I can't think of a better way to start this article than this.
Long ago, sometime in 2001 I came to know about a certain command line
tool which I had not heard. I expressed a lot of surprise and regret at
that to which my friend said simply.
In the ocean there are innumerable creatures. We cannot know about every
Later I lost touch with that friend but I remember his words. It only
gets worse with a new exciting tool showing up on
sourceforge every other day. But I
normally wait for OS vendors to pull the packages into their tree.
We are going to take a brief look at a few of them. They are fun tools
and these tools have gone a long way in improving the sex appeal of
UNIX. And geeks like us.
After all hackers are not boring people with no interest in women and
with women having nothing of interest in them. Hackers love fun too
except that their idea of fun is bit different. Let us take a look at
the ASCII art generation program figlet first.
figlet(1) generates ASCII art text by taking input from the command line
and spits out a big ASCII rendering to stdout. You can choose from a big
list of fonts and styles. Like all UNIX tools this one comes with a lot
of options. You can get creative and use tr(1) or sed(1) and further
beautify the output. Here is a sample.
gave this output. The biggest problem with ASCII art is the silly line
wrapping done by e-mail clients and several several programs. So you
have to be really careful! I have warned you. It will completely mangle
The fortune(1) program must doubtless be familiar to your ears still it
is worth mentioning. You can type it on the console without any
arguments and it will print a random cookie. Some witty saying, some
thought provoking quote or some such thing. It is one of the ways in
which I got around my boredom.
I was particularly impressed with the randtype utility. It
is quite amazing since it is just one C file but it produces a very
spooky looking output that would instantly remind one of UNIX. In fact I
loved the utility so much that I went ahead and ported it to OpenBSD, my OS of choice.
randtype(1) is not only a fun tool but also useful since it simulates a
user sitting and typing on a console/terminal. Just try this and you
will know what I mean.
$ randtype /etc/passwd
Shows the power of C programming!
I have always felt that the power of nCurses programming is best tapped
by Perl programming rather than C. Curses programming is so messy with
C. The Term::Animation CPAN module and the Curses::UI module will
illustrate that fact.
Still ASCII art and console animations look weird to people. Even
mplayer can play video on the console using libcaca or something.
Seeing a motion picture with ASCII is odd but hackers do what they want.
Not what others want.
I am not finished yet. You should perhaps now go to sourceforge and search for fun. No pun intended.