[Len Sassaman <rabbi@abditum.com>] Obituary for Janis Jagars (Disastry)

Werner Koch wk@gnupg.org
Sun Feb 16 19:31:01 2003

From: Len Sassaman <rabbi@abditum.com>
To: <ietf-openpgp@imc.org>
Subject: Obituary for Janis Jagars (Disastry) 

Janis Jagars, known to many people on the Internet by his handle Disastry,
was a prolific programmer who made numerous valuable contributions to the
Internet. I am afraid I cannot do his memory justice, having known him
only a short number of years and only through his work on privacy
enhancing programs, but he earned my respect and appreciation for his
achievements in that area.

I first "met" Janis Jagars while I was employed by PGP Security. In
preparation for the release of PGP 7, I located and contacted the people
responsible for other implementations of OpenPGP, in order to set up
interop testing. Janis was working on updating the DOS-aware PGP 2.6.3i
program to work with modern implementations of PGP. His work on that
program, and his presence in the IETF OpenPGP working group, helped to
smooth over a number of PGP compatibility problems. On the PGP newsgroups
and mailing lists, Janis helped many new PGP users get started using email
encryption, and tirelessly answered support questions for privacy-related
programs. To my knowledge, Janis operated the only anonymous remailer to
exist in Latvia.

Janis was, by the original definition, a true Cypherpunk. He believed that
privacy was a right that must not be denied to Internet users, and he
wrote code to help ensure that it could not be.

When he needed a way to easily send encrypted email through Netscape, he
wrote a plugin. When he wanted a way to mount PGPdisk volumes under Linux,
he wrote a conversion tool. When Windows users wanted a pre-compiled
version GnuPG, Janis gave them one. Janis understood that the fight for
Internet privacy must take place at the hands of programmers, and he rose
to the challenge of bring useful privacy-enhancing programs into
existence, and into the hands of the public.

Immediately after the terrorist attacks in September, 2001, I took over
maintenance of the Mixmaster anonymous remailer project. Mixmaster had
been unmaintained for over a year, and needed serious work. I was
delighted when I received email from Janis, offering his help. Over the
next year, entirely of his own initiative, Janis ported Mixmaster's server
functionality to Windows, brought Mixmaster's OpenPGP support from an
unstable "alpha" state to a solid, usable feature set, and established
himself as an invaluable member of the Mixmaster development team. The
upcoming Mixmaster 3.0 release features a number of crucial improvements
which would not have happened had it not been for Janis's involvement.

My last communication with Janis was on October 11th of last year. He had
planned a vacation in Nepal, and expected to return a month later. When he
did not return, we feared the worst. Sadly, it turns out that our fears
were true: On October 31, while descending from Lobuche summit, Janis fell
250m, and did not survive.

I am dedicating this year's CodeCon conference to Janis's memory. Janis
will be missed, but his contributions will still be appreciated and
utilized. It is my hope that Janis's work will serve as an example for
other like-minded programmers, who chose to give their time and code in
the name of free speech and privacy.

Len Sassaman
13 February 2003
San Francisco, CA


Janis's home page may be viewed here:
News of his accident can be found here: