I was running a virtual instance of another Linux operating system this morning with VirtualBox. Everything was going fine (as it usually does) until it wasn't. The virtual operating system prompted me for my user password (to run an admin task). When I started typing the admin password, things went a bit south.
Essentially, what happened was VirtualBox locked up my desktop. It wasn't a full-blown lockup, as I could still move my mouse. I couldn't, however, click on anything or interact with the desktop in any way (besides moving the cursor).
Sometimes, it's just a matter of waiting for whatever is happening in the background to finish and control will be handed back over. That did not happen. No matter how long I waited, the desktop remained unresponsive.
I know what you're thinking. All I had to do was power down the machine, restart it, and get back to whatever it was I was doing.
For any given MacOS or Windows user, that's the logical process when the desktop locks up. But this is Linux and with Linux…there is always a way.
I wasn't 100% certain that VirtualBox was the culprit, but I was fairly certain (as that's what I was using when the lockup occurred). And because this isn't my first (or last) go around the block, I knew there was a much easier solution. Besides, Linux users are not fond of either shutting down or rebooting their computers. We like to brag about our uptime. I've had Linux desktop computers stay up for over a year and servers even longer. It's a point of pride.
Of course, I don't really bother with such things any longer and if I feel a reboot is necessary (especially when a new kernel is installed), I won't hesitate.
Today was one of those days where I really didn't feel like rebooting my machine. First off, the power switch has gone out and, in order to restart the machine, I have to remove the case and press a hard-to-reach switch for the machine to power back on. (I'm working on getting a replacement power switch as I type.)
So, when my desktop locked up (without an easy means to reboot), what did I do?
I understand this isn't something someone new to Linux would know how to do (without the help of Google) but it's one of the many tricks I've learned over my years of using Linux. And any time I'm using an operating system that isn't Linux, I know that I'm hindered from doing such things, which (in my opinion) helps to make other operating systems inferior to the open-source option.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't something I have to do regularly. In fact, I can't remember the last time I had to pull off such a feat to regain control of my desktop. The good thing is that the option is there should I need it. Linux has always been known for having multiple options for just about every need and that makes it an incredibly powerful, flexible, and reliable operating system.
You may never run into such an instance but knowing that you have ultimate control over your desktop can be very assuring, especially when you have important work you won't want to lose, thanks to an errant application.
I've been taking advantage of such cool tricks on the desktop for decades. Don't you think it's time you gain the same benefit and enjoy a desktop or laptop operating system that won't relinquish control to you when it's most needed?