Let me first describe my question, and then describe my particular situation which inspired the question. My question is the following: Is it appropriate on this site to ask for a list of solutions to 'my unix-related problem' whatever that problem might be? If yes, what are best-practices for such types of questions? And is it appropriate to ask follow-up questions in order to determine which solution is the best fit for me? If yes, what are best-practices for such types of questions?

As for the context of my question, it is the following: I am looking into the possibility of using a smartphone as my only private computer. Therefore, I would like to know which full-fledged unix-like operating system options are available on smart phones. It seems that such options exist, like maru os, Plasma Mobile or using Linux Deploy.

I imagine asking for a list of solutions, specifying for each solution: Which unix-like operating systems (or distros if linux) are available? Which devices are supported? Does the solution require breaching of the end-user software license agreement (or: Do you forfeit your warranty with this solution)?

I may also consider asking one or more follow-up questions to determine how a particular smartphone solution compares to an actual laptop solution in terms of, say, computing power and security.

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    "I am looking into the possibility of using a smartphone as my only private computer." This isn't intended to be a response to your question in any way, but that just strikes me as a painful and really terrible idea. Phones are really unsuitable for general computer use. Jul 4, 2017 at 10:03
  • Really? It seems to me if I plug in a monitor, a mouse, a keyboard and a proper os, I would be able to go about most of my private business from a smartphone. I am not considering using a smartphone as a substitute for a work computer. I guess this is why I want to ask these questions in the first place; I don't have any experience using a smartphone as a proper computer! Jul 4, 2017 at 10:13
  • I realise that smartphones have come a long way recently, but they're still wildly underpowered in comparison with a real computer. And if you are going to be plugging in all that stuff, why not just use a proper computer? The main advantage of a smartphone is portability. And you lose that if you start plugging in monitors and stuff. Oh, and can a smartphone drive a proper monitor? I don't know - maybe it can. But usually one uses dedicated video cards for the purpose. Jul 4, 2017 at 10:23
  • My reasoning is the opposite: If my phone can do everything anyway, why would I want a computer? Looking at the maru os site, it sure looks like it is possible, without sacrificing portability. Whether that is actually the truth... well that is what I want to ask. Jul 4, 2017 at 10:32
  • Well, obviously it depends what your computing needs are. If they are very light, maybe a smartphone will work for you. Jul 4, 2017 at 10:39
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    What would make this a unix-related question? The examples you cite ("what OS", "does this break the EULA", "which devices") are all completely off topic.
    – terdon Mod
    Jul 4, 2017 at 10:47
  • @FaheemMitha When/if I ask these questions, I will make sure to ask for examples of tasks where a smartphone setup would substantially underperform as compared to a similar laptop setup. Jul 4, 2017 at 10:58
  • @terdon I see I forgot to repeat the 'unix-like' in that paragraph. That is now fixed. But maybe you still think that the question is off topic? If the Unix & Linux board is not the appropriate one for questions about how to get a unix-like os on a smartphone, do you have any suggestion as to which board I should rather go to? Jul 4, 2017 at 11:29
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    @JonasDahlbæk well, installing a *nix on a mobile device might be on topic. I don't think we have a clear guideline on that one yet so that might require its own meta thread. However, asking about licences is off topic. It might be on topic on Android Enthusiasts or Ask Different depending on the mobile device but I don't really know their scope, you'd have to ask them. Asking for a list of options is off topic on most if not all SE sites. So most of your example questions would be off topic.
    – terdon Mod
    Jul 4, 2017 at 11:33
  • By the way, thanks for taking the time to ask here. That's really appreciated. That said, since to the best of my knowledge we don't actually have a clear policy on mobile devices (it doesn't tend to come up here much) you could always ask about installing *nix on one. I know I said it would require another meta thread, but that can be posted after you ask if it ends up closed.
    – terdon Mod
    Jul 4, 2017 at 23:01
  • I may do that, after I decide on a potential combination of device and distro. Although the feedback here already suggests heavily that my plans are not really realizable at this point in time. Jul 5, 2017 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


My take on this would be

  • It's basically a recommendation question. Those are problematic, even though they are not directly outlawed on this site.
  • It's probably too broad. You are asking for a combination of hardware and software, (at this point) without defining precisely what your acceptance criteria are. Given the topic, I don't think a lot of people have done what you are requesting, and those may have done so will probably have had requirements which differ from yours.
  • It sounds very specifically like a "shopping list question" which is notoriously problematic, and decidedly off-topic.

For the general topic of "can I request a list of solutions," that's similarly a pesky variant of shopping list question. The topic of follow-up questions isn't really suitable for the Stack Exchange sites, either; when you have a series of well-defined questions, it's fine to ask each as a separate post, with links to the previous one(s) for context, but your example sounds more like you would want to update and modify your original question indefinitely until old answers are probably no longer the good answers they were when your question was originally posted.

So, in conclusion, to me this sounds like something you should avoid.

For a more limited question like "can you run Linux on a phone" the trivial answer is that Android and Ubuntu and a number of other platforms are already doing that.

  • Tangentially, on the topic of plugging lots of peripherals into a phone, I don't think that's feasible. The form factor basically prohibits plug-in extendability, beyond one or two simple peripherals. With wireless peripherals, you can get some additional capacity, but it's going to be slow when you have multiple devices attached.
    – tripleee
    Jul 4, 2017 at 20:57
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    Don't worry, I have enough experience with stackexchange to know not to lightheartedly change a question after receiving an answer. My impression previously has been that although list questions are generally discouraged, they can (if framed appropriately) be completely acceptable. I guess in this case I did not really appreciate how open-ended my question would have been. Jul 5, 2017 at 11:24
  • "what your acceptance criteria are" nor the exclusion criteria.
    – Braiam
    Jul 5, 2017 at 12:51

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