When Ubuntu starts after update, the screen is distorted

Hi everyone!

I'm relatively new to Linux and I just installed Ubuntu on my HP dv7. I also went ahead and downloaded and installed the newest Ubuntu update. Please don't ask the version. I only know Ubuntu detected it and asked if I wanted to install it. Usually, this is a good idea with any operating system.

Now, whenever I get past the Ubuntu splash loading screen, the screen becomes distorted with crazy symbols at the top of the screen (which I know are obscured continuations or afterimages behind the logo or something) along with distorted logos of Ubuntu going completely across an otherwise black screen.

What can I do to fix this? I really want to learn this operating system. Any help would be appreciated.

Try to recover xserver

Don't log in to your normal kernel (top of boot list). Log into Recovery mode (second on the boot list). It has an option which says something like "Try to recover xserver" (you might need to scroll up or down to find it.) Have a go at that first...

Video problem

It is a good idea to run the LiveCD for awhile to make sure that it works okay before you install. However, sometimes even after running it for awhile things go wrong and it is a good idea (future reference) to know some basic things about your computer so that when you ask for help people can really give you assistance.

The version of Ubuntu is important. For example, 9.04 which came out last April supported a new kernel that changed the way graphics is handled. Many experienced users were caught off guard and had problems. You can find the version by opening a terminal and typing:
cat /etc/issue
cat /etc/lsb-release

This tells you what version of Ubuntu. If you can't actually use you computer, you can boot into the LiveCD and do the same thing.

That way someone can know what sort of problem we are up against. Someone using that version may have the same computer and be able to advise you better instead of looking for generic help.

You can try loading different menu choices at the grub startup menu which shows briefly after you re-boot. One of the older ones may work, especially if it is a different kernel version (lower end number that begins 2.6. etc.). Failing this you can try a boot parameter or get to a terminal and type:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

To get to a terminal try Ctrl-Alt-F1 when it seems that it has rebooted and stopped loading.

There are lots of solutions to video problems, and without more info we are shooting in the dark. There is no magic bullet as there are many versions of Ubuntu and many different graphics card drivers that may be at play.

As you say, most of the time it is okay to choose the default or recommended choices, but there is no substitute for common sense and knowing a bit about your computer to avoid problems.