Names and their meanings

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. This is said by Juliet in Shakespeare’s most famous play, and she is perhaps half right. A rose does not smell like a rose only because it is called a rose. However, if a flower is named as a rose it is expected to behave like a rose, and smell as sweet. When an object is named we bestow upon it certain ideas and expectations, and this is all the more true for things which have been recently named. In this blog post I’ll be investigating why the components of our stack have the names they do.

Raspberry Pi

The reasoning of the naming of the Pi wasn’t very hard to dig up. It seems the dev team were nostalgic about old Home Micro PCs, and indeed wanted to build a successor to these, envisioning a platform which “like those old home computers, could boot into a programming environment”. A lot of these Home Micros had fruit based names, like Apricot, Tangerine and even Apple. The Raspberry part of this name seats the device comfortably into the computing tradition. The Pi part is perhaps less inspired, it comes from the simple fact that Python was the main language that people are expected to use and to learn on the Raspberry Pi. It’s a good name overall though, and makes clear where the Raspberry Pi comes from, and where it’s going.


To the best of my knowledge, this name comes from extending the metaphor of containers. In a particular “intro to docker” video I once watched, the speaker described the gap which docker fills with a shipping container metaphor. The speaker argues that before shipping containers were made, transporting goods was hard, as there was no standard around which shipping infrastructure could be built. In this context, the goods to be shipped is software, and the shipping containers become Linux Containers. Docker, like a dock, allows locals to easily deal with foreign products, by packaging these foreign products (or code) into a container where it is much easier to deal with.


Originally a greek word, Kubernetes means ship’s helmsman, the last actor in navigating a ship. This is an interesting name as Plato used a ship of state in the republic, as a metaphor for the governance of a city-state. This classical allusion would make a software company any smaller seem pompous, but as it’s google we’ll have to let it slide. The name Kubernetes reflects the nature of the software as an orchestration tool, although it is much longer and rarer a name than is often encountered in software.


It seems that Salt is so named as an extension of it’s design philosophy, of being highly modular and extremely lightweight. Saltstack continues this theme with grains and pillars, and although it would be very interesting if Saltstack was in some way named for the biblical story of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt, I think it is unlikely.


I can’t leave you without a progress update, so here is a picture of a 3d printed tower we’re testing for our friend Posco at the University of Liverpool


Posco's Pi tower!

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