2012-05-02

A History behind Code Names

Having kept a history of the Red Hat Linux code names a long time ago ... ** I wanted to remind people that they started off as an inside joke. Up until the late Red Hat Linux releases, most of the release names were done in a very closed mode. The release leads (Mark Ewing, Eric Troan, Preston Brown) might ask for a name (but you couldn't tell anyone except them what the link was) or a small cabal of people on a late night during the alpha process would choose a name.

The reasons for the names at that time was to a) blow off steam during long nights and little pay, and b) to get fans energized in trying to figure out what links they could come up with between releases. At some point the answer would be revealed and people got "points" on how close they were.. lots of little discussions on IRC, USEnet newsgroups, and mailing lists and it was free marketing. Looking at it this way, the original names were always an inside joke or puzzle.

After the puzzle was revealed, the names rarely were used by the community. Instead the people attracted to Red Hat Linux were more numbers versus names oriented. It is just how some people are.. the engineering types that who will call a CPU a 6500 Xeon versus a Beckton. They will know its die numbers and probably only remember Beckton from some joke about Intel marketing kicking cpus like Beckton to make it sound better. At its extremes, some people see codenames as meaningless marketing jingoism that hides the underneath true data from them.

Other people store information by names and connotations.  They know that a Beckton class system is part of the Nehalem family of CPUs and what relationship it is between previous and later CPUs. In this case, the name is a bond, a way to tell what the product is, why the person is linked to it, and how they will get others to use this. In its extreme, numbers are codes that obscure why something exists. ***

If there is any way I can tell "Debian/Ubuntu users" from "Red Hat/Mandrake/Suse" users it is not the .deb/.rpm rift. It is how they remember each OS and the relationship between them. One group is very name oriented and the others is very number oriented.

In the end, I am looking at our (Fedora's) naming "crisis" as partially release day jitters (ever notice before every release we have a OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE X?) we have always had (since RHL 4.2 at least) and partially a difference in how people remember and communicate. Trying to come up with a way to make sure we communicate between these two groups **** will be something for the next 6 months.


** I need to update my website. Dear lord that is so 1998 HTML3.

*** I am not going to say whether this is left brained/right brained/front brained/backbrained.. because god I don't know. Has anyone done real high def brainscans to see if there is any orientation. To me without that data it is like saying "Left handed people use Fedora and Right handed people use Ubuntu.. I know this because I am left handed." EG complete malarky.

**** Yes there are people who can think both ways. There are always people who never fit into the simple dichotomies we humans like to make up to simplify our Spherical Chickens.
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