Auto-Login, and X Without gdm (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 05 Feb 2006

Auto-Login, and X Without gdm

I've been unable to persuade Ubuntu's "Dapper Drake" to log me in automatically via gdm. My desktop background flashes briefly during the login process, then vanishes; it appears that it actually is logging me in briefly, then immediately logging me out and presenting me with the normal gdm login screen.

I never liked gdm much anyway. It's heavyweight and it interferes with seeing shutdown messages. The only reason I was using it on Hoary was for autologin, and with that reason gone, I uninstalled it.

But that presented an interesting problem: it turns out that Dapper doesn't actually allow users to run X. The error message is:

Unable to open wrapper config file /etc/X11/Xwrapper.config
X: user not authorized to run the X server, aborting.
The fix turned out to be trivial: make the X server setuid and setgid (chmod 6755 /usr/bin/X). Mode 4755 (setuid only, no setgid) also works, but other Debian systems seem to set both bits.

The next question was how to implement auto-login without gdm or kdm. I had already found a useful Linux Gazette article on the subject. The gist is that you compile a short C program that calls login with your username, then you call getty with your new program as the "alternate login program". Now, I have nothing against C, but wouldn't a script be easier?

It turns out a script works too. Replace the tty1 line in /etc/inittab with a line like:

1:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty -n -l /usr/bin/myloginscript 38400 tty1
where the script in question looks like:
#! /bin/sh
/bin/login -f username

At first, I tried an even simpler approach:

1:2345:respawn:/bin/login -f username

That logged me in, but I ended up on /dev/console instead of /dev/tty1, with a message that I had no access to the tty and therefore wouldn't be able to use job control. X didn't work either. The getty is needed in order to switch control from /dev/console to a real virtual terminal like /dev/tty1.

Of course, running X automatically once you're logged in is trivial, just a line or three added to .login or .profile (see the Linux Gazette article referenced above for an example).

It works great, it's very fast, plus I can watch shutdown messages again. Nice!

Update 9/9/2006: the Linux Gazette article isn't accessible any more (apparently Linux Journal bought them and made the old articles inaccessible). But here's an example of what I do in my .login on Dapper -- this is for tcsh, so bash users subtitute "fi" for "endif":

    if ($tty == tty1) then

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[ 11:53 Feb 05, 2006    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

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