Display problems with livecds



One of the things I’ve run into with various linux livecds, whether it’s my own made with mklivecd, or others based on Knoppix, the Suse Livecd, or I could go on…. the problem I’ve seen is with the display drivers. Yes, MOST of the time the autodetection seems to work fine and you get a good legible display. There are sometimes that you get an illegible display of one or two flavors. One is the overlapping ghostted images. I personally like this one more because it means we’re close, that the autodetect has just chosen the wrong resolution or refresh rate. This can be fixed.


/etc/X11/XF86Config is the file that Mandrake (riva) uses these days to control the display resolution and refresh rate. (On my system xorg.conf is linked to the xf86Config file.) There are tools to configure it, or you can edit it with a text editor.

As root, I can type xf86config on my Mandrake system and get a wizard for configuring the graphical interface settings. It may require knowing what hardware you have, but there are tools (superdetect) to help you identify that.

The second kind of illegible display from a livecd I’ve seen is no display, just a blank screen, or it drops to the command prompt telling that no usable screens were found. This is usually something I see on newer hardware (laptops typically). In those cases you can try configuring, but I think your chances of success are less. I like to pass along information to the livecd maintainers if I have absolutely no luck getting a display to work. They also can update the detection database if the wrong display settings are detected. Ultimately that improves other peoples experience and yours.

I’ve found that with a properly “stocked” cd it’s possible to do quite a bit from the command line. The antivirus scanning cd I made for my own use doesn’t even bother with a GUI, it just provides the opportunity to update clamav’s database, then starts scanning the local drives and quarantining what it finds. While it’s scanning I can use ssh, or lynx or any of a number of other programs to either access the internet, or analyze the system being worked on.

Different distributions will have different configuration tools for the graphical interface, if the above informaton doesn’t help in your situation, you might try searching for configuration tools specific to your distribution or livecd.

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