Friday, July 6, 2012

Kickstarting & Seedrs-ing GNU/Linux-specific hardware

Now that the edgy, confrontational but must-be-said post is out (see Tourniquet) it's time to go back to the regularly scheduled programming.

CC-Share Alike, Worm That Turned
The Inner Workings of Linux Hardware blog's purpose is to shine light on the build process, on how we work with OEMs, where we source our supplies, and why any of it matters.

It's about building, creation, production, freedom.

Occasionally this blog will have a hard-hitting piece, but mostly it is about the good stuff.


Three random-ish intersections: 

1.Right before I fell asleep at 3 am last night I saw the BoingBoing post by Cory Doctorow, a well-known UK figure: ZaReason: a company with free built in

2. The Geek Atlas by John Graham-Cumming* is one of my 10 most treasured books. A good portion of the book covers just the UK.

3. Yesterday Glynn Moody, a well-known UK writer (who has insights I appreciate) mentioned Seedrs

The UK has been looking pretty great lately.


Seedrs: ZaReason would like to do a "Launch in UK" project through Seedrs and see if there's enough support. To post the project properly we need:

1. a pro bono accountant / CPA to review budget, and

2. a pro bono lawyer for advice and several documents

(Note we have been looking for a way to give the community ownership over ZaReason, but can't figure out how. Would appreciate advice from a business person who could help us navigate.)

Both accountant & lawyer are needed to help prep the Seedrs project for ZaReason UK initially and long-term (not pro bono long-term). Everything else can be done by our existing ZaReason teams.

This is the last barrier stopping ZaReason from launching in the UK.

If you know of someone who may consider assisting, please have them contact me: cathy at zareason dot com 

Everything else is in place. From seed funding to opening is approx three months, 12 weeks total, though different countries have some regulations that require extra time. Stock between US / Australasia / UK (some of EU?) will vary slightly, but the core products, the laptops and tablet will be available at all locations. They are the Big Run items. 

CC-Share Alike, Cathy Malmrose
Aside: Wondering about that cat? Speaking symbolically, we don't want to work with any fat cat bankers and start ZaReason UK on a loan or other type of debt.

Seedrs structure = yes. How regular corporations set up = no.

For years, people have been asking ZaReason to Kickstart larger runs of hardware instead of running out of stock so often.

Good idea.


Kickstart: We're going to start with a product that has been most requested over the years: the Tux keyboard. We did an Ubuntu keyboard years ago. I just googled "Ubuntu keyboard". It is shockingly still the first hit.
CC-Share Alike, ZaReason

It was not well publicized, but people loved it! My absolute favorite was shipping it to Italy. The keyboard cost $25. Shipping cost $28. They paid more for shipping than for the keyboard and they kept buying them. I marvelled at each order: "Another one to Italy; two more to Italy." (It made me want to move to Italy.) We did a run of only 100 and ran out long before demand ran out. It took nearly a year before people stopped asking about it.

We would still have the Ubuntu keyboard today if it was not for the manufacturer of the Ubuntu key going out of business. They were a US company. We looked for other factories that could help with the keys but did not have much luck.

Note in case you are wondering about the Sticker vs Key-printed-properly issue:

* When we do runs of laptops such as the Teo Pro at the OEM level, a full production run just for us, we can dictate the details. When we do smaller quantities, we have less leverage and often have to accept keyboard pads they have already created, thus the Ubuntu or Tux sticker. There is no licensing fee. The Windows logo is simply an ingenious marketing strategy that allows free advertising on all PCs manufactured (unless we do our own larger runs).


You may still be wondering: "Why a keyboard when what we really need are ultrathin netbooks?" @chris_bloke  in particular, you may really be wondering since you (and many others) have been hearing, "Soon, soon," for years. But I will answer by quoting something you told me earlier this week: "Patience, grasshopper."

Most Kickstarts are in the $25 range. We're starting safe to see if we can do the Kickstart process; then we'll do that 11.6" 3rd gen Intel Core i7 hyperthreaded quad-core processor, 16 GB RAM, USB 3.0. Nvidia 650M graphics with 5 sec boot time and style that makes people coo, smile, the works.


So, people in the UK: If you want rooted, open bootloader computers in the UK, please put on your Sherlock Holmes hat (just kidding!) and help me find the support this particular GNU/Linux-specific company needs.

And maybe someday we will all Kickstart a ThinkPad competitor that raises Cory Doctorow's eyebrows a bit. 

Either way, Thanks.


People have seen many posts from me lately, much buzz. The ZaReason teams are alive and kicking, but personally I will be going back underground for a week to work on several Za projects. Help me find leads to Accountant + Lawyer listed above? Other than that, see you in a week.


  1. Note that it would be good of you look at terms and shipping to other EU/EEA countries. I order products from the UK, living in Norway, and would be really interested in ordering PCs with a linux-distro installed. There would probably be a lot of other European citizens interested in this too.

  2. Yup, we've been looking at the EU since 2007. So many of the countries in the EU are doing positive things to support free / libre.

    Note that it's so much more than just installing a distro, so much more.

    Keep watching the ZaReason blog for more details as this year unfolds. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for all your work and everyone else's down at ZaReason.
      We appreciate all the work you do, whether we see it or not. You guys are definitely doing an amazing job with supporting free/libre software..

      God Bless you all!