I have Ubuntu 12.04.5 LTS version installed on my Compaq Presario A900. Its a widescreen laptop (actually, a desktop replacement) with 17 inch display. I love the large screen and the full sized keyboard. Its such a pleasure to see Ubuntu run smoothly on this laptop.
When I launched https://web.whatsapp.com on the Chrome browser, everything seemed fine. Scanned the QR code and found that my display went blank. No response for any keystrokes, mouse movements. The only way to recover was to put the system to sleep and wake-up. Upon wake up, Unity would crash and
unity-reset does not help. The only option was to issue a graceful reboot from the terminal (
Ctrl-Alt-F1). The issue was reproducible consistently.
Initially, I felt this could be a display driver problem. Since the laptop contains an Intel Integrated Graphics Adapter, I verified if there are any new drivers listed on the HP website. Found everything was up to date with respect to Graphics adapter and related drivers.
The second step was to Google for a solution. There are numerous people who have reported ‘Blank Screen issue on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS’. Most of them were related to Screen Saver and some of them with respect to XOrg settings. None of the solutions helped.
Finally, with a hunch, I started reading about Google Chrome features and the steps to be followed to enable/disable experimental features. As part of this investigation, I came across an option to disable ‘GPU Hardware Rendering’. The option was
--disable-gpu. This option turned off the hardware rending facility in the browser and restricted it to use ‘Software Renderers’. The quality of the output when hardware rendering is used is usually superior, but in this case, I had to stick with software renderers.
settipalli@settipalli-ubuntu:~$ google-chrome --disable-gpu
Running Chrome with GPU rendering disabled solved the mystery behind the blank screen. I was able to launch https://web.whatsapp.com perfectly without issues.
I decided to create a desktop shortcut for the Chrome with GPU
disable switch turned on such that whenever I would like to use the WhatsApp web client, I do not accidentally start the browser with hardware rendering enabled and be greeted with a blank screen.
The first step was to copy the exisitng
google-chrome.desktop script located within the
/usr/share/applications folder and name it, say,
google-chrome-gpu-disabled.desktop. The contents of the script are listed below:
[Desktop Entry] Version=1.0 Name=Google Chrome - GPU Disabled # Gnome and KDE 3 uses Comment. Comment=Access the Internet Exec=/usr/bin/google-chrome-stable --disable-gpu %U Terminal=false Icon=google-chrome Type=Application Categories=Network;WebBrowser; MimeType=text/html;text/xml;application/xhtml_xml;image/webp;x-scheme-handler/http;x-scheme-handler/https;x-scheme-handler/ftp; X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=NewWindow;NewIncognito [NewWindow Shortcut Group] Name=New Window Exec=/usr/bin/google-chrome-stable --disable-gpu TargetEnvironment=Unity [NewIncognito Shortcut Group] Name=New Incognito Window Exec=/usr/bin/google-chrome-stable --incognito --disable-gpu TargetEnvironment=Unity
Now, whenever I search
Chrome from within the
Search bar in the
Unity-Dashboard, I could see two Chrome icons, one with the GPU support, other without the GPU disabled.