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Distribution: ubuntu, RHAS, and other unmentionables
gentooers are in every forum
You are looking for /etc/rc.conf ... specifically with lines like the following:
# What display manager do you use ? [ xdm | gdm | kdm | entrance ]
# XSESSION is a new variable to control what window manager to start
# default with X if run with xdm, startx or xinit. The default behavior
# is to look in /etc/X11/Sessions/ and run the script in matching the
# value that XSESSION is set to. The support scripts are smart enough to
# look in all bin directories if it cant find a match in /etc/X11/Sessions/,
# so setting it to "enlightenment" can also work. This is basically used
# as a way for the system admin to configure a default system wide WM,
# allthough it will work if the user export XSESSION in his .bash_profile, etc.
# NOTE: 1) this behaviour is overridden when a ~/.xinitrc exists, and startx
# is called.
# 2) even if ~/.xsession exists, if XSESSION can be resolved, it will
# be executed rather than ~/.xsession, else KDM breaks ...
# Defaults depending on what you install currently include:
# Gnome - will start gnome-session
# kde-<version> - will start startkde (ex: kde-3.0.2)
# Xsession - will start a terminal and a few other nice apps