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The Help Center lists the following as acceptable topics:

  • The Unix foundation underlying OS X (but generally not frontend application questions)
  • The underlying *nix OS on an embedded system or handheld device (e.g. an Android phone)

(plus a few more uninteresting topics.) Why is only the Unix foundation underlying OS X or an embedded device interesting, but not the underlying foundation of server and workstation Linux, BSD Unix, AIX, HP-UX, etc? What makes the Mac so special?

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If I understand you correctly, you read the text as saying "of underlying Unix foundations, only those of OS X and embedded systems/handheld devices are on-topic".

I believe the intent is to say that "on OS X and on embedded systems/handheld devices, only the underlying Unix foundations are on-topic".

In other words, the Unix foundation is on-topic for all Unix systems. But on BSD, Linux, AIX, HP-UX etc, the rest of the system is, too. What makes Mac so special is that the rest of the system is not on-topic.

  • I think the wording is bad. It does not state what you say the intention is. It says in one bullet point: "The Unix foundation underlying OS X [...]", period. And in the next: "The underlying nix OS on an embedded system or handheld device [...]". *Nothing is said about Unix foundations in general, only other very specific topics like shell scritping, administration, etc. – Johan Myréen Aug 7 '17 at 17:01
  • @johanmyreen Perhaps rewrite your question to include a suggestion for a better wording? – Jenny D Aug 7 '17 at 17:31
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    @JohanMyréen everything UNIX is explicitly on topic, I don't really see why that should be restated there. The text you quote is to specify that for systems that aren't entirely UNIXY but close, we only support the UNIX side of things. So we don't make everything android or macOS on topic, only those bits of them that are common across *nix systems. The rest is covered by the first bullet point: Using or administering a *nix desktop or server. That is as broad as it gets. – terdon Aug 8 '17 at 10:43
  • "Using and administering" does not cover "foundation", in my opinion. Somebody may be interested in how page faults are handled in the kernel, or the structure of the Ext4 file system. – Johan Myréen Aug 8 '17 at 10:55
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    @JohanMyréen that comes under administering, if you like. The main point is that the first sentence already states that this site is for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems. We only need to define specific subscopes for the weirdos of the *nix family. – terdon Aug 8 '17 at 16:54
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The help center is actually clearer than that. You are quoting the on topic page which states (emphasis mine):

Unix and Linux Stack Exchange is for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems.

If your question is about:

  • Using or administering a *nix desktop or server
  • The Unix foundation underlying OS X (but generally not frontend application questions)
  • The underlying *nix OS on an embedded system or handheld device (e.g. an Android phone)
  • Shell scripting
  • Applications packaged in *nix distributions (note: being cross-platform does not disqualify)
  • UNIX C API and System Interfaces ( within reason )

Those two first sentences in bold make it clear that anything *nix related is on topic. The rest are to explain the edge cases. Those systems which are kinda sorta *nix but not entirely. So we specify that for those systems, and those systems only, their *nix side is on topic here but not the rest.

"The underlying foundation of server and workstation Linux, BSD Unix, AIX, HP-UX, etc" are all covered by the first bullet point: any question about those systems will come under "using or administering a *nix desktop or server".

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