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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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  • Third-party problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bananenrepublik ( 49759 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @07:55AM (#22903896)
    From how I read the post, Creative licensed code from third parties only for XP, not Vista. Since this code is needed to use certain functionality, this functionality is disabled on Vista. In other words, Creative's bad negotiating comes to bite their customers in the ass. How could they be this stupid -- "oh, we only licensed this stuff for Windows XP? Too bad, let the customers suck it up"
  • by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:00AM (#22903918)

    that really does seem a little petulant and/or puerile.

    a more enlightented company might of examined what he did to see why it worked.

    a more customer focused company might of actually listened to their customer complaints in the first place.

    and a company with a serious long term investments in this technology might of actually installed some QA systems and ensured the drivers were fit for purpose in the first place.

    there seems to be no effort, willing or investment from Creative at this point.

    and, wheras there is some truth to Creative protecting their IP, and beign disgruntled about anybody else possibly releasing unsupported patched, I believe Daniel_K summed it up quite eloquently on his response. "The funny thing is that you are faster "protecting" your technologies and intellectual properties than providing improved drivers and softwares for your customers."
  • by papabob ( 1211684 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:03AM (#22903930)
    We, at Creative, are unable to mass produce chips that differentiates themselves by its design as we used to do. A few years ago we throw all of our money making a single chip design and our bussines since then has been to ship it with a simple eeprom saying what version of our card had you bought, and enable/disable features only at driver level. So please please please stop hacking our drivers to allow the advanced functionalities work in the low level cards, because in that way nobody will buy our multihundred bucks cards.

    Sincerely yours.
  • by kaos07 ( 1113443 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:12AM (#22903962)

    The forum thread is interesting because it's full of irate users lambasting Creative for their drivers and their attitude towards "Daniel_K". However, how many of them are that upset that they will stop purchasing Creative products? We can bitch and moan all we like but if we/they/people continue to buy Creative's products regardless of how rubbish they are, regardless of buggy, feature crippled drivers and regardless of their attitudes towards their customers, they're going to think they have the prerogative to continue in this fashion.

    I, for one, bought an X-Fi sound card. Buggy drivers and constant issues regarding gaming made me put it away. Reading that this was a common issue across the board made me decide not to buy Creative again. There ARE alternatives out there. Cheaper, better quality alternatives. Just for example, I replaced my X-Fi with an HT Omega Claro. http://www.htomega.com/index.html [htomega.com]

  • Mod parent up... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HiVizDiver ( 640486 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:24AM (#22903998)
    This was essentially the first thing I thought of when I read the article (I know, I know...) You had me up until the part where he was asking for donations for the drivers he was releasing. That seems more the crux of the issue, rather than he is releasing the drivers at all. The wording does indicate that they are upset that he is releasing the drivers, but they also mention the fact that he is requesting donations for them. I wonder if they would have gone after him as hard if he had just quietly released the drivers and not bothered with the donation bit.
  • by James Youngman ( 3732 ) <jayNO@SPAMgnu.org> on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:40AM (#22904050) Homepage
    I've owned Creative sound cards for years. The only non-Creative sound card I bought was an Aztech sound Galaxy, some years ago; annoyingly it kept losing its config settings over a reboot. It's reasonably easy to verify that the Creative card you're going to buy works on Linux (I've never used Creative's drivers since every PC I've ever owned has run Linux). At the moment I'm using a Creative Labs SB Audigy. However, the machine it's in needs an upgrade (it only has 1GB of RAM, and I want to run virtualised instances of *BSD and other Unixes to make porting software easier).

    What sound hardware should I buy for the new machine? My needs are fairly pedestrian apart from the fact that I would like to do high-quality LP transcription occasionally. I will probably also buy a very quiet machine as the upgrade in order to use it as a media PC (and hence need 7.1 support). Since audiophile audio quality and 7.1 are probably more or less incompatible I'm happy to buy two sound cards for the two different purposes, but which to buy?

    I've been considering the M-Audio FastTrack Pro [m-audio.com] (the idea being that I use the device itself for the LP transcription and export SPDIF to an AV amp for the surround stuff). I've heard good things about M-Audio kit. However, it appears not to work with ALSA (yet, at least) [sourceforge.net]. What are my other choices?

  • (CREAF.PK) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:57AM (#22904116)
    The PK means the stock is traded off the pink sheets. Companies wind up there, and not on a legitimate exchange like the NASDAQ, because no CPA will sign off on their financial statement.

    Must be a real open company.
  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:02AM (#22904142)
    After reading the thread on the Creative forum, I guess that "Daniel_K" re-enabled features for Vista rather than developing them from the ground up. Which leads us to the question why the Vista drivers were shipped in that crippled state. Between the lines of Phil O'Shaughnessy's message I read that it was a "business decision" rather than developer incompetence.

    It is not the first strange decision by Creative either:
    While I'm happy with the hardware of the Soundblaster Live! 5.1 I bought a few years ago, even then Creative offered only driver updates for download, where others were more customer-friendly and offered complete drivers. Which is quite helpful if you have mislaid your driver CD-ROM ;-)

    So I agree that their management is a bunch of asshats. I also agree that onboard audio is getting better. My reason for buying that Soundblaster Live! was abysmal onboard sound on the Abit IC-7 mainboard of the computer. The new rig I built last year has quite acceptable onboard sound, and unless I see a really attractive sound card offer this one will just stick to the onboard sound chip.
  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:08AM (#22904182) Journal
    The stupidity of some corporate lawyers never ceases to astound me. Surely someone must have told them that for whatever good they hope to get out of such an action, the harm could be far far worse. And as with all corporate actions of mondo ignoramo, the news will be spread far and wide. It's on /. and if it isn't already, it'll be on the front page of digg. Then ars and gizmodo and a thousand other sites.

    Now what exactly did Creative have to gain by doing this? Maybe somewhere an unhappy customer who installed these drivers, and for whatever reason, they didn't work or broke something, and that ignorant but well meaning customer blames Creative. Instead what they get is legions of geeks pledging to never knowingly purchase any Creative product ever again. They get a soiled reputation. And finally, they loose the happy customers who were happy only because this guy rewrote the drivers.

    If they had half a brain, they would have quietly hired him for a very handsome sum of money. If they didn't try then they deserve whatever backlash they get.

  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:12AM (#22904210)
    Now that was a kick-ass sound card. Good ol' GUS. Sad now that the on-boards are good enough, all the current stuff sounds great but still doesn't seem as cool as firing up the GUS for the first time.
  • Re:Scruffy seconds. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:44AM (#22904368) Homepage
    Creative turning to shit seems to correlate with the disappearence of it's competition.

    I would think it correlates more with the fact that most motherboards come with built in sound these days and plenty come with built in 5.1 sound.

    I have no idea what protocol that my desktop talks to the amplifier over the optical hookup. I am pretty sure that absolutely nothing good would result from using Dolby Digital, which is after all a compression algorithm over raw samples.

    I could have installed an upgraded sound card when I bought the machine, but what would be the point? I would rather have the PCI slot available.

    Having a separate processor for handling graphics makes perfect sense. Having one for sound seems useless at this stage. Games do not use the waveform generators on the sound cards to produce noise the way they did when I was in the games industry 25 years ago. Today we use sampled sounds created offline. All you need to present those is a RAM buffer that spews bits to the port at a rate set by a clock thats reasonably accurate.

  • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:48AM (#22904384) Homepage Journal
    I had an original Audigy, purchased for a pre-XP operating system. When they finally did come up with drivers for XP, they required users to download an ISO from Compaq of all places, extract the files, then modify a couple of files so that it wouldn't look for the Compaq identifiers (whatever they were -- I don't recall). In these days, dial-up was still prevalent (I was on a cablemodem at the time), and the image was more than 300MB, and engendered often angry -- and mysteriously deleted -- postings on their forum.
  • by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Saturday March 29, 2008 @09:51AM (#22904406) Journal
    The sound chip built into my DG33TL motherboard supports Dolby Digital so I do not think that is correct. I have also been told that Dolby doesn't license its technology on an exclusive basis.
  • by kars ( 100858 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @10:16AM (#22904556) Homepage
    Ok, that does it. I'd love to ditch Creative, but what alternatives are there? Are there any cards out there that run well under both XP and Linux? And, dare I ask, Vista?
  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Saturday March 29, 2008 @10:37AM (#22904684) Homepage
    Me three.

    I still roll my eyes whenever someone rolls by with an X-Fi. Creative Labs finally ceased to be relevant the day they bought Ensoniq. It's one thing to absorb competitors and their IP, it's another to buy a ghetto clone maker to acquire their SB emulation software in order to emulate your own hardware because the official product can't even do it right .

    Thankfully, on-board sound solutions have reached a point where they sound pretty darn good, and many now have digital coax and/or optical outputs, making the Sound Blaster largely redundant. The one thing they don't support is EAX, but many games have shifted away from the evils of Creative and rolled out 3rd party sound processing libs.

    For me, it's very simple: I use the onboard sound for general usage and gaming, and I have a pro sound card for professional audio work. It works well because the pro card sucks at gaming, and the onboard chip sucks at recording, but together they're much more dependable and better-supported than any software-crippled travesty to ever bear the Creative label.

  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reggoh.gip'> on Saturday March 29, 2008 @11:12AM (#22904932) Journal
    This leads me to think of something.

    Suppose company X distributes b0rk3d drivers, and won't patch them.

    Now, Joe Blow manages to get them working by patching them here and there. Of course, if he distributes the patched drivers, he infringes on X's copyright, no doubt about it.

    Now, if he distributes a patching application that applies the modifications straight into the binary, since his mods are his own, he's not infringing X's copyright at all.

    Okay, now, suppose John Doe starts with a legit copy of, say "Bambi". Everyone has the legit copy of "Bambi".

    Now, John Dow takes "Snow White" and XORs it with "Bambi" and distributes it. By itself, the result (let's call it "Snowi") is neither "Snow White" nor "Bambi".

    But by XORing "Snowi" with "Bambi", you happen to get "Snow White". So, John Dow effectively encrypts "Snow White" in a one-time pad with "Bambi" being the key.

    Is Joe Blow infinging on "Snow White"'s copyright???

  • Re:*golf clap* (Score:1, Interesting)

    by The Governor ( 686712 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @11:58AM (#22905198)
    Many years ago OS/2 users, many of whom were Creative fans, abandoned Creative (huge backlash) because Creative claimed that certain features could not be enabled. (or something like that) As I recall, the OS/2 drivers were inferior (or non-existent), the excuses were ridiculous, and the OS/2 community switched to another brand.
  • by Grave ( 8234 ) <awalbert88NO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Saturday March 29, 2008 @12:24PM (#22905376)
    Normally I might suggest that companies like this feel they don't really need to be concerned with what a bunch of geeks think, as it's just the big OEMs that matter in terms of sales volume. Sadly, for discrete sound cards, that's not really true anymore, because better than 99% of PCs sold today do not include anything more fancy than integrated audio on the motherboard. I've got a suspicion that Creative has decided to exit the sound card market - it can't be nearly as profitable as it used to be due to much much lower volumes. Motherboard integrated sound has pretty much matched what most sound cards under $50 can output. And as the MP3 revolution has shown, there is a fidelity point beyond which the overwhelming majority of people either cannot hear a difference, or simply don't care. To notice the difference between that integrated audio and a specialty $200 sound card, you're going to need much better speakers than what most people have attached to their computers, and better source material than those 128kbps MP3s.

    Creative has not been the best source for sound cards for almost a decade now. Their refusal to put out respectable Vista drivers early on took them off the radar entirely for me. With diminishing returns on audio quality from discrete sound cards, I have been waiting for someone to come along with something truly new and different for the market.
  • Re:Not really (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Majik Sheff ( 930627 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @12:34PM (#22905448) Journal
    The company with the PCI chip that you mentioned was Ensoniq.

    I own a few pieces of Ensoniq's finest work [wikipedia.org] and to this day, in spite of the ISA bus, they are superior to just about any sound card you can buy. Creative bought the company, raided their IP chest for a few gems, and buried the carcass.

    Who knows what beauty could have been if not for Creative's greed?
  • Re:not ineptitude? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @03:06PM (#22906344)

    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".


    1. Just because you're paranoid, that doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

    2. Hanlon's Razor: "Do not attribute to malice that which can easily be explained by stupidity".

    3. Creative has been shilling sound cards for decades, and has yet to ship a single decent driver for any of them.

    This isn't rocket surgery. A simple D/A converter with a FIFO on the front of it (which is all these "X-Fi"'s and "AWE"s blah blah blah amount to at the end of the day) is the easiest conceivable piece of hardware to operate properly - you literally spray sample values at it AND YOU'RE DONE. Why Creative finds it impossible to do this after decades is no mystery: good old-fashioned incompetence. They mystery and tragedy here is that they've been allowed to get away with it for so long. Guess they must have the shiniest cardboard boxes.
  • Re:not ineptitude? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dupersuper ( 664190 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @04:04PM (#22906682)
    fact is that microsoft killed creative's soundcard business with vista. Vista no longer gave dedicated soundcard any advantage over free built-in ones. Now they have to resort to selling drivers, mp3 players and speakers to stay alive. They just sold their HQ building in Singapore. That's how bad creative has fallen.
  • Re:Scruffy seconds. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:49PM (#22908454) Homepage
    Yes, the Asus does. Sort of. It doesn't support all the features of EAX newer versions, because Creative has parts of them patented. Usually stupid parts that personally I don't care about.

    Anyway, they're being sued over it at the moment, so we'll see how it turns out, but the sound card at least tells GAMES that it supports EAX 5. Even if it doesn't support every little nuance they might throw at it, it still supports the majority of the positional audio, that's good enough for me.
  • by nedder ( 690308 ) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @11:11PM (#22909178)
    It has been a good 8-10 years since Creative Labs crushed, and then bought up the technology from Aureal.

    Half-Life Counterstrike supported A3D2, which included wave-tracing. This did a fairly simple modelling of early
    reflections, which allows your ears/brain to figure out the approximate size and shape of the space you are in.

    In simple terms, this meant you could fire a pistol and the wave-tracing added reflected sounds that made it apparent
    that you were standing in a courtyard, or a hallway, etc. If you walked into an arched doorway and fired, you could
    actually hear the reflections change as you moved in and out of the doorway. It gave context to the sound and made
    everything sound more realistic instead of just as dry sound samples.

    Creative on the other hand, didn't support A3D2 and only had it's canned EAX reverb presets. All this did was apply a
    type of reverb as decided by the map info. You would cross a magic line and suddenly it would play "chasm preset". As
    you walked over this line the reverb simply turned off or changed to whatever the adjacent space was "set" to.

    Surprise, surprise, it sounded fake and really added nothing to the sound.

    So when Aureal finally went under, CL bought up all of Aureal's technology.

    Fast-forward to today. We have quad core cpus instead of P2 300's and we still have no real audio features like
    wave-tracing/early reflections.

    Creative Labs bought Aureal's technology and then proceeded to never use it or do anything similar.

    The last survey by Steam showed that something like 75% of gamers use the free onboard Soundmax/Realtek chipsets
    instead of a separate PCI card. The average gamer, who is the captive audience for such addon cards, sees no value
    in what CL offers. CL doesn't put any features in it's card that actually make gamers want to buy them.

    Creative made it's bed, now it gets to sleep in it.

  • Re:Scruffy seconds. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sweetweaver ( 955346 ) on Sunday March 30, 2008 @12:56AM (#22909570)
    I agree! My MuVo2 4G thingy died two weeks after I got it. After three days, about two hours of hold music and five customer service people they sent me a *refurbished* replacement. I thought I would be readily accommodated and receive a *new* replacement. So I was all nice and polite as usual when I finally got through to a human. Instead I got transfered to every department, as if no one wanted to deal with me, with one guy in the tech dept. insisting (in a rather condescending way) that I repeat something I had already tried five or six times when I referred to to the troubleshooting instructions in the manual and on their support pages. That refurbished MuVo died not one week after the warranty expired. It froze, ran out of juice, and never responded to anything ever again. I have a grand scheme to take it apart some day and give the insides a dirty look.

    So... wanting to remain non-conformist and avoid drinking the iKool-Aid, I got a Nomad 6G, which did the exact same freaking thing - died just after the one year warranty was up. This time it just stopped in mid-play, went blank and never played another note. That one is not as square so its uses are limited as an inert object. At least the MuVo is keeping one of my tables even on my warped wood floors.

    I got lucky - I was given a free iPod 60G a week before the Nomad died, which is now 4 years old and still works its little heart out. Never again will I buy from Creative. I'm now a full-fledged Mac convert, with much better results so far in my never-ending tech gear saga.

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