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CReative Alchemy Drivers and Vista Support

Author:  Michael Bosse
Date:  2008.04.17
Topic:  Software
Provider:  Creative
Manufacturer:  Creative

Creative, or not?

*Note all sources are listed on the final page of this editorial.

1. Prelude

Creative Technologies Limited (Ticker symbol CREAF), more commonly known as Creative Labs, "is a listed manufacturer of computer multimedia products based in Singapore. It has more than 5,000 employees worldwide. [1]" Creative gained notoriety in the fledgling computer-based audio market in the early nineties with its revolutionary product, the Sound Blaster audio card. The trademark Sound Blaster is now ubiquitous with computer-based audio products worldwide. The intervening decade has seen Creative purchase 3DLabs, a high-end graphics card fabricator. Creative welcomed in the new millennium by suing Aureal Semiconductor Corporation into bankruptcy over software patent issues. Creative proceeded to pillage the bullet riddled corpse of their biggest competitor and seized all assets with regard to A3D [2].

After meeting with success in the court system, Creative has spent the past ten years marketing its products to high end gamers and audiophiles alike. While the share price of creative has remained flat, its market share has remained unmolested by competitors. A number of years went by, and Creative released few new technologies. The Audigy and Audigy2 series of sound cards were released during the Windows XP era without issue. These cards introduced full 24bit support for Dolby Digital Live. During the ramp up to the release by Microsoft of Windows Vista, Creative made repeated assurances that, despite the new driver model introduced in Vista, modern Creative sound cards, such as the X-FI and Audigy2 would have full driver support [3].

2. Along comes Vista

Early in 2007, while Microsoft Vista adoption was in full force; the developers, developers, developers at Creative labs were scurrying to provide the promised driver support for their hardware. On January 22, 2007, this driver support came in the form of Alchemy, a beta application that promised full hardware support for Creative sound cards [4]. Thousands of Creative customers downloaded and installed the long heralded driver package for Vista. The cheerfulness of these customers was quickly vanquished by the interesting spin that Creative took on the meaning of "Full driver support". Former Creative fans found features of their cards e.g. Dolby Digital, Dolby Live, and DTS were not enabled. These "crippled" drivers, lacked nearly every feature that created the craze for Creative cards in the first place. The suffering was fairly silent. After all, with no major competitors left afloat, to whom could the customer turn?

3. Laissez faire (Don't tell Starbucks!)

A member of the Creative support forums, by the handle of Daniel_k, was disappointed in the initial release of Alchemy along with every other Creative customer. An important difference between Daniel_k and the average creative customer: Daniel_k knew how to be creative with a binary patch utility. He quickly, upon realizing the crippled state of his sound card, began an investigation into the cause. Carefully picking through the inner workings of Alchemy, he found that in several places that the Creative drivers had been crippled in a very creative manner. Daniel_k mustered all of his creativity and begin to conquer the critical aspects of restoring functionality to Alchemy. After a short period, Daniel_k made a forums post announcing the commencement of his corrected drivers. In releasing these drivers he re-enabled the disabled features and produced the first and only fully functional Creative drivers for Vista. For several months Creative turned a blind eye to Daniel_k's efforts.


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