Ok so I realize that this question has been asked a lot... or at least has been asked a lot with respect to Mac Os and Ubuntu. But I haven't been able to really figure out what the correct answer is with respect to all OSs, if there is one. I think my issue is that these types of discussions (for example here: Where exactly is the border between apple and UNIX? and here: Migrate Ubuntu-specific questions to AskUbuntu?) seem to have an underlying theme of trying to find the line between what is acceptable here and what should be considered Mac Os or Ubuntu specific, and therefore should be migrated to the appropriate SO site. But this to me indicates that there is such a thing as a question which is too specific to a given os for this site. I can't quite see why, or if, this requirement of generality only applies to questions regarding Os X and Ubuntu and doesn't extend to other *nix distros.

Now there are definitely questions, for example questions about proprietary software that will only run on os X, which are and should be considered off topic here. I think its much harder to see what those types of questions would be with Ubuntu. But if I had to guess at something, I'd probably say that questions specifically about Unity should best be asked at AU. But if this is the case, shouldn't questions specifically about Cinnamon be off topic as well? And maybe they are. This is the question I'm trying to get at.

It's been my experience with Ask Ubuntu that any question which looks roughly like: "I'm using $adjective $animal and $this_happened" is perfectly acceptable, whereas "I'm using $not_ubuntu and $this_happened" is always off topic, whether or not $this_happens to a large number Ubuntu users. I like the criterion given by xenoterracide in the first link I put above for where to distinguish Os X specific vs. on-topic questions. I interpret this criterion as follows: If you double clicked on something and didn't like the outcome go to AD, otherwise there's a good chance that your question is appropriate here. But I would guess, having never tried it myself, that more unix-y questions than Why does iTunes only play one song?, would also be acceptable there. So more or less, "I'm using $this_os and $this_is_my_question", where $this_os is either a cat or some number ending in .04 or .10, are always on topic at their respective SO sites.

So, is this site just a dumping ground everything else (modulo Windows)? Is it the case that as long you are running some sort of *nix os which is neither Ubuntu nor Mac, and your question is related to that operating system (rather than, say, the Python script you are trying to debug) it is on topic here? Is having no other SO outlet, make your question appropriate here? Or is it the case that questions should be able to pass the would-someone-using-a-different-os-benefit-from-my-asking-and_or-someone-else-answering-this-question test?

I ask because I have a very, very, very specific question about my recent Mint install wrt ubuntu-extended-extras. It is the type of question that I would have no qualms about asking on Ask Ubuntu, less the fact that it isn't about Ubuntu at all. I would also have no qualms about asking it on Ask Mint, except that that doesn't exist. I feel like I might be in a "tough titties" type situation here. I'm mostly hoping in asking this question that someone with a huge rep will say it's ok so I can blame you when someone down-votes me.

2 Answers 2


It's perfectly fine to ask distribution-specific questions here. In fact, look at all the distribution tags — we try to use them only on questions that are specific to a distribution (or class of distributions — for example, many questions tagged are relevant to Mint), or at least that have solutions that are specific to a distribution.

It's also fine to ask application-specific questions here. Even cross-platform applications such as Emacs, Firefox, etc. — all we ask is that you're running them on a unix system.

Pretty much all questions that are on-topic on Ask Ubuntu are also on-topic here. The only exception would be questions related to services like Ubuntu One, and even then most such questions are on-topic, as long as you're interacting with the service from a unix system. The difference between U&L and AU is the nature of the answers you're likely to get — if you're using the default interface you're more likely to get useful answers on AU, while if you want answers that are applicable if you ever use other distributions, U&L is the better place. This explains why we have few questions compared to AU — but they are on-topic.

As long as your question is related to the use or administration of a unix system, it's on-topic here. It doesn't matter whether your question is applicable very broadly or only to a specific application running on a specific version of a specific distribution. It isn't even up to you as the asker to make this determination. The question's tags should be an indication of how specific it is, but if you don't know, it's fine, we'll retag it.


I'd like to state that I didn't think Ask Ubuntu needed to exist at all, and I could possibly be persuaded to feel the same way about Apple. Though we never got to have that argument about Apple, and lost the Ubuntu one, possibly because early descriptions said we'd be for advanced users only. There is much, much, overlap across AU, Unix, Apple, SU, and SF, and not a whole lot to be done about it. My personal policy is only migrate if it's requested that we migrate, I'm not going to worry about whether the question is appropriate on another site. I said in the beginning that we should not try to worry about what we aren't, but instead worry about what we are. Does it run on a Unix environment? is it not programming? then it's probably ok here. Here's the historically relevant, long winded, version of that.

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