Saturday, March 29, 2008

An open letter to Creative Labs in response to "The Daniel_K Situation"

It's unlikely that Creative Labs cares about what I have to say, as they generally don't seem to care much about their customers as it is, but here is the text of a message I posted to Creative Labs' support forum regarding their recent efforts to stop Daniel_K from distributing vastly improved drivers for their Audigy series of sound cards.
I've been a long time Creative user, and I'm afraid that you've lost me with this one. I have used Soundblaster cards since the 8-bit Soundblaster Pro. Since then I've owned the Soundblaster 16, AWE 32, and a couple cards in the Audigy series. For over 15 years, I've used Creative's cards almost exclusively (aside from a brief stint with the Pro Audio Spectrum 16).

When Vista SP1 was released last week, I didn't see it in Windows Update because the latest driver available for my Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro was not compatible with the update (see this KB article []). This driver hasn't been updated since March 2007, and didn't work all that well to boot. Analog 5.1 surround was sketchy, and the sub channel didn't even work.

Daniel_K came to the rescue in my situation. I needed to uninstall my drivers to upgrade to SP1, then install his driver package get my card working again. The installation went very smoothly, and my card is working better than it ever has on Vista. There are some quirks, but all surround channels are working as they should, and sound quality seems to be improved over the previous drivers (although this could easily be attributed to the placebo effect).

The last thing that you should be doing is going after Daniel_K. If anything, you should hire the guy to teach their driver team a thing or two.

Sadly, this is not likely a technical issue, but a marketing one. You seem to have made a deliberate decision to leave Audigy users in the cold in an effort to get us to upgrade to your new X-Fi series. Problem is, it doesn't seem to be working. You know full well that your forum here has post after post lamenting your substandard driver support with promises to avoid your cards in the future.

Your strategy may work with casual customers with a sub-$50 card, but not for others who have invested over $200 for a high-end Audigy card with a breakout box. Those people, like me, are still looking for return on their investment, and will be the first to walk away from you when they get snubbed.

Hopefully this is a misunderstanding, and you will work out a deal with Daniel_K. If this doesn't happen, you stand to lose some of your most loyal customers. Given your track record so far, the outlook doesn't look good.

Please. Step up and do the right thing here. Support your customers, and the rest will follow.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

IE7 Loading Slow for You? Here's a fix that may work...

For a while now, Internet Explorer 7 has been sluggish to load, open new windows, and create new tabs. I had put up with it for some time because although I'd fire it up to go to certain sites (like my company's Sharepoint portal), it wasn't my daily browser. That was a role filled by Firefox.

I suspected that the issue lied with an installed add-on, as Firefox problems usually spawn from a misbehaving extension. I've disabled add-ons in the past, but I hadn't found the right one.

That changed today when I disabled the "SSVHelper Class." This component is apparently related to Java 6, update 2, and apparently has a bug that's been squashed. Oddly enough, the fix hasn't been deployed (or at least not to me) as I've been putting up with this slowness for almost a year now.

Anyway, if you're experiencing slowness with IE, try disabling the add-on. It's a completely reverse able exercise, and it may resolve your troubles:

  1. In IE, go to Tools > Manage Add-ons > Enable or Disable Add-ons

  2. In the window that opens, select "Add-ons currently loaded in Internet Explorer."

  3. Under the "Enabled" section, select the "SSVHelper Class." You'll see that the publisher is "(Not verified) Sun Microsystems, Inc."

  4. With the add-on selected, click the "Disable" radio button at the bottom of the window, then click "OK."

  5. Restart Internet Explorer.

That's it. Hopefully you'll see the same results as I did. The browser is now a lot snappier that in used to be.

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