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Op-Ed: Ian Murdock, developer of Debian, dead at 42

Murdock created the Debian project while he was still a student of computer science at Purdue University. Murdock earned a bachelor degree in computer science there back in 1996. Debian was one of the earliest Linux distributions. Debian is still regarded as one of the most successful open-source projects. At present more than 1,000 people still are involved in the Debian project.

The Debian project name came from the first name of Murdock’s girlfriend Debra and his own first name, Ian. Debian was first announced back in 1993 but the first stable release did not happen until 1996. and was called the Debian Linux release. Debian has access to a huge repository of software packages over 43,000 in all. Murdock contributed to the the tech community as CTO of the Linux Foundation, as a senior leader at Sun Microsystems, and as Vice-President of Platforms at Exact Target, now part of Salesforce.

A tribute to Murdock was posted by Docker.
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. There is also a remembrance posting on Debian.

The circumstances of his death are quite mysterious. If Murdock had more visibility as a celebrity, the press would be all over the story. According to Zdnet, the San Francisco Police Department had nothing to say of Murdock’s death for now. A copy of what was supposedly his arrest record was all but blank. However, sources said to be close to the department said the police responded to reports that Murdock was trying to break into a home at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 26. Murdock was said to be drunk and resisted arrest. He was ticketed for two counts of assault and another for obstruction of an officer. He received an abrasion on his forehead during the arrest and was taken to a hospital. Apparently he was again arrested for knocking on the door of a neighbor at 2:40 a.m. It was not clear that this was the same door. He was arrested and taken to San Francisco county jail. On Sunday afternoon he was released after paying $25,000 for a bail bond.

The next day all sorts of erratic tweets appeared on Murdock’s Twitter account. One read: “i’m committing suicide tonight.. do not intervene as i have many stories to tell and do not want them to die with me.” Some people thought his Twitter account had been hacked. His Twitter account is now deleted but among the tweets were accusations:”the police here beat me up for knowing [probably an auto-correct for “knocking”] on my neighbor’s door.. they sent me to the hospital.” The tweets claimed the police beat him twice: “they beat the shit out of me twice, then charged me $25,000 to get out of jail for battery against THEM.(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 [email protected] if you can help. -ian” Murdock also claimed the police followed him home when he left the courthouse and assaulted him again. He went on: “I’m not committing suicide today. I’ll write this all up first, so the police brutality ENDEMIC in this so call free country will be known. Maybe my suicide at this, you now, a successful business man, not a N****R, will finally bring some attention to this very serious issue.” His final tweet was: “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!?” It would seem that Murdock died the same night on Monday December 28th.

The Wikipedia entry on Murdock says: Details surrounding his death have not been released; As of 1 January 2016 there is no public record of the cause of death,[13] but some have pointed to the last tweets from Murdock’s account[14], where he announced he’d commit suicide and reported to having an altercation with police, shortly after which he was found dead.[15] The police confirmed the earlier altercation in which they claim Murdock was “belligerent, possibly drunk and argumentative with officers.” They claim that when he was put in a squad car he banged his head on the metal separator and had to be taken to a hospital for treatment and then was released. Three hours later the police claim Murdock was back knocking on the same door and so they arrested him. Whatever happened, it is surprising that there is little media coverage so far.

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