The company that wants to make buying a Linux PC as simple as buying a Windows one

LXF: Do you mostly sell to businesses or individuals?

CM: We've sold to everyone from a NASA jet propulsion lab to one of our original customers was one of the original Google architects who's left and now runs his own robotics laboratory. Everything from that to an old man who literally cried because he was so sick of Windows. I love supporting individuals. I also love supporting the lab. We given a lot of support to LBL [Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory] funded by the department of energy.

Cathy Malmrose

LXF: There was a talk yesterday by Amelia Andersdotter who spoke about open source solutions in European governments. She said that the reason the competition commission couldn't investigate the use of Microsoft solutions in government was because there wasn't currently a supplier that could provide an open source solution at that king of scale. Do you think then that this is an open door of opportunity just waiting to be walked through?

CM: If we get started in the EU we'll look into that. However, the system in the US is so messed up. There are many times when contracts have to go to woman-owned companies, so a company will hire a woman just to be there, but she doesn't actually work at the company, and because of that it's a less than pleasant arena to work in.

LXF: Is there anything about ZaReason that you'd like to say to our readers?

CM: The only reason we're able to survive through the economic downturn and all that is because our original customers were developers. You know, in 2007 there were still problems with hibernate and suspend, if we'd had a larger non-developer base they wouldn't have understood that the community was working on these problems. But since we have so much developer support, it got us by in the early days.

They got these computers that were totally maxed out, and they would get them, and a week later we'd get an email saying: "Hey, do you know how to do this?" And: "Hey, here's a fix for this!" It was amazing! We had a guy email us with a price comparison of our model compared to every other model out there so we could keep our prices in line with the competition.

We had tons of support, so I just want to say a big thank you to everyone out there. That's the way the community works, and that's the way we want it to always work.

Cathy Malmrose UEFI talk

LXF: You've just been talking about UEFI. How receptive have the hardware manufacturers been to an alternative?

CM: The hardware manufacturers? Not at all.

LXF: They're still entrenched in the Microsoft way?

CM: It's business. It's so different from the free and open source community that it's a different world. There's no sense of benevolence. There's no sense of doing the right thing. It's just business. It's not something you want to live in. That's why I really appreciate conferences like this [FOSDEM] because it rejuvenates my faith in humanity.

LXF: In your mind, what is the best way forward from Secure Boot?

CM: Oh my gosh! There are several possible solutions. The ideal solution for ZaReason is for us to partner with as many distros as possible, have the distros retain control, and we handle the icky part of distributions. It's not fun to deal with distribution! That's why there are so few hardware builders. There are some incompatibilities with free and open source and business, but for the most part, we manage to structure it in a way that works.

LXF: You test out a lot of hardware, motherboards and the like. How many of them have you found have broken UEFI?

CM: It doesn't seem to be a problem yet. As we've seen with Win8 RT tablets, Microsoft is saying that you can't disable it. That's the way it's going. It's only logical that they'll try to do that on the desktop some day. It's not a guess, it's not a prediction - that's the way corporations work. That's where they're headed.

LXF: If someone wants to try and stop this happening, what do you suggest they can do to stop it?

CM: Don't buy a Windows 8 machine! Buy from a Linux vendor instead. There are plenty of them out there. One of the problems is that the mental power of our developers is being diluted by trying to solve the problem on each individual machine. If we could try to solve the problem in a more sustainable way, in a more permanent way, that would be the solution. The builder community needs to get together. We're hoping to hold some sort of meeting one of these days.