Archive for XBMC

To the developers of Ubuntu Linux: Please stop pushing updates that break our video drivers!

"XBMC needs hardware accelerated OpenGL rendering" error

In the past couple of years I’ve helped install Ubuntu Linux on four HTPC systems, three of which were Acer Aspire Revos (two are still in use), and the fourth an ASRock Vision 3D. On each of these we’ve had a recurring problem where Ubuntu pushes an update to Linux (which appears in the Update Manager along with other updates) and then you start having video problems, or problems with your HTPC software.  In the most extreme cases, Ubuntu appears to not boot at all – you simply get a black screen.  In reality it has booted and you can SSH into it from another machine (assuming you’ve had the knowledge and foresight to enable SSH access), but the graphic display manager isn’t working, so you either get a blank screen or just text.  In less extreme cases, it will still boot into the desktop but when you try to run your HTPC software (such as XBMC or Boxee), it won’t start.  Instead it may fail with a message similar to “XBMC needs hardware accelerated OpenGL rendering. Install an appropriate graphics driver”.

The problem always seems to be the same and it’s the one I wrote about in the article, If your Linux-based PC with NVIDIA graphics started booting to a black screen or text only, here is the fix — maybe!  I suggest you read that article BEFORE you have the problem!  It’s just getting REALLY annoying to encounter this issue every few weeks, and while it’s happened so often that I now know the drill to fix it, I can imagine that it probably sends new Ubuntu users into full panic mode (I know it really freaked me out the first time I encountered it).

This is not an uncommon problem either. Putting the phrase “XBMC needs hardware accelerated OpenGL rendering” (including the quotes) into Google brings up “About 2,500 results” as I write this. To me that indicates that about 2,500 people, give or take a few, have had this issue hand have been frustrated enough to have posted something somewhere on the Web about it. There are doubtless thousands of others who searched on the phrase and found enough information to fix the problem. And it’s NOT what I’d call an easy fix for someone unfamiliar with using the Linux command line or working outside the Ubuntu GUI.

Every so often I read one of those articles about how the new versions of Ubuntu are so easy to use that even your grandmother could use it. Bzzzzzt! Sorry, that’s wrong, not as long as shit like this happens. Unless you have a very uncommon grandmother, she is probably not going to be able to figure out how to download and reinstall a video driver.

The solution is simple: If you can’t push out Linux upgrades that don’t break our video drivers, then stop pushing out Linux upgrades! Or else, figure out or to make it download and upgrade the video driver at the same time. Or at the very least, pop up some kind of warning message if someone is about to do any update that will likely break things, and give them the option to permanently exclude such updates.

And I don’t want to hear any crap out of anybody about how it’s stupid to install updates if you don’t know what they do. Ubuntu pushes out these updates via their Update Manager software, which pops up and basically nags the user to install the updates. You can close and ignore it, of course, but every so often it will keep nagging you to install the updates.  Users coming from another platform (particularly Mac users) will probably assume it’s okay to install all offered updates.  I just question the wisdom of pushing out Linux kernel updates this way — those are in a totally different category than, say, an upgrade to a new version of Firefox, and yet the user is not in any way warned that a kernel update is a pretty serious upgrade that could cause breakage.

P.S.  Please do NOT get the idea that I am any kind of expert in this stuff.  If you leave a comment asking for help in fixing your system, it’s probably going to sit there like a big old smelly dog turd on the lawn, with no replies at all, unless I or a reader just happens to know the answer, which is rather unlikely!  There are much more appropriate forums for requesting help — please use one of those.

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