Snippets of information cropping up at various locations on the internet indicate that Creative Labs has recently provided open source driver developers with documentation or sample code for the Sound Blaster X-Fi, announced in August 2005, for which there are no fully developed open source drivers currently available. Creative has previously declined to furnish any documentation and had been planning to develop a proprietary Linux driver itself. Apart from a rudimentary beta driver released last September, which only works with X86-64 kernels compiled with older versions of the GCC, little has come of this.
But this looks to be changing – in early February, on the release of Open Sound System (OSS) 4.0 build 1013, which is licensed under GPL/CDDL/BSD, 4Front Technologies for the first time stressed support for the Sound Blaster X-Fi. The beta driver for the sound card is apparently able to deal with playing audio but still has problems recording. The source code includes some files used by OSS drivers which contain hardware control code programmed by Creative.
OSS has, however, declined in significance over the last few years – all the major distributions now rely primarily on Alsa Project drivers, which are also part of the latest kernel versions. Indications of a new strategy at Creative can also be found at the Alsa Project. Alsa developer James Courtier-Dutton last Wednesday sent an e-mail to the developer mailing list stating that he hoped to receive data sheets from Creative Labs within the next few weeks.