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Although the current help says we support Ubuntu Core, it doesn't say if we support installing and using snapd on other operating systems. My default assumption is that we do not--after all, using snapd on another OS is not a way of using Ubuntu, the help doesn't say it is on-topic, and I cannot find anywhere on our site where we have said this is something we support.

On the other hand, Canonical's official snapd site snapcraft.io seems to send people here regardless of what OS they're using. Near the bottom of the home page and several other pages, it says:

Learn more

Want to know more about snaps, snapd, Snapcraft and Ubuntu Core?

There is no mention of Ask Ubuntu being just for questions about using those technologies on Ubuntu, and snapcraft.io itself encourages and gives information about using snapd on multiple non-Ubuntu operating systems.

In at least one case, that guidance has resulted in a non-Ubuntu snapd question being posted on Ask Ubuntu. (It promptly received five VTCs from community members, and was closed.) I expect there to be many more in the future as snaps become more popular.

I don't think we are obligated to support snapd on non-Ubuntu operating systems. We can report a bug about snapcraft.io sending users of all OSes here without qualification. But I wanted to post on meta before filing that bug report myself, because:

  1. I think this is really up to our community, and that we should make a clear decision about this.
  2. Personally, I am not totally decided about this, though my current view is that Ask Ubuntu should probably not support snapd on other OSes. (Of course, we will always support snapd on Ubuntu and official derivatives of Ubuntu.)

I think there are pros and cons, including precedent going both ways.

Pros

  • We may be the best community for getting support for snapd, especially if one wants it in question-answer form.
  • At least some aspects of snapd and snaps are services provided by Canonical, including the Ubuntu Store. We do support "Services provided by Ubuntu and Canonical."
  • We supported the Ubuntu One client for Windows -- not just the service and the web interface for accessing it from multiple operating systems, but the actual Windows-specific client, too. (Though that was controversial.)
  • At a technical level, snapd on non-Ubuntu systems is pretty similar to snapd on Ubuntu.
  • Where will people get help with snapd, other than here? If there were another good place for this, wouldn't the authors of snapcraft.io have advised people to use it?
  • Many questions about snapd on other OSes will apply fully to Ubuntu, more than with other technologies, because snapd is designed to better encapsulate a package's content and to allow its dependencies to be satisfied regardless of what else is installed.

Cons

  • Most questions about installing and using snapd on other OSes are not mostly about accessing Ubuntu-related services, but are about installing and using software on OSes that we do not support here for any other reason.
  • We don't support arbitrary Canonical technologies and projects on other operating systems. For example, various other operating systems have used Upstart (and some still use it in their latest releases), but we've only ever supported it here for Ubuntu.
  • Can we really know at the outset if a problem is with snapd or another part of a system?
  • Eventually there will be non-Ubuntu OSes built around snapd. Presumably we won't support them (though we would support the process of initially creating one from Ubuntu). Some won't share much in common with Ubuntu besides snapd. If we support snapd on non-Ubuntu OSes now, will we support snapd on those other OSes, with whatever intricacies that arise from those specific use cases?
  • Even if we do keep supporting snapd on other OSes as it rises in popularity, other communities will have to start supporting it, anyway. For example, if Blah Blah OS uses snapd but is otherwise dissimilar to Ask Ubuntu, then Ask Blah Blah is really going to have to support snapd whether or not its users can also come here for support.
  • If we decide to support snapd on other OSes (e.g., Fedora), then we should at least make sure we can clearly explain why that is on-topic even though the more similar unofficial derivatives of Ubuntu remain off-topic. That particular combination of policies may be non-intuitive to many users.
  • 1
    Something to also consider, currently snapcraft only really works well on 16.04 right, so for people who need the help the most (app authors) they probably are on 16.04. This will change at some point but I'm thinking it's best for everyone if we at least try to support the people trying to make snaps, and then client-side support for other distros should perhaps be in the upstream snapcraft.io documentation or another SE? – Jorge Castro Feb 1 '17 at 3:43
  • Also, let's say a Mint user goes and gets the Libreoffice snap because they read it's great, but they zigged instead of zagged when their installer asked to install kernel updates and they're a few revs behind, who would want to support that? – Jorge Castro Feb 1 '17 at 3:45
  • 1
    I'll have to sleep on this because the more I think about it the more areas come up (14.04 just got support for snaps today in an update, for example) -- but I think that the intent of the link from snapcraft to here is for application developers who want to get their software on linux, and we should probably optimize for that; at the end of the day since snapd is free software there's no guarantee that each distro will use it the same, or even the same version, so user-facing support will be a challenge. – Jorge Castro Feb 1 '17 at 3:48
  • I guess we are obliged to support it under the "services provided by Canonical" section of the help. However there should be a clear line, ie we should support the building of and installation of snap packages but not the actual usage of the software or any quirks of the underlying OS, similar to the support for the Windows subsystem. – Mark Kirby Feb 1 '17 at 12:25
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    "We don't support arbitrary Canonical technologies." Amen to that! We are certainly not "obliged" to do something that might hurt AU, just because someone at Canonical puts a link to AU on the website of their project – guntbert Feb 1 '17 at 19:51
  • Eliah, could you accept and upvote Thomas's answer as my answer is the top answer now... – Fabby Feb 6 '17 at 11:46
11

Summary of the below, and moderation team discussions (aka, the "TL;DR"):

Both the moderation team here on Ask Ubuntu, and the Snapcraft.io site team members, are in agreement that it does not make sense to support snaps/snapd questions for non-Ubuntu operating systems here on Ask Ubuntu.

As such, the Snapcraft.io website maintainers are going to be implementing a fix, replacing the "Ask Ubuntu" link with a link to the generic "Community" page on the snapcraft site, with information on that link for Ask Ubuntu indicating that Ask Ubuntu is for Ubuntu-related snap/snapd/etc. support, not non-Ubuntu operating systems, and that IRC and Mailing lists will exist for non-Ubuntu questions/support.

To that end, the following is the 'policy' we are going to be taking with regards to supporting non-Ubuntu snapd support questions:

Questions relating to Snaps, SnapD, etc. that are for operating systems other than Ubuntu and official variants (as dictated in the help center) are offtopic here on Ask Ubuntu.

People who argue this point against the help center's wordings should be pointed to this meta answer.


The long old detailed version:

While snaps, snapd, etc. are a Canonical provided software, we can't reliably support other operating systems that aren't Ubuntu, even with Canonical-provided software like snapd, etc. For example, if someone is on CentOS, but the snap works fine on Ubuntu and Debian and others, we can't sanely say we're going to be able to support CentOS - this site is Ubuntu centric for support, not "Canonical Services" centric.

This might go against the current "What we support" policy, but in the case of "Canonical Services on Other Operating Systems", our only true precedent for this was Windows support of Ubuntu One. Since Ubuntu One is dead, that precedent is mostly obsolete.

The only other 'precedent' for this might be Landscape, but getting it to work on non-Ubuntu environments is "hackish" as it is pretty much Ubuntu only. We also have questions on Launchpad and such, but that's less supported here, in my opinion, and I haven't honestly seen a Launchpad question that's not been closed as something else in a while. (PPA issues excluded).

My statement is this: We should not be supporting SnapD on non-Ubuntu operating systems here on Ask Ubuntu. I brought up sample cases like the above which would cause some confusion/issues with getting support from here.

As such, I had made a PR that was rejected (adding a comment next to the existing link), but from that request/suggestion came a valid alternative proposal from one of the website managers/collaborators:

Hi Thomas, that's a fair point and we shouldn't send non-Ubuntu questions to the Ask Ubuntu community. I'm not fond about how your suggestion looks on the site. Here is my proposal:

enter image description here

This way, on the Community page, we can make clear that Ask Ubuntu is Ubuntu only and other distro users see that they have the IRC and mailing-list options for support.

What do you think? -- @caldav on GitHub

My reply was that this proposal is acceptable. The change is predicted to land next week on the SnapCraft site, but they agree that sending non-Ubuntu snap support questions to the Ask Ubuntu site doesn't make sense.

There was discussion on this in the Ubuntu Rocket.Chat server where Snap discussions take place, starting around this message (NOTE: This requires registration, or a login.ubuntu.com account, to see messages) where we ultimately came to the same "makes sense" conclusion.

We had some discussion on this internally as the mod team, and are pretty much in agreement that what "makes sense" should go, so we've decided to make it such that support questions relating to snaps, snapd, etc. on non-Ubuntu operating systems is considered off-topic on Ask Ubuntu, given my example above as such a 'prime' example of what we couldn't in eons hope to support within the scope of the site.

While this differs from the existing "We support Canonical services" section of what's on topic, this is a case of what "makes sense", when both us and the snapcraft.io teams are in agreement about it, should take precedent. The website change being done on snapcraft.io also will help solve the 'invalid forwarding' thing as well.

  • Against the advice that pops up when I click on this box, I want to say thank you very much to you and everyone involved for sorting it out, saving us much future pain, and writing an excellent post about it too. – Zanna Feb 6 '17 at 23:33
5

Why not simply raise the bug and ask Canonical to send people here on Ask Ubuntu when using Ubuntu and send them to [linux.se] for non-Ubuntu OSes?

Some of us are active on both sites and could help either side and call in help from the local experts when it gets down to non-Ubuntu issues....

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • This is going to be done in a manner of speaking (minus the Unix.SE pointer), as detailed in my answer. – Thomas Ward Feb 5 '17 at 6:33
3

I think the only precedent we have here is Ubuntu One, and of the not-yet-deleted questions about it on Windows, not one is closed because it was about Windows. So, the precedent seems to be that we should support snapd on other distros.

I have no desire to.

What reasons do we usually have for looking at other OSs?

  • Getting Ubuntu to install, dual-booting, etc. - which this clearly isn't.
  • Windows specifically with WSL. The userland is clearly Ubuntu, and problems from outside WSL affecting it can still be treated as getting Ubuntu to work.

Neither of these apply to snapd. So, I have no desire to go hunting out the peculiarities of $RANDOM_DISTRO to solve snapd and snap problems. That's the domain of Unix & Linux.

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