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When I try to go to a virtual console (ctrl alt f1) and return to f7, my screen freaks out. Its black with frequent white 'lightning bolts' flashing across the screen. Nothing works, but to force shutdown.

Same when trying to resume from suspend. This doesnt happen every time, but very often.
I dont know what information might be useful but:

Ubuntu 12.10
ATI RS880M [Mobility Radeon HD 4200 Series]
Gallium 0.4 on AMD RS880

this line in xsession-errors might be pertinent:
(gnome-settings-daemon:1825): color-plugin-WARNING **: Done switch to new account, reload devices

p.s. Ive tried the fglrx drivers but need the legacy drivers as described here, but nothing past a black screen.

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Not a solution, but try killing X-server instead of just shutting down. You will have to log in again, and you will first have to enable the kill key sequence <Ctrl><Alt><Backspace> in keyboard settings. –  fabricator4 Dec 8 '12 at 23:10
When the screen freaks, I can't do anything, cant go back to the console, tried typing blind, nothing works anymore. –  Jack G Dec 8 '12 at 23:16
I realise that, that's why you have to enable the kill x-server key sequence before you actually need it. The problem is certainly with the display driver module, so you should investigate that (I don't use AMD so can't do any testing) –  fabricator4 Dec 8 '12 at 23:25
I guess I should be more specific. <Ctrl><Alt><Backspace> is set up but it doesnt work. Nothing works. –  Jack G Dec 9 '12 at 7:37
Though after restarting X the problems do appear to go away. (appear because as I said they don't always happen and maybe a fluke). I think this is connected to: "Unity is not supported by your hardware. Enabling software rendering instead (slow)." While it doesnt seem slower, I think Id rather not have to use software rendering. –  Jack G Dec 9 '12 at 7:46
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