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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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  • Idiots. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:43PM (#22934430)
    Shoot down the guy that's making your product work. That's a brilliant strategy.

    Kawakami probably should have not solicited donations, but that's the only questionable thing he's done here. He should make out a cashier's check for the total amount of donations he's received, mail it to Creative Labs, and refuse any further donations. That should shut them up.
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:45PM (#22934442)
    He should make out a cashier's check for the total amount of donations he's received, mail it to Creative Labs

    must be the new 'american way'; to reward companies for bad behavior (multiple times over) with a CASHIER'S CHECK.


    no, he should NOT send money to the company that caused the problem. good grief, man, what are you thinking?

  • by Buzz_Litebeer ( 539463 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:45PM (#22934444) Journal
    Thats the solution. You have it from Creative's mouth. They purposefully are positioning themselves to cripple your hardware to make the actual cost of your card higher if you have Vista.

    This is not a problem with Vista, it is a problem with Creative if they do that.

    So, do not buy Creative sound cards and let them go out of business.
  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:51PM (#22934514)
    Hardware makers, especially those that make drivers for their gear, don't understand a hacker's mentality, or even the rebuke they get from not listening to customers. I applaud the guy; did what he needed to get the Vista Not Ready gear working. They should hire him after they throw out their software contractor and their VP of whoever thought that killing the driver was a good idea.
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:53PM (#22934548)
    Well, since it's pretty obvious that what he was doing was un-crippling software that they had intentionally broken, I think it's understandable that they're pissed.

    Normally I'd agree. But why should I lose features in Vista because Creative decided that the card I already bought shouldn't work in a new OS? I can only think it is to encourage people to buy new cards. That's slimey.
  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:54PM (#22934554) Journal
    So the real moral of the story is stay away from Creative.
  • Drivers in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slapout ( 93640 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @04:58PM (#22934614)
    Windows are very difficult to write. If this guy modded someone else's, they should hire him.
  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:00PM (#22934640) Journal
    Well, as much as I despise Vista and Microsoft in general, they can't be faulted for some greedy hardware manufacturer trying to scam more money out of people that have already bought their stuff. It's part of the good faith agreement between consumer and manufacturer that the hardware, for a reasonable amount of time, will work on modern common operating systems.
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:01PM (#22934652)
    but isn't there a law about making money off of somebody else's product without their permission?

    IANAL, but there are limits (even today) as to what a company can do to STOP someone from applying their mods to works that are for sale.

    if he 'sells' only his time and effort via the patch, that should be fine. if he includes the whole binary (which isn't his) then that's not ok.

    but in terms of him making money on the effort he applied, what's wrong with that? if he sells only a patch he should be fine. the 'dont look at our code' is not enforceable. I believe its fair use.

    of course, the actual law isn't important; what IS important is that creative is a SCUMBAG COMPANY and will threaten people just to get them to stop, law or no law.

    creative: I will never ever ever buy your gear again; and I will try to influence all my peers and companies not to buy your stuff either. I hope you reap lots of what you sowed from this stunt of yours.
  • Re:Naïveté (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:02PM (#22934668)
    He wasn't working for the company, he was working for the victims of the company's shoddy behaviour.... as you can see, from the company's response.
  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:03PM (#22934676) Homepage Journal

    No, the real moral is to stay away from both Creative AND Vista.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:05PM (#22934700)
    No, the real moral of the story is that knowledge is power and thinking for yourself is freedom.
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dlst ( 1216432 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:06PM (#22934710)
    Why should he return donations? If people want to pay him for his TIME, there's nothing wrong with that. It's akin to someone paying me for my time to fix their car, or to mod their car. I'm not taking credit for engineering the car, I'm just providing my time and expertise. I think if he wants to provide a service for free, and well wishers want to help support him completely voluntarily, there's nothing wrong with that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:06PM (#22934722)
    Fista? You gotta be kidding me. That, and you, is really lame. Shame on you.
  • Analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:16PM (#22934826)
    Software crippling is standard practice. I am a professional embedded software engineer and I guarantee that the majority of model sperated features are all only a few bits of cleverly coded SW to tell them apart. Hell most of the jobs I have ever had in consumer electronics or industrial applications are implemented this way - ie. one standard set of HW and a configuration file and different stickers to tell the top of the range from the basic model.

    This is really all Creative were doing, attempting to force enough of a difference between bottem end products and older products and the new top of the range technologies to ensure sales stay up. You cannot really blame them this this commercial decision.


    what I take exception to is the fact that they have made none of this clear to the consumers. and worse, they have actively degraded the functionality of hardware people have already paid for by means of drivers for a new operation system.

    In other words it is as though you purchased a car hifi and used it for a year in your Ford. Then you purchased an Mercedes and fitted the same car hifi and found the audio output was at half the resolution in your new car. If you have wanted to spend the money and pay for double the resolution then nobody would of batted an eyelid - but you would reasonably expect that the original performace would of been preserved. At the very least you would of expected some notification or warning.

    And thats why Creative are in hot water - apart from their shockingly rude and arrogant behaviour that is.

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:26PM (#22934936) Homepage Journal
    I thought they must be under some sort of contract restrictions with Microsoft (who is under restrictions from the media companies) that has harsh legal fines for enabling things like that. That's the only sane reason I can think of that Creative would do something like sue a guy who was pretty much fixing their drivers for free. Likely part of the contract is that they're not allowed to speak publicly about the restrictions in it, nor are they allowed to let third parties bypass them.

    Or they are just lawsuit happy jerks. That is a nonzero possibility as well. I thought it was funny that the Creative exec was basically saying "It's our right to release broken drivers if we want to". Clearly Creative knows a lot about broken drivers.
  • by colinbrash ( 938368 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:28PM (#22934950)
    Terratec and M-Audio both make quality sound cards, and I much, much prefer those companies to Creative.
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dwandy ( 907337 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:39PM (#22935094) Homepage Journal

    He's profiting off their IP.
    Once upon a time the car manufacturers sued to stop 3rd party modders from making parts for their cars (aka: their IP). The car companies lost, and today we have a vibrant and profitable after-market for car parts that not only doesn't impede the car companies from making car sales, but often determines which car someone will purchase.

    I'm not sure how we ended up down the path where just because a mod happens electronically it's suddenly possible for the manufacturer to win the same argument. It's important to note that he's in fact not "profiting off (Creative's) IP", he is actually profiting from his addition to their product, just like car modders of days gone by...

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:40PM (#22935108) Journal
    Who cares what Creative wants? If I want to use modded drivers for a card that I own, that's entirely my right. Creative doesn't have to support me obviously, but they have no place trying to stop this.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:49PM (#22935224) Journal

    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.
    What an elegant example of why the intellectual property laws are ridiculous, outdated and do more damage than good.

    I'm hoping that China, filesharers and hackers like Daniel violate our IP laws so thoroughly and ceaselessly as to make them useless. At that point, we can start thinking sensibly how to approach the issue.

    And don't tell me that innovation will disappear if there were no IP laws. That is simply not true.
  • by Yaur ( 1069446 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:56PM (#22935294)
    Personally when I am building a new machine I almost always take the sound card from the old machine because it is one of the few things that isn't going to offer much improvement by upgrading... I would guess that this is pretty typical and that Creative is trying to give people an artificial reason to buy another sound card rather than recycle an old one.
  • by GreatBunzinni ( 642500 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:06PM (#22935368)
    Well, that would be fine and dandy if the real problem behind Creative's Windows Vista drivers were the result of incompetence. On the other hand, what daniel_k said made me strongly believe that Creative was intentionally fucking up the drivers in order to make their products appear rotten in Windows Vista and then force their users into an upgrade cycle. That has nothing to do with misunderstanding a hacker's mentality. That's screwing us all, the potential clients, up the ass.
  • Re:Idiots. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:10PM (#22935432) Homepage
    But why should I lose features in Vista because Creative decided that the card I already bought shouldn't work in a new OS?

    Because you're Creative's bitch.

    Remember how we used to buy and "own" things? Well, now apparently companies are claiming the right to tell us how we may, or may not, use their products after "buying" them, even with physical hardware. Since the number of people who care about things like this enough to stop buying shiny gadgets is minuscule, I see no reason why this tactic shouldn't work.

    After all, it's their product, why shouldn't they have complete control over how you "consume" it - there's money to be made, after all.
  • Re:Naïveté (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:15PM (#22935494) Homepage

    That's probably what he believes, but the effect of his work is that the victims of Creative's shoddy behavior can continue to use and buy Creative's shoddy products.
    I would normally say something similar myself- Daniel K no doubt started out simply intending to fix Creative's shoddy drives, where what you say applies.

    However, it's now apparent in this case (and by this stage) that it wasn't simply a case of Creative being blase or cheap about fixing the bugs. On the contrary, they quite clearly and deliberately *didn't* want them fixed.

    You know, I might have defended Creative on the basis that the guy modified their own drivers and got them to work on all soundcards. This would give non-Creative owners of other cards unpaid access to Creative's work, and possibly certain features (code or patents) which was licensed- i.e. not owned- by Creative for use with their cards alone. Possibly some of the features were only licensed (and paid for) for use with certain cards.

    But that's the charitable view. In truth, Creative's behaviour smacks of deliberately breaking their older hardware under Vista so that people are forced to upgrade. I'm unclear whether they actually introduced deliberate bugs into the Vista drivers, but if so, this is reprehensible. I'd also be interested to find out how legal this is under various jurisdictions- probably 100% in the US (where they can get away with a 90 day warranty on a brand new laptop), not so sure about other countries, particularly within the EU.
  • by Whuffo ( 1043790 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:26PM (#22935664) Homepage Journal
    Creative had a good run for many years; perfectly adequate sound cards (not great, but not bad) and a line of reasonable MP3 players.

    But things have changed; the iPod has made Creative's portable music player largely irrelevant - and on-board sound is a standard feature of motherboards these days.

    So what is poor Creative to do? They could take the honorable path; see that their market has dried up and either innovate in another market or close down their business. But no; they're used to getting those dollars coming in on a regular basis and decided to try something less-than-honorable.

    But they got caught at it. Too bad; Creative is in a worse position now. Not only are they still faced with sharply declining revenues, they've also got a public relations nightmare to deal with too.

    Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch; here's payback for all those crappy drivers you dumped on your customers. Die in a fire, OK?

  • by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy @ g m a> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:35PM (#22935760)

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

    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.

  • Re:Obvious. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Macthorpe ( 960048 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @07:10PM (#22936072) Journal
    Care to point out how Microsoft have any part in this, other than releasing an operating system that Creative makes drivers for?
  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @07:13PM (#22936122) Journal
    How are we all going to avoid buying creative soundcards for gaming? Since Gravis went out of business they have a monopoly on high end sound cards for gaming. They can behave as badly as they like and just sell more product.

    This is clear example of how market based principles do not always benefit consumers.
  • by StuartHankins ( 1020819 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @07:39PM (#22936348)
    We -- and I think I speak for the majority of Linux users here -- don't want binary drivers in Linux. You can't fix a binary driver, nor can you make sure it's not doing something evil. You can't migrate the code to future versions as the kernel is modified. You can't optimize it. We don't want an endless stream of support for old pieces of hardware, or a fixed-in-time ABI that keeps things from maturing. An ABI freezes progress.

    Part of the open source movement is transparency with code, and you certainly don't get there with binary drivers.

    What happens when the vendor goes out of business, or decides not to continue support for your device for whatever reason? Where is your support then? Tech vendors die or are absorbed all the time. Do you want to be prevented from upgrading your system because the closed-source, binary driver cannot be updated? With an open-source driver anybody anywhere in the world can continue working on it. That's a tremendous amount of added value.

    The only reason we don't have drivers for some pieces of hardware is the unwillingness of certain manufacturers to cooperate -- they hide behind binaries and refuse to work with the community. Only with binary drivers can a vendor decide to cripple the devices we bought just because we changed OS's.

    Creative lost a customer today with this behavior.
  • Re:Is this real? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reddburn ( 1109121 ) <> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @08:46PM (#22936802)
    WTF? When I was younger, they would HIRE you for this.
  • by prxp ( 1023979 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @11:16PM (#22937492)

    From Daniel_K:
    What I did wrong
    Reversing ALchemy was also wrong, I know. But I reiterate, what is the point of improving ALchemy and changing for it, when it requires an improved driver? It was my protest against Creative.
    Just to clarify a few things. Maybe Daniel doesn't even know that, but reverse engineering is completely legal in Brazil, so he hasn't broken any laws. What he did is completely OK and law abiding.
    Actually things run even deeper. Copying stuff for personal use isn't illegal in Brazil, even if you don't have a license. It can be anything, books, movies, software, etc.
  • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @11:17PM (#22937498)
    Actually, the sub-issue here is that Creative's Vista drivers for said hardware don't work properly at all. So this guy's drivers are the only useful Vista drivers for that hardware. The fact that he re-enabled Dolby is an interesting sideshow and the one Creative's using as a club here to beat him, but the real spotlight should be on what the hell is wrong with Creative that they can't have their team of day-job programmers make drivers that work in a year, but a lone hobbyist tinkerer can.
  • by grahamm ( 8844 ) <> on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @06:48AM (#22938956) Homepage

    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.
    Surely any sensible company would have licensed the technologies for use with the hardware product, ie the soundcard, rather than for any specific operating system. Companies such as creative make their money from selling hardware not from selling drivers. So is it not to their advantage (more cards sold) for the full capabilities of the hardware to be available on as many operating systems as possible? - especially when they are not paying for the development/adaptation of the driver for these other O/Ss.
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @08:00AM (#22939218)
    so let me get this straight.

    lets assume that creative is not the 'bad guy' here (just follow along, for now).

    and lets assume that creative made business deals with the rotton stinking dolby-labs (yeah, they suck too) and DTS guys for their xp product offering. and lets assume that they chose to CHEAP OUT and not renew those deals for vista, on certain hardware models.

    how can DTS or dolby sue creative on something creative had NO PART IN DOING??

    creative did not violate any licensing. THEY did not distribute new functionality that was 'not paid for' to the industry groups.

    why the fuck should they care what some user does once the card (and fees, btw) have been already paid for?

    IANAL, but it seems creative is harmless here; the driver modder did not involve creative directly and so ANY issues at all would be between the industry groups (dolby, dts) and the driver modder.

    creative clearly knows this. this isn't about license fees. this is about having egg on their face when the TRUTH comes out about wanting their business model (lame as it might be) to try to get more money from customers by making them re-buy hardware.

    that was the ONLY issue. the licensing was a distraction. nice try creative, but no cigar.

    their true colors were shown. they want you to re-buy hardware simply because they have run out of ideas! its just that simple.

    don't buy this 'license fees have to be paid!' bullshit. its a smokescreen. its all about squeezing more 'upgrade money' from users and nothing more.

    highly dispicable behavior. I'll never buy creative gear again. and I will take ever opportunity to convey that concept (with reasoning behind it) to every shop I work for (I often do sysadmin work and am consulted for machine purchases and hardware specs).
  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @09:47AM (#22939888) Homepage Journal
    I think the whole Hot Coffee affair has shown that you can be successfully sued for modifications made to your product by people outside of your control.

Disks travel in packs.