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This is kinda strange, but I just exited xserver and got back to the console only to find it completely unreadable . It pretty much filled with nonsense (oddly enough, there exists a character for a smiley face ... that was what filled the screen, no, I'm not kidding). It seemed that every command worked properly in this state, as I could restart by typing in 'shutdown -r now', but I could not read what I typed.
Oh, I had the same problem with my NVIDIA card before I've bought my ATI about a month ago.
You get corrupted framebuffer and NVIDIA do not even care about this. The only way you will solve this bug completely is to get the vesafb-tng patch (just google it) an enable the vesafb-tng from your kernel config (yeah, you will need to recompile kernel) and this will sort the corrupted framebuffer bug by NVIDIA.
I'll have to remember to try that type of reset (with Ctrl-J), but I somehow think it won't help.
It's like the console is still working properly, but the character definitions have changed. The smiley face character, for example, had replace the 'space' character. That means that wherever there should have been a 'space', there was a smiley face. The other characters were changed as well.
It hasn't happened since then, so, again, it may have been just a random bug. (probably something with vesafb ... meaning I should use the vesafb-tng patch)