Originally Published: Wednesday, 17 November 1999 Author: Maurice Entwistle
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

The Worst Bug in GNU/Linux Installs

The worst install bug I've encountered with GNU/Linux is a problem that comes up in the "monitor" selection. Now, I must admit that I have only installed Red Hat, Caldera and Mandrake. It doesn't matter which version of these, the problem is always there -- at least for me....

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The worst install bug I've encountered with GNU/Linux is a problem that comes up in the "monitor" selection. Now, I must admit that I have only installed Red Hat, Caldera and Mandrake. It doesn't matter which version of these, the problem is always there -- at least for me.

The problem occurs just after you've decided on your monitor. There may be a warning that your monitor may go blinky for a few seconds (seems like hours) and not to worry. You might even get so far as to get a notice that the system is now "going to probe." There's usually a warning here too, that it might not work. How correct.

The problem really begins when you choose wrong. I won't go into the reasons one might choose wrong. There are many. If you do choose wrong, your screen goes black. Sometimes it just crashes. Going black seems to be the major problem I encounter, and you can guess what a problem that is. Essentially, your install is complete -- all you're doing now is doing the final X configuration. But, if your screen goes black -- what can you do?

There is nothing you can do. Nothing I know of anyway. You can't see what you're doing anymore. You can't get out of it, you can't enter your password, you can't go back. The fact is, you've just made an install that is worthless. You have to start over again. I've done this numerous times.

I am not just complaining, I'm going to offer a solution, or at least what the solution should be. Obviously, when you start the install, the programmers have set it up so that you get a basic screen, one that won't ruin any monitor and works with any of them. You can always get the install screen when you boot the floppy or CD. So, we know that this fail-proof monitor setting does exist.

My suggestion is this: have the install program set up so that if the screen goes blank, or there is no keyboard response for say two minutes, the screen reverts back to the original install monitor setting, the one you were using just before you make your wrong choice. Then you could start over, choose a different monitor, and even if you made another bad choice, you would still get a screen back.

Now, there may be some very good reasons why this can't be done. If there are, I'd like to hear about them. My guess is that what I'm suggesting could be done. And, after twenty or so installs of GNU/Linux (Red Hat, Mandrake and Caldera) I consider this to be the biggest flaw in all the installs. Anything else you can work around, this, you cannot. At least I can't.

I suspect that of the many reasons someone will give up on GNU/Linux after trying several installs, this bug is the one that sends them back to Windows. I think Red Hat or Caldera and all the distributions that use their basic configuration would benefit if this giant bug were fixed.

Now I'll tell you why I keep choosing the wrong monitor. First my monitors are not listed. I buy off brands, and they're not listed. So, I have to choose "custom." Secondly, I've learned that if I choose the high resolution setting, my initial desktop will have such small print, I can't read it. I'm fifty years old, (and yes, some older guys are GNU/Linux newbies) and I don't see the small print too good. So, if I choose an older setting, something like 640 x 480, when the screen comes up, I can read the letters.

Actually, it's not just a problem for us older guys. I just helped my son install Mandrake 6.0. He wants to be cool and use GNU/Linux too. He's going nuts with trying to get decent-sized letters and icons on his desktop. So, he's been going back into setup again and again, changing the setting. For some reason, the initial settings are too big or too small -- causing crashes from fiddling with the settings.

By the way, don't tell me GNU/Linux doesn't crash. I use Windows and GNU/Linux on my desktop and GNU/Linux crashes on me, more than Windows. I'm sure on the server side, where guys know what they're doing, GNU/Linux is a better system and is more stable, but not on my desktop.

So, Red Hat, if you're listening, fix this MONITOR bug in the install. If for some reason you can't fix the black screen bug, make the desktop come up in a normal size letter configuration. Windows does it. If you can't, explain why in your in your manual. At least we'll feel better.

While I'm at it, here's a tip on entering your password. I was stuck for a couple of days after I had done a complete install. My password wouldn't work. After thinking for several days, the only thing I could think of was, "What if I had my `caps lock' on, accidentally, when I entered my password?" Sure enough, with "caps lock" on, my password worked.

Maurice L. Entwistle (maurice@linux.com) writes from his home. He believes GNU/Linux is about freedom. So, he uses GNU/Linux as best he can. Not being a programmer, he knows how the newbie feels.





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