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Sometimes a user posts a question that they think has to do with Ubuntu, but it turns out to be a hardware problem. (And not one that can be worked around or troubleshooted by Ubuntu. There are, of course, many hardware problems, like failing disks, that can be troubleshooted and sometimes even worked around in Ubuntu. That's not what I'm talking about here, when I say "hardware problem.")

At least some of the time (here's an example), these questions are closed as too-localized.

It seems to me that a question that turns out to be about a hardware problem, but could plausibly have been a problem in Ubuntu, should not be considered too localized unless the hardware problem itself is unlikely to occur for anyone else again. (For the same reasons, as detailed below, I think they should not be considered off-topic.)

If we close (and ultimately delete) these questions, we'll just get more questions like them, even if everybody reads the FAQ carefully, follows it, and searches for duplicates before posting.

Suppose I have a problem that I think is Ubuntu-related but is actually a hardware problem that can't be fixed or troubleshooted in Ubuntu. Here's what I would do:

  • I search the web for the problem. Supposing I don't find anything...
  • I search Ask Ubuntu for the problem. I don't find anything because all the other people who had this same problem had their questions closed and then deleted.
  • I post a question, and am then informed that it's purely a hardware problem. Asking the question helped me, but...
  • The question is then closed as "too localized."
  • The question is deleted.

Then the next person comes along and repeats the process.

I'm interested the community's perspective on this general issue, but I'm also specifically interested in the fate of this particular question:

There, the OP had a problem that he presumably thought could be related to video drivers (or power management), and posted a question here on Ask Ubuntu. Then he found that it was due to a loose cable, and posted a brief but detailed answer explaining this, which could be quite useful to others. That answer was converted to a comment by one moderator, and the question was closed as "too localized" by another moderator (there were no close votes from non-moderators first).

Since loose cables are a common problem in computing, I'm having trouble agreeing with the idea that any of the criteria for "too localized" are met here:

  • It is likely to help future visitors, since people who come here with the same problem will see that answer. Just as the OP hadn't thought of the solution initially, others might not either. As for the reasons a question might not be likely to help future visitors:
    • Loose cable connections to monitors are not confined to a small geographic area.
    • Loose cable connections to monitors have been happening for decades and will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future, as long as there are external monitors that attach to computers with wires.
    • I think about half the people I know have personally experienced loose cables on monitors at some point in their lives. Furthermore, the question had a comment 5 minutes after it was posted, suggesting a loose cable. (It was a different cable from the one that turned out to be loose.) This is not a narrow situation.

Finally, imagine if the question had been this instead (modified from the question):

My external monitor keeps turning off every 10-30 seconds then back on. Sometimes it will stay on for several minutes then it starts doing it again. I have a toshiba ultrabook.

Could this be due to my Ubuntu system? Or is it more likely to be some kind of hardware problem? How can I fix this?

It seems to me that a question worded like that would never have been closed.

Edit: As there hasn't been much response here aside from several upvotes, I've gone ahead and voted to reopen the question I used as an example. Users with enough rep can either vote to reopen, or not. (Or even vote to delete it, if you feel that should happen.) But I do still certainly welcome any opinions/answers here!

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    These questions should not be closed all :) – dlin Aug 10 '12 at 17:03
  • Looks like the questions you put up were deleted... – Mateo Aug 14 '12 at 17:10
  • @mateo_salta It was just one example (both links to the same question, the second link present just for convenience). – Eliah Kagan Aug 18 '12 at 11:39
  • here is one that turned out to be hardware, askubuntu.com/questions/175795/… – Mateo Aug 18 '12 at 16:24
  • Now we don't have that reason, those questions are likely to be closed, if at all, as off topic #1 not about Ubuntu or off topic #4 problem cannot be reproduced – Zanna Mar 20 '18 at 20:34
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I know this is an old question about a question that's since been deleted, but it's still a good question and deserves a good answer.

Personally I think that the arguments you make for leaving questions like these open make sense. It's not uncommon for a hardware problem to be mistaken for a software problem. By closing and ultimately deleting these we do ourselves and the community a disservice as we both A) eliminate useful information and B) set ourselves up for dealing with the same sort of question repeatedly. While I agree that hardware is not about Ubuntu, Those that ask these types of questions typically lack the experience to know that. I don't think there's anything wrong with answering the problem rather than the question.

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I am writing to agree with the original poster that it is very difficult to tell a computer hardware failure from a Linux software problem.

I just spent 40 days struggling with my 10 year old WindPC. The first 35 days were eaten up by swapping keyboards and booting any of 6 CD copies of Ubuntu. Yards and yards of error messages.

My rule of thumb is, the worse the error message, the more trivial the problem.

The resolution of my computer problems came when I removed the hard disk from the Problem computer and plugged the hard disk into another similar computer that I know booted and ran Linux.

What happened for me is my method was simply exhausting all of the software and peripheral possibilities.

All of the problems disappeared when I moved the hard disk to another computer.

What happened to me, a Linux user going on 20 years, surely happens to many of the visitors asking questions. I would say, for people answering questions is to be kind, and supportive. Ubuntu Linux really is a well done and stable computer program, and staying clear headed, calm and writing things down as you try things is an important part of hiking or marching through the thicket of puzzles as one responds to the installation or upgrade that fails.

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I appreciate your question. The solution might be to still close the localized question and answer(s) but then instead of deleting them move them to a quarantine area. "Low value questions and answers matching your search" would be a clickable option into the quarantine area when searching AskUbuntu.

If localized questions have no answers it is pointless putting them into quarantine area.

I hope a solution similar to quarantine area satisfies your request of not deleting localized Q&A and sastisfies AskUbuntu desire not to show localized Q&A.

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    Why not _debugging area _? – userDepth Apr 2 '17 at 19:37

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