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I have a problem with an older Laptop (Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook S6010, to be precise) and an Ubuntu (10.10, Xubuntu desktop) installation (fresh install).

During installation the graphics hardware was mis-detected and it now is completely impossible to boot the system into GUI. Any attempt to invoke graphics mode will freeze the machine.

Therefore I'd like to boot the machine into text mode to see if I can fix the graphics issue — probably material for another question, if and when I get there.

However, I was unsuccessful at telling GRUB (1.98) to not use any graphics, at all. I can get to the GRUB menu and edit one of the available boot configurations, but whatever I tried to express "text only", everything failed (i.e. machine still invokes graphics during boot and promptly becomes unusable).

I have no easy other way to get into the machine (it cannot not boot from CD or USB, for example). So: What do I need to do to tell GRUB at the boot menu to stop it from using any fancy stuff and get me to a text console?

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"impossible to boot the system into GUI"? So are you able to boot into anything non-GUI? If there are problems with your frame buffer device, for example, booting into text mode could also fail. If that's the case then you will have to change the settings and recompile the kernel I'm afraid. –  phunehehe Nov 13 '10 at 17:32
@phunehehe: Booting the system into anything non-GUI is what I'm trying to do, but it keels over soon enough. The last line I see in diagnostic boot is firewire_core: created device fw0 ..., and then a colorful display appears indicating a failed graphics mode. –  Tomalak Nov 13 '10 at 17:43
@phunehehe: This bug report seems to be very close to the issue I'm experiencing. –  Tomalak Nov 13 '10 at 18:09
If phunehehe's answer is not enough, tell us what you have on the Grub menu on the linux line. If there's a UUID, no need to copy it out. –  Gilles Nov 14 '10 at 10:57
@Gilles: Sure, there is a UUID present. The machine is at my workplace, I don't have it right now. I think the issue may be that the system tries to boot into a hi-res text mode instead of the 80×25 characters VGA mode I was expecting. –  Tomalak Nov 14 '10 at 15:03
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2 Answers

You can enter single user mode by passing the parameter single or 1 to the kernel. Single user mode will give you a terminal with root privileges. It may also help to disable the splash screen and enable verbose mode by removing quiet and splash from the parameter list (if they exist, of course). To boot into single user mode, from the GRUB menu press e, then look for the line that looks like

linux   /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda4 ro quiet splash

and add single to the end, removing quiet and splash if they exist so that it becomes

linux   /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda4 ro single

or, alternatively

linux   /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda4 ro 1
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Does not work, unfortunately :-( a) If I press c I get into GRUB's command console, there is nothing to see there. But I can press e to edit the boot configs and CTRL+X to execute a modified config. Do GRUB versions behave that differently? b) In the "recovery mode" config, the linux line already says ro single, but that does not work out. Maybe GRUB tries to display a splash screen or something? –  Tomalak Nov 13 '10 at 17:22
Sorry I posted the wrong key, 'e' should be the correct one. Updated. –  phunehehe Nov 13 '10 at 17:28
That's okay, cheers. However: there no splash parameter anywhere. I also tried to add text (or textonly, as one Google hit suggested) as parameters but this gets ignored, the screen still freezes halfway through the boot. –  Tomalak Nov 13 '10 at 17:33
If it's not there then you don't need to remove it, see updated. –  phunehehe Nov 14 '10 at 0:32
If single-user mode isn't enough, a more radical approach is linux /boot/vmlinuz root=… ro init=/bin/bash. This drops you to a shell directly after the root partition is mounted, with no service at all. You'll probably want to mount -t proc proc /proc and mount -o remount,rw / before anything else. –  Gilles Nov 14 '10 at 17:47
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On Fedora 16 to boot in text mode:

ln -sf /lib/systemd/system/multi-user.target /etc/systemd/system/default.target

If you want X to be removed completely run:

yum -y groupremove "X Window System" "GNOME Desktop Environment" 
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