I’ve often gotten interesting questions about my hostname scheme. I am, after all, one of the few people that most people meet who not only has many systems, but uniquely and meaningfully names most of them (instead of using default, mainly meaningless names like mac-mac-ii).

As is probably not apparent, there is a naming scheme: they’re characters from ficticious, primarily science fiction or fantasy, series that I enjoy. The fact that they’re nearly all female is not necessarily coincidental; the fact that they’re all awesome most definitely is.

The Physical Boxes

My physical systems, in order of age:

  • antoinette, an ancient Compaq Presario V6107.

    antoinette is the oldest system I’ve been continuously using (barring beckett). It was new in 2006, and is by far one of the nicest bits of hardware I still use regularly. It’s basically decommissioned, though; it’s sitting on my desk at work, waiting for me to come up with a good solution to making it stable again – it won’t reliably boot, the keyboard is dying, and the fan controller, thermal management and power management are all stuffed.

    It’s got an AMD Clawhammer class Turion, and was originally named claus for the dual Clawhammers it had, and for the fact that it also dual-booted Windows, when it was named claws.

    antoinette is named for a character in a short story written by a friend.

  • kaylee, an even more ancient Compaq Armada (!) M700.

    I really, really like pre-HP Compaq hardware. I’ve had a few Armadas (1580s and 1592s) before this M700, and they are reliable old beasts. I retired the ancient 1580s and 1592s because their screens were getting a little unusable (800x600 panels), and they took PATA disks and slow, small RAM, which are both quite rare.

    kaylee is one of four M700s that Peter rescued in 2008. They’re all very nice systems; we had one as our firewall for the better part of six or seven years, and it was a very reliable beast. Eventually, it started exhibiting very bizarre failure symptoms and was replaced, but kaylee is still humming away; it made 390 days of continuous uptime once.

    The keyboard is now, sadly, dying, as is its trackpoint, but it’s still reliable and surprisingly powerful for a Pentium III (!) with 128 MB of memory. It runs FreeBSD, of course, but needs updating; it runs 8.2-PRERELEASE (!!).

  • inara, an aged Lenovo ThinkPad X100e, rebadged as a “Mini 10”.

    The NSW Department of Education and Training (as it was at the time) got a fabulous quantity of money to give students one-to-one laptops. Except they thoroughly screwed up in doing so, and the S10e, X100e/Mini 10, X120e and X121e are all testament to that fact.

    The X100e was a first-generation AMD Fusion system, but that was, apparently, too expensive, too power-hungry and/or too difficult to source en masse, so we wound up with the Mini 10, which was an X100e with a smaller display (and about an inch of bezel!) and an Intel Atom N450.

    It also ran Windows, and thanks to Windows’ emetic “Active Directory”, had the delightful name SA428817389, which, while slightly meaningful, easily parsed and surprisingly informative, was a pure joke. I always labelled mine beelzebub prior to the name reshuffle, and inara or cesca after it (because Windows, for some reason, got very upset about being given the same IP address on two disparate interfaces). Oh, and you couldn’t configure the system at all, so good luck to you if you wanted to do static addressing.

    (I really should do a write-up of the fun experiences I had fighting the damned crippleware the laptops ran.)

    Within an hour (!) of its official release to me, inara ran Fedora. Nowadays, it sits on my desk, waiting for me to do something with it; it has one of the most reliable batteries I’ve ever had (it still pulls ~4 hours on a charge, from the ~6 hours it used to pull) and, while it runs rather slow (which isn’t too bad; the systems got released running Windows 7 “Ultimate” x64) it’s still very usable.

    kaylee and inara are both named for characters from the shiniest TV series ever made, Firefly.

  • elspeth, my long-suffering MacBook Pro.

    In late 2011, I finally started contemplating replacing inara. Windows was annoying me, and I was very tempted to get another X-series ThinkPad. Then I happened across a MacBook Pro that was on special (a miracle!), and promptly bought it.

    I really love Mac OS X. I started using it as my day-to-day OS after getting elspeth, and used it literally every day from late 2011 through early 2014. I have my gripes about the OS, of course, but Darwin’s nice BSD userland was intimately familiar after spending too long fighting Windows. I’d always used and loved BSD systems until I got inara, so this was simply divine, and many of the nice features that Apple added to the BSD paradigm are fundamentally beautiful.

    elspeth had a very varied life. It spent much of it with Emacs in X11 side-by-side with tools like InDesign and Preview. It was superbly powerful, and especially after I shoved another 12 GB of memory into it, it ran like the wind.

    Unfortunately, it also had a major flaw: an Intel Sandy Bridge series processor (an i7-2820QM, apparently) on the same heat-pipe as an AMD Radeon 6750M, possibly the hottest-running GPU I’ve ever had the displeasure to use… and of course, the GPU died in a spectacular way.

    (Man, I should properly write up this adventure too. This was fun.)

    After the (thankfully free) motherboard replacement, elspeth wasn’t quite the same. Nearly everything licensed broke in strange and unpredictable ways, and it’s started exhibiting weird death throes lately, which I’m observing with worry. That’s one of the problems I always had with it: I could diagnose and rectify software faults trivially, but hardware faults were another kettle of fish.

    elspeth is named for a character from Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series.

  • menolly, an ancient thin client.

    I got my paws on menolly after two HP Neoware thin-clients came across my desk at work, having “died”. Opening them up, it was obvious why: lots of suspiciously bulging capacitors. Replacing them worked a charm, and it’s a fantastic thin client, runs X nicely and PXE-boots Arch in strange and miraculous ways.

    menolly is named for a character in Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern series.

  • jaenelle, my shiny new ThinkPad T440p.

    jaenelle is named for a character in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series.

The Virtual

  • beckett; nowadays, a jail, but formerly a physical system.

    beckett is the fourth iteration of the system I originally had, a truly ancient i486 system that died, and was replaced by an Athlon, which got very old, and was replaced by a nice Core 2 Duo system, before it was replaced with a jail. I’m not entirely a fan of the jail paradigm – the subtle brain damage and security holes it introduces are really ugly – but I keep it around because I still need to access files on it occasionally. I should really put some time and effort into cleaning it up so I can decommission it.

    beckett is named for a character from the television series, Castle.

One of the more bizarre (although some would probably call it sensible) things I do is I build a virtual machine before I deploy a system. There are a few virtual machines that I’ve built that follow those ideas:

  • alyzon: my initial effort towards getting a Fedora configuration I liked before I built inara. It was my first experience with Fedora in a few years (I’d last used Fedora 13, and Fedora 19 was a bit of a shock), but there were all manner of lovely features, especially llvmpipe, which I adored. Named for the protagonist of Alyzon Whitestarr by Isobelle Carmody.

  • korra: my experimental system for Ubuntu; runs 12.04 LTS. I hate Ubuntu. Named for the protagonist of the Legend of Korra TV series.

  • cassy: my bleeding-edge FreeBSD system (it ran FreeBSD 11 about three hours after it was branched and routinely breaks completely). Named for a key character in the Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody.

  • surreal: my initial exploration of Arch, initially as an experiment, but eventually so I could build jaenelle (and menolly, although that was an afterthought once I realised quite how nice Arch was). Named for a key character in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series.

  • meredith: my Fedora development box, and, since I don’t do any Fedora work any more, it’s basically dead. Named for a character in a short story written by a friend.

  • dorab and fayew: my Linux from Scratch build farm; named for two characters in Jeph Jacques’ Questionable Content webcomic.

And, of course, the downright nasty:

  • bella and anastasia: two Windows VMs for those occasions when I need Windows; the former runs XP SP3 and the latter runs Server 2008 R2. anastasia mainly gets used for WDS, which is surprisingly fantastic. Named for characters in a crappily-written paranormal fantasy series and a published, semi-pornographic fan fiction thereof, both of which I’ve read and regretted reading.

The Ringing

Since I switched to smartphones, I’ve always had Android phones, even though I had a Mac. I’ve never been a huge fan of iOS, even though I owned a Mac; I much preferred the flexibility and architecture of Android.

My phone naming scheme is subtly different: it’s references to elements of fantasy universes.

  • ravek, my first smartphone – a Huawei U8150 “Ideos”.

    It was, by far, the most amazing thing I’d ever seen at the time, and I wound up running it into the ground; its flash is a little bit fried. It ran DroniX for a long time; I found the original firmware far too nasty to use.

  • serenity, a Galaxy Nexus.

    After I got involved in the Android universe, I realised that the Nexus phones were the place to be, so I got the then-current third generation Nexus phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Annoyingly, Google don’t believe in supporting hardware, so it was “unsupported” for about half its 14-month life. And then its flash started dying, causing the system to reset in nasty ways, and that was the end of that.

  • kinraide, my current phone, a Nexus 5.

    I skipped the Nexus 4, because serenity was still humming along nicely at that point, so when it died, I was in a lurch, before I got a Nexus 5. I actually like it; it’s very light-weight and fast, but I still don’t like the idea of non-removable, non-replaceable batteries.