So there is currently an argument about whether a question that involves mobile data usage on a computer is off-topic or not. I don't quite understand why that makes it a "mobile device" question (besides the exemption for "interfacing with a computer", my impression was that questions specifically had to be about mobile OSes such as Android in order to be offtopic).

(The question in question is https://superuser.com/questions/1439188/free-mobile-data-when-using-%C2%B5torrent.) The OP has since deleted the question, so this is it:

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So I thought I'd ask for a clarification for this particular edge case (a question that's about a computer program and mobile internet connection)... using a list of hypothetical posts:

  1. Something happens on a computer.
  2. Something happens on a laptop.
  3. Something happens on a laptop which just happens to have a 4G modem built in, or a computer which just happens to have a USB 4G modem connected.
  4. Something happens on a laptop while it is using its built-in 4G mobile data connection, but not while it is using Wi-Fi/Ethernet.
  5. Something happens on a laptop while it is using a phone-tethered mobile data connection, but not while it is using regular Wi-Fi/Ethernet.
  6. Something happens on a laptop while it is using Wi-Fi/Ethernet, but said Wi-Fi is provided by an external 4G mobile data modem.
  7. Something happens on a phone while it is using mobile data connection, but not while it's using my home Wi-Fi.
  8. Something happens on a phone.

(I'm writing this while still half-asleep.)

Here #1 (and hopefully #2-#3) aren't offtopic, #7 is IMHO on the edge, while #8 is generally offtopic. What about the rest? In particular, would #4 and #5 be considered offtopic, and are they the same level of (not-)offtopic or do they get different rulings? (Although honestly I'd be even more confused if they got ranked differently – either they're both on-topic because PC, or both are off-topic because mobile data.)

  • If it is off-topic, I suggest moving it to a different StackExchange network. That would be more constructive. And maybe ask for clarification (not possible while question closed).
    – neverMind9
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 1:25
  • What is that “revisions” button in the screenshots? I don't see it. I can access revisions of posts by clicking on “edited yesterday” (or other time, depending on post).
    – neverMind9
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 12:29
  • 1
    @neverMind9 it's from a userscript (Stack Overflow eXtras) that will always show the link to the revision history, since in normal case it's only shown after the post has been edited once (but you can still access it by typing its URL manually)
    – Andrew T.
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 9:25
  • @AndrewT. I see, thanks.
    – neverMind9
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


I see the issue as whether the question is central to the computer, getting your work done on the computer, or using the computer to diagnose and solve a problem. If it also involves a network connection, it doesn't matter what type of connection it is, or what related hardware is providing it. So there's no reason why #3, 4, 5, or 6 would be off-topic.

I think the guidelines try to simplify things regarding a computer connected to a mobile device. Questions are often considered on-topic as long as a computer is merely part of the hardware complement. But I believe it should consider whether the computer is playing a substantive role.

  • If the question is about a mobile device and there's no computer involved, or the involvement is incidental, it's generally off-topic (Your #8).
  • If the question is about a phone connected to a router and a computer happens to also be connected to the router, it isn't computer-centric, so I wouldn't consider it on-topic.
  • If the question is about a phone having a problem with an SD card, and a computer is involved in testing or repairing the card, it's computer-centric, so on-topic.
  • If the phone is having a WiFi problem, that could get into an edge case. If the computer is central to solving the problem, it's on-topic. If the computer is incidental and the issue lies entirely with the phone (and router), I see it as off-topic.

    Your case #7 I don't see as an edge case because the problem involves a phone using a mobile data connection. The computer is irrelevant to the problem, as is even WiFi.

  • I see all your other cases (#1-6) as pretty clearly on-topic.
  • In the comment, you mention networking-oriented questions, and the end device being incidental. I don't believe the intention of the guidelines is that the end-device is incidental. The guidelines refer to "personal and home computer networking", which I take to mean the intent is that networking is on-topic to the extent that it supports computing and what you use the computer for. It doesn't limit the type of network, only the focus on computing. So mobile data is fine as long as it's for your computer. WiFi for a phone connection would generally be off-topic unless the computer had some substantive connection to the problem.

Regarding the linked question, a computer isn't mentioned at all. uTorrent runs on a computer, but how does anyone know that there isn't a mobile version, and the question involves just a phone (and perhaps some network connection where the computer is incidental)? The question describes downloading the torrent file to the phone and doesn't mention moving anything anywhere else. People shouldn't need to investigate the mentioned products to determine what platforms they run on, to learn whether it is or isn't possible to run on specific hardware. If the role of the computer is clarified in that question, I would see it as on-topic. But as-written, the relevance of a computer isn't clear.

  • 1
    I think 5 could go either way. There are mobile providers that restrict tethered access, and any amount of troubleshooting on WiFi or on Tether is probably going to boil down to "You need to check with your mobile provider". Commented May 21, 2019 at 7:52
  • 3
    There is a mobile version. I have in the past ran uTorrent on my Kindle Fire. I assume because the example doesn’t say this isn’t the case the author has a Android device that has the capability of running uTorrent on it.
    – Ramhound
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 12:09
  • My assumption also when I commented in that question.
    – user931000
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 15:45

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