Last words

Charly's Column – A FIGlet Farewell

Article from Issue 257/2022

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

figlet -c -D Vielen Dank f}r 20 Jahre

produces the banner shown in Figure 1 (see Figure 2 for the English version).

Figure 1: Charly bids a fitting farewell with a FIGlet banner in German …
Figure 2: … and then in English.

So, that's all folks. I'm saying goodbye to my work on this column, which I started with the February 2002 issue of the Linux Magazine German edition and am now ending with the February 2022 issue. I am taking this step because I would like to write less frequently in the future, but in greater detail. I would like to thank the entire editorial team for their support, especially Jan Kleinert and Jörg Luther, the editors-in-chief for the Linux Magazine German edition. But the biggest thanks go to you, dear Linux friends!


  1. FIGlet:

The Author

Charly Kühnast manages Unix systems in a data center in the Lower Rhine region of Germany. His responsibilities include ensuring the security and availability of firewalls and the DMZ.

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