies from Dolby for use in Windows XP, but they haven't ponied up for the licenses for use in Windows Vista. Since the guy is posting the drivers in Creative's forums, Dolby could go after Creative. Creative took the steps necessary to stop a possible lawsuit.

    None of this would be an issue though if Creative would just pay for the licensing though. Jerks.
  • Re:Drivers in (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:03PM (#22935352) Homepage Journal
    They are far more difficult then any other OS.
    OK, I shouldn't say ANY other OS since I've only written drivers for Windows/Linux/Solaris

  • by AnomaliesAndrew (908394) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:08PM (#22935396) Homepage
    It's a shame Creative bought E-mu. I sold my upgraded Proteus 2500 the day they sold out.

    My experience with Creative (post-SoundBlaster 16) has been nothing but horrible. The Extigy was one of the worst abortions in computer hardware history. It was marketed as a pro-level 24-bit external sound card, but really was no better than the junk sound cards you can find sitting on a pile at a flea market. And while one version of the driver (also unofficial at the time) was capable of offering the 24-bit capabilitiy the box so boldly proclaimed... I believe the hardware secretly only ran at 16-bit. And it would have constant dropouts any time the host computer would do any disk or network activity... and it was a new computer. This was because there was basically no capabilties in the box -- it was all just host-based. There wasn't even a significant buffer onboard, so all it took was a tiny bit of lag on the USB bus and it was stutter-city.

    A friend also had an Audigy back around this time, but didn't know where the driver disc was. Creative had only driver updates available online -- you had to purchase CD copies if you wanted at the original. I guess this makes sense considering their idea of a sound card driver is bloatware too big to download.

    Don't get me wrong... they allowed me to hear speech for the first time on my 486 in Wing Commander III, but they haven't made a difference since then. I'm really glad they're getting all of this well-deserved negative publicity. They just plain suck. The only reason they're still around is because of brand recognition. Hopefully now they'll start to be recognized for what they really are... crap.

    I guess if all you listen to is taco farts played through a kazoo, they're probably right for you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:34PM (#22935752)
    M-Audio cards are, IMO, some of the best low-end "professional" cards you could possibly wish for. I have a Delta 44 in my gaming PC, a Delta 1010 in my home recording studio, and a Firewire 1814 that i plug into my laptop for electro shows and recording bands' live shows. Admittedly, the D44 is overkill for a gaming rig but since i had an extra set of EX66's the analog outs suit it just perfectly.

    The Audiophile series of cards would be absolutely perfect for anyone who wants a top-shelf audio option thats extremely flexible. I have not used that series of cards personally, but I have helped a few of them find their way into the hands of friends, and those friends have been raving about how much of an improvement it was over their old setups.

    In short, anyone interested in high-quality sound that can connect to and from damn near anything, check out M-Audios line of Audiophile cards.

    ***DISCLAIMER*** I do not work for M-Audio in any capacity, but I am sponsored by them. I have the option to run any gear i want in my studio and at my shows, but I stick with M-Audio not only because it's free, but because they really do make better products than other non-boutique competitors.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:44PM (#22935822)
    Personally I went off creative a couple of years ago. I had an Audigy Platinum card that one day the (un)Creative drivers stopped recognizing. Checked the net and saw a lot of people with the same issue - apparantly the bios on the sound card would wipe it self at boot up (randomly). I went and stupidly brought another Audigy Platinum (as my old one was just out of warranty) and 4 months later EXACTLY the same issue happened. I contacted (un)Creative about this as on their forums they denied this happened, also emailed them a list of forums of HUNDERDS of people with the same issue and they denied it and said it wasn't a problem and that didn't happen to their cards. I even sent them dumps from my cards bios to show them what happened and was told that I was wrong, that nothing is wrong with their cards.
    (un)Creative's attitude seems to be "We are the best, you take what we give you, shut up and don't tell us there is nothing wrong with out products". I now tell everyone I know NOT to buy from a company that treats it's customers like that, stay clear of (un)Creative!
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zymergy (803632) * on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:44PM (#22935836)
    I have read all of the threads here: http://forums.creative.com/creativelabs/board/message?board.id=soundblaster&thread.id=116332&view=by_date_ascending&page=1 [creative.com]
    and here: http://creative.edited.us/ [edited.us]

    Creative summarily wiped their VP's Original posting from their forums that started this whole epic saga. Good thing somebody mirrored it all here: http://creative.edited.us/page.php?start=1 [edited.us]

    In summary, here are a few key points (in no particular order):
    (1) Creative may have licensed some software for Windows XP and NOT licensed it for Windows Vista. Thus that is *in part* why they crippled it. (and it helps promote new hardware sales for Vista) It seems this is true for the Dolby portions of the code.
    (2) Creative stated they cripple their hardware (depending on what model it is) in their drivers based on the Operating System version and what the item was sold as. They state they have the legal right to do so.
    (3) Creative stated that anyone re-enabling features (however it is done) is "stealing" from Creative.
    (4) Apparently, the Windows XP drivers ignore the Vista "Protected Path" DRM killswitch flags and work quite well. (Recall that Vista is built on Windows XP technology and WinXP drivers *can be made* to WORK FINE in it. It is probably very likely that this violates some NDA from Microsoft to Creative as it likely bypasses their DRM mechanisms in Vista that were not included in WinXP (at least up to WinXP w/SP2).
    (5) This is pissing people off in a major way. There are people planning on never doing business with Creative again: http://boycottcreative.com/BoycottCreative.html [boycottcreative.com] and http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/BoycottCreative [petitionspot.com]
    (6) Creative is not doing very well (at all) financially (Gee, I wonder why?): http://www.creative.com/corporate/investor/ [creative.com] and http://finance.google.com/finance?q=OTC%3ACREAF [google.com]
    (7) A Driver "Modder" known as Daniel Kawakami (AKA "Daniel_K") found ways to re-enable 'features' for certain product Creative lines under Windows Vista, notably restoring the Full functionality on the various Creative Hardware under Windows Vista.
    (8) This modder also made their Alchemy software work on non-creative sound products too, likely pissing off Creative more.
    (9) The modder asked for donations for his freely available work, he acknowledges that was dumb, and pretty much everybody dumps on him for it.
    (10) Many Creative Forum posts have been deleted (redacted) and many are available here: http://creative.edited.us/deleted.html [edited.us]

    Interestingly, I created my /. account many years ago while sitting at my desk at Creative Labs Inc. 1523 Cimarron Plaza, Stillwater, OK 74075. 405-742-6655.
    Those of you whom also worked there probably knew me, you certainly know the above address and phone number all too well. You had the job while you were in college, learned skills, and happily left around graduation time.
    I am not here to badmouth or flame, just to say that I was completely unsurprised when this came to light. I could not believe the VP's posting and how he is clearly so out of touch with the reality of Creative's die-hard customers, their motives, and their sense of loyalty and fairness. He has probably lost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars with that single post if not more!
    IN some people's opinions, Creative has now firmly placed itself on the path to be considered as clost to "The customer is always right." as the likes of Microso
  • Re:Modder or Hacker? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by daigu (111684) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:01PM (#22935978) Journal

    The original meaning [catb.org] is closer to manipulation of systems:

    "A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular."

    Personally, I prefer using it in the most expansive sense: "One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations." Hackers would, therefore, include engineers, surgeons, editors, lawyers, politicans and so forth. You can have interesting discussions with people when you start off making a connection between what they do and hacking.

  • by TheNetAvenger (624455) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:12PM (#22936112)
    Anyone that has worked with Vista over the past year usually know one thing. Creative is screwing its customers...

    There is no reason that the same hardware level of support is being provided by Intel and even generic Realtek drivers and yet the sound industry leader, Creative, has been unable to deliver working drivers.

    Vista new sound model is designed around an agnostic system that allows for more options than was ever available under XP, and Creative continues to tell people that they can't get the Vista drivers to work properly. If this is true, then Creative has horrible driver developers working on these products.

    Look at generic drivers from Realtek, on Vista they support as many of the new Vista features as they are capable of, even on old Audio hardware.

    Virtually every game out there, has also made adjustments to easily work with Vista's sound system, making it even EASIER for sound card manufacturers. Several games even have their own additions for EAX and other features, but you have to use non-creative cards for these features, which is freaking insane at best for Creative to let their cards be the only ones to consistently have problems and fail.

    XP's sound system was barely in the range of industry standards, not supporting a lot of features becoming standard for music professionals and even gaming enthusiasts. XP's sound had no idea of multi-channel (5.1,7.1,etc) had limits on sampling rates, and combining multi-application streams at high quality sampling rates.

    Microsoft's revamp in Vista was known a LONG time ago and was necessary to bring the Vista sound system up to the industry current standards, and also give Microsoft some design headroom to extend beyond what Apple and OSS was doing with Audio. (For example the self optimizing speaker technology, the basic realtime filtering of levels and noise, unlimited channels and sample rates, etc.)

    - In Vista you can use a crap internal microphone on a laptop and with it processing for feedback and background sound from the laptop, get ok recordings for meeting notes, and even handle the sound well enough that speech recognition works well on low quality input like htis.

    - Vista also handles internal processing and mixing of sound far beyond what XP did and even past Apple and other core technologies in the OSS world. Play any type of sound, same sound device, same speakers, and the Vista clarity is surprisingly there - making even high compression audio stretch back to levels that is borderline impressive.

    - MS did kill off the older version of DirectSound, because of the problems with it, and its dependance on the XP sound system, which was severely limited.

    10.1 DirectX replaces DirectSound for the hardware audio layer, and even prior to 10.1 sound in Vista is not 100% CPU bound, even though people try to scare people with this, as Vista is agnositic at what is processing the audio, but defaults to the CPU for advanced processing if the features are not inherent of the Audio hardware.

    This is where Creative messed up, and instead of working 'within' the new API and driver model provided, are trying to work around Vista's audio and driver model, implementing things in good old XP fashion, so there is no wonder why their drivers are crap on Vista.

    XP with basic API you could play sound, letting the format and output quality be handled outside the basic application level of understand. In Vista you can jam 20% of a sound to the RL speaker if you have Quad or higher speaker configuration. This is a good thing, and the right way audio should be handled from both a user and a developer standpoint.

    Creative continues to dig themselves into a hole with the whole Vista mess, especially starting out by not even having drivers during the beta process for Vista, tell all testers to wait until Vista was released, and then losing all that tester and developer feedback and time, and releasing crap drivers AFTER Vista RTM'd, in fact waiting until after Vista was shipping at the retail level in 2007.

  • by crowbarsarefornerdyg (1021537) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:14PM (#22936130)

    2/ He distributes binaries that contains IP that don't belong to him (I could download his drivers, and I have no creative hardware)
    You can download the unadulterated drivers from a mirror site and still not have any Creative hardware. Following your logic, the mirror (think DriverAgent - et al) is culpable for the same thing!

    The other two points, I can't rightly argue with.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:26PM (#22936246)
    How are they trying to scam more money out of people?

    they didn't release a new Audigy driver and were charging Audigy owners for a software that runs on top of bugged drivers

    Creative purposedly modified the Audigy drivers to disable some features when Vista is detected and also purposedly introduced some bugs to prevent some XP utilities from running.

    They purposedly ruined the Live! support in Vista: 2.1 speakers setting resulted in distorted sound.
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @07:00PM (#22936506) Homepage Journal
    Ditto. I still use my SB Live! Value card from way back when they were new. Some day I'll upgrade to a 5.1 or better system, but since I'm still using my speakers from 1995 it doesn't really matter. I figure I'll use it until I can't get a PCI slot anymore (probably only a couple of years off at this point).
  • by Jason Earl (1894) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @07:26PM (#22936696) Homepage Journal

    I used Windows XP when it came out, and the fact that most Windows 2000 drivers would work in XP helped quite a bit. Besides, there is little doubt that upgrading from Windows 98 to Windows XP was a truly worthwhile upgrade, even if you had to chuck your crappy ISA sound card.

    I suppose that I am a little bitter because both my scanner and my expensive printer didn't come with workable Windows Vista drivers. I'm not the only one that feels this way. If you read the Microsoft email from the class action Vista lawsuit you'll see that several Microsoft VPs had similar experiences. We aren't talking about ISA sound cards either.

    On the bright side my wife hated Vista so much that I was finally able to get her to switch to Ubuntu (where the printer works flawlessly). That's worth the price of Vista for me, right there.

    What I find truly curious is that so many Windows users apparently don't mind if their hardware doesn't work with Microsoft's new operating system. You paid good money for this software and there basically is no good technical reason that this hardware shouldn't be supported. After all, Linux manages to support ridiculously old hardware.

    Either way, it's more than somewhat hypocritical to dismiss Linux for hardware compatibility issues, and then fail to point out that Microsoft faces many of the same problems with new versions of its software.

  • by JFitzsimmons (764599) <justin@fitzsimmons.ca> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @09:09PM (#22937228)
    Do you have a source for that? The distorted sound problem is why I stopped using vista about 3 hours after I installed it. I was considering googling it but when I took into account that my old sblive worked out of the box on both winxp and linux, I decided it wasn't worth the effort.
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @06:49AM (#22939172)
    and just to be clear, the key issue in your post is GAMING.

    blips and blaps. (sorry, but I dont' respect gaming. I respect gaming PROGRAMMING, but I can't be bothered with the game itself, sorry).

    my 'thing' is music - non blip-blap audio (well, ok, that's also a matter of opinion) ;)

    but my point is that relaying 44.1/16 audio is TRIVIAL for even a pentium1 (in software). all good audio hardware has already been designed and there is no more 'room' for other designs since the problem has been solved and resolved dozens of times already. its NOT rocket science to record (even edit) and playback digital audio for music. you need NO special sound hardware, NO special software and no 'acceleration' beyond a basic functioning pci bus!

    so I take exception to the claim that 'sound is hard' and even needs host cpu cycles these days. your GAME might need to precompute things but that has NOTHING to do with the physics of pumping out .wav files (etc) and not dropping bits and keeping the bits in clock time. its not hard and its easily done with a cmi8738 chip (or card) for $10 or less.

    'gamers' seem to be sold on very expensive cards. audiophiles stopped needing expensive cards and instead just send spdif to their home stereo. the card does very little and actually needs to do very little to do its job correctly.

    video is a 'hard problem' but I find audio quite trivial these days. its far from hard, now. creative (the company) is quite irrelevant in today's hardware market.

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