Cathy Malmrose

CEO of ZaReason, a sweet little Linux hardware builder in Berkeley, CA

Could Free get any cheaper?

Posted by cathymalmrose on March 7, 2012

We have a sale on several Linux laptops and desktops in our new Sale section:

The machines that are on sale are ones that were used for a day at a conference or otherwise in a “box opened” state. Sometimes they have a ding or a minor scratch. They are guaranteed and warranted to work just as well as one that was custom built just for you. It’s a great way of saying, “Hey, I got $500 free for this itty bitty scratch on the bottom of the case,” (or whatever the reason is for the item being on the Sale table.

If you have any questions, just let us know: and usually we can get you what you need.

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Posted by cathymalmrose on March 7, 2012

See that 2+ year long gap between last post and this post? That’s what happens when you open up a full-sized office. You get busy.

In those last two years we have:

* hired a full set of staff, truly competent, brilliant people

* filled out the product line, included a divine tablet that is in R&D 20 feet from me as I type

* created, tested and finalized our company standard operating practices

* built a solid foundation on which to spark some explosive growth

We always wanted to take the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach. In Silicon Valley we are surrounded by flash-and-bang start ups and I have a hard time not being judgemental about their immaturity. We wanted to build ZaReason to stand the test of time. We want our children and grandchildren to be able to go into Costco and buy ZaReason devices.

So, a little 2 yr span of blog silence is nothing in the grand scheme.

Thanks for staying tuned and thanks for helping us grow.

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A present in your pocket

Posted by cathymalmrose on June 25, 2009

We signed the lease on our new little ZaReason shop on Monday. We are psyched.

It is remarkably similar to having “that perfect present” in your hot little hands, hiding it behind your back until just the right moment.

We still need a sign on the front of the shop and a few other minor details, but we are set. We are finally in a spot that is zoned for office space, ie you can visit! You can stop by to check out the laptop or desktop you are considering purchasing. Just not quite yet.

Among other things, we need to get the media room set up first — the ideal place to test and view the MythTV MediaBox in action. We just need to get that massive black leather couch with reclining seats delivered first.

The only thing we are truly lacking right now is patience.

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GTD for Late Night People who love what they do

Posted by cathymalmrose on June 23, 2009

I love Getting Things Done. My brother told me about it several years ago. It shifted how I work. For the better. Much better.

My current finding — I have a hard time cutting off work at night. I can get into the zone at night and work like a hamster on an exercise wheel until the early (or late) AM. It’s not good in the long-run. It’s not even good for the next day.

So, I needed a way to cut off my work flow at night, to tourniquet it so that I could leave work at a reasonable hour, allowing for a good night’s sleep.

I think I figured out a way that works for me. Since I work mostly on my laptop, I set up my laptop in a comfy room, not my office and get some work done. When the battery dies, I have to stand up. When I stand up, my body says, “Whoa! Zelda! You shouldn’t be awake this late!”

And I put my laptop back where it belongs and toddle off, on my way as I should.

Problem solved!

Now I just need to be careful to never, never put a charger near my favorite working spots.

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The Linux Pick-up Line

Posted by cathymalmrose on May 7, 2009

As a follow-up to the last post, I am getting such a kick out of the Linux pick-up lines at the gym. Note that this gym is generally *not* a pick-up place (like many are). This gym is friendly, but most people are serious about their purpose and have an attitude of I’m-here-to-workout-so-don’t-bug-me. I really like it. Even so, from time to time people initiate conversations when there’s something particularly interesting to spark it.

Here are my top three favorite Linux pick-up lines:

1. Stare at Linux logo on shirt. Keep walking, but with distracted expression. Thoughts going through head must be, “She can’t know what Linux is… She looks like a mom… I would never see someone like that at work… So she probably just borrowed the shirt from her husband… Wait, that’s definitely a women’s shirt… Maybe I should ask if she uses Linux for real..” Thump. Person runs into post or wall. This is my least favorite one. I feel sorry for the person whose preconceived notions make them run into walls. (No exaggeration — it has happened more than once.)

2. Notice Linux on shirt. Do a double take. (This one is my favorite.) Curiously ask, “You use Linux? For real?” Conversation ensues. When we part a minute later, we are both smiling. We will smile and wave at each other next time.

3. Sees Linux and immediately senses a friendship: “So, you’re a Linux user? Which distro?” We have a cheerful conversation and it gives me that sense of comraderie that there are others out there like me who want a better, safer computing experience. I wish this one happened more often.

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Workin’ It

Posted by cathymalmrose on March 3, 2009

Rikki Kite at Linux Pro gave me a promo T-shirt that was high-quality and had a spunky, cool design that I wanted to wear. It fit a little snug, but I needed a snug black T for classes.

When your feet are in the air and you are nearly in a headstand you want a shirt that fits snug — it stays in place.

Well, here’s the letter I wrote to Rikki as a thank you for the shirt:

“Hey, did I tell you yet how much I love the Linux Pro Magazine tshirt you gave me? It’s a trim fit so I wear it to the gym and often tell people, “I’m doing all this ab work so I can look good in this shirt someday.” (But, I feel great in it already.) I get so many comments on it, such as, “You use Linux? Which distro?”

“It is a huge gym, 5 floors, massive square footage and probably a few thousand members. I go every day and rub shoulders with quite a few bay area people. I wear the Linux Pro shirt whenever it’s clean because it’s one of the few shirts that: 1. I look / feel good in, and 2. it sparks so many great comments from people.

“My favorite reaction — a few weeks ago in the Total Body Challenge class (insanely tough, jam-packed with people giving it their all) the instructor, who is the manager of all the classes for the Y, saw my Linux Pro shirt and incorporated it into the set which had been counting down from 30.. “Go Linux 5! Go Linux 4!… Go Linux Pro!” It was a riot; we were all laughing (and crying a bit — it was a long set and it hurt!)

“The shirt has been well-used and well-loved. Thank you for giving it to me.”

It’s hard to find good women’s geek Ts. It’s a delight to find one that works.

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Posted by cathymalmrose on February 6, 2009

I get to speak at SCALE 09. My talk synopsis is here.

I am psyched. This will be an *excellent* group.

It will be our 2nd year at SCALE. Last year, we decided not to go, but heard so many good things about it from friends that we decided at the last minute that we “simply must attend”. We contacted Ilan, the uber organizer and he actually got us a table on the exhibitor’s floor with very little notice.

Within 48 hrs of deciding to go, we were in southern Cali with all our gear, ready to play.

We had a blast.

If you plan on going, feel free to use our registration code (it is made available for friends and customers). Code is ZAR7X and it gets you 40% off the registration cost.

I hope to see you there!

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Posted by cathymalmrose on February 3, 2009

I live in Berkeley, otherwise known as Berzerkely, in sunny California. In this teeny little 10 1/2 square mile patch of earth, we have a large number of people who like to walk and bike (not drive).

On more than a few stop signs around town, people have spray painted a little add-on request:



I find it funny and also helpful. I love being in a town where drivers are accustomed to sharing the road with bikers. I love riding my bike. I feel 15 years old when I ride my bike around town. It gets my heart pumping and my brain thinking.
Often, I see people cruising on their bikes, singing some song. You have to see it to believe it — it is usually some regular person just coasting down a sweet little hill, hair streaming behind, singing some song with that relaxed passion that rubs off on everybody who hears them.

Today I saw a STOP sign variation that I had not seen in a while:



I wish I passed by this sign everyday.

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Precious little things

Posted by cathymalmrose on January 18, 2009

This morning we rode our bikes to the best bagel shop in the world.  It is a hidden little shop that you would not find unless someone told you (psst, it’s Berkeley Bagel at 1281 Gilman).

There are more than a few semi-dangerous spots on the road to the bagel shop but we brave it because the bagels are so indescribably good. For some reason, during this morning’s bike ride it occurred to me just how much I trust the cars around me to not run us over. They could so easily destroy us. I got a deep, quick sense of the precious-ness of life and the lives of others with me.

The next thought was that our customers trust us to give them their next laptop or desktop. That’s a similarly powerful trust.

Here’s the reasoning, whether it makes sense or not: Most of what we have and do in life is nearly irrelevent, but there are a few things, a few deeply, dearly precious things in each person’s own little sphere.

The precious parts of my life are health, family, friends, laptop…

Yes, my laptop. Personally, I bond with my laptops. The Toshiba I had when my kids were little was just as much a family member as the kids were. It traveled with me like the kids did. It was at the lunch table, in the car, out at parties, and even in bed with me when I was sick, at the hospital with me when I had my babies, each one. My laptop was an extension of myself, a useful type of appendage with a far more reliable memory than my own. My laptop was an intricate part of my life. I started carrying my laptop with me long before most people were carrying laptops.

When I see computers go out our doors to people in various parts of the world, I realize that those laptops are precious little things going to people who will need them, rely on them, depend on their proper functioning. Powerful trust.

Makes sense? Perhaps it was just the musings of a sleepy Saturday morning on the way to and from the bagel shop, but let it be noted that I do respect people’s computers as precious.

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Secret Sauce

Posted by cathymalmrose on January 6, 2009

On the way to Italy, then on to Israel, I worked a bit on my presentation. I had offered several different topic ideas to the LUG organizer and he chose the most technical one. The topic: Building Linux Hardware. As a how-to, it seemed appropriate to share my company’s favorite suppliers, the best-of-the-best OEMs and where we find the juiciest information on building Linux hardware.

As  I looked at my presentation, it made me worry that maybe I was giving away the proprietary recipe to my company’s Secret Sauce, the thing that makes my company unique.

I went ahead with my Secret Sauce talk (although I didn’t call it that — who knows how that would translate in Hebrew? It might have a different meaning). Happily, bizarrely, unexpectedly, I didn’t give anyway anything they didn’t already know. Instead, it was an exchange of equally informed hardware builders.

See, in Israel, there are no stores. At least, no stores like we’re accustomed to in the US. There’s no Costco, no Best Buy, no Fry’s. They have a different type of consumer activity level and to be honest, I found it a bit refreshing to not be surrounded by stores.

As the wonderfully supportive LUG attendees informed me, in Israel, when you need a computer you go to the little computer shop that’s tucked away in some little spot inbetween buildings. When you need your computer fixed, you ask the kid down the street to take a look at it. I chuckled. This is so much easier than how I have seen many people do it in the US. It goes like this: Drive 30 min to large chain store; stand in line; endure salesmanship; stand in another line; endure the cashier’s “Are you sure you don’t want to give us another $200, er, I mean purchase extended warranty coverage?”; leave; drive another 30 minutes; set up box at home and spend the next two days on the phone to tech support because the box was poorly built in the first place.

In the little shops in Jerusalem in Haifa, you tell the computer shop owner what you want. He builds it for you in front of you. You tell him what parts you want. You know the names of the manufacturers. The builders use mostly whitebox towers. You don’t necessarily care about the big name brands because, after all, you are buying this computer from Omar or Rami, not Best Buy. You know the names of the components and you hear from your friends which ones they like. It all works out. In the process, you get to know what’s what.

I really shouldn’t worry about any Secret Sauce leaks, especially when there are other great cooks in the kitchen.

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