Creative Naming Schemes
October 24, 2012 8:25 PM   Subscribe

A good naming scheme is scalable, unique, and easy to remember. The purpose of these naming schemes is to name networked servers, wireless access points or client computers, but it can also be used to name projects, products, variables, streets, pets, kids, or any other project where unique names and rememberable names are required.
posted by TangerineGurl (120 comments total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
 
My nonfictional computers are named after fictional computers.
posted by helicomatic at 8:35 PM on October 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


I once found an amazing list of these. I'm bad at bookmarking things, though: I assumed (incorrectly) that I'd be able to remember the URL when I needed it. It was at a site with a simple technical name (null.org or something). I've considered posting a question about it to ask.metafilter.com, but I've already tried Googling it based on names that I distinctly remember being on the list, and at this point I have to assume that the site is actually gone.

Hopefully this can take its place in my mind, and I can put that particular worry to rest.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 8:45 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of fictional computers, the list of psychotic computers is pretty awesome.

My desktop's name has been Toaster ever since I watched BSG
and my laptop's name is named after Eve from WALL-E
posted by Strass at 8:45 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are THAT many breeds of cows?? Who knew !!
posted by seawallrunner at 8:46 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(The list I referred to was specifically a list of naming schemes grouped by number of members.)

(These days I mainly name things after ponies.)
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 8:49 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


My classroom at City College of San Francisco has its computers named after Simpsons characters, complete with pictures of each character.

It makes me want to snoop the other classrooms to see what they have, catalog it all and post the info to the Net.
posted by KindredCoda at 8:55 PM on October 24, 2012


The beans list is missing Heyoka. Fail.

Also, some of these single malts are missing the obligatory “The”.
posted by erniepan at 8:55 PM on October 24, 2012


In college, there was a contest to come up with names for a new set of print servers. My entries were all food-related:

Doughnuts: cruller, glazed, powdered, jelly, boston creme, sprinkles, sugar raised...
Egg preparations: scrambled, poached, fried, overeasy, hardboiled, softboiled, sunnyside up...

I didn't win :(
posted by Mallenroh at 8:59 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damnit. I thought I was the only one who named my computers after Muppets, and then switched to psychotic AIs when I ran out* of Muppets.

These lists are cool, but I'm now feeling like I'm sorely lacking in originality.

My current PC is named Wheatley. My next one will either be 'spaceCore' or 'WOPR.'

*This happened before the list was compiled. Turns out, I hadn't run out of Muppets.
posted by schmod at 9:05 PM on October 24, 2012


I name my partitions after countries:
danmark, nippon, island (thumb drive), wa (the ancient name for japan, for backups)
And my servers/computers after synonyms for the word "antique":
antique, relic, monument
posted by azarbayejani at 9:16 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


My current cat is Millie. I expect future cats to include Mega (female), Pico (male), Yocto and Zepto (brothers, preferably orange), Kilo (female, as established on Dollhouse), Terra (female), Peta (undecided), and Deci (male, pronounced Desi).

...I expect to have a lot of cats.
posted by maryr at 9:16 PM on October 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


Massachusetts rivers. My favorite was "assabet". But I wish we had gone with bodies of water in general so we could have named one of our host "chaubunagungamaug".
posted by benito.strauss at 9:16 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


After doing this for years at cisco (we're talking hundreds of themed development racks here) people started getting a bit punchy.

And that is why I can now spell Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Chlamydia without having to look them up.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:21 PM on October 24, 2012 [30 favorites]


Remember kids, make sure your servernames don't include any executables in your $PATH (easier said than done in Linux).
posted by benzenedream at 9:26 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The servers for remote login to MIT's Athena computer system (that is to say, SSH) are all named for famous MIT hacks. Let's see, there was ten-thousand-dollar-bill.mit.edu, mint-square.mit.edu, magic-eight-ball.mit.edu, biohazard-cafe.mit.edu, department-of-alchemy.mit.edu, and others I can't remember.
posted by maryr at 9:29 PM on October 24, 2012


My naming scheme is races in Star Control. Or rather, Star Control II.

I stretch it out by counting Zok, Fot, and Pik as separate races.
posted by ckape at 9:30 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Remember kids, make sure your servernames don't include any executables in your $PATH (easier said than done in Linux).

Which is worse: that I didn't know this until now, or that I figured out how to exploit it before three more comments had been posted?
posted by spacewrench at 9:30 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the late 80s at my junor high I noticed one of printers (an Apple ImageWriter) was named Thundarr, which I thought was an odd misspelling. Then I saw the other two were Ariel and Oolka....
posted by IAmDrWorm at 9:34 PM on October 24, 2012


How...human of you. My names begin with 192.168.
posted by Goofyy at 9:40 PM on October 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


I use goddesses or gods of writing, language, or messenges, with a general preference to the Near East. (More about concept and less about spellability, given my old archaeology degree.)
posted by cobaltnine at 9:44 PM on October 24, 2012


I'm boring and name my computers after their principle user and computer type: sfred-air, sfred-netbook, etc. However, I name partitions and hard drives after philosophers and sociologists of science: Popper, Kuhn, Latour, Lakatos, etc.
posted by sfred at 9:48 PM on October 24, 2012


I interviewed at a company who used superheros for the release cycles, which was fun. I recently decided that I'd use cheeses for copy in my wireframes, eg: Bob Camembert, Sarah Port-Salut, Kevin Stilton, Amanda Wensleydale. Mmm, cheese.
posted by TheDonF at 9:51 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of sad that the places I've worked at are far beyond the scalability threshold of naming schemes like this. It's been some variation of [datacenter]-[function][number] for me for many years.
posted by flaterik at 9:54 PM on October 24, 2012


I'm kind of sad that the places I've worked at are far beyond the scalability threshold of naming schemes like this. It's been some variation of [datacenter]-[function][number] for me for many years.

Yeah, it definitely works better in a lab than in a large deployment.

Still if you have favorite hosts there's always CNAMEs.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:57 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


MIT public computer labs had printers named homer, hesiod, pindar, etc. back when I was there in 2001-2005.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:59 PM on October 24, 2012


I love coming up with overly specific criteria for these. We had a set of computers in a room that I decided should be named for musicians. Musicians of the 1970s. Musicians with stage names of the 1970s. The two-syllable first name ending with the "ee" sound of musicians with stage names of the 1970s.

Johnny, Bootsy, Ozzy and Lemmy were the four we used, with Polly and Freddie on standby, and basically every single Ramone as backup. Iggy was vetoed by my coworker, and I would have vetoed Geddy had he thought of it.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:01 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of sad that the places I've worked at are far beyond the scalability threshold of naming schemes like this. It's been some variation of [datacenter]-[function][number] for me for many years.

Well, don't feel too bad. As was explained to me by a few people at the last conference I went to, there's two kinds of approaches to system design. Pets, and cattle. Cattle, when things go wrong you kill them, and get a new one. Pets, you give them cute names and nurse them back to health when they get ill.

The real question to me then, under a cattle nomenclature like nyc-web01, do you reuse the names, or start counting up?
posted by pwnguin at 10:01 PM on October 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


For a while I had a Black Company naming scheme. Primary DC was DOMIN8TR, secondary DC was THELADY. Other servers were selected from The Ten Who Were Taken (MOONBITR) or other, lesser Taken, like BLISTER. If you want a proxy server, you need CATCHER.

I had a logging server named CROAKER, naturally. Heavy wizardry was on GOBLIN or ONEEYE.
posted by adipocere at 10:05 PM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The real question to me then, under a cattle nomenclature like nyc-web01, do you reuse the names, or start counting up?

No, the real question is do you start at 1 or 0 ?

Also, when you get to 9, do you go to A(hex) so as to preserve character count, or do you prefix the first 10 with a 0 ?

Also - Obligatory XKCD
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:08 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


My first iPad was named Leibniz, because it was not a Newton. When I was unsure what to name the second iPad, a friend suggested Descartes, and it stuck. This probably means the next one will be Spinoza, and I guess I can deal with that.

My iPhones have been named The for a couple generations now. Aside from the inevitable confusion while transitioning from the old one to the new one (if you plug both in the computer can tell them apart, but will you ever be really sure which one you are about to wipe and reset?), it's become convenient in its way.
posted by ardgedee at 10:14 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The real question to me then, under a cattle nomenclature like nyc-web01, do you reuse the names, or start counting up?

In the systems I've been working with, we needed 3 or 4 digits in the number part... And deploys are quite standardized at that point; if there's a problem with an individual machine it's hardware. DCOps will replace parts if they're replaceable, or the whole chassis if not.

My personal workstations are pets. My servers are cattle.
posted by flaterik at 10:14 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn’t know this was a thing with a name, but I’m glad. I name all my computers and drives after favorite movies. All song ideas come from a list of fake martial arts moves I got somewhere, beats and sounds are fake martial arts characters; male for percussion, female for sounds and melodies. I just copy and paste from the list. It gets really old naming songs "sexy slow jam 21".
posted by bongo_x at 10:16 PM on October 24, 2012


That is a lot of slow, sexy jams though.
posted by maryr at 10:22 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can there really ever be enough?
posted by bongo_x at 10:27 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I use dead video game characters. It started when I was in mourning for some Tales of Symphonia characters who I loved dearly and I stuck with it. That's mostly just for virtual machines, though. (My current one is Jenkins; I installed it to play Mass Effect on, so it seemed appropriate.)
posted by NoraReed at 10:31 PM on October 24, 2012


I've always liked Ulmus, Cornus, Thuja, Larix, Quercus, Tilia, Salix, Nyssa, Rhus, Sophora, Acer, Tsuga, Carya, and the like.
posted by vitia at 10:32 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


My current naming scheme is three-letter Scrabble words. They can be typed quickly. I'm starting with three-letter tree words (oak, fir, ash), but when I run out I'll pick something else.
posted by grouse at 10:37 PM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


My first sysadmin used characters from the Iliad, and there was a system: Agamemnon and Menelaus were paired servers, Achilles had some other significance. When we moved companies, we decided on satellite names. I chose mostly Soviet ones: Oko, Rokot, etc. At the Open Computing Facility at UCB in the mid-90’s, they used disasters like tornado, planecrash, tsunami, etc.
posted by migurski at 10:46 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used gemstones for some years. I had amethyst, emerald, jade, obsidian, and topaz in my 300 square foot house back in the mid 90s. There was another, an RS/6000, but I don't remember what it was called any more. Amethyst is the only one still going. In a vastly different form, though. It started out as a 386SX with 4MB of memory and a 40MB hard drive. Now it's a Core 2 Duo with 8GB of memory and 3.5TB of disk.

I still have emerald's hard drive sitting around here somewhere, but I'd have to buy an IDE-USB adapter to use it now that I don't have any computers with IDE ports any more.
posted by wierdo at 10:47 PM on October 24, 2012


In the linguistics department where I'm studying, the computers used to be named after Mesoamerican langauges. The main login server was quiche, and it took me embarrassingly long to realize they meant the language and not the food.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:50 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I name mine after U.S. political scandals (so far: watergate, teapot, yellowcake, and monica the Raspberry Pi).

There seems to be no shortage of those.
posted by neckro23 at 10:53 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In college, there was a contest to come up with names for a new set of print servers. My entries were all food-related:

Doughnuts: cruller, glazed, powdered, jelly, boston creme, sprinkles, sugar raised...
Egg preparations: scrambled, poached, fried, overeasy, hardboiled, softboiled, sunnyside up...

I didn't win :(
--Mallenroh

That's because a lot of them are adjectives. It is really awkward to refer to objects with adjectives:

"Scrambled crashed last night. Can I borrow glazed?"
IT guy "Am I awake? I know he's saying something but I just can't make it out."
posted by eye of newt at 10:56 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


my first IT job, when the workstations were these giant heavy gateway towers that had less processing power and memory than my iPod.. we used planets

the things were crazy unreliable. I was looking at the names trying to remember which solar object I had, but I rebuilt my machine so many different times with so many spare parts from other failed planets that I lost track.
posted by ninjew at 11:07 PM on October 24, 2012


I did characters from Proust for awhile (gilberte, odette, albertine....)

My favorite scheme was something they used where my wife worked: things you don't want to find in your basement. All I remember of that now though is spiders, dryrot, and corpse.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:07 PM on October 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh man if I'm ever in charge of a computer lab they're all getting named after prepositions.

A: "Rough day at work?"
B: "Yeah, through is down again, in is off, and it seems like up still can't get through to back except via along."
A: ...
B: "At least down is back up. And I think there's still a backup of through over on across."
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:08 PM on October 24, 2012 [56 favorites]


My devices are all named after Dickens characters.

So far:

Chuzzlewit
Larkins
Dorrit
Gummidge
posted by mynameisluka at 11:08 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


At my old print-shop job, I convinced folks to name the three b/w printers I ran Moe, Larry, and Curly, and when we ran over onto another, it was Shemp.

I've been naming any nameable hardware of mine (including USB keys) after Night Watch characters for a few years now. I named my old computer Zawulon. The external terabyte drive is Svetka, the newer computer is Nadya. I don't anticipate running out of Others for a while.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:21 PM on October 24, 2012


I name my devices after monsters. Gojira, Kong, Grendel, Gizmo.
posted by brundlefly at 11:26 PM on October 24, 2012


One of the many indicators Dr. Jilder and I were meant to hook up was that we both named our computers after greek mythological beings, and scaled them for size and purpose. Gods for computers, nymphs and demigods for small portable devices, monsters and notable relics for peripherals. For example, my last PC was Orpheus (it had been brought back from the dead and mostly used to curate music), my phone is Eurydice (second hand iPhone 3G, saved from the grave) and Lyre for my external hard-drive.
posted by Jilder at 11:35 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Last place I worked that had named servers, they were metals. Silver, Gold, Titanium... I remember that Iron was the really slow clunky one that we didn't use much, which I thought was rather appropriate.
posted by vytae at 11:42 PM on October 24, 2012


A good naming scheme is scalable

That's what Shemp and CurleyJoe are for.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:43 PM on October 24, 2012


A previous company of mine had a couple of different naming schemes in use on the network, depending on what was connected. I think the servers were named after greek and roman gods.

The printers, I remember, were named after trees.
posted by arrjay at 12:05 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


At the SF ad agency where I was a sysadmin/tech support guy in the late 90s (one of two serving 80+ desks, at the peak of the dot-commie boom, plus servers; he did the long-term planning for growth, I did the daily brushfire squelching), we used planets and moons (starting with the more well-known moon names) for most of them. At home, my back porch server farm just had Spanish names for their relative locations to each other (Derecho, etc.), and my personals and their various drives had names from Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters.
posted by Philofacts at 12:06 AM on October 25, 2012


benzenedream: Remember kids, make sure your servernames don't include any executables in your $PATH (easier said than done in Linux).

Could you explain why not?
posted by ltl at 12:36 AM on October 25, 2012


At school, I use a dull but helpful workstation naming scheme based on acquisition date. The fifteenth workstation from the second batch we bought in 2009, which is currently installed in the computer lab, is called 2009-02-15-clab. It's actually quite useful for administrative scripting purposes to know that the last four characters of the machine name will be the same for all machines in any given room, and that machines whose names share the first seven characters are all the same make and model.

At home, my workstations are jellyfish (my Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop, bought in 2001 and still going strong), jellyshot and jellywobble (jellybean and jellybelly having been retired) and my little always-on server is chironex.
posted by flabdablet at 12:38 AM on October 25, 2012


One of Bloomberg's London offices uses (or used) a lot of plant names. Floors have colour-coded lighting depending on the people who work there (purple for installations, yellow for data, green for analytics, orange for developers, and so on). The 'yellow' floor has Mustard and Picallili rooms; the 'green' floor has a Lime room; the 'orange' floor has Orange and Tangerine; the 'red' floor has a Rose room. Breaks down a bit as rooms on the 'purple' floor are named after Italian cities, rooms on the 'blue' floor are named after countries in the British Isles (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland), and rooms in another (colourless) floor are named after planets (and Pluto).
posted by plep at 12:49 AM on October 25, 2012


People who break naming conventions are not nice people.

GLaDOS
Chell
JASONSPC
Wheatley
Atlas

Jason needs to be killed.
posted by fullerine at 1:05 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have a pantheon of Mods. My fast boot drive with the big apps is Jessamyn. My big backup drive is Cortex, MathOwie is a nice portable drive. PB is where the diagnostics live. Nomad and taz are flashdrives. I'm going to have to get some more drives.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:09 AM on October 25, 2012


When I only had a few things to name (partitions and volumes at home) it was easy - the seven arch demons of the old testament.

But now, dealing with a 500+ node production cluster, a 50 node QA cluster and more databases than you can wiggle a stick at... yeah, they are all cattle.
posted by drfu at 1:47 AM on October 25, 2012


In my home, so far:
milliways (continuously upgraded from a 386, currently a core 2 duo)
marvin (a 486 with a bad cache controller)
heartofgold (a Cobalt Qube 2700, on the open internet for 11 years, until the fan died)
zarniwoop
eddie
trillian
arthur
dent
ford
slartibartfast
frogstar
stavro (a Sun Ultra 1E)
mueller (an Ultra 2)
The Guide (a Kindle)
hotblack (Sun Ultra 10)
desiato (same)
...

At this point I've lost track, but db.local still remembers. Also a lot of machines named for whichever geographical feature Intel chose as their code name (glenwood, lakewood, tunnel mountain, canoe pass, strawberry mountain, etc.), but those are just temporary development machines.
posted by atbash at 2:15 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh man, how did I not mention my phone, magrathea?
posted by atbash at 2:16 AM on October 25, 2012


At my old lab, one of the prototypes we built was called Applejack. Mark two was called Blackjack. The third one was called... Cojac.

I lobbied for the fourth version to be Dvořák, but I was overruled. I think they switched to 80s TV detectives and called it Columbo instead.
posted by daisyk at 2:27 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


At work it's cattle with a few exceptions (like hammertime).

I used to love coming up with naming schemes for things but I seem to have fallen out of the habit. Clearly this means I should rename and renumber my home network for kicks.
posted by Skorgu at 3:41 AM on October 25, 2012


Philip K Dick characters
posted by Joe Chip at 3:55 AM on October 25, 2012


(My current one is Jenkins; I installed it to play Mass Effect on, so it seemed appropriate.)

I've been procrastinating from replaying that: Mass Effect in alphabetical order.
posted by ersatz at 4:07 AM on October 25, 2012


Mine are Frank Zappa references. frunobulax, mudshark, pipco, unclemeat...
posted by a.mosquito at 4:31 AM on October 25, 2012


Does no one else do {typeofserver}{next sequence number}? This cute shit drives me nuts in production environments. One of my old companies named servers after employees who had died. Yeah. That was something special. "Rachel fucked up your e-mail delivery again." isn't something you want to tell her fucking best friend. Another IT manager decided to be cute and name a new Windows box Cuyahoga because of the burning toxic wasteland thing, except nobody could fucking spell it to type it in.
posted by odinsdream at 4:54 AM on October 25, 2012


Dude, did you not have "meaningful variable names" beaten into you at school?

One of the things I just had to shake my head about at my old job it was that our "quality" person got apoplectic about the notion of naming our systems. "How is that going to look to the FDA!?!?!?" he would say. It was like he couldn't wrap his head around the idea that names were auto-validating in a way that numbers never could be - that most anyone could tell you that of Missouri, Iowa, New Jersey, Wisconsin, John F Kennedy and Iahdgnag, Iahdgnag was almost certainly not a Navy ship, and if push came to shove, could probably figure out which of the remaining five wasn't a battleship.

So, what we did, was give everything a soulless by design, entirely unmemorable six digit number where blatant errors were entirely non-obvious. Yay quality.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:19 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to use an astronomical/mythological theme, with my main desktop called galileo (because obviously Galileo observes and controls all the astronomical objects). Then callisto, galatea and arachne were all stolen, so I took the opportunity to switch to a robots namescheme - this page is going to be really useful when I take delivery of my new desktop in a few days.

At work, some of our test systems used to be named after dictators. That stopped quickly when someone pointed out that we sometimes rotated test systems out to customers when we needed a spare quickly, and it would probably be a bad idea to accidentally send them Hitler.
posted by ZsigE at 5:22 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I only name fictional computers, but when I do it's a cute cartoon name followed by four random numbers.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:40 AM on October 25, 2012


At the Open Computing Facility at UCB in the mid-90’s, they used disasters like tornado, planecrash, tsunami, etc.

Still do. SSH takes you to tsunami as of last week. (By the way, OCF accounts never actually die, as far as I can tell.)
posted by hoyland at 5:46 AM on October 25, 2012


I worked at a place where they named the servers after musical instruments - they needed a lot of dev servers, as they were working on a multi-platform middleware application, and this was in the days before virtualization, when we had to crank-start our cars and carry pepper-pot pistols to fend off sabre-toothed tigers.

The scheme was simple: Sun equipment was named after brass instruments, HP gear was named after string instruments, "Miscellaneous" gear was named after woodwinds, and IBM gear was named after percussion instruments.

This worked, up until we picked up a bunch of big IBM shops as customers, and in addition to DB2, they also ran a bunch of other RDBMS platforms, each requiring its own little brace of test systems. We swiftly exhausted the drum kit (including cowbell) and the orchestra pit (including the triangle) and were rapidly exhausting world music instruments (up to and including gamelon) when I left for a new gig.

So, even good naming conventions can leave you stranded when the nature and scope of your installation changes. If I were in charge of it, I'd rename them something meaningful and memorable - "aixora01" - AIX server running Oracle number 1, "sunpos02" - Sun server running Postgres, etc, etc. Most of the time, these are only referenced by testing scripts. The big iron - huge multiprocessor boxes, source repository and file servers - I'd keep the "cute" name" "Dobro" or "Piccolo" or "Glockenspiel".
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:50 AM on October 25, 2012


I use Hindu deities. A virtually limitless source of names...
posted by HarrysDad at 6:13 AM on October 25, 2012


I'm also not a fan of the cute names for production use. It just seems a bit unprofessional, especially if customers will ever have any visibility into your network. I work for a small web hosting company, and we have over 200 physical servers for our VPS service, plus 5 racks across two datacenters that house our cloud based hosting service. We'd have long ago run out of server names had we used anything other than a number based naming scheme.

I will use cute names for my home network, though. I had a small network at home for a while, and those servers were all named for Discworld characters. (Bonus fact - all three of our dogs are named for Discworld characters.)
posted by ralan at 6:20 AM on October 25, 2012


I started a new job on Monday, and named my shiny new macbook "Scalpel", for its absurdly sharp Retina display. All the other machines on the network have names like "Joe's Macbook" or "Alec-PC". Oh well. What can I say, I keep up the old ways.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:28 AM on October 25, 2012


I'm kind of sad that the places I've worked at are far beyond the scalability threshold of naming schemes like this. It's been some variation of [datacenter]-[function][number] for me for many years.

Well, don't feel too bad. As was explained to me by a few people at the last conference I went to, there's two kinds of approaches to system design. Pets, and cattle. Cattle, when things go wrong you kill them, and get a new one. Pets, you give them cute names and nurse them back to health when they get ill.


Agreed. And IMHO the pet paradigm is wrong. It puts the machines into a sort of emotional framework in our minds. We start to ascribe personalities to them. Also, it lacks all context. I'm not going to name my cat feliscattus001 (although I should), I shouldn't name my printserver "Kevin". It also creates one of those toxic atmospheres where new people feel terribly uncomfortable because they don't know "anyone" and are forced to sort of supplicate themselves to "in crowd". It creates a barrier, and gives a weird power to the person who gets to name machines.

A machine's name should primarily give the users as much information as practicable, without being confusing or onerous. If people are logging in to various *nix boxes, their names should probably contain what kind of *nix it is so they know what capabilities it has. But nobody needs to know what OS or hardware the exchange server is running on. But they might need to know whether it is an exchange server versus a pop server.

See also: static IP addresses where they don't belong. Which is almost nowhere. If you want the machines to have the same IP address all the time, configure your DHCP server for it. If you want robustness so the network doesn't explode when the DHCP server fails, have a backup DHCP server.

See also: email addresses. Almost nobody does this, but it is very valuable to have role based email addresses that can be independently mapped to people based email addresses. The same way we have role based phone numbers. If you call the helpdesk number, you get whoever is available. Similarly, if you send an email to "payroll@" it can go to whoever is available, instead of having to figure out who is not on vacation, or have to change distribution lists when someone changes jobs.

At least when it comes to computers. In other areas, I do enjoy a clever naming scheme. Streets named after presidents, or like in Chicago, streets that are named in alphabetical order. It isn't very complete at all, but there are groups of streets going West where each mile they are named starting with K and then L and then M. I especially like that the one street in the K group that doesn't start with K is "Tripp".

I did work at one place where the (lovable) lunatic in charge named the keyboards and mice. The workstations were named something like [Company][Department][Floor]Workstation[Inventorynumber], and the peripherals were named [Inventorynumber]Mouse with a p-touch label.
posted by gjc at 6:51 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


How can G.I. Joe not include Tomax and Xamot? Perfect names for an active/active cluster.
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:00 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jazz musicians at work. We've had ella, dizzy, miles, trane, monk, duke, et al.

And single malts for network names at home. I wanted to use cheeses but that led to too many refrigerator raids immediately after logging on...
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:01 AM on October 25, 2012


I use dinosaurs, except for the CEO's setup, which is Chicken.
posted by elizardbits at 7:03 AM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


For a long time we too used Simpson's character names in our home network. It seemed natural when I got one of those roundish, toilet seat Apple laptops to name it Maggie - she was small, blue, smart and sat in my lap.
posted by jvilter at 7:04 AM on October 25, 2012


My lab's computers are all Harry Potter spells (e.g. "avis"). One of the development servers is named "incendio", which I thought was a nice touch. We don't yet have an "avadakedavra" - taking suggestions as to what kind of device that should be.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:11 AM on October 25, 2012


Working in a biology lab, nearly all our machines are named after people's favourite taxonomic groups.

During my PhD I built my first 4-node compute cluster and named them Alexander, Pete, Dim and Georgie. Cue several years of my boss asking me to show new students "how to use the droogs".

Must admit I felt a little bit smug as I picked Babbage and Lovelace for our two new rackmount virtualization servers.
posted by primer_dimer at 7:14 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Streets named after presidents, or like in Chicago

I've been living here for years and I only just realized, a couple of weeks ago, that all of the downtown east-west streets named after presidents (Washington, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Polk, Taylor, Roosevelt) run in chronological order from north to south. But only if Adams refers to John Quincy.

Also, Tyler is skipped in favor of Balbo, an Italian fascist who flew a plane here in 1933, which apparently rates higher than annexing Texas.
posted by theodolite at 7:17 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Bonus fact - all three of our dogs are named for Discworld characters.)

Pet Gaspode for me.

posted by ersatz at 7:19 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Surprised to see no Blake's 7 references in there. That show had three psycho computers, and it's a sufficiently nerdy source to appeal to people who make lists of server naming schemes.
posted by adamrice at 7:28 AM on October 25, 2012


I prefer flipping through the Old Testament Era and selecting names; the English transliteration is memorable and obscure enough for me. So yes, I have Sirach, Lo-mi-ami, Maccabee, HaHashMona, and Salome Alexandra among my electronic collection.
posted by lineofsight at 7:28 AM on October 25, 2012


ralan: "I had a small network at home for a while, and those servers were all named for Discworld characters."

Discworld places/things here.
grandtrunk             IN      A       192.168.1.1
default                IN      CNAME   grandtrunk
ankh-morpork           IN      A       192.168.1.10
counterweight          IN      A       192.168.1.20
hex                    IN      A       192.168.1.30
night-watch            IN      A       192.168.1.250
music-with-rocks-in    IN      A       192.168.1.253
holywood               IN      A       192.168.1.254
uberwald               IN      A       66.228.34.156
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:28 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Icelandic volcanoes all way.
posted by Damienmce at 7:35 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


My current naming scheme:

Fern
Templeton
Charlotte
Wilbur
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:38 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've variously favored: various sci fi AIs -- Wintermute, Colossus, Shodan, Durandal, Tycho, Cortana etc. Different kinds of metals or alloys. Geological terms. Latin and greek words for different kinds of books or documents. Terms borrowed from social science that pertain to particular aspects of taste or daily life.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:01 AM on October 25, 2012


First time I noticed this kind of thing was when working at University of Michigan around 2007 or so. All of the email servers were (and maybe still are) named after classic arcade games... I'd log in to check mail, and would find myself connected to frogger, galaga, zaxxon... it was kind of fun. When given the chance to set up network shares within the lab, I went with computer names: Newest system at the time was DeepBlue, oldest 386 in the lab was Univac, and the one that flaked out on me constantly was Hal9000. The rest were also named after notable/semi-famous real or fictional computers.

Did some computer help in a lab while in grad school, named all the computers after carnivore families. Two or three of them had taxonomic carnivore names already, so I just kept going on that theme.

After switching over to Macs at home, all of my clever home network names mostly went away. Computers and devices are now "Frog's MacBook Pro" or "Wife's MacBook" or the like. The sole exception is my home server, which has been named Mothership for a long time now (the name predates the current system). Mothership used to be the main computer around which all my devices orbited, but these days it's a seldom-used, beat up old 1st-gen Mac Mini. The only remaining claim to fame for the poor beast is that it plays host to all of my networked backup drives.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:07 AM on October 25, 2012


Also, I've leaned on this index of the Goetia/Daemonium pretty heavily for coming up with RPG character names. The descriptions could be good for finding meaningful device names.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:07 AM on October 25, 2012


I named my new iPhone Khaleesi, because it seems I'm forever beholden to her. And my iPad is named Paddington. Seemed appropriate.
posted by msbutah at 8:09 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some friends named their first daughter Kendall and decided they really liked the name Davis for their son-to-be, until they realized they were accidentally naming their children after subway stops. Charles, Andrew, and Milton totally work and maybe Porter or Park, but any kid named Alewife is going to have a hard time in grade school.
posted by maryr at 8:24 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


We don't yet have an "avadakedavra" - taking suggestions as to what kind of device that should be.

A honeypot?

My personal favorite is a friend's: pejorative adjectives. Wonky, broken, sarcastic, irritable, sleazy, confused,... so many options, and they all apply so well to *nix servers. (Another friend keyed off that scheme and went with "chipper" and "helpful" for a pair of hosts that were neither.)

I miss getting to have memorable hostnames, even if it did lend them to be pets vs. cattle. Airport codes and 20-character alphabet soups are for the birds. I can still tell stories about sake, ikam, patron, plaisance... nothing interesting ever happened to fclvsrmemcache06.
posted by sldownard at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


My first iPad was named Leibniz, because it was not a Newton. When I was unsure what to name the second iPad, a friend suggested Descartes, and it stuck. This probably means the next one will be Spinoza, and I guess I can deal with that.

My iPhone 3GS was TMA-1. My iPad is TMA-2. I guess if I get another one I will have to go backwards to TMA-0 (how appropriate!).
posted by adamdschneider at 8:45 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Being an old school type nerd (and since I work for a design firm), I use font family names for our machines.

"gotham.example.com", "sentinel.example.com", "monaco.example.com" etc.
posted by zuhl at 9:09 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll second gjc's comments above. Good system administration is about reducing administrative overhead, and one of the ways to do that is to make the system self-documenting by choosing informative names and numbers. Done well, you can take advantage of the mind's innate ability to pattern-match without also causing a lot of cognitive dissonance.
posted by Xenophon Fenderson at 9:36 AM on October 25, 2012


KindredCoda: "My classroom at City College of San Francisco has its computers named after Simpsons characters, complete with pictures of each character."

This has been my scheme at home since I started naming machines, and not only is it very scalable (at least up to home network scale) but it offers some opportunities to create logical groupings of machines, or to at least have the names be somewhat meaningful without being lame things like printer1, fileserver, etc. (That's what CNAMEs are for.)

The primary machines my wife and I use (laptops, desktop, file server, and smartphones) are all members of the Simpsons nuclear family (with pets.) The networking hardware (primary router, wifi APs, etc.) are all characters from Moe's -- moe, barney, carl, lenny, (sam and larry reserved for future expansion.) Game consoles are Bart's friends/frienemies milhouse and nelson (jimbo, kearney, dolph). TV-related hardware (Slingbox, set-top boxes, etc.) are Springfield TV personalities krusty, brockman, and arnie (bob, penelope, and christian.) Surveillance cameras are Springfield cops clancy and lou, of course.

Some of the other assignments have less to do with function and more to do with grouping similar machines together (Squeezeboxes itchy and scratchy, empegs rod and todd, HP Touchpads doris and otto, etc.) which does help organize it all in my brain.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:25 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


oh man the list of Culture Ships is woefully outdated. I also want to say that it is wrong, as "Bora Horza Gobuchul" was the name of the lead in Consider Phlebas, though Wikipedia reminds me that the Mind he rescued chose that name at the very end of the book.

My computer has a name (Tealfour, which is short for "Teczetherca Thur Uenu Chousun" - it's a long story); my backup drive has a name ("Mnemosyne", the Greek goddess of memory), my phone has a name ("Hester", a snippy librarian in the sex farce comic I drew a few years back; when I use it as a wireless access point the password is also related to that comic), but my iPad doesn't have a name, and doesn't seem to need one. It's just "Peggy's iPad". I find that lack of a name interesting.
posted by egypturnash at 10:32 AM on October 25, 2012


At work I name my servers after mathematicians & scientists, so I'm glad to see a similar list.

So far I've already named Cantor (my favourite box), Gauss, Turing and Pascal.
posted by arungoodboy at 10:49 AM on October 25, 2012


All the machines at my work are named after Ford products. The new Mac Pro Server is called SuperDuty. We have F150, Galaxie, Taurus, Towncar...even a Escort.

The macs at home are names after Strongbad characters. My backup drive...what else, The Deloran.

Oh and my iphone is called The TARDIS..you know its bigger on the inside.
posted by ShawnString at 10:52 AM on October 25, 2012


huh. I don't do much fooling around with boxen anymore, having given up my hobby layman's tinkering habit with my last, least-lamented and terminally shitty PC in early '06. Regardless, I still have a habit of naming my devices; my current iPhone 5 is Rhaegar and my new macbook air is Daenerys.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:58 AM on October 25, 2012


I've always liked Ulmus, Cornus, Thuja, Larix, Quercus, Tilia, Salix, Nyssa, Rhus, Sophora, Acer, Tsuga, Carya, and the like.

Aww, shucks.
posted by Tsuga at 11:01 AM on October 25, 2012


One day I'm going to get around to writing a story in which the protagonist's obsession with order and forward-planning is made clear through the eyes of his children Octavia, Septimus, Hester, Quentin, Katra, Tristram, Duey, and the youngest, Una.
posted by logopetria at 11:02 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


At an old job we named them based on OS:
Linux machines were named after rivers (amazon, hudson)
Solaris machines were named after celestial things (saturn, ceres)
Windows machines were named after birds (I only remember the one I named, moa)
posted by Xoder at 2:00 PM on October 25, 2012


> Then I saw the other two were Ariel and Oolka....

First day of work I was asked what my desktop should be named, where the theme was cartoon characters. My immediate response was "ookla" to which my boss immediately said "No.". That was the name he was using for his desktop.
posted by alikins at 2:32 PM on October 25, 2012


Somehow, I forgot. My computers are named after ponies. My hard drives are named after characters from Weaver's quests (Nan and Ruby on my macbook, Tislomer and Babrakus on my desktop).

At one time I experimented with RAID on my desktop. Naturally, I named the resulting volumes Onyxia and Karazhan.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 2:55 PM on October 25, 2012


I'm sure I've mentioned this before on mefi, probably in response to an askme looking for suggestions, but I always go with names of things from Gibson's sprawl stories. Most of my systems tend to be pretty simple so my first two go-tos are the ones used most frequently: Wintermute and Straylight

But if I ever needed more (in no particular order): Turner, Kumiko, Colin, TessierAshpool, Case, Molly, Armitage, Hideo, 3Jane, Hosaka, KuangGradeMarkEleven, Riviera, TheFinn, SteppinRazor, Chatsubo, PantherModerns, DixieFlatline, Virek.

In the past, I've also used the non-Gibson-related Abulafia after the computer in Eco's Foucalt's Pendulum.
posted by juv3nal at 6:01 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The naming scheme I've inherited uses trees for most stuff, and for a separate but large project, Oregonian rivers. Because FERPA, we keep them pretty seperated from our own infrastructure. They have different domains.

As a native Midwesterner, it's a maddening game of "tree or river?" wikipedia searching. Crabtree? A river. Silver? A tree, pacific silver fir. Rocky? A tree. Necanicum? A river. #firstworldproblems
posted by pwnguin at 9:37 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The site is missing two of my favourite larger schemes: Smurfs and MrMen. Also their tree list is anemic. I'll have to fix that and add those two categories this weekend when I've got some time.

gjc writes " It also creates one of those toxic atmospheres where new people feel terribly uncomfortable because they don't know "anyone" and are forced to sort of supplicate themselves to "in crowd". It creates a barrier, and gives a weird power to the person who gets to name machines.
"

I agree with you on email addresses gjc; no one should be getting business email at personally identifying addresses. It's such a pain in the ass when people change jobs (internally especially) and it is so needless. Role based names can be forwarded to who ever needs to receive it or even a group of people.

But I have to disagree on the server naming thing. People pick up "name" names for servers way quicker than nonsensical stuff like DeptRoleClass#. And by picking large schemes and using different schemes for different roles you can scale actual names into hundreds or evens low thousands of different machines without much difficulty.

Most of large sites where computers were cattle I've worked on the naming scheme was of course of the descriptivenumber variety and the naming scheme was agreed to by committee; no reason that can't be the case in a "Name" set up either. You could even give users the power to pick their workstation names off of a list for which ever scheme governed like in alikins's example.

Damienmce writes "Icelandic volcanoes all way."

Now that would be an evil naming scheme. Especially if you included accented characters.
posted by Mitheral at 9:42 PM on October 25, 2012


At home it's Turkish cities, quelle surprise. I started building a home network right about the same time I was reading A Fez of the Heart. My first dual-boot box was Van/Tatvan, which felt clever at the time. At $PREVIOUS_EMPLOYER we used Muppets or Buffy characters depending on who built out which box. $CURRENT_EMPLOYER is corporate/boring and names according to location/group/function/iteration.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:05 PM on October 25, 2012


a dedicated wiki and now 112 metafilter comments in and no mention of using the lectroids named john from buckaroo banzai for computer naming? i don't understand the internet anymore.
posted by mexican at 11:49 PM on October 25, 2012


I'm a junior sysadmin at the place I work at and I was given the privilege of naming a rack; I named it after my D&D character, Peblas.

I will definitely use this for future names though.
posted by tenpointwo at 3:32 AM on October 26, 2012


I like names like "deforest" and "clearcut" for large printers.
posted by mdoar at 7:56 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


a dedicated wiki and now 112 metafilter comments in and no mention of using the lectroids named john from buckaroo banzai for computer naming? i don't understand the internet anymore.

We will speak no more of this, John Mexican.
posted by benzenedream at 10:14 PM on October 26, 2012


$ SHOW CLUSTER

View of Cluster from system ID 17409  node: TWILIT         26-OCT-2012 23:12:06
┌───────────────────┬─────────┐
│      SYSTEMS      │ MEMBERS │
├────────┬──────────┼─────────┤
│  NODE  │ SOFTWARE │  STATUS │
├────────┼──────────┼─────────┤
│ TWILIT │ VMS V7.3 │ MEMBER  │
│ PINKIE │ VMS V7.3 │ MEMBER  │
│ DASH   │ VMS V7.3 │ MEMBER  │
│ FLUTTR │ VMS V7.3 │ MEMBER  │
│ APLJAK │ VMS V7.3 │ MEMBER  │
│ RARITY │ VMS V7.3 │ MEMBER  │
└────────┴──────────┴─────────┘
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:15 PM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've long used characters and place names from the Oz series. It's a huge namespace, and there is sufficient variety and specificity in those people and places to allow descriptive names. My desktop is Kabumpo, my laptop Kiki Aru, my wireless network Gillikin Country, etc.
posted by waldo at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Recently I renamed my laptop Svea, to match with my mobile: Helvetia. I think I like the national personifications, and there are a few left for future devices.
posted by Martijn at 9:03 AM on October 29, 2012


At the Open Computing Facility at UCB in the mid-90’s, they used disasters like tornado, planecrash, tsunami, etc.
Still do. SSH takes you to tsunami as of last week. (By the way, OCF accounts never actually die, as far as I can tell.)
Another OCF user here, reminding you further that the four login servers used to be "conquest", "war", "famine", and "death", the four horsemen of the apocalypse. ("apocalypse" was another server. As was "disaster".)

I like to name my devices after qualities I wish to inscribe in myself, like stamina, love, generosity, and calm.

A friend of mine used to name his after specific romantic disappointments or similarly awkward moments in his own life. The only one I remember is "war-bookstore" from the time that I was walking with him on a street in St. Petersburg, tried to leave him alone with the woman he was crushing on, and made an abrupt turn into a bookstore that only sold military history.
posted by brainwane at 7:49 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


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