The frustrations of Linux (UPDATED)

If Linux really wants to see itself installed on the average Joe’s home computer, it HAS to be better than it’s counter-part, Windows. As an OS (Operating System), it IS — it’s light-years ahead of the Windows architecture, IMHO. However, there is a side to Linux that is SERIOUSLY lacking — error and system messages — they SUCK large.

Now, I don’t claim to be a super-user, but I do my fair share of computing — from websites, to blogging, to programming, to just plain old web-surfing — I’ve used my fair share of computers, right on up from the TRS-80. Accordingly, I am not in the “{whatever} For Dummies” category either. I’m “above average”, as far as the general public would be concerned, simply because of the time I spend on computers. I’ve seen my share of error messages, let me tell you. So, if I’m complaining about them not being descriptive/helpful, what do you think the general public is seeing?

On to the problem…

For about a week now I have had the “black screen of death” — do a Google on it, the problem with NVidia drivers are widely reported. I’m still not sure what caused the problem — everything had been running fine with the GeForce 6600 for over a year now.

Normally, a Google search will produce what I need to work through 99.9% of all problems I have encountered. Not this one. It just wants to be difficult. But I have to say, again, the error messages are of no help (some will beg to differ, but we’ll get to that later). I wish I would have documented all this, but I had no idea I would be writing this blog entry — I’m just frustrated, again, still trying to figure out one problem after the other.

First, it started out with an error message “no screens found”. Duh! It’s right in front of me! 🙂 Yeah, that’s helpful. A little further digging produced an error something to the effect of “your NVidia Kernel version is xxxx, while your drivers are xxxxx” which gave an “API Mismatch” error. More searching on that and I started trying all kinds of suggestions. The first was to install the package nvidia-glx-new, so I tried “sudo apt-get install nvidia-glx-new” — package not found. More searching — “Edgy” (Ubuntu) does not have the package, use nvidia-glx — package already installed. OK, try and uninstall and reinstall — the package was downgraded, and now I have a cupsys, cupsys-client and cupsys-bsd dependency problem. More searching…

I can’t find much about this, other than a couple of people saying “Well, it’s just for printing, right? I’m not going to need printing, so I uninstalled them and everything works.” So, I try and uninstall them. This removes my desktops, but hey, it resolves the cupsys issue. 🙁

Now I have a “cannot load drivers” issue — nvidia is not found.

So, I try to reinstall the nvidia-glx package — cannot resolve addres (I forget the exact address right now…, or something to that effect).

More searching and I find what appears to be a well-written how-to install NVidia drivers — I follow that, download and install the proper nvidia drivers and finally get a desktop back — yeah! It’s the Gnome desktop, but a desktop none-the-less!

Well, you know it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings — and all I hear is the steady hum of ball-bearing cooling fans. A reboot and we are right back to square one. Only this time it shows the updated version number that I just installed — API mismatch and I still have no desktop on my Linux machine.

I guess I should mention that I have tried updating, upgrading (which failed due to not being able to resolve a couple of repo addresses) and every thing else I can think of. The only thing I am glad for is that I followed some good instructions when originally setting up the box and installed my home directory in a partition of it’s own — so, I’m pretty sure I can download an update (Feisty) and do a clean install, preserving my home directory. I don’t WANT to do that, but it may come down to that as I am running out of ideas.

UPDATE — Well, I tried to download Feisty last night — started it about 11:00pm and let it run. For whatever reason, it stalled at about 45% — just to make things MORE interesting, I guess.

I’ll keep you posted.


UPDATE – 03/03/08

The strangest thing happened — I’ve been shelling into my Linux box and using basic file sharing to grab any needed files it for the past couple of weeks as I just haven’t had the time to work on it lately (not really “no time”, but a lot higher priority things are on the list right now). Anyway, I was doing some routine maintenance on a couple of machines, so I had some time in front of my Linux box and decided to play with it some more.

So, I double-tap on the scroll lock button (KVM switch!) and head over to my Linux box. It’s frozen — non responsive. That’s odd. I reboot it, and guess what? I have a desktop! What irritates me is, what did I do to fix it? As a matter of fact, what happened in the first place to cause it to act up? I may have fixed the problem, but I have no understanding of it — which basically means that if it happens again, I have no idea how to fix it — and I don’t like that. I’d like to know the cause and solution.

Well, after a bit of playing, I decided to upgrade to Feisty (7.04, I believe) via the Update Manager and then on to Gutsy (7.10). All went fairly smoothly with both upgrades, no real problems to report so far.

Again, I’ll update this post if I run into any other problems, or if I find any more info out on the original problem (which is not likely).