I've recently asked:

Installing a Linux distribution on a Pi using an Android phone and no other MicroSD slot

and a user keeps telling me in the comments that my question is off-topic. I'm sure that's not the case, but - I'm just a newbie who has read the tour. Am I mistaken? If not, I'd appreciate someone more experienced chiming in on this.

3 Answers 3


and a user keeps telling me in the comments that my question is off-topic.

An "off-topic" recommendation like this one is really for your own good.

I'm not voting to close because I do see the value of this here but that doesn't mean I think this is the best place to ask about it; it would be better off on Android.SE particularly if you could generalize better what it is you are looking for.

Of course, you may not understand the image writing process in enough detail to do that, so there may be some information you do need from Pi heads. Although there are a variety of (generally non-Linux based) fancy tools around to do this, some for writing images generally and some actually written specifically for writing Pi images, it is an incredibly simple task, if you understand the difference between a storage device and a data partition on a (formatted) storage device, and this seems straightforward to you:

The image is a binary file which is is copied, byte for byte, onto an unformatted SD card, starting at the first block.

"Unformatted" actually isn't necessary, but I include it to dispell the myth that the card has to be somehow formatted before the image is written. You could format it anyway you like, but since the card is being overwritten starting from the first block, it won't matter. The card could have anything on it. It's irrelevant, exactly like whatever's on a wall before it gets painted over.

The fact that some of the fancy tools have "format" in their name introduces some confusion. Those tools may be useful for formatting a device, but in this case they aren't formatting anything. They are just doing a raw copy onto a card who's prior state doesn't matter.

However, commercial operating systems aimed at non-technical people tend to insulate the user from doing something like this in a straight-forward way (a good reason for that is it is potentially also a straight-forward way to destroy the OS itself). The simplest and most fool-proof method of writing an image to an SD card on a system with the dd command (which just copies data byte-for-byte, block for block, onto a storage device or a partition therein) is:

dd if=whatever.img of=/dev/sda bs=4M status=progress

dd could and perhaps is available on Android -- the problem is, there is no way the OS is going to let you do that with it unless you root the phone.

But I'm not 100% certain about that. I'm sure someone at Android.SE could settle it one way or another. And that doesn't mean that there isn't some fancier tool available that gets around this by whatever means may be available.

  • 1
    Most of this sounds like an answer to my original question rather than my meta question, but +1 nonetheless.
    – einpoklum
    Jul 14, 2018 at 20:26

For some context that might help you understand why some users might think your question is off-topic, here's a little bit of detail about this site's scope. I'd say there are two "extremes" in terms of interpreting the site scope:

  1. Only questions which are exclusively applicable to the Pi are on-topic here, otherwise you should ask on a different site.

  2. Any question that involves a Pi is on-topic regardless of the use-case.

Most people lie somewhere in the middle of these two philosophies, though obviously not everyone shares the exact same idea.

You can understand the argument that flashing an image to an SD card isn't inherently something that is exclusively a Pi problem (and hence you might be better off asking on a bigger site as goldilocks points out).

On the other hand, the issue with enforcing such a strict standard is that it doesn't leave you with much "meat" left for this site (and the fact that many of the most popular questions would not meet that standard). Being the site that is just for the leftovers from Unix & Linux, Electrical Engineering, etc doesn't lead to a terribly interesting or helpful site scope.

That said, being more liberal with the site's scope leads to a lot of overlap and duplicated questions with other sites in the Stack Exchange network, unfortunately. To some extent a little overlap is fine, especially considering that the audience for RPi may not even know that Unix & Linux answers would apply to their Pi, but a large scale overlap calls into question whether this site really ought to stand separately.

The advice in the help center is:

Raspberry Pi Stack Exchange targets usage and development of hardware or software for Raspberry Pi.

Please make sure that your questions are intrinsically Raspberry Pi oriented. We have an unusual amount of "off-topic" questions because of the extensive overlap with our sibling sites at Unix & Linux, Stack Overflow, and Electrical Engineering. When in doubt, ask there first. Questions where the Raspberry Pi is not a significant factor will likely be closed.

I'm afraid that definition does require some subjective interpretation; realistically even a topic that sounds so easy to define, like Raspberry Pi, isn't that clear cut. I personally think your question is on-topic here, because, in the end, your use-case is specific to the Pi. But that's my interpretation of this site's policies... others may differ.


The reason I voted to close is quite simple.

You are asking how to do something on Android. This can only be answered by someone who understands Android.

Even so, if I knew how I would have explained, as I often do for questions about doing something on macOS; HOWEVER, I suspect what you want to do is not possible - and joan "answered" in a comment => you need to buy a SD Card adapter, but I doubt this would work on Android, although you could on a "normal" Linux system with access to dd. The fact that there are no Android specific guides on the Foundation site supports this view.

The fact that that something is a Pi image does not make it a Pi question.

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