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Ask Ubuntu receives large numbers of questions like this example posted today asking "I have this [specific device], can I install Ubuntu on it?"

These questions tend to attract low quality answers (as the above example has), usually receive downvotes and are often closed, either as unclear, too broad, primarily opinion based, or as duplicates of generic questions like these:

I nearly always vote to leave these questions open. I once chatted about this topic. Such questions can be answered well by users with experience of the hardware in question, IMHO. But I don't vote to reopen those questions; my conviction is not very strong (answers might be difficult to maintain, might be long and complicated, might not be reliable for reasons that are difficult to work out without discussion).

I am thinking that it would be good to have a policy for this type of question, so I am instigating a discussion. What should be done with these questions and why?

My opinion is that instead of closing them with varied reasons and (not in this case, but it happens) giving half-answers and dumb advice in comments we should do something more helpful and consistent, for example:

  • Leave open, but encourage or even insist on (by deleting vague answers) specific answers for these questions, and point OP to the generic resources in "[Related](link)" comments.
  • Create a new canonical post about why questions like this are not suited to Ask Ubuntu (because <reasons>) with generic resources, links to better places to ask (Ubuntu Forums?), and tips on how to ask more answerable questions about or and close all these questions against it as they occur.
  • Decide how we should close these questions, and stick to the policy.

Any thoughts?

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    I think a user with experience of the exact hardware setup – which would be necessary to write a truly good answer – is hard to find. I'd like to raise another question: Is it after all worth the trouble if (IMO) OP should just try installing and come back with an error message just in the rare case that it doesn't work out of the box?
    – dessert
    Dec 16 '17 at 14:20
  • with regards to specific hardware components, there are many people who would know whether SSD x or motherboard y is compatible with Linux. For instance, many Lexar SSDs have compatibility issues with Linux. This website in particular is of use: linuxcompatible.org/compatibility Aug 26 at 20:32
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IMO these should be closed for multiple reasons:

  • consumer hardware changes too quickly and has too many minor variations for the answers to have any lasting value. Same problem with shopping recommendations.
  • the answers are far going to be far too opinion-based. One user's priorities need not be the same as another's.
  • the question is far too broad. If a system has problems with graphics and with networking and with touchpads and ... these are all problems that should be asked and answered separately, because each individual component is likely to be more commonly used than the device as a whole.
  • I feel such questions would also involve a lot more back-and-forth discussion and essentially become a request for on-going support. Keep that to chat, please.

Such questions can be answered well by users with experience of the hardware in question.

Not from my POV. What if the user with experience tried 16.04 and asker wants to use 14.04? What if it's the other way around? What if the asker is worried about WiFi and the answerer only ever uses ethernet? What if the asker is interested in gaming and the user only does CUDA? For a useful answer, the asker and answerer's usage has to align, more than with any other topic seen on our site.


Experience with a device is good material for a blog post or a review site. Not for Q&A.


I have a tried to post a broad-strokes Q&A about this: Will my device work with Ubuntu? It's community wiki, thus easier to contribute to for many users. Let's see what can be made of it.

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    All makes sense. But don't you think there's anything useful we can do about it? I would at least like there to be some efficient way for us to tell users what's wrong with their question (maybe we could send them to this post!)? I am thinking of the awesome Kali Linux question on U&L.
    – Zanna Mod
    Dec 16 '17 at 15:05
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    @Zanna maybe a "How can I find out if Ubuntu will work on my hardware?", with the main answer being "boot a live USB" , and the supporting answer being how you can lookup supported devices for various common drivers (wireless, Bluetooth, ethernet, graphics, touchpad, fingerprint reader, etc.) - broad strokes.
    – muru
    Dec 16 '17 at 15:08
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    I agree on what you wrote. In fact, I am very tempted to VTC your CW question as too broad as well. It the broadest of the broader questions. :P Dec 17 '17 at 2:16
  • @AndreaLazzarotto go ahead. As long as a single answer stands, we can update it as needed. (As long as it doesn't get locked a la askubuntu.com/q/389228/158442)
    – muru
    Dec 17 '17 at 2:20
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    Suggestion: close the crappy askubuntu.com/q/430551/295286 as duplicate of yours. Also, how do you suggest handling question of the type "well, I tried and things were OK in the installer,but not in actual install" ? Dec 17 '17 at 6:04
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    @muru I have now checked it more carefully and saw it is about "how to check if"... In this case I think it is a good question for this site. Dec 17 '17 at 12:36
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Sometimes, closing a question from a new user can be a bit heavy-handed, discouraging the user from joining our community, learning, and eventually contributing to help others.

I agree that vague or generic answers are not helpful. But there is also the potential to receive very specific and useful answers to such questions... I am certain that there will be users on this forum who have encountered the same problem on the same hardware that the user is asking about.

As a suggestion, perhaps creating tags for specific hardware vendors may be a way to notify experienced users who have the same hardware, so they can jump in and help. As long as the question poster includes the vendor tag, users who want to be notified about those vendor questions can see and hopefully answer the poster's question with higher quality.

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    Ah, here's the thing. "How can I get <x hardware> to run (on) Ubuntu" is an entirely different question from "can <x hardware> run (on) Ubuntu". The former is perfectly fine, given enough details. The latter is what I am opposed to.
    – muru
    Aug 27 at 2:40
  • +1 yes there is value in such questions. btw we do already have tags for companies like dell, asus, broadcom etc etc
    – Zanna Mod
    Aug 27 at 6:26
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I am blown away by how much push back there is on asking/answering question relating to certain hardware. It looks like this website attempts to keep track of what is and isn't compatible: https://www.linuxcompatible.org/compatibility/

This website is also useful: https://fwupd.org/lvfs/devices/

For example, if someone wants to buy a computer that is on sale, but is concerned about whether or not it (or certain hardware components it has) is compatible with Linux, they should have the resources available to figure out whether it is compatible with Linux. This forum can be one of those places to figure this out.

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