Maybe a strange request, but I am looking for Linux terminal programs that constantly spew out random but "important looking" text, just the way they do in Hollywood movies.

You know, like ping www.google.de but faster and maybe more "random", with a wider variety of lines shown.

  • 1
    Another idea: randomly picking a manpage and scrolling through it, then picking another one. Nov 7 '13 at 9:33
  • 1
    Just open a complex Windows program with wine, that will spit out tons of cryptical messages :)
    – Gene
    Nov 7 '13 at 9:42
  • 2
    off topic, IMO, but hacker typer and a full page web browser should do the trick
    – Journeyman Geek
    Nov 7 '13 at 9:46
  • I can remember there was a script using screen or tmux (cannot remember which one). It was opening some panels and running nmap, ping, ps, top and other stuff in them, then closing some of opened panels and re-opening new ones, and so on. Unfortunately I cannot find it now, and cannot remember its name..
    – MarSoft
    Sep 22 '17 at 11:40

The tool to do that trick is cmatrix. As far as I know, cmatrix is included in the repository of most Linux distros so installing it is a piece of cake. If you use Ubuntu or any other similar distro, just run this command to install cmatrix:

sudo apt-get install cmatrix

In Arch Linux, the installing command will be:

sudo pacman -S cmatrix

After you get cmatrix installed, to know what it looks like, just open the terminal and run the cmatrix command and the matrix will start running on your terminal. To stop the matrix, just hit the "q" key.

Rather than the default green + black you can also change it to blue and black, IMO it looks a lot smarter.

Command: cmatrix -BC blue

Source + info: http://www.asty.org/cmatrix/

  • Neat idea, but it looks like taken from the Matrix, and not like "some important hacking-related computer output". Nov 7 '13 at 9:36
  • 1
    @NilsWerner why reinvent the wheel? open several terminals, with several colors, one bold and different in the center etc. Nov 7 '13 at 9:38

You can prepare a list of "important looking output command" and have then run at random.

For example, create a file commands containing one command per line :

ping -c 4 www.google.fr
dmesg | tail -n 15

You can add the displaying of parts of logs, depending of your distribution (on my gentoo I may had tail -n 15 /var/log/emerge.log, etc...).

Then just have them run at random non stop by launching something like :

while true; do sh -c "$(shuf -n 1 /path/to/file/commands)"; sleep 0.5; done

Depending what command you put in the command list, you might need to run it from a root shell.


In one of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movies (I think the Swedish one) during a "hacker scene" Lisbeth had a terminal open on her Mac and it looked like it was just the output of ls -R on a Linux system (maybe they used ssh to make it go slower) (and yes, I mean Linux, because I don't think Mac OS X has aspell libraries).

Personally, I would try the output of compiling something from source, preferably something with some dependencies. You can probably use your package management system for this, but I don't know what distro you're using. I used to run a Gentoo system and even though compiling something like OpenOffice.org (as we used then) or Firefox from source took a long time, I still get a warm hacker-feeling from watching something compile.

Something else you might try is the console output from an IRC client. Not the chat rooms themselves but the output from the server with all the archaic control messages and the MOTD's and such. Especially if the feeling you're going for is hacker communications and not just hacker computer program output.

If you want to be super-authentic (à la The Matrix Reloaded, I'd suggest downloading Kali Linux and set up a box to hack into, or at least use nmap and some SQL database, but pretty much anything done on the command line looks l33t to the masses.

  • 2
    See nmap.org/movies , it was used in both films you referenced. Nov 7 '13 at 10:55
  • +1 for nmap. For what OP wants, it's the obvious way to go. You can download it for free from insecure.org. Nov 7 '13 at 13:02
  • I know this is old, but make sure you change any IP-addresses that may be in there to an impossible one (i.e. make one of the four parts of an IPv4 exceed 255). Doing that will: 1) prevent any claims from actual IP address owners, and 2) show attentive techies that you know what you're doing about by actively invalidating the IP-addresses (the smart ones will appreciate the security concern, the dumb ones will make fools of themselves by not understanding and yelling "hah, they don't even know what an IP address looks like". (It's the IPv4 variant of the 555 in the phone numbers :) )
    – SadBunny
    Nov 18 '16 at 15:18

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