There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors.

@pheinberg, sub-classing Phil Karlton, via Tim Bray

It's important to have a good naming scheme for machines, if you are going to have to work with quite a lot of them. I think I have a reasonably good knack for choosing names individually, but I'm not so good at choosing good sources of names. At present I use names from the novels of Greg Egan for my personal machines.

I also think that you should never change the name of a machine, or re-use a name. This gets a bit tricky when you upgrade bits and pieces, at what point is it a different machine? My rule of thumb is to bind names to the CPU. (This might prove harder if I start dealing with lots of SMP machines).

Greg Egan names

  • konishi - Konishi was my desktop computer from 2004-2008. I've actually broken the golden rule above with this one. From October 2004 until roughly October 2005, konishi was one machine which unfortunately broke. I was eventually given a courtesy replacement from the manufacturer (medion) and I kept the name. The replacement was a Medion MD8383XL.

    The name is taken from Konishi Polis, a computer "metropolis" in the novel Diaspora.

  • teranesia - taken from the novel of the same name. This was my sparcstation.
  • qusp - my Thinkpads x40 and x61s. Taken from a short story called Singleton, a Qusp is a quantum-device used to collapse the quantum waveform in the brain (or something). It was also short and easy to type.
  • yatima - my Thecus n2100 NAS server. A protagonist from Diaspora, the name is Swahili for "orphan".
  • tchicaya - a protagonist from Schild's Ladder: This was my desktop for a long time. Suggested by Daniel Silverstone.
  • inoshiro - another name from Diaspora.

Phil Dick names

I've used a bunch of Blade Runner names for virtual machines: bryant, pris, chew, deckard. I think I've exhausted that set.

Along similar lines, I've used ubik and chew-z for laptops.

Egyptian names

I use egyptian names for machines assigned to me at work. I have used anubis, ankh, ra, sobek and hathor. Unfortunately a lot of options are already taken by another unit who have a Lovecraftian naming scheme, where there is crossover.

I wouldn't like to use a Lovecraftian myself: nyarlathotep is a pain to type.

I was particularly proud of ra: it was very optimised for frequent typing, as in ssh ra. Unfortunately it is terrible for searching.


  • limey - my first ever desktop computer, purchased in 1998 or 1999 second-hand, virtually entirely upgraded peacemeal until 2004. So called because I am british.
  • ice - a pentium 200 machine that served as my webserver from roughly 2000 until 2004. Named as a counterpart to my former web host, a machine called 'fire' (belonging to Tom).
  • prefect - given to my Nokia n800. So called because the device reminds me of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • kiriath - a race in The Steel Remains, a fantasy novel by Richard Morgan. This was my work laptop until mid 2010.
  • tharsis - I was re-reading Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy at around the time I got a work macbook air. The 2014-era Air felt a bit thicker than the 2010-era one I was using before that, so I called the machine tharsis, after the tharsis bulge on Mars.

Possible future Egan-inspired names

  • Carter-Zimmerman (C-Z) polis, again from Diaspora. I used this as a Wifi ESSID once.
  • Gleisner - The name given to a corporation who make robots. I think this is merely a surname.
  • polis - greek for a city, or a city-state.