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Heck of a job, Creative
March 30, 2008 9:07 AM   Subscribe

A geek named daniel_k wanted to help his fellow Vista users. He created a set of drivers that would get their Creative sound cards working under Vista -- something beyond the ken and expertise of Creative's engineering team. Creative VP Phil O'Shaughnessy, however, took umbrage. The results? A PR disaster with hundreds of users pledging to boycott.
posted by ed (66 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hundreds of users! Oh my!
posted by delmoi at 9:11 AM on March 30, 2008


You mean, ALL the Vista users?
posted by Dave Faris at 9:11 AM on March 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


They should have hired the guy.
posted by misha at 9:16 AM on March 30, 2008


I'm pretty sure I recall a very similar scenario back when people were trying to get working SB drivers for early Linux boxen. CL finally pumped something out, but it wasn't half as good as the stuff hacked together by frustrated users.
posted by RavinDave at 9:19 AM on March 30, 2008


yeah, I read about this.
it's funny, one justification for rebuilding my computer in a real-size case was to get a bona-fide sound card. I still haven't done it, and crap like this makes me even less likely to do so.
not that I'd use Vista anyway.
and also, I hate installing creative's normal drivers for their products.

I did think this was an amazing display of a company without competition in its field.

why didn't they just HIRE the kid? ship of fools!
posted by Busithoth at 9:20 AM on March 30, 2008


They have a horrible VP of PR:
By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods... If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make.
Admitting that they are intentionally crippling their products is basically the worst thing they could have done. They would have been far better by saying "we have a firm policy of not allowing others to redistribute our copyrighted materials" without further explanation.

Bad decision, worse PR.
posted by grouse at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Creative:
By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods.
He's stealing from the company by fixing their broken product?
posted by octothorpe at 9:24 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the problem is that his drivers simulate some features in the CPU that ordinarily are only simulated in drivers for higher end products.

Did he actually write whole new drivers, or did he just patch the XP drivers to run under Vista?
posted by delmoi at 9:27 AM on March 30, 2008


I read about this a couple days ago somewhere, with a bunch of background on how Creative has dragged their feet on Vista support and how amazing the efforts were of this lone hacker, but I can't seem to find it. It's pretty amazing that someone even fixed their drivers, much less that they are trying to shut the guy down.
posted by mathowie at 9:27 AM on March 30, 2008


It seems they had no real problem with him doing this until he started accepting "donations".

I like that all these people out there are rallying behind him and boycotting Creative. But delmoi is right. It won't make a big dent in Creatives market share, unfortunately.
posted by strontiumdog at 9:30 AM on March 30, 2008


And "stealing Creative goods" is fucking bullshit. Their goods had already been bought and installed in computers and the goods were not working. This guy made it happen for a lot of people. He ENABLED Creative's fucking goods, for shit's sake.
posted by strontiumdog at 9:33 AM on March 30, 2008


Is this even a little surprising?
posted by puckupdate at 9:38 AM on March 30, 2008


Unfortunately, Creative's the only game in town for modern hardware-accelerated 3D sound.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2008


I had an Audigy. It worked for shit in Vista. I sold it. I use onboard sound. It works for shit in Vista.

Sigh.
posted by kbanas at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2008


It's possible, as someone mentions in there, that there is an issue with IP that creative itself does not own being a part of their drivers, such as Dolby. So maybe they have an obligation to protect that. Still, pretty dumb and impolitic to have anything like this happen.

I lost faith in them with the "crystalize" technology they were touting, which supposedly restored the quality to low sampling rate mps3. (Isn't it forbidden to patent perpetual motion machines?) The online demo simply made the "after" example louder. How dumb do they think people are?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:42 AM on March 30, 2008


Unfortunately, Creative's the only game in town for modern hardware-accelerated 3D sound.
all the new games with any brains do it entirely in software (half-life 2/source engine). these shitty cards with their shitty chinese DSPs and shittier hack drivers are over. why do you think microsoft has been trying to wedge them out of DX10? even freakin' microsoft can see that creative is a dead end. they haven't actually innovated anything in the audio technology arena this decade.

to summarize: vista blows, creative blows. write your goddamn audio mixing in software.

(screw carmack for caving into their lawsuit and making him include their crap in doom 3)
posted by tumult at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2008


He ENABLED Creative's fucking goods, for shit's sake.

That's exactly what they don't want. It interferes with their efforts at price discrimination and planned obsolescence. By enabling their existing goods, consumers no longer have to buy their future goods. Not an unusual business strategy, but one that I'm surprised they admit to as it annoys consumers.
posted by grouse at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


He's stealing from the company by fixing their broken product?

He stole their brokenness. That's key IP for Creative.
posted by Naberius at 9:49 AM on March 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


Oh, and there's the time I bought a "24 bit" soundcard from them, only to see the next model advertised as a "true 24 bit" soundcard.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:51 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


So I can't buy an Apple or a Microsoft MP3 player because I'm forced to use a specific software package out of the box, and now I can't buy a Creative MP3 player because they're a bag of dicks. Does no one make a decent no-frills high-capacity MP3 player any more or am I just gonna have to dig out the ol' off-brand Walkman from two decades ago?
posted by chrominance at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dedicated sound hardware is obsolete except for extremely specialized applications. Creative is just having a hard time accepting its impending demise.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2008


Normally, I'd be all about "one post link to forum, WTF?" but the sheer, draw-dropping foolishness of Creative's response makes it all worthwhile. Holy cow.
posted by absalom at 9:54 AM on March 30, 2008


Hundreds of users! Oh my!

Have you seen the view count on that thread? It's approaching 150,000 views, for a freaking geek forum!

You can't buy that kind of publicity.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:54 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does no one make a decent no-frills high-capacity MP3 player any more or am I just gonna have to dig out the ol' off-brand Walkman from two decades ago?
fourth generatoin iPod. replace the battery and hard drive for $100 and rock out.
posted by tumult at 9:56 AM on March 30, 2008


Well I'm on XP and I LOVE my X-Fi Platinum! Nyah Nyah!
posted by autodidact at 10:09 AM on March 30, 2008


So did Cremative want to prod users to buy new cards instead?
posted by Brian B. at 10:15 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


The computer hardware audio market is one place where you can see the problems of lack of competition. EAX has been around for over 10 years with little change. EAX isn't even a 3D sound package, it's a collection of filters to supply reverb effects like "you're in a cave". While graphics hardware has had a significant upgrade in the amount of things you can do, EAX has stagnated. There's all kinds of interesting things you could do with simulating the bouncing of sound over the geometry in a scene; in fact, Aureal's A3D was starting to do that in 2001, but Creative bought them out and didn't do anything with the concept.
posted by demiurge at 10:19 AM on March 30, 2008


The last time I bought an add-on sound card was...maybe 1994 or so? Everything I've gotten since then sound has been integrated and more than good enough for my non-audiophile needs. I hope integrated video gets to that point as well.
posted by aerotive at 10:29 AM on March 30, 2008


fourth generatoin iPod. replace the battery and hard drive for $100 and rock out.

Ha, already have one! Did not know you could swap the hard drive and battery out for so cheap, though (especially the hard drive—where do you pick one of those puppies up?)
posted by chrominance at 10:29 AM on March 30, 2008


P.S. I own an Audigy 2 and even I'm thinking the days of discrete audio may soon be dead for all but musicians and the like. With onboard chipsets handling stuff like EAX just fine, the market for Sound Blaster cards has shrivelled up. Pissing off your remaining consumer base is a really dumb mistake to make.
posted by chrominance at 10:31 AM on March 30, 2008


This kind of reminds me of this, but it seems like Apple was the bad (worse) guy in that case. In any event, I have a old PowerPC with no sound because the Sound Blaster Live I bought to work around the defective on-board audio won't work in OS X, and Creative decided not to pursue the project when the going got rough.

<bitter>Haven't bought a Creative product since and I hope they go out of business.</bitter>
posted by moonbiter at 10:37 AM on March 30, 2008


Man, Microsoft really fucked themselves on Vista. It's kind of mind blowing how little good seems to have come from that OS. Maybe people will start realizing that paying for an operating system is a stupid model.

The problem is that certain cutting edge computing technologies (os, dedicated sound) make a shitton of money when they're fresh innovations, but quickly become commodities, relatively easily recreated by a community of dedicated hackers. And then the need for a business to continue generating massive revenue comes into conflict with their lack of anything new to offer. It makes me think that Linux might actually start taking off on the consumer market one of these days...
posted by kaibutsu at 10:46 AM on March 30, 2008


It makes me think that Linux might actually start taking off on the consumer market one of these days...

2054--The Year of Linux on the Desktop!
posted by nasreddin at 10:55 AM on March 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


Creative Labs is one of the absolute worst offenders for shit hardware and software.

They have had a crackling problem under high cpu loadse since the days of the soundblaster pro days. They say it's poor motherboard balancing or some bullshit, but it's been around as long as they've made soundcards.

They had crackling, shit drivers, crashes, bluescreens, drive corruption (with Via chipset motherboards). You name it, they've had it.

Absolute, complete and utter dogshit hardware and software. It's never gotten better, and they now seem to have just gotten belligerent about it.

So they can rot in hell. If they butt heads with the enthusiasts that pay their bills hopefully they will find out what it means to alienate your main source of income.

Me, well I'll use an Auzentech or a M-Audio (M-Audio's vista drivers suck for the revo's, but the professional stuff works).

Next week I'll bitch about how everyone who works at Hauppauge is a hooting monkey who couldn't figure out how to write a driver any better than my old, dead cat could...
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:58 AM on March 30, 2008


I'm actually sort of surprised they are leaving the thread up.
posted by Arch_Stanton at 11:06 AM on March 30, 2008


Yeah... Creative can go to hell. I bought the original SB way back when so I could use the speech pack for Wing Commander. Back then, it was awesome. Amazing how little advancement they've made in the past almost 20 goddamn years. Now about the only time my computer crashes is when the drivers for the craptastic Audigy 2 ZS I have foul up and cause an infinite loop.

The next rig I build will be blessedly free of Creative and their horrible, joy sucking hardware.
posted by Talanvor at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2008


the only people who really seriously give a damn about sound in computer audio are musicians - the old soundblaster mp3 live card i have, i had to find my own asio drivers for and my understanding is that their newer cards haven't improved performance for musicians and may be worse for midi - and when i wanted a better interface for mike and guitar, i went and bought an m-audio fast track

when i get a new computer, i'm going to get something serious for the sound card (or usb interface), not some piece of crap soundblaster

it's a shame - they used to own pc sound
posted by pyramid termite at 11:10 AM on March 30, 2008


Does no one make a decent no-frills high-capacity MP3 player any more or am I just gonna have to dig out the ol' off-brand Walkman from two decades ago?

Cowon X5L. Single best mp3 player of all-time.
posted by rbf1138 at 11:10 AM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I had an Audigy. It worked for shit in Vista. I sold it. I use onboard sound. It works for shit in Vista.

Vista: it works for shit in Vista
posted by quonsar at 11:33 AM on March 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


Meh, I really don't don't don't like Creative. When my mp3 player ear jack came loose, I wanted to send it into Creative to fix and they wanted 160.00. When I mentioned that seemed a little steep just to replace a headphone jack, the guy suggested that I buy a refurbished one from them since it was cheaper than fixing it.

Fuckers.
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 11:47 AM on March 30, 2008


He's stealing from the company by fixing their broken product?

He's "stealing" from the company by discouraging users from buying a new sound card with Vista driver support. I don't agree with Creative, and they way that they went about this was mentally retarded, to say the least, but in their low-margin business I can understand it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:55 AM on March 30, 2008


s/they/the
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:55 AM on March 30, 2008


Or what grouse said.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:56 AM on March 30, 2008


chrominance Let me second rbf1138's recommendation of Cowon. Its a Korean company, and it makes the only worthwhile portable music machine I've ever seen. With most of their products you don't have to use any proprietary software, the device is recognized as a USB drive, just copy your music to the proper folders and enjoy. No DRM, no "go through our software or else", no bullshit, just a music player. It works with any operating system that recognizes USB devices.

I grabbed an iAudio 7 about 6 months ago based purely on the fact that it works with Linux and supports Ogg Vorbis. It turned out to be a very nice player, good battery life, easy enough interface, good quality sound, etc. My only complaint is the lack of a playlist function.

As for Creative, I'm personally astonished that they're still in business. A question for audiophiles: is there really an audible difference between what comes out of a Creative dedicated card and what comes out of the audio built into most mainboards these days?

As far as Vista goes, ugh. Its Windows ME all over again, we can only hope that when Windows 7 comes out it'll be as good as XP was in comparison to ME. BTW: if you are planning on sticking with XP but are looking for a new computer, now is the time to buy a few OEM copies of XP. MS swears that they plan on sticking with the June deadline for OEM distributors. Or, of course, just get a real operating system....
posted by sotonohito at 12:06 PM on March 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Just chiming in with another Cowon recommendation.

(The best mp3 player ever made, though, is the iRiver IHP-140.)
posted by box at 12:21 PM on March 30, 2008


is there really an audible difference between what comes out of a Creative dedicated card and what comes out of the audio built into most mainboards these days?

not sure about today's stuff, but 4 or 5 years ago, there certainly was a difference

looking over these specs (all 5 pages) - most onboard audio set ups have a 85-95 db signal to noise ratio, although some do go up to 110

this soundblaster x-fi xtrememusic card has a 109 db snr - i can hear the difference and you don't have to be one of those people who believe in 2000 buck speaker cables to hear the difference

still, an average person may not care - and you can get that kind of performance from several brands, not just soundblaster
posted by pyramid termite at 12:51 PM on March 30, 2008


Creative is quietly circling the drain and has been for a while. Between getting owned in the mp3 player market (partly because of their players' lack of survivability and partly because they got backstabbed by microsoft with the whole plays4all thing) and general pointlessness of dedicated sound cards for most people, they're really not in good shape. I'm not surprised they haven't made decent drivers for Vista - they probably laid off the driver team a while ago. They've probably laid off the dev teams as well - everything they've made since the X-Fi has basically been a rehash of something they've made before.

It's kind of sad, since they used to be a major market force and a lot of their early mp3 player efforts were quite nice, but I don't think they'll be around in ten years.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:53 PM on March 30, 2008


On each new system I build for her, my wife insists that I install a near-ten-years-old Soundblaster Live 4.1 sound card. They're cheap ($10 or so new-in-static-bag) nowdays, and as she says, "everything they made since that card, sucks".
posted by mrbill at 1:13 PM on March 30, 2008


Make that "Soundblaster Live 5.1". Whoops.
posted by mrbill at 1:15 PM on March 30, 2008


So...

- Watching TV without also watching the ad-break = stealing.
- Fixing drivers so a product actually works with a product it claims to work with = stealing.
- Creating a duplication of anything = stealing.
- Informing people there is a security vulnerability in their software that the provider has refused to fix = stealing.
- Selling goods that you purchased legally = stealing.

Pretend I'm an alien, deciphering earth languages, clearly:

stealing = doing good / making the world a better place

Glad we cleared that up.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:22 PM on March 30, 2008 [15 favorites]


I had an Audigy. It worked for shit in Vista. I sold it. I use onboard sound. It works for shit in Vista.

Vista: it works for shit in Vista


Metafilter: it works for shit in Vista. (Sorry, someone had to do it...)
posted by twsf at 1:29 PM on March 30, 2008


stealing = doing good / making the world a better place

No. The new definition of stealing is doing good/making the world a better place when there exists a corporation who might possibly have made a profit on it if you hadn't beat them to the punch.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:22 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope Creative dies a slow and painful death (or, rather, continues dying a slow and painful death) because of this, even if their position is technically legally correct.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:24 PM on March 30, 2008


Fixing drivers so a product actually works with a product it claims to work with

Creative never claimed this card would work with Vista.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:00 PM on March 30, 2008


People still buy Creative products? Why? What possible reason would anyone have for doing that? Their hardware is complete shit and has always been complete shit, the only time when they were even relevant were the early days of sound cards when the AdLib was the only competitor. Even then, the Gravis Ultrasound came out a short while later and completely destroyed all of Creative's offerings. Ever since then, they've produced nothing but cheap garbage for OEM integrators to toss into cheap prefab consumer PCs. EAX for REAL 3D AUDIO! Make Half-Life sound like you're running it through a guitar reverb pedal! THAT'S SOME HIGH-TECH SHIT! If you have a need for prosumer-level computer audio, M-Audio and RME and many others are right there, otherwise the built-in sound on all modern motherboards will work fine for you. I regularly do DD and DTS over S/PDIF passthrough on my Linux media server using the builtin audio, and this machine was built in 2004 or so. Is the issue built-in decoding? You can easily get an external hardware decoder with the speakers you'll need to use DD/DTS anyway, and it will work far better than whatever crappy, second-rate solution Creative could come up with.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:10 PM on March 30, 2008


The best mp3 player ever made, though, is the iRiver IHP-140.

Well, yeah, but they're suicidal. I had two of them spontaneously kill themselves while unattended and powered down. I'd use them for a couple months, everything would be perfect. I'd turn them off one night and leave them on a shelf somewhere and the next morning they'd be completely non-functional with that weird "electrical" smell. Gave up after the second one.

Damn shame. While they worked they were fantastic.
posted by Naberius at 3:21 PM on March 30, 2008


Vista: it works for shit in Vista

Worth mentioning that in Latvian, Vista means "hen", with a more colloquial meaning similar to "old cow" - ie a frumpy woman.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:22 PM on March 30, 2008


I still have (somewhere) a SB Live Value that is ... just fine, for a basic soundcard, and I also used it as a real-time soundfont player. But these days I mainly use a M-Audio 2496 PCI card as my "good" audio, and the built-in mobo soundchip as my "beige speaker" audio. The 2496 is really dependable.

It's inconceivable why a "VP of Corporate Communications" would go public with that sort of statement. Either he's genuinely thick, or there's some backstory we won't get to hear, such as the technology that they licence would require extra payment if it worked in Vista. Eiter way, the outcome is the same: PR disaster.

I've avoided Vista because of the DRM and IP tomfoolery they've stuffed into it (like the ability of the OS to block 3rd-party hardware functionality). These sorts of issues make me happier about my choice.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:41 PM on March 30, 2008


Anyone else get the feeling that something else is going on here? I mean, it's just a sound card manufacturer--who cares? But there are massive posts on all big sites throughout the world on this issue.

This will sound weird, but something tribal is happening, as though the internet community is sensing its power in numbers and striking out with it.

Just something I'm sensing between the lines. It would be interesting if this kind of thing starts happening more often, as though something global is starting to wake up.
posted by eye of newt at 4:02 PM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's all kinds of interesting things you could do with simulating the bouncing of sound over the geometry in a scene; in fact, Aureal's A3D was starting to do that in 2001, but Creative bought them out and didn't do anything with the concept. *

It's worse than that, as I recall. Creative sued Aureal, but had a bigger warchest. Aureal would probably have won, but the battle left them with no cash to fight a takeover.

Creative has always been one of the shittiest companies I've had to deal with. Their customer service was among the worst I have ever encountered.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:45 PM on March 30, 2008


Thanks for the news, ed. I'll join in with this boycott. I too had a SB16 back in the day, and used creative cards exclusively for the past few years when I built my own machines.

Really, what's the big deal here? Shouldn't this guy get a big "Thank You!" for his help? I guess this is what happens when you're more concerned about short-term profit over long-term customer relations.
posted by triolus at 5:02 PM on March 30, 2008


http://digg.com/hardware/THIS_IS_WHAT_I_DID_TO_MY_XFI_THIS_MORNING_PIC
posted by BeerFilter at 6:06 PM on March 30, 2008


eye of newt: But there are massive posts on all big sites throughout the world on this issue. This will sound weird, but something tribal is happening, as though the internet community is sensing its power in numbers and striking out with it.

No, it's the same blogosphere echo chamber that's always been there. Try explaining this story to your co-workers.
posted by mkultra at 6:44 PM on March 30, 2008


Try explaining this story to your co-workers.

Some of them probably knew of it before I did.
posted by grouse at 7:00 PM on March 30, 2008


I still use an original soundblaster audigy. I think it's going on six years old now. The EAX, as mentioned, is just windowdressing. The whole 24-bit debacle, I believe linked here years ago, was another thing, but the main reason I guess is that I am so put off by the utterly transparent fake "arms-race" mentality where creative keep trying to push high end audio goods for exorbitant prices to casual users who don't need them at all. They have a monopoly, pretty much, and that makes any company stagnant in terms of innovation. They don't have a product that lends itself to continual +10% upgrades every six months like graphics cards, and they know it. There is a lot of contempt for creative and I get the impression they are running dry on ideas.

As for vista, that's another kettle of fish. I stuck with 98SE for years, I still think it was one of the best windows versions and what a lot of people are starting to realise is that Microsoft are pulling similar stunts as far as trying to get people to upgrade unnecessarily is concerned. I'll probably stick with XP until i'm forced, bedgrudingly, to upgrade by similarly anti-consumer policies or linux gives gamers and casual users a viable alternative.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 10:04 PM on March 30, 2008


Update: "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."
posted by grouse at 5:09 PM on April 5, 2008


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