Here is some quick reference information about using Super Dimension Fortress (SDF). I'm not a member of SDF's staff, so the information here is not definitive. If you find a discrepancy between what I say & how things actually work on SDF, it's an error in what I've said, not in how SDF behaves.
Use the faq or help commands to get information about SDF. These are not standard unix programs. They are specific to SDF.
The help command mostly gives you lists of other commands. If you type ``help'', you'll see a menu like this:
SDF Help System - v8, 1993 - sdf!smj [a] Directory and File Utilities [b] Email Information [c] USENET Information [d] User and Process Information [e] Tutorials and Very Useful Commands [f] ARPA Services (internetworking) [g] Homepage, VHOST and MetaARPA Utilities [q] Quit SDF Help System Your Choice? For more help, type 'faq' For a list of basic UNIX commands, type 'unix' to remove your account, type 'delme'
Most of the letters in the menu will give you lists of commands. After you quit the help program with ``q'', you could run the commands or read more about them in the online manual I discussed earlier. Some of the programs are specific to SDF & are not discussed in the man. SDF's excellent com program is an example of a program that is not discussed in the man.
To me, the faq program is more useful. In it, you can find short explanations of unix file permissions, uploading & downloading, SDF's policies, & the history of SDF.
To enter the faq, type ``faq'' on the command line, & the faq program gives you a list of sections. This is faq's main menu. You can exit by typing ``q'' here. If you type ``g'', it will ask you for the name of a section. You enter a section name & press return, & you'll see the section's menu.
In a section's menu, you have a numbered list of questions or topics. If you type ``g'', & press return, you'll see main menu again. If you type ``t'', you'll be prompted for the number of a question or topic. Type that & press return. You should type the number exactly as it appears in the menu, including leading zeros.
Some things you can learn from the faq include:
SDF has its own chat system, called com. It's like a stripped-down IRC, but much cooler than IRC because people actually talk, & you don't get unwanted pop-up download files & you don't have tons & tons of bots waiting to download ``warez''. Anyway, com is like IRC except that com is cool.
To use com, type ``com'' on the command line. You'll be plopped into the lobby, which is the default room.
Com uses single-key commands mostly. If you are new to com, you might want to read COM Command Discussion in this same article. If you are having trouble exiting from the com program, then you definitely need to read COM Command Discussion.
Table 6.1 shows the most frequently needed com commands.
Also, from COM Mode, you can compete with others in games of Nethack, Netris, & some others. If you can master the ``h'' command in COM, it will show you the commands for playing these games.
The com commands are hot. By that, I mean that you type a command character, & com immediately takes action. You must be careful to type only the command character you intend. If you type other characters along with the character you intend, one of those other characters might be interpreted as a command, & the character you intend will be interpreted as an argument to that command. It might sound like I'm being pedantic, but people who are new to com often have this problem.
Table 6.2 shows the proper sequence of steps for entering a command in com. It assumes you are already running com & that you are not currently processing any com commands. You are just reading the text in the room.
Step number 4 in Table 6.2 is critically important & deserves further discussion. In step number 4, you touch (or ``type'') the command key. You do not touch (or type) any other keys on your keyboard or on any other keyboard. You don't need to ``enter'' the command by typing the Return or Enter key on your keyboard; com will acknowledge your command key immediately.6.1
A common error for new users is to type the Return (or Enter) key after they type the command key. Com executes the command key fine, then it notices the Return key. Return is a command, so com executes it. The Return command gets you a prompt so that you may enter text that you ``say'' for other people to ``hear'' in the room. Because of the Return key, com is not interpreting the new user's keystrokes as commands.
Then the new user tries to type another command, such as the ``q'' (quit) command, but com interprets it as text to say into the room. The new user is under the impression that he needs to end commands with Return, so he does that, which causes com to print ``q'' into the room for everyone to see. The new user is confused about why his command doesn't execute, so he types ``h'' & Return again. The ``h'' is interpreted as a command & gets him a menu, but the Return is also interpreted as a command & puts him into enter-a-line-of-text mode. He sees the ``q'' command in the menu, types it & Return, & the cycle repeats.
All of this discussion may seem silly to most people, but a lot of new users have amazingly huge amounts of trouble when they learn to enter a command into com.6.2
Let's walk a new user named newbie through his first session in com.
She'll repeat this who knows how many times. Other people in the lobby will notice her problem & try to help, but Newbie has to go through the error many times before she stops typing Return after her commands.
The problem is compounded by com's modality & Newbie's failure to realize that com is modal. Sometimes, com is waiting for Newbie to type a command. Some commands are single key. (The ``q'' & ``h'' commands are examples.) Other commands wait for Newbie to type something, & during that time, com does not interpret her keystrokes as commands. (The Space Bar and Return commands, both of which are for saying text into the room, are examples.)
The other people in the room see what Newbie is going through, but there isn't much they can do because they can't see Newbie's screen & help her figure out whether com is waiting for her to type a command or waiting for her to type text. What's more, whenever they say something like ``Type h by itself'', Newbie types an ``h'' & then a Return. So Newbie keeps going around & around.
The problem is that com is modal & new users sometimes fail to realize that.
What does it mean for a program to be modal? It means that sometimes, com is waiting for you to type a command, & sometimes it is waiting for you to type arguments to a command. Some commands are single key. (The ``q'' & ``h'' commands are examples.) Other commands wait for you to type something, & during that time, com does not interpret her keystrokes as commands. (The Space Bar and Return commands, both of which are for saying text into the room, are examples.)
If you find yourself in the Com Newbie loop, here's how to get out of it. Follow the exact steps from Table 6.3. Type only what it says to type. Do not type anything else. Do not type Return unless a step in the table says to type Return.
Here's why the steps in Table 6.3 work:
I have heard that early versions of COM Mode were fairly simple shell scripts that ran tail on a common file. Excellently unixly elegant. COM Mode is in about version 6 now, & it works across a bunch of computers networked at SDF, so I don't know if it's still just some shell scripts.
If you type ``bboard'', you'll enter the bulletin board. Its commands resemble those of the faq: