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Is there a command like Ctrl + Alt + SysRq + R E I S U B that only restarts X - or drops down to shell (not a virtual console its broken)?

Between Ubuntu, Unity/Gnome3, and the kernel (Canonical-modified) there are an uncountable number of stability regressions that are consistently added each update since the 2009. It wouldn't bother me so much if I could just fix the problems as they happen without requiring a restart every couple hours. (No, its not a hardware thing, it happens on several machines both old and cutting-edge which all can handle Linux earlier than 2009 and Windows great.)

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Terminating X11

Alt+SysRq+K does what you're describing. It terminates all the programs running on the current virtual console (which, when you're in your GUI, is X11 and all your programs therein). In effect, this quits X, typically causing it to restart, but doesn't shut down your computer. This is similar to the old Ctrl+Alt+Backspace key combination. For more information on both, see:

(As you know, SysRq is the same key as PrtScr. By the way, Ctrl is not actually part of any of the magic SysRq key combinations; the key combination to to somewhat safely force a restart is Alt + SysRq + R E I S U B, and adding Ctrl to it does nothing.)

Troubleshooting Without Terminating X11

You can also use the other virtual consoles to troubleshoot things. Ctrl+Alt+F1 through Ctrl+Alt+F6 give you full-screen, text-only terminals that function separately from the graphical interface. When you're in a text-only virtual console, you don't need to include Ctrl in the key combination, to switch to another one. Alt+F7 brings you back to X.

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