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Namesys vanishes, but Reiser project lives on

Volunteer programmers continue to maintain the open-source Reiser file system project even after a murder trial has effectively shut down the company behind it.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Namesys, the company run by murder suspect Hans Reiser, has fallen off the face of the Internet, but the file-system software it was commercializing is still under development by volunteers.

Hans Reiser via Stanford University

"Commercial activity of Namesys has stopped," said programmer and Namesys employee Edward Shishkin. But he and others continue to develop the Reiser4 file-system software.

"It is pretty active. Many people are interested in this project," Shishkin said. "They help a lot," he added, pointing to fixes needed to work with Linux's virtual file system software and other changes.

Reiser himself is accused of murdering his wife; his trial began in November. Although the trial derailed Namesys, the Reiser file system software already was slipping from prominence. Top Linux Seller Red Hat prefers an alternative, ext3, and Reiser's biggest corporate advocate, Novell's Suse Linux operation, switched to ext3 by default in 2006, citing customer preference.

Murder trials are hardly a common reason for a company or project to be derailed, but the Reiser situation does shed light on one interesting attribute of open-source software: interested parties can keep a project alive without having to wait for some bankruptcy court to sell off intellectual property or other assets.

The Namesys Web site is no longer available because of a technical problem, and the programmer who can fix it said he's dealing with family issues hundreds of miles away. However, the Reiser4 source code is still available on Shishkin's Web site.