This encompasses all previous questions. I decided I didn't want to say this more than once, and I've changed my stance a bit.

For the most part it's unix vs windows.

IIRC Windows uses threads where unix forks. This means that Settings for servers like Apache may vary in some settings, and even in the way it should be compiled. This also means that Languages like Perl have to work differently on Windows.

Bash and Zsh which would probably be considered undeniably unix can be run on Windows (even if it means the presence of a cygwin.dll )

Firefox has its preferences menu in a different place on Unix, so who's to say that Something as generic as a browser isn't a valid *nix question. Firefox was *nix first really.

I can install a great number of apps that are primarily *nix on windows now, does this mean we shouldn't allow questions about them here?

I think the separatism needs to die, this site isn't about what should be on SO,SF,SU vs what should be on Unix SE. This site, like those, is about helping each other with our problems.

Sure this may not be the best place to ask about Apache, but I think I'd rather tell the person "you'd get faster answers on SF" than I would saying it's off-topic. Apache works fine on Unix, just don't ask about IIS.

Technically it might even be ok to ask about windows apps, we have Wine (and derivatives) right? So long as your question is about running them in wine (or some other way related to *nix).

We don't have to limit Unix to SUS (Single Unix Standard) I've asked plenty of KDE questions on here, and for those who don't know some of KDE works on windows.

Ultimately the point I'm trying to make is that the lines are blurry, let's focus on users getting help as best and quickly as they can, which may mean recommending another site (or migrating questions once we can ), instead of arguing about whether something is or isn't Unix enough. When in doubt, it's Unix.

stepping off soap box


as a non argumentative response to Michael, this following diagrams are a visual representation of what shapes my opinion. Although I at first generally agreed with his opinion I realized that there's a certain problem with it on scale.

The following Image is a figure representing Non-Unix and Unix circa 2000 Maybe, as you can see, lot's of Non-Unix (windows) and not a whole lot of overlap. This is not based on any real statistics and was POOMA. large non unix circle, small unix circle

This next picture is representative of where we are today ( Including OS X and Android ) large non unix circle, small unix circle

You'll notice that what is pure unix hasn't grown much, but now there's a lot more overlap and a lot of growth. This comes from many apps not being cross-platform. Back then QT was Unix only (I think) now it works on every platform under the sun, Perl's windows implementation was quite different from the unix version, now we have Strawberry. Zsh runs on windows, MSysGit is coming along nicely, VLC and MPlayer (+ gstreamer) are everywhere, Firefox is the #2 browser and runs on all platforms, I've even used Konversation as an IRC client on windows.

I would like to see our circle continue to grow, and in many ways I think the less differences is a good thing.

I also think that the fact that we've been having this opinion that we won't help with resources that also work on windows could be some of why Ubuntu SE wanted its own community, although I haven't done any research to back this up, I'd be they have no problems with helping a Ubuntu user back up his firefox bookmarks, though they might say take the details of using XMarks to (webapps).

In order for our circle to grow we must be willing to come out of our Ivory Towers to help the unwashed masses on the path to enlightenment. This is not to say we will not migrate questions elsewhere once that becomes possible, it's about helping users after all. If their question is better answered on SO (etc) then we should migrate it there, but I'm not going to try to figure out if questions are 'unix enough' anymore, best simply to suggest that something is better asked elsewhere ( like this ruby question ) than to get in a debate about whether that tool is unix or not. I'm more interested in seeing that user get help.

As far as Ubuntu though... Many of those users wanted a separate community, I would see any effort to migrate questions to ubuntu SE or from ubuntu SE as an abuse of users that chose specifically to post in one community or the other.

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    this site is called "unix" not "not windows", let that be the litmus test, does it involve, or run on a unix? then it must be unix. Are there better places to ask? maybe, but that depends. Commented Sep 4, 2010 at 21:53
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    I'll go with most of what you said, but I really don't buy into the philosophy that we should have more questions just to have more questions. Linux questions are on-topic on SU, but I never go there, because SU also covers every other possible use of hardware and software, and I don't feel like wading through all that to find the questions that actually interest me. If our circle gets wide enough that we're accepting questions like "how do I change my proxy in Internet Explorer" just because it's possible to run IE in Wine, I'm not going to very interested in this site Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 16:48
  • As for the part about the Ubuntu SE, I don't think (but I'm just guessing) that most users are consciously thinking "hmm, should I post this on Ubuntu or on Unix?"; I think it's very likely they don't even realize both exist. The odds of that will increase over time, as more people find the sites through Google or promotional links instead of through Area 51. I think us ("us") choosing not to merge but choosing to each allow questions on our sites that clearly belong on the other is about the worst way we could handle it; we either need to merge or we need to keep the sites separate Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 16:51
  • @Michael it's not a philosophy of more questions for more questions. It's a philosophy of not saying something isn't 'unix' just because it runs on a non unix platform. Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 18:43
  • @Michael just an FYI part of the reason I feel this way is because I wast starting to feel like there was a question "Is this unix enough" all the time... it's much easier for us to say "If it works on unix it's unix enough, but there's might be a better place to ask" Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 18:53
  • @Michael my problem with migrating to ubuntu, is that it's going to be hard to figure out what to migrate which way. you shouldn't just do it by tag. Example: I tagged a networking question 'ubuntu' because I know networking scripts are some what distro specific. but tbh I also know that that question may only be specific to debian based distro's, not being a debibuntu user it's hard for me to judge. Technically everything on ubuntu is ontopic here... it will probably be hard to judge what's general enough. Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 19:00
  • @xeno Right, I didn't mean to imply all questions tagged [ubuntu] belong on the other site. Questions like this and this seem like they definitely do though; they're Ubuntu-specific Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 19:31
  • @Michael I just read both of those question. One would apply to all debian based distro's (except for the bonus part, which I don't know) and the other seems largely pointed at a samba question and would apply to any linux exactly the same. This is why I don't want to do this, it's too hard for us to tell what should be migrated. Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 20:35
  • @xeno Well, if you're going to say Debian stuff belongs here instead of on Ubuntu, that's probably 90% of their questions. I know you're really anti-separation, but if a majority of possible questions are accepted on both sides this is going to get really confusing Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 21:12
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    I talked to Robert about getting migration options early and he said the code isn't written yet, so the discussion is kind of moot anyway -- I was ok with moving Ubuntu questions to their SE, but closing Ubuntu questions as off-topic definitely isn't a good idea Commented Sep 6, 2010 at 7:38
  • @Michael .... since it keeps coming up... maybe you could make a meta announcement that the code to migrate isn't written yet, since I'm sure you know more than I at this point. Commented Sep 8, 2010 at 5:36

2 Answers 2


I really like how xenoterracide presented this, particularly putting the focus on who is the user of Unix Stack Exchange. After all, the identity of this site's target users is the question that the first statement of the site faq is answering.

The second question asked of new site proposals on Area 51 is "who is this site for" but I think it is the most important. The only way these sites work is if you have people willing to participate on them, in particular the people who are willing and able to write answers. From my point of view, a Q&A site like this sets a boundary around its topic because it helps to make the people who answer questions happy.

If a question is something most of the Unix experts frequenting the site wouldn't mind writing an answer to, it's probably on topic. And, from the question side, the site definition needs to make it relatively simple to determine if the question is on topic. I think that xenoterracide statement to "focus on users getting help as best and as quickly as they can" accomplishes that very well.

I use a computer that runs on Linux, I'd like to think that when there is something I don't understand about it this is a place I'm able to bring my questions.


This is interesting because it doesn't line up with my original opinion. Your on-topic domain is this:

Venn diagram of Unix and the center http://mrozekma.com/so-unix-venn2.png

My on-topic domain is this:

Venn diagram of just Unix http://mrozekma.com/so-unix-venn1.png

(Original images stolen from Coding Horror)

The problem with the middle section is it allows endless amounts of questions that have almost nothing to do with *nix. Robert's example question is a good one here: "How do I back up my bookmarks in Firefox?" I would think that doesn't belong here, because backing up bookmarks in Firefox has nothing to do with Linux, even if you happen to be running Firefox on a Linux system. If I were looking for the answer to such a question, I would check SU.

On a somewhat related tangent, I personally think we probably should merge with Ubuntu, but if we are going to stay separate it's not good for there to be a huge set of questions that can exist on either site -- it means we have duplication of effort (answering the same questions on both sites), and people looking for answers need to check both sites to see if the answer already exists. Expanding our scope to "anything possible on *nix" leads to a lot of gray-area questions -- it's better for it to be obvious which questions belong here and which don't. At the moment I see our scope as "anything *nix-specific, except for Ubuntu-specific stuff since they have their own site", although I'm certainly not going to turn away Ubuntu questions until we've figured out what's going on there

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    The problem with this thought is it's not obvious. how to back up bookmarks. if I recall correctly (maybe not in current FF) there's a bookmarks file in the ~/.mozilla folder cp that to somewhere else... sounds unixy to me. However there are other less unixy approaches like using foxmarks. What I'm trying to say is they can ask, but that doesn't mean we can't encourage them to get better answers elsewhere. We can't merge with ubuntu, that vote was cast, it's a non issue, imo. Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 5:14
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    I'd also like to mention that the center area in your circles is growing, due to much porting efforts linux to windows and windows to linux. So what to do with that? I've started realizing that a large portion of my unix apps run on windows, not enough for me to be comfortable there, and it takes too long to install them there. But they do run there, konversation, smplayer, I've heard amarok, git, zsh, wget. I've gotten IE6 and 7 working on my linux box, and several video games. Recently purchased some native games. Mplayer runs on windows, should we close my mplayer question? Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 5:18
  • I drew pretty diagrams to show why I feel how I do Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 13:49
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    I really, really want to avoid "excepts" in what we consider on topic. I don't want this to be the site for Linux and Unix questions except for Ubuntu and this thing and that thing. Commented Sep 7, 2010 at 20:20

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