Debian Down: Ian Murdock is Gone

Surprised, shocked and left wondering what really happened – these are the emotions I (and many others) feel about the passing of Ian Murdock, founder of Debian Linux.

On Monday night, like thousands of others, I saw (and retweeted) some of Ian Murdock’s tweets about an alleged police abuse incident, today those tweets and the Murdock’s twitter account itself has been deleted. All we know is that Murdock is dead and there is great sorrow in the Linux community at his loss.

I had the good fortune to speak with Murdock at several points over the course of my career. One time I remember well as just over a decade ago in early 2005 when the Debian Sarge release was going through its’ extended release cycle. The extended (some might call it delayed) release cycle of Debian Sarge is what helped give rise to Mark Shuttleworth’s Ubuntu Linux

“The Debian philosophy has always been release it when it’s ready,” Ian Murdock, who founded the Debian Project in 1993 (and the Ian part of Debian, the Deb part refers to his wife) told me at the time. “It’s just a continuation of the way Debian has always done things.”

Releases when they’re done is *still* the way Debian does things and likely the way it always will.

Back in 2005, Murdock also gave me one of the most controversial quotes I ever got from him, about Ubuntu’s impact on Debian.

“If anything, Ubuntu’s popularity is a net negative for Debian,” Murdock said.

Two years later, Murdock was working for Sun Microsystems and gave me a very different view on Ubuntu.

“We see the Ubuntu developer community as a key constituency for a lot of the higher level Sun platform technology,”Murdock said at the time.

Murdock was always a realist and that’s partially one of the reasons why he recently joined Docker, one of the hottest emerging technologies on the planet.

Simply put, the entire Linux world would be a very different place today were it not for Ian Murdock. His creation of Debian started the Linux distribution direction, his leadership laid the foundation of a truly open, collaborative and participatory Linux operating system effort, his steadfast belief that ‘it’s done when it’s done’ is a statement of fact.

It’s terribly sad the Murdock’s life was cut short this week, but his was a life that had impact and he will be remembered fondly for generations yet to come.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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