Josh Reviews… Naming Your Computers

The best advice for anyone who might want to name their computer is “Don’t anthropomorphise computers – they hate that”. It’s not bad advice. After all, it’s just a tool, in much the same way as a pen and paper is – and when was the last time you saw someone naming their favourite pen?
Some people, though, can’t just take the Windows default name of HOME-E523B890A3C and be done with it. So… how do you pick a naming scheme for your computers?

TV Characters
This is one of the most common ways of picking a naming scheme, and for good reason. Everyone has a TV series or two that they like – the most frequently picked seem to be Buffy, Star Trek and Red DwarfRMIT Business uses Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and the University of Melbourne’s CS department uses Red Dwarf. The reasons for those choices are beyond the scope of this article, but I hypothesise that it means UniMelb has a sense of humour where RMIT does not. This correlates with empirical observation.
Mnemonic ease: 9. Buffy, Angel, Spike. Gadget, Penny, Brain. Or, if you’d rather, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, Miranda. It doesn’t get much easier, and you already have the associations built up in your head.
Spellability: Varies, but let’s say 7.
Shiny factor: 8. You can be extremely geeky and try and match names to personalities, which is kind of fun.
Namespace size: 3. I can think of a few shows with enough characters to fit a decent small business network, but only a few. I guess there’s Pokemon… they’ll be coming up with new pocket monsters for a few years yet. That said, I’d pay money to see an actual company name its servers Jigglypuff and Clefairy.
Overall: 8
Elements of the periodic table
This one is more the domain of university networks, which seem to have quite a lot of this thing going on. It’s all well and good – your fileserver is Gold, your switches are Iron and Titanium, and your thin clients are Hydrogen and Helium. The devil is in the details, though – if you start naming by elements, you will eventually have to call a computer Praesodymium. And then there’s the small matter of Yttrium, Ytterbium, Terbium and Erbium. (I swear, these are all elements.)
Mnemonic ease: 5. Once you get beyond the first twenty or so, you’re in trouble. Does Polonium come before or after Vanadium? And what on earth is Technetium?
Spellability: 2 to 9. It’s very hard to misspell Gold or Silver, but Lead and Dysprosium are probably gonna cause problems late at night when you’re tired. Average: 5
Shiny factor: 10. Gold is shiny. Platinum is very shiny. Uranium is shiny – well, glowy. Carbon is especially shiny when you squeeze it hard.
Namespace size: 6. You’ll fit a decent-size business inside the periodic table and still have room for your printers and your managed switches.
Overall: 7
When I was googling for ideas for other schemes, I stumbled across this. It’s kind of boring, but very practical.
If anyone has any suggestions for other naming schemes, leave a comment, and I’ll add them to this review. It’s good to be the editor ^_^
But what did I plump for, when all was said and done? If you’ve been to the main page of, you’ll either have made a pretty good guess, or you’ll be thinking “Fuuma? What sort of name is Fuuma?” He’s one of the characters from X/1999 (or try the much more interesting sites here and here).
X is a good example of the “TV series” naming scheme. It’s something I’ll remember, it’s easy (for me) to spell, and there’s plenty of namespace (I can think of fifteen or sixteen off the top of my head). Oh yeah, and it’s very shiny.
If you haven’t given up by this point in this geekout-thinly-disguised-as-a-review, there are four other computers in this namespace…
* Kamui (my desktop)
* Subaru (my PS2/Linux box)
* Sorata (my iPaq 3850)
* Daisuke (my SonyEricsson T68i)
Daisuke, at least, deserves a review one of these days. He’s seriously cool. Watch this space.

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6 Responses to Josh Reviews… Naming Your Computers

  1. Ryan says:

    I had this brilliant idea where I would name my computers after tropical fruits, because I come from the tropical north. Of course, at the time I came up with this I only had *one* computer, so I probably wasnt thinking that hard…
    To make up for this, I named my different operating systems different things. At one time on my laptop I had a win2k installation named pineapple, linux named banana, and FreeBSD named lychee. And no space do do anything useful :)
    I’ve been through pineapple, banana, lychee and papaya, if I ever need more I’m gunna have to resort to Google. But as I always say, GIYF.
    Mnemonic ease: 8. But then, I’m the kind of guy who considers fruit to have a personality on par with most television characters…
    Spellability: 7. Starts well, but when you get to the exotic ones you need to think a little. At least fruits are generally spelled the way they sound.
    Shiny Factor: 2. You will impress me, though!
    Namespace Size: 3. Who really eats that many tropical fruits?
    Overall: 5
    I should probably name my zaurus after a fruit as well. Does anyone know a nice tropical fruit that starts with ‘z’?

  2. Ryan says:

    Me also likes the idea of naming your computers after exotic diseases :). So you end up with ‘ebola’, ‘hanta’, etc.
    Of course, having not contracted that many exotic diseases, the names would probably degenerate quite quickly into boring things like ‘influenza’ and ‘mumps’ and ‘stubbed-toe’.

  3. rcat says:

    Well, I usually go for geekdom characters: my mac is named “The Death of Rats”. But I just disagree with this idea of renaming a computer. You don’t rename pets, or family members. Nicknames, fine, but not RENAMING.
    (and josh, naming a games console is just sad…)
    By the by, what the fudge happened to Shinymail?

  4. josh says:

    It is *not* sad. Especially not when the games consoles involved are full, proper, Linux-runnin’ monitor-drivin’ Apache-servin’ *computers*. When was the last time you saw a Gamecube serving up JRE?
    Fuuma doesn’t count as a renaming. Not only was he an entirely new server, he had an entirely new install of FreeBSD on him. Andrew will testify that I was reluctant to rename Touya when I changed his hardware – we decided that that was legal on a technicality, because I was using the same hard disk and the same install.
    And once I renamed Fuuma… well, Fuuma and Kamui have to go together. So then I had to go through and rename everything else so I could be consistent. Plus, now that I’ve gone through the stress of renaming Kamui, I can still make dodgy innuendo about my computers.

  5. chris says:

    Naming, well yes we tried boring stuff like historical personalities, but then no one can ever spell or knows who the hell Antiochus was!
    Next Terry Pratchets Characters Ridcully, Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler etc Staff looked at me dumb founded when I told them which machine was playing up, now we just name it what you will, Harry Potter etc this seems OK as the kids name ’em, Oh I’m at a school so you get the drift
    cheers Chris

  6. Andrew says:

    Don’t forget that one room in the UniMelb’s ECR, in which the computer namespace is “mice”:
    Micky, Minny, Pinky, Brain, Dangermouse etc :-)

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