Sunday, December 1, 2013

Professor for one year (week 30): Device naming systems

Last week, I wrote about my private geek devices.  And I mentioned the names they have:
  • heinz (the black MacBook)
  • horst (the router)
  • herbert (the old Toshiba)
  • gunther (the other router)
  • fred (the new MacBook Air)
  • marlene (the old MacBook Air)
  • waltraud (the work computers used for E-Learning and OldPhras)
  • berta (my Nokia 6700 c)
  • Fräulein Meier (the iPad)
  • tippse (the Bluetooth keyboard currently paired with Heinz)
There is actually an Internet Request for Comment (RFC) on "Choosing a Name for Your Computer" (RFC 1178) from 1990.  It points out that "[e]xperience has taught us that it is as easy to choose bad names as it is to choose good ones," and goes on to list a few do's and don'ts, such as: don't use long names, don't use your own name, use words that are rarely used, use theme names.
Well, my list of names is balanced with respect to gender and age.  I don't follow a specific naming system (so no theme names), but usually come up with a name when I unbox the device.  A black MacBook just looks very maculine, while the first-generation MacBook Air surely is a feminine device because of the shape.

"marlene" and "waltraud" allude to Marlene Jaschke, my favorite stage personality of the comedian Jutta Wübbe, and her budgie.  I actually knew the name for my iPad even before unboxing it -- I wanted a meaningful signature instead of the default "sent from my iPad" signature and now it says "Von Fräulein Meier verschickt" ("sent by Fräulein Meier"). "tippse" is a derogatory term for a typist.

"heinz", "horst", and "herbert" are references to my northern German heritage.  You use those names to refer to "someone" (similar to "Tom, Dick, and Harry" in English) -- you also can refer to several unknown people by naming them Horst1, Horst2, and so on. "fred" is just another northern German male name -- as the MacBook Air is thin, it had to be a short name, and a male one because of its angular shape.

The computers I used while working at the Institute of Informatics and later the Institute of Computational Linguistics at the University of Zurich were named:
  • keywest (when it it was a Sun workstation, until ca. 2006)
  • renamed to sylt
  • caipi (when it was replaced by an iMac)
  • gnaegi (when I moved caipi to another office, the colloquial term for the Swiss Army Trikothemd 75, a light olive-green jumper, named after former Federal Councilor and minister of defense Rudolf Gnägi, who introduced it)
When almost everybody worked with a Sun, there was a naming system in place: workstations were named after islands (e.g., keywest, sylt, poel, utopia) and servers were named after famous composers' first names (e.g., alban, arvo, igor, gustav, nikolai, bela).  When the workstations were replaced by Macs, cocktail names were used.  So at that time, they followed themes.  However, the admins only gave names to desktop Macs.  MacBooks usually got names following the pattern "username's MacBook" -- not very creative and no theme anymore.

When I studied at Friedrich-Alexander University, the computers in the lab of the Department of Computational Linguistics (CLUE) were named after planets -- or what they assumed to be planets -- e.g., saturn, uranus, sol, terra.  Later that was changed into a naming scheme "clueXX" (with XX being the last part of the IP address).  I worked with clue21, IIRC.

In Konstanz, the iMacs in the computational linguistics lab are named after Roman emperors (e.g., augustus, vespasian, domitian, hadrian, titus, aurel, caesar) and the Mac minis after comic figures (e.g., professor-x, wicked, quicksilver, iron-lad, aurora, captain-ultra, lightspeed).  Also theme-naming here.

Names for my partner's devices at home also follow a theme: Greek mythological figures (e.g., gaia, selene, themis).  However, when I think about this theme-naming recommendation, I do follow a theme: I name my devices according to the first impression they make.

What is your naming theme?

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