Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 14/10/2004Memo to self: do not stay out drinking until midnight with the hard-livered contingent of the company when one has agreed to do a 5:50 a.m.

Thursday 14/10/2004
Memo to self: do not stay out drinking until midnight with the hard-livered contingent of the company when one has agreed to do a 5:50 a.m. TV interview. It's what is euphemistically called 'live': I'm not sure that the apparition that graced the screens of CNBC Europe to talk about Apple's results would be recognised except by specialists as being among the living, but I did enjoy the traditional mobile phone call at 5:45 a.m.

Me: "Hello?"
Floor manager: "Ah, Rupert! Just checking that you're in the cab on the way to the studio"
Me (evilly): "No, I'm not."
FM: "Augh! Blow! Bother! Etc!"
Me: "I'm in the green room."
FM: "You… are. Good. I'll be there in a second."

The rest of the day passes as painfully as you might expect, given I'm by now far too old to subsist on three and a bit hours of booze-befuddled sleep each day.

However, I do make some progress on a story I'm chasing -- the curious case of the open videophone. Amstrad's new E3 videophone E-m@iler runs MontaVista Linux, and so the company has an obligation under the GPL to supply the source code. It could, like most companies, put the stuff up on a Web site and be done with it. However, it doesn't have to make it easy -- it can restrict the code to people who've bought the item, and it can charge a 'reasonable' administration fee. We're dealing with Amstrad here, the surly offspring of Alan Sugar: which option do you think it'll take?

One plucky fellow tried to find out, and also tried to point out some peculiarities in the way Amstrad was approaching its obligations. In return for his troubles, he got -- inter alia -- this lovely note from the company's Brentwood HQ;

"Any customer who buys one of our videophones will see that our obligations under the GPL are met and clearly explained to them. If you were to become a customer it would be clear to you. In the meantime we have no obligation to explain to non-customers our policy.

Brian Eaton
E-Business Director
Amstrad Plc"

So there! Buy our phone or bog off -- you can almost hear the words tumble from Sir Alan's lips.

Meanwhile, Amstrad's PR is slightly more helpful:" I understand that the source code is only given out to people who have bought the phone, at an administration charge of £25, with proof of purchase"

Much as I love Amstrad, and much as I'm eager to see the source -- that phone is so eminently hackable for hardware fun -- I'm not quite ready to pony up a ton plus twenty-five for the privilege. So, if anyone reading this has actually bought one and wishes to conspire to get the code, drop me a line. I'm sure we can come to a mutually profitable agreement.