August 16, 2010

462 words 3 mins read

Screen Issues on a Lenovo X201 running Ubuntu 10.04

Recently I was given a Lenovo X201 which had Ubuntu installed on it. The problem is that every time the computer booted up, the Ubuntu would come on screen briefly, then the screen would go black and the machine would encounter a hard lockup. You could tell it was locked up because the shift light was blinking (an unusual indicator, but it works).

Like a good Open Source nerd, I Google’d about and found a

potential answer. You need to:

  • Boot into Grub (hold down shift after the BIOS finishes, and before the Ubuntu logo comes up)
  • Select your default boot option, hit “e” (For Edit)
  • Change the launch line (which starts with ‘linux’) and append “forceversa i905.mode=0”.

Except in my case, that was already there. So I tried removing this. Now the computer booted (heard the Ubuntu startup noise), but the screen was still dead. I had caught a line somewhere that someone had a similar issue and that it was simply the machine redirecting all graphical output to the external display. I plugged in an external LCD and confirmed I was getting output.

Since I had a semi-functional machine at this point, I hoped that doing an apt-get update / apt-get dist-upgrade would solve the problem. The machine was a clean install, so it needed 250 some updates, including a new kernel. New kernels are always promising in my book. After waiting for several hours (slow internet), the update completed and I rebooted the machine. No dice. The latest Kernel for 10.04 Lucid, does nothing.

Eventually I found this bug entry, which I believe is the issue. The last comment, from just about a few days prior to my fix attempt, indicated this will be resolved in 10.04.2. This is great news, except for the fact that .2 isn’t scheduled to be out until late January 2011. But that at least gave me hope that there was a fix in the works.  I decided to take shot in the dark and tried installing the kernel daily build.  The kernel I installed was from 2010-07-27 and works.  By works I mean the machine boots normally AND the screen displays properly.

So, if you have this issue and don’t want to wait, use a daily build kernel.  Now, I really dislike using a non-tested kernel like this for a standard user’s machine (if it was for myself, it wouldn’t be a big deal), but there isn’t much of a choice.  Without the new kernel, there aren’t many other options, other than telling the user “Sorry, you can’t use this computer” — and that tends to go over poorly.  So, new kernel = good (fixed), but can add some risk.  Let’s just hope the user doesn’t dist-upgrade to a new (older) re-broken kernel.