Why was What programming languages can I assume on a random Linux server by default? closed?

The close reason is too broad, but I don't understand what makes it too broad. I'm confident that my four-paragraph answer addresses the question in all of its important aspects. The closer did not leave a comment to explain.

Since it's a rejected migration, closing the question locked it, so it's impossible to edit it or reopen it without moderator intervention.


1 Answer 1


The sheer quality of the question, comments and (your) answer make me want to ask for it to be reopened.

If I had to guess, I'd suspect it got closed because it's impossible to state with much certainty what is or is not supported in userspace by virtue of the fact that the kernel running is Linux.

Take for example Android, which is a complete departure from the usual stuff available on GNU/Linux.

The question boils down to, "list a bunch of possible programming environments that could be there that I should try, even recognizing that many/all of the things you listed might not be available on any given server, or I might not have access to them even if I have a user account on that server".

Of course, if the user has been sufficiently restricted, they might not be able to execute any kind of programming language on the server, but you could charitably interpret the question to mean "...assuming I have root access."

It's just hard to make valid generalizations of this sort due to the incredible diversity of userspaces across the installed base of the Linux kernel.

However -- that said -- if we assume that:

  • The user has root;
  • They're running a reasonably recent (say, past 8 years) release of one of the popular distros or a close derivative thereof (e.g. RHEL, Fedora, CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, Mandrake, Slackware, Gentoo, etc.);
  • The system administrator has not purposefully rm'ed the utilities in question or somehow installed a linux security module that would prevent even root from accessing them,

....then we could conclude that something similar to your original answer from '11 would be quite close to spot-on.

I think there's a certain valid point to the fact that the question is too broad, and that it'd encourage other people to ask similarly broad questions that are very difficult to pin down without making a load of assumptions (which were not stated satisfactorily in the original question, by the way).

BUT, if you're willing to do some hand-waving, the question and the answer both have value, at least as a starting point for "stuff for people to try" when they're trying to find an available programming environment on some random Linux box they get access to.

I personally would be fine with accepting these questions, but the SU community as a whole has trended toward being more strict since I joined the site, and any question that runs dangerously close to being open-ended just ends up getting closed.

This could open up a whole separate can of worms about topicality and the validity of the various close vote reasons, and so forth, but if you're just looking to get this one question reopened, I don't think you'd meet too much resistance, since you're definitely a user of repute and the mods are happy to reconsider decisions like this. Hindsight is often 20/20.

It's a good answer. (And a pretty good question, too.)

I'd like to see it reopened, but it feels like that would be at least a slight departure from what has now become the status quo for what we do with questions of this nature.

  • The question explicitly specifies a Linux server, so embedded Linux distributions and non-Unix OSes with a Linux kernel are explicitly off-topic. As for silly administrators, it's legitimate to assume that the administrator hasn't done something utterly stupid, otherwise every single question on this site except for a few “oopsies” would have to state “I didn't delete /bin/sh or /lib/ld-linux.so.2 or /etc/passwd or … (30k char limit reached)”. Root access isn't actually crucial to answer this question. So even stretching it, I don't see any reason here to consider the question too broad. Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 17:36
  • I actually SSH'ed into a GNU/Linux server at university years ago which was so locked down that you couldn't really script anything or run any meaningful code. It may have been technically possible, but it wouldn't have been easy. Regular users couldn't execute perl or python or ruby or a C compiler or anything like that. Your shell was rbash. Very restricted directory permissions. The sysadmin deliberately configured it this way. We'd have to assume they didn't in order for your question to be focused. Maybe scope it to "default installs out of the box"? Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 4:19
  • You had a restricted account. It isn't a matter of what's installed, but a matter of what your account was allowed to do. Yes, the question is restricted to what you can do with a normal account, on a normal installation of a normal Linux server, by a system administrator who didn't go out of their way to break stuff, etc. You do have to assume that those highly unusual circumstances would be mentioned in the question if they applied. They don't, so there's no need to mention them. Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 13:15

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