Archive for » mars, 2000 «

About this site

Well, I wanted to have my own website because when being away overseas, e-mail is the only way for my friends to reach me, at least from time to time. And once the e-mail system was up and running, it was easy to use that same machine to set up a small website. I didn’t felt comfortable using one of those free e-mail services such Hotmail because of confidentiality and reliability issues. I’m also carrying on Serendipity an old Tadpole P1300 laptop computer running both Microsoft Windows and Slackware Linux, as well as a Nokia 9110 Communicator, to get my e-mail and update the logbook.

You may find this website poorly designed and with very few graphics. I’ve intentionally left out almost all the frills as I’m not a professional web designer and I didn’t have much time to spend on that but also because the main design goal was to be as functional as possible across the broadest base of browsers. To this end I did not use any advanced features that are dependent on the browsers. These include JAVA, JavaScript, VBScript, or any other scripting language. All processing is done at the server. Testing was done with the latest browsers as well as with very old or text browsers such NCSA Mosaic or Lynx. If you notice any odd behaviour, errors or annoyances on this website, feel free to contact me. Some of the graphics and design ideas came from Yves le Houerf, from Bleu T.

As you can guess, English is not my mother tongue (I’m French), but I thought that in order to share my experience with more people, writing this website in English was a must. If you do find spelling, grammar or typo mistakes, please let me know.

Why the domain name « »? This is because a few years ago (1996) I had the project of setting up a commercial website (and I never found the time to do it) so I was looking for a name, simple, easy to recall, and with the same spelling across several languages e.g. English, French. So I found and registered « ». For those of you who don’t know what a diapason is, it’s a tuning fork. If you like that name, and if you are willing to spend big bucks to have it, I might sell it to you. I’m not venal, but maintaining a boat is bloody expensive! By the way, if you feel having a sponsor soul, I’d be pleased to hear how I could make you happy!

So, let’s talk now about the boring stuff for techies:

The hardware is a Sun SPARCstation 20/712MP with two SuperSPARC-II 75 MHz / 1 Mb cache processors, 256 Mb of RAM, and two 4.2 Gb mirrored disks (RAID-1). This is the fourth system I’m running as the first was not powerful enough (a Sun SPARCstation IPX), the second one had a disk failure (a Sun SPARCstation 20/712MP again) after two years of operation, and the third one was quite unstable (a Sun SPARCstation 5/170). You may also have noticed that the hostname is « Garfield » as I’m just *MAD* about cats! I bought those systems from the French broker Eurinco. If you need Sun systems or spares, this is a good place to go. I didn’t want a PC as in my opinion a Sun SPARCstation is far more reliable, and not so expensive if you buy an old one. This is also true for many other Unix workstations vendors e.g. SGI (formerly Silicon Graphics). Okay, you won’t get the same processing power than a big Pentium, but what’s more important for a production system, reliability or power?

An operating system within the Unix family was no matter what the only right choice for security and reliability. That Sun SPARCstation was factory delivered with Solaris 1.1C (aka SunOS 4.1.3 Rev.C) or Solaris 2.3 but those systems were really too old to be secure enough. I first used Debian GNU/Linux but the kernel was not well optimized for the SPARC architecture at that stage, and I always found Linux a bit « messy » compared to the BSD family tree. So I switched after a couple of months to OpenBSD because of its excellent reputation and I truly loved it. But then I changed systems and OpenBSD did not support my new dual processor box so I had to install Solaris 2.6 (SunOS 5.6). Then again, because of a disk failure, I changed the system for a single processor box and moved back to OpenBSD 3.0. Finally, for the last and current system, Solaris is back with version 8. Hopefully I won’t have to change it for a while… What a pain !

I‘m also running Apache as HTTP server, University of Washington’s IMAP/POPTWIGMySQLPHP and OpenSSL for the private e-mail system, as well as Perl and MHonArc to publish my logbook. « Vi » was the main HTML authoring tool 😉

The system is hooked up to Terra Proxyma, a French computer engineering company, ran by a friend of mine, and permanently accessible from the Internet through a high speed leased line. When I’m away, system administration is taken care of by Philippe Mackowiak and François-Xavier Peretmere. Please contact them BOTH if you notice something wrong here, thank you!


SERENDIPITY (from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd Edition)

The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

[From the characters in the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, from Persian Sarandip, Sri Lanka, from Arabic Sarandib]

Word history: We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for coining the word serendipity. In one of his 3,000 or more letters, on which his literary reputation rests, and specifically in a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that « this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word. » Perhaps the word itself came to him by serendipity. Walpole formed the world on an old name for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of a « silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip; as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of … One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for comes under this description) was of my Lard Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Claredon’s, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table. »

SERENDIPITY (from the Oxford English Dictionary)

f. Serendip, a former name for Sri Lanka + -ity. A word coined by Horace Walpole, who says (Let. to Mann, 28 Jan. 1754) that he had formed it upon the title of the fairy-tale `The Three Princes of Serendip’, the heroes of which `were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of’.

The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. Also, the fact or an instance of such a discovery. Formerly rare, this word and its derivatives have had wide currency in the 20th century.

* 1955 Sci. Amer. Apr. 92/1 Our story has as its critical episode one of those coincidences that show how discovery often depends on chance, or rather on what has been called `serendipity’-the chance observation falling on a receptive eye.

* 1971 S. E. Morison European Discovery Amer.: Northern Voy. i. 3 Columbus and Cabot..(by the greatest serendipity of history) discovered America instead of reaching the Indies.

* 1980 TWA Ambassador Oct. 47/2 It becomes a glum bureaucracy, instead of the serendipity of 30 people putting out a magazine.



* 1939 Joyce Finnegans Wake 191 You..semisemitic serendipitist, you (thanks, I think that describes you) Europasianised Afferyank!

* 1968 Punch 13 Nov. 684/1 There are the financial serendipitists, the men blessed monetarily by a fortunate law.

Builder: Bénéteau (Saint Hilaire de Riez – France)

Model: Océanis 411 Clipper (first launched in September 1997)

Designer: Groupe Finot

EEC design category: A

Hull number: 349

Building date: September 15, 1999 (Year 2000 model)

Delivery date: October 9, 1999

Length overall (LOA): 41’7″ (12.71 m)

Length of hull: 40’5″ (12.34 m)

Length of waterline (LWL): 36’1″ (11.00 m)

Beam: 12’9″ (3.95 m)

Head room: 58’50 » (17.83 m)

Draft: 5’6″ (1.70 m)

Light displacement: 18,700 lbs (8,500 kg)

Ballast: 5,500 lbs (2,500 kg)

Sail area: 893 sq ft (83 m2)

Main sail: 31.5 m2

Furling genoa: 51.5 m2

Spinnaker: 101 m2

Gross tonnage (G.R.T.): 17.39 t

Service power: 12 V – 420 Ah

Fuel tank: 39.68 US gal (150 lit)

Water tanks: 145.50 US gal (550 lit)

Engine: Volvo Penta MD22L diesel 37 kW (50 hp)

Plan 1

Plan 2

Serendipity 1

Serendipity 2

Serendipity 3

Serendipity 4

Serendipity 5

Serendipity 6

Serendipity 7

Beneteau 1

Beneteau 2

Beneteau 3


I didn’t have time to finish some pages of my web site before my departure. This is one of them ! As I’m carrying a notebook with me, I’ll do my best to update at some stage this site. Anyway, the main purpose of this server is to keep updated my friends of my progress, instead of sending tens of e-mails or postcards, so I suggest you to have a look to my logbook.

As you are curious, here is a couple of pictures of me :

Happiness is easy ! That picture was taken by the end of April 99 on the Beneteau First 38 « Pepette » that belongs to my sailing club. What you can’t see here is that a couple of hours earlier, we were night crossing the British Channel in a gale and I can’t remember of a passage where I was so much seasick !

Picture of Georges on Pepette
That one was taken in a Beneteau Oceanis 321 « Pendruc » by mid June 99, somewhere between the south coast of Brittany and the island of Belle Ile.

Picture of Georges on Pendruc