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Debian, as well as most of the distributions based on it, like Ubuntu, does not make any distinction between runlevels 2 to 5. See also the Debian FAQ on booting.
* 0 - Halt
* 1 - Single
* 2 - Full multi-user with display manager (GUI)
* 3 - Full multi-user with display manager (GUI)
* 4 - Full multi-user with display manager (GUI)
* 5 - Full multi-user with display manager (GUI)
* 6 - Reboot
One way to see what runlevel you are on is to issue the following command as root:
If when you run the above command it says that you are indeed on runlevel 3, then you know that your entry into inittab is being honored. You can change to a different runlevel by using the following command as root:
# telinit 5
This will change your runlevel to 5 by shutting down unnecesary process's and starting up all runlevel 5 process's.
In my example it says that I'm on runlevel 5. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runlevel 2-5 on ubuntu all use a gui. Each defined run level should have an rcX.d directory where X is the run level number. The contents of the /etc/rc2-5.d directories are all the same, so you could customize lets say rc3.d. The contents of the rcX.d directory determines what happens at that runlevel. Because runlevel 3 is not used by default on ubuntu you could go into /etc/rc3.d and change what is loaded. For example the file /etc/rc3.d/S13gdm is used to start your gui. You could test this by temporarily moving the /etc/rc3.d/s13gdm file to another location and rebooting or if you are not already on runlevel 3 by issuing :
# telinit 3
Might be worth a try. Anyway let me know if you have any more questions.
As suggested, runlevel 2 is what you want. And yes, the inittab will be found and used.
It's a PITA for a few of us I suspect. IMHO the Ubuntu devs need their collective arses kicked for this and a few other decisions.
Unilateral use of UUID for example ... causes me no end of grief.
I think you can set grub to the proper runlevel, but I've read that Ubuntu has runlevel 2-5 set with the exact same startup scripts. So you'd need to modify for instance the scripts in rc3.d to only load what you want on boot (for instance, there should be a S99gdm script in rc3.d that loads gdm on runlevel 3).
rc#.d = directory of startup scripts for runlevel #.
Someone please correct me if there's an easier way.
If you create your own /etc/inittab file, Ubuntu will honour it.
To change your runlevels the Ubuntu way look in /etc/init.d/ which contains startup scripts. Then look in /etc/rc#.d/ which contains symlinks to scripts in /etc/init.d/. The name of the symlinks determines what will be started/stopped and in what order. Look in the README file in any of the /etc/rc#.d/ directories for details.
The # in the /etc/rc#.d/ is the runlevel number.
To stop GDM from loading in runlevel 2 (Ubuntu default runlevel) rename /etc/rc2.d/S30gdm to /etc/rc2.d/K70gdm
The S tells Ubuntu to start the process, and the K tells Ubuntu to kill it. The number is the order in which it should be started/stopped.
Have a look at the man page for update-rc.d which can be used to create/update/remove the init script symlinks for you.
EDIT: You can also install the Boot-Up Manager (BUM) which is a graphical tool to configure runlevels. It's in the repositories.