Ian Murdock, father of Debian, dead at 42

Lev Lafayette lev at levlafayette.com
Thu Dec 31 13:46:47 AEDT 2015


Ian Murdock, founder of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution project, has
died at the age of 42. His death, announced in a blog post by Docker CEO
Ben Golub, came after an apparent encounter with police and a statement
posted on Murdock's Twitter feed that he was going to commit suicide,
though no cause of his death has been given.

Paul Tagliamonte, a Debian developer and member of the Debian FTP Team who
contributed to a Debian Project memorial post to Murdock, told Ars:

    Debian was one of the first operating systems I've ever used, starting
with Debian 2.2 ("woody") in middle school. Debian has shaped, in the
most literal and direct way, the course of my life. Ian was a figure I
looked up to, a central figure in defining the Debian Community,
Social Contract, the Debian Free Software Guidelines, and the Open
Source Initiative.With his passing, I can only hope he's found peace,
reflect on the things he was able to do for the world, and think about
the ways in which he's touched my life.

Murdock, born in Germany in 1973, founded Debian in 1993 while studying
computer science at Purdue University. The distribution gets its name from
the combination of his name and that of his then-girlfriend Deborah Lynn.
The pair married, and had two children; they divorced in 2007.

Murdock's Debian Manifesto railed at the poor software maintenance of
other Linux distributions of the time—and that of Softlanding Linux System
(SLS) in particular, bemoaning the lack of attention developers gave to
distributions and what he saw as the big cash grabs being made by would-be
commercial Linux developers. He outlined Debian's modular architecture
approach as well as its adherence to free software philosophy.

"The time has come to concentrate on the future of Linux rather than on
the destructive goal of enriching oneself at the expense of the entire
Linux community and its future," Murdock wrote in the Manifesto. "The
development and distribution of Debian may not be the answer to the
problems that I have outlined in the Manifesto, but I hope that it will at
least attract enough attention to these problems to allow them to be

After earning his Bachelor of Science from Purdue in 1996, Murdock became
Chief Technology Officer of the Linux Foundation. In 2003, he brought his
experience with Debian to Sun, where he was Vice President of Emerging
Platforms. He led Project Indiana, the effort that created the OpenSolaris
operating system, which he described in a 2007 interview as "taking the
lesson that Linux has brought to the operating system and providing that
for Solaris as well." But three years later, after Sun was acquired by
Oracle, the plug was pulled on OpenSolaris in favor of a new proprietary

Simon Phipps, who led the open source effort at Sun alongside Murdock and
worked (though at separate times from Murdock) at the Open Source
Initiative, where Murdock was founding Secretary, told Ars Murdock "was
always energetic, enthusiastic, pragmatic and charming. I and my team [at
Sun] appreciated his insight and activity as well as enjoying his company.
I've been contacting them, and we are all devastated by his untimely

After the Oracle acquisition, Murdock resigned his position at Sun. In
2011, he went back to Indiana to join the cloud software company
ExactTarget as its Vice President of Platform and Developer Community. The
company was acquired by Salesforce in 2013 and became Salesforce Marketing
Cloud. In November, he left the company to join Docker in San Francisco.

On Monday at 2:13 PM Eastern Time, Murdock apparently posted that he was
going to kill himself:

    I'm committing suicide tonight
do not intervene as I have many stories
to tell and do not want them to die with me #debian #runnerkrysty67

Also on Monday, Murdock wrote a string of posts that indicate he had a
confrontation with police. Inquiries to the San Francisco Police
Department by Ars went unanswered. Update: Public records indicate Murdock
was arrested on December 27, and released on bail by the San Francisco
County Sheriff's Department, but no details were available on the charges.

Golub wrote in his post that "Ian’s family has requested that well-wishers
and press respect their privacy and direct all inquiries through Docker."

Ars will update this story with further details as they become available.

Lev Lafayette, BA (Hons), GradCertTerAdEd (Murdoch), GradCertPM, MBA (Tech
Mngmnt) (Chifley)
mobile:  0432 255 208
RFC 1855 Netiquette Guidelines

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