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Since this is such a basic question, I was sure it would have been answered a million times. But after goggling for an hour I still don't have an answer.
What I want to do is automatically start gdm when my system boots. At the moment I need to type "gdm" (or "exec gdm") after logging in as root -- I can't do it as a regular user. I do have gdm listed in /etc/X11/default-display-manager.
Thanks for the feedback, Dead. But I tried both of your suggestions, and neither worked. (gdm was already checked off in sysvconfig.)
I poked around in the gnome "services" package, where I found that gdm was not ticked as being loaded at startup, ticked it, rebooted, and now it comes up automatically. I have no idea what config file it changed, but I'm happy.
I'm glad you found a way to make gdm work. I haven't used gdm in my system for some time, so I'm unable to study what files need to be modified to make it start automatically. Personally I use login.app, which gives me a very simple (and yet good-looking) GUI login.
One of the BEST things about Linux is that there are so many ways to do everything (I did try dpkg-reconfigure xdm, and chose gdm in the list, but that did not fix the problem -- maybe dpkg-reconfigure gdm would have).
One of the WORST things about Linux -- as far as its employment by regular users is concerned -- is that there are so many ways to do things. Just look at this thread: I now have at least four ways to change my boot login settings. The only real challenge is for me to remember, a year from now when this problem might happen again, what I did to fix it. I'm sure I'm not going to remember the names of the two programs, nor the command line syntax, since I am not likely to use these functions again unless something goes wrong. And every time I have to use dpkg-reconfigure for something, I have to look up the correct syntax and usage.
As a regular user with an interest in the operating system, I do love Linux and Debian. But the same flexibility that engenders the affection of geeks and computer aficionados is what prevents the users of Windows and the Mac from switching. They want a little graphical box where they can check off the kind of boot login they get. In fact, that is what I eventually did, by way of the Gnome services manager, but it took me a couple of hours to find this method, and I've been using gnome/kde for a couple of years now.
It's going to be a struggle for Linux (and Debian) to make itself transparently consistent enough for the average desktop user. I know that attracting the average desktop user is NOT the aim of many Linux users and programmers, but I think it should be. If open source operating systems are to be truly open and democratic, that democracy should extend to the access they provide to the community at large.