Sunday, February 19, 2012

what's in a name?

For a while computers have been anthropomorphized(*). We know they are finite state devices, they are supposed to only simply add numbers together right?

Wrong, especially when they are clustered they become almost human.

I'm not kidding - they start to take on strange quirks and attributes that make them cease to behave in a linear fashion. They come "alive". Not quite the whole 2001 space odyssey "dave i'm sorry i can't do that" sort of alive, but they are certainly aware, and they just know you are trying to fix them. They will resist. My take:

Computers: yeah they just want to reach higher levels of entropy(*)!

So we attempt to solve some of this fear by giving them names. The names represent the spirit of what we are trying to achieve, we attempt to render them more harmless. They are often also pretty obvious. This is not a new thing. Think of animals, cats we call "kitty", dogs we call "spot" (if they have spots) and rabbits well we often call "thumper", my childhood bunny was "bugsy". Anyway you get the gist.

We humans are pretty crappy when it comes to giving stuff names.

There are times we get really quite "meta" about the whole thing. For example, the monster consolidation of equipment I have been attempting in my day job I give the meta cluster name:

odyssey

Odyssey | ˈädəsē|
a Greek epic poem traditionally ascribed to Homer, describing the travels of Odysseus during his ten years of wandering after the fall of Troy. He eventually returned home to Ithaca and killed the suitors who had plagued his wife Penelope during his absence.

Yeah I'm totally original eh? How long did it take to come up with that idea. heheheh. It got way worse when we stupidly named our storage arrays based on the same theme... we ended up with this utter fiasco:

iliad, hero, ismaros, phaiakia, troy, charybdis, helios, skylla, aiolos

Word to the wise. Please don't ever do this. you will end up with all your storage hung off "troy". Why? Because no admin (or sane person) can be arsed to type out or remember how to spell "phaiakia" it literally happened to us, I kid you not.

It's not just me. I was literally fixing a set of machines for Oceanographic Earth Science tonight. What were there names then? Oh go on... you will never guess... this one is a tough one...

swell, wave and crest!

Oh hells yeah - there we go again with our rampant originality! We are totally cooking on gas eh? I worked on a large cancer genomics project once. We had a two node DS20 cluster. They worked as a pair. What were their names?

Machine one: Benson

wait for it....

Machine two: Hedges

Oh how we laughed... :-)

Other famous machines at the EBI were called "Gin" and "Tonic"

Michele and I even went through a phase of calling machines proper names, it started off so simple, we called them:

dave, bernard, steve, bill and bob

it was all fun and games until we realized we had no physical mapping to where each machine was... we literally lost dave for about three weeks...! We eventually found him wandering around a sketchy and rather dodgy district inside some random cloud. (cough).

On the theme of proper names, we even named one of our top priority queues "nancy" after our previous Dean of Finance and Administration. She got a real good kick out of knowing the faculty when running their jobs would have to "submit to nancy". heh.

And so it is now. And so it will ever be...


We have been working with our pals in Clean Energy for a while now, and are about to add some more kit to their cluster inside our Odyssey environment. We always get some fun names from these guys, they are pretty creative...

so if you think you have new ideas let either @A_Aspuru_Guzik or @jamesdotcuff know. Here's Alan's original tweet:

https://twitter.com/#!/A_Aspuru_Guzik/status/171033836883427328


(*) pseudo posh word glossary follows:
anthropomorphize | ˌanθrəpəˈmôrˌfizəm | verb
the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object

entropy | ˈentrəpē | noun Physics
a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system

Update June 10th
Rodrigo Lopez, an old chum from the EBI reminded me that we had another set of machines called "Gin" and "Tonic" at the EBI back in the day...

The name game will always be fun!



[any opinions here are all mine, and have absolutely nothing to do with my employer]
(c) 2011 James Cuff