[Most of this post blatantly ripped off from MDMarra's]


... is the question that prompted my post, but this has come up before. Sure, he's using an old server OS and basically working around self-inflicted limitations, but most of us have been in a similar situation at some point: patching up old systems to keep them going just little bit longer.

In this case, part of the problem is that the OP's phrasing made it sound like he wasn't the admin of the box and it took some back and forth in comment for that critical detail to come out: the OP is administering the box he's talking about.

But even so, I think we're sometimes too quick to say "it's not professional to use such an old version" or "it's not professional to use (that software) in production" or whatever. If there's a reasonable solution (in this case, some hints for how to compile Apache), the OP should be told of it.

That's not to say that "don't do that" is a bad answer. It's perfectly valid for someone to answer "a better solution would be to upgrade your software" (OS in this case), or "don't use that software for that task." (VirtualBox in production).

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    but most of us haven't been in a similar situation... - rather have been, right?
    – squillman
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 19:39
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    Maybe we are (not sure I agree with you), but what's the alternative? VTC/VTD without comment, and... end up with butt-hurt and whining on meta because someone doesn't know why all the mean ServerFault mods closed his perfectly valid question about what suddenly broke his Windows XP VM that's a WAMP webserver, which he manages with Plesk and has been running inside Virtualbox on a Pentium III with Ubunto 7.10 which has been working perfectly fine for years and is URGENT HE GETS FREE HALP WITH IT NOW OR THE INTERWEBS WILL EXPLODE!!!!!!!111 Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 20:01
  • 1
    Just to clarify- the version of OS he probably actually wants to be running wouldn't need to have this workaround. It would work out of the box. The reason he can't run that is because the person who runs the hypervisor is "too professional" to help.
    – Basil
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 20:04
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    +1 for the doomed tag.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 20:06
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    @Basil The OP using the term "professional" as a slur (meaning lazy, hidebound, or incompetent - take your pick) IMHO speaks volumes about their professionalism (or at least their respect for the profession of System Administration). A truly professional administrator would not have allowed the hypervisor/host to get three years behind mainline support. But that's a different question which we've already conclusively answered :-)
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 22:15
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    It's too bad it got removed. My answer would help a lot of people. Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 12:00
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    While I appreciate your overall sentiment, I think that question is a poor example of anything except a badly written, off-topic question. And there's certainly a point at which all sensible answers are boxed off by limitations imposed by the environment that, if we remove the ability to say "that's not a professional environment", just points us down the old "Closed - too localised" road instead.
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 7:44

5 Answers 5


I'm of two minds on this.

There is nothing "unprofessional" about compiling your own Apache if you have a valid administrative or business reason for doing so. For anyone to suggest that this is unprofessional is blatantly wrong.
I've had custom-compiled Apache and PostgreSQL installs on all of my servers for years, because I generally use a set of options that don't play well with vendor-supplied packages.

On the other hand there is a certain degree of "unprofessionalism" inherent in running Fedora 14 (which is 3-and-a-half years old at this point, and has been beyond End-Of-Life for 2 years).
An appropriate comment to leave here would be Is there any reason you cannot upgrade to a newer Fedora release which is currently supported?
(If the user is a prat and pitches a fit over this I have no sympathy. Close the question.)

In cases like this I think it is incumbent on the person posting a question to explain any special business/administrative conditions that prevent their use of the best solution (in this case, upgrading their server OS) when requesting help with an alternative solution (in this case, building Apache by hand) - Otherwise the question has The XY problem -- "I want to do it this way, so tell me how, even if what I'm doing is Bad and Wrong".

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    I would additionally point out that DOWNVOTING these questions is NOT APPROPRIATE. The main site is NOT Meta - we do not downvote questions because we disagree with what's being asked. The question here shows an understanding of the problem ("I need a newer Apache than what's provided by my vendor"), and an appropriate level of research, and would be useful to anyone who needs a newer version of Apache than their vendor provides, even people running supported software releases. Burying the guy in downvotes is neither helpful nor educational - it just makes us look like dicks.
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 20:20
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    The pile-on downvoting is not appropriate (and the quantity of votes indicates a pile-on), but if someone honestly believes compiling Apache isn't a useful way to go, then a downvote is fair. Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 20:36
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    Voretaq- regarding your comment above...I think in this particular case the question falls into your words here: meta.serverfault.com/a/5933/7861 -- I'm not sure how I feel about this as a moderator (Mod Hat On it's really NOT what downvotes are for Mod Hat Off), but as a professional if someone is going to take up our time and expect us to give them free advice they should state their problem and listen to our solutions without imposing insane restrictions. - where @Ward got 25 upvotes for stating "vote down questions you don't think are good" -- so I think we need clarity.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 0:36
  • @thecleaner Both viewpoints are equally valid :-) I'm not a fan of the "pile-on downvote" mentality - a LART is generally not a good teaching tool, it will just lead to people shrieking here on Meta that we're elitist and mean. The restrictions here aren't insane, though the BEST answer is probably "find a new hosting provider"...
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 0:55
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    Hah. When I left job[-2] 18 months ago, they were still running FC7 as a public-facing web server. I had no control over that either, as the Devs weren't interested in upgrading or migrating. I had to keep it running but had no choice but to leave that steaming pile right there since the Devs never bothered to document an install process that anyone else could use.
    – Magellan
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 16:46

Old software versions are a fact of life at many companies. Just today I was at a client who is running every version of SQL Server from SQL 2000 through 2012. SQL 2000 is dead, Microsoft won't support it but this client is still running some key systems on it probably until the end of the year. Is it unprofessional that I support these systems for my client? Do I care what version they are running?

Honestly the answer to both questions is "no". This is how their business runs, and as long as they are o OK with the limitations that come with these older versions who am I to tell them they aren't professional?

In my opinion the same applies here. We offer advise to people who don't know how to do what they need to do. If they aren't comfortable upgrading, or aren't able to because of a vendor, business unit, manager requirement, etc. we need to simply accept this, explain why this is a problem, and provide any information which we can.

  • "thief business"?
    – user
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 14:44
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    Well said. The fact that this isn't the most highly voted answer in this question speaks volumes about the community here.
    – Cypher
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 23:08
  • It does raise a lot of questions doesn't it?
    – mrdenny
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 3:19

I sort of agree with your thoughts... One notable exception however: Using old software, out of support, shouldn't make a Question automatically off-topic. But when that lack of support is the heart of the question and there are supported upgrade paths available, then the question is wandering out of the scope of a professionally supportable situation and into development or hobbyist.

In reference to the question you linked to, the OP is using old software, is refusing to upgrade to a supported version, and is having problems because of that decision. These problems are part of the reason that software is out of support. If it was a supported situation, or if there was no clear upgrade path, absolutely, you're right. And I do think we tend to jump all over people when a quick comment would be sufficient.

As an aside: The other day I was reminded that 225,000 people are born every day. That's 225,000 new people every single day who do not know what you know, who don't have the experiences that you have, who haven't run into the same problems that you have. Have some patience with those people. If you ever have a day where you don't learn anything, you're probably dead.

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    The problem I suspect this poor person is running into is that the "supported upgrade paths" for RH and Fedora are pretty sucky ("Reinstall the box") -- I can certainly understand running old versions of Fedora because of that, but it shows poor planning on the admin's part that we're talking about something 2-years-dead still being in production.
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 20:06
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    @voretaq7: We also don't know what applications or custom applications are running on the box. It could be to the OP's original detriment that he has no control over this at the moment. If the custom application only links to a certain version of gcc, for instance, then he may not be able to go to the latest. Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 12:01
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    And this is why if you're a professional, you should know that Fedora is not a good platform to use for production. IF he was running RHEL, CENTOS, or Scientific Linux, he'd still be in a supported product at least. And when you have a 5-10 year cycle, "reinstall the box" is probably a good idea to clean out cruft and modernize everything anyway. Is it the easiest? No. But it's very likely a very good idea at that point.
    – jmp242
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 15:51
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    @jmp242: Again, he is an admin but he does not control what OS is involved. Basically, we are barking up the wrong tree. Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 16:33
  • @staticx What's the correct answer then? "Tell your manager that you need a new OS?" Just because my company does not allow me to update NT4 to Windows 2012 does not mean we have to "support" it here.. ?
    – MichelZ
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 7:50
  • @MichelZ: nowhere in the ServerFault charter does it specify OS. Other than the OP not mentioning in thr beginning that he doesnt control the OS which he later clarified, nothing else warranted the rudeness and offensiveness by the Mod Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 10:20

There's nothing wrong with supporting old infrastructure. Choosing to do so is a heavy task that costs a lot of operational money and incurs a lot of risk, but sometimes it's the only option. Certainly it's possible, but the possibility of running an OS that does what's needed out of the box has to have a pretty solid reason to be left out of the list of options.

I agree that tone can cause us to lose sight of what's happening. An appropriate type of pushback for a question that could go either way is a commented question. A fair reaction to a response that indicates that this is out of scope is to vote to close.


I don't come on ServerFault much because mostly I am a developer by trade, but I happen to be in a job where I have three hats: Integration/Test, Developer, and Sys Admin. So I often have to come out of StackOverflow to one of the other trilogy sites for assistance in my questions. I answered OP's question regarding building Apache because I have asked a question before on ServerFault about how to build httpd. I later figured out how to do it and thought OP's question was certainly on topic. I don't remember the original Moderator's name, but he was not professional at all in his retorts. At first, he did ask why OP was running an older version of Fedora and OP responded in kind. It could have been left at that. However, the Moderator felt the need to poke and prod the OP I thought in a very unprofessional way. There is no need to kick a man when he is down. I felt the Moderator should have at least apologized for being unprofessional. I acknowledged in the question that the OP should have been more clear in his original question which he later acknowledged he was operating in an administrative, professional capacity.

This was not a hobbyist activity. Often times when running scanning tools such as Retina, they will flag old packages. OP was probably trying to clear one of these conditions due to security concerns because it's likely nothing much is new in terms of features from 2.2.3 to 2.2.27. The old configurations will still work. I know, because I have compiled httpd for myself this way about 5 times in the past year to stay in touch with the latest security patches for the "legacy" version. It's too costly to test a new configuration format because Apache felt the need to change the format in the latest and greatest version. RHEL still runs on a patched version of 2.2.x with backported security patches FYI.

So to sum it up, this thing went down horribly. OP was downvoted heavily for no good reason only because he posted it on Meta and got extra attention. I hope we can be a little more understanding and easier on people in the future.

  • 1
    F14 has had no updates/backports for 2 or more years it likely has a number of unpatched security vulnerabilites. The OP stated that they were trying to fix a bug in their application by updating httpd. Updating something that far out of support seems like the wrong thing to do really.
    – user9517
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 16:01
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    @lain: That's really a side issue. The real issue is that he wanted to know how to properly setup and build a custom build of httpd. Answer was provided. Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 16:32
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    OP was downvoted heavily for no good reason only because he posted it on Meta and got extra attention. Well, no, that's the reason. He asked a question the community felt was "bad," so it got downvoted. He then drew more attention to it, by posting about it on Meta, so it got more downvotes. That's your reason. He drew more attention to a bad question, so it got more downvotes. That's just the way it works with this type of site (with community voting), and it cuts both way. Draw attention to a good post, and it tends to attract upvotes in the same way, for the same reason. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 17:16
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    @HopelessN00bGeniusofnetwork: It's retaliatory, no matter how you slice it. Good or bad, it doesn't make it right by posting on Meta. For a site that is full of professionals, sometimes it sure seems pretty unprofessional. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 17:48
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    @staticx How is it possibly even remotely "retaliatory" by any reasonable definition of the word? It's math. Many people dislike mathematics, but this is the first time I've seen anyone claim "math" is retaliatory. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 17:58
  • @HopelessN00bGeniusofnetwork: I know you are being glib, but this has nothing to do with math. Downvoting is based on quality. Nothing in that post was of poor quality. Comments are for clarification, which he provided. Now, tell me how he got 5 downvotes or more besides it bringing a bunch of attention because he complained on Meta. You really can't come up with a good answer because not only did no one else comment on "how the post can be improved", it was done out of spite. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 18:21
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    This is pointless. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 18:45
  • I think you'll find that Q&A that gets attention garners more votes. This was even noted on a recent podcast.
    – user9517
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 21:02

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