Linux visionary convicted of murder

Death sentence for Reiser4.

Linux visionary Hans Reiser has been convicted of first-degree murder for killing his estranged wife in 2006 and faces life imprisonment.

Reiser, founder of Namesys which develops the Linux-based Reiser file systems, was charged with the deliberate and premeditated murder of Nina Reiser by an Oakland, California courthouse after an almost six-month trial.

The fate of the troubled ReiserFS and Reiser4 file systems may be sealed, following media reports that Namesys has ceased commercial activity and the rapid loss of support for the latter system in the open source community.

ReiserFS was the first journaling file system included in the Linux kernel and is the default system for a number of distributions including Elive, Linspire, and Xandros.

Reiser4 is a separate redevelopment which has failed to gain traction in open source communities, despite receiving funds from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Linspire.

Novell withdrew its commitment to use Reiser4 in its SUSE Linux distribution, and opted for the more popular ext3 file system.

Jonathan Corbet, founder of Linux news Web site LWN.net, told Computerworld US the Reiser project was stymied after the arrest of Hans Reiser in October 2006.

"Had Hans not been arrested, there is a reasonable chance that Reiser4 would have made it into the kernel by now," Corbet said.

"The end of Namesys as a functioning company is what really stopped progress with Reiser4.

"There are still a couple of people putting some volunteer effort into Reiser4, so it could, just maybe, still make it into the mainline [kernel] someday, but progress is very slow and there's not a whole lot of people who are interested anymore."

The conviction was handed down amid a lack of evidence including the body of Nina Reiser, possible weapons, and motive.

The Reisers were separated at the time of the murder, and were in the middle of a contentious divorce and battle for custody of their two children.

Hans Reiser was arrested a month after the killing after authorities discovered traces of blood in his home and car. The court also heard that Reiser had removed the front passenger seat of his Honda Civic and hosed the interior.

Jurors agreed with prosecution that there was enough circumstantial evidence to convict the 44 year old of first degree murder.

William DuBois, Reiser's attorney, likened Hans to a harmless platypus, apparently in his defense, and "welcomed all vultures" to place an offer to buy Namesys.

(Elizabeth Montalbano contributed to this report.)

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Darren Pauli

Computerworld
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