All about CABAL

[eye in pyramid]

Table of Contents:

  • CABAL in a Nutshell
  • Quick Reference
  • FAQ:

    CABAL in a Nutshell:

    CABAL (in cooperation with BALUG) conducts GNU/Linux installfests at its twice-monthly meetings in Menlo Park. (Yes, we used to have them at Robert Austin Computer shows.) This means that we make available GNU/Linux experts to help you install GNU/Linux on your machine, install additional software, debug your GNU/Linux problems, and share information with you.

    You don't have to bring a machine or problem: Come along to just hang out and shmooze, and enjoy good potluck dinner and drinks: You'll be very welcome..)

    Quick Reference: The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of It


    1105 Altschul Avenue near Gordon Avenue, West Menlo Park. (directions) (map)


    2nd Saturday of every month, 4 pm to midnight. There are some exceptions: Check the schedule.

    Before coming:

    Read this pre-installfest document — but don't take it too seriously. Optionally, you're welcome to RSVP, to let us know you're coming. Especially if it's a laptop, please describe the make/model you're bringing and any special needs or requests — ideally, at least a week before the event, so we have time to discuss matters with you, do research on your behalf, and retrieve software for your convenience (if it's needed).

    We provide:

    Expertise. Bad jokes. Loaner ethernet cards (PCI and PCMCIA). AC power and network feeds. Ethernet patch cables and hubs. An installfest server with ftp and NFS exports for network installations. A "laplink" parallel cable for PLIP installations. (PLIP lets us install GNU/Linux even onto laptops with neither CD-ROM drives nor PCMCIA sockets. Nothing is safe from us. Mwu-ha-ha-ha-ha.)

    We have numerous GNU/Linux distributions, fast Internet access, add-on applications, security and other updates, special hardware drivers, mirrors of important GNU/Linux Web sites, etc. Let us know a week in advance of anything specific you'd like us to provide.

    We often do barbecue dinner during the evening. Many attendees bring a dish or something to drink (either just for themselves, or to share) on a "potluck dinner" basis, but it is certainly not required. Guests are welcome to use the cooking facilities.

    You provide (if we're to work on your machine):

    Your system box, monitor, keyboard, pointing device, all cables including AC cables, hardware documentation (if you have it), and CD-ROMs or DVDs for your chosen GNU/Linux distribution (if you've picked one). You needn't bring printers, external modems, or non-Linux software (other than configuration utilities for your hardware). Also, bring a Phillips screwdriver (and any special tools your system requires): We might want to take a peek inside your system box (but not if it's a laptop).

    If you wish to preserve operating systems, programs, or data already on your hard drives (e.g., to "dual boot" the machine), make sure you secure tested-good backups before coming. For MS-Windows systems, run DiskeeperLite (or some other disk defragmenter) before coming.

    We guarantee:

    GNU/Linux distributions, if successfully installed, will occupy disk space. Your wasted time will be swiftly and cheerfully refunded upon request. You assume all risk of loss or damage to your hardware, software, and data.

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    [eye in pyramid]

    I've heard of BALUG, but what's CABAL?

    CABAL sprang up to fill a void left by the San Francisco PC Users Group's Linux SIG (Special Interest Group). In 1994, SFpcUG rented office/classroom/SIG space in The CoffeeNet's building (744 Harrison, San Francisco, also known as "-rwxr--r-- Harrison Street"). Its very active Linux SIG established dial-up and Web servers for the club, there, and held twice-monthly meetings (at the time, 2nd and 4th Saturdays, 4 PM). But the club continued to lose money, and pulled out of 744 Harrison in 1997. The space's new tenant, Don Marti and Jim Gleason's GNU/Linux marketing and consulting firm Electric Lichen, LLC, didn't want a group mostly devoted to legacy proprietary software (i.e., SFpcUG) meeting in its office, so the Linux SIG went dormant while looking for new meeting space, elsewhere.

    Seeing this happen, 744 Harrison-resident Rick Moen declared that a new GNU/Linux group, initially unnamed, would meet at the SIG's traditional meeting times & place. Those meetings thus went on, uninterrupted — with the same membership but shedding the SFpcUG name. Because most participants also attended the nearby, monthly BALUG meetings, these 744 Harrison GNU/Linux meetings were (at first) considered unofficial BALUG events.

    Mike Lord, CEO of the Robert Austin Company, was at the time a frequent customer at Richard Couture's adjoining, GNU/Linux-based CoffeeNet Internet cafe, and admired the success of both the CoffeeNet operation and the surrounding GNU/Linux community. So, he invited Richard to give demonstrations of CoffeeNet PCs during Robert Austin Computer shows. Richard declined the opportunity, but introduced Mike L. to Mike Higashi and Duncan MacKinnon of the local GNU/Linux crowd. They discussed the possibility of GNU/Linux classes and demonstrations. Mike H. and Duncan also proposed installfests, as an alternative (since BALUG and SFpcUG's Linux SIG had already co-sponsored successful installfests at 744 Harrison, starting January 17, 1998). Mike L. agreed to one such "BALUG InstallFest", was delighted in the high level of public interest, and agreed to have them on a recurring basis.

    To set up each such event, the GNU/Linux volunteers arranged table space at a scheduled Robert Austin show, then checked with BALUG president Arthur Tyde and asked BALUG's then-Webmaster Cydny Fire Eisner to list it. This cumbersome procedure continued until, one month, Cydny said she felt that, because Arthur could not be reached, she lacked authority to list the event as a BALUG production. Rick Moen then discussed this roadblock with Duncan, and suggested coining a new group-name for the installfest volunteers, so that planning could proceed without waiting for BALUG approval. Duncan suggested the tongue-in-cheek name "CABAL", for Consortium of All Bay Area Linux (in recognition of our helping other GNU/Linux groups around the Bay Area run events), and it stuck. Cydny then listed the event as a CABAL InstallFest, and (after checking with Arthur) successive ones as CABAL/BALUG collaborations, which we held occasionally through 2003, when they were folded into CABAL's regular meetings.

    In March 1999, Electric Lichen left 744 Harrison, but the replacement tenant, LinuxCabal, a open-source-oriented Internet hosting facility, graciously allowed CABAL to continue holding meetings, there, for an additional year.

    In July 2000, Richard Couture and LinuxCabal were forced to move out of 744 Harrison, on account of a business dispute with the landlady: They moved to Guadalajara, Jalisco State, México, ending their generous provision of San Francisco meeting space. So, CABAL holds its meetings at an available residence in Menlo Park.

    As of May 9, 2006, that residence moved a few blocks from 2033 Sharon Road to 1105 Altschul Avenue, but remains in Menlo Park (albeit not technically).

    [BALUG logo]

    I've heard of CABAL, but what's BALUG?

    Our founding parent group, Arthur Tyde's BALUG (Bay Area Linux User Group) meets monthly at the Four Seas Restaurant's upstairs banquet room (in Chinatown, San Francisco), eats a fixed-price Chinese meal, and then hears a speaker's presentation. As is usual for GNU/Linux groups' meetings, BALUG meetings are open to the public and free of charge (other than the $13 restaurant/dinner charge).

    BALUG's help in publicising CABAL meeting/installfests is much appreciated, but it doesn't participate in running them.

    [Robert Austin logo]

    I've heard of BALUG and CABAL, but what's the Robert Austin Company (RAC)?

    Robert Austin Company (RAC) was a commercial firm that ran computer shows ("swaps") at the Cow Palace, Oakland Convention Center, and Pleasanton & San Mateo Fairgrounds, and let CABAL in as exhibitors. It folded in early 2005.

    Who is Robert Austin?

    Near as we can tell, there never was such a person. It was just a strong-sounding Anglo name, adopted by that company's founders.