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Creative Vista Driver Modder Speaks Out 318

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:Is this real? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Miltazar ( 1100457 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:43PM (#22934432) Homepage
    Yes, I've seen this story on multiple web sites so far...its real.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:50PM (#22934504)
    My understanding of the situation is that Creative had to license some IP for the ability to decode/output some types of data streams. They licensed this for their XP drivers, but have not yet licensed it for their Vista drivers. Until they do so, they can't enable their Vista drivers to offer the full range of support that their XP drivers had.
  • Re:Is this real? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:50PM (#22934506)
    It's not an April Fool's joke. Remember, Creative is the company that threatened to file a patent suit against iD Software if Doom 3 didn't ship with special (and completely-unrelated) support for Creative hardware.

    Kill them. Kill them with fire.
  • by an.echte.trilingue ( 1063180 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:53PM (#22934552) Homepage
    Except for that the drivers appear to be broken on purpose. The installer checks to see if it is on Vista, and if so it turns off certain features or replaced working drivers with buggy ones. All he did was disable the checks and replace the Vista drivers with the XP ones. According to TFA, the company has said "that whether or not it cripples its Vista drivers is a 'business decision that only we have the right to make.'"

    Looks to me like they are trying to cash in on the Wintel upgrade cycle for no good technical reason: "Oh, if you want to enable all of Vista's advanced features, you need to buy this card over here."

    Bastards, but probably bastards who will make lots of money.
  • Re:Is this real? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:10PM (#22934768)
    Wasn't Creative the company that refused to give ID Software any developer support at the time when ID Software was a startup company. As a result they refused to support Creative in any way whatsoever?
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:3, Informative)

    by wattrlz ( 1162603 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:13PM (#22934800)
    Creative didn't seem so miffed about the donations. Pretty much the last line of TFA says that Mr. Kawakami is still allowed to receive them.
  • by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:17PM (#22934840) Homepage

    If anyone wants another reason not to buy Creative anymore, two quick ones

    • When I bought my Muvo2 years ago, they advertised it as upgradeable to support new codecs -- never happened, can't even get the dumb remote which is required to use the advertised FM radio on the Muvo2
    • Creative has decided that having drivers that work for most of their cards in the vanilla Linux kernel is simply too good to be true, so they are moving a binary blob model like Nvidia. God forbid I shouldn't have to go through hoops to get hardware I paid for to work.
  • Re:Is this real? (Score:3, Informative)

    by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:19PM (#22934870)
    as i recall, doom 3 and quake 4 do all the sound stuff in software, ignoring any special features of the hardware (EAX, etc.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:22PM (#22934898)
    Creative has replaced the original threatening post on the forum with a very defensive one [] Chunks of the original post are still available on the article. Here's a smart guy who archive the original post [] .
  • Re:Is this real? (Score:3, Informative)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:25PM (#22934924)
    couldn't have been, Wolf3D, Doom and Quake all shipped with Soundblaster support
  • by Brit_in_the_USA ( 936704 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:35PM (#22935040)
    I went through SB live and incompatibilities with very popular VIA chip sets.

    I bought a Audigy (1) and never got the firewire port working or any drivers to work since XP SP2.

    For years I had been annoyed at the rubbish that installs with the drive CD's and how the GUI is totally at odds with Windows.

    I switched to Diamond (with DDL optical output) and Via sound cards (24bit / 96kHz) for a fraction of the price. I haven't looked back, updates are available for vista and they work just fine.

    Due to my bad experiences with Creative and driver support I actively steer clear of *any* product they make for over 5 years and advise family and friends to do the same.
  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:36PM (#22935052) Homepage Journal

    Driver issues are one of the primary reasons why people stay away from Linux. Why, precisely, should Vista be any different?

    When I purchased my first Vista computer I was amazed at the hardware that I had that didn't work with it. My printer had sub par drivers, and my scanner had no drivers at all. If you follow the email trail from Microsoft's current class action Vista lawsuit several executives at Microsoft had similar problems.

    The fact of the matter is that Vista doesn't have nearly the level of hardware support that Windows XP does. This may change in the future, but it is certainly the case right now. Creative's drivers are merely one example of many of companies that have far better Windows XP drivers for its hardware than Windows Vista drivers.

  • Re:Idiots. (Score:3, Informative)

    by PoderOmega ( 677170 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:39PM (#22935100)
    If you RTFA he wasn't charging, he was just accepting donations. He also states in Brazil hardware is about 3x more expensive than the US and he was going to use the donations to buy Creative hardware to test on (you don't have to believe him though).
  • Re:Is this real? (Score:5, Informative)

    by croddy ( 659025 ) * on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:43PM (#22935150)

    Creative won a patent on the algorithm known as Carmack's reverse, which the Doom 3 engine uses extensively. To avoid patent license fees, Id shipped the Doom 3 engine with Creative's EAX shit in it.

    see: []

  • by citylivin ( 1250770 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:02PM (#22935340)
    I purchased a santa cruz in 2000 or so and up until it was replaced, it had richer fuller sound than any other card I had tried. Previous to that I was using a soudblaster 512 which they discontinued in favour of bringing the EXACT same card to market under the title of "sb live", and costing IIRC double the price. You can see that creative has been pricks for pretty much their entire existence. The main reason to move away from creative is their god awful driver suite. I have never had a turtle beach card or driver crash, period. Not to mention that they dont install a fuckton of TSRs and spew crap all over the system.

    Currently I run a turtle beach montego DDL 7.1 [], and its simply flawless. The only problem I've ever had is getting their cheaper card (riveria) in canada. Its practically the same as the montego, but for half the price (30 bucks) and no 7.1.
  • by Shemmie ( 909181 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:32PM (#22935720)
    Creative Forum []

    We have read the strong feedback about Creative's forum post regarding driver development by Daniel_k and other outside parties. Creative's message posted on our behalf by our Company spokesperson tried to address our concern about the improper distribution of certain software which is the property of other companies. However, we did not make it as clear as we would have liked that we do support driver development by independent third parties. The huge task of developing driver updates to accommodate the many changes in the Vista operating system and the extensive testing required, including the lengthy Vista certification requirements for audio, makes it very difficult for Creative to develop updates for all past products. Outside developers have been very helpful to Creative and our customers by developing updates for many of our Sound Blaster products, and we do support and appreciate these efforts. This however does not extend to the unauthorized distribution of other companies' property. We hope to work out a mutually agreeable method for working with Daniel_k in supporting his efforts in driver development. Going forward, we are committed to doing a better job of working more closely with third parties to support their development for our products and our customers.
  • Re:Is this real? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 ) <koiulpoi@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @07:34PM (#22936308)
    No, that's absolutely wrong. Maybe it wasn't added until a later patch, but my copy of Doom 3 has a checkbox for "EAX HD 4.0" that happens to work.
  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @07:36PM (#22936328) Homepage Journal

    Because one of the major reasons Linux has driver problems is the refusal of the kernel developer to settle on a stable ABI so companies have something to develop for.

    Interestingly enough, Microsoft doesn't offer a stable ABI either. It just releases new versions of its operating system kernel so slowly that it *seems* that there is a stable ABI. The fact that Vista has problems with hardware compatibility is proof of that. What's more, Microsoft's "black box" model is clearly at least partly to blame for Windows' stability problems. As part of the discovery in its Windows Vista class action lawsuit Microsoft was forced to reveal that 30% of Windows crashes in 2007 were the fault of nVidia's drivers [].

    If you include old but perfectly serviceable hardware that is never likely get a usable Windows Vista driver then a modern Linux distribution almost certainly supports more hardware than Windows Vista, and it does so without having to load questionable black-box drivers. In fact, if it weren't for a few companies that create popular hardware and seem to have an aversion to Free Software (nVidia and Broadcom being the most well known) it would be pretty clear that Linus' insistence on source code has paid off well for Linux users. After all, once a piece of equipment has Free Software drivers these drivers tend to work well with Linux even when new versions come out. Most other hardware manufacturers have basically decided to give the Linux developers what they need. These days you don't even have to be particularly careful in your choice of hardware to get hardware with Free Software Linux drivers. Heck, you can even order a laptop from Dell.

    Not that any of this has anything to do with my original point. Hardware compatibility is a real problem for Windows Vista. Tons of perfectly good hardware doesn't work (or work very well) with the operating system. That's a real concern for people with investments in existing hardware. This Creative example is only one of many in which hardware that works perfectly well under Windows XP doesn't work or works poorly with Windows Vista. Microsoft pundits often use similar hardware compatibility problems as a reason to stay away from Linux. However, when Windows Vista has some of the exact same problems it apparently gets a pass.

  • by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @08:08PM (#22936562) Journal
    I am mostly with you here, but there is a noticeable difference in my PC between my 1st. generation Audigy card (which I'm quite happy with), and the xfi cards in my same PC. (I left Creative not long after the xfi came out, so I had a chance to test one in my PC- it is a nice soundcard under win xp sp2, but I am currently running Kubuntu with my Audigy card.
    And I can confirm that the 'test drive' I made with the xfi card did improve the framerates while playing Battlefield 1942, DC mod by 5-6 frames per second compared to the Audigy card, but I was already getting good enough framrates that it was marginal for me.
    I have no doubt that this was more important to other gamers trapped in Windows land, playing more modern, resource-intensive games, but I still use that same Audigy card in my current *Nix PC....and get phenomenal framerates in 'tux-racer'!!!

    For the average PC user, you are on the right track. But beware future Windows audio support.
    I can replace my Audigy card with almost any legacy soundcard and have it work with far back can Windows go?
    Not trying to be a troll...ALSA with Kubuntu seems to take a lot more in stride than XP or Vista is capable of.

    Bottom line:
    keep on doing what you are doing- if MS fails you, the Linux solution is cool, and works fine....don't fear the penguins!
  • by xSauronx ( 608805 ) <xsauronxdamnit&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @08:54PM (#22936852)
    torvalds said it himself:

    Clickity []

    I get asked a lot, which this probably won't surprise you, why doesn't the kernel have a stable device driver ABI?

    Linus Torvalds: Well, there's - the lack of an ABI is two-fold: one is we really, really, really don't want one. Every single time people ask for a stable ABI, the main reason for wanting a stable ABI is they want to have their binary drivers and they don't want to give out source and they don't - certainly don't want to merge that source into the stable kernel or the standard kernel.

    good article, short read. enjoy

  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @11:01PM (#22937420)
    I'm not really disagreeing with you. The reason most on-board audio these days is fairly reliable is because, as you surmised, the "hardware acceleration" is so bad and so limiting, most games nowadays simply opt for software processing, which has been steadily improving with 3rd party libraries (DirectSound was horrible - RIP) or nowadays XAudio 2. CPU speeds have finally advanced to the point where this isn't too much of an overall drag on the CPU. In other words, only a single audio stream, anywhere from 2 to 7 premixed and optimally resampled channels, is being pumped into the device, so all it has to do is convert the digital stream into an analog signal.

    Essentially, an add-on sound card will get you several things: a higher-quality DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) for a low-noise, high-dynamic signal, and if you get an X-Fi or equally capable device, you can get a reasonable amount of actual hardware accelerated voices for better HRTF effects (simulated 3D from stereo speakers), better EAX effects (software effects sound ok, but not quite as good as hardware), and cleaner resampled audio (typically 5-point spline instead of linear).

    Worth $100 or more? Well, that's your call.
  • Re:Obvious. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Macthorpe ( 960048 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @03:26AM (#22938354) Journal
    How is this insightful? You clearly didn't read the article at all.

    Creative broke parts of their Vista drivers even though those parts would have worked fine. The modder re-enabled them and Creative threw a wobbly. This has nothing to do with DRM or media companies, and the only link to Microsoft is the OS the drivers were written for. It has everything to do with Creative forcing an upgrade path on their customers.

    Good work on writing a comment with all the buzzwords necessary to look insightful, though.
  • by toleraen ( 831634 ) * on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @10:12AM (#22940094)

    how can DTS or dolby sue creative on something creative had NO PART IN DOING??
    Ignoring the whole "the owners of this forum aren't responsible for what people post", people still go after the owners for doing so. Just like how you're not allowed to post links to warez on here. If the owner turns a blind eye to it, the owner of the original content can still go after the forum owner. Even though Creative wasn't directly assisting this guy, they still were letting it go on. Don't take a stand, get sued. Simple as that.

    For further examples, look at every "Torrent tracker taken down" story posted. Trackers aren't hosting the files, but they're still allowing their users to do it.
  • Re:Obvious. (Score:4, Informative)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @11:36AM (#22940780) Homepage Journal
    I haven't bought a Creative product since 1999 or 2000, when they were flat-out denying their Live! drivers were buggy and exhibited race conditions . Everyone with a multiprocessor machine and a Live! card could demonstrably reproduce the issues very easily. An OEM had owned up to it and produced an updated driver for their workstation and high-end PC lines, but it wasn't until hyperthreading hit the market that they (creative) finally owned up to it-- because they HAD to. SMP and SMT were going mainstream and they finally realized it. Sorry, after spending >$200 for a sound card that had buggy drivers when a $69 Game Theater XP card (WITH BREAKOUT BOX!) card outperformed it and was STABLE -- I'll still not buy, recommend, specify, or sell Creative products to this day.
  • by Z34107 ( 925136 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @01:49PM (#22942080)

    Reading the article, it sounds like all he did was hack the ALchemy driver so you wouldn't have to pay for it:

    Well, I did manage to patch the latest version of ALchemy X-Fi to run on any card, without even removing Safecast, but I'm done with that.

    The driver hacker didn't write a DirectSound emulation program - he just hacked up Creative's drivers so they would:

    • Enable ALchemy features on "any" card - i.e., make the free version they released with their new card work on other cards, eliminating the need to pay for the other version.
    • Enable features "purposely disabled" when Vista is detected. I'm sure Creative has a reason to do this - probably the whole "we haven't licensed anything for Vista for our older cards, so don't get us sued" bit from the summary.

    He didn't hack together an ALchemy replacement; he just hacked it up so that it would run better on Vista, and so you wouldn't have to pay for it. It's more like writing a "no-CD hack" for a game, rather than writing your own game.

    Developers weren't "outdone" by a hobbyist - they were the ones that wrote the XP code, and then disabled it in the Vista drivers. This hobbyist is just removing those checks, which it seems could get Creative in trouble.

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.