Monday, April 2, 2007

Solution to Live CD Lockups for Ubuntu

After seeing videos of the Linux OS Ubuntu in action with the 3D Desktop Beryl and Kiba-dock, I decided to give it a shot. After using an older computer as a guinea pig for the installation process without any major difficulties, I attempted to install it on my main desktop in a dual-boot configuration with Windows XP.

However, when trying to boot up the Live CD and choosing any option that causes the Ubuntu logo+loading bar, I would run into a complete lockup either at the end of the loading process or the black screen that follows it. I asked in #ubuntu on, an IRC room dedicated to helping newbies transition over from Windows and troubleshooting things not covered in the Ubuntu forums. Their staff is made up volunteers and they do a great job, but it took some serious trial and error to get this fixed on my own. There were actually several other users who were experiencing the same problem at the time and there seems to be questions about this all over the net with no clear answer.

The problem I was running into is tricky for several reasons.
1. It's not completely hardware specific.
2. It defies typical Live CD troubleshooting logic (which centers around verifying the download's accuracy, checking the quality of the burned CD, making sure the CD/DVD drive is functioning properly and checking the status of possible bad RAM chips, which is where the temporary Live CD OS is stored).
3. The solution isn't specifically for LiveCDs or Ubuntu, but really Linux and it's handling of video cards and drivers in general.

If this sounds familiar:
"Reproducing the problem is as follows:
1. Boot from the Live CD, and choose either the first option (Boot from Live CD/Install) or the Safe Graphical Mode option.
2. Kernel is loaded, green loading text appears momentarily at the top of the screen.
3. User is presented with a Ubuntu logo (in some cases off-color in either grayscale or orange with "artifact"-like problems oftentimes occurring).
4. After a moment, the back and forth movement ends. The bar becomes a true loading bar, fills, and the screen goes black.
5. The black screen persists as your monitor stays active (greenlighted), your CD drive stops moving (and actually wont open during this in my situation!), and you stare at the screen ad infinitum."

Then there is a solution (After step 6 is ATI specific):
1. You have to use the Alternate Install CD. Completely install Ubuntu (with a boot loader in my case).
2. After installation, when given the option of a normal boot or a ¨recovery¨ boot, choose the recovery.
3. At the prompt, type ¨sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg¨
4. Follow the prompts to accurately setup your video, both your monitor and video card. Choose VESA as your video driver.
5. After that is done, type startx at the prompt/console.
6. This will load your desktop, congratulations, we are almost done. (If moving windows are very stuttery, dont worry its normal at this point.)
7. Open in a Firefox window, and open a terminal window from Applications -> Accessories.
8. Choose your distro (currently shows 5.10, 6.06, 6.10, and 7.04), and follow the directions by copying and pasting the commands in the terminal.
9. The last direction is a copy+paste of a reboot command, after the reboot choose the normal startup, it will load your desktop and you can set your preferred desktop resolution and refresh rate.

images copyright Canonical and any other owner :>

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