Creative does a 180, says it will allow custom drivers

In the aftermath of the custom Sound Blaster driver fiasco, both Daniel_K—the modder who wrote the modified drivers—and Creative have spoken out and elaborated on the specifics of the situation and what they plan to do next. Wired blogger Rob Beschizza e-mailed Daniel_K to learn a little more about the drivers, and he received a lengthy reply from the modder (whose full name is Daniel Kawakami) with details about exactly what he and Creative did.

According to Kawakami, 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.” What his custom drivers did in that instances was re-enable the “lost” features, such as Dolby/DTS decoding, CMSS2 and Stereo Surround effects, DVD Audio support, the hardware MIDI synthesizer, and the built-in equalizer.

Kawakami’s effort did however go beyond simply restoring disabled features. He says he enabled the software-based X-Fi Crystallizer audio processor to run on non-X-Fi products, allowed the ALchemy software to run on “any sound device from any vendor,” and modified drivers to “transform any Audigy LS/SE/Value and Live! 24-bit into a X-Fi Xtreme Audio”—modifications he says Creative didn’t like. He also asked for donations, although he claims he only raised $146 and that he planned to use that money to buy more sound cards in order to continue his work.

Creative’s initial response was to pull all of his work from the official forums and to send him a cease-and-desist message, but Kawakami now says, “I’ve been told they will allow me to continue with my mods, except the ‘forbidden’ ones. . . . I’m also allowed to receive donations.”

Indeed, Creative posted a message on its forums in order to re-assert its position. The company starts off by saying it has read the “strong feedback” about its move, and that it failed to make it clear in its initial cease-and-desist note that it does in fact support “independent driver development by independent third parties.” The firm adds that Windows Vista’s new audio architecture and Microsoft’s certification process for audio drivers make it “very difficult for Creative to develop updates for all past products” and that “outside developers have been very helpful.” However, Creative says it frowns on “unauthorized distribution of other companies’ property.”

This somewhat ambiguous message ends with the promise, “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.”

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