First date(s) with Linux were terrible

Attempting to first install PCLinuxOS turned out to be a bigger hassle that I originally anticipated.  In fact, the way I have the OS currently running is definitely not optimal for my computer.  I never thought installing a new OS would be this difficult and cause this much of a headache.

Now, I have installed another OS on my computer before.  While not exactly an official OS, I did partition my hard drive in the past to install and play around with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and the Windows 8 Release Preview, and they both worked flawlessly.  Side note; I have tried installing the Windows 10 Technical Preview and while installation has gone flawlessly, using the OS hasn’t worked for me (which obviously sucks).

I used what little blank DVDs I had lying around to burn the PCLinuxOS LiveCD.  I did originally try to create a Live USB but every time I tried to boot the USB, the ISO would not boot.  Running the LiveCD caused multiple issues, and this mainly had to deal with the video driver. Or the card itself. I still don’t know to this day.  What would happen is after the splash, the screen would go black and not turn back on.  I can still interact with the LiveCD using the keyboard (and mouse, though what good is a mouse when you can’t see the pointer), but attempting to use a computer with a screen that isn’t turned on isn’t exactly optimal.  I could be wrong though.

Google searches proved fruitless.  What did work was an option on the LiveCD to boot the OS with a video driver safe option.  What this essentially does (or at least what I think it does) is use a generic video driver to run the graphics.  Using this, I ran through the installation process and successfully installed PCLinuxOS on my machine.

So all is good now, right? Nope. Boots without the video driver safe mode option brought more problems.  I would boot into a black screen – but a screen in the on state – and not see anything.  I could move my mouse around but there was nothing on my desktop.  Nothing to interact with.  It’s aggravating.  Partially saddening.  How does one use a new OS without even seeing what needs to be seen?

So I reinstalled PCLinuxOS.  Multiple times.  Each new installation led to no new solution to my problem.  That was, until I took a look at some of the boot command appends(? is that the proper name for it idk).  What I’m currently doing now is running PCLinuxOS with the following boot command append:


This forces the video driver safe option to boot with the rest of the OS.  Until I can find a way to make my AMD card play nice with Linux (which may be never but fingers crossed), I’ll have to keep this boot command appended.  While this allows me to see a desktop, I lose two things:

  • Full control of my display resolution. My display’s only resolution options are 1366 x 768 and 1368 x 768 (as stated in my About me section, my display is a 1366 x 768), and every boot defaults to a 1368 x 768 resolution.  This isn’t too big of a problem, but the display shifts to the side every time I move my mouse to the side of the screen.
  • No external output support.  This is a big one for me.  On Windows, I use an old Samsung SyncMaster 715v (1280 x 1024) as a secondary monitor.  I cannot express how useful multiple displays are for productivity (where productivity = multiple useless internet windows on both displays but you get the point).  You’ve heard the quote “Two heads are better than one”, right? Replace head with screens, or consider a screen to be a head and you understand my philosophy.  While I really appreciate virtual desktops, nothing beats simultaneous hardware displays.

And it’s really unfortunate.  But thankfully, what I have at the moment works, which is what’s important.  I know that tinkering with the video settings will screw everything up, and as much as I want to try to create an optimal setup for my computer, I don’t want to go through this process all over again.


4 thoughts on “First date(s) with Linux were terrible

  1. Ah, yes, Linux can be like that sometimes: there are situations where things just work and work well, and there are other situations where things should just work but you have no idea why it doesn’t, even after searching. Most of the time, it’s just something small that was overlooked or wasn’t done, but there are the odd times when it just can’t be done with what’s out there now. I’m glad it hasn’t deterred you from keeping on with Linux.

    As for your issues, I think I can help out.

    You are correct in saying that the safe option uses the generic video driver, vesa, to run the graphics.

    What you call “boot command appends” are actually called “boot parameters” or “boot options”.

    I’m guessing you’re missing the driver for your card. The one your looking for is in the x11-video-ati package. Once you install that, remove the xdriver=vesa boot option. You can use xdriver=radeon to force it to use that driver (you can make it permanent by editing /boot/grub/menu.lst as root).

    If that doesn’t take care of your display resolution, go to System Settings > Size & Orientation, configure the settings and save as default. That should also suffice for multiple monitors, but if not, install arandr and try using that.

    Let us know how it turns out!

    Trivia: “multi-monitor” is also called “multi-head”.

    • Thanks! Unfortunately I’ve now lost my GUI and I’m stuck in command line, but my video drivers work now. Putting xdriver=radeon gives me a black screen.

      • According to the Arch Linux wiki, having nomodeset or vga= in your boot parameters will prevent the driver from loading. The vga option is present in my PCLOS virtual machine. If they’re present, try removing them.
        Maybe you could post your command line options?

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