"Couldn't open mtdev" crashing X

Thomas Bushnell, BSG tb at becket.net
Fri May 27 02:12:10 UTC 2011

A full description of my natty-installation difficulty here can be found at
Please refer there for a full description of the relevant hardware. In
summary, it's a Clarkdale-based desktop system with a multitouch display and
wireless keyboard and mouse.

First, I seem to need nomodeset in the kernel, or it completely fails to
start. Sometime in DRM setup the screen goes into a nifty color flashy mode
with alternating full screen colors, red, green, blue, and white. This is
very surprising to me, because this is not old hardware. I was under the
impression that nomodeset was all about rather old hardware.

Then with nomodeset, X has some errors, most critically, a failure of
mtdev_open, which then causes the server not only to report an error, but to
segfault. Even the failsafe config crashes this way...which makes it a
rather bad failsafe! I get terminals but no X, and installation halts.

I'm a little tweaked that "Couldn't open mtdev" is the error; that's pretty
impossible to diagnose. Is there any way to coerce the mtdev library to be a
little more helpful and say *why* it "couldn't" open mtdev?

Nothing in the kernel boot messages seems relevant.

Suppose that there is a fix, and it lands in the natty archive. Even then,
how do I install my system? Is there a way for the natty install CD to work
when graphics are borked?

There's clearly a bug here (X should never crash), and another bug (failure
to open mtdev [whatever exactly that means] shouldn't inhibit failsafe
startup), and another bug (mtdev shouldn't be unopenable). At least, that's
what it seems like to me. Oh, and another bug/feature-request (installation
CDs should support non-graphical modes).
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