Monday, December 8, 2008

Choosing good computer names

There is an RFC devoted to this argument: rfc1178. If you don't have the time to read it all, here is a summary:
  • Don't use common english words (e.g. up) as they can cause confusion when you use the machine name in a sentence. Use words/names that are rarely used but are real words. Don't use random strings difficult to remember.
  • You can use a name that reflects the role the machine has (e.g. router) only if you expect it to remain appropriate and specific for very long which rarely happens. This is to avoid renaming.
  • Use short names, let them be no longer than eight characters. Long names are difficult to type and prone to errors.
  • Avoid names difficult to spell and incorrect spellings.
  • Avoid using names of existant domains or domain-like names as hostnames (both geographical and organizational, e.g. mit or london).
  • Don't use bad names that can offend some people (e.g. yankee, moron).
  • Don't use digits at the beginning of the name or alphabetic names consisting only of the letters a-f. They can be misunderstood as hex numbers.
  • Don't use non-alphanumeric characters in a name. They can be interpreted in various ways.
  • Don't use uppercase characters. Case is often ignored but this convention saves holding down the shift key.
  • When naming group of related machines use theme names from a set with many elements, such as colors, chemical elements, tree names, etc.

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