Last words

After two decades as a sys admin columnist, Charly bids a fitting farewell with a login banner created with FIGlet.

When I log in to servers or network components, I am often greeted by a large font banner with variable information content. Sometimes it simply tells me the hostname, sometimes the kernel version, and sometimes it reads DO NOT REBOOT BETWEEN 8AM AND 8PM.

Of course, it is debatable whether banners make sense or are just nonsense, and I use them sparingly on my own systems. However, servers that I can’t just play around with warn me with a banner that reads Abyssus abyssum invocat (one mistake leads to another). Test systems for evaluating new software, on the other hand, cheerfully greet me with Morituri te salutant (those who are about to die, salute you). I’ve fared quite well with that banner all these years, but how do you create one?

I use FIGlet [1] for this. All of the popular distros include this tool, which supports several fonts and offers a variety of design options. I don’t use any of them – I just want to get an unambiguous message across when logging in. That’s why I only use the -c parameter to center the banner, which would otherwise be left-justified. For my farewell banner, I make an exception and also use the -D parameter, which lets you display German umlauts. I can usually ignore these with my Latin calendar sayings. FIGlet replaces special characters such as [, , and ] with ƒ, ÷, and ‹ while {, |, and } give you the corresponding lowercase letters. The call


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