Saturday, March 15, 2008

Low Tech Solution to a High Tech Problem

Sometimes a little ingenuity and a simple approach beats a high-tech solution. Tonight, I thought I would get fancy and try out some experimental display drivers on the new PCLinuxOS installation I put on this laptop. Specifically, I was toying with Compiz-Fusion settings. Compiz-Fusion is a software subsystem that gives you all sorts of fancy graphic effects. However, I changed one setting that hosed the display. All I could see was a black screen with a few white blocks here and there, along with the mouse pointer. Uh-Oh!

Since I have spent a few hours downloading and installing various software packages, I didn't want to start all over again with a reinstallation, but knew that I had that option if I couldn't find any other way to get this problem reversed. Knowing that I have that ace in the hole, along with the other hard drive with Windows Vista intact, was a safety net that kept me cool and collected. I got to thinking, "If only I knew where to click on the screen to change back to the old settings everything would be fine." That led to the idea that turned out to be a very quick and simple solution.

I booted my system from the Live CD of PCLinuxOS, ran the configuration tool from there, and used pieces of paper sticky notes to indicate where I had to click to change the settings. It was a total of 5 clicks around the screen, so I numbered the paper in the proper order. I then shut down the system, removed the CD, and once again booted from the hard drive.

Click by click, following my paper trail of sticky note pieces, I went through blindly on the black screen. Then I shut down the system, and rebooted again. Voila! It worked like a charm. So, I guess that is one setting I will leave alone. Still, one reason to install Linux is to experiment and learn, and I did indeed learn from this. My solution was certainly faster than a reinstallation of the OS and all the programs. In a matter of less than 2 minutes, I was back in business!

So there are times when an unorthodox solution turns out to be the right one. This was one such instance.


David said...

You, my friend, are a genius. I've killed my Ubuntu display a couple of times and spent at least 90 minutes looking for the right command line stuff.

Of course, the Linux badasses probably think you're a sissy-boy for going the long way and not just typing like 70 commands from memory.

Randy said...

Yes, I knew there was probably a way to edit a file and get it done, but I am not adept (yet) at understanding the correct file and what settings to change, but I'll get there. I needed something I could do without a lot of research, so it worked for me. But you do make an excellent point, and I'll dig into learning which file to edit.