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Creative GPLs X-Fi Sound Card Driver Code 369

Posted by timothy
from the intelligent-move dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In a move that's a win for the free software community, Creative Labs has decided to release their binary Linux driver for the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi and X-Fi Titanium sound cards under the GPL license. This is coming after several failed attempts at delivering a working binary driver and years after these sound cards first hit the market."
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Creative GPLs X-Fi Sound Card Driver Code

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  • Cool (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:02PM (#25666447)
    I've been waiting to hear this for years.
  • At last! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:03PM (#25666461)

    This is great news! With proper sound card driver support maybe 2009 will finally be the year of the Linux desktop!

    • Re:At last! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kae77 (1006997) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:08PM (#25666549)
      Honestly, being a casual Linux user, sound card support is not the defining factor holding back Linux adoption. While Ubuntu goes a long way to improving the user experience with Linux, even to get it to a 'standard' setup, I needed to use the console no less than 5 times. That's *needed* to, there was no GUI way to do what I was trying to do. While I personally have no problem doing that, I shudder at the idea of talking someone like my father through it. The day that I can combine Linux stability with ease of use... that will be the year of the Linux desktop. Driver integration and support goes a long way to doing that, and a flushed out menu system will put it over the top.
      • Re:At last! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:14PM (#25666635) Homepage Journal

        While Ubuntu goes a long way to improving the user experience with Linux, even to get it to a 'standard' setup, I needed to use the console no less than 5 times.

        Which "standard" issues required the console, if I may be so bold to ask?

        • Re:At last! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:21PM (#25666755)

          The same kind that would require using REGEDIT on windows. Screw that troll, linux is as ready as any other consumer OS on the market. The consumer mass just been too much hammered into that win32 thinking shape.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by westlake (615356)
            The same kind that would require using REGEDIT on windows. Screw that troll, linux is as ready as any other consumer OS on the market. The consumer mass just been too much hammered into that win32 thinking shape.

            .

            I doubt I've opened REGEDIT four times this year or twenty times over the life of XP.

            I have yet to meet anyone other than the enthusiast or the pro who is genuinely comfortable editing configuration files.

            The syntax is arcane - people fear the consequences of a typo. The experience has all the

            • Re:At last! (Score:5, Funny)

              by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @08:49PM (#25669643)
              The experience has all the appeal of root canal without sedation.

              There's your problem you see. It should be user canal, and you sudo to get elevated privileges as and when needed.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              This is unrelated to the parent however.

              My Mum used to do data entry on punch card terminals (or something like it), she would tell me about how in the day she wrote a program to add more then one zero when she pushed the zero key because she was lazy to press the key multiple times, however even with all this she still can barely use a modern GUI machine and she used to be scared of computers.

              It puzzles me to this day that she could do these difficult things before but now she can barely operate a much eas

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by X0563511 (793323)

              Back up your assertions or be silent.

        • The first thing i have to do in a new ubuntu install is go to a console and go "alsamixer" and crank the mic up so it might work with wine. Didn't quite happen with 8.10 tho, i apparently have to go killall pulseaudio then aoss wine [appname] now, but i havn't tried it yet. can't wait till pulseaudio gets better
        • by pembo13 (770295)
          I am no Ubuntu user's but when you make comments like these, a lot of people wish you would provide some details. I know the Fedora community appreciates constructive, detailed criticism.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I prefer having a working command line, as walking my mother through how to do something on windows is absolutely hideous (click here, click there, no not that one, close that window, click that tab), while on linux it's usually a simple one-line command that I can send to her via email, text message, or IM.

        In my books, it's Windows that's deficient in the user case you suggested.

      • Re:At last! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Thaelon (250687) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:44PM (#25667055)

        Bingo.

        The year of the linux desktop will never come until "making everything work" for 80% of the population requires precisely zero command line interactions, and precisely zero edits of obscure text files. And that most google searches for help end with instructions telling the user how to fix their problem or get their whatever working must also use precisely zero command line interactions, and precisely zero edits of obscure text files.

        This includes hardware, common to obscure applications, common customizations etc.

        If you have to edit a text file, your software is not ready for (l)users.

        • Re:At last! (Score:5, Funny)

          by wikinerd (809585) on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:47AM (#25671859) Journal

          If you have to edit a text file, your software is not ready for (l)users.

          Who wants lusers using the same OS as you? One of the reasons I use GNU/Linux (Debian) is precisely because the user communities are free of lusers, so that I know that whenever I post a message to a mailing list I will get answers from fellow power users.

          Lusers tend to infect a software project with their stupidity and naivety. They tend to click on any link they see in their emails, so virus writters target whatever OS the lusers use most. The developers of a piece of software also tend to make their software more suitable for stupid users because they tend to think that accomodating more users is a good thing, thus driving power users away. Unfortunately this currently happens with some GNU/Linux distros. You just have to see that many newer GNU/Linux software projects only work with X and have no command line support, and many websites don't work with text browsers anymore.

          Whatever software we use is not only determined by technical merit but also by social factors. We want to use software which is different from anyone else, particularly the lusers and the closed source world. If our OS requires interaction with a command line and editing obscure text files, then we can know for sure that we will never have to deal with a luser in our support mailing lists, etc.

          Thus, user-unfriendliness is a filter that we can use intentionally to keep non-powerusers away from our communities. If GNU/Linux ever becomes the preferred OS of lusers I am going to switch to OpenBSD, and if that too gets infected by lusers I will write my own.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          the 'year of the linux desktop' will come when 'linux' manages to strong-arm every oem into installing 'linux' exclusively on every home computer they ship.
      • by fizzup (788545)

        Normally, I avoid correcting mistakes in Slashdot posts, but I'm going to make an exception in your case. Your post is cogent, which makes me think that you might care about this.

        I think you should have written "fleshed out", which means to give something substance. It's like saying Ubuntu has a skeleton menu system that needs to have more things available in it so you don't have to keep going back to the console. This is in contrast to "flushed out", which means that the Ubuntu menu system is hiding somewh

      • Re:At last! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:59PM (#25667257)

        Honestly, being a casual Linux user, sound card support is not the defining factor holding back Linux adoption. While Ubuntu goes a long way to improving the user experience with Linux, even to get it to a 'standard' setup, I needed to use the console no less than 5 times. That's *needed* to, there was no GUI way to do what I was trying to do.

        While I personally have no problem doing that, I shudder at the idea of talking someone like my father through it. The day that I can combine Linux stability with ease of use... that will be the year of the Linux desktop. Driver integration and support goes a long way to doing that, and a flushed out menu system will put it over the top.

        I have come to disbelieve in the mystical power of the GUI. The GUI does not solve all problems. It can not provide radio buttons and check-marks for every situation. And it does not invoke a state of bliss for helping the wayward neophyte in a state of confusion. I accept that some will see this as heresy.

        Granted - I've long been a heretic. The command line is what ultimately turned me from Windows to Unix. But I understand that I am not a "normal user" and so I was willing to accept that GUIs are generally Good Ideas. And I still think they are; I used them in my Linux environment all the time for a lot of tasks. But there are times when it just doesn't work as well as a command line.

        This isn't a Linux concept. Various proprietary Unix environments have long straddled the fence between GUI and command line. And that includes today's most celebrated consumer Unix environment: MacOS X. Even Microsoft has given the command line increasing attention. And that's not even covering such dark arts as registry hacking.

        But wait! Most users never see a registry hack! Yet Linux must always resort to the command line. Right? Not in my experience.

        It's probably due to my particular interests - but I've always found a reason to dig in to the guts of a system. Either I'm doing something unique for my own use, cleaning up after having broken something, or cleaning up after someone else having broken something. And that's always required a registry editor or a command line (and sometimes a command line even when a GUI option was available as I just found it easier). And when I'm not doing something too out-of-the-ordinary, I've found the base Unbuntu install gives me a perfectly suitable environment. The clicky-clicky magic is baked right in. Here. Today.

        And when it doesn't? Its often a cruddy driver involved that trips up Ubuntu's autoconfig magic. That "driver integration" goes further than given credit for.

        That doesn't mean "Linux" can't use improvement. There's plenty of room for it. Cruddy drivers included.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kjella (173770)

        I really don't understand how your post can get modded up with so complete lack of arguable points.

        I tend to use the console a lot, but when I do it's usually because:
        1. I'm trying to do something others wouldn't, like say bridge a virtualbox to the network
        2. I'm trying to bludgeon half-supported hardware into working, like my laptop's ACPI support
        3. In a forum it's 100x easier to type up three lines of console text than make a GUI guide

        I have had problems with sounds. I've also not had problems with sound

  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NuclearError (1256172) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:04PM (#25666493)
    I eagerly await any driver that is smaller and faster and takes up less resources than Creative's.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Lets not be ungrateful. Of course I'd rather they just release the spec and let anybody have a hack at it, but this will work for now(even though Creative sound cards suck and they have sucked since the year 2000.).

      I'm hoping that Creative, along with ATI, Nvidia and others are beginning to realize that many home users who tinker with Linux are not just poor students looking for cheap solutions. Many Linux users are well-off somewhat technical professionals with the patience and the disposal income >
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Eskarel (565631)
        They released the specs months ago, check out the alsa-project page.

        Realistically we're still not going to see much for quite a while. From all accounts creative's attempts at a linux driver were crap(I didn't bother trying them after reading what people were having to do to make them even compile), and there will still probably have to be a complete rewrite, but at least with the new license they'll be able to reuse some of that code and it might speed things up a bit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arth1 (260657)

      Well, the summary says they're releasing the binary driver. Not the source.
      Presumably as a LGPL, cause you can't really release a binary as full GPL, unless you created it in a hex editor and never used a compiler.

      So I wouldn't get my hopes up for this leading to any better drivers from the community.

      Anyhow, why would we want better drivers for a card that's hampered by hardware? It can only work completely in 48 kHz, so audio has to be converted, with a resulting quality loss.
      There are far better cards a

  • Fucking awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IceCreamGuy (904648) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:06PM (#25666525) Homepage
    Maybe I'm a tool for having one of these cards (Ok, probably I'm a tool), but the giant amount of bullshit I have to go through to get it working in Ubuntu is really the only remaining things keeping me from booting into it more than a couple times a week. With the free Codeweavers SW and this in the pipeline, I can't imagine a need to boot into Windows too often anymore.
    • by PeelBoy (34769)

      Agreed. Luckily for me I still have onboard sound and my speakers have 2 inputs. I use onboard sound while I'm in linux and the SB while in Windows.

    • Back in the day I had a sound card I had to compile drivers for. It indeed kicked me out of linux several times; once sound worked, I was in.
    • by pembo13 (770295)
      I had consciously decided not to dable with their new card, especially since the SoundBlaster Live 5.1 works so well with OSS. But this news is just sweet.
  • Crackle-crackle-cr[STOP]

    Halt! Are you GPL? Ok, move on!

    aaah-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaah! [sweet music]

  • by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:10PM (#25666569)

    Seriously, what possible financial/business gain is there to have creative hide these things? Are they really worried about other companies stealing their driver ideas for their hardware? I know graphics drivers can potentially (or used to anyways) have a large amount of optimized code that could _maybe_ be beneficial to competitors, but sound cards?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dnoyeb (547705)

      Creative is probably one of those companies that chargers a grip for access to their API. Open sourcing the drivers means nobody will pay for any API access anymore. On linux.

    • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:18PM (#25666707)
      Just a shot in the dark, but maybe they had 3rd party stuff in the drivers and they couldnt legally GPL it...Dolby Digital, etc...and then they removed it now so they can? Just a guess.
      • i don't know much about sound cards, but wouldn't something like Dolby Digital be handled in the firmware or on a dedicated chip? otherwise you might as well have the application (music player, DVD/video player, etc.) decode the Dolby Digital data to the raw uncompressed audio channels that are sent to the speakers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 644bd346996 (1012333)

      Releasing driver source code reveals most of the same information that is included in detailed technical specifications. It almost always includes enough info to make a compatible, competing product, and often has enough info to greatly simplify the process of reverse-engineering the device.

      A hardware company like Creative should be wary of doing this - it could really hurt their monopoly on gaming-oriented sound cards.

      • by DittoBox (978894)

        AFAIK there is no EAX support in any of their Linux drivers or specifications. EAX is the only thing that separates Creative from the better (sound) quality, vendors out there.

    • There was a story a while back about some company differentiating their normal and absurdly-expensive hardware pretty much entirely by having crippled drivers for the normal version. (the story was about them attacking some guy who published tweaks to make the drivers for the expensive version work on the normal version.) I think I recall that being the Creative X-Fi, if that's correct it could probably explain the closedness but not why they suddenly changed their minds.
      • It was Creative who did that, yes. That's why I'm so confused they've turned around and released the Linux drivers under the GPL.

        I wonder - how difficult is it to take a driver written for Linux and write one for Windows using the information it provides? Is there some enterprising X-Fi owner out there willing to do it so the rest of us can have a non-sucky X-Fi driver for Windows?

        Disclaimer: I don't own an X-Fi (after the incident mentioned above, I pledged never to buy one).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kjella (173770)

        No, I believe it was that they had licensed some functionality for XP but not for Vista, so they were no longer enabled in the Vista driver. Someone posted hacks to reenable the functionality under Vista, which required Creative to do some legal bitching as they probably feared those they were licensing from. In any case, maybe their lawyers realized that even if the open source community implemented something patented or whatever it's not going to make Creative liable.

    • Sound cards don't go obsolete nearly as fast as other computer devices. (I'm still using the same emu10k1 based card as when I started with Linux), so creative likes to force upgrades by not updating drivers to newer OSes (as they admitted publicly). Looks like they now want to recover some of the good will they lost when they sued the kid for improving their drivers.

    • by Foktip (736679)
      Thats exactly what many of us have been saying for 3 years! And not only that, even the video card manufacturers have long since made Linux drivers.

      I was forced to search far and wide for older supported cards that were actually in stock somewhere. Now i can finally get _working_ optical input for my Linux machine!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LingNoi (1066278)

      It's because all their cards are the same but they turn features on and off in the software allowing them to charge more for some cards then others but still producing the same card.

      It's also why Nvidia doesn't release the source to their drivers, it's been put forth by the Nouveau guys (the people making an open source nvidia driver) that the Geforce 7 series is the same as the Geforce 6600 series and that if you want your Geforce to become a more expensive Quadro it's a simple memory rewrite to a certain

  • Sweet! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:15PM (#25666653)

    Now I can play all those great games that got built on top of the open-source ID engines!

  • Soundcards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:15PM (#25666661)

    Perhaps this is a sign that Creative are fearing for their existence. I mean, with high quality onboard audio (7.1, dolby etc) now pretty much standard on even budget motherboards, aren't the days of buying a separate soundcard history now?

    Other than musicians perhaps, I can't think that anyone, even gamers/power users would still consider a separate soundcard as a 'required' upgrade, or even necessary at all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grokmoo (1180039)
      Indeed, I think you are right. In fact, not even musicians are really a market for Creative's cards. Most musicians want something with some good quality recording capability, and this is not something that Creative is known for.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ziggles (246540)

      The X-Fi still handles S/PDIF output better than my motherboard's onboard sound device. It's more flexible in letting applications output to S/PDIF directly or going through their Dolby Digital Live encoder. It lets me use the analog outputs simultaneously with the S/PDIF output. Little things that add up, it's worth the money I spent on it 2 years ago.

    • Re:Soundcards? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MostAwesomeDude (980382) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:43PM (#25667037) Homepage

      Musicians (like me) will buy better-quality hardware than Creative. :3

    • I mean, with high quality onboard audio (7.1, dolby etc) now pretty much standard on even budget motherboards, aren't the days of buying a separate soundcard history now?

      Indeed. For most purposes the on-board sound is more than good enough these days. I haven't bought a sound card for personal use in years. The last motherboard I bought came with 7.1 built-in, and I only have crappy desktop stereo speakers.

      If one of my clients does need a separate sound card I'll go with Turtle Beach [turtlebeach.com]. They've been a great alternative to Creative for many years now.

    • Good, i hope i'm not alone when i say creative are a bunch of cockheads, they've pulled a lot of crap over the years and i hope they die. This whole thing makes me want them to die less, but they've got a long way to go.
    • by LoRdTAW (99712)

      "I mean, with high quality onboard audio (7.1, dolby etc) now pretty much standard on even budget motherboards, aren't the days of buying a separate soundcard history now?"

      Please dont say that. I just upgraded to a new socket AM2 board and I have had more problems with the on board sound then I ever had with a card. I used to have a Turtlebeach Santacruz and now with the horrid realtek garbadge I am fed up with on board sound. Realtek leaves the driver and interface software design to the motherboard manufa

    • Re:Soundcards? (Score:5, Informative)

      by rsmith-mac (639075) on Friday November 07, 2008 @12:02AM (#25671465)

      Headphones.

      No one else gives a damn about headphones. The quality issues with on-board sound become quite apparent with a good set of headphones, and even most other consumer sound cards treat it as an afterthought, doing whatever they would do with a set of stereo speakers. The X-Fi (at least under Windows) has an absolutely excellent headphone spatialization algorithm for general listening, it completely resolves the fatigue issue that results from hearing only a single audio channel in each ear without naturally occurring crossfeed. As for gaming, Creative (or rather Aureal's) head related transfer function tech for 3D audio is second to none; it's better than 5.1 speakers and is the only thing on the market right now worth a damn for 3D audio on headphones.

      Unfortunately I'm not sure how much of this would be usable under Linux. The spatialization issue in particular drives me nuts.

  • GPL... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrysalis (50680) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:18PM (#25666717) Homepage

    GPL. So BSD coders will have to rewrite it from scratch.

    This is better than nothing, but worse than good documentation and worse than a BSD driver (that could be merged to BSD and GPL licensed operating systems).

    • by ettlz (639203)
      Whoa... cue ALSA vs. OSS flamewar in 3... 2... 1...
    • Are the *BSD and Linux driver models similar enough for sharing drivers to even be possible?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jesus_666 (702802)
        1. Read the Linux driver.
        2. Figure out how to talk to the hardware.
        3. Write the BSD driver.

        Step 2 is made much easier by step 1. Without step 1 you have to talk to the hardware without any kind of reference.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:26PM (#25666815)

    Not even gamers buy sound cards anymore [steampowered.com]. I bet Creative's sound card business is small fries compared to their consumer electronics business.

    • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @06:48PM (#25667995)

      Not even gamers buy sound cards anymore.

      It does make you wonder what the 30% "other" is though.

      They've got Creative Labs represented at about 3.5% between Audigy 2 ZS, Audigy, and X-Fi. But is that accurately counting all the X-Fi variants? What about the multitude of Audigy 2's that aren't "ZS". Ditto for the diverse original Audigy line. The venerable SoundBlaster "Live" series that preceded the Audigy isn't represented at all. I wouldn't really be raising the question, except that we've got that giant 30% "other" sitting there. I could easily see another 5 or 6 or more percent being various creative labs cards.

      In any case, I agree with you that that even gamers aren't buying sound cards the way they used to.

      That said, some of those steam numbers look WAY out of whack.

      Take a look at 16:9 (widescreen) aspect ratio monitors, which they claim make up 26% of all monitors. And within widescreen 34% claim 24" or larger (24" @ 15%+ over 24" @ 19%).

      That equates to 9% of all users using a 24"+ screen. Yet if you compare that to the primary display resolution table, a mere 2.29% are running 1920x1200 or larger. 1920x1200 is the native resolution on 24"-26" screens, with 30" being 2560x1600 (and not represented at all in the chart).

      I call bullshit.

  • Can someone please explain to me why this is tagged as 'hardhack'? I wouldn't exactly consider the open-sourcing of some drivers to be the same as physically hacking a piece of hardware.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      People are free to tag any way they want.
      People are idiots.

      Put one and two together.

  • Maybe next, Creative will start making drivers for Vista?

    (Seriously - this is not a joke [slashdot.org])

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:50PM (#25667147) Homepage

    This would've allowed for easier inclusion of the driver in BSD systems, without any threat to Creative — whatever extra freedoms are granted by the BSD-license compared to GPL, they are useless in the case of a vendor releasing a driver for their own hardware.

    • As a GPL fanboi, I agree completely.

      My guess is that it's the license the people making the deciion had heard of.

    • by pembo13 (770295)
      Maybe Creative would like assurance that they receive any enhancements made to the code.
  • I still have my old SB Audigy 2 ZS. Will this work for it? I like EAX for games.

  • by AcidPenguin9873 (911493) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @05:55PM (#25667199)
  • Too little to late (Score:3, Interesting)

    by horza (87255) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @08:05PM (#25669105) Homepage

    I'm not going to bother dusting off what were my state of the art X-Fi soundcards out of the garage. As with the copies of Windows I get bundled with the computers I buy, I won't bother giving them away or selling them as I refuse to inflict the damned things on anybody else. I'm not going to buy Creative again.

    Phillip.

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