Creative Labs Under Massive Blogosphere Attack Over Post To Daniel_K

A couple of updates to yesterdays post.

It appears Creative Labs is under a massive blogosphere attack at this moment.

  • As I write this there are 176 pages of feedback to Phil O’Shaughnessy’s about his post to Daniel_K. Mr. O’Shaughnessy is getting a lesson in Corporate Communications like he’s never had in his life.
  • The forum page where Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s post starts has been hit 230,000 times since his post last Friday.

Some Facual Updates on Creative Labs

  • The owner of Creative Labs is Sim Wong Hoo.
  • Creative Labs is based in Singapore.
  • According to Wikipedia “Sim Wong Hoo with his school friend Ng Kai Wa set up shop in Pearl Centre in Singapore. He got his start running Creative as a computer repair shop. While doing this he developed an add-on memory board for the Apple II computer that they sold as well. Later, Creative started creating customized PCs adapted for the Chinese language which included enhanced audio capabilities so that the device could produce speech and melodies. The success of this audio interface led to the development of a stand-alone sound card named Sound Blaster that Creative marketed. Sound Blaster was very successful and has been used as a standard of comparison for sound cards.

Below is an interview with Sim Wong Hoo

As I outlined in yesterdays post, this company built their business on technology that fit into slots in computers and they should know what Daniel_K is all about. As I posted yesterday there is no reason for Daniel_K to be treated the way he has. As such I have added my name to an online petition on “Creative Labs Driver Quality”. That petition can be found at

After watching the video with Sim Wong Hoo it’s sad to see that Creative Labs is going through this.


Creative Lab Inc.’s Corporate Actions And The Reptilian Brain…..

This post is about a corporate culture problem that surfaces regularly and I just don’t understand why it continues. Last week I wrote a post on silo’d corporate culture and how in SONY’s case they had to back down on a $50 charge to remove bloatware from their VAIO laptops. Obviously following SONY’s BMG CD copy prevention scandal in 2005 the corporation had a disaster plan for this space and they literally took action to correct the situation before it reached the mainstream press en mass. When “narrow” corporate thinking gets exposed to the light of day in the “blogosphere” the actions make no sense to anyone and as the Cluetrain Manefesto points out, large corporations thinking (and acting) with a reptilian (like) brain are simply not sustainable in this environment. Yet here is another case and it’s not pretty.

I just finished reading, reviewing and “Twittering” my usual news sources and to my dismay I came across a posting that fell into the same camp….. The post was on the Soundblaster Forum and it was written by Phil O’Shaughnessy, VP Corporate Communications, Creative Labs Inc. The post is directed towards an individual identified as Daniel_K. From what I can gather this individual had –in the past– improved Soundblasters drivers so they would run better on existing operating systems. He had also provided drivers that would allow their Soundblaster cards to run on computers or OS’s of which Creative Labs Inc. did not provide drivers. I gather that in the past his driver patches were distributed for free and his site would solicit donations from the people who made use of them. This is in keeping with a number of sites on the internet.

tomasz.sienicki at gmail.comIn O’Shaughnessy’s post he basically tells Daniel_K to cease and desist from creating and distributing any further driver improvements. He states; “The difference in this case is that we own the rights to the materials that you are distributing. By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods. When you solicit donations for providing packages like this, you are profiting from something that you do not own. If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make.” In reading the responses in the forum it appears that at the root of the problem is the fact that Creative Labs Inc. does not fully license all of the IP in their cards.

As a person who has purchased large quantities of Creative Products for a public University, as well as a number of their products on a personal level, I have to question Creative Labs Inc.’s actions and thinking in this case. From my point of view they have really opened up the proverbial “can of worms” with this post.

The idea of putting slots in a computer traces its roots to the ENIAC computer in the 1940’s. Their purpose was to expand the capability of a computer through a standard interface. They reappeared in personal computers and gainded great popularity in the APPLE II in the late 1970’s and the IBM PC in the 1980’s. They were put into PC’s so purchasers could expand capability and migrate hardware between generations of hardware and software. In fact Creative Labs got their start creating soundcards for the slots in the original generations of IBM PC’s. So if they’ve licensed software that been placed on their cards that’s not migratable and not fully open then they’ve created the problem. It’s hard for me to buy into any of the arguments Creative Labs is putting forward in this matter. I also don’t know that they’ve made their customers fully aware of these kind of limitations at the time of the products purchase. Coming from the “broadcast technology” side of the business, the manufacturers who place similar restrictions on technology usually do so by encasing it in its own “black box” that often includes its own OS. They don’t market them as “mass” consumer items in commodity hardware and then years later try to shut down software advancement.

Hence if Daniel_K’s efforts to improve the value of Soundblasters products is seen as a benefit to any of Creative Labs customers then problem is not Daniel_K’s, it is really Creative Labs own fault. First for not licensing the embedded IP appropriately and secondly in forgetting the history of computer hardware and the expectations of those who purchase it. Judging by the response to post on the forum, I’m not the only person to question Creative Labs Inc.’s actions in this case. It’s especially questionable when Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s post contrasts the fact that the companies own drivers and service doesn’t match the solutions that Daniel_K’s drivers do.

As an institutional buyer for a public University this post places all of our future purchases of Creative Labs products in jeopardy. Why? Because a University undertakes research. And some of that research might involve customizing computer components for use as technology that it was not originally intended for. And in some cases it’s often older technology that is employed in the initial experimental stages.

If I read Mr. O’Shaughnessy post correctly, Creative Labs Inc. views that kind of action as “stealing our goods”. If that is indeed the case then I’m now placed in a position where I have review any purchase requests that come across my desk that want to employ technology from Creative Labs. As a University Director who is responsible for equipment purchases, I will be forced to ask the staff requesting the technology to look for alternative soundcard technologies that are open by both design and nature.

Mr. O’Shaughnessy post clearly asks Daniel_K to respect Creative Labs rights as “owners”. One has to view this post in the context of all of Creative Labs current and future customers. In effect Creative Labs has extended its “ownership” rights to individuals who purchase their products and its clear that those rights involve granting no right to further develop or extend the capabilities of Soundblaster products. By practice (and I’m reflecting on comments on Soundblasters own forum) this appears to mean even if features don’t work when purchased and especially if they were embedded in the products firmware but not enabled at the time of purchase.

My comment is that this notion won’t fly within the University culture that I work in and I honestly don’t know of any similar University or research environment where it would. I also don’t think it will fly with a number of Creative Labs higher end customers who see their purchase of Creative Labs product as an investment. Some of Creative Labs advanced cards are costly and they are employed in a number of advanced audio production situations. In the end if Creative Labs has asked its customers to respect its corporate rights as “owners” then Creative Labs will also have to respect their customers rights as “consumers”… And as Creative Labs may find out consumers vote with their wallet.

What’s really bizarre in this case is that Creative Labs was built on placing their hardware in the open slots of an IBM PC. Within that open environment they were encouraged by an open culture and market to improve their products. It’ s somewhat similar to what Daniel_K is doing today and Creative Labs –of all companies– should understand what an open environment is all about. That includes what Daniel_K is about and what the expectations are of consumers, be they corporate, institutional or personal, when they purchase product that fits into standardized PC slots.

I hope Creative Labs Inc. re-thinks their policy and starts securing full rights for the technology that it places in their cards. Since their argument is they don’t and I’m a public servant, I’m now forced from this day forward to seek open soundcard solutions. If you feel strong about this GIZMODO provides Phil O’Shaughnessy’s e-mail address in their post; Creative Presents Cease-and-Desist Note to Developer Hero…..


Transferring Those 16mm and 8mm Films In The Digital Era And Making Them Look Great!

Tonight Many Ayromlou of Nerdlogger and myself were questioned on modestly priced technology to transfer 16mm film to video. Short of having an old style Telecine or a more modern –and expensive– film Scanner, the last item that I purchased for this purpose was an Elmo TRV 16 unit. That was over 20 years ago and it’s pictured on the right. The TRV 16 had no projection lens and operated by transferring the film image directly on to a CCD. It had output video and audio connectors to hook the unit up to videotape machines. After servicing us for 20 years the unit is now gone and after an Internet search tonight the device appears to be no longer manufactured. In reading some of the Internet posts this evening, it appears that many people are searching for one of these kind of projectors.

I gather Many must have spent some time searching for it this evening because I see he has posted information on a prototype 8mm film to 4K transfer device that employs the RED One camera!

Some months ago I came across the Sniper-16 (pictured on the left) that is pretty much the same kind of device as the Elmo TRV 16. The Sniper 16 is one of several devices manufactured by MovieStuff. They also manufacture units that transfer 8mm film and 35 mm slides to video. If your concerned about quality, there is a page on their website that originated from PC Magazine. It shows images from one of their units compared against that of a transfer performed on a RANK scanner.


STAETIM – Fourth Year New Media Festival at Ryerson University

I just returned from the opening of STAETIM which is the New Media Festival put on by the fourth year students in Ryerson’s New Media program. I mentioned in a post some weeks ago how passionate I am about this program in terms of its distinctiveness. In an era of rapid technological change New Media is an important cultural phenomenon as it pushes the boundaries and thinking around traditional media including those recently emerged. However after experiencing STAETIM it is evident how far the program at Ryerson goes beyond mainstream conceptions of New Media.

If you follow internet stories such as I do, one often associates New Media with technologies and applications created with applications such as Flash, Silverlight, Air, Blu-ray or Web 2.0. They are often mistaken singularly as killer apps. Don’t get me wrong as the students in Ryerson’s New Media program are well tutored in those tools but when one looks at the body of work on display at STAETIM one realizes that the program goes way beyond the Internet as the single platform to both deliver and practice New Media.

The vast majority of the thirty-odd installations tied in a variety of electronic and robotic components as well as many elements different art forms and disciplines. To experience the festival interaction is required by the participants often through various forms of touch or motion. And when one counted the variety of materials used, software employed, electronics assembled and contrasted them with the diversity of the projects on display, one quickly realizes that study of New Media goes way beyond clever graphics, database integration and the talk of interactive social media that dominates today’s Internet. Quite simply the STAETIM Festival is not your “grandparents” or your “corporate” New Media Festival. It’s fresh and edgy in terms of its scope and it is true to the concept of New Media.

The Festival started this evening with a kickoff ceremony that kept its focus on the students work. There were a small number of awards that recognized the distinctiveness of some of the installations but my favorite award was the one where a first and a second year in the New Media program decided on an award to a fourth year student who had an Installation in the festival. That’s a nice way to get recognition from your peers in my opinion. One highlight of the ceremony occurred when Sympatico / MSN announced a three year $30,000.00 scholarship commitment to the students who are enrolled in Ryerson’s New Media program. That’s a great gift to Ryerson and it will go to good use in helping to encourage some of these young artists to continue pushing the boundaries of Media

There is little use for me to go into detail about the installations. It’s truely something that that needs to be experienced first hand. If you’re in the area STAETIM is running Friday March 28th and Saturday March 29th from 12 pm to 6 pm. daily in the Image Arts building at Ryerson University. The festivals website is for more information on the show, exhibits and its exact location.


Revolabs Solo™ Wearable Wireless Microphones

Jeremy Littler the inventor of Streamulator showed me this neat wireless microphone. It’s the Revolabs Solo™ Wearable Wireless Microphone that’s a single lav that arraches to ones shirt. The reciever outputs the audio via a USB connection and charges the microphone when its not in use. Jeremy mentioned that the battery lasts eight hours!

Avoiding Silos and How the Single Killer Application Does Not Exist

I think Dan Tynan got it right…. His recently published column titled “Ten technology combos that are changing how we work and live” really gets to the heart of the change process that is occurring across many professions today. It’s been my experience that no matter how hard one works to master all of the elements of a single discipline, to really be on top of a profession one simply can’t operate in a silo anymore. This means for both a corporation and an individual there is no single “killer app” that one can hold onto on which to base a career. For someone like myself who based a career on media technology, it is actually the combinations of technologies that create real change. And in todays climate they are to be watched daily.

The reason I like Tynan’s column is it looks at ten such combinations of technology. It allows one to consider the effect of all of these technologies in tandem and never mentions a single “killer app”. He notes “Disruption is rarely the result of a single gadget or innovation, however. It’s typically when two or more technologies converge that the real changes start to happen.” For the most part, Mr. Tynan’s list matches technology with distribution as the disruptive combination(s). It’s clear he understands that a single killer application does not exist and the relationship between technology being paired with distribution.

In his article Dan Tynan identified the following combinations of technologies as significant;

  1. Cell Phones + Wireless Internet Access
  2. The Web + The Graphical Browser
  3. Broadband + Wireless Networks
  4. Cloud Computing + Always-On Devices
  5. Cheap Storage + Portable Memory
  6. Blogs + Google Ads
  7. MP3 + Napster
  8. Open Source + Web Tools
  9. YouTube + Cheap Digital Cameras and Camcorders
  10. DVRs + Entertainment on Demand

Recently Michael Geist delivered a talk at Osgoode Hall in Toronto. Geist is a lawyer and has focused his efforts of late on impending Copyright legislation in Canada. His talk was titled Facing Up to Facebook: The Fight for Fair Copyright in Canada. It was based on an experience that he had when he appeared on a TV Ontario show called The Agenda hosted by Steve Paikin. When Geist was asked by Pakin why Canadians care about copyright reform, he found it difficult to verbalize. His difficulty came from the short period of time that an interview program can provide in the television medium. Geist’s could not explain the complex combination of factors around why so many Canadians care about copyright reform in the “sound byte” style television demands.

Whether we realize it or not we’re all living an era where the combination of digitization technology and networking has changed many aspects of the way we work and live. The result of digitization in the broadcast and media industry where I work has been dramatic. Digitization first changed the production process with new technology and later the distribution process changed as networking became more predominant. The upheaval has created fundamental changes to our associated professions as a result. My personal opinion is that the effect of networks, primarily the internet, remains central to this massive paradigm shift towards the democratization of Media. As it spreads it has really put pressure on both individuals and corporations who want to develop and operate in silos.

This month’s WIRED magazine is timely because it puts yet another spin on this. In an odd sort of way the magazine celebrates this phenomenon with an article titled Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. The article cites Stewart Brand’s astute observation from a 1984 hacker conference:Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive … That tension will not go away.

Businesses and corporations operating primarily by finding profitable niche areas to serve in areas of information technology. They actually can actually provide value and they often promote their services like singular “killer apps”. However when these same companies then they try to create walled gardens and silo their thinking they can run into trouble. The trouble can happen quickly and it’s especially prevalent in todays networked environment. Corporations and individulas forget that in a world that’s interconnected by ideas, people can often communicate cheaper and more functional alternatives to simple problems.

SONY is a company that has a culture of creating technological silos. And my experience has been where they’ve found a nice they’ve been very good company. I grew up watching their Trinitron television sets and listening to their Walkman technology on old style audio cassette. For much of my professional editing career I used their U-Matic and Betacam videotape recording technologies and I found them to be excellent products. They were all great niche products…

However SONY’s focus on optical disc technology has been puzzling to me. While I understand their push into the Compact Disc market in the 1980’s I never truly understood what followed. Having built a predominant brand in personal music appliances with their Walkman products, they should have seized todays market of MP3 players. The late 1980’s would have been the ideal time to relaunch the Walkman that should have employed MP3’s and recoded on flash media. Instead they stuck with optical MiniDisc and pushed Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding (ATRAC). ATRAC was a family of proprietary audio compression algorithms that they developed and I think a lot of consumers, who just wanted to listen to their MP3’s. SONY wanted to control both the technology and distribution with technology that did not suit the market. SONY’s failure to adopt the MP3 format forced consumers like myself to purchase other manufacturers MP3 players and left the door wide open for Apple to launch the iPod almost a decade later. The rest is history.

Following the demise of HD DVD it looks like SONY’s Blu-ray will find a niche. Blu-ray looks like a medium that will be useful for the distribution of games and for consumers who want to physically rent or purchase movies. Blu-ray is central to their PS3 and the sale of those game units has put a lot of players into the marketplace. However if SONY tries to create a walled garden around Blu-ray to maximize profit Blu-ray could remain just remain a niche product.

With a walled garden SONY could run into a corporate culture that slows its development and creates compatibility issues between various stages of Blu-rays development. SONY has already announced Profile 2 Blu-ray machines at this years CES. Are there incompatibility issues?

With a single company controlling Blu-ray’s development, will it be slowed by a corporate culture that wants to to maximize profitability? Advances in Solid State Disk will ultimately create an attractive alternative to optical media. In addition networked based delivery will eat away at movie and software distribution in a physical form. Given the nature of todays network world SONY needs to keep in mind that Blu-ray is not “the killer app” for everything. It needs to focus it in areas where it makes sense to consumers and develop a community with those consumers.

However this methodology might be tough for them. Just this weekend SONY’s historic corporate culture resurfaced in another very public gaffe. Following Infoworld, and Engadget posts on Good Friday about SONY’s $50 “Fresh Start” option, SONY found itself in a position where it had to retract the service. Apparently this “Fresh Start” option was a service charge that SONY applied to VAIO computer purchasers to remove software that SONY put on the hard drive prior to its sale. In reaction to the multitude of blog posts, WIRED posted a breaking story that said; “Responding to a tidal wave of outrage, Sony has reversed a plan to charge $50 to remove all the pre-installed applications

This incident all occurred in one day but it demonstrates a hiccup that surfaces from time to time in their corporate culture. Since one would assume this is not something SONY would set out to do, one can only speculate that this situation was brought about through some sort of “siloization” inside a company that’s large and inherently bureaucratic. Or in perhaps its simpler than that. Maybe SONY found itself caught in the tension that Stewart Brand’s observed: “Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive … That tension will not go away.”

This entire episode demonstrates how several of the technology combinations that Dan Tynan identified come into play. It’s really great in this day and age we have the technology to share what we’re learning so we no longer have to operate in a vacuum. We need to keep in mind that other people’s insights are valuable to our collective learning and development process. And today, with the internet in place, the same principle applies to individuals as it does to corporations. I’d encourage everyone who reads this post to tear down those silos and to continue to share what you learn.


Guitar Hero For Nintendo DS

If you think the virtual Korg MS-10 that was designed specifically for the DS was a crazy idea… Think again! After selling $1 billion worth of games in its first 26 months, the popular Guitar Hero appears to be heading to the Nintendo DS. Players will interface with the DS using a Guitar Grip that comes with the game. It’s a shell-grip-controller-hybrid and fits in the GBA-Slot of the DS. This DS version looks kind of corny in action but if you check out the video below the players look no worse then DEVO … In fact some might say they even dress better!