Dell responds to calls for opening Streak code -- sort of

Critics say Dell has been slow and unresponsive in sharing the tweaked version of Android powering its Streak tablet

Dell, at long last, has publically responded to criticism that it has failed to comply with the GPL and share the source code to the version of Android running on the Dell Streak mini tablet. Late last night, Dell blogger Lionel Menchaca tweeted, "We're reviewing concerns re: the #dellstreak source code. We intend to comply with all applicable requirements. More details soon."

Developers and tech enthusiasts have complained in various forums that Dell has been unresponsive to requests -- some as much as two weeks old -- to share the Streak source code. Dell uses a version of Android 1.6, based on a Linux kernel, which falls under the GPL. As such, say critics, Dell is required to share any new code it creates, including drivers and code that communicate with the Streak hardware.

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"I've just spent few hours trying to build android-msm-2.6.32 Linux kernel for Dell Streak. It turns out that it is impossible, without device specific board files," wrote a user on a forum at MoDaCo on Aug. 22. "These files are in the Linux kernel source tree Dell used to build kernel for Streak and Dell is obliged under the terms of GPL, to give this source to any owner of Streak requesting it."

Various users report that Dell has ignored emails and tweets requesting the code and that calling tech support directly has yielded responses along the lines of "We'll check into it and get back to you," but without any followup. 

My own attempts to get answers from Dell on the subject have also proven fruitless. Emails to two of Dell's PR contacts went ignored, and a moderator on Dell's support forums told me yesterday, "Let me see what I can find out. To my knowledge, we've made no official statement regarding the source code."

A Google spokesperson had only this to say on the subject: "We cannot comment on what others are doing within the Android ecosystem. It's best to go directly to these companies for comment."

In Dell's defense, the Streak was released in the United Kingdom a mere month ago and in the United States earlier this month. Technically, according to Electronista, there's no strict deadline for publishing code under the GPL, so Dell hasn't broken any rules. However, "it's usually assumed code will be available almost immediately or shortly before any hardware or software ships. Most Android phone manufacturers that have their own custom interfaces, such as HTC, have already posted any changes they've made that would be covered by the GPL."

Also, it remains to be seen how Dell interprets the "applicable requirements" to the GPL.

This story, "Dell responds to calls for opening Streak code -- sort of," was originally published at Get the first word on important tech news with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.