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.

    [BSD Daemon with the BAFUG name]

    What is BAFUG?

    Years ago, we invited the Bay Area FreeBSD User Group (BAFUG) to join us at RAC shows; they accepted: Many GNU/Linux installfests also featured FreeBSD install-a-thons. (Linuxers are glad to help with FreeBSD — and others of our elder BSD brethren.)

    [BSD Daemon with the SVBUG name]

    What is SVBUG?

    In 2000, Jesse Monroy founded the Silicon Valley BSD User Group to serve the South Bay's BSD community. We quickly invited them to come join us running "install" events.

    What distributions do you have on hand for me to install?

    Important note: While we can provide access to installation files for most things, you need to be prepared, over the longer term, to reinstall your system from scratch, if need be. What's the point of installing a GNU/Linux system, if you're afraid to touch it? So, you'll want to acquire a CD or DVD of your distribution.

    Undecided? Totally lost? Try the Linux Distribution Chooser. For further background, read Karsten's Distributions Guide and consult DistroWatch.

    We currently have CDs / DVDs to use for installation or duplication (but not to take away our discs) of the following GNU/Linux & BSD distributions and applications. We may also have some other distributions, applications, and sundry updates available via LAN at our events:


    • antiX 13 beta 2 (2013-03-05) for i486
    • Aptosid XFCE 2012-01 "Thanatos" (2012-12-91) for i686 and x86_64
    • Aptosid KDE Full 2012-01 "Thanatos" (2012-12-01) i686/x86_64 dual-arch (1 DVD)
    • Arch Linux 2013.04.01 (2013-04-01) for i686/x86_64
    • Bodhi Linux 2.3.0 (2013-03-31) for i386 and x86_64
    • cAos Linux NSA (Node, Server, Appliance) 1.0.29 (2009-12-15) for i386 and x86_64
    • CentOS 6.4 (2013-03-09) for i386 (2 DVDs) and x86_64 (2 DVDs)
    • CentOS 5.9 (2013-01-16) for i386 (2 DVDs) and x86_64 (2 DVDs)
    • Damn Small Linux 4.4.11RC1 (2012-08-04) for i486
    • Debian GNU/Linux 7.0RC1 "wheezy" (2013-02-17) Install DVD1 (GNOME) for i386 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • Debian Live 6.0.3 "squeeze" (2011-10-14) for i386
    • Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.1 "squeeze" (2011-03-19) Install CD1 (XFCE/LXDE) for i386, x86_64, and PowerPC
    • Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.1 "squeeze" (2011-03-19) Install CD1 (GNOME) for i386 and x86_64
    • Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.1 "squeeze" (2011-03-19) Install CD1 (KDE) for i386 and x86_64
    • Elive 2.1.35 beta (2013-03-30) for i386
    • Fedora 18 "Spherical Cow" (2013-01-15) GNOME install editions for i686 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • Fedora 12 "Constantine" (2009-11-08) for PowerPC (1 DVD) and 12 "Constantine" beta (2010-04-20) for SPARC (1 DVD)
    • FreeBSD 9.0-RELEASE (2012-01-02) for i386 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • Gentoo Linux 11.0 (2011-03-08) Installable LiveDVD for i686 and x86_64 and 2007.0 Universal (2007-05-07) for PowerPC
    • GParted Live 0.12.1-5 (2012-05-20) for i386
    • grml 2012.05 (2012-05-29) dual-arch i586/x86_64
    • Kademar Linux v. 4.9.5 "Escritorio" (2011-03-01) DVD for i586 and x86_64
    • Kanotix 2013 (2013-3-05) dual-arch i686/x86_64
    • Knoppix 7.0.5 DVD (2012-12-22) for i486
    • Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" (2012-04-26) Combined Desktop/Alternate Disks for i386 and x86_64 (1 DVD each) and Alternate Disks for i386 and x86_64 (1 CD each)
    • Kubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" (2010-04-29) Alternate Disks for i386 and x86_64 and Netbook Disk
    • Lubuntu 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" Alternate Disks (2012-04-26) for i686 and x86_64 and Desktop Disk (2012-04-26) for i686
    • Mageia v. 2 (2012-05-22) for i586 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • Mandriva Linux Free 2010.0 (2009-11-03) x86_64 (1 DVD) and Mandriva Linux Free 2010.0 (2009-11-03) dual-arch i586/x86_64 (1 CD)
    • Mandriva Linux Free 2010.1 Spring (2010-07-08) for i586 (1 DVD)
    • Mandriva Linux One GNOME 2009.1 live CD (2009-04-29) for i586 1CD) and Mandriva Linux One KDE 2009.1 live CD (2009-04-29) for i586 (1CD) plus second CD
    • SimplyMEPIS 11.0 (2011-05-05) for i586 and x86_64
    • Linux Mint 14.1 "Nadia" Mate and Cinnamon DVDs (2012-11-20) for i386 and x86_64 (1 DVD each), 14 "Nadia" XFCE DVDs (2012-12-21) for i386 and x86_64 (1 DVD each), and 14 "Nadia" KDE DVDs (2012-12-23) for i386 and x86_64
    • Linux Mint Debian Edition 201303 MATE 1.4/Cinnamon 1.6 (2013-03-22) for i686 and x86_64(1 DVD each)
    • MintPPC 9 LXDE (2010-10-08) for PowerPC
    • NetBSD 5.0.2 (2010-02-06) for i386, x86_64, Mac PowerPC, SPARC32, and SPARC64
    • OpenBSD 4.8 install disk (2010-11-01) for i386 and x86_64
    • Parted Magic 2012_06_07 (2012-06-07) for i386
    • PC-BSD 9.0 "Isotope" (2010-07-20) for i686
    • PCLinuxOS 2011.07 Phoenix XFCE (2011-07-18( for i586 (1 CD), 2011.06 KDE (2011-06-27) for i586 (1 CD), 2010.12 KDE Full Monty (2010-12-19) for i586 (1 DVD), and 2010.12 GNOME (2010-12-19) for i586
    • PCLinuxOS 2010.07 LXDE and Phoenix XFCE (2010-12-19) for i586 (1 CD each)
    • Puppy Linux 5.2.5 (2011-04-01) for i386
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 (2009-01-20) Server Edition DVD for i386 and x86_64, and Client Edition DVD for i386 and x86_64.
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (2007-03-15) Server Edition for i386 (5 CDs) and x86_64 (6 CDs) and Client Edition for i386 (6 CDs) and x86_65 (7 CDs)
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 ES Update 4 (2006-08-10) for i386 and x86_64 (5 CDs each)
    • SabayonLinux 3.2.6 (2007-01-08) for i586 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • Semplice Linux 3.0.0 build 300.5 "Pulse (2013-02-02) for i386 and x86_64
    • Siduction 12.2.5 "Paint It Black" Development Release GNOME Edition (2012-12-23) for i386 and x86_64
    • Siduction 12.2.0 "Riders on the Storm" LXDE, KDE, XFCE, and Razor-Qt Editions (2012-12-09) for i386 and x86_64
    • Slackware 13.37 (2011-04-28) for i486 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • OpenSolaris 2009.06 Live CD (2009-06-01) for i386 and x86_64
    • SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 (2009-03-24) for i686 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1 (2007-06-18) for i686 (1 DVD)
    • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 (2006-07-17) for i686 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • OpenSUSE 12.3 (2013-03-13) for i686 and x86_64 (1 DVD each), 11.1 (2008-12-18) for PowerPC (1 DVD), and 12.3 Non-Open-Source Add-ons disk for i586 and x86_64 bi-arch (1 CD)
    • SystemRescueCd by Francois Dupoux 2.8.0 (2012-06-10) for i586
    • Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS "Precise Pangolin" (2013-02-14) DVD Edition for i386 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" (2012-04-26) Server Disk for i386 and Alternate Disks for i386 and x86_64.
    • Ubuntu 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" (2012-04-26) Alternate Disk for PowerPC
    • Ubuntu 10.04 "Lucid Lynx" Desktop Disks for PowerPC
    • Ultimate Boot CD 5.0.3 (2010-08-25) for i386
    • Ultimate Edition 2.8 (2010-10-19) for i386 and x86_64 (1 DVD each)
    • Xubuntu 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" (2012-04-26) Alternate Disks for i386 and x86_64 (1 CD each)
    • Xubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" (2011-02-18) Desktop Disks for i386 and x86_64 (1 CD each)
    • Xubuntu 10.04 "Lucid Lynx" (2011-02-18) Alternate Disk for PowerPC (1 DVD)
    • Yoper 2010.1 "Dresden Reloaded" (2010-07-24) XFCE and KDE4 editions for i686
    • Yoper 2010.1 "Dresden" (2010-05-01) LXDE and KDE3 editions for i686


    • Borland Kylix Open Edition 3.0 for i386 Linux
    • Corel WordPerfect 8.0 Download Personal Edition for i386 Linux
    • Microsoft NetShow 2.00 build 2.51 (2000-05-23) for i386 Linux

    All of the above are believed to be lawfully redistributable in (at least) non-commercial venues, except as indicated. Be aware that some distributions (e.g., SUSE, Yellow Dog Linux, KRUD, Xandros Desktop OS,) offer for sale (e.g., on the shelves at Microcenter) as non-publicly-distributable boxed sets with many more disks, more-recent versions, or both. Likewise, the OpenSolaris disk (from "Project Indiana") is encumbered by third-party rights and so has components under a proprietary "OpenSolaris Binary License". Anyway: The above are publicly-distributable sets, only.

    (Technically, Corel never gave general permission to redistribute WordPerfect 8.0 DPE for Linux, but they don't seem to mind. Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle), on the other hand, did mind about unauthorised redistribution of StarOffice 5.x/6.0/7.0, which is why they're not listed above. (The point is, at any given time, there is always some proprietary software for Linux that is not lawful for CABAL to redistribute, and we don't.)

    Do I need to RSVP for your next meeting/installfest?

    No, but they're welcome. If you have a problem-child machine or special situation, the extra time helps us research options for you.

    Do you sell GNU/Linux distributions?

    No, we don't offer anything for sale. Sometimes, we have spare GNU/Linux CDs to give away, but basically everything you'll see is our personal property. We're not a business, and aren't selling anything; we're all volunteers.

    Where do you recommend buying a GNU/Linux distribution?

    Locally, the big software stores nowadays tend to carry at least a couple of the bigger-name GNU/Linux boxed sets. However, Central Computer, Microcenter, and Fry's carry decent local selections.

    If you're an experienced GNU/Linux installer, and don't want to pay boxed-set prices for nice, friendly printed manuals with "Don't Panic" on the front, bundled technical-support contracts, etc., then you can buy $2.50 single-CD sets from many mail order sources, including (Linux Central), (Cheapbytes / Linux System Labs), and (MadTux). What you get for $2.50 is a single, binary-only CD (no source code) in a paper sleeve. By the way, it's never just $2.50, since you tend to incur an exorbitant shipping fee (but not generally for eLucis), plus sales tax (where applicable).

    The above-cited companies also sell bundles of the basic CD plus good tutorial books such as Running Linux by Matt Welsh, Lar Kaufman, Terry Dawson, and Matthias Kalle Dalheimer, 4th edition, from O'Reilly & Associates. They also sell multi-CD or DVD sets (US $13 to $32) that let you try out several GNU/Linux distributions to find out which ones you like.

    You guys use the address "", a lot. Whom does that reach?

    Currently, Rick Moen and Duncan MacKinnon. One or both will write you back.

    But there is no Cabal.
    There's nothing to see here.
    Please move along.
    These are not the droids you're looking for.

    Can you help me install GNU/Linux on my PowerMac? DEC Alpha? 68k Mac? Netwinder? VAX? IBM 390 mainframe? Super Nintendo?

    Let's be realistic, OK? GNU/Linux has been ported to lots and lots of computers, large and small. We'll try to help you with any, but we don't know all of them. We do have some PowerMac, Alpha, and Netwinder GNU/Linux veterans among us, but check with us to see if such a person can attend.

    Sadly, we mostly know garden-variety Intel IA32/x86_64-type PCs. If you're religiously devoted to something else, please don't hurt us: We'll be delighted to learn alongside you.

    Is it OK if I bring my defective/broken/incomplete PC to the meeting/installfest, and have you guys fix it?

    No. You are perhaps confusing our event with a computer-hardware workshop: We're a GNU/Linux user group. If you bring a PC with hardware problems, we will briefly commiserate with you, and then move on to the next attendee.

    Can CABAL help me with my MS-Windows/MacOS software problems?

    Yes! We have a handy utility called /sbin/fdisk that will prevent such software from ever bothering you again.

    Do I really have to bring my monitor?

    You betcha, bro'. We probably won't have a spare, and you risk burning out your monitor if the X Window System is set up without it being present to check against. (LCD panels appear to not be vulnerable to this risk, by the way.)

    It's best not to count on us furnishing a suitable keyboard and mouse, either. Show up with just your system unit, and we may not be able to help you.

    How long does GNU/Linux installation take?

    As little as 1/2 hour, depending. Most people forget to do some of our recommended advance preparation, have to fumble a bit setting up their machines, or just like to take their time and ask lots of questions. So, more typically, it's 1-2 hours. And then, there are sometimes people who arrive with problem or broken hardware. That can take longer.

    Things that can stretch out installs to many hours:

    • Multi-OS boot setups.
    • "Non-destructive repartitioning" (or de-fragmenting) of existing drive contents.
    • Small (sub-4GB) hard drives.
    • Marginal/defective hardware.
    • Laptops for which the owner has not brought relevant printouts from
    • Master Boot Record damage from MS-Windows viruses.
    • Low-RAM (sub-256 MB) machines.
    • Installation-crucial USB devices.

    Is there a prize for reading this whole darned FAQ?

    Yes! Anyone compulsive enough to read this whole FAQ consecutively, the way you have, is exactly our kind of person. Congratulations! Mention that to CABAL's organisers, and they'll definitely have something for you. And, who knows? You may have already been assimilated.

    CABAL's meeting/installfests are too far for me to travel (or I want to find one ASAP!). Where/when else are installfests held?

    Although we hold them only in Menlo Park, the greater Bay Area also features regular installfests run by LUGOD, NBLUG, SacLUG, SlugLUG, and SVLUG.

Last modified: Wed May 11 23:05:04 PDT 2011

Copyright © 2000-2009 Rick Moen,
(GNU/Linux and *BSD user groups may borrow freely.)