Last Updated: March 22nd, 2011

When you think of Android's openness, what comes to mind first? Is it the open source code of AOSP? Or maybe nearly 200 devices that run the Android now? Perhaps tethering, built right into the OS? How about the GPLv2 license requirement for manufacturers to publish all changes to the Linux kernel simultaneously with each phone's release?

If you are a custom ROM developer or even user, that last bit there probably occupies one of the top positions, and rightfully so - without it, proprietary changes to the kernel would remain hidden and would need to be reverse engineered. Manufacturers, however, don't seem to treat this license requirement seriously and typically delay the kernel source release by an indefinite number of days or even weeks.

This attitude does not sit well with the community, so back in October, when HTC "forgot" to release the kernel for the G2, Steve Schultze from Princeton's Freedom to Tinker blog called them out. HTC's response?

Thank you for contacting HTC Technical Assistance Center. HTC will typically publish on developer.htc.com the Kernel open source code for recently released devices as soon as possible. HTC will normally publish this within 90 to 120 days. This time frame is within the requirements of the open source community.

Steven did not cave in and cited clauses from the GPLv2 that clearly required sources to be published together with released software. A few days later, HTC complied. This story alone is not news as it happened back in October of last year and got quite a bit of attention, but read on - it's going to get better, I promise.

A few days after HTC's infamous "90-120 days" response was published, one Matt Mackall, a Linux Kernel developer, ran into this message from one Martin with an @htc email address. The message was posted to the Linux.kernel support group and pleaded for help regarding some low-level issue that is not important here. What is important is the pure gold Matt replied with:

Dear Martin,

Are you from the same HTC mentioned here?

If so, please ask again in 90-120 days. Until then, you're on your own.

And that, folks, is how it's done. Can you say ziiiing?

P.S. Do you think subsequent phone releases were accompanied by immediate kernel releases? Perhaps you should ask HTC where the Thunderbolt kernel is, without which it's hard, if not impossible, to start building any custom ROMs.

Source: Linux.kernel Google Groups

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • Raptor007

    So I guess we should be contacting HTC then, even though I have no clue what to do with the code I am sure someone does.

    • Kane

      Demand kernel source for all Android phones to be released simultaneously with said phones.

  • http://twitter.com/Telanis_ Telanis

    Hahaha, amazing! SUCK IT HTC

  • http://schpydurx.livejournal.com ProfessorTom

    Coming up next: HTC fucks over all of their Android users, loses all street credibility, stock plummets, Android dies a violent, agonizing death, iOS reigns king.

  • cowboydroid

    I wonder what Motorola's history is on this issue...

  • Logan

    Oh great. Another reason for a large company to delay major releases.

    "The new update's ready to go."
    "Wait, is all the documentation complete?"
    "We can't release until then. SHUT. DOWN. EVERYTHING."

  • luke

    Hey guys. Pls don't forget about fm radio and camera drivers for htc tattoo, sources are also not available. They promised that they will release android 2 for this device and... forgot about it?

  • JCopernicus

    Slow news day? I'm curious as to why this got dug up since it's a posting from back in october.

    • Artem

      Because it was just brought to our attention due to the Thunderbolt situation and was too good to ignore. It has never been reported before.

  • http://www.christiantechsaz.com Aaron

    I 5 starred that post, that was pure awesomeness. :D


    Yeah, push your biggest ally away. Yeah.