Chronicles of Harry - My computer's display is going nuts

2014 Mar 7

19:47:00 - My computer's display is going nuts

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Probably not the entry you wanted me to write, but, whatever that entry might be, I probably don't have time to write it. (Or even this, really, but...)

So, the other week, I restarted my computer for some reason, and, when it turned on, found that the display was messed up; it didn't stretch all the way to the right side of the screen, leaving a black bar there, and the bottom of the display extended past the bottom of the screen. Like the software thought my screen had a different aspect ratio than it does.

Restarting the computer didn't help. Going into the "Monitors" settings couldn't fix it; the various resolutions listed simply weren't of the right aspect ratio, and all left the same problem as before. I had downloaded some updates that day and had assumed those caused it; I would have tried uninstalling them, but I couldn't remember what they were. Should I try digging into xorg.conf? Well, I considered it, but ultimately decided screw it, I'll just upgrade the whole damn OS! I was still using Linux Mint 13, after all; they're on 16 now.

And so I downloaded Mint 16, booted up a Live CD (really a USB drive) -- and yes, the problem still occurred when running off the Live CD, which I think maybe I should have noticed as suspicious[0] -- and, hey, it solved the problem! (It also did other neat things like, now I can hibernate my computer again. Not that I really need to; suspend is pretty damn good at saving power.) And so it went.

...until today, when I restarted the computer to find the problem occurring again. What?? What the hell am I supposed to do about that? Uh... restart it and hope it goes away? Hey, it worked!

So offhand it looks like what we have here is in fact an intermittent hardware error, where it misreports the screen resolution to the software. Yikes. It is a bit odd that before, it just happened to go right after I upgraded the OS, but, I dunno, what else can I conclude? Guess I should take it to a repair place maybe? Well, for now I'll just resort to "turn it off and on again" as necessary, and hope it doesn't get stuck in that state again like it did that first time...

-Harry

[0]In fact, the problem happens really early in the boot process, before the machine even gets to the bootloader! That should have struck me, but...

Comments:

From:joshuazelinsky
Date:2014 Mar 8 15:53:41 (UTC)
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I hope you are backing everything up. Trying to get stuff off a computer when the monitor is not working is no fun.
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From:sniffnoy
Date:2014 Mar 8 19:27:28 (UTC)
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Yeah, I have backups, though I don't actually update them very frequently. I've got a flash drive I use for more frequent backups of the most important stuff, and an external HD I use for less frequent backups of everything. Except I seem to have lost my flash drive. (Actually, I've lost several of them by now. I don't know why -- I keep a number of things in my pockets, yet flash drives seem to be the only ones I habitually lose.) So I guess I just have the external. The last backup to that was (naturally) just before upgrading to Mint 16.

And of course all my paper writing is effectively backed up on the school's mail servers every time I send Jeff an update...
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From:grenadier32
Date:2014 Mar 13 15:25:27 (UTC)
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It does sound like a hardware problem. I would have tried directly changing the resolution in xorg.conf at an earlier point, but I'm also kind of obsessive about upgrading (to the point of using Arch Linux and running pacman -Syu almost every day :)).
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From:sniffnoy
Date:2014 Mar 13 18:53:34 (UTC)
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Yeah, with Mint there doesn't seem to be a way to just upgrade your OS version through the update manager; have to install it manually. Earlier I was thinking that bothering to make a separate /home partition had been a pretty silly decision, but in fact it turned out to be pretty helpful...
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From:grenadier32
Date:2014 Mar 14 03:39:13 (UTC)
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Ubuntu has an OS version upgrade tool, but it's a pretty hefty process. Does Mint not have it?

Putting /home on its own partition is one of those things that I wish someone had recommended to me when I started out with Linux. It is, naturally, a recommended behavior with Arch from the start. :)
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From:sniffnoy
Date:2014 Mar 14 04:04:57 (UTC)
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Yeah, that's what I'm saying -- AFAICT, Mint doesn't have it. If it did, the separate /home partition would be less necessary.
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