A week of fixing Vista problems

It's been a quiet month on the blog front. This is of course because I've got lots of stuff to do to prepare for my departure to Japan next month, including quite a bit of work that needs to be finished at University. Next Tuesday I'm going to an orientation meeting organized by the Japanese Embassy, so I'll be sure to blog about that.

The past week though has been marked by the solution to two problems I've had with Vista. This would hardly qualify as interesting news if it weren't for the fact that one of them I care a great deal about.

Ever since the beginning of the Vista beta, sound has been a problem. The newness of Vista's audio stack combined with crappy Creative drivers have given everybody a lot of headaches (I own a Sound Blaster X-Fi; great card, lousy driver support).

Although it's been mostly ok for a while now (surround sound works, stutters are limited to when there's a lot of hard disk IO, not sure if this is due to the audio or the IDE drivers), there was one thing that didn't work yet. That was SPDIF passthrough.

For the less audio-savvy readers, a quick explanation: normally when you watch a DVD on your computer, the DVD playing software takes care of decoding the Dolby AC3 or DTS audio stream on the DVD. Then your sound card converts it to an analog signal that goes to your speakers. With an expensive sound card like the X-Fi, sometimes the card can do the AC3/DTS decoding as well. But the signal to the speakers remains analog, since the digital SPDIF interface can handle only 2 channels when handling decoded (PCM) audio, not the 6 channels required for your typical DVD. With SPDIF passthrough, the still encoded AC3/DTS signal is sent directly over the SPDIF link to an external decoder. The advantage is that you now have a digital connection up to the external decoder, instead of everything from the computer down being analog, leading to better quality. My speakers, the Logitech Z-5400 (the link is for the Z-5450, which is the same except the Z-5400's rear speakers are not wireless), include such a decoder.

So, being the audio-freak I am, and having paid a neat sum for those speakers, I'd like to be able to use the external decoder. But that was impossible in Vista, since SPDIF passthrough did not work (although for mysterious reasons, it did work from the "test" option in the Control Panel and from Media Center, just not from any other application such as WMP or PowerDVD).

Now, with Creative's new drivers (released March 8th), it finally works. Despite the fact that the release notes for the drivers say that SPDIF doesn't work on x64, it does actually work.

So happy was I that it worked, I even created a silly video to show it.

The second problem I solved had to do with Windows Media Player. For some reason, WMP11 on Vista could synchronize music to my PocketPC's main memory, but it didn't recognize the storage card (strangely, WMP11 on XP had no problems with this). For this, I found this hotfix, which took care of the problem.

Categories: General computing
Posted on: 2007-03-18 11:51 UTC.


michel vromen

2007-11-27 10:33 UTC

Hi, I have the same problem but I have a notebook (Acer Aspire) with realtek High Definition. All work except SPDIF passthrough. Any suggestions?


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