the increase in Linux style questions from new users
Things have not changed here at all in this regard in the ~7 years I have been a daily user, most of that as a moderator.
That said, it has always been a valid topic for discussion, and, like other content issues (for example), is not carved in stone and always open for re-visiting.
I'll regurgitate again my opinion, which I think is a well informed and reasonable one. We have three significant realms of cross-over here:
- Linux, with "Unix & Linux".
- Electronics, with "Electrical Engineering".
- Programming, with "Stack Overflow".
Our policy is that questions more appropriate to those sites belong there, not here, because these are much larger sites with a larger body of expertise. However, there's also an understanding that if we were very strict with this, there would not be much of a site left.
Which is why, as I've referred to them often in the past, these are grey areas. The decision to close such questions is not automated; it is always a decision made by one person or a number of people, with sufficient experience on the site to grant them the privilege.
By the time they earn that privilege, I think most of those people are familiar with what that amounts to: We can close these at our discretion. For me, that possibility exists when it is clear that the question does not require any knowledge of the Raspberry Pi to answer. That's not sufficient in itself, eg. if it is something I can answer easily enough and I have a few minutes, I'll do that -- which of course doesn't mean that someone(s) else (and sometimes even myself, which may seem strange) can't close it, of course.
However, I almost never close a question which has an upvoted and/or accepted answer if I consider the question and the answer of decent quality. Sometimes I will wait to see what happens, but not indefinitely.
Anyway, I've prattled on about those kinds of considerations before and will spare the reader now. The question here is essentially (I know this is not quite what you asked, but1):
Should we unequivocally accept any linux question which mentions a Raspberry Pi?
No, we should not. That would not be doing anyone a service. My belief that most of these questions will get better help somewhere else more quickly is not one that has waned over time. That does not mean they will instantly have all their problems solved, or solved at all.
It also does not mean all you have to do is explain that to someone and they will accept it. By analogy, if you ask me what is wrong with your car and I make a guess as a non-expert, adding that I think you should go ask Phil the mechanic if you are serious, you objecting that you don't like the way Phil smells or it is too far a walk does not make these good reasons and you would be doing yourself a disservice to let them govern your behaviour. Further, anyone else who encouraged you to not bother with Phil because hey, he does small bad, would not be doing you a favour.
but I find the Linux forum very intimidating
I find all of SE and much of the internet generally intimidating, to be frank. I hate asking questions at Electrical Engineering, they are completely horrible. I don't really like asking them at Stack Overflow, either, but I do have to face the reality that it is my best (or only) bet in many cases.2
I think the reason for that is the tension that sometimes exists between making something a friendly experience, and making it an effective one. A major part of that problem is that the nature of the economy places most of the responsibly on the shoulders of the people who answer most of the questions, who are in fact a (very) small minority of total users, but without whom a place like this would be a waste of time.
I'm seeing a lot of questions closed with no explanation
Setting aside the fact that a closed question always includes an explanation in the form of the stock blurb (because it is not clear, because it is off-topic, etc), this is a phenomenon that is part and parcel of the system we do not control. I would happily support a change such that the first close vote cast, at least, require a comment from the caster. However, this has been debated at Meta.SE repeatedly and the clear majority of users who participate in such debates are against it. As with this, anyone is of course welcome to try again and see how much support they can drum up for it.
"is it time to re-evaluate answering Linux and Pi questions here and maybe remove the hard 'off-topic' to a reserve the right to ask the user to ask in another forum?" Is really a non-question: For starters, it is already the case that closing a question as off-topic should usually be accompanied by a recommendation to another site. That it isn't always is because the system doesn't force people to leave a comment when they vote to close and there is nothing we can do about that (discussed above briefly).
Worth mentioning at that point that our specific community is often not considered a particularly friendly one by people coming here with experience elsewhere on SE, and it is not simply because we close some questions as off-topic. I do think we need to work on that (niceness), and although I am currently at a loss as to how to help effect it, I do not believe promising to do more for more people is an appropriate step in that direction.
If we had a friendly, more helpful site, I think that the people who close the gray area questions would be less inclined to do so. Right now, the idea that letting them fester or gather bad answers and RTFM comments instead would be better does not make sense.