Visit to a Strange Program
I realize it is a little bit bizarre, François, but part of what makes running Linux so attractive is it has put the fun back into computing. Sometimes fun is just plain silly. Non, mon ami, this program does nothing for your productivity. No, it does not monitor resources nor help with system administration. Yes, you are correct, it serves no obvious useful purpose.
You ask why? Why, François, do we serve fine wines and not plain water? Why do we indulge in rich foods and decadent desserts rather than consuming only what our bodies need? Because it is fun, mon ami. And why are you not paying attention to me? What are you looking at?
Ah, bonjour, mes amis! Welcome to Chez Marcel, home of fine Linux fare, great wine and the occasional excursion into strange and unusual software territory. Please sit and François will pour the wine immédiatement. François, to the wine cellar. Fetch the 1997 Eden Valley Hill of Grace Shiraz. Vite!
As you know, mes amis, the focus of this month's issue is program development. The obvious approach is to showcase some of the marvelous tools used by talented open-source programmers to improve and enrich the Linux landscape. It is on that note that I would like to point out the following: sometimes, those talented programmers are simply playing, having a bit of fun. Sometimes, the programs they turn out are silly, bizarre and, occasionally, plain weird. Those are the people I wish to honor with today's menu.
Once upon a time, ASCII art was practiced in e-mail messages sent around the world. Unfortunately, fancy fonts and HTML-ized e-mails have struck a powerful blow to this ancient and noble art form. The most missed are probably the cows, for Tony Monroe, anyhow. His cowsay program (a nice, easy-to-play-with Perl script) provides a simple way to generate an ASCII cow that speaks your message. Head on over to www.nog.net/~tony/warez/cowsay.shtml to pick up your copy and extract it into your directory. The installation consists of running an install.sh file. Running the program also is quite simple. Let's pretend that I want a cow saying “More wine, please”:
$ cowsay More wine please. ------------------- < More wine please. > ------------------- \ ^__^ \ (oo)\_______ (__)\ )\/\ ||----w | || ||
With the -e and -T options, you can define the cow's eyes and tongue. You also can use the -f option to specify any of the other animals (or cow-like creatures) in the /usr/local/share/cows directory. You'll even find Tux there. Be warned, however, that some of the art can be a bit off-color.
Talking milk carton, anyone?
In the world of programmed silliness, a lot can be said for words. Text, that is. Take, for instance, Andy Gilligan's cack program for generating nonsensical phrases (sourceforge.net/projects/cack). “So, how would you use cack?” you may find yourself asking. Say, for instance, you are trying to answer an e-mail, and you need something totally nonsensical to make your point. It's cack to the rescue. Simply type cack followed by a number to represent how many lines of nonsense you wish to generate, then press Enter. Here is an example of what you can expect:
disintegrate the 95 marauder and the on request medieval eel billet the unsized aged and the biochemically amphiprostylar crotchetiness
Your friends will think you are either crazy or brilliant.
To take this up a notch, you may want to check out the aptly named nonsense. In essence, nonsense is a clever generator of, well, nonsense. For instance, with the command nonsense -f mission.data, you can generate corporate mission statements like this one:
Our mission is to achieve progress in integrating integrated technologies to produce more revenue for our head honchos and make our founder enough cash to exceed the net worth of the world's richest man.
For nonsense, this is quite a flexible program. With command-line switches, you can make nonsense generate business plans, strange names for people, imaginary political organizations, an impressive geek resume (Figure 1), bizarre laws (“It's a Class C felony in Yellow Walnut, Michigan, to hit a poison ivy plant with a cardboard box”), newspaper headlines (“Computer Possessed By Satanic Dæmon”) and even a pretty realistic Slashdot web page. Some of the output is in HTML format and is suitable for web pages—all silly, of course. The many other options and their results may well keep you busy for hours.
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