The Linux command terminal is key to the use of Linux. Some operating system versions (mostly server applications) run nothing but a command line. No GUI, no buttons to just click and make things happen. Even with a graphical version of a Linux operating system, the command line is a key tool. From upgrading applications or security packages, to running certain commands for administration purposes, or automating processes. Linux command terminal knowledge is a must for a Linux user.
The Linux operating system has been around for quite some time. Like, 26 years and counting. Based on UNIX, Linux is an open source operating system that comes in the form of “flavors” or different community made distributions. Arch, Mint, Ubuntu, Debian, just to name a few, help to make Linux one of the most popular operating systems in the world. There are a lot of things that run on Linux, or systems based on Linux. Android, Roku, The New York Stock Exchange, and even NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab all run Linux systems.
As daunting as it can sound, the command terminal doesn’t have to be all business all the time. So today, I want to highlight my top 10 command line packages available for MOST Linux distributions that can give you a fun break throughout your day. Just a note: I tested all of these before posting to make sure they all still functioned. These were tested in the latest version of Kali Linux, and I cannot guarantee they will work on ALL distributions. That being said, let’s get on with the show!
Espeak is a multi-lingual text to speech synthesizer that runs in the command terminal. Obviously, I can’t really show you what it does here in writing, but imagine Stephen Hawking singing you a lullaby. That’s what it’s like to use espeak. It’s a simple command with basic parameters that will speak anything you put in quotes. And I mean anything. It accepts certain arguments that allow you to control the pitch, speed of speaking, pause between words and more. It’s easy to get. First you just have to install it, then run it.
sudo apt-get install espeak
espeak [arguments] "What you want it to say".
espeak -v en -s 200 "I just farted"
You guessed it, this does exactly what it sounds like.
This little package allows you to make your terminal look like the scrolling screens in The Matrix movies. This fun little command line toy has quite of few different arguments it accepts to make the scroll act differently. Different colors, different speeds, fonts, and even the option to make it run in screensaver mode. I tricked my son earlier today with this and told him I thought I had broken the computer. If you run Linux around a bunch of people who are not tech savvy at all, this will make it look like you perform wizardry with your laptop.
sudo apt-get install cmatrix
cmatrix -a -B -l -s -C white
This one seems kind of pointless but if you run it right, it can look like you just accessed a data dump of names and addresses.
Again, this is probably a pretty pointless command line tool and we all know that the names and addresses are probably completely fake. But there are two fun applications for this. Again, if you are around non-tech people, make them think you are doing something unusual. For added fun, when someone sees it, give them long enough to read an address and then hit CTRL-L to quickly clear your terminal screen The other application is if you work on Linux with this kind of information, quickly fool your boss into thinking you are hard at work while you’re really just browsing Facebook.
sudo apt-get install rig
rig -c 10
Now this is actually a fun one. I mean, who doesn’t like good ascii art? It’s a hard thing to create by hand (trust me, I’ve tried). But asciiviewer takes care of all that for you. Issue the command and insert the image you want, and BAM out pops the image in ascii art form. Here is the leading image of this post with asciiviewer.
This particular little piece of command line tomfoolery doesn’t take any arguments. As far as I can tell, there aren’t a lot of picture types that it will except, but your basic PNG and JPG images will work just fine.
sudo apt-get install aview
asciiviewer [your image here]
This is probably one of the best known little pieces of fun in the Linux terminal. Though, I had to do a few things to get it running on my machine, most of the time it runs without issue. This little package makes a cow pop up when you give the right command and it speaks whatever you type in a speech bubble.
Cowsay comes with a lot of different characters that you can have say what you want including a bunny, duck, Beavis, Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, stegosaurus, Stimpy, and a lot more. Fun to leave up if you leave your terminal open and are gone for a little bit. Which could be bad if anyone else knows what cowsay is and decides to have fun while you’re gone.
sudo apt-get install cowsay
cowsay -f [character file you want to use] "[your phrase here]"
cowsay -f sheep "Beep. Beep. I'm a sheep."
This is another one of the most well-known command line goodies available for Linux. Have you ever wondered how it is that people get an ascii banner across the top of their terminal window in Linux? It’s probably done with adding a figlet command to the bashrc file. Like so:
Figlet comes with a lot of different fonts that can be used and downloaded to use with it. Just another fun little display type deal to waste your time with, or use in scripts to make them a little more presentable when they run.
sudo apt-get install figlet
figlet -f [font you want to use] "[your phrase]"
figlet -f banner3 "Welcome to The Terminal"
8. Yes – The Loop that Never Ends
This one is almost as pointless as rig, but it is entertaining. Basically, you type yes and then some phrase. After that, it just keeps printing it in the terminal over and over and over. Yup, as I said before, it’s pointless, but fun.
And there you have it.
sudo apt-get install yes
yes [your phrase]
yes "We have no bananas."
Have you caught on yet that a lot of these are just utterly pointless, yet, when you start using them it’s hard to tear yourself away? Well, introduce to this list, rev, which reverses what you type until you CTRL-C out of it. Which is kind of fun. Especially if you’re one of those people who knows how to make dirty words by writing out numbers backwards or something like that. Here’s me playing with it on my machine. The horribly highlighted lines are my input.
I told you it was horribly highlighted. It could be fun just to mess with people’s heads, but really, there is no use for having the terminal output what you type, except backwards. But either way, here it is.
The rev command is part of the util-linux package and is available from Linux Kernel Archive.
10. Let’s Watch Star Wars
Okay, so this isn’t so much of a command line package that you can download, rather, it’s a geeky little fun thing that you can do. This particular goody uses telnet to operate. Created by Simon Jansen, Sten Spans, and Mike Edwards, this is ascii brilliance. Yes, it’s Star Wars Episdoe IV, in ascii art, viewed through the telnet protocol in a command terminal. Need I say more about it?
It truly is a piece of genius, and the guys behind it deserve every beer they could possibly be bought for this. If you really want to waste some time in a Linux command terminal then this is for you.
And there you have it. My top 10 favorite Linux command terminal packages. Have any neat, fun goodies that you like to use in Linux? Let me know in the comments below!