Friday, April 30, 2010

Splash screens are a plague upon Linux systems

How many splash screen tools can you remember appearing in at least one released version of at least one distro?

Too many, I bet, and all of them buggy.

In recent Ubuntu alone both usplash and plymouth have come to plague users. These tools purport to make bootup "friendly", but in fact:
  • Cover up important messages/warnings
  • Make recovering from issues during boot well-nigh impossible
  • Make boot-time fsck fragile and hard to interact with
  • Interact poorly with graphics drivers (xorg or kms)
  • Are much, much too hard to disable
Unfortunately, they don't even have a standard mechanism for disabling them. "nosplash"  on the kernel command line used to work most of the time, but Plymouth displays a splash screen if the sequence "splash" appears anywhere in the kernel command line - including mid-word. It'll merrily accept "nosplash" as a request for a splash screen. With plymouth you must instead omit "splash" from the kernel command line entirely - and woe betide you if something else you need happens to include those characters!
Even better, Plymouth can't be uninstalled without ripping the guts out of an Ubuntu lucid system completely. It's wired deep into the package dependency system.

Argh. I'm coming to dread distro upgrades because I have to learn how to get rid of the blasted splash screen all over again. If only they'd stay uninstalled...

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