Suse 10.2, part 5: Fixing an annoying boot splash screen

When you first start Suse Linux, you're presented with a Grub splash screen menu that allows you to select between one or more boot options. If you're like me, you've got at least three; Windows XP, openSuse 10.2, floppy, and openSuse 10.2 failsafe. I like my menus clean and easy to read. The basic Suse boot screen is great for that. The problem with the openSuse 10.2 boot screen is somebody decided it would be cool to have the bland-but-clear blue Suse boot screen 'randomly' trade places with a considerably busier penguin-themed boot screen background, complete with running and tumbling penguins. Gee, thanks.

Below is the boring old Suse background, the one I actually want, especially for work.

Followed by the sooper-kool penguin-themed background, which I detest.

Because of my advanced age I no longer appreciate the finer points of geek humor, especially when I can't easily control when it pops up on my machine. It was with that motivation that I sought to eliminate the penguin background from every showing its ugly face on my machines. I got my first clue about how to remove it when I hit the Help (F1) key during the Grub boot phase and got this cryptic and cheeky clue:
Like it or hate it? Edit gfxboot.cfg in /boot/message to have it always or to get rid of it.
I could tell immediately that the author of this little boot screen animation has gotten at least one criticism of his work. The problem with the rest of the message was no link on how to get to gfxboot.cfg in the message file. Ah, but figuring out those details, that's all part of geek fun!

After booting into Linux, I checked message's file type and discovered it was a cpio file. I copied it over into a working folder in my home directory and broke it open. What follows is a quick rundown of the steps (it's simple to unpack):
  1. cd ~
  2. mkdir Grub
  3. cd Grub
  4. cp /boot/message .
  5. mkdir msg
  6. cd msg
  7. cpio -iv < ../message
  8. vi gfxboot.cfg (and modify as indicated below)
  9. find | cpio -o > ../newmessage
Sure enough, inside the message archive, there was gfxboot.cfg.
# penguin theme likelihood in percent; -1 = auto
I've already modified mine to not show it; that's why 'penguin' equals zero. I put the message file back together again with cpio, and then moved it back into /boot (as root), making a second backup of the old message file just-in-case (old geeks get paranoid with age).

I know what you're going to say. It's openSuse, it's the community version, and I probably won't see the penguin boot screen in the boxed shipping version (or at least I certainly hope not!). But considering all the really important problems that need to be fixed in any distribution, let alone openSuse, who in the hell thought it was necessary to even add this right up front in everybody's face? I hear complaints about not enough maintainers for this and that project (such as Gnome) and then this comes out. I think that's why the penguin splash screen bothers me so much. Too many want to play, not enough want to work.


  1. Small typo I think:
    find | cpio > ../newmessage
    It should be
    find | cpio -o > ../newmessage

    If you know how to get rid of background-semi-bootsplash-image (not bootsplash) on console while booting, it would be great.

    I agree with your conclusion -- too much geeky humour which is getting bored really fast and especially when you see all bugs and obscure basesystem tools like yast (completely lack of user-friendly, _productive_, UI). And look at time waste -- somebody had to write actual penguin-code, put it in the distro, now you wrote explanation how to remove this "feature" (THANKS) somebody had to read it and apply. So much effort to, in fact, do nothing.

    It is good custom to party when the work is finished, not before.

  2. Actually I find a much easier way to get rid the splash. On booting menu, press F1 for Help, it then popup a window telling like "what is about" things. Then press F1 again, then a new window replaces the former one, on it, there're things like splash, ACPI, IDE settings. Although its instruction is quite confusing, I actually set the splash screen to "no splash", the blue SUSE screen, without editing the /boot/message

    By now I still quite fond of the boot screen of SUSE 10.0, the green one. And I wonder how can I change the theme of the gfx boot back to it? I still get the image of SUSE 10.0.

  3. The thing that slightly amuses me about this is that it's been there since at least 9.3 and probably earlier.

    However well done on working out how to get rid of it.

  4. hei man, thanx for the howto, unfortunately I am no geek at all, and don't really get what you're doing... could you post more step-by-step instructions on how to get rid of the annoying boot screen? Cheers!

  5. thanks for the tip, but oh geeze, lighten up!

    a) how often are your work machines rebooted that this is an issue? Perhaps some of your precious time could be spent fixing your system reboot problems instead of "waisting" time finding a solution to this "problem"?

    b) it is a false conclusion that developer time spent on this item = developer time lost to "more productive" items. the penguin boot feature was written by Steffen Winterfeldt, who is a Suse developer who has contributed many useful features to Suse over the years. He deserves a bit of a chance to work on something just for the fun of it, it's not as if he doesn't get other more important things done! Besides, what is more productive in openSuse? Should all software companies abandone easter eggs all together? Should everybody drop support for, oh, amarok, or the games, so that we can get a faster running beagle, or smoother netware integration? Who's to say that developer skills (and unpaid volunteer efforts) are transferable between these different areas.

    c) if you don't like it, pay for something else, or contribute your own time, but don't go knocking other people's work on a free product. That's petty

  6. This comment has been sitting unmoderated for some time now. I wanted to post it because it's not spam, and because I wanted to respond to the various points.

    a) The OS is rebooted every time I turn on my notebook. I've tried hibernate/suspend with Linux, and it doesn't work reliably. It's better to just shut down. The same holds true for desktop systems. This is Florida Flash and Flicker country, so it's easier to just turn it off. And of course there's the issue of not wasting power. I'm not running servers, I'm running systems that should be powered on and off like any other appliance.

    b) No one has to 'abandone' anything if features and tasks are prioritized. Call me old fashioned, but if you're trying to compete against established professional firms such as Sun and Microsoft then you want to look professional, especially up front. If the original author wants his marching penguins, then it needs to be a feature that you deliberately enable, not something that's on by default (even randomly).

    c) I do pay for Linux. I buy my distributions from Novell when they become commercially available. It's certainly not free then. I've done so since SuSE 7.3. I may not write code for Suse, but along with the purchases I invest time installing and testing and helping others locally with Suse. You also need to follow the links I have with regards to many complaining about not enough hands to write the code.

  7. Hi Bill, I really enjoyed your post, and the good humor in which you posted it. You'll be relieved that the box version of 10.2 does not come with that silly, child-like random boot screen (I too loathed it and disactivated it in my 10.0 through the YaST boot configure tool.)

    And BTW - my lab Woffer makes it a point to step on my toes every time he passes! (Or so it seems.)

    Very best regards,

    JM, Sao Paulo, Brazil

  8. JM,

    I just booted a SuSE 10.2 system and found this page after a quick websearch. I had never seen the penguins boot screen and was wondering what is was. I've used SuSE two years already daily.

    Andreas, Utrecht NL

  9. Thanks for the tip.

    I preferred (at least for a while):


    James Wayne

  10. I know this is getting out of date, but people still read it. The penguins do ship with 10.2, but it's not default. I accidentally turned them on trying to install another bootsplash. I don't really care what mine looks like, as long as it's not the one that comes with the system. I like to be different. Having said that, I've been astounded at how difficult it is to change the bootsplash.

    Personally I found the penguins way too silly to be on my computer. I guess I'm a grinch. I didn't rest until I got rid of them. Now if I could just get the one I want to work...

    I appreciate your comments. I hope to eventually get enough info to change my bootsplash at will. I have followed people's instructions, exactly, without success. I think the problem is that a lot of people don't know how to write instructions very well. Thanks for your help. It's another piece of the puzzle for me.

  11. You are definitely not too old. You are too grumpy. It looks ok, what does it matter, it's only 2 secs to choice your OS, get some fun to your life. It's not too late. And nobody in SUSE take the time to code all that penguin animation, they took the work from another guy who code the animations for LILO long long time ago.

  12. Haha. Thanks for solving the mystery -- I'd just been working on installing a machine and out of the corner of my eye, as it booted, I caught sight of what I thought was dancing elves on the grub bootloader screen. Weirded me right out. I do not expect dancing elves (or penguins. Whatever.) on my servers' bootloaders (especially appearing at random -- as these machines are all cranked out identically via autoyast, so it was very disturbing to see something completely unexpected that I hadn't put in there on purpose pop up in a previously-working-just-fine profile). Apparently I'm too old and too cranky as well, as I immediately turned to Teh Intarwebs to help me make it stop dancing at me. Cute has its place... triggered by an off-by-default option.


  13. See /etc/sysconfig/bootsplash

    turn it of by

  14. Dear webmaster:

    First, this post is OBE (Overcome By Events). Considering we're two years and 2 1/2 releases beyond 10.2 (with openSUSE 11.1 due to be released in November, two months from now), it's a moot point.

    But even more important is the annoying fact it was placed in the splash screen in the first place. Easter eggs are fine as long as they only come up when explicitly called for (consider about:internets in the current beta release of Google's Chrome, for example).

  15. Good luck Beebe, At my age I understand your plight even though I thought the penguin screen was delightful. Not enough to waste time investigating, though. Mine came and went around the end of the year and I thought it might be Christmas season related.

    I think the real issue is that ALL things, esp things which concern matters of taste, should be easily adjusted. The F1 reference should give, if not explicit instructions, then at least a clear explanation of the process so the user can change things without playing Sherlock Holmes to solve an involved mystery. And remember, for some people, Hello World is a complete mystery. That includes anyone who doesn't immediately understand the Hello World reference. (It used to be the first thing they taught you to do (print) with Unix. No, Unix, not Linux.) And that's how you demystify a mystery.

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