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On Friday I was procrastinating by reading some command line tricks articles and I encountered three commands I haven't noticed before: fortune, cowsay and lolcat. A little bit earlier someone also posted this Buzzfeed article with inspirational Andy Dwyer quotes and one thing let to another.

Inspirational Andy Dwyer Quotes

To get inspirational Andy Dwyer quotes into your terminal you need four things: fortune (to display a quote), cowsay (to make a cow say the quote), lolcat (for the rainbow colouring) and, of course, the quotes. On a Mac you can use Homebrew to install fortune and cowsay:

$ brew install fortune cowsay

lolcat is a Ruby program and can you can install it using RubyGems:

$ sudo gem install lolcat


Let's try these three programs out. lolcat is first.

Output of the command lolcat in Terminal.app on Mac OS


You can pipe input to cowsay to make it appear in a speak bubble on top of a cow. cowsay has some options to change the eyes and the tongue and even use a different animal, for example, a dragon.

$ echo "Hello World!" | cowsay
< Hello World >
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||


If you call fortune without any arguments it will print a random quote.

$ fortune
Felson's Law:
    To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from
    many is research.

The default database contains some pretty sexist quotes, as you sadly can expect from something written by white males. But I want to use my own database anyway. The format of a quotes file is pretty simple. You separate the quotes by a single % on a newline.

My whole life is a giant mess and I love it
-- Andy Dwyer
I know what things are.
-- Andy Dwyer
You're like an angel with no wings.
-- Andy Dwyer

However, the fortune program reads compiled data files and we can use strfile to create these:

$ strfile andy andy.dat

I can now call fortune with this quote file and it will only show quotes from the given file:

$ fortune andy

You can also find these files in my dotfiles repository. There is also a file with Tyrion Lannister quotes.

Piping it All Together

If I now call fortune, pipe the output into cowsay and then pipe its output into lolcat I get the result displayed in the first screenshot.

$ fortune ~/dotfiles/fortune/andy | cowsay -s | lolcat

I placed this line in my .bash_profile file and now every time I open a terminal window I get an inspirational Andy Dwyer quote.