Creative Puts X-Fi Drivers under GPL

Nov 09, 2008

It might have been in an inconspicuous place on their Forums page where Creative Labs announced a new version of the Linux drivers for the Sound Blaster X-Fi and X-Fi Titanium series, but for owners of these sound cards, this news created somewhat of a sensation. The source code is not only readily available, but it's licensed under GPL v2.

As some forum responses can attest to, the drivers are not without some oopses. Nevertheless, chances are good that the drivers will find their way into the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) project.

The drama surrounding the X-Fi drivers goes back to 2006 when Creative Labs promised Linux drivers with ALSA and their own OpenAL 1.1 API and environmental audio extensions (EAX) by the first quarter 2007. By May 2007 this promise was reduced to a whisper in view of the Windows Vista pendants release; the X-Fi cards would remain silent until September 2007. The Sound Blaster people then finally released an early version of their drivers as binaries, which unfortunately ran on 64-bit Linux only and had numerous bugs. Since no hardware documentation was at hand, ALSA developers couldn't provide any immediate help.

February 2008, the Creative folks gave 4Front Technologies a peek at parts of their sources and documentation, thereby allowing them to develop drivers for their Open Sound System (OSS). But even these drivers were less than perfect. In April Creative released a new binary beta driver, again missing many of the originally promised functions. It took the company yet another half year to release the XFiDr 1.00, which runs on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems and supports the sound cards listed on the Forums page.

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    Klaus Knopper is the creator of Knoppix and co-founder of the LinuxTag expo. He currently works as a teacher, programmer, and consultant. If you have a configuration problem, or if you just want to learn more about how Linux works, send your questions to: klaus@linux-magazine. com

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