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Re: How can the OS autodetect that a user is a newbie and offer help?

On Tue, Oct 17, 2006 at 01:02:45PM +0000, Jason Spiro wrote:
> Hi all,

Hi there.

> For example, when a person types newbie commands like "help" or "kde"
> (which is bound to something already) or the DOS commands "del" or "ren"
> (which are not), we should point them to more help. (In case anyone here
> has ever watched a real clueless newbie struggle: What are other
> commands that 100% clueless newbies often type?)

I think 'help' is by far the most common one ('?' might be close too).
Currently 'help' brings bash's help which might not be what a newbie
expected. Some (older?) people might even try pressing F1 and see what
happens [0].

I remember back in 2000 providing a Debian package called 'ayuda' ('help', in
Spanish) developed by members of my local IEEE Student Branch.  This package
included just a simple shell script ('ayuda') and a number of text files.
When the script was called it would show up a dialog(1) menu a user could
navigate and use to access the manuals included. Manuals were ordered in
'user', 'admin' and 'programming' topics. The 'user' topic would tell him how
to use shell commands, read e-mail, use a text editor (Joe, Vi or Emacs), and
configure his environment.

It would also tell the users how to use the system's proper documentation
(manpages and info) and it would also point to more documentation (HOWTOs and
locally installed documentation).

The tool was abandoned and, after trying to get some community development, I
removed it from Debian. 

I guess it would be nice to have something similar. You cannot replace 'help'
(if using Bash, Bash will answer) but a package could provide a 'helpme'
command [1][2] which did something similar.

Right now such a help program should work both in a console and in an X
display (if it detects one) should point users also to the documentation
available in Desktop environments (if available), to (Debian-specific)
documentation packages (like 'doc-debian' or the 'quick-reference') and to
(Debian-specific) use of dwww/dhelp/doc-central.

> What would be a good help text to offer when a user types a command that
> indicates he/she is a newbie? Also, what package should I file a
> wishlist against to request that such help be added?

Since there is no package providing that tool I would say 'general'. However,
filing bugs vs. general doesn't mean they will get fixed by themselves.  I
think that it would be much better if somebody sat down and wrote a "Debian
help" system that provided some Debian-specific things and integrated
properly with both gnome-help and khelpcenter.



[0] Many MS-DOS programs (such as Wordperfect, Lotus 1-2-3 and the like)
mapped F1 was always mapped to the 'help' key. This is still true in many
(desktop) environments and applications.

[1] At the very least:
$ cat helpme

echo "Don't panic!"

[2] Bonus points if someone figures a way to l10n that 'help' call, since
non-english spearkers might write something different such as: 'ayuda',
'hilfe', 'aide', 'aiuto', 'ajuda', etc.

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