Fixing the infamous wallpaper and mouse Ubuntu 14.04 bug

I recently blogged about the trial and tribulations of installing the NVIDIA graphics drivers on my Ubuntu 14.04 system. And, although I had much better performance, my ventures into the underground world of drivers and bugs was far from over.

I had been happily using my deskop with my newly installed NVIDIA drivers – no problems whatsoever. I shut down after a while because I was done with what I was doing and left my PC.

I came back a while later, started up the system, logged in, and it just sat there. I waited about 5 minutes and was becoming really worried, because this computer definitely should not take more the 20 seconds tops to log in. All that was showing up was the wallpaper and the mouse – no Unity menus or anything. I rebooted several times, same thing – wallpaper and mouse, but no GUI.

By this time I was freaking out. The last I thing I wanted to deal with was having to reinstall and lose all the time and effort I had spent getting this system where I wanted it. I booted up the LiveUSB stick I always have with me and started looking at solutions online – all of which required terminal access – something I didn’t have.

I tried everything from installing GRUB Repair to the LiveUSB and using that to add the nomodeset flag to GRUB, to using chroot to attempt to run commands off the LiveUSB to affect my system – neither of which worked.

By that point I actually had to go somewhere, so I had to shutdown the computer and leave it be for ~30 minutes. After I came back I started up the computer and, for whatever strange reason, now had access to the TTYs. I had no clue why waiting half an hour changed something – but it did.

This was quite calming because I knew that once I had access to a TTY I could fix basically anything. I started trying out solutions again. I looked at tons of different posts on various sites, namely Ask Ubuntu, but also the Ubuntu Forums and Launchpad.

I ended up coming across this question, here, and worked my way through those solutions.

I tried resetting the desktop as per the first, second, and sixth fixes listed – none of those work.

I then the third solution, purging and reinstalling ubuntu-desktop, compizconfig-settings-manager, upstart, and unity. I did this via sudo apt-get install --reinstall ubuntu-desktop unity compizconfig-settings-manager upstart – but nothing happened.

I then tried the fifth fix, clearing Unity, and that brought some improvement. I rebooted after running those commands and I had desktop icons back! Yay!

However, it still wasn’t totally fixed, and the only solution left was the fourth one.

I had held off on the fourth fix, because the Xorg-edgers PPA is a bleeding edge repository and so it can be dangerous to system stability. I was trying to fix a problem, not make it worse. However, after working through all of the other solutions, and having no results, I was left with the only choice of adding the repository.

So, I added the repository, ran sudo apt-get update and then ran sudo apt-get install nvidia-340. I rebooted, and had a working system. Because of the fact that I had removed all the configuration files previously, I had lost my background and icons that I had pinned to the dash, but that wasn’t an issue.

I removed the Xorg-Edgers PPA via sudo add-apt-repository --remove ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa -y, just to make sure that I didn’t have any updates in the future to break my PC. Hopefully, this is the last of driver derping I’ll have to do for a while.

Make sure to leave a comment saying what you thought of this post, and tell any experiences you’ve had with drivers and NVIDIA with Ubuntu!

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