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First of all: I'm a Linux Mint user for about 3 years now. I was a Ubuntu user for about 7 years before and a Debian user for about 5 years. I know the Debian way of working, experienced its evolution and the rise of its derivatives. I would consider my experience level as advanced, but I'm not a guru.

There seem to be different opinions on how similar the members of this distro-family are, and whether a user of one distro can support an user of the other distro. I have read through some discussions here on Ask Ubuntu-Meta and can understand both sides: One that says "under the hood, they are the same" and the others "they are configured differently" (there are other arguments as well, but for me most of them are less technical and more political).

The fact is: If I have an issue with my Mint, I enter the error message into my search engine and often end up on a Debian or Ubuntu forum, e.g. Ask Ubuntu. And yes, in at least 90% of the cases I can apply that to my Mint. I bet you have had similar experience, with issues on your Ubuntu being solved on forums for other members on that family. Please don't wonder about http://meta.askubuntu.com/questions/8123/how-do-mint-users-end-up-here, under the hood, all Debians produce similar error messages.

But of course, there are differences! And I understand that some users on Ask Ubuntu consider e.g. Cinnamon questions off-topic. I would consider YaST questions off-topic too. But do you really need to reject all questions that mention that magic word "Mint"? Feels like some people have a Mint-allergy.

Coming to an end, what are the relevant differences between unsupported derivatives like Mint and officially supported variants of Ubuntu? What kind of questions can a Mint user ask on Ask Ubuntu (because a Ubuntu user may come up with it too), and what kind of questions shall he/she better ask on e.g. https://unix.stackexchange.com/? Can we make a list of that? E.g. all questions related to the desktop are off-topic on Ask Ubuntu, all questions related to libs, drivers, kernel, ... can be asked on Ask Ubuntu.

Maybe, can this help?

craesh@denkbrett ~ $ dpkg -l linux-image* | grep ii
ii  linux-image-3.13.0-37-generic                               3.13.0-37.64                                        amd64        Linux kernel image for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
craesh@denkbrett ~ $ apt-get download --print-uris linux-image-3.13.0-37-generic
'http://ftp.uni-stuttgart.de/ubuntu/pool/main/l/linux/linux-image-3.13.0-37-generic_3.13.0-37.64_amd64.deb' linux-image-3.13.0-37-generic_3.13.0-37.64_amd64.deb 15106714 SHA256:b505f38c05098bb498fc0fc0190faadf2fc9da9afccba2729d5335d7a86c7b68

If (and only if) the download URL for the package in question is one of an official Ubuntu mirror, the questions is considered on-topic. Does that make sense?

Update why this is not a duplicate:

I didn't ask whether Mint is officially supported by Ask Ubuntu. I asked about the technical differences, and topics that can be asked and answered for either Mint, Ubuntu and other derivatives as well because they share the same technical basis.

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    Close-voters: This question is about Ask Ubuntu's policies about what distros we support, and it should not be closed as off-topic. We might end up closing this as a duplicate of some other question on meta, but this question is definitely on topic. – Eliah Kagan Jan 22 '17 at 16:22
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    Actually Cinnamon isn't off-topic, because you can install Cinnamon on Ubuntu. Mint is off-topic because it's not Ubuntu or an official flavour and that's that. Of course, many questions are not distro specific, and oftentimes Mint users will find working answers here. That's awesome. But if we start trying to define which Mint questions are on topic, we will get into a very confusing mess. Already close-voters have to make a decision: do we vote to close, or edit out version info on the basis that the question isn't distro-specific? This is hard enough as it is! – Zanna Jan 22 '17 at 16:23
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    Possible duplicate of Linux Mint (and other unofficial derivatives) - on topic? – Mark Kirby Jan 22 '17 at 16:27
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    @Zanna: Interesting, Ubuntu + Cinnamon is on-topic, but Mint is off topic? You are right, it's complicated. Anyway, I don't like that this questions is answered politically, but not with technical arguments. – craesh Jan 22 '17 at 16:37
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    I don't understand the problem you're trying to solve, what's the problem with Mint users using the unix stack exchange? – Jorge Castro Jan 22 '17 at 16:38
  • What's problem with a Mint user asking about how to use apt-get? He won't get that answer on SE, they will tell him to ask on AskUbuntu. – craesh Jan 22 '17 at 16:39
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    There's no way for us to keep track what packages Mint has changed or has changed policy on; do you have a link to an example on where a mod on the UNIX SE has told a Mint user to ask here instead? – Jorge Castro Jan 22 '17 at 16:41
  • @MarkKirby I haven't read any technical argument yet. Why are questions to e.g. Mint's apt-get not allowed? Or installing apache? Where are the differences? – craesh Jan 22 '17 at 16:42
  • @JorgeCastro I assume that they follow similar politics than you do: "if the questions is not in our scope, go away". But I haven't experienced it yet. For keeping track: what about my proposal to use the package download URL? – craesh Jan 22 '17 at 16:44
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    Why should the onus be on us to do all the extra technical work to determine if a question is on topic? – Jorge Castro Jan 22 '17 at 16:45
  • @craesh Does Why are questions about (specifically) Ubuntu based distros off-limits? address what you are asking? – Eliah Kagan Jan 22 '17 at 16:46
  • No, you shouldn't do the technical work. But whoever starts a topic may be informed about that he can do this quick test to prove that his question/issue is applicable to Ubuntu as well and may even help some later Ubuntu user. – craesh Jan 22 '17 at 16:47
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    Sounds like one of the main reasons unix.SE exists! – Jorge Castro Jan 22 '17 at 16:50
  • @EliahKagan and JorgeCastro: I appreciate that you try to get into the technical details. I know your post, Eliah, actually it's one of the few technical postings about this topic. I understand and support some of your arguments there, no question. But still can't understand why everything related to Mint is banned, even if the same issue can happen to a Ubuntu user. E.g. questions related to libraries, dpkg/apt (which are taken over unchanged). But ok, apparently some of you fear to smear the borders. Some people are rather optimistic, some a pessimistic. – craesh Jan 22 '17 at 16:59
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    @craesh I am mod both here and on Unix & Linux. I can assure you that Mint is 100% on topic on Unix & Linux so you can feel free to ask there. – terdon Jan 23 '17 at 10:11
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In short, derivatives of Ubuntu (Mint, EOS etc...) are off-topic here because the developers of these distros can make drastic changes to things, as well as swapping versions of packages and so many other things.

We simply cannot account for this in every single derivative out there, it is a futile task and we would loose focus on our core subject Ubuntu. This is common across all stack exchange site, they try to focus on a subject to improve the quality and it works.

Having said that, we do support the "official" Ubuntu flavors, these are

  • Edubuntu (14.04)
  • Ubuntu GNOME
  • Kubuntu
  • Ubuntu Kylin
  • Lubuntu
  • Mythbuntu (16.04)
  • Ubuntu Studio
  • Xubuntu
  • Ubuntu MATE
  • Ubuntu Touch
  • Ubuntu Budgie (17.04+)
  • Ubuntu "Snappy" Core.

The reason we support these, and not the others, is because these are the official versions of Ubuntu, they are Ubuntu, not some modified spin with a myriad of changes and it is NOT us who say so, it is Canonical.

So the technical reasons for this are for quality and logistical reasons, as well as protecting us from people who are dishonest about the distro they have and then face issues.

Though having said that, if you (or someone else) can recreate the issue on Ubuntu, your question would could be reopened because you proved it was the same on Ubuntu but you must prove it, just stating that, does not make it true.

I have to ask, what is wrong with Unix & Linux, it is a very good site and even has a sizable shared userbase with Ask Ubuntu, it is the site you are looking for! Would you like to have your question moved?

If you are looking for a more detailed "technical" analysis of why Mint is off topic, then I have to tell you, it does not exist, we support official distros, the configuration of them and software running on them.

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    This is a great answer and I accept it. I am still the opinion that most of the Mint issues are 100% aplicable to Ubuntu and vice versa, but I accept the argument that this may change without prior notice and there is no control about that. The advice to recreate an issue on a Ubuntu installation is fine, and I would be glad to see that advice in the "Questions that you should avoid" section of AskUbuntu's Help Center. – craesh Jan 22 '17 at 18:42
  • I'm glad you like it :) Seeing your question that was closed without much explanation makes all the difference and cleared the misunderstanding. It is perfectly valid for you to simply ask for an explanation of why a question was closed. I agree with you many issues could be the same, it is just a matter of scope. – Mark Kirby Jan 22 '17 at 18:53
  • Thank you :) And regarding your question "what is wrong with Unix&Linux?": I didn't know that AskUbuntu and Unix&Linux share a big user base. As my previous question had to do with vanillia-Ubuntu-libs, saw higher chances for an answer here than on Unix&Linux. I assume that others had the same thoughts, their questions were also closed etc, thus I started this thread for clarification. – craesh Jan 22 '17 at 19:05
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    @craesh The issue extends beyond just technical differences. We have to draw the line somewhere. Lets say Ubuntu + Mint is on-topic, but what about Elementary OS? So Ubuntu + Mint + eOS is on-topic. But what about Kali? Bodhi? Remix OS? Trisquel? Zorin? etc. Where do we draw the line? Since this site is about Ubuntu it is easy and makes sense to draw the line at official Ubuntu distributions. – Seth Jan 23 '17 at 0:02
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    @craesh I see your point. The AU community is large and it is easier to get support here that at U&L. The same is with Mint vs Ubuntu forums. But it is always your choice which distro to use. Mint claims that it is a bit easier to use out of the box than Ubuntu. Some drivers are pre-installed, etc. But the community is smaller and arguably of a lower quality for this reason. The ones who select a distro that does not need to install 1 or 2 drivers in some cases in most cases can't help with technical problems. – Pilot6 Jan 23 '17 at 9:51

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