Debian Linux founder Ian Murdock dead at 42 – The Register

Debian GNU/Linux founder Ian Murdock has died. He was 42.

Murdock, who lived in San Francisco, is best known for founding the open-source distro in 1993. He had just started working for tech startup Docker in the city.

Debian guru … Ian Murdock

On Monday afternoon, he posted a string of distressing and erratic tweets, claiming he had been arrested at his home by police, accused of assaulting an officer, and taken to hospital. He also threatened to kill himself. After people reached out to him, Murdock appeared to calm down, and vowed instead to clear his name. Murdock died that evening. His Twitter account has since been disabled.

“It is with great sadness that we inform you that Ian Murdock passed away on Monday night,” Docker CEO Ben Golub confirmed today. He added:

Ian was perhaps best known professionally as the founder of the Debian project, which he created while still a student at Purdue University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1996. Debian was one of the first Linux distros to be forged, and it is widely regarded as a one of the most successful open-source projects ever launched. Ian helped pioneer the notion of a truly open project and community, embracing open design and open contribution; in fact the formative document of the open source movement itself (the Open Source Definition) was originally a Debian position statement. It is a testament to Ian’s commitment to openness and community that there are now more than 1,000 people currently involved in Debian development.

In the past decade, Ian’s contributions to the tech community continued, as CTO of the Linux Foundation, as a senior leader at Sun Microsystems (including serving as Chief architect of Project Indiana); and most recently as Vice President of Platforms at Indianapolis-based ExactTarget, which became part of Salesforce in 2012.

We consider ourselves lucky to have known Ian and worked with him. He amazed everyone whom he worked with for the depth of his thinking, passion and experience. He was truly brilliant and an inspiration to many of us; his death is a loss to all whom he has known and touched.

The free-software community was stunned by news of Murdock’s death.

“With a heavy heart, Debian mourns the passing of Ian Murdock, stalwart proponent of Free Open Source Software, Father, Son, and the ‘ian’ in Debian,” the Linux organization said in a statement.

“Ian’s dream has lived on, the Debian community remains incredibly active, with thousands of developers working untold hours to bring the world a reliable and secure operating system. The thoughts of the Debian Community are with Ian’s family in this hard time.”

While Ian is the “ian” in Debian, “Deb” is Debra Lynn, Murdock’s girlfriend while he was creating the project. They married in 1993, and divorced in 2008. It is understood Murdock was the father of two daughters.

The cause of death is not known at this stage, but it is not believed to be suspicious. A spokesperson for Docker said it was a “private matter.” The Register has confirmed Murdock was arrested on Sunday, December 27, and released on bail.

His family has asked people to respect their privacy. ®

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