For those who missed it, I thought I’d post the interview with daniel_k at Wired.com. It’s a really great insight into the Creative Labs company. He’s a hero, so I guess we know what that makes Creative…
It all started when Creative released the first beta of ALchemy for X-Fi cards, saying it used X-Fi’s advanced capabilities (EAX5).
After some investigation, I’ve found an EAX5.0 check and patched it… and it worked!
Sometime later, they released the final version of ALchemy X-Fi and the paid version of ALchemy Audigy.
I was realy mad at them, they didn’t release a new Audigy driver and were charging Audigy owners for a software that runs on top of bugged drivers? What is the point of that?
Then I modified the X-Fi “free” version of ALchemy, not the paid version.
I did the same with the later versions, but when they released the 1.00.11, I couldn’t patch it anymore.
So I bought it, just for the sake of it.
Well, I did manage to patch the latest version of ALchemy X-Fi to run on any card, without even removing Safecast, but I’m done with that.
The Audigy drivers
They took several days, countless Vista reinstalls.
Creative purposedly modified the Audigy drivers to disable some features when Vista is detected and also purposedly introduced some bugs to prevent some XP utilities from running.
I did a complete analysis of the driver to determine where all the checks and bugs were introduced and started modding.
Features that I’ve successfully enabled:
– Dolby/DTS decoding (originally discovered by another Creative forum member, but I’ve explained how to use it)
– CMSS, CMSS2 and Stereo Surround (originally only “CMSS” was available, this setting also affects ALchemy/OpenAL, so it is really useful)
– Advanced EQ and Special FX presets
– DVD Audio
– Hardware MIDI synthetizer (I wrote a small utility that automatically detects and changes the default Vista MIDI Synth during driver install or can change it later using its GUI. Some media players lets you choose the MIDI synthesizer)
– Equalizer (with preset saving, very hard to accomplish, had to deal with bugs in Creative software and use my creativity to find a workaround).
– WaveRT (a Microsoft replacement for ASIO, however I don’t know if it really works or not)
The Live!/Live! 5.1 drivers
Creative have always released UDA (Unified Driver Architeture) drivers.
They purposedly ruined the Live! support in Vista: 2.1 speakers setting resulted in distorted sound.
After some investigation, I discovered the culprit module and replaced it with one from the last XP version and the problem was fixed.
In the later releases, Bass Management, Equalizer and EAX effects using software processing and Hardware MIDI support were added.
There was also an ALchemy for Live! cards.
The X-Fi drivers
I’ve added the following improvements: Hardware MIDI and WaveRT.
I didn’t have a X-Fi to test, so modding was then limited to these features.
The Audigy LS/SE/Value/Live! 24-bit drivers
Officially, they lack Bass Management, Equalizer and EAx effects, once available in XP drivers.
I’ve found that the Audio Center utility (originally from the Vista Audigy Advanced MB drivers) worked just fine with these cards, so I made it available.
Also fixed an annoying bug present in the official drivers that cause the speaker type changing to Full Range speakers on reboot (disabling Bass Management).
The X-Fi Xtreme Audio drivers
Have the same speaker type bug. I fixed it.
Gameport support pack for Vista
Allows a limited number of gameport controllers to work on the x86 version of Windows Vista.
What Creative didn’t like
I’ve learned how Creative enables or disables a feature for a specific model.
My last ALchemy release (1.00.08) was complately unlocked and could be used with any sound device from any vendor.
Successfully enabled the software-based X-Fi Crystalizer for use with Audigy cards.
Got Dolby Digital Live enabled on any X-Fi card. To clarify, I still didn’t manage to enable DDL on Audigy cards.
A friend of mine bought a X-Fi, so I could test it, it really works.
The only current X-Fi based card that supports DDL is the Auzentech Prelude.
The P17 to Xtreme Audio mod
P17 is the codiname for a simple PCI audio controller that powers the Audigy LS/SE/Value, Live! 24-bit and X-Fi Xtreme Audio host-based soundcards.
Completely modded the P17 drivers to transform any Audigy LS/SE/Value and Live! 24-bit into a X-Fi Xtreme Audio (enabling Crystalizer).
Modding is OK
I don’t think there was something wrong with mods themselves.
Modding is a common practice among enthusiasts and I don’t recall some company threatning a modder, unless you allow an exclusive feature to be used with competitor products (ie: SLI on non-NVIDIA chipsers or ALchemy on competitor products, as I’ve said before).
Remember the Promise Ultra to Fasttrak mod? It was even published on a well known review site.
There was also the GeForce to Quadro mod, the NVIDIA nForce 4 to SLI mod, also published on review sites.
What I did wrong
I’ve asked for donations.
Do I really need the money? No, thank God I don’t.
I thought it would be ok to ask for donations so I could buy new hardware to support.
I did buy some hardware: an used Live! 5.1 for ~$15 and a new Audigy SE for $60.
Computer hardware is really expensive here in Brazil.
An X-Fi Xtreme Gamer costs about $240 here, with taxes and shipping, The same card can be bought for ~$80 in the US.
I just can’t spend my money buying new hardware that I won’t even use.
Even the features I’ve enabled, I don’t use.
Later I tried to encourage donations to release the DDL feature for X-Fi and Crystalizer for Audigy.
I said something like “the more people donate, the faster I’ll release”.
This was even worse, but I was so eager to modding that I didn’t think straight. I was hoping to get a X-Fi asap.
While I did ask for donations, once released, the downloads would be public.
I do recognize that I deserve some criticism for that.
To date, I’ve got $146, with amounts ranging from $1 to $50 (this value is still uncleared).
Reversing ALchemy was also wrong, I know. But I reiterate, what is the point of improving ALchemy and changing for it, when it requires an improved driver? It was my protest against Creative.
What Creative did wrong
– They publicly threatened me, just to show their arrogance.
If they had contacted me by e-mail or private message I would do the same thing (remove everything) and no one would know about their insatisfaction.
– Removed everything I posted in the forums, even if unrelated to the “forbidden” stuff.
If they can’t provide better drivers, let people make their own choice.
– They did not recognize my hard work.
I’ve been supporting about every Creative PCI soundcard, would even support USB devices if I had one of them.
To date, the Audigy Vista Support Pack was downloaded about 20,000 times.
The current situation
DDL encoder and Crystalizer were not publicly released.
I’ve deleted the P17 to Xtreme Audio mod and ALchemy from FileFront (where I store the files).
I’ve been told they will allow me to continue with my mods, except the “forbidden” ones.
I’m also allowed to receive donations.
You can download all daniel_k’s files from here!