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Creative Backs Down on Vista Driver Debacle 228

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the three-black-eyes-and-a-bloody-nose dept.
In the wake of last week's driver debacle, Creative has finally decided to back down for PR purposes. Modder Daniel_K, author of the offending Vista drivers, has had his posts on the Creative forums reinstated. According to Creative the move was to avoid infringing on other company's IP. "Daniel_K is incensed by Creative. 'They publicly threatened me, just to show their arrogance,' he told El Reg by email. He told us that Creative contacted him on a chat session. 'They were sarcastic, ironic and asked me if I wanted something from them, as if I were expecting something,' he wrote. 'It was my protest against them and would like to see how far it would go.'"
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Creative Backs Down on Vista Driver Debacle

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  • by scubamage (727538) on Friday April 04, 2008 @01:11PM (#22965136)
    Given that NVidia is getting nailed with a class action lawsuit because of handicapped drivers, I have to wonder if Creative's withdrawal is less a product of PR and more of fear that they could be put in a similar court situation. I mean, punishing someone because they release un-crippled versions of your drivers kind of spotlights your company for having crippled drivers in the first place - the basis of the nvidia case.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2008 @01:14PM (#22965164)
    Yes Creative is acting adversarial, but what you must understand is that

    Daniel_k had no right to modify Creative's software. They did not grant

    him the right and he was not using an OS that granted him any rights.

    People need to start purchasing products which give them the freedom to

    use the product. What I'm saying is that when you buy a product you

    should especially look for one feature: freedom.

    http://fsf.org/ [fsf.org] For more information about software freedoms please see

    the Free Software Foundation's homepage.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday April 04, 2008 @01:20PM (#22965222) Journal
    does it really matter whether they were trying to save face, or trying to save their asses in court?

    Either way, the Internet has yet again handily shown another large corporate entity that 'do no evil' is a pretty damned good motto.

    That once letter to the local paper editor gets millions of reads these days. Despite their efforts, many businesses and their practices are transparent to the public whether they like it or not. The "blowback" from that is what some like to call 'market forces' at work :)

    Google was rather bright to call everything beta, and only put a line through the word when everyone was happy with how it works. When you produce products and make claims of a general nature and have no clear plan with how to deal with those inevitable questions from reviewers and users... well, blowback is the natural response.

    Trying to hush up the competition is ... er... illegal. Trying to hush those that would expose you to the competition is essentially the same thing, and quite the example of not 'don't be evil'.

    It's just a shame that the folks at Creative had to fsck it up like this when they could have created a PR positive experience of it.
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Friday April 04, 2008 @01:28PM (#22965348) Homepage Journal
    Umm, Creative's HQ was based in California. The EULA Creative had on those driver was NULL AND VOID by California. Daniel had EVERY right to modify the software as he saw fit. I pointed this out to Creative's Lawyers, and they capitulated VERY FAST.
  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Friday April 04, 2008 @01:36PM (#22965482) Journal
    I'm curious as to the foundations of this. You state that he had the right to modify the drivers, but did this give him the right to distribute them? And since Daniel lives in Brazil, how does this affect the EULA?

    Mind you, I think Creative was a complete asshat over this, but the legal basis still intrigues me.
  • by N1ck0 (803359) on Friday April 04, 2008 @01:51PM (#22965710)
    Or even better, just publish some specs on your hardware and chipsets and say 'developers are welcome to implement their own unofficial drivers/software a) just don't expect creative labs support b) don't mod our intellectual property just go develop your own'
  • by glavenoid (636808) on Friday April 04, 2008 @02:04PM (#22965896) Journal
    As a fellow guitarist, I think you'd be much better off obtaining a dedicated unit. I've since quit using effects, so I'm not really familiar with the market these days, but I do know that the sonic qualities of some of the Zoom and Boss multi-units have gotten better in the last few years. Did the SBLive! allow to pitch shift in key, or just some arbitrary interval? The nice things about some of the dedicated pitch shifters is that they allow both diatonic interval pitch-shifting (which is of course important)and arbitrary. Maybe I'm thinking old Electro-Harmonics here?.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday April 04, 2008 @02:12PM (#22965998)
    I wrote the last time this came up that Daniel did nothing wrong. All he did is phrase his donations plea poorly.

    Since the drivers he made available were generally available anyway, he did not run afoul of copyright for making his changes available. (assuming he uses the words "for support work" and not "for the drivers") He could use "patch" just to be 100% sure.

    As a consultant I can (and have done) modify third party hardware and software for the benefit of a customer who has proper ownership of the hardware and license to the software and I may change for that service and there's NOTHING the third party vendor can do about it.

    The relationship Daniel has with the user of a driver with his modifications is of no business to Creative. In fact, Creative may be worried that they are interfering with Daniels business. If you are curious look up "Tortuous Interference."

    Daniel *did* make money from his work. He could have a case against Creative's very public accusation.

  • Re:Good for him (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bombula (670389) on Friday April 04, 2008 @02:16PM (#22966056)
    It would definitely be nice if Creative died - or at least got some decent competition. It's a good example of a market totally dominated by one company that churns out crappy stuff. I know a fair bit about their EAX technology from personal experience, as I tried to patent a 3D positional audio technology in the mid 90s. Aureal beat me to it, but they folded. I think their IP ended up with another company called Sensaura. They're gone now too, and their site directs to ... Creative.

    Still no true 3D positional audio through EAX either, just some hackneyed binaural cues. It's a shame, but I guess that's just how the stone rolls.

  • Re:Good for him (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shados (741919) on Friday April 04, 2008 @02:18PM (#22966070)
    The assertion from the previous poster basically meant "You can have a working, full featured computer without having to care about buying a sound card, a bit like you can do the same with network cards".

    Last time this subject came up, I said that onboard sound was more than good enough: multiple people proved me wrong, and indeed, i was, so I'm not going to try and argue that. However, point is, for 90% of people, the computer will be functional as is. Games will run fine, their MP3s will play fine (and I can't hear any noise introduced by the board during playback, and its quite limited and hard to notice during recording... of course, not viable for professional work), everything will be "good enough" to the average joe (as opposed to videocards, where even Joe will realise really quickly that his onboard video isn't good enough when he can't even run a 3 years old game on his machine).

    So that means that ALMOST EVERYONE who buys a sound card, knows what they want. Low noise, professional features, instrument ports, specific encoder/decoders support, and they'll want quality (and the tone of your post is quite in line with this statement).

    So Creative cannot sell shitty feature-less cards easily. They have to have a LOT over an onboard card for someone to want it.
  • Re:Good for him (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DigitAl56K (805623) on Friday April 04, 2008 @02:41PM (#22966356)
    They didn't have any real competition, until recently. Now the ASUS XONAR, and the slightly lower spec'd Razer Barracuda are direct competitors for the X-Fi, minus the later revisions of EAX. However, I could not be happier if EAX died on it's ass, because it's one of the few things locking consumers into Creative boards these days, and the sooner we can wave goodbye to Creative's monopoly the better.
  • by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Friday April 04, 2008 @02:47PM (#22966448)
    If he was just taking drivers that worked in Windows XP, then why would Creative have purposefully disabled that functionality in their Vista drivers? If some guy can pretty easily reverse engineer the drivers for another OS and get them working on a newer version then I would think Creative, with the source code in hand, should easily be able to make that functionality work on Vista. Why is Creative disabling this functionality if the device and OS is capable of supporting it? Are they just trying to sell new cards? I doubt that's the answer since it seems like some of the cards he's talking about are relatively recent and claim Vista support.
  • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Friday April 04, 2008 @02:48PM (#22966458)
    It's more complex than that.

    From here
    http://forums.creative.com/creativelabs/board/message?board.id=soundblaster&thread.id=116332 [creative.com]

    We are aware that you have been assisting owners of our Creative sound cards for some time now, by providing unofficial driver packages for Vista that deliver more of the original functionality that was found in the equivalent XP packages for those sound cards. In principle we don't have a problem with you helping users in this way, so long as they understand that any driver packages you supply are not supported by Creative. Where we do have a problem is when technology and IP owned by Creative or other companies that Creative has licensed from, are made to run on other products for which they are not intended. We took action to remove your thread because, like you, Creative and its technology partners think it is only fair to be compensated for goods and services. The difference in this case is that we own the rights to the materials that you are distributing. By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods. When you solicit donations for providing packages like this, you are profiting from something that you do not own. If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make.
    Someone else put it like this -

    1) The licence agreement which we all accept to says that we must not reverse engineer or tamper with the software as it is the property of Creative Labs.
    2) I firmly believe that Daniel K has caught the flack because of the Dolby Digital feature As far as I am aware Auzentech paid a lot of money for an exclusive licence with Dolby to have their cards support this. Now, Creative would get into trouble if they allow a means for this to be "cracked" to run on non-Auzentech cards.
    3) Accepting money (even in the form of donations) for someone elses copyrighted material is a big NO NO.
    Now let's suppose that he has a legal right to reverse engineer 1), and they are willing to ignore 3). There's still a problem with 2), that his drivers allow Dolby Digital on non Auzentech cards. It seems like Auzentech make cards based on the Creative chipset but they pay royalties to Dolby for some Dolby code/patents. The official Creative driver always has the code but only enables it on Auzentech cards.

    Now Daniel_K comes along and enables the code on Creative cards. Dolby finds out and complains to Auzentech since they probably signed a contract that only allows them to use the technology on their cards. Auzentech complains to Creative who've signed a contract to enforce this in the driver. And things look bad for Creative, since they allowed him to post the crack on their forum.

    So it's not the Vista driver he's in trouble for, it's unlocking Dolby on Creative cards.

    That said, the traditional way to handle this is to negotiate in private not on some internet forum, offer the guy a job and so on. And release the missing Vista drivers.
  • by geekboy642 (799087) on Friday April 04, 2008 @03:05PM (#22966672) Journal
    It's not a law. It's the fact that corporations are beholden, essentially, to only their shareholders. The shareholders, by and large, want only one thing: more profit. Corporations thus function like an entity at Pre-Conventional Stage 2 morality, or the "what's in it for me?" stage (refc. Kohlberg [wikipedia.org]). This does not mean they have an emphasis on doing evil, this means they don't care whether what they do is evil or not.

    They only care about not getting caught when they do evil. Creative was caught, and now they are back-peddling to try to avoid the consequences of their actions.
  • by Shados (741919) on Friday April 04, 2008 @03:16PM (#22966796)
    The point is that Creative could do it all along: what this guy did was remove OS checks from the drivers. That is, the drivers literally did: "IF OS == Vista, break the cool features so we can force people to upgrade hardware and other nasty things". He took that out, more or less, and thus the drivers worked.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2008 @03:41PM (#22967038)
    Actually, copyright isn't a good system for hardware manufacturers to use if they want to avoid people modifying their drivers to enable locked out features. Technically, if you make a modification to the driver that changes the way it functions, you can then claim that you have a fair use case. It would really depend on the courts, because you haven't negatively affected the value of the IP. If anything, you have improved the value of the hardware, which is the money making portion of the equation.

    IANAL, though.
  • Re:Good for him (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2008 @04:17PM (#22967398)
    100$ motherboards (e.g. gigabyte P35-DS3L) nowadays have perfectly fine Intel HDA/Realtek high def audio onboard. My gigabyte P35-DS3R (Realtek ALC 889A codec) has 7.1 + 2 channel audio (7.1 and stereo, playing independently, at the same time), supports all the latest HD audio codecs used by Blu-Ray, does 192 kHz / 24 bit audio, has a spdif (coax) and toslink (optical) outputs, as well as GREAT (and very loud) headphone output via the onboard jumper block. Same SNR as a Audigy 2 (106 db). Works fine with windows and linux too (great drivers too, unlike creative). No forced internal resampling like SB live, no phony processing (e.g. the x-fi's crystallizer), it can do bit-perfect playback too, etc. Great set of inputs/outputs too (6 analog, toslink, spdif, plus the ones in front of my case) -- much better than the basic creative cards (e.g. the X-Fi's spdif out is also the mic in!) The only thing I can think of that could be nice to have over that, is dolby digital live, and some even have it (e.g. ALC888 DD).

    The amount of ppl doing recording on their home PC is likely below 1%. Those might need multichannel low-latency ASIO, but for the rest of us, onboard auio is more than good enough. It's not like the crappy AC97 of 10 years ago anymore.
  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn AT earthlink DOT net> on Friday April 04, 2008 @04:18PM (#22967400)
    This would be more like distributing a diff file that corrected typos. Still legal under US copyright law, I believe. Other countries might have differing rules. (E.g., a diff file requires short quotes before and after the change, and Australian copyright law reportedly has no "fair use" provision.
  • Re:Good for him (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2008 @04:36PM (#22967634)
    I have to heartily disagree with the last statement you made, that there has to be a huge benefit to buy a dedicated soundcard.

    most of Creative's customers are what I like to call the "dumb gamer"(not to say all gamers are dumb). They go to fry's or walmart looking for something to make their computer better for games and a salesperson will sell them a Creative product (snazzy box, designed and built for clueless installers).

    add to that a generation of people that were raised on "if it isn't creative it just won't work" back from the days when Creative were the only ones making decent drivers for their products, and you have a good customer base that keeps Creative afloat no matter what color of crap they sell to people.

    I do agree with your point that onboard sound is good enough for most people, and a sound pro is probably going to know what he needs and skip Creative's products. you hit the nail on the head on both of those accounts.
  • Re:Good for him (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2008 @04:36PM (#22967636)
    on-board sound is "good enough" for most users. most people think mp3 is a high-quality format, and those people will never be able to hear a difference in sound quality anyway. if you have a few tb's of .flac flies, on-board sound isn't for you. but then again if you were the type to prefer flac over mp3, you'd already know that. i guess my point is that anyone who asks "is on-board sound good enough?" is probably going to be just happy with it. many of the on-board options exceed the quality of dedicated mp3 players, so if you listen to an ipod constantly, you'd probably think the on-board sound on many mobos is fabulous.
  • Re:Good for him (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mex (191941) on Friday April 04, 2008 @07:05PM (#22968934)
    Ha ha, wow, are they really marketing it as a home recording solution?

    Because I have one (X-Fi, got it included in my PC) and while it's an acceptable sound card(How hard is that, really), it would be absolutely useless for recording.

    I used Guitar Rig just for giggles on it, and the latency is so bad (even with the rather good Asio4all drivers) that it's useless for serious use.

    I think it would be criminal if they advertised it as something serious for recording.
  • Re:Good for him (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Z34107 (925136) on Friday April 04, 2008 @07:14PM (#22969008)

    I've been looking at the whole Creative situation for a little while now - I used to be a big fan of their hardware. My first SB16 kicked so much ass during the Glory Days of Microprose and Windows 3.11...

    So, naturally, I was disenheartened to hear how poorly this was handled. But, angry lawyer-speak aside, my understanding is that Creative had a few (legitimate) problems:

    • ALchemy. My understanding is that Microsoft removed DirectSound, or some part of DirectSound, from Vista because their new driver model or DirectX model or something ruined things. Create rewrote a DirectSound emulator for their new X-Fi cards, and later ported it to their older ones. Presumably because of how many man-hours go into designing something like this, they wanted to charge money for older cards to use it. This guy took the free X-Fi version and removed hardware checks so it would run on any card. This is the "stealing their goods" complaint.
    • Crippling Vista drivers is a "business decision that only we have the right to make"? That's true, but they're not being selfish assholes. (Well, only a little.) They licensed a bunch of technologies from other companies, but licensed it only for XP. D'oh. Now, here's a guy, on their own forums nonetheless, enabling these technologies on Vista. Can you say "lawsuit?"

    I built my current rig over the summer, and I have yet to put a proper sound card in it. The onboard audio is fairly good - my Striker Extreme motherboard comes with a riser card, which seems to have taken care of most of the motherboard noise. (Or, maybe it's just to trick people into thinking they're getting a real sound card.) I have a dual core processor, so a little audio work isn't going to hurt it much. (And then there are games like Doom 3 that process all sound, in software, in a separate thread, and completely ignore hardware acceleration.) I'm not going to get a sound card and use up a precious expansion slot until I get better speakers - and living in a dorm, that won't be for quite some time.

    It's a shame they're having problems like this, though. They had good, solid products, and I've been quite happy with them and their drivers up through the Audigy. (I haven't purchased one since.)

    Maybe AMD will surprise the world by including kick-ass audio equipment in its spider-monkey platform or whatever...

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