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Command line training


Now that more people than ever are using the command line, it has become even more painfully apparent that we don't have a good way to help people get started. The main problem is that, while many of us would consider the terminal easy to use, a beginner's initial forays into typing commands can be terrifying. It can feel like a typo will destroy your whole environment, or worse, the environments of everyone connected to your network. This is true to a certain extent, but not when running normal, everyday commands. The solution to this fear is familiarity and experience, but then we have the classic chicken and egg problem. To gain familiarity and experience, you need to use the command line. GameShell, however, is another option.

GameShell was originally written to help university students familiarize themselves with the terminal. It does this by turning the learning experience into a text-based adventure game, much like Colossal Cave Adventure or Zork. The only difference is that instead of entering the verb and noun couplet of traditional interactive fiction, you instead construct every input from a genuine Bash command. cd will change your location. ls will list the items in your location, and cat will show the contents of any descriptive files you find. The magic behind this is that it's a trick. You are not really entering commands into an interpreter, but instead into your real terminal, navigating through a genuine filesystem created by the game. The exception to this is a custom gsh command which gives you goals ("Go to the top of the main tower of the castle") and tracks your progress. It's a really clever concept, and one that's sure to fill any player with confidence. When the truth is revealed that you've actually been issuing real commands, it should give you exactly the kind of primer needed to explore further, when you take their commands into the wild.

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The only danger with GameShell is that it doesn't restrict access to any commands, including rm.

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