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New Failsafe Graphics Mode For Ubuntu 505

Posted by kdawson
from the just-light-the-pixels-please dept.
ianare sends us to Ars Technica for news of the Ubuntu Xorg BulletProof-X feature, coming soon to a 7.10 (Gutsy) build near you. "It provides a failsafe mode that will ensure that users never have to manually configure their graphics hardware settings from the command line. If Xorg fails to start,the failsafe mode will initiate with minimalistic settings, low resolution, and a limited number of colors. The failsafe mode also automatically runs Ubuntu's new GTK-based display configuration utility so that users can easily test various display settings and choose a configuration that will work properly with their hardware."
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New Failsafe Graphics Mode For Ubuntu

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  • Oooooooh! (Score:4, Funny)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @07:54PM (#20436587)
    Linux gets Safe Mode!

    I guess that's an advance.
    • Re:Oooooooh! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jugalator (259273) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:02PM (#20436641) Journal
      Heh, the flamebait that'd be modded Insightful solely depending on the OS. ;)
      • I already got modded both Flamebait and Troll. I guess we know which OS the mods are running tonight. Humorless twits.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:05PM (#20436665)
      Linux has always had "safe mode". You boot single user from the command line.

      This is more "easy GUI re-configuration of X.org when X.org blows up".

      Well ..... I guess you could consider it "safe mode" for X.org. But not for "Linux".

      • by bobetov (448774) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @10:09PM (#20437397) Homepage

        Linux has always had "safe mode". You boot single user from the command line.

        A command line driven OS is, to 99.999% of humanity, not an operating system. The OS is the metaphor. Dropping into a text-based mode might as well be powering down. In fact it's almost certainly worse, from a user's perspective - more confronting, confusing and frustrating.

        It does no good to tell my Mom or my non-tech friend "Don't worry, your operating system is fine, it's just the GUI." They likely blew something up using the GUI. Trying to find which text file to edit, and how to edit text files, and how to navigate directories, all with a CLI, is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. If I break it in GUI, I need to be able to fix it in GUI, or it won't get fixed.

        Stop being a part of the problem here. If X doesn't work, the OS is broken. This is a major improvement in Ubuntu overall, not just some minor fix to X.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mwvdlee (775178)
          What many Linux experts often forget is that non-experts really can't do anything in the command line without help. And where are the experts pointing to for help? The numerous resources on the web. But how are you supposed to get on the web when your only computer (yes, most non-geeks still only have one computer!) is no longer able to display a GUI for a browser to run in. Linux safe-mode should allow the user to get to the web. So... is there a "network safe-mode" too? ;)
  • great! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by datapharmer (1099455) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @07:54PM (#20436589) Homepage
    This is great, but should have been done a long time ago! I have heard several people say they "tried ubuntu but it wouldn't work"... I determined the graphics failure to be an issue 100% of the time.
    • by dbcad7 (771464)
      hmmm.. I determined incorrectly burned CD's to be an issue 90% of the time.. with the other 10% devoted to extremely old hardware that couldn't even boot a Windows 98 CD because the bios was too old... I have had the odd case where it was setup in a really strange resolution, but it has always booted graphical for me on the installs I have done.
    • Re:great! (Score:5, Informative)

      by MindKata (957167) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:33PM (#20436877) Journal
      "done a long time ago"

      It is very good news, but I hope this fail safe also works for everyone in the installer. I had a machine which wasn't possible to install Feisty Fawn on it, via the graphical Ubuntu install program. This was due to the default resolution being lower than required, for the window size of the install program. (So it wasn't possible to complete options in the installer windows and so continue with the install, using that program). (It occured with the on board graphics card on a new PC build at work, so the quickest work around was simply to put a better graphics card in which I had to hand and was planning on using it at some point anyway. A software only solution would have taken longer and isn't going to be so easy for non-technical users who just hope to try out Ubuntu. (I would expect it to be unfortunately enough to put off some non-technical users).

      So anything they can do to improve the graphical support is very good news. The more Ubuntu users the better. :)
      • Re:great! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lord_Breetai (66113) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:46PM (#20436977)
        This was due to the default resolution being lower than required, for the window size of the install program. (So it wasn't possible to complete options in the installer windows and so continue with the install, using that program).

        [alt+leftmousebutton] will allow you to drag the window around as needed from any part of that window. Should have been a tip during install. I found this out by accident.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by niceone (992278) *
          I had the same problem and managed to work round it by moving the toolbars to the side which gave me just enough room to click the forward button. But really there is no reason for that window to be so big.
    • by mpapet (761907)
      Really? Graphics is the failure 100% of the time? Compared to my installation history across many systems, that is amazing.

      Beyond the atypical odd-ball hardware which is reasonable, I typically have fundamental installation problems. I'm not the only one either.

      https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/+bugs?field.search text=ubiquity&search=Search+Bug+Reports&field.scop e=all&field.scope.target= [launchpad.net]
      • Yes, I thought it was kind of hard to believe when a relatively technically inclined person I know said they just couldn't get it to work. I no he can burn a cd so I asked if I could borrow it to take a look. It wouldn't boot without changing video setting on a computer I had recently built either. I don't know if it is just a problem with crappy ATI drivers or what, but it would get to the logo and hang. I forget what I did not to fix it (something very trivial), but the fact is that for most people if
    • by Tribbin (565963)
      Nopes you are wrong.

      Mine wouldn't work on one system because of bad sectors in RAM.

      So that is 100% minus one at most.
  • Positive step (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ls671 (1122017)
    Although I personally do not care about that feature, I view it as a positive step towards mass adoption of Linux. I have to admit it scares me a bit although. Once mass adopted, we won't have the satisfaction to know we are running a better OS anymore ;-)
    • ls671 wrote:
      >we won't have the satisfaction to know we are running a better OS anymore ;-)

      I don't think were gonna run outta debatable things. :/ After the playing field is leveled, we can argue over who has the Best(tm) distribution, license, editor, widget set, application, etc...

      I remember back when Slashdot first got started. There was a guy, don't remember his name but he was a regular, who posted all the time and was quite interesting. Used to tell everybody to quit pushing Linux to the masses. T
  • by Xest (935314) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:01PM (#20436635)
    As silly as it sounds, I've come across so many new Linux users who have messed up their display settings in some way, been unable to use the command line to fix it and have just resorted to giving up or reinstalling, neither is really an ideal option.

    Whilst to the average Slashdotter this may sound silly, I'd bet it's one of the biggest things that puts your average Joe off Linux through the years. Being able to easier recover from broken Linux installs will, imo go a long way to keeping people using Linux rather than the current situation where quite a few try, but many give up. Linux is generally nice and stable, but when it does go wrong, to most people it's just far, far too hard to recover your installation back into a working state - much more so than, dare I say it, Windows. This is however why I'd say Ubuntu has been making such headway in attracting new users to Linux because they do seem to understand what problems exactly that up until now have been putting many new users off Linux.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:23PM (#20436823)

      Linux is generally nice and stable, but when it does go wrong, to most people it's just far, far too hard to recover your installation back into a working state - much more so than, dare I say it, Windows.

      I think that that is the case ONLY because those people are coming from a Windows background.

      Personally, I find it far, Far, FAR, FAR easier to recover a damaged Linux box than a damaged Windows box. But that is primarily because the damaged Windows boxes that I get have major Registry issues.

      As long as you can get an Ubuntu box to boot to the command line, it is "easy" to fix. "Easy" is in quotes because it takes a little bit of knowledge. But not much. I'm running Gutsy Gibbon at home and even with 2 problems (it is still alpha) I've been able to recover my system without rebooting in less than 5 minutes.

      The magic is in APT and the repositories. As long as I can connect to the repositories and run APT, I can remove the problem or re-install over it.

      As more people become familiar with Ubuntu (and Debian and Debian-based distributions) the "fear" of Linux will vanish. It's just so much EASIER than Windows. (unless your hardware isn't supported but that's a different issue)
      • by tknd (979052) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @01:34AM (#20438305)

        I think that that is the case ONLY because those people are coming from a Windows background.

        And the problem with your perception is that you think that the linux command line mentality is better for the average joe user. I don't disagree that if you know what you're doing, it is much easier to fix a broken Linux than it is to fix a broken Windows. But the key here is that most people don't know what they're doing. Parts of the design of Windows are aimed at users that don't know what they're doing so that their PC will at least be somewhat functional for them with all of the familiar interfaces even if something bad happens.

        You see, the command line or text messages with a black background mean nothing to the user. For all purposes, if they don't see something that resembles their desktop, they think their computer is broken. They also don't care if they have to type in one command to fix it because to them, learning that the command line exists and that you can even enter text commands is too much to deal with. If you can't expect failure in your software and implement necessary messages and functionality to recover to a close but not quite mode expected by the user, it doesn't mean a damn thing because they will end up calling the nearest geek to fix it. And when they do that, it doesn't matter how long it takes you to fix or even if you can't fix it. They've already lost time waiting for your service and your service is only seen as a backup effort. If geeks were not available, they probably would have considered their computer broken and the only way to fix it would be to purchase a new one.

        The people at Ubuntu are doing more for linux and open source software adoption than anyone else has. Take a hint and learn something about understanding other (non-techy) user's viewpoints. If all open source developers could actually understand those users, then linux might eventually be ready for the desktop.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by evilviper (135110)

          I don't disagree that if you know what you're doing, it is much easier to fix a broken Linux than it is to fix a broken Windows. But the key here is that most people don't know what they're doing.

          I'd say the important part is that when something goes wrong with a Unix system, it CAN be fixed, AT ALL.

          It's not some anecdote that Windows users have to reinstall all the time... There really is no other way to fix serious problems in Windows. Even after 10 years of experience, and extensive knowledge of Window

    • by Otter (3800) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:33PM (#20436881) Journal
      As silly as it sounds...new Linux users...Whilst to the average Slashdotter this may sound silly...your average Joe...

      I've been using Linux since MkLinux zero-point-something, and when I had to update a Gentoo box from XFree to X.org, my old conf file didn't work and xconfigurator (or whichever one the command-line tool is called) didn't generate a working file. Eventually it turned out that a serial mouse isn't supported, and switching to a USB mouse allowed a working conf file to be generated that I could then tweak. I never did get the beloved old mouse working.

      So anything that improves the X configuration process is a very welcome improvement over calling users names when the crappy old tools don't work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Bloater (12932)
      X auto detection (of which this is an emergency component - for the auto detection to be tuned/hinted when it fails) is probably *the* biggest deal for Linux since 1997. This is the thing that gives Mr Ballmer angina.
    • by Hatta (162192)
      Linux is generally nice and stable, but when it does go wrong, to most people it's just far, far too hard to recover your installation back into a working state - much more so than, dare I say it, Windows.

      You've got to be kidding. When something goes wrong in windows, standard practice is to format and reinstall. At least with linux you have ways to diagnose and repair the system.
      • by Shados (741919)
        Wow, considering even my mom can go to safe mode and fix a lot of things, im glad people around me don't use that as standard practice!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jarjarthejedi (996957)
        Hah! That's a good one, format and reinstall. If that was even remotely the case the number of Windows users would not be anywhere near as high, they'd all just get Macs or learn Linux. Repairing Windows is pretty easy unless you manage to get some major errors, I've installed the wrong drivers for 3 pieces of hardware, 2 were auto-repaired (with a little message saying 'Hardware not recognized' then the little 'Installing driver' and bingo it works) and the last one simply forced the computer to boot into
    • A big part of the problem is beginner and intermediate users (I consider myself intermediate) who installs Linux on their only computer. An expert user can fiddle with X setting without breaking a sweat, I'm sure, but the beginner could sure use the help of google or a user forum to ask questions. Kind of tricky when the only computer in the house is stuck in console mode. :-(

      Dual booting into Windows to trouble shoot X is a real trial of a newbie's patience.
  • Very good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HalAtWork (926717) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:02PM (#20436643)
    This is very good, I'm sure a lot of users would like to have the choice of selecting these in a graphical mode, which with they may be more familiar. Many users familiar with Windows/OSX will automatically be more familiar with Ubuntu because of this feature. It's important to have as many options available on CLI and GUI at the same time.

    I remember that back in the day YaST (SuSE's Yet Another Setup Tool) used to be incredibly handy because the CLI and GUI for the tool, which controlled almost all configurable options of the Linux distro, would behave almost exactly the same. The CLI used curses for display, and I believe the GUI was QT-based. They functioned pretty much identically. Personally, I have no problem just editing a text file. But, if you are a linux newbie and you poke around in the GUI and mess something up, then suddenly you can't start X, you feel a little bit safer knowing that there's a tool you can use to revert your settings that works exactly the same on the CLI as it does in the GUI, so you can access the program in almost any situation, even from a remote terminal.
  • Good! (Score:3, Informative)

    by aarmenaa (712174) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:04PM (#20436661) Journal
    Being able to get a console and edit xorg.conf will probably always be with us, but it should never be the primary means of configuration for a desktop machine. I see this as a major step forward for Ubuntu in reaching it's target audience. I use many distros, but I generally choose Ubuntu for desktop systems because I really don't have the motivation to do all that by hand just for a lousy desktop. It's also for people like my dad: he can follow instructions and install an OS, but he's not touching a config file.
    • <blockquote>Being able to get a console and edit xorg.conf will probably always be with us, but it should never be the primary means of configuration for a desktop machine.</blockquote>
      Unless you're in an office environment where you have many machines that are identical. Then you can just push out the default configuration and allow the user to change from there (<Ctrl><Alt><+> & <Ctrl><Alt><->).

      Having the GUI is great for home users who will have every p
  • Thanks, Ubuntu. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Esteanil (710082) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:07PM (#20436685) Homepage Journal
    Although I've haven't had *nix installed on any of my home computers yet, I'm very happy indeed that Windows XP looks to be the last MS OS I will ever use.
    Changing to Linux is now something I'm thinking about on at least a weekly basis, and the upcoming version Ubuntu seems very likely to make me leave Windows. (Except for a small gaming partition).
    • by Bucc5062 (856482)
      Agreed1

      i have been an MS user/programmer since 3.1, and before that I cut my teeth on MSDOS. Today I split between linux (Ubuntu feisty) for home and ms or work. i will do what I can to avoid Vista.

      Linux Ubuntu is not quite ready for the average user, but almost there. I've had to do a few more steps to get things to work then your normal click and go crowd, but not much more.

      Maybe by Krazy Koala they will surpass M$ in user friendly adjustment, and developers will discover that compiling source code to
      • by turing_m (1030530)
        "Linux Ubuntu is not quite ready for the average user, but almost there. I've had to do a few more steps to get things to work then your normal click and go crowd, but not much more."

        I think you are correct there. There's a gap in the middle between power user and web+email types who have needs a bit more complex but can't do more than "click and go". With the rate of improvement of Ubuntu I suspect that gap will disappear shortly.

        It's getting close though. I'm reminded of the DOS days where a moderately in
  • How is this news? (Score:4, Informative)

    by boylinux (775361) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:09PM (#20436691) Homepage
    Xandros and other distros have had this for years.
  • Nice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PhaxMohdem (809276) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:10PM (#20436699) Homepage
    This has been a problem I've run into a lot as a Linux novice, and newly converted user to Ubuntu 7.04. I really wish that someone would make dual/multi display configuration much more intuitive. In Windows even the n00best of n00bs can easily configure a dual monitor setup. In the various Linux flavors I've tried it is not that simple. Seems like the system display configuration utility and the video drivers I install for nVidia/ATI cards just want to fight each other over who gets to control that second monitor, instead of just working like it does in Windows. Like I said, total novice here so I don't know if its an issue with the distro's themselves, or the third party drivers by nVidia/ATI, all I know is it is annoying, and one of the major caveats preventing me from totally embracing the penguin.
  • by JamesRose (1062530) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:17PM (#20436771)
    An error screen that appears in a crash, maybe a nice calming blue one... ;-)
  • by d3ik (798966) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:28PM (#20436847)
    I remember Jeff Waugh (Gnome guy, also worked at Canonical) had mentioned at last year's Ohio Linux Fest there had been talk about this for years but everyone was always busy working on other stuff. Glad to see they finally are getting it out.
  • by Brummund (447393) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:42PM (#20436955)
    This is clearly a great example of the agile developers of the OSS community. Only months after Microsoft announces similar features in the upcoming Windows version customized for the home user, the OSS movement has once again beat them to it, and implemented features only mentioned with vague release dates by the huge Seattle-based software company. Way to go, guys!
  • by Theovon (109752) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @08:54PM (#20437015)
    Ok, I'm sure others have too, but I filed a bug report on this problem a LOOOONG time ago. It's taken them quite a long time to get around to fixing this, a rather significant usability problem.
    • Well it is a _significant_ problem to fix. Imagine writing the tool that could effectively work with almost every videocard/monitor combination known. I'm sure there will be things it doesn't work with, but if it's 90% or better, it will be nice.

      Windows doesn't have this problem because when manf. make video cards and monitors, they (usually) just make sure their product is "good enough for windows".
      • by Theovon (109752) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @09:23PM (#20437157)
        You seem to forget that they ALREADY have this tool. It runs when you install the OS! It's very smart and figures out exactly what card you have and everything!

        The problems occur when you do something as simple as move the graphics card to a different slot after installation. X is not smart enough to figure out that it just needs to substitute a different PCI bus ID.
  • And how long did he think he could get away with it?

    Just kidding. Bryce is a fine fellow, and is also the excellent boss of the Inkscape [inkscape.org] project.
  • The one thing that always drives me nuts when installing Ubuntu is that the fonts really blow. And even if you install nice Windows fonts, you STILL have to screw around with your font configuration files to make them look nice. Especially in Firefox. Kubuntu is *slightly* better, but it still sucks.

    I sometimes wonder if the Ubuntu team should *really* focus on fixing all the problems with GNOME/KDE. Put all their energy into making the GUI as good as it can possibly be. All the other pieces of a Linux d
  • I hope that they make sure that the dialogs you'd need to fix graphics issues are sized to work in whatever graphics resolution they use in "safe mode".

    I say this because I know that many of the current GTK dialogs are too large for 640x480, and because there are Windows dialogs that are annoyingly unusable in Windows "safe mode".
  • SuSE has been using something similar for at least 4 years, it's tied into YaST a bit heavily, but surely it would have been easier to port SaX then to write a new application from scratch. A little bit of NIH syndrome, maybe?
    • I don't recall Sax2 starting automatically if I hosed my X settings. I seem to recall having to edit config files from a shell prompt and text editor last time, after I misconfigured X and rebooted the machine. FWIW I haven't used Suse since version 10; maybe it's improved.
  • by confused one (671304) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @09:48PM (#20437299)
    I want to re-iterate some of what's been said here. Just to be clear, I'm no *nix n00b. I learned on VMS and IBM VM/CMS then moved to a mixed VMS, Ultrix, HP-UX and SunOS/Solaris environment in 1991. I started using redhat in 1995, switched to Suse in 2002, and to Ubuntu in 2007. I work as an engineer and do some software development. At home I have a Windows box which gets used for work and acts as a file and print server (since it's the more powerful machine). Beside it is a linux box that likewise gets used for dev work and cross compiling code. I am capable of dealing with problems that may arise on either the Windows or *nix platform.

    In my kitchen is a laptop. It's running Ubuntu. It's the machine my non-techy wife uses. She has been using linux since 2002 and I would guess she represents a "typical" user. Present her with a GUI, dialog boxes, a clear and user friendly interface and she's fine; put her in front of a shell prompt and she's lost.

    Features like this "Failsafe Graphics Mode" are critical if we expect more widespread adoption of linux. This is where Microsoft and Apple have done a very good job of making it easy for a typical person with limited or no technical background to configure and use the machines. A previous poster suggested that linux has always had a failsafe mode; but, booting into single user mode and dumping someone at a shell prompt is not good enough. At that point most people would give up. We have to work to make the platform as user friendly as possible if we expect it to be adopted. linux needs more of these user friendly interfaces for diagnosing problems and configuring hardware. That laptop my wife uses, in order to get the wifi interface to work I had to drop back to a command prompt to troubleshoot the problem, then edit a couple of configuration files to make it work. (and for the record, it's a Ralink 2500 based card made by Asus, which is supposed to be well supported) That's just unacceptable to most users. Let's try to keep the typical end user in mind when we design these projects. I think the folks working on Ubuntu are setting a fine example.
  • This is new? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday September 01, 2007 @10:03PM (#20437359) Homepage Journal
    FBSD has defaulted to a VESA mode for some time now i thought. Not that its 100% but it covers 99% of what is still running ( and that you would want to try running X on ).

    Sure its nice, but doesnt seem 'earth shaking'
  • by JohnnyBigodes (609498) <morphineNO@SPAMdigitalmente.net> on Saturday September 01, 2007 @11:25PM (#20437761)
    Welcome to the 1990's and the VESA support in just about every graphics card in existance that never got used until around 2000, and only now at the mid-to-end of the decade we get a VESA safe mode.
  • by NekoXP (67564) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @06:20AM (#20439391) Homepage
    Assumptions:

    1) You're running an x86 PC with a VESA compliant graphics card, or any platform which has 'legacy VGA' registers mapped. What about PPC or something? It's frighteningly rare for the kernel framebuffer not to work on these platforms but there are some times where the X.org driver/autodetect or most commonly GDM doesn't quite configure your card correctly and hands you a garbage display. I never understood why X.org can't have a TRUE framebuffer console driver which simply inherits the mode the kernel gives it.

    This isn't bulletproof it's just a band-aid.

    2) Everyone loves GTK+ - well, I pretty much don't. Does this mean the Kubuntu guys have to install GTK now? Actually not, because there is a cute KDE app for it, but seriously.. why does everyone fawn over the GTK stuff and never show the Qt stuff?

    In fact, it turns out this was a KDE app to start with. Quote;

    displayconfig-gtk is a GTK/Python frontend being developed for KDE's guidance configuration system by glatzor, mvo, and others. In addition to using this in the failsafe mode, this is plugged into Ubuntu's System / Administration menu so users can also use it for configuring their system once successfully booted into X (shown below).


    Which just begs the question, why wasn't this news when the KDE app got written?

    3) Everyone loves GDM, well, I don't. What's up with KDM these days? Does it handle it better? None of the developers are telling the success story on any project I'm watching right now, it's all "GDM breaks this" and "we have problems with that". So it worked on KDE before, but nobody thought to say "this is a great feature, now we port it to GTK"?

    There are some very strange priorities in the software world these days.. bug reports flood the net and nobody talks about anything being finished..

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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