(NOTE: There will be no cheap shots at Murdock here. Yes, I was quite harsh on him during his days with OpenSolaris. But this isn't a guy who was, say, stabbing puppies and running over orphans with a steamroller, this was ultimately a guy whose approach to a particular situation was different from mine. As such, I feel that injecting such opinions into a memorial piece are woefully inappropriate, especially given the mysterious circumstances surrounding his passing. I'm sure there are others who feel those days are the more important consideration and will happily supply the snark, but for the moment, it won't be coming from me.)
Ian Murdock has died. He was 42.
...I wish I could say more, but we still aren't entirely sure what happened.
Born in Germany in 1973, Murdock is known for a variety of things, including his work on OpenSolaris, an attempt to open source Sun's Solaris operating system. But most of us know him as the guy who brought much needed order to the Wild West of Linux distros. At the time, Linux distros were highly disorganized, poorly maintained, and a lot of people were more interested in trying to monetize their user bases than actually work on fixes or advance the ecosystem. The most popular whipping boy was Softlanding Linux, one of the original big distros. Murdock decided Linux was better than that, and in 1993, started the Debian distro (the name was a combination of his name and his then-girlfriend's, Deborah Lynn. They eventually married and had two kids before divorcing in 2007). Railing against the casual opportunism and lack of discipline that permeated the field, he issued the Debian Manifesto that laid out a modular architecture and a fierce devotion to the principles of Free/Libre Open Source Software -- Debian forked the Firefox web browser into Ice Weasel simply because of trademark concerns that developers worried were counter to FLOSS.
Murdock graduated from Perdue in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science, and immediately became CTO of The Linux Foundation. Then, in 2003, he became Vice President Of Emerging Platforms at Sun. He was responsible for Project Indiana, a controversial attempt to bring the open source development model to Solaris. When Sun was acquired by Oracle in 2010, the project was killed in favor of a new proprietary system, and Murdock left.
Murdock went on to become the founding Secretary of the Open Source Initiative, and also returned to Indiana to become Vice President Of Platform And Developer Community for ExactTarget. In 2013, ExactTarget was acquired by Salesforce. Murdock then moved on to San Francisco to join Docker.
Some of you may be wondering about the cryptic nature of my comments at the start, about "mysterious circumstances." See, that's the problem. On December 27, this past Sunday, Murdock was arrested by the San Francisco County Sheriff's Department, but no one is saying what for. Monday, Murdock made several tweets about having a run-in with the fuzz, and at 2:13 Eastern time, he tweeted, "I'm committing suicide tonight...do not intervene as I have many stories to tell and do not want them to die with me."
I don't know what pushed him over the edge, but I'm sorry to hear about it. It's really unsettling because Murdock, whatever your feelings on him, was upbeat, friendly, and genuinely excited about technology and where it could go. He still had so much to offer.
And now, he's gone. Rest easy, please. May you find the peace you apparently could not find in this world.