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Old 06-28-2018, 03:44 PM   #1
haertig
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Need a little help in troubleshooting display issue


I could use a few tips on display troubleshooting. At this point, I think it's software related, but I'm not sure.

Old Dell 530S computer, has been running LinuxMint forever (parents computer). Increased RAM, upgraded CPU, installed SSD, updated to LinuxMint 18.3 about 8 months ago. No issues after those upgrades. Now monitor randomly goes to black screen when they're actively using it (not a screensaver or power saver thing I don't think, since they're actively using it when it blacks out).
  • LinuxMint 18.3
  • No recent software installations or updates (I do that manually, and haven't in the last two weeks)
  • Using integrated graphics on MoBo
  • Monitor was replaced (with another older one) about 3 weeks ago after original monitor died
  • VGA connected
  • Replacement monitor has been working fine until now (but I'm not conceding that it actually is the monitor yet)
  • When the computer goes black screen, I can VNC in and see the display and operate the computer just fine
  • I did a remote reboot and screen came back up, only to go black screen again a few minutes later
  • I cannot find any error messages in syslog or Xorg.0.log
  • Current plan is to reconnect monitor using DVI, so different cable, and different monitor input port
  • If that doesn't help, will try replacing monitor with a different spare that I have
  • I will also disable all display power management and screensavers

Since the reboot "fixed" the issue for a few minutes, I'm thinking this is some type of software issue. But I'm investigating other possibilities too.

Any suggestions on what else to troubleshoot?

Thanks in advance!

Last edited by haertig; 06-28-2018 at 04:28 PM.
 
Old 06-28-2018, 04:32 PM   #2
Habitual
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haertig View Post
Any suggestions on what else to troubleshoot?
Thanks in advance!
Try a new profile, login as new user, test...?
 
Old 06-28-2018, 09:19 PM   #3
ArazelEternal
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I would look at video hardware. If the hardware is getting flaky, it could be failing after getting warm. I have had experience with this under Windows, but not Linux so I could be off. Depending on how old it is, you might be able to try cheap video card like a Quadro 600 which can be had on eBay for about $30 (last time I checked).
 
Old 06-28-2018, 09:34 PM   #4
frankbell
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A web search tells me that that computer is a tower which requires a separate monitor.

The best test would be to swap the monitor with a known-good monitor from another computer If you don't have one, perhaps a friend would be willing to help you with the test. If the problem follows the monitor (as I suspect it likely will), it's a hardware problem with the monitor. Otherwise, is a software problem.

Before you start digging into the software, you should make sure that that's where the problem lies.
 
Old 06-29-2018, 01:45 AM   #5
AwesomeMachine
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My vote is with ArazelEternal.
 
Old 06-29-2018, 10:37 AM   #6
haertig
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Thanks for the replies and suggestions. I will replace the monitor and cable first, as that is the easiest. I have some older video cards laying around somewhere (PCI? ISA? Yeah ... OLD!), and I'll try one of those in place of the onboard graphics if the MoBo has an appropriate slot.
 
Old 06-29-2018, 09:05 PM   #7
frankbell
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I think that's an excellent approach.

I would suggest that you start with the monitor and allow your parents to use it for a reasonable amount of testing time. Then, if there are still problems, move to the next bit of hardware. Testing one bit at a time is the surest method of identifying the culprit with certainty.
 
Old 06-30-2018, 01:22 AM   #8
haertig
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As I look at the specs on the MoBo (haven't been over to the parents to inspect it physically yet), it appears that it is VGA only. So no opportunity to try a DVI connection. We'll see what a different monitor and different VGA cable does. I can get a cheap PCIe x16 video card if it appears that the MoBo integrated graphics has gone wonkers. Unfortunately all the old video cards I have at my place a full height and this slim PC would need a half height card. However, if the Mobo integrated graphics is indeed what has gone flakey, then I would expect the entire MoBo to be one foot in the grave already, and not trustworthy for long. I'll take some canned air to blow out any dust that might be causing overheating, but I doubt that is the problem. I just thoroughly cleaned all their heat sinks a few months ago and my parents house is spotless - no dust to collect (unlike MY house, which is a computer dust nightmare!)

It will also be simple to reinstall the OS and everything from scratch, if it comes to that. There is an unused HDD in the computer since I installed an SSD. I can install from scratch on the HDD, change the boot order, and if that fixes the problem, dd the new install over to the SSD after an appropriate prove-in period. But reinstalling would be my last step after other troubleshooting. There's not much to reinstall after the OS. Chromium. Thunderbird. VNC server. SSH server. UrBackup. A few ancient Windows games that run under Wine. They are VPN'ed to my secondary LAN for backups, etc., but VPN is accomplished on their router, not their computer. Probably would take less than two hours to rebuild their computer from scratch, including restoring user files from backup.
 
Old 07-01-2018, 10:42 PM   #9
haertig
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[SOLVED - I hope]

Lesson learned #1: Never try to remotely diagnose an elderly persons computer problems. They don't speak the same language as normal computer literate people.

The issue appeared to be a simple power management thing. I reset everything for "no power management" and "no screen saver" and so far, things appear to be working fine.

When I went over there today, I indeed observed a black screen. I wiggled the mouse. No help. I hit enter on the keyboard. No help. I powered off the monitor and turned it back on. Bingo. Things were working again.

So there apparently was a minor problem, in that the display was not waking up to mouse movements from a software triggered power down state. This is a pretty common malady that I have observed many times over the years on many different computers and different OS'es.

Hence "lesson learned #1" above - just because an elderly person says that they were "actively using the computer" when the screen went black does not mean what I thought it meant. "Actively using" does not mean you were using it, then went to go watch the news on TV for a half hour, then came back to the computer. Not to me at least. But to an elderly person, apparently so.

Also with "lesson learned #1" - When you ask "did you turn the monitor off then back on?" and they say "yes", that could actually mean that "the monitor turned itself off, and then I wiggled the mouse". Apparently there is no distinction between "I turned it off" and "it turned itself off" to the elderly.

I did notice a very slight amount of flicker in the monitor after I disabled all power management. So there could have been something else going on. I re-tightened the cable and the flicker was unaffected. I replaced the VGA cord with a brand new one. The monitor did not come back up (I have seen that with older computers after disconnecting VGA), so I rebooted. Everything came up fine after that. No more flicker. So unknown if the flicker was indeed cable related or something in the reboot cleared it.

I let the monitor sit untouched for two hours while we went out to dinner. It was still fine after we got back. So I left it as-is with instructions to call me if things started acting up again.
 
Old 07-01-2018, 11:28 PM   #10
scasey
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A brief thought from an “elderly person”: It might be less about elderly and more about “technically clueless”....or maybe jus “clueless”. I say this because I have run into similar situations with 30-something users.

That said, I’m glad you figured it out...
 
Old 07-03-2018, 02:19 AM   #11
mrmazda
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Intel video shares system RAM, so it might pay to re-seat the RAM and run at least two passes of memtest86* when next you have the opportunity. I have mostly Dells here, but my only HP has the same G33 chipset as the 530S, and arrived with nearly the same Allendale Pentium CPU (E2180 2.0 GHz vs 1.8GHz E2160; now has Wolfdale Core2Duo 3.0GHz). No problems noted here with display powering down.
 
Old 07-03-2018, 11:35 AM   #12
ondoho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scasey View Post
I have run into similar situations with 30-something users.
or 16...

i agree, it has very little to do with age.

my father is 82, and started using computers before me (and still hasn't switched to linux, dang).
 
Old 07-05-2018, 09:06 PM   #13
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More like people versus geeks versus nerds. With people being everyone else. And geeks being people who like technology. Plus nerds being the ones who actually read books and other sources about the medium.

My dad is slightly less than 80, but can manage a computer for the most part. Moving things from OLD computer to NEW computer he needs help with. He understands things like thumb drives, but cannot comprehend networked file sharing. No, No, don't do that, this is good enough. He bought a computer, probably my computer when I was 10. I never gave him any time on the thing to actually use it. Or my brothers. I got a few brotherly death threats when I was experimenting with audio on a computer that had no soundcard, or volume control on the pc speaker. Back when you had to do instructions to physically move the diaphragm one way or the other. And at a set interval for any sort of specified pitch. The lost art of assembly language programming.
 
  


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