Friday, July 30, 2010

Lessons from Linux Sanity

After days (or weeks even) of rigorous research, unending frustration, heavy headaches, and personal files lost, I can finally say I survived this misery!

Over the past couple of days, I decided to get my feet wet again with the latest release of Ubuntu, labeled version 10.04 "Lucid Lynx". As far as I can remember, I did try to install it on my laptop immediately after I heard the news and saw the download sites active already. And with my decent internet connection, I managed to download the ISO liveCD in not less than two hours. Upgrades mean so much to me and with my current installation of Linux Mint 8 "Helena" on my laptop, I'm willing to replace it with Ubuntu (which by far is the best Linux distro I've used yet). So the download was finished and I was able to successfully burn the image into a decent CD. Then I loaded it in Hailey's (my laptop) CD drive and booted from CD. But to my surprise, I see nothing but Ubuntu's wallpaper with a gray box on it. But I thought that might just be a glitch on my hardware or something faulty happened while reading the disk, so I removed the CD then loaded it again. Bam! No luck. I kept trying the same routine for at least ten times I think, yeah, you could just imagine how persistent I am. And with my very limited time back then which I have wasted so much, I decided to stop the effort. So I waved goodbye to installing Ubuntu 10.04. I could've researched how to deal with this but I just didn't have sufficient time back then.

Fast forward a couple of months later, with time on my hands, I was finally able to realize the problem and researched for some solutions to it. And I did. The problem relies on my video hardware not detecting the proper configuration for the installer (which has a really nice GUI, by the way).

To give you a brief info on my video card, it is an NVIDIA GeForce 800M G. Honestly, I hate dealing with hardware as much as my tolerance is concerned, but I thought it's all or nothing, so I went on.

So here were the steps I took to bypass the video problem and get on with installation:

  • press F6 when you see the screen with small graphics below (keyboard with something beside it)
  • you should hover your selection over to the "Install" option.
  • a series of text will appear below allowing you to edit the commands, delete the words "quiet" and "splash", then type "nomodeset"
  • proceed with installation, it will go on smoothly from this point on
  • until...
  • you boot on your OS and see nothing again
  • if you have dual operating systems (as in my case) or not, a boot menu will appear before you could proceed with your OS, this is the GRUB menu as we call it
  • again, hover to the operating system of your choice and press E to edit the commands again, just like before search for the words "quiet" and "splash" and replace it with "nomodeset"
  • now you can enjoy the Ubuntu experience!

However, past this point, I have seen some minor graphics innaccuracy, being the NVIDIA driver not installed in Ubuntu by default since it is using the Nouveau video driver which is natively supported in this version. My screen just doesn't look right and crisp enough. To solve this issue, I will install NVIDIA drivers for Linux.

So I then grabbed the NVIDIA Linux installer from and have successfully downloaded the "" file. That was my first time encountering a file with such file extension, but with help from the forums, I figured how to install it.

The steps I did to install the NVIDIA driver on Ubuntu 10.04 are as follows:

  • run the terminal and type "gksudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf" or press ALT F2 and type the same thing
  • add these lines at the very end of the text file and save:
  • blacklist vga16fb
  • blacklist nouveau
  • blacklist rivafb
  • blacklist nvidiafb
  • blacklist rivatv
  • press CTRL ALT F1 and login with your username and password
  • type "sudo apt-get --purge remove nvidia-*"
  • stop the X-window manager that you are currently running by typing "sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop"
  • cd to the directory where you saved the NVIDIA driver
  • type "sudo sh "NAME OF" and press ENTER then follow the instructions from there on
  • restart the window manager by typing "sudo service gdm start"

And that's it, the next time you start Ubuntu, you don't need to edit its boot entry in the GRUB menu. However, if you're planning to upgrade the Kernel, repeat the above steps if something like this happens again.

So I was very very happy with the results I am savoring so far. BUT another problem came up. It's my wireless connection. Why the hell is it dropping every now and then???

So I did the usual thing I would've done. I went wired for the moment, researched for some fix. And wow, there are sooooo many proposed solutions nobody even said "This is really working now.". It did differ I think depending on your manufacturer.

My wireless chip is a Realtek RTL8187Se and I've read in the Linux Wireless site that this chip isn't supported "yet". I kinda felt down and mad with Linux. But there's hope still. And again, after days and days of research and after a couple of reinstallation and repetition of the steps mentioned above, I finally solved my wireless problem. I maybe speaking too soon but so far what I've done eradicated the dropping problem for two days already. All the credit goes to the people at the forum who willingly help.

First thing I did is to download a Windows driver for my drive. Next, I downloaded a Linux utility called "ndiswrapper", with "ndisgtk" as its frontend. What this does is it loads Windows drivers and use them on your Linux machine. So I executed the file, searched for my windows driver and voila, nothing happened. I don't get anything. What's worse is that I don't detect the wireless network anymore. Bugger. I restarted Ubuntu then it worked like magic, the wireless network is detected and I am very happily connected to the internet.

Just a final note though (I'm not sure if it's needed), you might also want to install "linux-wireless-backports-modules-generic". You can type in the terminal "sudo apt-get install linux-wireless-backports-modules-generic" or you could access the Synaptic Package manager and search for this.

By the way, I didn't have to remove Gnome Network Manager and WICD.

Good luck!


n-pigeon said...

Why you used drivers from nvidia site, ubuntu haves application for downloading those drivers as deb.

System > Administration > Hardvare Drivers
Choose proprietary nvidia driver with [recommended] and go.

reynante said...

I did try that but there were conflicts with my display (e.g. image lags when scrolling, etc.).

Xavier said...

Yes you graphic card might be too old for the ubuntu nonfree nvidia driver.

Have you tried Debian Testing? It usually has better compatibility with old hardware.

I use it for more then 10 years with apt pinning to use packages from stable/unstable/experimental:

I tested and used really a lot of other distrib but always comme back to Debian.

Anonymous said...

Wow that sucks. On my machines there were not problems whatsoever. I have a laptop with a Geforce 8400M G. I hope ubuntu will treat you nicer from now on ;)

reynante said...

Thanks for the info, Xavier. I'll give it a try. Could you point out some advantages (aside from hardware compatibility) of Debian over Ubuntu? I know it doesn't make sense to compare the two since Ubuntu originally was derived from Debian.

ebzzry said...

As Xavier has already stated, vanilla Debian usually has better support for old hardware.

Differences between plain Debian vs Ubuntu can easily sound controversial and inflammatory, it's best to look around for existing comparisons.

Debian and Ubuntu has strikingly similar UIs, by the way. What Canonical did to make Ubuntu may or may not be of use to you. YMMV. Experiment.

Thiago said...

Hi Reynante,

I have been looking forward to your book "GIMP for Absolute Beginners" since I became aware of it through the Apress site, which tells us that it will be published only in June 2011. Is that correct? Will it take that long?

Sorry for the unrelated/offtopic comment.

Greetings from Brazil.

reynante said...

Thiago: Hi! And thanks for dropping by. I would still have to check the schedule and final organization with Apress. I will let everyone know through this blog about its progress. Thanks. ^_^


Anonymous said...

Hey Reynante!,

Thanks for the reply. I'll keep an eye out for your book related posts here. Good work with the writing.