HP Running the ATi QA Show?

ATi's RubyFrom the day I built my PC a few years ago until just last week, it’s been impossible for me to play a game (pretty much *any* full-screen DirectX/OpenGL game) without the ATi drivers crashing. (For reference, stock ATi HD3870 on an ASUS RoG Maximus Formula II motherboard). I’ve tracked down each and every possible lead, and solved a number of crash-inducing issues in the process, but haven’t been able to completely prevent the display driver crashes from the days Vista or now on Windows 7.

There were issues pertaining to dual-displays in a mixed VGA/DVI environment (one display DVI, the second VGA) which were never resolved by ATi (to the best of my knowledge) and were worked around by initially downgrading the DVI to a VGA connection and later replacing the older monitor with a new DVI-based display. There were issues related to the refresh rate. There were issues related to the resolution. There were issues related to the games. There were issues related to the OS. Basically, wherever you look, there were problems caused by poor development practices and crappy QA all around.

There were issues that Microsoft/Windows’ new WDM model caught, triggering a restart of the graphics subsystem without causing a BSoD. And there were (unfortunately the majority) of the ATi display driver crashes that caused BSoDs left, right, and center.

Today, my Windows 7 PC surprised me with an interesting question:

Send info to HP?

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ATi Catalyst 8.5 Drivers Out

ATi has just released the Catalyst 8.5 drivers for Windows XP and Vista, you can download a copy here (hotlinking to the actual driver page is disabled).

The entire 8.x line has been of sub-par quality to date (8.3 and 8.4 in particular, which seem to crash randomly on a large percentage of Vista machines), hopefully the 8.5 release can provide a much-needed boost in terms of quality and stability.

It’s obviously too early to tell if the 8.5 releases addresses these issues, which are not listed in the release notes, but it’s possible that some of the causes of the problem have been resolved as a result of one or more of the bugfixes in this version.

Vista SP1 (Beta) and ATi Drivers: Not a Great Mix

Continuing our line of Vista SP1 stories, we’ve been testing the leaked version of Windows Vista SP1 and have some interesting results with regards to the WDDM layer.

Since Vista RTM, one of the biggest sources of consternation and BSODs on Windows has been the graphics drivers. From ATi to nVidia, hardware manufacturers were very late in the game, not producing final drivers until January and February (3-4 months after the official release); and even then, their quality was definitely sub-par with what we’d come to expect with Windows Vista.

Perhaps we’re being unduly harsh here – after all, Windows NT driver developers had had over a decade of testing and real-world experience with the NT graphics driver subsystem, and here they were, required to learn anew everything from writing the drivers to getting them to work with Vista’s new (and stringent) driver protocols and more. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that driver-development teams at both nVidia and ATi just weren’t up to scratch.

Since then, bug reports have diminished as the list of issues and incompatibilities slowly were slowly vanquished, one by one – with nVidia undeniably in the lead. nVidia’s lead in driver reliability has grown even further with SP1: the same ATi drivers that were working just fine under RTM with the same hardware (and running the same games) are now BSODing under Windows Vista SP1.

Obviously no one is to blame here – not yet, anyway. Windows Vista SP1 isn’t even in beta yet (though it certainly isn’t alpha!), and ATi’s drivers weren’t intended for use with anything other than Vista RTM and its immediate updates. It’s quite simple, actually: if you’re a gamer using ATi and interested in checking out SP1, think twice before you act. And remember, forewarned is forearmed.

Want to Permanently Disable Driver Verification in Vista x64?

Would you like to permanently disable driver verification in Windows Vista x64? Tired of pressing F8 at every boot?

An upcoming version of EasyBCD might just do the trick – but we need testers first! In the past we’ve introduced several changes to EasyBCD that made it easier to load certain drivers on Windows Vista x64 Edition, but now we think we have something that might give your F8 key a rest for once and for all.

If you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows Vista, are currently using (or trying to) unsigned drivers, and are willing to help us test this new solution, please post a reply below… This could be your chance!

Just How Serious Creative is(n’t) About Open Source….

To show you just how serious Creative is about open source and the Linux community, just take a (good) look at two of their sites: the main site, and the open source division. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, nor is the open source site run by 3rd graders from 1993 – it’s just that Creative doesn’t think it’s open source division deserves at least a moderately useable interface for their users.

Forget the quality of the drivers – after all, the Windows drivers are utter garbage as well compared to some of the other companies out there. So if you put aside the fact that their Linux drivers hardly work, the X-Fi isn’t even supported (they ask you to upgrade to Windows if you want to listen to hi-def audio…), and that the site looks like it hasn’t been touched since the X-Fi originally came out, you’re still left with a little problem: Linux users like music too! 

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AMD-ATi Releases Final Vista Drivers!

Just minutes before Vista goes on sale to the general public all around the world, ATi [[AMD]] has officially released the final versions of its drivers for Windows Vista. They’re out for Windows Vista x86 and x64, and they’re slightly smaller than the beta drivers in download size, though still downright huge (for drivers that is, but still nothing next to the X-Fi drivers) at 40MB.

Our original rant, posted just days ago, was all about just how irresponsible and ridiculous ATi/AMD’s much-delayed drivers for Windows Vista are, so we’re especially happy someone’s done something about it. It may be too late for AMD/ATi to make good with the techie users who’ve been using Vista without real graphics acceleration for months now, but it may not be too late for the home crowd.

Go and get the drivers, we’re downloading them too. We don’t know if they have OpenGL support or not, but they most certainly better – we’ll let you know when we find out.

Hat-Tip: Wally Ballou

Final ATi Drivers for Windows Vista RTM

Nope, they’re not here; not yet, anyway. Windows Vista is here, and ATi [[AMD]] still hasn’t released a real set of drivers for Vista users. Currently 3D performance on Windows Vista – if you’re using an ATi card – is close to zero, and ATi doesn’t seem worried in the least. In an email from ATi to a NeoSmart Representative, we were told that the final drivers would be here “before the end of January,” and they would have full OpenGL support – but they’re not here yet, and even if they were, it’s far too late as it is.

nVidia has had its drivers out for quite a while now, and even before that, at least nVidia users did not have to suffer from zero OpenGL support. The rumor was, once AMD bought ATi, their customer support and driver divisions would supposedly improve. Well, that rumor has most certainly been debunked now!

Users of ATi graphics cards have crappy Direct3D video acceleration, and no OpenGL support. The default Microsoft drivers provide worse Direct3D acceleration, but they do at least provide end users with 1MB of memory for OpenGL acceleration… What on earth is ATi thinking!?

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Windows Vista Crashes, BSODs, and System Failures on Hibernate, Resume, and Wake

While Windows Vista has a whole host of new features to offer, it has one major problem that just won’t go away: it’s totally FUBAR’d after you resume from sleep or hibernate. Unfortunately, many of these issues weren’t present during the beta stage, and were somehow introduced in the RTM build of Windows Vista. This exclusive NeoSmart Technologies report describes some of the symptoms in detail, and we even provide links to possible fixes by Microsoft. All issues have been duly reported and confirmed by Microsoft, so this isn’t just some figment of our imagination. A number of these patches are scheduled to be included in Windows Vista SP1 (Codename Fiji).

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IntelliPoint, IntelliType, and DigitalPersona Officially on Windows Vista!

For the millions out there have viewed and used NeoSmart Technologies guide to getting IntelliPoint and IntelliType on Windows Vista there’s finally hope. And for those that have complained about Microsoft’s DigitalPersona fingerprint reader not working on Vista, it finally does. This week Microsoft released two “mini-betas” for these programs, and they actually work.

NeoSmart Technologies had the opportunity to test both of these driver installer + configuration utilities, and so far, we haven’t run into anything serious with either. It never made sense that Microsoft’s most popular line of hardware shouldn’t be supported this far in, but now it officially is.

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Windows Vista and Firewire: The Missing Drivers

Firewire was first introduced by Apple Computers Corporation back in the (very) late 90s. It was ahead of its time by leaps and bounds, with peak transfer rates of up to 400mbps, something literally unheard of and unimaginable in the world of serial & parallel ports and the occasional “fast” 11mbps USB 1.0 interface.

When Apple introduced it with its DV-camcorders and demanding portable media players with in-built support on Mac OS (before NeXtOS); Windows, Linux, and the rest of the gang were quick to catch on with pre-packaged Firewire driver support. But apparently not Vista.

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