Sometime last week, I was browsing around the homepages for various users. I’ve taken to picking users as I find them on IRC and plugging their username into the address bar to see what comes up. Most users haven’t made any major changes to the default site, which is fine, but every once in a while I find something interesting (at least, to me).

On one such occasion, I plugged in, and I came across something strange. The page was empty, except for a large, black circle with words extending radially from the perimeter. There were so many words that they were all squished together and weren’t decipherable. Towards the center, there were odd white curves carved out of the blackness, and there were some more words in a central white area. Two were readable: /bin/sh and /bin/bash. These were clues, and I had an idea of what I was looking at. tomasino confirmed it; this was an attempt at visualizing which users used which shell on, which they found by parsing /etc/passwd. The script that generated the visualization hadn’t expected so many entries, hence the squished lines and words.

`tomasino`'s Accidental Artwork

For the high-resolution version, go here. (Caution: 6 MB) For the original SVG, go here or to tomasino’s page, if the image is still there.

I thought this was a delightful little accident of scale, and I quite liked the look of the resulting shape. I decided I’d pull the SVG down into Inkscape, render it out as a PNG, and maybe get it printed and hang it on my wall. The white curves against the harsh blackness remind me of the curve of the Earth as seen from space, and the jumbled usernames and shell paths add a Unix dimension that I enjoy.