Hans Reiser, Linux Guy: Fame, Success & Prison

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2006-10-125

This is a story of a man who was once hailed a great success. It’s another cautionary tale that lets us realize that perhaps, our money, wealth or success may be fleeting. What happened to Hans Reiser?

It started out with a woman who turned out missing in Oakland, California. She is 31 years old, with a young son and daughter, and was married to a computer programmer. She has a background in the medical field. Eventually, suspicion befell the 42 year old ex-husband and he got arrested. It sounded like another Laci and Scott Peterson type story except…. The accused ex-husband isn’t just your run-of-the-mill computer programmer who would be lost in a sea of cubicles and servers and halogen lighting. The guy is that Linux guy Hans Reiser. You can thank him for the Linux file system. If it weren’t for him, I’d be hosted on some Windows environment somewhere. What a lovely thought.

Hans Reiser, with the self-designated title of Benevolent Dictator For Life, formed his company Namesys from which was spawned Reiserfs (Reiser File System) currently incorporated in the Linux kernel. By all measures a highly accomplished man, he’s left in his tracks many dumbfounded Linux worshippers as he did damning evidence.

Nina ReiserThere was blood in his car. The car’s front seat was missing. He bought two books about homicide investigations after his wife vanished. So he’s basically screwed.

How appalling. The technical community is now in a tizzy about the projects Hans Reiser is leaving in limbo while he deals with his legal problems and the system. Some snarky remarks from tech-heads:

kimvette wrote: “While the disappearance (and possible murder) of his wife is tragic, Linux users will wonder where this will leave Reiser 4. If Reiser is found guilty, will Novell or IBM pick up the pieces to finish Reiser 4 for inclusion in the kernel or is this the end of the Reiser filesystem project? Will there be any future for the Reiser filesystem, and if Hans is found guilty and the project is continued, will the project be renamed to avoid notoriety?”

Anonymous added: “I hope they let him code in prison.”

This just shows where the community’s priorities lie. Or maybe it’s black humor emerging as a reaction to the shocking news. Either way, I’ll say it again: this is truly appalling.

What is the money angle in all of this? None really, unless you consider that the Reiser family is from a rather wealthy part of the nation. By many standards, the residential district of Montclair, Oakland is quite posh. It is nestled in the Oakland hills by Piedmont, is heavily wooded, has a nice country feel and a lot of large houses. And now, it will be well qualified for a spot on A&E’s City Confidential, the television show that spotlights unassuming locations and the murder mysteries they hide. I had hoped it didn’t turn out this way, but it doesn’t look good.

Update: In April of 2008, Hans Reiser was convicted of murder and is now jailed for the killing of his wife.

Thank you slashdot.

Copyright © 2006 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

David October 14, 2006 at 12:15 am

If you look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Reiser , you’ll notice that someone took the liberty of inserting his middle name just after he was arrested. Hans Thomas Reiser.

Verbal December 27, 2006 at 11:13 am

Even months after the news first hit, the case still freaks me out. I think I met him once at a conference. I’m not 100% sure– you shake a lot of hands at these things. But it’s awfully close to home, since I worked for a company that used ReiserFS.

Linux, though, will probably be fine without Hans– the ext3 filesystem is equally good.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 6, 2007 at 12:06 am

Finally, an update. This case has now reached trial and is currently ongoing at this time and presently dubbed the “software programmer’s murder trial without a body.” Check it out here.

rolf August 9, 2009 at 2:26 pm

At the very least, the filesystem will be renamed.
Linux has a lot of filesystem options (jfs, xfs, ext2, ext3) (note that none of them have the name of their creators attached to them…). ReiserFS 4 (unreleased) would supposedly have been the fastest of them all, but I think everyone can do with 10-20% less performance. Beats having the name of a murderer rubbed in your face and his code managing your data.

Silicon Valley Blogger April 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm

The latest news: the dude is now incarcerated. Hans Reiser is no longer part of society. Such a sad end, really.

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