[conspire] (forw) [Balug-admin] CABAL, BALUG, and the late Robert Austin Co.

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Jun 9 16:46:51 PDT 2005

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Thu, 9 Jun 2005 16:44:14 -0700
To: balug-admin-balug.org at lists.balug.org, webmaster at balug.org
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
Subject: [Balug-admin] CABAL, BALUG, and the late Robert Austin Co.

Short version:  Robert Austin Company has bit the dust, giving us an
opportunity and motive to fix up a lingering mess on the BALUG pages.
Suggested fix is eliminate mention of RobAusCo (and related directions &
map) and link to CABAL meetings as "meeting/installfests".

Long version:  

Long-time BALUG people will remember the 100% Linux-based CoffeeNet
Internet cafe in SoMa.  I helped build the place, and lived in an
apartment over it.  A lot of the Bay Area Linux community revolved
around that building.

Another tenant at the building, in a downstairs room behind the coffee
house, starting '94, was San Francisco PC User Group.  SFpcUG was a
disaster as a tenant and moved out in '97, but had one very successful
SIG, the Linux SIG, that met in SFpcUG's room twice a month (2nd and 4th
Saturdays, 4 PM).

When SFpcUG pulled out, the new tenant, Don Marti and Jim Gleason's
open source consulting firm Electric Lichen LLC, didn't want a group
mostly devoted to legacy proprietary software (i.e., SFpcUG) meeting in
its office.  But I ensured that Linux meetings kept occuring at the
SIG's regular times.  The same people (including me) attended, in fact:
The only thing different was that it was no longer under SFpcUG.

Since all of the SIG people attended BALUG meetings, we decided we were
an unofficial BALUG SIG -- and BALUG didn't mind.  We started holding
installfests in the CoffeeNet building and elsewhere, as described here:

Enter the Robert Austin Company (RobAusCo), a small firm that put on
weekend computer (retail) swap meets ("shows") at the Cow Palace and
Oakland Convention Center.  RobAusCo CEO Mike Lord was a frequent
CoffeeNet customer, was very impressed by it, and tried to talk
CoffeeNet proprietor Richard Couture into operating mini-CoffeeNets
inside Robert Austin shows.  Richard considered this impractical and
declined, but suggested Lord speak to the Linux SIG.  He did, and
proposed that we do Linux lectures inside his firm's computer shows.  

We did that, but also talked him into letting us do "Linux installfests"
there, which were a big success:  Some 5000 members per day of the
general computing public, while shopping for cheap hardware/software,
would encounter deliberately flamboyant Linux systems and community
volunteers -- at a time when few mainstream PC users knew of Linux.  The
installfests were very successful at getting the word out to the
_uninitiated_ -- in contrast to the (worthwhile!) installfests put on by
SVLUG, NBLUG, CalLUG, SlugLUG, SacLUG, and LUGOD, which strictly
preached to the choir, and which we also assisted.  

Our installfests were billed as BALUG events, initially, and listed
on BALUG's Web site.  However, the SIG acquired a name of its own in
1998, when we scheduled an installfest but were infromed by BALUG
webmaster Cyndy Fire Eisner that she couldn't list our event because
BALUG president Arthur Tyde was out of the country and couldn't be
reached to approve it.  After some thinking, we asked Cydny if she would
have any problem listing a non-BALUG event, and she said no, so we used
Duncan MacKinnon's suggestion of "Consortium of All Bay Area Linux"
(CABAL) in honour of our staffing installfests all over the Bay Area --
and that became the umbrella name for all subsequent SIG events
including its twice-monthly meetings, although we retained our loose
affiliation with BALUG.  CABAL was run at the time by Duncan, Mike
Higashi, and Doug Lym.

Starting March 1998, with the release of Mozilla, and especially
September 1998, when almost all SQL database vendors suddenly announced
imminent shipment of Linux versions (after Informix broke the dam),
suddenly just about _every_ general computerist had heard of Linux.
Gradually it became apparent from the changed reaction to our presence
at RobAusCo shows that our motive for holding installfests there had
largely evaporate:  That PR battle had been conclusively won.  We kept
holding installfests intermittantly through 2003, but with decreasing
frequency.  (It's a major hassle for a team of Linux volunteers to get
up early on a Saturday, pack a large amount of gear into boxes, drive to
Daly City or Oakland, pay for parking, unpack and drag our gear in, sit
at the installfest tables for six hours sipping bad coffee, and then
shlep everything back when the show closes at 4 PM.)

Meanwhile, with the CoffeeNet building shutting down in July 2000, I
moved residences to my present house in west Menlo Park, and offered
CABAL emergency meeting space there while it tried to find substitute
meeting space in San Francisco.  It never did find such space, and so
became a de-facto Peninsula LUG, even though it remained in theory a San
Francisco-based one.  Each of the twice-monthly meetings at my house
effectively _is_ an installfest, as it features lots of table space,
network and power drops, etc., and people bring computers to install /
tweak Linux on.

About a month ago, I heard that RobAusCo had folded.  The firm's Web
site (http://www.robertaustin.com/) still exists and claims the firm is
"On Vacation", but that appears to be wishful thinking, as all of the
company's listed telephone numbers have been disconnected.  It's gone to
meet its maker.  It is no more.  It is an ex-firm.

The "lingering mess" relates to what has been resulting from BALUG's
(much appreciated!) front-page link to CABAL regarding installfests:  We
get a _lot_ of e-mailed queries, but they inevitably start out by asking
when is the next installfest, obliging us to explain, over and over,
that the querent should just bring his/her PC to the next regular CABAL
meeting in Menlo Park, and that it's much nicer there than at RobAusCo
venues anyway.  It sometimes takes a while to get across the concept.

What I think we should do:

CABAL site:  Change all the reference to "meetings" to say
"meeting/installfest".  Heck, that's what they really are, anyway.

BALUG site:  Expunge "Robert Austin Show" references, and ditto driving
directions and map to RobAusCo sites.  Substitute direct reference to 
the BALUG-affiliated CABAL meeting/installfests.

Thanks for your patience in slogging through this explanation and

Balug-admin-balug.org mailing list
Balug-admin-balug.org at lists.balug.org

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