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6 July 2018

Fun with cows and fortunes

by Linus Probert

So, thought I’d write a post…

I had some time over at work the other day and thought I’d make something fun. I’ve always enjoyed browsing the /r/showerthoughts subreddit on reddit. Generally the top voted posts on that page can be quite amusing.

Now, like many linux terminal junkies I’ve always used the old

fortune | cowsay

when my terminal opens up.

I got the idea that it would be nice to get the top showerthoughts posts merged into fortune for this purpose.

Let the hacking begin

First I needed to get the top posts. Python has of late become my goto language when you need to script up some quick internet parsing stuff. After roughly 30 seconds of googling I learned that reddit provides rss to almost all their subreddits by just appending “.rss” to the url. This knowledge provided this url:

And building upon that I got this:


import feedparser
import re
import urllib.request
import os.path
import sys

def read_list_from_file(infile):
    list = []

    if not os.path.isfile(infile):
        return list

    with open(infile, "r") as file:
        for line in iter(file.readline, ""):
            line = line.strip()
            if line == "%" or line == "":

    return list

def save_list_to_file(list, outfile):
    with open(outfile, "w") as file:

if len(sys.argv) < 2:
    print("You need to provide a storage file")

fname = sys.argv[1]

quotes = read_list_from_file(fname)

rss = feedparser.parse("")
for post in rss.entries:

quotes = [quote.strip() for quote in sorted(set(quotes))]

save_list_to_file(quotes, fname)

I won’t go into detail, but essentially this is the gist of it:

Googling some more gave me the following command to create .dat files from these text files:

strfile -c % /usr/share/fortune/showerthoughts /usr/share/fortune/showerthoughts.dat

So, now I had a script that concats current top showerthoughts to ones I’ve fetched earlier and a command that converts the output of that command to a .dat file that “fortune” can read.

Placing the output under “/usr/share/fortune” (on my machine) gets me the result I want.

I’m not going to boor you with details of cron. Just google how it works if you’re new to this. But that’s what I did to fetch new showerthoughts into my fortune db every hour.

// Liq

tags: python - fortune - cowsay - fun