[sf-lug] display totally effed

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Apr 14 15:14:51 PDT 2009

Quoting chadwick crawford (testpattern at gmail.com):

> It seems to me most likely that my display is set in such a way that my
> graphics card doesn't know what to do with it.  Is there anyway to fix this
> from a live cd?  Can anyone help a poor wayward idiot?

First of all, take a deep breath, then print out and browse through this 
Web page:  https://help.ubuntu.com/community/XORGHardy  (Don't panic
at the amount of detail, as by no means is everything there relevant
to your situation.)

You might want to also go get safety copies of all files in /etc/X11/ 
with names of the form "xorg.conf*".  /etc/X11/xorg.conf is the
X server's current configuration file.  There may also be backups/older
versions in the same directory.

Since your display is wonky, we can fall back to the old-school approach
of using one of your non-X consoles.  Press Ctrl-Alt-F1, to change over
to virtual console #1.  (Your messed-up X session is undoubtedly on
virtual console #7, so Ctrl-Alt-F7 at any time will toggle you back into
it.)  Login.  Do

   cd /etc/X11

You might want to copy xorg.conf* to, I dunno, a USB flash drive?
Try typing


Then insert the drive, wait a couple of seconds, then type


...again.  By comparing the output streams, you'll probably then be able
to spot where the blasted GNOME automounter thing has mounted your flash
drive, like /media/usb or whatever.  If not, come back here and ask for
help.  Assuming /media/usb:

  cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf* /media/usb
  eject /media/usb

You have now stored safety copies of the current xorg.conf and any
backups/variants from the same dir onto your flash drive.  Remove the

(If you have another *ix  machine where you have a shell account, you 
can do "scp /etc/X11/xorg.conf* yourusername at somemachine.com:", to copy
them to your home directory on somemachine.com .)

You might indeed find that the easiest way to come by a non-munched 
xorg.conf for your hardware is to boot an Ubuntu 8.04 or later live CD.
Then, y'know, just grab the live system's /etc/X11/xorg.conf , copy it
someplace, put it into your messed-up systems's /etc/X11 directory, 
and reboot.

Or follow the cited Web page's tips for troubleshooting.

Next time, you might want to anticipate this situation by storing a
compressed snapshot of your entire /etc/ directory somewhere, for
safekeeping.  Like:

   sudo tar cvzf /root/etc-$(date +%F).tar.gz /etc

...then copy /root/etc-2009-04-14.tar.gz to someplace archival (like, a 
USB flash drive).

Think of this as a miniature lesson in "Er, were _do_ the files live on
my Ubuntu system that I would miss if they got screwed up?"

My own answers for my Debian-based server that runs this mailing list:
"Backup Scheme" on http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Admin/ .

Cheers,           find / -user your -name base -print | xargs chown us:us
Rick Moen
rick at linuxmafia.com

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