My favourite software package names

Posted by fitheach on Tue 05 March 2013

Free and Open Source (FOSS) software projects often have humorous names for their packages. Some of the earliest FOSS projects, from the 1980s, used recursive acronyms for their names. A recursive acronym is where one of the constituent letters is provided by the acronym itself. Probably, the best known example is the GNU project which stands for GNU's Not Unix. Many years later the graphics package GIMP arrived, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program[1].

There are numerous packages which use recursive acronyms for their names the practice doesn't seem to be so common now. However, this doesn't mean the humour has gone; it is just taking different directions.

The following is a list of some of my favourite package names.

  • Flyspray - the Bug Killer! A web based bug tracking system.
  • less - a pager. A pager is used in console environments to better control large amounts of text. less was developed to overcome a limitation in the traditional pager more, which doesn't allow for going backwards (or up). It is often jokingly suggested that less is more, more or less.
  • waltz - Waltz is a framework for designing web apps in 3/4 time.
  • tac - concatenate and print files in reverse. tac does exactly the opposite of the other console package cat.
  • Johnny Cache - Johnny Cache is a caching framework for Django applications. Nothing to do with the Country singer.
  • Fonty Python - A Desktop package for viewing and searching installed fonts. Python, the programming language this package uses, got the name from Monty Python, so it is a double joke.
  • pydozeoff - pydozeoff is a web-based presentation engine for programmers and perhaps a tool to send your audience to sleep.
  • molly-guard - protects machines from accidental shutdowns/reboots. It is too easy when using multiple consoles to multiple hosts to issue a shutdown command to the wrong one. molly-guard protects against this accident by requesting confirmation of the hostname before executing the command. The package name comes from "the plexiglass covers improvised for the BRS on an IBM 4341 after a programmer's toddler daughter (named Molly) frobbed it twice in one day"[2].
  • Apache - the HTTP server that powers more than 60% of all websites (including this one). The Apache Software Foundation states that "the name 'Apache' was chosen from respect for the Native American Indian tribe of Apache" and the logo is a stylised feather. However, as correctly identified by Wikipedia the explanation used to be different, "The Apache group was formed around a number of people who provided patch files that had been written for NCSA httpd 1.3. The result after combining them was A PAtCHy server." Regardless of the true origin of the name other projects have extended the theme, so, we have Cherokee and Hiawatha which are also HTTP servers.
  • humps - a camelCase converter.
  • lochnest_monster - an ancient and mysterious nested sampling algorithm.

I will add to this list as I come across new, or I remember, entertaining package names.

[1] It was originally called General Image Manipulation Program.

[2] BRS - Big Red Switch

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