Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
GNOME Bug Linux

ALS Sufferer Used Legs To Contribute Last Patch 222

krkhan writes "This is a little old, but seeing as it didn't make it onto Slashdot at the time, I think it deserves a headline now. Adrian Hands was suffering from ALS and had lost motor skills when he used his legs to type in Morse code and fix a 9-year-old bug in Gnome. The patch was submitted three days before he passed away."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

ALS Sufferer Used Legs To Contribute Last Patch

Comments Filter:
  • Dedication (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:10AM (#35773912)

    You know what's important to someone when they continue to do it from their deathbed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by shentino ( 1139071 )

      Unfortunately it was in a version of gnome that is now EOL.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dr.Syshalt ( 702491 )
        Absolutely ANY code you produce will be EOL'ed at some point.
        Just as your children will (surprise) die one day.
        Does it make the life worthless?
        • Not if they reproduce, etc. The code being EOL'ed at some point is one thing, but just months after it was accepted is quite another! It's similar to an infant's death.
        • by socsoc ( 1116769 )
          Yep, it does.
      • by ebassi ( 591699 )
        the code contributed is still present in the current version of EoG, major version bump notwithstanding.
      • If someone is smart they'll keep gnome 2 going just as there is someone keeping KDE 3 alive [trinitydesktop.org]. While I never used Gnome I never understood this rush to add more bloat and bling bling. I mean if it ain't broke? Linux is quickly losing its title of the lightweight OS with all the bling bling being added, so it is nice to see there are those out there that don't want to start over from scratch and would prefer the stability/features of the older version.

        Personally I wish them luck, because having choices is ni

  • that picture of him in his chair working on the computer, I was hoping to see how he was managing to use his feet, but the picture didn't extend to his feet. any more descriptive pictures of the setup?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:14AM (#35773934)

    On one hand, I find it awesome that even in that state he managed to do something that productive and leave one (more) lasting trace of himself. On the other hand... I would hope that everyone would find something even more important to do during their last weeks than fix gnome bugs.

    • by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:27AM (#35774000)

      "I would hope that everyone would find something even more important to do during their last weeks than fix gnome bugs."

      So you have a kind of objective standard about what's important and what it isn't that you want to share with us?

      • by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @01:38PM (#35774822)
        Being able to contribute something - anything no matter what it is - can be a great comfort for someone who needs to rely on other people's help.
    • Considering the version number though it gives a whole new meaning to the term EOL.

    • Important (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:51AM (#35774174)

      Important is a relative term. It's different for everybody. If you're doing something you honestly love, that's not a bad way to spend your last few days.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Or in a crueler interpretation, it might be a way to get your mind off things. At least one person I heard about became something of a workaholic during his divorce, coming home to his big old empty house was a big downer. A girl in her early 20s who learned she had six months to live quit her studies - what was the point? - and spent most of that drunk. If I had an imminent death hanging over me, I'd go crazy. Filling up your day with "normal" activity is a way to stay sane.

    • play is nothing but work you enjoy doing

      most people posting on this site understands what it means to hack/ program/ factor/ compile/ etc. out of sheer fun. to a lot of us, its pleasurable play. if you find computer development to be a dreary chore and nothing else, you need a new career, assuming you aren't already a surfer or dog walker who enjoys posting on slashdot for some reason

      i completely understand what motivated adrian, and were a debilitating disease to claim my life, i'd be honored to stand in t

    • Sadly, his bucket list remained unfinished...
      1 - Make love to wife: check
      2 - Say goodbye to family: check
      3 - Farewell party with close friends: check
      4 - Give to charity: check
      5 - Write memoirs: check
      86 - Go to Disneyland: check
      9032 - Fix Gnome bug: check
      9033 - Make peace with Mother-in-Law:
  • The human spirit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rjh ( 40933 ) <rjh@sixdemonbag.org> on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:16AM (#35773942)

    All of us like to think that the latest ten-core Xeon or whatever is the neatest thing since sliced bread, but stories like this remind us of what we often forget: the human spirit is the greatest hack of all time.

    The family is in grief right now, and my sympathies are with them: but I hope they also understand the beyond-epic level of respect we have for Adrian Hands, and how he demonstrated right until the very end what the hacker ethos is all about. May we all live up to that standard.

    • Re:The human spirit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EdwinFreed ( 1084059 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @01:33PM (#35774800)

      It's quite remarkable what people in this condition can accomplish.

      Some years back I used to carpool with my father, a doctor. This meant each day I would go to the hospital after work and wait for him to finish making his rounds. But sometimes he would take me on his rounds if there was something he wanted me to see or someone he wanted me to meet.

      One of the people I met this way was a man suffering from ALS. The only things he could move were his eyes and one toe. A sensor was fitted to that toe and hooked up to a microcomputer (a SWITZ system, I think - this was in the early 80s). Despite the crudeness of this setup, he was able to write scholarly papers and even a textbook in his field (geology).

      Whenever I'm personally inconvenienced by some health issue or other, I often recall that meeting. And then I stop complaining abount my own lot in life.

      • >>Whenever I'm personally inconvenienced by some health issue or other, I often recall that meeting. And then I stop complaining abount my own lot in life.

        My great-grandfather used to suffer from terrible gout. According to my grandmother, whenever he was feeling sorry for himself, he'd go out to the sidewalk and stand there, edge digging right on the painful joint, until he saw someone more unfortunate than himself walk by.

        Of course, that was around 1900, where people missing arms and legs were a bit

  • Committed members like this, that sacrifice their time and effort, are what keep the open source movement alive and churning out functional code. So in the end, he left the world with a legacy of improving software for everyone else, doing what he loved, and cleaning up loose ends. Can't blame him at all.
  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:20AM (#35773966) Homepage

    There are so many who benefit from the community, and so relatively few who give back. So many people claim some excuse to not contribute anything to anybody without getting paid.

    Then there's this guy.

    I am honored to have shared a planet with him.

  • ALS (Score:5, Informative)

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:21AM (#35773974)
    ALS is Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amyotrophic_lateral_sclerosis [wikipedia.org] It's a form of motor neurone disease, not a nice way to go.
  • As much as I'd like to say something teary-eyed, all I can think of is:
    "And this is just how day-to-day GNOME development looks like."

  • Mr. Hands (Score:5, Funny)

    by charlievarrick ( 573720 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:29AM (#35774014)
  • Strange Disease (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @11:51AM (#35774172) Homepage

    My family and I took care of my father-in-law as he declined and eventually succumbed to ALS in 2004. Every tiny act was monumental, even going out and getting a haircut, or a shaving him, or eating.

    I can tell you that motor is the ONLY thing that goes. Pain stays, mental function stays, it is a pretty hellish existance for the sufferer. And something they could do just fine today - gone tomorrow... no predictability to it. And then there are painful muscle spasms as things go wrong. until they finally aren't able to breathe any more and die. I'm glad the mentioned coder was able to find a way to keep going, and put their mark on things.

    The main medication at the time (@ $900 a pill), only worked for 18 months at which point your symptoms would be identical to as if you didn't take it - so it slowed things down enough to buy you time to get your affairs in order, and then all the progression caught back up. I don't know about current meds.

    What's bothered me is that there is VERY little understanding of the disease, and how you get it - there are risk factors (being in a war is one, so is eating bats in guam). The VA had a HUGE list of questions that sounded like they were just grasping at statistical straws.

  • I for one didn't even know you could enter non alphanumeric characters in Morse code. I wouldn't even begin to know how to even do a CR/LF in Morse, for that matter.
    • by dbc ( 135354 )

      Yes, few of us know any punctuation beyond comma, period, and question mark. ('?' being used most often as a short hand for "duh... wha?? say again?") But the international Morse alphabet is still growing! Not that long ago, '@' was added so that you can send e-mail addresses with Morse code. And there are other variants, like Cyrillic Morse. I'm guessing he had an interface that accepted standard international Morse code with some extensions -- I'm not sure the '{' has a defined standard pattern, for

      • Since he didn't need any human to understand what he said, only a computer, he could have devised any characters he wished.
  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday April 10, 2011 @12:45PM (#35774512) Homepage Journal

    The patch was reverted in Gnome 3 because someone found it useful.

  • That he could do that. Of course ALS sucks. (Which I would be familiar with since I took care of my mom when she was dying of it.)
  • Really? It took 9 years for someone to do this?

  • Where else could be be but hacker heaven?
    • He is in hacker heaven. Look around. I see are a ton of hackers paying him respect and being touched by his story, myself included. I'm pretty sure quite a few people will remember him for quite a while. If that's not life after death, I don't know what is.

      Thanks for the commit and for the inspiration, Adrian Hands.

  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @01:45PM (#35774858) Homepage

    ... because you might need it later.

    Gratuitous plug for a friend's CW site [lcwo.net]

  • Wow, what an inspiring story! Someone who worked to help others, to the very end. My congrats to him, and my condolences to his family.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    My father passed away yesterday. I went back through my email to find our last
    correspondence (he was in India for treatment, and I live in Raleigh). I would
    like to share the email with you.

    It's appalling if he had to go to India for treatment because of intractability of the US healthcare system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tokah ( 859694 )

      ALS is incurable. We have a drug that extends life by about three months, but it costs about $1000 a month and had terrible side effects. We have some symptomatic treatment: antispastics, bipaps/ventilators, feeding tubes, etc, but that's it.

      If you want anything beyond that, you need to try out unproven stuff. Some people go out of the country to take their chances with wild clinical trials or pure charlatans. It isn't the medical system's fault in this case - they have tried nearly everly legal drug in mic

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"