Set MOTD on Ubuntu 18.04

Changing the message of the day text on Ubuntu to show hostname

Set MOTD on Ubuntu 18.04

Modifying the message of the day text to remove all the stuff I don't want to see, and showing the name of my host when logging into my VM via SSH.

All the banner/message of the day files are stored in /etc/update-motd.d/ folder. They are ran in numerical order, as long as the file is set to be executable.

root@hostname:~# ll /etc/update-motd.d/
total 57
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root   10 Apr 22 21:32 ./
drwxr-xr-x 86 root root  170 Apr 22 21:33 ../
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 1233 Apr 22 21:18 00-header*
-rw-r--r-x  1 root root 1157 Aug  6  2018 10-help-text*
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 4646 Sep 27  2019 50-motd-news*
-rw-r--r-x  1 root root  604 Mar 21  2018 80-esm*
-rw-r--r-x  1 root root 3017 Mar 21  2018 80-livepatch*
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root  299 May 18  2017 91-release-upgrade*

Files are listed above are displayed roughly below;

  • 00-header - basic system information:
    Welcome to Ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS (GNU/Linux 5.3.18-2-pve x86_64)
  • 10-help-text:
 * Documentation:
 * Management:
 * Support:
  • 50-motd-news: looks like this checks for news from the Ubuntu website and is updated periodically:
 * Kubernetes 1.18 GA is now available! See for docs or
   install it with:

     sudo snap install microk8s --channel=1.18 --classic

 * Multipass 1.1 adds proxy support for developers behind enterprise
   firewalls. Rapid prototyping for cloud operations just got easier.
  • 80-esm - looks like this will display extended security update information if this is enabled / supported on your system
  • 80-livepatch - displays a message about Livepatch, content will change if Livepatch is enabled:
 * Canonical Livepatch is available for installation.
   - Reduce system reboots and improve kernel security. Activate at:
  • 91-release-upgrade - presumably displays that your system is due an upgrade.

I don't want to see the information from 10-help-text, 50-motd-news, 80-esm, 80-livepatch, to stop these from running we just need to set the files as not executable with the chmod -x command.

Navigate to the folder, cd /etc/update-motd.d/, run the chmod -x command chmod -x 10-help-text 50-motd-news 80-esm 80-livepatch. To re-enable a message run chmod with the +x chmod +x 50-motd-news

Now to add the hostname using some ascii text, this can be done using a program call figlet which can be installed using apt install figlet. Or you can simply use DuckDuckGo with figlet followed by the text to generate the text. e.g - the 'slant' part of the text specifies the name of the font, a full list can be found on the figlet website

We then copy the figlet text from DDG and paste it into a new file on the system, I've called it hostname.asc - open the file with nano /etc/update-motd.d/hostname.asc and paste the text straight in, ensuring that it has maintained its formatting.


   ____  ____ _(_____  _  __
  / __ \/ __ `/ / __ \| |/_/
 / / / / /_/ / / / / _>  <
/_/ /_/\__, /_/_/ /_/_/|_|

Then add another MOTD file in the update-motd.d folder, numbered so that it appears in the correct order. I've called my file 01-hostname. Open the file with nano /etc/update-motd.d/01-hostname and enter in the following text to output the hostname.asc file to screen on login:

printf "$(cat /etc/update-motd.d/hostname.asc)"

As the file is not executable yet it still won't display on login - chmod will need to be used to make the file executable: chmod +x 01-hostname

After a reboot/logout and back in, when you try to login again you should get the updated motd: