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How Compiz Fusion and Chaos Built a Linux Hardware Company

Wild Creativity, No Bureaucracy

April 9, 2010

When you have a chaotic, non-routinized environment, creativity can often flow unchecked, or at least not-too-terribly-hampered by the marketing or finance department.


One of the most beautiful aspects of LinuxLand is that, in its chaos, a wild creativity can spawn sweet and enduring projects. One of those projects, Compiz Fusion, was sparky enough to help me enter LinuxLand which in turn helped me build a hardware company. That company now, through gentle competition, encourages the other Linux builders to work harder for better specs at better prices, being faster and more limber than each other.

<em>Kathy</em>
Kathy

The Compiz Fusion Wrecking Ball

While many of you reading this article do not have the time or inclination to have the effects of Compiz Fusion on your personal computer, this particular piece of software, in its own inadvertent way, convinced a 30-something hyper-busy soccer mom with four kids, two jobs and not a nano-second to spare to take the time to sit down and learn about Linux and its wonders. It was among one of the hardest conversions for Linux.

Here is where it started: In the early 2000s, I did not have time to worry about which OS was running the nine desktops and four laptops that my family used. (My two oldest sons "needed" nine desktops for when their friends came over after school.) One of my jobs was as a technical writer and the last thing I wanted to do was tech support on my home computers. I did not have time to consider any change, even if it was over-the-top amazing, even if it saved me time in the long-run, even if it made my computing experience significantly better. I had the Great Wall of China between me and LinuxLand.

<em>Kory</em>
Kory

But Linux broke down that wall with the one big wrecking ball called Compiz Fusion. One busy day many years ago, my teenage son, Kory, unbeknownst to me, set up dual-boot on the main home computer. He installed Compiz Fusion (Beryl at the time) with nearly all the effects turned on.

The main computer, Bella, is in a central part of the house. In my typical run-run style, I rushed past the computer again and again while doing those things that keep a home clean. As I passed my son supposedly doing his homework, I saw things on screen that looked odd: "What's wrong with Bella?"

It's Melting!

He saw a chance to have fun so he said, "Oh, I think she has a virus..." I walked past a few more times. I saw melting windows. "Can you fix it?" I saw exploding pages. In a voice that completely fooled me, Kory said, "I'm trying, but I think Dad will have to fix it." Those are dreaded words since time for system maintenance is so short in our home. I did not want to lose my husband to another weekend of tech support. We did not have time for our mission critical computer to go down.

<em>Let me go</em>
Let me go

As I was passing by with a load of laundry in my hands, I saw multiple screens rotating as a cube. A freakn' cube. I sat down, entranced. Gig was up. He laughed and showed me Ubuntu.

I was hooked. Simplicity. Beauty. All the tools I needed. And if Kory could set it up on one computer, he could set it up on all of them. I hugged him and said, "I trust that you will "fix" all the other computers in the house?" He smiled a smile I will never forget.

ZaReason is Born

This love-of-Ubuntu turned into a search for Ubuntu-only hardware which turned into me founding a Linux-only hardware company in early 2007. Through ZaReason I have had the delightful opportunity to customize keyboards with Ubuntu or Tux on the Start key and subsequently ask other companies, "Um, does your Ubuntu laptop have a Windows logo on the Start key? How odd..." I have had the rush of enthusiasm when a customer in our first year sent us an extensive (and I mean extensive) price list of how our computers compared to other vendors, showing us where we were doing well and where we needed to improve. I have a wall of love letters showing my builders, my brilliant, wildly intelligent builders that they are on the right path, doing great work for real people, not just order numbers.

If the Little Guys Can Do It...

By doing what I am doing, I have the opportunity to make sure other companies do not drag their feet. If a little company like ZaReason can stay in sync with the build cycle enough to ship the next version of Ubuntu when it is available and have the features working smoothly on time... If little Za can optimize the hardware to work with the software rather than the other way around, then why can't the big builders with their bigger budgets and larger staff do as well? While my work is only a drop in the pond, it is an important drop.

Everyone reaches LinuxLand in their own time, in their own way. No one method is better than another. Personally, it was one spunky teenage son who thought it would be fun to mess with his mom on a day when she did not have time to spare. It was the same type of chaotic, messy, but brilliant interaction that originally built LinuxLand. ���������

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