ASCII drawing of a steam locomotive.

Seven Linux commands just for fun


The Linux command line can be the home of power users and sysadmins. However, Linux is more than just a lot of hard work. Linux was developed by fun-loving people who created an array of fun and even comical commands. Try playing around with these yourself when you want a smile.

Steam locomotive (sl)

For no reason whatsoever, you can cause a steam locomotive to zip across your terminal using the sl command. Install Steam Locomotive with your package manager. For example, on Fedora:

$ sudo dnf install sl

A steam locomotive engine drawing made from symbols and characters

Real uses

As far as I know, the sl command is truly just for fun. Do you have an interesting use for sl?

Fireplace (aafire)

Warm your heart and your terminal with aafire command, which causes a fireplace animation to play. You can install aafire with your package manager. On Debian, Mint, Elementary, and similar:

$ sudo apt install libaa-bin

On Fedora, CentOS, and others:

$ sudo dnf install aalib

A black and white image of a fire made from text symbols and characters

Real uses

This image is a subtle way to communicate to your team or boss that everything’s about to go up in smoke.


You can use the yes command to print out a string of text until it is forcibly stopped with Ctrl+C. For example, I am a Buffalo Bills fan, so I chose to print out an endless series of Buffalo Bills with the yes command:

$ yes Buffalo Bills

A screenshot showing repeated lines of Buffalo Bills left edge slightly cut off

Real uses

You can use this command to pipe confirmation to scripts so that when a script pauses to ask for confirmation, it automatically receives yes. For example, imagine there’s a script you run that often stops to ask you for confirmation:

$ foo
Are you sure you want to do this? Y/n  Y
Are you really sure? y/N  Y
But are you really? y/N

You can auto-accept such messages by passing yes to the command:

$ yes | foo

Alternatively, you can auto-deny messages using yes as well:

$ yes no | foo


Installing Fortune can tell your fortune on the command line. Fortune prints a random and possibly meaningful message.

Install Fortune with your package manager:

$ sudo apt install fortune

On Fedora:

$ sudo dnf install fortune-mod

The fortune command has many datasets it can draw from. For instance, you can get famous quotes from literature or the science-fiction TV show Firefly, or choose from jokes, tips about Linux, and much more. Search your repository for “fortune” to see what options your distribution provides.

$ fortune
Johnson's law:
  Systems resemble the organizations that create them.

Real uses

You can use Fortune to generate a pseudo-random number. There’s not enough entropy to make it cryptographically secure, but when you need an unexpected number, you can count characters or words:

$ fortune | wc --chars
$ fortune | wc --words
$ fortune | wc --chars


Lolcat is a program that concatenates files, or standard input, to standard output (like the generic cat) and adds rainbow coloring to it. You can pipe the output of other commands to lolcat, which provides a rainbow hue to the result.

Here’s the result of lolcat -h for its help output:

onscreen text colored in a rainbow gradient

Figlet and banner

The figlet and banner commands let you create simple ASCII text banners. Here’s a text banner for a CentOS system:

$ figlet

Text banner reading "centoscom" composed from symbols and characters

Pipe figlet to lolcat for a colorful banner:

$ figlet | lolcat

A text banner reading "centoscom" made rainbow colored with lolcat

$ banner Hello World

A banner reading "Hello World" spelled out with pound symbols

Real use

Both figlet and banner are easy ways to remind users what system they’re logging on to, which can be helpful when you work with dozens of servers, as many sysadmins, web designers, and cloud developers do.


You can add speech capabilities to your command line funnies by installing espeak.

Once espeak is installed, turn up the volume on your computer and have some fun listening to your machine talk to you. Espeak is a software speech synthesizer, and there are a few different voice libraries available.

$ espeak "Linux is the best operating system."

Fun commands

Be sure to consult the man pages of all these commands to explore all the possibilities and iterations.