Two years on and still no Linux drivers
Last modified on Thursday, 24 May 2007 08:50
On May 18th 2006, Creative announced their plans to make proprietary Linux drivers available for the X-Fi series of sound cards.
The drivers were to be released in the second quarter of 2007 and were planned to have full support for ALSA (playback, recording, mixer, MIDI, synthesis) and OpenAL 1.1 (with EAX effects).
Interestingly enough, these drivers were to be closed-source and news was posted on Creative’s official open-source website. Should that be funny? Not quite.
On April 30th 2007, Creative’s official open-source site stated: “drivers are not available (yet)”. This “(yet)” was apparently supposed to instill hope into Linux users, which it did – at least for a while.
The official reason for this is that the drivers for Vista took more time to make than it was initially expected. So once again, this time indirectly, Microsoft stood in the way of the open-source community.
Nevertheless, this should not be taken as another Microsoft bashing, the blame is entirely Creative’s. Talking about Linux, one would presume that the community shouldn’t wait for Creative to come out with drivers - after all, the drivers for numerous devices were often developed within the community.
Well apparently, the card was delivered to developers, but it is a completely new architecture, and it makes it quite difficult. Furthermore, Creative is actively preventing support by not releasing datasheets to ALSA developers.
However, the X-Fi Extreme Audio series, support ALSA because, as the ALSA website states: “X-Fi Extreme Audio is just a SB Live 24bit with a new name.”
Officially, drivers are due to come out later this year, at least in a Beta version, so Linux users should “officially” stay put - as they have for the last two long and soundless years. Unofficially though, rumor has it that a memo by CEO Sim Wong Hoo, intended for internal use only, halted all open-source work and redeployed all working staff elsewhere.
This does not seem that improbable, as lack of DRM (Digital Rights Management) in Linux is clearly making Creative and all other Microsoft’s money-hungry partners quite unhappy. Furthermore, Creative doesn't seem to have any particular interest in supporting Linux users anymore - even their Zen Player requires quite a procedure in order for it to work properly in Linux.
Rumor or not, Linux users are not and definitely shouldn't, be happy. Many Linux users are in fact outraged and claim to have thrown their cards away, and many of them are actively suggesting that other users should do the same. There are even those who suggest further boycotts of Creative’s products.
After all, M-Audio has always supported Linux, why shouldn’t Creative too? On the other hand, some users have shown initiative to constantly remind Creative of this problem by creating an online petition for X-Fi drivers to be released ASAP.
Will it help? Personally I don’t think so, but we are yet to see the results from the petition. Until then, let us sympathize with our hearing-impaired colleagues by watching the visualization in our music playing app, imagining what a wonderful piece of music it must be.