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How does one troubleshoot a “Low Graphics Mode” error when they are trying to install Ubuntu 12.10 on an older computer?

The computer involed is a quite old one:

  • Fujistu-Siemens Scenic P300
  • Pentium 4 2.8 GHz
  • integrated SIS 661 graphics controller
  • 2 GB of RAM

The system ran Windows XP smoothly and then its hard drive busted. I have purchased a new hard drive and I am trying to install Ubuntu 12.10. My BIOS recognizes the hard drive and the computer begins to boot with a boot disk. The screen turns purple, is says Ubuntu 12.10 with dots below, I can see a screen with a keyboard and a man.

Eventually the system goes through cycles in which it seems to be trying different graphics setting (screen resolution). Without success, the system gives an error message indicating that it will revert to “Low Graphics Mode”. I hit “OK” the screen turns gray and the installation seems to halt.

While I have seen posts on how to deal with “Low Graphics Mode” problems, I have not seen one that grapples with this problem with a system that currently lacks an operating system.

Other details: I read that when the screen shows the symbol for a keyboard and a man, you can press any key on the keyboard to access an alternative menu. This did not work for me. I can access command lines after the error message.

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The SiS graphics card is your problem. Support for this in Linux is really awful in recent releases. Get yourself other hardware. – gertvdijk Dec 28 '12 at 11:11

There are currently problems with the package xserver-xorg-video-sis, as noted on the Quantal Quetzal release notes and at this Launchpad page:

xserver-xorg-video-sis with 315 series (SiS 315/E/PRO, 550, [M]650, 651, 740, [M]661[FMG]X,[M]741[GX]) chip-sets. Black screen or loops around login screen

This problem currently prevents installation, but there are workarounds listed on the release notes and Launchpad links above. The SiS drivers for the 650, 660, and 670 series will then work fine in 12.10.

In 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) it should be possible to install Ubuntu as normal without a lot of workarounds on SiS 650, 660, and 670 systems.

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