[techtalk] A Very Odd Bug...

Mary Gardiner mary at puzzling.org
Wed Mar 14 11:17:22 EST 2001

Has any one seen this before?

My system, after about a day of uptime, decided that it didn't like
virtual consoles 1, 3, 5 or 7. It wouldn't let me switch to them,
although it would start of course at 1. This behaviour survived the
system being taken down to init 1 and back to 3. It also survived a
reboot into a different kernel (2.2.12, rather than 2.2.18pre21), but
not a cold reboot, back to 2.2.18pre21.

The Control keys and function keys appeared OK on their own. Another
symptom was that vim wouldn't switch out of INSERT mode with the Esc key
- I had to hit Control-C to get command mode.

The system:
Debian, tracking the testing tree. A week old install of base-config,
plus several utilities, including XFree 4.

Recent problems (other than the biggy):

A few days ago I installed the latest NVidia driver (detonator) for X,
which, although the incantations applied to it have not yet caused
xscreensaver to attempt hardware rendering, did not appear to cause any
immediate problems.
However, since I moved house two weeks ago, I have had problems with the
video card under Windows (it's a Riva TNT2, 16MB RAM). These problems
have caused complete freezes running Diablo II and Quake 3. An install
of detonator, plus a new install of Windows (the detonator install was
blue screening Windows prior to reinstall), seems to have fixed Diablo
II, but not Quake. Part of the motivation for the detonator install on
Linux was to test Quake and see if it seems to be a problem with the
TNT2 or Windows.

The second problem is with the apt-get install of gpm to have console
mouse a few days ago.

I changed the device line in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 to:
        Option          "Device"                "/dev/gpmdata"
on advice of boyfriend in order to get X to talk to gpm but have lost
copy and paste in X (works in consoles).

The most likely candidate for a hardware problem is therefore the video
card. However the problem seems remarkably consistant, and (compared to
computer death) relatively minor. Hence, I think it might be a software
problem. Most likely candiates are detonator, XFree4 and gpm. XFree4 is
fairly unlikely, since the reboot to 2.2.12 didn't start X.

Has anyone seen this before? Any ideas where to look next?

Now that the cold reboot has 'fixed' stuff, I may not be able to
reproduce the problem. If I can, I'll post details.


Mary Gardiner
<mary at puzzling.org>
GPG Key ID: 77625870

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