July 19th 2006 The University of Melbourne and the Seven Dwarfs

A lot of people don’t realize the interesting (and occasionally even useful) information that can be gleaned from email headers, but they can be a real treasure trove of information for nerdy computer science students like myself.

Last year, a friend of mine studied for a semester at the University of Melbourne, and she sent me a number of emails from there. Last night, I was looking at the long headers of the emails, and I noticed that one of the U of Melbourne’s email routers is named sleepy.its.unimelb.edu.au. Intrigued, I started examining more headers, and found another email router, this one called sneezy.its.unimelb.edu.au. I was beginning to see a pattern. Someone in Melbourne’s IT department must be a Disney fan, because the servers seemed to be named after the Seven Dwarfs! (It’s possible it might even be an allusion to Australia’s Seven Dwarfs, but that might be a stretch.) Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to ascertain if there is a grumpy.its.unimelb.edu.au, or any other Seven Dwarfs-themed servers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they have (or had) them somewhere along the line.

Internal server names can sometimes display the intriguing personalities of an organization’s IT staff. Bucknell, for example, names many of its Unix servers after figures from Greek mythology: zeus.eg.bucknell.edu, hera.eg.bucknell.edu, pollux.eg.bucknell.edu, and castor.eg.bucknell.edu, for example.

After that, things got a little weird. I knew that one of the mail servers was named marge.bucknell.edu, but I couldn’t figure out why. A bit of research showed that there were two mail routers: marge and—you guessed it—homer. And the server that scans for virus-laden emails is named marburg, after the deadly Marburg virus. Any comp sci student at Bucknell will also tell you that the Sun workstations were all named after colors: olive, plum, and the like. I’m told the new Linux workstations will get similar names, although for now, those are merely numbered.

At first glance, though, it seemed like the Windows web servers had boring names like webc and web5. An interview, however, revealed that these are merely aliases; the servers are really named in a much more exotic fashion. It’s nice to know the Windows servers get to be as unique and interesting as the Unix servers.

It’s also nice to know the IT staff uses its degrees towards helpful pursuits, such as naming servers in mysterious and eclectic ways.

After some research with my handy-dandy traceroute utility, I discovered that the University of Melbourne does, in fact, have computers named grumpy, doc, and happy; however, there are no computers named bashful or dopey.