My recent question about an APC UPS was closed as off-topic ("This question is not about computer hardware or software, within the scope defined in the help center.") I flagged another UPS-related question as off-topic since it was a very similar to mine. The flag was declined. How can I decide which UPS-related questions are on-topic here?

If I'm right both questions could belong to the...

electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer,

...off-topic reason.

  • 2
    I'm on the fence here, since if the question cannot be answered by looking in the manual you should ask the vendor for support. I've reopened it since someone here may know the answer .... – DavidPostill Nov 29 at 18:49

My $0.02 is that UPS's should definately be a category of hardware supported by SuperUser, until you start talking about something more relevant on EE.SE, but at that point it's obviously not a good fit for Superuser.

Should be on topic:

  • Swapping a battery.
  • Discussing specs including run time, chemistry, performance, compatible batteries, etc.
  • Programming/interfacing to it (like your question).

Should be off topic:

  • Building one from parts.
  • Anything that involves soldering parts within a UPS.
  • Generally hacking a UPS from a hardware perspective, for example to use a bigger battery than what was originally intended/designed.
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    "for example to use a bigger battery than what was included". Some UPSes allow connection of additional batteries (which aren't included, but can be bought separately) to provide longer on-battery time. So, I would suggest that the last point should emphasize operations that aren't officially supported by the manufacturer (or similar wording). – VL-80 Dec 1 at 0:32
  • That's what I meant by hacking. But for all the non-native English speakers, I made it more clear ;) – YetAnotherRandomUser Dec 1 at 0:43
  • @TwistyImpersonator There's no reason why the rule you quoted shouldn't apply in an additive fashion. – YetAnotherRandomUser Dec 3 at 16:30
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    @TwistyImpersonator, that depends on whether you classify a UPS as an electronic device under that definition. Would a monitor be just an electronic device if the question didn't mention anything about it being connected to a computer? A printer? If one views a UPS as an important computer peripheral that is a permanent part of a computer system (and most consumer units are sold for that purpose, even though they can also be used with other equipment), aspects that are basic to their proper use and routine user maintenance ought to be on-topic. – fixer1234 Dec 4 at 9:48
  • @fixer1234 I find myself agreeing with your argument that a UPS should be regarded as an "integral" component of a computer system. I shall adjust my thinking to conform to that view. – Twisty Impersonator Dec 5 at 12:50
  • Don't forget there are also questions that would be better suited to serverfault.com such as multiple ups powering servers with redundant PSUs or stackoverflow.com if you want to code new features in to networkupstools.org or a few others – BeowulfNode42 Dec 11 at 11:25
  • I wouldn't send people to SO. That will just make them leave the SE network. – YetAnotherRandomUser Dec 11 at 15:07

There are some gray areas where opinions vary as to what's on-topic. Where you draw the boundary around "computer hardware" is one, and the context affects it.

I don't put a UPS in the same category as an electronic device. Those are generally devices that have their own, independent purpose. They become on-topic only to the extent that you are interfacing them with a computer. They temporarily become part of the computer "system" when they involve computer-based activity.

I see a UPS as a more or less essential part of the computer-related hardware. It's a permanent part of the hardware configuration and performs an important function in using the computer and preventing corruption. It also doesn't have an independent purpose. It's like an extension of the power supplies for the computer-related hardware. So I include it in the circle I draw around the computer system.

I suppose some other people might view this differently. The computer and related peripherals can be viewed as ending at their power cords. If you are in an area where utility power isn't reliable, you can improve the reliability of what comes out of the wall by adding a UPS. So the UPS is more of a peripheral for the utility company.

Part of the context is whether the question relates to computer operation/activity vs. repairing a device. There is generally a lot of latitude for the core components of the computer (computer and its input/output devices). Questions about maintaining or servicing those components are generally allowed as long as they don't get too far into the weeds and become questions about electronics and electronics repair.

A device that is on-topic only because it is being used with the computer won't generally be on-topic for questions about maintaining or servicing it. So if someone puts a UPS in that category, servicing it might be viewed as off-topic.

For questions that fall in the gray area, you're likely to find examples that were treated differently, depending on who saw them first.

Your question is about (maintenance) operation of the UPS, so if someone views a UPS as not a component of the computer system, it is understandable that they would view the question as off-topic. However, the function you ask about is controlled by computer-based software (APCUPSD). You do link to it in the question, but it may not be immediately obvious if the reader isn't familiar with it and doesn't follow the link. A reader who doesn't view the UPS as a computer component might also view APCUPSD as somewhat irrelevant because its purpose is to control the UPS, not something computer-centric.

The community can weigh in on gray area questions and vote to undelete and reopen (although if a moderator views the question as clearly off-topic, they can overrule the community input). For what it's worth, I'm in the camp that views the UPS as part of the computer, so I cast my single vote to reopen the question.

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    Do you feel the UPS must be connected to a computer for a question about it to be on-topic? For example, would you consider on-topic a question about changing a UPS's shutdown configuration from it's front LCD panel if that UPS were connected to a TV only? – Twisty Impersonator Dec 3 at 15:59
  • @TwistyImpersonator, interesting point. If the question is about something that would also apply to using the UPS with a computer, I'd probably clarify the question so that it wasn't just about off-topic use. Actually, the same thing would apply to any other computer component. – fixer1234 Dec 4 at 2:35

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