Like many geeks, I have my own style in naming the machines I have access to. This may sound strange to people not used to live between a chair and a monitor but, according to many, you may really want to give a name to the non-animated thinking being (please note the double absurd of calling something non-animated as a being and describing it as thinking) you spend much of your time with.
My naming convention has always been the same since the very beginning of my “serious” (like in UNIX) involvement in computers: using different translation of the word “emperor”. “Emperor” is one of the countless nicknames my friends gave to me in these 22 years. Since the computers were/are mine and/or administered by me, I chose to give them one of my names. Yes, a bit selfish.
My main desktop machine has always been called kaiser (German): it is a strong word with a powerful pronunciation which resembles the meaning of the word. Other machines’ names I used are czar (Russian) and empereur (French). Starting from this use of royalty names, I began using others: kadett (German for `cadet’) (my old HP Jornada 680), margravio (an old Italian word for `marquess’) (a very very old IBM PS/2 N33SX, actually one of the first computers I used and which I resurrected using FreeDOS), ambassador (not really royalty, but it fitted because it was the name of my wireless network), siniscalco (Italian for `seneschal’) (another wireless network). There is another convention which I use on my *nix machines: the following line is always present in the /etc/motd file
Welcome to Rionda's $OSNAME (with $OSNAME being usually FreeBSD, or Darwin for my laptop)
The names of my laptops don’t follow the royalty naming convention, but my first Apple iBook Firewire (named scudiero, Italian for `squire’). The second, the immortal beautiful (not really) powerful (not really) IBM Thinkpad R50e was named krapfengeist, a German word which approximately means “the spirit of donuts” =). Third, and last one, my current Apple MacBook Aluminium, whose name is no less than abulafia.
Now, let me explain this last one. One of my favourite books, together with “The Name of the Rose” and “Goedel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid”, is Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum”. I read it at least once every year, often twice a year. One of the main characters uses a computer to develop a Plan (why the capital “P”? Go read the book!) and to write personal memories. Or, as Wikipedia says, it was used “not only for word processing, but also to attempt to extract meaningful snippets from random permutations of text in a fashion reminiscent of Abraham Abulafia’s methods”. Yes, the computer’s name in the book is abulafia. I like the book and the way the computer is used in the book so much that I chose to name my own laptop after it.
There is an additional feature of the book I like to mention. It is a bit of a spoiler, so don’t read this paragraph if you want to read the book. At the very start of the book, another main character has to break into abulafia but he doesn’t know the password. When the machine is started, the following message is printed on the screen:
Do you have the password?
After having tried many times using numbers, names, permutations of the name of God (ihaveh) (the book even describes a program to generate the 720 permutations), the hacker is tired and lost:
Do you have the password? no
He types “no”. And he is logged in. “no” was the password. I find this brilliant. It makes sense with everything. I cannot explain why here: I would spoil the whole plot.
Read the book.
And give a name to your computer. It deserves it.
As bonus, you get the /etc/motd from my laptop:
Welcome to Rionda's Darwin
Do you have the password? no
Umberto Eco - "Foucault's Pendulum"
P.S. Nice geekish post, isn’t it?