Changing Bootup Resolution (Plymouth) in Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx

I've written a post on adjusting the bootup resolution i.e. the resolution of the splash screen that shows up when you start Ubuntu. Lots of things have changed since then. GRUB2 has replaced GRUB as the default bootloader and Plymouth has replaced Usplash so although changing the bootup resolution has a similar procedure, its a bit more complicated with GRUB2 and Plymouth.

Why would you want to change the bootup resolution? People are complaining that the ubuntu logo in the startup splash screen has turned large and ugly after installing ATI or Nvidia propitiatory divers. That is because the bootup resolution is too low. Other people might not be able to see the splash screen at all. In short, if you have any issue related to the splash screen not showing up properly, you are recommended to try this procedure. This is what the splash screen would normally look like(click to view full size)-

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx Splash Screen
Nice and Purple: The Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx Splash Screen

Note- In this procedure, I've assumed that your monitor supports a resolution of 1280x1024 and used this resolution in the steps. If you have an old monitor, it is possible that it might support a maximum resolution of 1024x768. You are free to try any resolution your monitor supports. If its a widescreen, you might want to try widescreen resolutions as well. Any resolution would work as long as your monitor supports it. And for those who think its not obvious, when I write 'run ' it means you need to run it in a terminal.

Here's how to change the bootup resolution and fix the big, low-res Plymouth logo-

1. First of all, run sudo apt-get install v86d in a terminal to install the v86d package.

2. Now you need to edit the resolutions in the GRUB2 files so run sudo gedit /etc/default/grub and look for the line-

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash"

and replace it with-

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash nomodeset video=uvesafb:mode_option=1280x1024-24,mtrr=3,scroll=ywrap"

Then look for-

#GRUB_GFXMODE=640x480

and replace it with-

GRUB_GFXMODE=1280x1024

Note that you need to remove the # from the beginning of the GRUB_GFXMODE line else it will be commented out. Also, I repeat, you may use any resolution you wish to use in place of 1280x1024 as long as your monitor supports it. Save the file and close the text editor.

3. Now you need to edit another file, so run sudo gedit /etc/initramfs-tools/modules and add the following line at the end of the file-

uvesafb mode_option=1280x1024-24 mtrr=3 scroll=ywrap

Don't forget you need to replace 1280x1024 if you used some other resolution in the last step. Save the file and close the text editor.

4. Now run echo FRAMEBUFFER=y | sudo tee /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/splash
You'll get FRAMEBUFFER=y as output.

5. Now run sudo update-grub2
This will generate the updated grub.cfg file.

6. The last step is generating the new splash screen. To do that, just run sudo update-initramfs -u

Now reboot Ubuntu and you should see a much better looking, high resolution splash screen and GRUB menu. If you see nothing at all, it might be because your monitor does not support the resolution you set. Try a lower resolution in that case.

Make Free STD and ISD calls with Skype and Free411

Very often you come across tricks to make free calls and honestly, most of them don't work. I recently came across a trick that really works so it gets to feature on my blog. So here goes the trick to make free STD and ISD calls with Skype.

First of all, the only requirement is that you need to have Skype installed. If you don't have skype you can download and install it. Skype works on all platforms-Windows, Linux and Mac too.

What we are going to use in this trick is a service called Free411. Its actually a US based service with the toll free number- +1-800-FREE411 which is +1-800-3733411. Skype does not charge for calls made on toll free numbers so calling this number using Skype won't cost a penny. So here's what you have to do-

Dial +18003733411 on Skype and click on the call button to connect the call. I would suggest you to save this number in your Skype contacts for faster future access.

Dial +18003733411 on Skype

The call will be answered by an IVRS system. You will have to bear a small ad before you reach the main menu. When prompted to select your option, say "Free Call". Now if their lines are not busy, you will get a 5 minute free call. You will be asked to dial the phone number to which you wish to make the call. Dial the full number including ISD code. For example prefix Indian mobile numbers with +91, UK numbers with +44 UAE numbers with +971 etc.

This service works well for me and usually I manage to connect to a free call within 5 to 10 minutes of trying to get a free line which is acceptable considering that this service is being used extensively in the US and also by people from all parts of the world. Leave a comment if you face any kind of difficulty or have any doubt about this service.

PS-The service I've mentioned here is a free service. Please use it judiciously and don't use it for making prank calls. Your idea of fun will might make this service unavailable for someone who needs it more than you do.

PPS-For all my friends who for some reason haven't added me on Skype yet and for those who intend to create a skype ID after reading this post, my ID is namanbagga.

Ubuntu 9.10-Karmic Koala

Ubuntu 9.10 codenamed Karmic Koala released in the end of October. I was at college at that time and the hostel LAN was not working due to some optical fiber failure. The only way I had to access the Internet was through my mobile phone. Since I'm not insane enough to try downloading a 700 MB iso on a GPRS connection, I decided to wait until the LAN problems were resolved. It did take quite a long time and I was midway through my exams by the time the LAN started functioning properly.

Thankfully my subjects in the 3rd sem were relly easy and I didn't need to study much. The day before my Digital Electronics exam, when the LAN started working, I downloaded the Ubuntu 9.10 Alternate CD. It turned out that the downloaded iso was corrupt and the upgrade failed when I tried it. Then started downloading the iso again using a different download manager. This time the iso was downloaded properly and the upgrade ran successfully. But that doesn't mean that it would improve my 0% success rate with Ubuntu upgrades because as soon as I restarted Ubuntu, I had all sorts of issues with my display and probably the ATI drivers are to blame for this. Understanding the fact that upgrades never work (for me at least) and solving the problems might take even longer than doing a fresh install, I did a fresh install of Ubuntu 9.10.

Then I spent the next few hours installing all the applications again. It was much simpler because I had my home folder on a separate partition so my home folder was intact. I got a rough idea of the applications I had installed through the folders in my home folder. And since the application files were intact, I did not to change any settings and make any customizations. This is what makes using a different partition or youfr home folder so useful. So in no time I was using Karmic Koala with everything just the way I like it.

Ubuntu 9.10 has few big noticeable differences from Jaunty but one thing that is easily noticeable is the significantly lower startup time and the new splash screen. Also Empathy is the default IM client but I'm too used to Pidgin so installed it and I didn't care to check out Empathy(its pretty similar though). Also the Add/Remove programs has been replaced by the all new Ubuntu Software Center. Ubuntu 9.10 works perfectly with my laptop. The media keys, brightness keys, wireless key all work properly without the need for any modifications. I'll probably use at least for the next few months though I must say I was tempted to try OpenSUSE 11.2. I downloaded and burnt the CD too but I'm too used to Ubuntu on my laptop the way it is and feel too lazy to try installing OpenSUSE, a distro that might give me problems with drivers for my graphics card. So for now, I'll be using Ubuntu 9.10 on my laptop.