When I boot into linux (Ubuntu, I'm not sure which version, a recent one) I get this error:

Oh no! Something has gone wrong.
A problem has occurred and the system can't recover. Please contact a system administrator.

I understand that I should boot from a DVD or USB-stick. But that doesn't work so well on this machine, it's an old one. Let me say, I'm going to try all that soon.

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Booting from USB-stick doesn't work and DVD-player doesn't boot at all

You've checked the boot order in the BIOS, correct?
Speaking of which, since you mentioned that this is an older system: is it UEFI, or Legacy BIOS?
Also, how did you install Ubuntu originally (assuming it was installed already and that the error message is from the HDD boot)?
Did the error message include any other details beyond the message you already posted?

EDIT: Doing a quick search on the error message, it looks to be a Gnome error rather than a Linux one (which I was wondering about, it was far too casual a message for the Linux kernel). If so, it should be possible to use Ctl-Alt-F2 to get to a shell. You should be able to remove and reinstall Gnome itself in that case.

You're right, I can get into the shell. Nice learning objective to reinstall Gnome I guess :) Thanks!

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