back to article Debian Linux founder Ian Murdock dead at 42

Debian GNU/Linux founder Ian Murdock has died. He was 42. Murdock is best known for launching the open-source distro in 1993. Just last month, he joined the technology startup Docker in San Francisco. Debian guru ... Ian Murdock On Monday afternoon, he posted a string of distressing and erratic tweets, revealing he had …

  1. phil dude

    very sad...:-(

    I saw a report he was threatening suicide due to some sort of harassment.

    My condolences to his family this must be an awful shock to be paraded in public.

    A real shame his call for help did not go answered, especially since it was so prominent on social media.

    This Debian GNU/Linux Box will miss you...


  2. 7layer

    Re: very sad...:-(

    "I saw a report he was threatening suicide due to some sort of harassment."

    This is for the police report, so they could cover their own crap properly I guess.

    If I judge by the last couple of years of the available video images on youtube and other sites, then I'd say I would not like to live in the US at all.

    He was a good example of how bad the situation is in the US.

    No matter if you are white and have money and reputation, any police officers could do whatever they want. And yes police are really bullying black people there. Few months ago they just killed a family guy, who had no proper car insurance and tried to escape from the police after got stopped. He was "running" away and the officer killed him, but someone made a video of the incident with his phone. (on youtube)

    Now people say about Ian he had mental illness? Amazing bullshit! What is it going to be tomorrow, terrorist sheikh?

    This is a very sad news, we are going to miss a great guy here! Writing this post from his great and reputable product. (Debora + Ian => Debian)

  3. Bleu

    Re: very sad...:-(

    Sounds like he had a total collapse.

    Probably suicide.

    I suspect that it was the same with Lemmy Killhamster of rock fame.

    'Died of cancer'. Sure, experts are able to cite very rare cases where diagnosis is rapidly followed by death, but two days? Surely, he died by his own hand, not 'of cancer'.

    I am sad that both Mr. Murdock and Lemmy are no longer with us.

    The period at the end of the calendar year, in the northern hemisphere and culturally related places sees a big spike in the suicide rate every year.

    'tis the season to be jolly.

  4. boltar Silver badge

    Re: very sad...:-(

    "Now people say about Ian he had mental illness? Amazing bullshit!"

    Bullshit? Perhaps you should read some of those tweets. Whether his state of mind was an illness or down to drink or drugs, the man was definately not firing on all cylinders.

  5. counterstrike

    Re: very sad...:-(

    What does mental health issues and committing suicide have to do with a coverup by SFPD? I guess you're just an indoctrinated fool who believes China, Russia, North Korea, Iran are "good" and the USA is "evil."

    If it wasn't for the USA then WWI and WWII may have turned out differently for Europe. And still to this day, the US is looked upon for leadership both politically and militarily. Without the US then no military action can be taken worldwide because of a lack of surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence, command and control by all other nations.

  6. graeme leggett Silver badge

    Re: very sad...:-(

    'Aggressive' cancers get a long way quickly.

    By the time you've noticed you're not feeling too well and seen a doctor and got the results back, there's barely enough time to cancel the milk and newspapers.

  7. Tommy Pock

    Re: very sad...:-(

    You can step away from the keyboard now, Mr Trump counterstrike

  8. Stuart Elliott

    Re: Lemmy

    For reference Bleu, my own father was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer, after a week of stomach ache, 5 days later he died, so yeah, it could easily have the cancer, or the instant detox.

  9. Kiwi Silver badge

    Re: very sad...:-(

    'Died of cancer'. Sure, experts are able to cite very rare cases where diagnosis is rapidly followed by death, but two days? Surely, he died by his own hand, not 'of cancer'.

    I have known a few cases like that over time. People who were diagnosed and died within a few weeks or days. One lady had an operation to remove the cancer. When she recovered the doctor told her that they'd found some that was inoperable and she would have another 6 months or so. She did not last another 6 hours.

    People give up. The stress of knowing they have a short time left, and that the things they've been enjoying are over, it's too much. Some have heart attacks, some strokes, and some just seem as if they willed themselves to die.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: very sad...:-(

    Please tell me you're just trying to provoke a response of some type? Can you actually site anything on this?

    You know there are military actions taken without the US involved world wide?

    You know that most military action taken by the US gets NATO backup because

    a) That's what NATO is

    b) Less altruistic, but it gives NATO nations an opportunity to fire off some weapons and use some ammunition to decrease their stockpiles in order to support paying for their respective national defense companies who need to employee people for when they are actually needed.

    Also, Russia and China are/were showing far more leadership with regards to IS which most of the world believes would have never happened if the U.S. didn't take irresponsible military action in the region to begin with.

    No other country really wants to piss away as much money on defense as the US does and leave their own people under-educated and thinking being a soldier means you're a hero.

    Also, no other country in the world (not even the English and those people are bloody nuts) have a political party as completely screwed up as the Republicans or even worse, the Tea Party.

    Let me promise you, only desperate countries ever ask the US for leadership in military because every country fears they might actually get it.

    Surprisingly enough, during a conversation spawned by one of my crazy rants... and later through the help of a whiteboard, we're all pretty convinced that the US is the only western country with any actual enemies. France and England and Germany get some terrorist crap happening, but we're pretty convinced that it only really happens because of their association with the US.

    So far as I know, the English being the possible exception, the rest of the western world doesn't tend to go looking for enemies everywhere they can. In fact, in most cases, western countries tend to be fairly broadly accepting of everyone.

    Now, there's a huge mess in Afghanistan and a huge mess in Iraq and it's surrounding regions. The US is of course happy because they have an enemy they can name and place in headlines and dance around talking about how awesome they are because they'll conquer the enemy. But while radical Muslims (they're kinda like Tea Party members but a different religion... and I know more than a handful of Tea Party members with arsenals of weapons) have and will exist as long as their are bat shit crazy religious people (40% of the voters in the US for example), they would have never been in the position to do what they're doing now if it weren't for the US and their mini-state Israel screwing everything up there for so long.

    Now, I have a bunch a friends that are there because if they don't go, there's no one to babysit the American, English and French militaries to make sure they don't get out of control. I often wonder if that's what NATO is these days :

    America needs an enemy...

    America can't find an enemy...

    America makes and enemy...

    The western world tells America... those people are not your enemy... back off...

    American pushes and pushes and pushes until they manage to find a candle stick in the library that may or may not be able to be used by Ms. Peacock and they launch a war...

    England goes with America because England always goes with America... it's like England is America's third ass cheek.

    France goes with America because England can't go unless France goes.

    Germany goes and we have no idea why

    The rest of NATO goes because you can't leave the children unattended... so the rest of the world sends baby sitters.

    Everyone bombs the shit out of everything.

    Someone finally starts figuring out that some countries aren't really countries after all and America gets confused and doesn't know how to win the fight because these people keep moving around from country to country and America can't figure out who the enemy is anymore.

    The American people get pissed because even the republicans can't figure out how fighting this war is about anything meaningful other than killing people with a different religion and skin color which is generally always a good thing in their opinion.

    Americans blame each other over political party lines and make it a major issue of how to withdraw troops since there's no winning this stuff anyway and the game is boring and we want to fight someone we can beat instead.

    America pulls out there troops and the people left behind realize that now that Saddam is gone, they can go back to what it was like before Saddam and can fight over who gets the oil by running a holy war.

    America and OPEC collapse the world oil prices weakening Russia and of course whoever is giving money to the IS... and European allies who depend on oil.

    The dollar gets REALLY STRONG!!!!

    The US starts having to lower their prices substantially outside of the US since no one can afford to by their stuff anymore.

    The US doesn't act quickly enough and the rest of the world start looking for alternatives to American products and technologies because it's no longer convenient or cost effective to buy American.

    China gets stronger

    China builds up a huge oil stockpile to a degree that now oil tankers are floating around with no-place to unload.

    China can now survive an American embargo blocking their oil shipments for more than a month.

    China starts realizing that the US is too busy with other stuff and the they've always wanted to have that Taiwan place.

    America loses most of it's power in the Pacific

    All because you idiots think it's a good think to be the world police... you absolute idiots.

  11. SysDBA

    Re: very sad...:-(

    I think you need to step back and calm down - this article is about the sad and untimely death of a young IT innovator. It's really not the place for a paranoid rant about your twisted view of the "world order".

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: very sad...:-(

    You can tell that the AC with the huge posting is from the UK - ill-educated and virtually illiterate. That posting is full of childish spelling errors, bizarre syntax and shows an obvious lack of understanding of grammar.


  13. TonyJ Silver badge

    Re: very sad...:-(

    So you missed or plain didn't bother to read this line:

    "...Germany goes and we have no idea why.."

    If you're going to make petty digs firstly have the balls not to do it anonymously and secondly try not to embarrass yourself by failing to spot salient facts.

  14. linuxfeng

    Re: very sad...:-(Lan Murdock:long live)

    long live:Lan Murdock......

  15. PaulFrederick

    LIfe is short

    We all know the rest. Posted From Debian. The Universal OS

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. scoot76

    Very sad, he's leaves a great legacy.

    I raise a glass to the man responsible for the OS that allows my server do everything I could imagine and much much more.

  18. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Always sad

    It is always sad when someone's life is cut short for any reason, but more so for mental illness, etc, where it always feels as if it could have been prevented so easily if only we had known how deep the problem was. More so, of course, when the person is famous in some way for having contributed to humanities well being in a significant way.

    "Therefore, send not to know

    For whom the bell tolls,

    It tolls for thee."

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always sad

    Why the assumption of mental illness? His tweets give no evidence supporting that.

    He obviously had a very abusive encounter with police officers. Some hours later he's dead. Nothing more has been disclosed.

    There are at least several other possibilities than "mental illness". Lets not jump to any conclusions.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always sad

    Any time someone "threatens suicide", mental illness of some sort is ALWAYS involved. As such, it isn't so much an assumption as an observation.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always sad


    This shit is what I do.

    The vast majority of suicides have exactly zero to do with mental illness. For the half million folks who live around me, I have the figures.

    Less than 5% had a mental health diagnosis.

  22. therebel

    Re: Always sad

    "Less than 5% had a mental health diagnosis."

    Just because it's not been diagnosed doesn't mean it's not a possible cause.

  23. elip

    Re: Always sad

    Sounds like you've been indoctrinated... or hired by a PR firm.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always sad

    It is possible but there are a lot of other options to consider.

    Ask Mr. Ockham about his Razor.

  25. Mycho Silver badge

    Ockham's Razor

    From my reading, Ian being mentally ill requires more assumptions than a police force known for violence and abuse acting violent and abusive, so Ockham's Razor does not support him being mentally ill.

  26. boltar Silver badge

    Re: Always sad

    "The vast majority of suicides have exactly zero to do with mental illness"

    People of sound mind generally don't commit suicide. Suicides are often the result of when the illness hasn't been noticed or caught in time.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always sad

    "Lets not jump to any conclusions.

    You had to go there, didn't you.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always sad

    Suicide does not necessarily imply mental illness. There may be sane and examined reasons for suicide, including but not limited to: wishing to avoid slow, painful death due to terminal illness; protecting something or someone which one values more highly than one's continued life; coming to a reasoned conclusion that one does not want to live any longer - e.g. due to an existential evaluation of one's life predicament; or to advance a goal or cause that one considers more important than one's individual life.

    Having read the Tweets, it looks to me as though Ian Murdock was certainly distressed when he made them, but that doesn't mean he was mentally ill. He may have felt cornered, persecuted even. The way he was treated by the police may have given him good reason to feel like that. He'd been drinking so his state of mind was very present-orientated and vulnerable to catastrophising. Alcohol has a known tendency to limit focus to immediate surroundings and events and being drunk isn't conducive to longer term planning. If Ian had got through the next few days he could have marshalled his resources and considered his options for fighting back legally against any inappropriate actions of the police. As he recognized in his Tweets he had financial and reputational resources at his disposal. Still, no guarantees that the outcome would have been just or felt just to Ian, so it may be that the prospect of fighting through legal channels seemed just too exhausting or hopeless to him given his state of mind. That STILL does not imply mental illness, only the temporary magnification of feelings of being backed against a wall which most of us would have after being beaten up twice, especially when the mind is clouded by alcohol.

    It's also possible that disgust, fear and temporary despair were appropriate emotional responses to how this man was treated by the police. To experience the police in this very unfriendly way, eroding any previous sense of security in his citizenship, could have had the force of a world-shattering revelation so that the need to share it with others took on a moral urgency which at that moment seemed worth dying for.

    It appears that people in uniform - avatars of authority and the state - beat the guy up TWICE.To discover that rights in your person, which you've been told are sacred, are actually subject to the whim and mercy of individuals in uniform who can revoke them in a moment without process or appeal, is a pretty scary realization, especially if its demonstrated through the perenially convincing medium of physical pain and fear.

    Anyone who can't relate to this has probably never been beaten up, never experienced or witnessed gross injustice and never felt sufficiently threatened as to be unable to see an escape. Again, no need to reach for mental illness as an explanation. Just try more deeply imagining the position the guy was in, take into account the alcohol and the time of year (suicide season, as others have said) and really why do you need to evoke any notion of "mental illness" at all?

    Perhaps, he was suffering from mental illness or vulnerability, but to present this with any kind of certainty, in the absence of evidence, is to totally fail to see the insanity of the situation which Ian Murdock found himself in. Whatever infraction or misdemeanour he may have been guilty of, whatever illness, distress or inebriation he exhibited, it seems that the police handled the situation with an escalation of violence and confusion which made matters a lot worse. Murdock's Tweets refer to the police as uneducated. This seems likely, since in the US they routinely behave in ways which better training and an ethos of public service and professionalism should render the rarest of exceptions rather than a common occurrence.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always sad

    Where does this come from? "Sound mind"? What is that? It's equally possible to argue that anyone of sound mind should at least be able to comprehend the rational arguments for suicide. For most of us the case against it is stronger most of the time, but that gives us no reason to doubt the soundness of minds which conclude differently.

    Saying that, anyone who is seriously considering ending their life may benefit from being reminded that things change. There might seem to be a conclusive argument to die today, but tomorrow may offer a far better argument for living. Take the chance to live and see what comes up. The evidence we have is always partial so to me it makes sense to stick around and not do anything irrevocable. It's a tragedy when someone commits suicide who might have been just about to round a corner into a bearable place. But I don't think it helps to automatically dismiss the capacity of suicides to reason. Potentially that makes the argument seem stronger than it is, because you have straw-manned it and the strawman tactic is easily dismissed as fallacy.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Always sad

    His tweets on that day read an awful lot like the emails we get from my sister-in-law, who suffers from various mental and physical issues, when she's off her meds and having a bad day. So I'd say there is pretty strong circumstantial evidence of some kind of breakdown, at least.

  31. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


    Now I'm even more depressed.

    This is not going well.

  32. 38292757

    Re: Fuuuuuu....

    Take care of your health, amigo. This is a good reminder that we should ask for help if we need it.

  33. linicks

    One of these...

    ...fucking hell moments.

    Only 42? That surprised me immensely. BTW his girlfriend/wife was called Debra, hence the DEB+IAN name for the distro.

    RIP sir.

  34. Salts

    This, Just ...

    made me sad.

  35. MyffyW Silver badge

    Re: This is Just ...

    ...nothing but a tragedy for his family and friends.

    So long Ian, and thanks for all you did in your short time here.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More details needed...

    Although the family has asked for privacy, I believe this needs some public examination. His final tweets alleged an arrest and horrific police brutality. Not saying it did or did not happen, just that it deserves an investigation.

    Sad none the less.

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. TimeMaster T

    Re: More details needed...

    Didn't something like that also happen in Texas?

    Woman gets arrested for no valid reason and is then found dead in her holding cell a few days later in what is declared a suicide.

    Getting on the wrong side of a police officer can destroy your life. Even if you are innocent, and can prove it, the court will find some way to ignore the evidence and believe the officers story over yours.

    Then every time you fill out a application for employment, security clearance, loan, etc. you will have to check the "Have you ever been arrested?" box. And they don't bother looking at the "why" field as they move your paperwork to the bin.

  39. Numpty

    Re: More details needed...

    I'm sure his family and friends are asking all the questions that need to be asked right now. No need for a public investigation unless they don't get suitable answers.

  40. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    I've Installed Debian...

    OK. I went through the instructions and ended up with a working computer. Given this my first recollection of my first successful install, second attempt, was when I asked to become root and was warned that being root comes with responsibilities... nothing.

  41. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    Re: I've Installed Debian...

    Great. I expected 'misinterpretation' and down votes. I suppose it comes with not being able to express myself properly but I did not wish to press a possible point. Debian is, or tries to be, clean and as per.. it warns you of your responsibilities. There is a principle there and holding to it may get you in trouble or render you as being nothing.

  42. Zarno

    We now know the question to the ultimate answer. :(

    I always preferred Debian, in my opinion it is the easiest to maintain, and gave a lot to the Linux/GNU desktop and server space.

    So long, and thanks for all the fish.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The last tweets of Ian

    they followed me home

    then they pulled me out of my house and did it again

    i had to have swtitches

    then followed my home from there

    i asked if they had cameras

    they said no

    shall i post pictures for all my bruises from my against the police officers?

    where they put you in a cell with absolutely no instructions whatever aside from the spell on the floor in piss?

    Writing up my experience for others to hopefully prevent others from police abuse then you won't hear from me again

    @jacksormwriter wants me dead

    i'm going to post my case on my blog.. if anyone can post it on hacker news or wherever i would apprieciate it

    i'm hoping coming from a successful white guy it will help everyone

    (1/2) The rest of my life will be devoted to fighting against police abuse.. I'm white, I made $1.4 million last year,

    (2/2) They are uneducated, bitter, and and only interested in power for its own sake. Contact me if you can help. -ian

    The police are uneducated, evil, and sadistic. Do not trust them.

    The rest of my life is to fight against the police.. they are NOT friends, so don't ever ever believe otherwise.

    What does one have to get education wise to become a police officer.. asking for a friend.

    "We're the police, we can do whatever the fuck we want.."

    This was right after the female officer ripped off my underwear.. I guess that's not considered rape if you're not a woman being raped.

    I am a white male, make a lot money, pay a lot of money in taxes, and yet their abuse is equally doned out. DO NOT CROSS THEM!

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The last tweets of Ian

    So if you're black and poor is OK if police treats you badly? While only if you're white and rich they should not?

    Hope he wasn't in his mind.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The last tweets of Ian

    He wasn't very coherent. But then he'd apparently just been beaten and sexually abused by the police for the second time in quick succession. It can have that kind of effect.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The last tweets of Ian

    From reading that, it's entirely plausible they went back a third time too. :(

  47. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: The last tweets of Ian

    >So if you're black and poor is OK if police treats you badly? While only if you're white and rich they should not?

    He didn't say that. He first wrote "i'm hoping coming from a successful white guy it will help everyone", *suggesting* he believed that black and poor people are sometimes abused by police because society doesn't listen to them properly. Given several news stories, especially in the last couple of years, I can see why he might believe that. We don't know what he believed though, so best not to put words in his mouth.

  48. Justin Clift

    Re: The last tweets of Ian

    There's an online archive of his account here, if that's useful.

    Same thing, but with replies here.

    (taken from the Hacker News post)

  49. Code For Broke

    Re: The last tweets of Ian

    Who the hell is @jacksormwriter?

    I think we are all in for months of heavy conspiracy theory rumblings on this one folks.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The last tweets of Ian

    Archived version of the account here, from before it was deleted.


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