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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How To: Fix GNOME blank screen in Ubuntu for PS3 Other OS and other update problems...

After getting Ubuntu linux installed as the "Other OS" on my Sony Playstation 3 with the upgraded hard drive, I wanted to update to the latest supported version of the Ubuntu, which happens to be version 9.10 as of the time of this post. Since the version of Ubuntu I download based on my Google search was much older (you can get 9.04 from this page:, say version 7 -- I had a lot of updates to perform.

In fact, I would first need to jump to version 8 of Ubuntu before I could even get to version 9. A little bit painful to say the least. Still, since the system was going to do the majority of the work for me, I went ahead and browsed to System --> Update Manager and was informed that the update would be to version 8.04. I went ahead and confirmed and started the process.

At first things looked like they were going fine, but at some point I ended up in some sort of error loop between an SSL certificate update and a couple of package installs. In the end, I needed to thumb the PS3 to get any sort of response from the system. I wondered where that was going to leave me...perhaps with a corrupted OS with the partial Ubuntu install?

On boot-up, amazingly everything looked find and I got to the log-in screen for Ubuntu. I was very pleasantly surprised. I went ahead and entered my username and password and they were accepted. Great news...but then the problem started.

After the logon screen went away, I ended up with a blank screen with just the mouse pointer / cursor that would move, but there was no user interface, task bar, or icons to perform any actions. At first I thought I was stuck.

Luckily, Ubuntu / Gnome has a feature that allows you to go directly to the command line by pressing Ctrl+Alt+F1. From there, you just log into the shell with the username and password and you are back in business.

Once I got to the command line, I was able to work through the issue by doing an automatic smart update from the command line. The command to enter to perform the update is:

sudo apt-get update

After all the packages are checked and downloaded, you are instructed to enter the following command to complete the update installation:

sudo dpkg --configure -a

It took about 10 minuts and froze on the cups-pdf package which I hit control+c to quit after 5 minutes of no activity, but the install of the updates worked great.

I then rebooted to try and get the PS3 Ubuntu update to work. After getting to kboot and hitting enter, the following happened:

Loading Kernel with initrd … success
Booting system

With the system being frozen and not able to boot. I tried a reboot again, and even a cold reboot -- but neither made a difference. Instead, I needed to type in the command "old" (without quotes) which uses the old kernal to boot.

Once I got back to the GNOME, the same symptoms persisted and I could not seem to get an upgrade to version 8.10. Whether I tried a plethora of commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install update-manager-core
sudo do-release-upgrade

The reality is that I got stuck in a loop and there was not way out of it, in fact the update manager would not recognize that new versions (9.04 and 9.10) of ubuntu existed. Other than to start over with the 9.04 release. So, to start the process I turned off the PS3, returned to the kboot command line. Where, contrary to some articles out there you're not stuck and locked out of XMB. Rather than holding down the power button for multiple beeps to return to the Sony XMB, all you need to do is type the following command to get back in:


The lesson here is that you cannot always fix everything. :-) Or, better stated -- it may not be worth the time to continue down a certain path. Given that I was still on an older version of Ubuntu Linux for PS3 -- I figure it was best to start over.


Tim W. said...

So are you waiting to install 9.04 or higher until after you get the system back from Sony? Or did you cold install already?

Ken Hanscom said...

Cold install of 9.04, post coming at the end of the week. :-) Actually installed it on my second PS3 (don't ask) and went like a charm.