The X-Fi family of sound cards from Creative Labs has been around for over two years but through this time there has been no Linux support officially from Creative or from the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA). Among the Creative X-Fi solutions are the X-Fi XtremeGamer, X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro, X-Fi Platinum Fatal1ty Champion Series, and the X-Fi Elite Pro. However, Creative Labs is on the heals of finally releasing a new audio Linux driver that supports the X-Fi family. The driver that will be released any day now is considered beta software, but worst of all is that this sound driver will be closed-source.
A beta closed source driver after two years. Djee thanks.
That's a bit like getting the steering wheel shipped for your new Porsche after two years. And it comes with this ugly steering lock. You know you'll be able to drive, but the first bend over 20° will make you crash into somebodies living room.
Well I'm not really one to criticize here, who am I to talk about how companies treat their "IP" and customers when I'm not one of them.
But needless to say I don't like the sound of that. One more device range to avoid when buying a new machine
I wonder though, they claim to support full EAX (and openAL) how many other soundcards can claim that with open drivers? I don't think any soundcard is hardware accelerated at the moment under linux, and this would be a first. Though, yes, it does suck extremly hard that it'll be a closed driver. ATi/AMD's is my only closed one on my desktop, on my laptop add the Atheros HAL driver to that mix, now we get a Soundcard driver. Soon all drivers will be closed :/
Ironically, AMD want's it to go the other way, or so it seems. With them releasing all those specs, it would surly make you hope ...
The Nvidia Soundstorm found on the NF2 was using their binaries.
Not all Soundstrom boards supported those features neither in ALSA, nor in the proprietary driver (only the ones with DD demuxer, AFAIK)
At any rate, the X-Fi and the Soundstorm wouldn't be the only ones supporting HW acceleration. There is the infrastructure in ALSA to support it in the EMU10K1 driver for Live!/Adudigy/Audigy2 cards. However, you do require a specially built OpenAL to take advantage of it, or so it used to be. There was one such library circling around back when UT2004 first appeared and people were having all sorts of problems with OpenAL and what not, a guy made it so that EMU10K1 hardware were able to accelerate OpenAL. Never actually tested if it was the case, though it did get rid of some sound artifacts in UT2K4.
Creative should do the same as they did with EMU10K's. I know they can't provide DTS and DD decoding in ALSA (due to patents and whatnot), but they could implement all the other *important* stuff. Heck, even hardware which is non Creative implements in hardware at least EAX2.0, so them opening up the specs wouldn't mean that all other cards will automagically get EAX 4 and 5 support, if the hardware only supports 2.0... Also since Creative now owns Aureal3D IP, it would be incredible if they'd also opened up those specs (yeah, one can dream, can't I?)
It would be nice indeed if Creative can at least open the register specs so that the ALSA devs can write the driver (and save the support headaches). Granted that Creative can't disclose the 3rd party stuff, but at least they should open the specs to allow replacements for the 3rd party code to be written.
OpenAL was indeed created by Loki (AFAIK). It aims at being for audio the equivalent of OpenGL, OpenAL simply implies Open Audio Library, just like OpenGL stands for Open Graphics Library. I believe it was made so that it would be extensible just like OpenGL, with a set of core defined functions.