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Naming your computers

Give your servers good names -- your reputation may depend on it.

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Some time ago, we helped a friend install a new Windows 2003 server and when we got to the part where you have to give the server a name he asked, "What shall we call it?"

His existing server was called Server1 (yawn) so his network was pretty much a green field where names were concerned. So what to choose? Maybe name it after a planet, say Jupiter or Saturn, or an animal, such as Horse, Zebra or Dolphin?

The problem is that the names we call things matter. If you work in a large multinational organisation and name your network servers after cities, then the complaint "I can't see Tokyo" or the question "How do I get to London?" could cause all sorts of confusion.

If our friend had selected planets he'd have been limited to nine names (not a problem for our friend because his network is unlikely to have that many servers). Of course, he could have resorted to using the moons of the planets in the solar system. As of October 2003 there were 135 known natural moons orbiting the solar system's planets. . . . Jupiter alone has 60 moons, including Ananke, Carme, Callirrhoe, Erinome and Himalia, all of which are pretty sexy server names if somewhat hard to pronounce.

The big problem comes when naming all of the machines on your network. If your network isn't too huge, go for a theme. For example, the naming convention used in the Gearhead Laboratories is based on Lewis Carroll characters and words. Thus we have the two main servers, Gyre and Gymble, and the network is named Wabe, while the workstations include Alice, WhiteRabbit, RedQueen, WhiteQueen, Pig, Pepper, Brillig, Outgrabe and Jabberwocky.

When we started Novell UK, we whimsically named the servers with book titles so we had "ZenAndTheArtOfMotorcycle Maintenance" and "TheImportanceOf BeingErnest." This lasted until the technical staff staged a coup and renamed them "Alpha" and "Beta" or something equally dull, claiming that their typing skills weren't up to the challenge.

Did you know that there is actually an RFC dealing with the naming of computers? Check out RFC 1178, "Choosing a Name for Your Computer." For some ideas about what to call your machines check out "Names Given To Computers" and "Tips For Naming Computers."

Also, take a look at "Coolest Hostnames," which is an old page compiled originally by Meng Wong, the lead developer of Sender Policy Framework and founder of Pobox.com. Our favourites are com.com.com and spaceheater.brownout.com.

If you have any thoughts on naming, let us know. What did our friend name his new server? He went for "Server2." Ho-hum.

Another naming task we often get involved with is looking for domain names. This is as hard as naming a product or a business and frequently amounts to the same thing.

We found the Domain Name Generator, which produces some good random names. It also explains which top-level domains versions are available and will create and test the availability of simple permutations - which can include hyphens.

Also worth a look is Namedroppers.com, which will scan the Whois databases for one or more keywords you specify and will either look for them in order or randomly and lists existing and available domains.

Another neat name-creation resource is MakeWords, which algorithmically creates words that sound English or, if you prefer, Hungarian, Japanese or even Klingon!

Some English site names that Make Words.com produced were bleptaph.com, epsicasi.com and huntleph.com, while Japanese names included syukih.com, hensyo.com and kindensono.com. We know you're wondering, so here's part of the Klingon output: chohdi.com, hinamanama.com, puqlodli.com, rintah.com and yidajdaq.com.

Finally, Domain Name Pro is a neat and fairly sophisticated program that costs $70 and is published by Backslash. DNP provides six ways to extract potentially useful domain names from single or multiple URLs, existing domain names, or words and facilities. You can check the availability of a domain name as well as the attributes of names already taken. You can even register your interest in acquiring a name that is already taken.


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