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 « Diapason.com »? 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 « Diapason.com ». 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!

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