Ubuntu 12.04: “No Screens Found”

I just spent about three hours fixing my computer. Ok, a great deal of the time was spent backing up my photos, but still. Anyway, I thought I’d share.

Last night, when I just wanted to quickly check something on the internet, X froze. I restarted, and it wouldn’t boot to a graphical login anymore.

This is the tail end of the Xorg.0.log:

Fatal server error:
[ 56.973] no screens found
[ 56.973]
Please consult the The X.Org Foundation support
at http://wiki.x.org
for help.
[ 56.973] Please also check the log file at "/var/log/Xorg.0.log" for additional information.
[ 56.973]
[ 56.980] ddxSigGiveUp: Closing log
[ 56.981] Server terminated with error (1). Closing log file.

At the same time, I got the following error message at the login prompt:
mountall: disconnected from Plymouth
mountall: Event failed

I don’t know if the two were related or not, but I did fix the latter one first. After some googling, I found that someone else had this problem after modifying the swap partition. That prompted me to compare actual UUIDs to the ones in /etc/fstab. Turns out that for some reason the UUID of the swap partition hat changed; as to why, I don’t have the slightest idea. I didn’t make any changes to the system. But replacing the one in /etc/fstab with the one from ls -l /dev/disk/by-uuid fixed at least the one error.

As for the X server problem, before I went to sleep last night, I posted the problem to Google Plus. When I checked this morning, some helpful soul had posted a comment saying the problem might be a hard disk problem. That scared me right out of bed to back up my latest photos to my external hard disk — nothing like a good scare to wake you up 😛

I don’t want to detail all the little things I tried that failed, so here’s what solved it:
sudo apt-get purge xserver-xorg*
That also removed ubuntustudio-desktop, which was convenient because to re-install everything all I needed was
sudo apt-get install ubuntustudio-desktop

So, I have a working system again, but I also got a friendly reminder to back up more often.

Experiment: Failed

Note: This is a cross post from my 365 Days project.

I think it may be time to admit defeat.

That was five days in a row where I didn’t get a picture. On Tuesday it was work. I have a part time job now where I spend two days at the company offices taking photos and half a day at home editing. On Tuesday I suggested to only shoot when I’m there and do all editing at home, which meant taking home the pictures from Tuesday and editing them that evening. By the time I was done, it was 9 p.m., and I really didn’t feel like putting any energy into this project. That one day was the beginning of the end, as I knew from the start it would be. On Wednesday night I was too tired and went to bed early. On Thursday, after I was done with my editing for the job, I decided to take the afternoon off from pretty much everything — work, photography, exercising, dieting. I felt like I really needed that; I had been constantly on the move for weeks. And I was glad I did; I don’t even regret the Pizza I had. (I made up for that and not taking a walk on Friday, which made it ok.) Again, though, no picture. Also on Thursday, I got an e-mail from a concerned friend who had been looking at this website every day since I showed it to her. At that point I realized that I’m probably not gonna make it.

The truth is, I had been struggling with this project for a little while before I actually stopped. I came across this article on diyphotography.net a few days before, and it had the ring of familiarity for me, even though at that point I was still shooting.

The simple truth is that we’re photographers. Artists. Sure, we can take snapshots, but we’d rather “create images.” If we’re not going to put in the effort, why bother? And effort, my friends, takes time. Planning it. Shooting it. Processing it. Posting it. At its most basic, those four steps actually take up a considerable amount of time. And time means pressure.

For me, that’s the key in this article. It is hard to force creativity, and I realize that by setting a topic, I created a much bigger amount of pressure. It’s not that I don’t like to take pictures every day, it’s trying to force myself into the constraints of a certain topic. I already mentioned it on Monday, when I took the (from my point of view) uninspired image of the light bulb. On that day I had been on a really long walk on the Thüster Berg, and I had dared to undertake an experiment of another kind: I took only the 50 mm lens; for the first time in my photographer’s life I went for a walk without taking a zoom lens. The results were exhilarating. While I realized that there’s still lots to learn about this subject (and did learn a few lessons on that day), and those pictures are still a long way from the works of other (more famous) forest photographers, they were still the best forest pictures I ever took. And then I was supposed to stop working on them just for some stupid project that I had already lost the enthusiasm for?

The thing is, I’m very reluctant to pick up my camera for the sole purpose of keeping to a schedule. I don’t want to publish pictures with my name on them if I don’t fully stand behind them. What’s the point otherwise? As Jeff Guyer, the author of the DIY Photography article, said it: If we call ourselves photographers, why should we be content with a snapshot, just so that we can say, “yes, I, too, completed a 365 project”?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I tried this. I did end up with some pictures that I really like, and I started a nice little collection, to which I might add some more later, when I see something inspiring and without the pressure of a project.
For now, though, I declare this experiment ended with failure. Ultimately, this decision will mean more and better pictures in the future, because it frees both my time and my mind.