Saturday, July 28, 2007

Making gold out of disappointment

Who would have thought that a technology company from Singapore would be the ones to prove that transmutation is possible?

ALchemy is an appropriate title for Creative Technology's latest software application in several ways. Not only does it turn your upwards-of-$150 sound card into something resembling useful under Vista, it turns Creative's hard work into cash. At least, that's how it appears.

But like many so-called successful transmutations, it's a hoax. The only thing they're doing is turning one of several pointless, stupid decisions that shouldn't have happened into another stupid decision. You see, Microsoft removed the capability for DirectSound to, well, be direct. As you can see in the diagram (down in the 3rd post) DirectSound is now mired in a bunch of software management, which makes it hard to use fancy technology like EAX for surround sound in games. Actually, when you look at that diagram it kind of resembles what a good company looks like after excessive bureaucracy is added. And what I've gathered is that no one really knows why Microsoft completely removed the hardware layer from audio in Vista. Oh, sure, they've made excuses, but as far as I can tell there is no substantial, unavoidable reason for them to have removed perfectly good functionality that's been working fine for the past 3 or 4 versions of Windows.

Regardless, like many other stupid decisions Microsoft has made regarding Vista, we're all going to have to live with that problem. The (ahem) wonderful minds at Creative came up with a solution: pretend that DirectSound still exists, and then pass it off to the hardware through OpenAL. Which would be nice...if they weren't thumbing their noses at the majority of their existing user base by charging for the software to do it.

Those who have invested money in a Creative card recently have gotten an X-Fi, and do not have to pay for ALchemy. But anyone with an Audigy or Audigy 2 (and I'm willing to bet that there's a lot more of those people than there are X-Fi users) is being charged $10 US. That's $10 for what has been proven to be the exact same thing as what those X-Fi folk are getting for free.

I mean, if they had just made it free for everyone, they would have been seen as the good guys, providing a solution to one of their customers' many Microsoft-inflicted woes. But greed got the better of them.

I'm so disappointed. Who would have thought I'd have to torrent illegal audio drivers?

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