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  1. #1

    Blank Screen: I am in trouble!

    My first post...


    In an attempt to familiarize myself with linux, and in an effort to become less dependent on MS, I decided two months ago to download and install the Debian distribution. I selected Debian because its use is, at least, indirectly encouraged by the 'R' statistical programming community.

    Anyway my intent was not to be too adventurious - I installed Debian Lenny Version 5.0 (stable). Unfortunately, with the stable version of the Debian distribution, I discovered I did not have access to the lastest version of 'R'. I did discover, how I could use a process called 'apt-pinning' to obtain the latest version of 'R'. In such a fashion, I believe, I somehow unintentionally managed to migrate from 'stable' to 'sid'.

    I was managing ok with 'sid' until about a week ago. My problems seem to date from after the last kernel update. I had apparently lived through several earlier kernel upgrades as I noticed by GRUB choices at bootup appeared to grow longer over time. The kernel version on my old Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop is currently 2.6.29-2-686. After my last kernel upgrade the following has happened. I am still able to bootup to the logon screen. However, after supplying my username and password, the screen goes blank (grayish, actually). The mouse cursor shows and is mobile, but that is it! I cannot get to the GNOME environment.

    I attempted to use other GRUB choices and earlier kernels but the same thing happens - I cannot get back to the friendly confines of GNOME. I am hopeful it will not be necessary to reinstall the OS. I have several files that it would inconvienent to lose as well. I can use the 'cp' command to transfer files to other locations - but I cannot figure out how to mount my usb memory stick device which normally is mounted when I boot up linux into GNOME.

    Any help would be appreciated, but please keep in mind that I am a total novice with linux and would require simple, step-by-step instructions. Thank you for this forum.

  2. #2
    Linux Guru Jonathan183's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Login at a terminal (ctrl+alt+f1) should allow you to do this. With the usb drive connected post the output of
    sudo fdisk -l
    the -l has a small L rather than a one.
    We can then see the partition structure and give instructions to mount the usb drive so you can backup data.

    The problem sounds like a graphics driver issue ... what sort of graphics card do you have & did you install drivers for it?

    Btw I would use PartedMagic live CD to access data, it will allow you to easily mount the drive partitions and copy information. Alternatively you can use another live CD ... most give you a GUI and allow you to mount usb drives.

  3. #3
    Linux Guru Jonathan183's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Assuming you have fdisk output something like ...
    Disk /dev/sda: 80.0 GB, 80026261856 bytes
    255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 9729 cylinders
    Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
    Disk identifier: 0xe686f016
    Device     Boot  Start   End    Blocks       Id    System
    /dev/sda1   *  1      9399    75497436  83    Linux
    /dev/sda2       9400      9729    2650725        5    Extended
    /dev/sda5       9400      9729    2650693+  82    Linux swap / Solaris
    Disk /dev/sdb: 16.0 GB, 16028794368 bytes
    254 heads, 63 sectors/track, 1956 cylinders
    Units = cylinders of 16002 * 512 = 8193024 bytes
    Disk identifier: 0x00000000
    Device     Boot    Start    End    Blocks    Id             System
    /dev/sdb1    1    1955     15641929    c    W95 FAT32 (LBA)
    With /dev/sdb1 being a usb pen drive you want to copy info to you would use
    sudo mkdir /media/sdb1
    sudo mount /dev/sdb1 /media/sdb1
    you can then access it at /media/sdb1. Once you finish using the drive use
    sudo umount /dev/sdb1
    before disconnecting the drive.

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  5. #4

    You are not in trouble

    I also spent 12 hours going through each google artcile about banck screen. Re-install was not an option. I came accross this article id 273934 in Ubuntu forums dot org and black screen was history.


  6. #5

    Thank you!

    Thank you very much Jonathan183.

    Your suggestions and step-by-step instructions worked perfectly and so I was now at least able to copy my data to the memory stick. No data will be lost!

    Another side-related question. I was forced to run the commands you provided as 'root' which I know constitutes 'bad' and unsafe practice. When I try to use 'sudo' the systems reports that I do not have sufficient privilege. How do I change this state of affairs to include myself (only one on the system!) as an sudouser?

    I was also interested in your comments. But how do I access article id 273934? I went to the forum you suggested, but there seems to be no way to bring up articles by their id that I can see.

  7. #6
    Linux Guru Jonathan183's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    You need to add yourself to the sudoers ... if you want to be able to execute everything as root then su will likely do the job for you.

    To add yourself to the sudoers as root type visudo

    a quick look at the man page first is a good idea man visudo

  8. #7

    Thank you! Again

    Thank you again, Jonathan183.

    I appreciate your pointing me in the correct direction. I examined the manual entry for 'visudo' as you suggested as was able to add myself to the sudoers list.

    To my main problem...
    You suggested in an earlier correspondence that it might be a graphics card issue rather than a kernel update consequence. That seems plausible in light of the fact that when I attempt to boot up using other kernels the 'blank screen' situation remains unresolved. You suggested that I provide the name of the graphics card in my Dell Inspiron 6000. I will make a concerted efforted to do this. If I come up with a short list of prospective graphics card candidates can that be helpful?

    I do hope I do not have to reinstall the OS as there is nothing I can see at the present time which would not prevent the blank screen feature becoming a regular occurence in the future - it seems as though I will have to deal with this problem at one point or another. In any event I do appreciate all the help you have provided me to date. Thanks for taking the time to address my problems and subsequently speed up my learning curve.

    Thanks again, Paul.

  9. #8
    Linux Guru Jonathan183's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Now you have added yourself to sudoers list try
    sudo lspci
    you should find graphics card information ... and did you install drivers for the graphics card or use default setup?

  10. #9

    Using lspci

    I used lspci as you suggested. That is quite a command. Two items in the scroll- by seemed to refer to my graphics card:

    00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller (rev 03)
    00:02.1 Display controller: Intel Corporation Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller (rev 03)

    When I installed linux I used the default setup. Thank you again for all your assistance.


  11. #10
    Linux Guru Jonathan183's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    I'd be tempted to try the vesa driver first and see if you can get X working. Can you post the output of
    cat /etc/X11/xorg.conf
    then make a backup copy of the xorg.conf using
    cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/

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