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TAO (The Art) of Unix Programming (and related systemic epiphanies)

This is a ruby-powered, ANSI colored, fortune-like program to espouse wisdom at opportune moments, such as when you log in.

In every culture, I come across a chapter headed Wisdom. And then I know exactly what is going to follow: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. - Wittgenstein

It's mostly a personal collection, but contributions are welcome.


  • Arch Linux: yay -S taoup-git (replace yay with your favorite AUR helper)
  • Nix: nix-env -iA nixos.taoup (or nix-env -iA nixpkgs.taoup with nixpkgs on a non-Nix OS)
  • Other unix-like: Make sure you have ruby and gem installed, run gem install ansi then ./taoup.


Regular terminal (iTerm2).


Oldschool terminal


(cool-retro-term, or via homebrew: brew cask install cool-retro-term)

Getting wisdom at login

To display taoup output at login, use the taoup-fortune example script or try adding something similar in your .profile.

By default taoup assumes good taste and a black/dark terminal, for edge cases and lost causes use --whitetrash.

Special modes

There are four modes other than standard invocation:

  • --help or --h shows brief command line help on invocation syntax
  • --whitetrash converts the otherwise attractive color scheme to be legible on light or white terminals
  • --machine drops any ANSI colors from the output (also respects NO_COLOR environment variable, see
  • --fortune converts the wisdom to an assumed imitation of the fortune format. To make the resulting fortune format file available to the classic fortune program (loses ANSI colors in output) you can run strfile as follows:
taoup --fortune >taoup-fortunes
strfile taoup-fortunes taoup-fortunes.dat
fortune taoup-fortunes

Praise for taoup

  • "I'm honored. :)" @jacquesm, HN user with ~200K karma, after being quoted in taoup
  • "Taoup is in my zshrc startup, it's consistently fun/intelligent/thoughtful. Thanks for the continued maintenance 👍, cheers." @ronjouch
  • We are now the top ranked fortune implementation on Github. Spread the word!