I had the pleasure of installing Ubuntu onto two old computers this weekend. One laptop and one desktop. Both resistant to Doctor Lee’s orders.
The Ubuntu graphical installer is poor at detecting and setting up old graphics cards and monitors. It is a strange and frustrating problem because once Ubuntu is installed it detects and configures them effortlessly. The installation issue shows itself through symptoms which include any of the following:
- A perpetually blank screen that prevents any set-up questions from being answered
- A continuously moving animated gif that suggests “something amazing is about to happen“; which it is – the computer is about to get a boot from its frustrated user!
- An error message that reads
PHP12vesamenu.c32: attempted DOS system callboot:
Whatever the symptom, I am sure that it will have prompted you to clean your disc, to clean your disc drive, to re-download your installation iso, to reburn it at increasingly slower speeds, to Google umpteen times with search terms like
“Blank screen on installation”
“Black Ubuntu installation screen”
“vesamenu.c32 prevents Linux installation”
“Help! My computer’s playing dumb”
“Why can’t I get past the first screen when installing Ubuntu”, or
“Linux graphical installer goes blank but disc keeps on spinning”
Fixing the Blank Screen on Installation Bug
Let’s deal with the vesamenu issue first. The next time you try to install Linux onto a computer and the installer drops to a terminal prompt with the message
vesamenu.c32: attempted DOS system call
Type at the prompt
Then wait, and wait some more… After a few minutes you will be greeted with a usable graphical interface. Just be patient with it while waiting for it to load.
Next on the list is a bug that is specific to Ubuntu 10.04 and its many variants. It manifests in one of at least two ways:
- The computer boots up, the disk whirs around in its drive, the picture of a keyboard and a human at the bottom of the screen displays then the screen goes blank and stays blank for quite a long time. You go and get a drink, come back to your computer and the screen is still blank so you sit and stare at it for 30 minutes or so then boot your computer out of frustration before you restart it and begin the process again. Or,
- You press a key when the picture of the keyboard and human shows up so the boot menu displays. You specify your language and choose your boot option then as soon as the installation begins your computer either displays a black screen or it shows an Ubuntu logo gif with flashing dots beneath it and nothing else happens from that point onwards.
The problem is the same for both symptoms – poor graphics card detection or configuration.
There are three solutions to this. I am only going to explain the one that I used and which worked for me on two occasions.
- Put your installation media into the computer
- Switch on the computer
- Press the spacebar as soon as the picture of the keyboard and human display at the bottom of the screen
- Choose your language
- Select “Try Ubuntu without any changes”
- Press F6
- Select “nomodeset”
- Press Escape (Esc)
- Press Enter (Return) and be amazed as Ubuntu loads.
Two more fixes are explained at UbuntuGeek.
I hope those solutions help you to install Ubuntu. They might even work for other Linux distros. If you encounter any other solutions then please post them in the comments.