Heh, why use .xinitrc if you can do it with X in the first place. NAvigate through the GNOME foot to the System settings and server settings. There choose Services and type in your root password. You will then get a list of all demons you can use and check the one you need (sshd is for ssh) press Start. And don't forget to File --> Save before you exit.
Ah, the GNOME Services applet - I know it well
In fact, sshd is running perfectly on the machine, so no complaints there - I can log in with no problems using public-key authentication. It's ssh-agent
I'm interested in - i.e. the program which stores your decrypted private key, so that you can log in "seamlessly" via SSH to another host, without having to type in a password or a private key's passphrase.
Since I originally posted, I found that ssh-agent is
in fact running, though I don't know if it's because I added it to an ~/.xsession file, or because it was always
running and I failed to find it with "ps". The problem was that I didn't understand the importance of the "ssh-add" command, which I now know is the equivalent of the "Add Key" procedure in Pageant (PuTTY's authentication agent).
In short, when I add my private key with "ssh-add", everything works perfectly - even my Sharp Zaurus now accepts public-key SSH logins, whereas it always asked for a password before.
Basically, I'm happy now
Thanks for your help!