R.I.P. mrdocs (1963–2019)

Peter “mrdocs” Linnell (1963–2019) (Image courtesy Alexandre Prokoudine)

The Scribus Team is deeply saddened to announce the loss of our friend and colleague Peter Linnell who in the end lost his long battle against cancer.

It is no understatement to say that without Peter Scribus wouldn’t be what it is today. It was Peter who spotted the potential of Franz Schmid’s initially humble Python program and, as a pre-press consultant at the time, contacted Franz to make him aware of the necessities of PostScript and PDF support, among other things. Peter also wrote the first version of the Scribus online documentation, which resulted in his nickname “mrdocs” in IRC and elsewhere. Until recently, and despite his detoriating health, Peter continued to be involved in building and releasing new Scribus versions.

Scribus was the project he helped to set on track and which marked the beginning of his journey into the world of Free Software development. While it remained at the heart of his commitments to Open Source in general and Libre Graphics software in particular, Peter contributed to Free Software in many other ways as well. For example via contributions to projects related to, as a package builder of many Free programs for several Linux distributions on the openSUSE Build Service, and later as an openSUSE board member. Peter was also crucial in bringing the Libre Graphics community together by way of sharing his expertise with other graphics-oriented projects and his assistance in organizing the first Libre Graphics Meetings. In the sometimes ego-driven and often emotional world of Open Source development, Peter managed to get along very well with almost everybody and never lost his sense of humour.

We will remember Peter “mrdocs” Linnell for what he was: an optimist, an incredible team player, an honest man and, above all, a friend.

Our thoughts are with his family.

March 2019,
The Scribus Team

On the memory of Peter, here is his introduction to the original Scribus documentation:

This document is a semi-ambitious attempt to create something quite different in technical documentation. The aim is to give the reader a new and different way of learning about a software program, but also using the very tools of the program – while it is being developed to create this modest tome. This documentation is ideally in printed form and also in electronic form using the features of the freely available Adobe Acrobat Reader.

That I am writing this at all is a perfect example of chance in life. Maybe, even worthy of a little story. On the suggestion of a friend in IT, I started tinkering with Red Hat Linux in a part time attempt to broaden my world beyond desktop PC’s. When one explores a new world, one often looks for things which are common with the old, even if just for comparison. So, once I discovered Gnome and KDE and even learned how to compile programs, I thought this is not so difficult.

A quick hop on Google, yielded a home page with Scribus 0.3.6, a Quark-like DTP program which had just started to be developed. So, download, do the ./configure bit and splat: Scribus won’t compile. I fire off a quick e-mail with the gobbly-gook error message I had yet to understand and surprisingly just 20 minutes later a polite reply explaining the error of my ways. Good sign…

A few e-mails later over the course of a few weeks, Scribus had a documenter who had very little understanding of application development, nor how to write even the most basic html. However, I knew and liked desktop publishing and had that sixth sense Scribus was and could be something really special.

In the open source world, there are some great programs which are wholly lacking in any kind of documentation. There are also great programmers who are abysmal at documenting things. (Franz despite having English as a second language is excellent at explaining things.)

Thus, the following, is my modest attempt at adding some help to a great program.