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Creative Goes After Driver Modder 385

FreedomFighter writes "Since the release of Windows Vista, Creative has promised their Sound Cards as being 'Vista Ready'. Unfortunately, as many unlucky customers did discover, this is not true. What the users actually found were buggy, feature crippled drivers. Creative insisted that features such as Decoding of Dolby® Digital and DTS(TM) signals and DVD-Audio which worked fine in WinXP, would not work on windows Vista. With Creative releasing less than one new driver a year, things seemed bleak. Fortunately, a talented user, Daniel_K, was recently able to 'fix' many of the drivers, enabling the incompatible features and also fixing many bugs. Just today Creative has decided to put a stop to this. They removed all links to his modified drivers, and banned several users who were posting links to the now banned drivers."
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Creative Goes After Driver Modder

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  • Not a big surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) * on Saturday March 29, 2008 @07:37AM (#22903844) Homepage
    Creative doing something dumb is a shock?  They haven't done anything intelligent in nearly decade.

    Used to be I would buy ONLY Creative sound hardware.  Now I've given up after even a USB sound box of theirs didn't work, but the $15 Taiwanese ugly grey box worked fabulously with no effort, and on Linux, too.

    Now they not only refuse to release decent drivers, but actively annoy those who do.  What, exactly, is the value proposition here for me as a customer?
  • *golf clap* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @07:39AM (#22903852)
    Well done Creative. You've universally upset users, upset developers and made yourself look like petulant asshats. Did you get your panties in a bunch because a lone hacker with a binary patcher could produce better drivers than your clearly mediocre driver developers?

    Well your drivers always sucked and your hardware business is being steadily eaten by rapidly improving onboard audio and much better high end audio cards. You are not long for this world.
  • by 00_NOP ( 559413 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @07:45AM (#22903860) Homepage
    Modifying your own driver for compatibility reasons is perfectly legal in most jurisdictions, though distributing the modified driver may not be.

    And surely a diff is not a derived work in itself - is it?
  • by Rod Beauvex ( 832040 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:05AM (#22903936)
    Creative turning to shit seems to correlate with the disappearence of it's competition.
  • And surely a diff is not a derived work in itself - is it?
    IANAL, TINLA; one might argue that a unified/context diff is a derivative work since it contains parts of the original, whereas a diff on the form (delete [byte range]|insert [bytes] at [position])* isn't, as it doesn't contain parts of the original. I think this argument appeals very much to technical people, but not quite as much to the lawyers.

    But, as Jennifer Granick said at defcon 15 (TINLA either): the answer in many cases of technology vs. law is either "we don't know" or "it depends".
  • by Yer Mum ( 570034 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:11AM (#22903960)
    ... as an idiot-proof installer and let users download the drivers themselves, like the patcher which generates the ATI Mobility Radeon drivers from the normal ATI Radeon drivers (see here) []. This would probably be legal in most country with the inevitable exception of the US, but even then their complaint would be weaker as he's not distributing their IP.
  • by Gription ( 1006467 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:17AM (#22903974)

    On the other hand dumb people deserve to be ripped off. They call it 'evolution'.
    Evolution requires that something dies.
    I suggest that we might be witnessing Creative getting involved with the evolution process here...
  • Creative Sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip ( 656104 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:18AM (#22903978)
    I'm never buying Creative again after how poor their drivers on Vista have been. The Creative 5.1 drivers have a huge memory overflow in them which causes the Windows Audio Service to need to be restarted every few hours or you'll suffer though huge amounts of audio distortion...

    So I upgraded to their latest card in the hopes that their latest drivers might fix things. I picked out a X-Fi Audio Extreme, and this is only recently mind you...

    And although the memory leak seems to have gone this card has the highly entertaining bug of turning down the master volume by 75% each time any input is received on the microphone, in use or others. A wonderful feature you can't turn off. So if I type too loud on the keyboard my music turns down by 75%...

    Long story short... I gently unscrewed my Creative X-Fi and throw it against a wall. Then I plugged in to my Gigabyte motherboard's built in audio, enabled it in the bios, and haven't had any audio issues at all for coming up to two months now.

    I'm not using Creative again. I'm done. Seven years a happy customer, now gone.
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:22AM (#22903988) Homepage Journal
    Its more likely that the XP drivers use the raw unprotected path and the media overlords cannot disable it in the same way they can everything else.
    God forbit that music might be heard without jumping through DRM hoops.
  • by Angstroem ( 692547 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:23AM (#22903992)

    Creative doing something dumb is a shock? They haven't done anything intelligent in nearly decade.

    Indeed. Instead, they bought two of the finest synthesizer and sampler vendors and sent them down the drain.

    This, Creative, I will never forget. And for this simple reason you won't sell anything to me. Never.

    Yes, even if you shipped it with Linux drivers...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:33AM (#22904034)
    Reverse engineering is legal where I live and also highly illegal block engineering to enable INTEROPABILITY. Prevent interopability is illegal under fair trading and monopolization laws. That is why MSFT and APPL and others are in the shit here.

    I stopped buying Creative products 10 years ago and refuse to touch a single one of their branded products. They're driers are infested with malware.

    You cry on one hand about how bad they are but YOU give them your money? Why?

    What kind of person does this? A stupid one. If you did this, then yes, YOU ARE STUPID. No sympathy here.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:42AM (#22904058)
    You might of [sic] tried to learn how to conjugate verbs in English [].
  • Just remember (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigitalisAkujin ( 846133 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:57AM (#22904120) Homepage
    Just remember Creative, the geeks control the network.

    We are the ones that fix computers for friends and relatives. Slashdot readers alone probably account for a good sizable chunk of all your sales ever so what do you think will happen when we stop recommending your brand to the people who don't know any better. Or better yet, say it sucks?

    Your company won't be the first to die in the flames of a hoard of angry geeks and you certainly won't be the last.
  • not ineptitude? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:03AM (#22904148)
    after re-reading the entire thread for my amusement, I think this is not a simple case of ineptitude from Creative.

    after all they have the original source code and we have to assume some partway competant SW engineers.

    it seems that some of what Daniel K did was reactivate some features that had been intentionally crippled from older cards.

    this seems more to be nefarious decisions on backwards compatibilty and forward roadmap taken on profit grounds not technical grounds. after all, we of the /. community are more aware then others that there is no compelling reason at all why HW from XP should not work on Vista - but there might be commerical reasons why.

    follow the logic here. a brand new and shiny OS hits the market and you need to release drivers for it. would it not be tempting to cripple some of the older cards and hence try and tease people to upgrade to the latest HW? even better you could hold back some of the features of the later versions and try to gain additional income for them in the form of top range drivers. its an insane tactic but one that is used in the field quite alot.

    the bad thing is that somebody then dissassemles that code for the driver realises what has happened and then patches the removed functionality back in.

    this tactic is very prevalent in the industry - by attempting to artificially shorten the product life cycle you try to force repeat purchace and then profit. when there are no more additional features you can dream up then you attempt to deprecate the original in order to force purchase of the new. Creatice make no money at all from people using old sound blaster tech on vista so they will do everything they can to halt it.

    maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I see this sort of thing all the time and it make a more logical explanation to me then "large multinational cannot write new drivers even when they have the source code".

  • by Fweeky ( 41046 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:10AM (#22904194) Homepage

    Creative makes great hardware
    They make popular, passable hardware which everyone QA's with because, oh, they're popular. This probably insulates you when they violate the PCI spec and fit things together with spit and duct tape.
  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:41AM (#22904358) Homepage Journal
    Which brings back my old observation about Vista...

    We've had decades, and STILL don't feel that operating systems work as well as we'd like, when they're designed to work.

    Into this, add Vista, the first OS that is designed *not* to work at certain times. Plus it's supposed to figure out what those times are that it should work, and shouldn't work. What chance of success has this, in a real world of bugs, and all.?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:42AM (#22904364)
    this guy summed it up very nicely: []

    "Now the painful truth which half the posts here have missed: the Creative driver team is a group of smart, very talented people who could release a fully funcitoning driver set TOMORROW if company executives would let them. The fact that they have not done so is a strategic marketing decision based on 1. The cost of drafting a license with other IP holders that would cover the card itself for its entire life cycle versus just the card on a particular set of OS's, and 2. The desire to use a new OS as leverage to force customers to upgrade to a new sound card even though the previous card is still fully functional."

    it's all about forced obsolescense
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:43AM (#22904366)
    But but... didn't Creative have this feature on their cards? I could swear they did, at least in Windows XP.

    They do. From my reading of it, Daniel K's work basically re-enables all those features that Creative had disabled - and the reason for disabling was not technical, it was purely a legal/marketing decision.
  • by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:49AM (#22904392) Homepage
    You know, I daresay you are right, but also that the licensors probably haven't expressed any issue with licensing for Vista, but that Creative's lawyers are running the show.

    Never, never let lawyers run the show.  They don't know anything about the real world.
  • by ardor ( 673957 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:50AM (#22904394)
    Poor to mediocre hardware, buggy drivers, patent-trolling, not only giving shit about customers, but punishing them for trying to improve the situation. Their real sin was to destroy Ensoniq and Aureal, which were lightyears ahead both in technology and customer care. Creative's death is inevitable, since AC97 onboard chips are killing their marketshare. Unfortunately, this means they will mutate into yet another patent troll that produces absolutely nothing. They have killed progress in PC audio, will continue to kill it.

    Please, Creative, just vanish.
  • by Hydian ( 904114 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @11:41AM (#22905088)
    At what point did hacking the driver become illegal?

    Sure, it might violate Creative's EULA, but that isn't against the law.

    Now that said, redistributing the hacked driver is a copyright violation. However, that is easily solved by distributing the hack as a patch rather than as a complete package. If he does that, there is nothing that Creative can really do about it (although they don't have to let people discuss it on their forums.)
  • Re:Just remember (Score:3, Insightful)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @03:11PM (#22906382)
    Slashdot readers alone probably account for a good sizable chunk of all your sales ever. Your company won't be the first to die in the flames of a hoard of angry geeks and you certainly won't be the last.

    The geek with an ego the size of the planet.

    Top Operating System Share Trend for April, 2007 to February, 2008 []

  • Re:Mob mentality (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @03:55PM (#22906614)
    Wow, that is the the easily the most stupid comment I have read in at least a year.

    A company screws it's consumer base, showing complete indifference to their problems, and you not only advise against a boycott, but you try and sell it as a negative?!?!

    I really hope that you are just a company shill, trying to shift the momentum of this, but if you're not please save the gene-pool and skip having children.

    I mean really, what side of the bunk-bed do you fall out of every morning? This is not a case of a shitty dev team. This is an established global company that LIED about a products compatablity, then LIED about being able to fix it, then denied its customers an available fix offering no alternative. Class Action. They will lose and they should.

    And NO this will not hurt the consumer, as it will send a clear message to Creative and any other companies up to similar shenanigans, that there is a real risk of a Company Bankrupting Lawsuit just waiting for you when you break the law and cheat buyers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @04:55PM (#22906988)
    Encrypting is not patching. Snowi fully contains Snow White. Decrypting Snowi gives you the complete product from nothing, whereas running a patch requires you to already have 'snow white' in possession and gives you 'modified snow white'
  • by FellowConspirator ( 882908 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @10:39PM (#22909022)
    It is important. If Daniel_K lives in the USA, his reverse-engineering and modification of the drivers is protected and allowed. It is not a violation of their copyrights (and no, Creative, he's not stealing, just ask your crack legal team). While he probably doesn't have the right to distribute their drivers, he would be within his right to distribute a patch for them (binary deltas, plus a utility to apply them to a driver). And, yes, he can ask for donations for it -- he can even charge money for it. If Daniel_K hired a good copyright attorney, he'd know that (I'm sure Creative probably does).
  • Deja Vu (Score:2, Insightful)

    by _narf_ ( 21764 ) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:09PM (#22912444)
    I am quite glad I came across this. I had Creative on a purchasing blacklist for 5+ years now, and was just thinking about giving them another chance...

    How did they get onto this list? By pulling the EXACT SAME STUNT you guys are talking about for Vista and Audigy and I experienced with XP and Live. The strategy to "support" the customer was pretty much:

            "Send us $20 to get a CD with new drivers on it, which... by the way, won't work either"

    Leaving the user to try and find hacked up drivers on the web that actually worked worth a damn.

    So... I see now that some things will never change. And I extend my blacklisting of Creative's products another 5 or more years.

    I refuse to purchase anything from a vendor which, as a matter of policy, holds the paying customer hostage for more money just to use the item for it's most basic purposes.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.