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I have just asked this question. Before asking it, I had a hard time deciding, if asking it won't be off-topic. I have found many similar questions here, that were closed as opinion-based.

However, in the same time, I found many of them, nearly similar (this, this, etc.) remaing for months, if not years, not closed, well-received, upvoted, answered with many answers etc.

Is there any rule of thumb here (which I may be missing), which explain, why certains of the same sounding questions were closed while other, quite similar, remains open and well-received?

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    Yeah, general distro questions like the one you asked aren't on-topic simply because there isn't a way to limit them so that they have 1-2 true answers. If a question cannot be singularly answered, it's usually a good indicator that it's an opinion question. – slm Nov 29 '15 at 22:35
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This happens frequently. I write an answer and before I can post it the question is closed as "opinion based". I propose that there are fact-based answers to this question which will help the questioner make an educated decision.

My answer (which can be seen in this post's edit history), for example, contained many facts and references as well as a disclaimer of opinion-affecting experience.

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Your question was closed as "Primarily opinion based", not "off topic". Distribution choice is more often decided by personal preference (some say religion) than any objective criterion. The truth is that there is very little difference between distributions. They all have more or less the same core software and capabilities. The main things1 that change are the package management system and, sometimes, their default desktop environment.

To ask a question that isn't opinion based, you need to give very precise requirements. For example:

Your question did give two requirements, but neither can really be answered objectively:

  1. Since I'm rather beginner, I'm not looking for a solution, which will take me two weeks of browsing docs to just begin.

    That one is indeed less opinion-based than the next but it still doesn't have one right answer. Of the three distros you were asking about yes, Ubuntu is the simplest for a newbie, but so are Sabayon, Mint, MEPIS, PCLinuxOS. . . The list goes on. Actually, there are far fewer distros that require browsing of docs to begin than those that don't these days.

    More to the point, none of the distros you list will require weeks of reading docs to use. Of the three, only Ubuntu is explicitly newbie-friendly but none is particularly hard (the way Arch or Gentoo are, for example). Which one you choose comes down to which one you prefer.

  2. since I'm planning to host my private code on this machine and maybe (in future) use the same distro for a production server (on different machine), then I would like to pick security-oriented distro, which will not fall on first penetration test or on simplest hack-child or script-kiddie toy.

    I'm afraid this one is more problematic. Pretty much all distros are secure. There isn't any Linux system that will "fall on first penetration test or on simplest hack-child or script-kiddie toy". Not a one. We can't answer that except by saying "Well, I prefer distro X". There simply can't be one, single right answer.

Now, about the examples of similar questions you cite:

  1. Lightweight custom linux build

    This one, like the two others I cited above, is actually answerable. It asks for a specific requirement:

    I am looking for a Linux build that takes up very little memory to boot up. I don't need any of the UI modules.

    That is specific enough to answer. There are distributions whose aim is precisely to minimize their footprint and take up little memory.

  2. What distro for an old HP (Celeron/384MB)

    This one I just closed for the same reason as yours. Look at the answers; there is one from the OP saying he gave up and then 6 other answers recommending 10 different distributions. That's precisely why this type of question is problematic.

So yes, questions about choosing a distribution can be on topic but only if they have very specific requirements. Anything else will quickly devolve into people posting their favorite distributions.


1By no means the only things, of course, just the most obvious.

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    And even then, most of those are bound to be obsolete in just a couple months. In fact, the 4.x kernel one is obsolete as most distros already ship (on stable or next-stable) the kernel by default. – Braiam Dec 1 '15 at 2:22
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    I stand corrected, Debian Jessie at least ships 4.x on backports, while security still have the 3.x branch – Braiam Dec 1 '15 at 2:32

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