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The Deprecated Bloodstained Code in the Linux Kernel

Hans ReiserOver the years, something like 20,000 developers have contributed to the Linux kernel.

But one contributor is a lot more famous than the community would like.  And his code is now scheduled to be removed in 2025.  The code removal is somewhat for technical reasons, but they stem mainly from lack of upstream maintenance.

The guy who should be be maintaining the code can’t maintain it.  He can’t even use a computer, because he’s in prison for life for murder.

The Genius Misfit

Hans Reiser – inventor of ReiserFS – was born in Oakland, California and was a computer child prodigy.  He was also a square peg who didn’t want to be squeezed into round holes.  He dropped out of school at the age of 13 because he didn’t like formal education.  He was admitted to the University of California, Berkeley at the age of 15, but it took him 13 years to finally earn his BS in computer science.

During this period, Reiser wrote an unpublished pen-and-paper roleplaying game, wrote a science fiction novel, and founded Namesys to develop reiserfs.

The technical details of ReiserFS are interesting if you are a filesystem geek, and you’re probably not.  At the time it was introduced to the Linux kernel (2.4.1) it sported some novel ideas, such as including all metadata in a B-tree as opposed to the fixed-offset method common in then-current ext2 and predecessor Berkeley FFS.

It was never really finished – for example, there was no way to defragment or fsck a ReiserFS filesystem, though these features were planned for Reiser4 which was never merged into the kernel.  There was also no upgrade path from Reiser3 to Reiser4 except reformatting.

The Mail Order Bride Era

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, a robust “mail order bride” industry developed in Russia.  These operations were common in many countries going back to the end of WWII (the Philippines, for example).  Wealthy Westerners could order catalogs (and later browse web sites) to review personal ads from women seeking marriage.

Many countries (particularly the US) have different rules for different kinds of immigrants.  A young woman seeking to enter the US is subject to the normal rules as any other immigrant.  But if she is engaged to a US citizen and marries within 90 days of landing, she sails through and is fast-tracked for citizenship.  Overseas flesh peddlers exploited these rules to offer Western men the chance to marry women “out of their league”.  While Russia is now closed to this trade, it still exists with many source countries around the world.

For someone growing up in an economically poor country with bleak prospects, marrying a stranger could be an attractive ripcord.  Sure, most of these men are older (middle-aged divorcees seeking 20-year-olds is typical).  Many of the suitors don’t have the strongest social skills – indeed, many are introverted nerds.  For the stereotypical geek who had a good job but couldn’t get a date to save his life and wouldn’t know what to do on one if he did, suddenly gaining access to a candy store full of attractive women eager to escape their repressive countries who are not too particular about their suitor was hard to resist.

Of course, it goes without saying that these relationships were fraught with peril, and that there was a fair amount of outright fraud.  The same Russian woman who’d coo in their suitors’ ear to convince him to sponsor and marry her might very well divorce him the day after she got her green card, and then enjoy his alimony as a bootstrap to freedom.

Into this world stepped Hans Reiser in 1998.

Sex, Drugs, and the Childhood “Friend”

In 1998, when Reiser was 35, he met Saint Petersburg native Nina Sharanova when she served as an interpreter for mail order catalog bride he visited.  The “intercepting interpreter” was not uncommon in this era.  The interpreters not only spoke better English, but they also controlled the conversation and were in an excellent position to steer suitors away from the girl in the glossy magazine who caught their eye to themselves.

Hans quickly sponsored Nina for US entry and they married not long after.

Nina soon took over as CFO at Namesys, which not long after began to burn through cash a fast rate.  Reiser’s father, a former Vietnam-era army intelligence offer, sized up his new bride and warned his son that she was dishonest and suspect she was diverting money for unknown purposes.  Reiser dismissed these concerns.

Nina had met one of Reiser’s childhood friends, Sean Sturgeon, and convinced him to lend Namesys a substantial amount of money.  Not long after, Nina and Sturgeon began a drug-fueled love affair sprinkled with sado-masochist sexual escapades.  As Reiser letter wrote in a court filing, “Nina and Sean both seem to be searching for more and more excitement, and going farther and farther to find it.”

Reiser and Sturgeon’s relationship soon devolved into bitter recriminations.  Reiser would refer to Surgeon as a “lewd tattooed drug addicted BDSM pimp/whore with multiple personality disorder” who conspired with Nina to “steal the Namesys, Inc. company assets.”  Sturgeon dismissed Reiser as a megalomaniac who “thought he was the world’s greatest programmer.”

Reiser later stated that Nina had come to America, immediately plugged into a party culture , and began belittling him, reviving memories of ostracization and bullying from his childhood.  Turns out that you can arbitrage the world’s economies to convince a party girl to marry you, but she’s still a party girl who doesn’t want to hang out with a nerd.

Are the Reiser Kids Fighting in Ukraine?

Reiser and Nina – who by this time had two children – soon divorced.  Hans pushed Nina, Nina filed a restraining order, and then she went on a legal rampage accusing Reiser of everything from violence to deliberately perverting their children’s minds by forcing them to play violent video games like Battlefield: Vietnam.  Nina was eventually granted sole custody.

On Labor Day weekend, 2006, Nina was reluctant to turn over the kids for a visit with their father.  She’d used a strategy of pretending that they were ill and would have to skip the visitation.  Reiser showed up anyway, an argument ensued, and Hans later confessed he strangled Nina and buried her body.

As typically happens with murderers, they are swiftly caught.  Reiser plead not guilty and fought through a trial, only to be convicted.  Afterwards, he agreed to a plea bargain with authorities where he revealed the location of the body in exchange for a sentencing reduction.  He’s still incarcerated as of this writing.

Meanwhile, Nina’ mother took the children to Russia and refused to return them to the US.  They are now prime age for drafting into the Russian armed forces and it’s not implausible to think that they’re fighting in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, ResierFS has been deprecated from the Linux kernel and is scheduled to be removed.  According to kernel commit eb103a51640ee32ab01c51e13bf8fca211f25f61:

Reiserfs is relatively old filesystem and its development has ceased quite some years ago. Linux distributions moved away from it towards other filesystems such as btrfs, xfs, or ext4. To reduce maintenance burden on cross filesystem changes (such as new mount API, iomap, folios …) let’s add a deprecation notice when the filesystem is mounted and schedule its removal to 2025.

Hans Reiser was refused parole in 2022, and will try again in 2027.






  1. Wow, what an interesting story. Let’s get more posts like this one!!

    June 4, 2023 @ 8:57 pm | Reply
  2. Wulf Stoneberg:

    Please – no parole for this dude.

    June 5, 2023 @ 6:17 am | Reply
    • Ken D'Ambrosio:

      1) Wouldn’t worry about him being parolled. While he went from first to second degree murder (if memory serves), he also removed any last vestiges of doubt that he was the murderer, by leading them to the body. He will be in there a long, LONG time.
      2) I seem to recall ReiserFS avoided fragmentation altogether, though the details grow hazy.
      3) If it didn’t support actual fsck, you absolutely were able to run some sort of validation on it. I was a push-the-limit kinda guy back then, and distinctly recall recovering systems that had gone down hard.
      4) It’s worth noting that Reiser4 was never merged… because Hans was a dick. Linus likes small, incremental commits, and Hans had R4 as one huge block of code, and refused to back down. Prison cemented it, but Hans was already exhibiting some significant issues in interacting as a human.
      5) Also worth pointing out that Namesys was a Russian company. Nothing good or bad about that, but does help explain the Russian Bride angle a bit better.

      June 5, 2023 @ 8:47 am | Reply
      • Thanks for the additional details!

        June 5, 2023 @ 12:29 pm | Reply
        • D Cash:

          Let him out. Give him a gov job. He is probably sorry enough.

          June 6, 2023 @ 4:02 pm | Reply
          • Star:

            Agreed. Kinda feel bad for the guy. I think he does deserve a second chance.

            Feel free to give me all the hate for my opinion, it won’t change it.

            June 8, 2023 @ 3:31 am | Reply
          • Hans:

            I feel bad for the guy, the bitch was a gold digger and deserved it.

            June 8, 2023 @ 6:37 am | Reply
            • Mike H.:

              Um. Yeah, no. If you’re so tightly wound that first degree murder is the way you see out — instead, say, of simply firing and/or divorcing — you’re too stupid to belong outside of prison. I feel sad the circumstances came to what they were, but he made his bed, killed the mother of his kids, and deserves nothing except the rest of his life behind bars. Good riddance, and thank heavens we have some other FS developers who happen to be sane.

              June 8, 2023 @ 10:14 am
    • Zigger:

      He’s done 17 years, isn’t that enough? She did kind of deserve it, right?

      June 9, 2023 @ 10:51 am | Reply
      • CWII:

        I’d say she deserved it. And the shit from the courts won’t stop until more internal fluids are spilled from all sides. It’s a sad but unfortunate truth that people truly only make permanent changes because of pain.

        June 9, 2023 @ 7:31 pm | Reply
  3. Brian Ross Ashley:

    ReiserFS was baked into my first serious Linux distro … Xandros.

    June 5, 2023 @ 9:12 pm | Reply
  4. Aizenmyou:

    I was just thinking about what happened with “MurderFS” the other day. Uncanny!

    June 6, 2023 @ 12:52 pm | Reply
  5. Dennis Fox:

    Whoa, a well -written article, so hard to find these days.

    All the calls for his head are unjustified because he already got the justice he deserves. And if he didn’t, then God will see him in the judgement.

    He never should have laid hands on her. But she was way out of control, so I’m not surprised he lost it.

    What a miserable end for both of them. Maybe Grandma will raise the kids to not be party boys, or programmers.

    June 6, 2023 @ 12:52 pm | Reply
  6. Not sure:

    Oof. For a Male or female to come into someone’s life and destroy everything they’ve built so quickly is wrong. To be frank, if a man from overseas took advantage of a woman here in the US in a similar fashion, there would have been much more blowback on clear patterns of abuse that weren’t caught earlier.
    Getting sole custody by painting your partner as a monster for letting your kids play video games is really just the icing on the cake.

    Not excusing Reiser, and lot of people on the internet baselessly diagnose mental illness, but I know It’s long been argued that he has some very strong ASD traits, and I think it’s clear he was not prepared to deal with the many levels of betrayal he experienced there.
    I like to think I’m fairly well balanced and can still see that being a very challenging situation.

    That’s very sad to consider how broken that family is.

    June 7, 2023 @ 3:19 pm | Reply
    • Timny:


      June 8, 2023 @ 6:39 am | Reply
    • Zaz:

      The earlier you get betrayed the better 😔

      June 9, 2023 @ 9:17 am | Reply
    • Commenter:

      I agree with you. His ex-wife was clearly a sociopath who abused him horribly. Anyone who has dealt with a psychopath in a custody case who keeps your children from you will completely understand why he did what he did. If the courts hadn’t abused him as well, this never would have happened.

      June 9, 2023 @ 2:02 pm | Reply
  7. Howard:

    I remember when he was on trial. At that time I followed a large techie news site. Techies kept chiming in how he was innocent; it was all circumstantial; of course he had those books, he had a curious mind and wondered what could have happen; the blood in his car was from deer hunting.

    And then he lead authorities to the body.

    The lesson learned was that intelligent, seemingly well informed people can be extremely wrong. I think about that every time someone brings up politics and is completely convinced of something. We are ignorant and our biases get in the way. Never be adamant unless you have first hand knowledge of the event — and even then, realize you might be wrong, you might only see part of the picture.

    June 7, 2023 @ 11:20 pm | Reply
  8. Antony:

    ReiserFS wasn’t especially innovative. IBM and Microsoft’s HPFS put its directory metadata in a btree more than a decade before ReiserFS existed.

    June 8, 2023 @ 6:29 am | Reply
    • Ken:

      … which is great, but wasn’t on Linux. And Reiser4 had some truly advanced stuff — I was tempted to run it out-of-tree, but not if it was never gonna go in-tree, which is what it was beginning to look like.

      June 8, 2023 @ 8:53 am | Reply
    • Dušan:

      But it was the only FS on Linux that did it.
      I got fantastic performance on reading directories with thousands of small files (about one kilobyte).
      Only decades later, a good SSD can match that. But back then, we were on spinning disks drives.

      June 9, 2023 @ 2:21 am | Reply
  9. Haywood jahblomey:

    And nothing of value was lost…free my boy hans

    June 8, 2023 @ 7:24 pm | Reply
  10. Tachyon:

    Like most such sad tales, the children are the ones that suffer the most. In this case not just the human children, but the other labour of love, ReiserFS.
    It’s a shame too because it’s still one of the best of the advanced, journaling file systems available, period. If it had been under continuous active development, I have no doubt it would be the primary and premier file system for Linux today, bar none. It already was in fact and pretenders to its throne come and go. Btrfs is a pig that they weren’t able to put enough lipstick on and the glitter of its gold has tarnished enough that many distros have de-emphasized or removed it. XFS is fine but not really anything special either. Ext4 is a patch on a hack on a patch of a crusty, creaking old file system and lacks modern features and polish.
    At its peak ReiserFS bested their current versions today. It’s a shame this all happened, for Nina, Hans, their children, and the Linux community have all lost out because of it.

    That said, it angers me how childish the response of the Linux community has been. Instead of separating the work from the man, recognizing the quality and potential of ReiserFS, and adopting it and taking over its development, they made up stupid names like MurderFS, and threw the baby out with the bathwater. Leaving Linux still without a mainstream, free, commercial quality, enterprise ready, Journaling file system.

    June 8, 2023 @ 11:12 pm | Reply
    • Dennis Fox:

      You are correct about the importance of separating the work from the worker. I recall that the “community” became disenchanted with Linus Torvalds due to his less-than-pleasant attitude and some even threatened him as if they were moral authorities. It makes me wonder why they didn’t simply create their own kernel and develop an operating system based on their own vision. We could have had a new OS reflecting their personal brand of self-righteous morality, perhaps called HubrisOS, DEIOS, KarenOS, or SmugOS. Instead, Linus was required to apologize or face the consequences. It’s understandable why people may not enjoy working with someone who is rude, inconsiderate, and obnoxious. However, sometimes we have to accept the good and the bad together.

      June 9, 2023 @ 7:24 am | Reply
    • Zaz:

      They did otherwise you would had #cancelReiserFS long ago and wouldn’t be able to use it altogether.

      June 9, 2023 @ 9:21 am | Reply
  11. Travis Peacock:

    I realize this is the Internet so maybe I’m stupid for even suggesting nuance but the comments here seem pretty split between:

    This guy is a monster and he should never be let go


    This woman was human trash and deserved what she got

    Is it not possible that no human deserves to be murdered, that human relationships are complex and not fully able to be condensed into a single article written by people who review VMs (or even a court for that matter), and that people can do their time and either be rehabilitated or not a threat to repeat the crime?

    I don’t think I want to have drinks with this guy, but I don’t think he is a threat to society either. We’re just paying money to keep him from being a productive member of society. It’s a lose lose.

    June 9, 2023 @ 8:34 am | Reply
  12. Dan:

    Such a sad example of human weakness, naievity and failure on so many levels. Emotional and social intelligence and social values need to be trained from an early age just like any other skill, the earlier the better. It’s unfortunate he didn’t have a strong community around him to tell him what a dumb decision it is to marry someone from a completely different culture that you don’t really know, or maybe he did but didn’t have the emotional/social maturity/intellgence to listen to other people’s advice? But then, even the smartest people can be fooled by a talented socio or psychopath, especially if you let yourself ‘fall-in-love’ and throw your brain out the window. I almost did this myself – and watched said person destroy someone elses life instead – the kids themselves don’t even want to have anything to do with their psychopath mother. The older one gets the harder it is to correct psychological personality/character flaws/faults and many times psycho or socio paths don’t actually think they need help or want help. But change is always possible if the will is there. Unfortunately these people often just end up incarcerated. It’s probably better for everyone if they stay there until/unless they are able to fully reform themselves through counselling and therapy.

    June 9, 2023 @ 6:39 pm | Reply
  13. CWII:

    Typical US custody system. Fuck the father to serve the mother everything on a silver platter. Doesn’t matter if the mother is a raging crack whore or Mary herself, the vagina has the advantage in family court. Good riddance. Sucks a bunch of lives had to be destroyed to rid the world of a parasite but oh well.

    Come at me bruh.

    June 9, 2023 @ 7:23 pm | Reply

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