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This section will explain how to activate graphical login and starting the window manager(WM) of your choice.


The graphical login is handled by a program called a display manager (DM). There are a number of different DMs out there, the most popular being GDM, KDM, XDM and Entrance. All DMs do more or less the same thing: Starts an X session and presents the user with a login prompt.


To use a DM, you first have to install it. All the above DMs are included in portage, so a simple emerge of one of them will work. For example:

# emerge --ask gdm

If you want XDM, it's installed with Xorg/XFree.

After installing it, you have to tell Gentoo to start it automatically at boot. This is done in two steps. First, edit /etc/conf.d/xdm and uncomment the line with DISPLAYMANAGER="xdm", and change it to the DM you have chosen. Second, add the service xdm to the default runlevel so it actually starts:

# rc-update add xdm default

Note that the name of the service is always xdm even if you use a different DM: This script checks what DISPLAYMANAGER in /etc/conf.d/xdm is set to, and starts the correct DM.

You can configure a default WM to start by setting XSESSION in /etc/rc.conf to the name of a script in the directory /etc/X11/Sessions/. For example, to set Xfce4 as your default WM, create a simple script to start up xfce and place in there:

File: /etc/X11/Sessions/xfce

Don't forget to make the script executable: chmod 755 /etc/X11/Sessions/xfce.

Now, set XSESSION="xfce" in /etc/conf.d/xdm. Once you login, your selected WM should appear.

Read the comments in /etc/conf.d/xdm for further explanation.

Now you can do one of 2 steps to actually start the graphical login:

  1. Reboot (a bit silly)
  2. Start the service manually:
# /etc/init.d/xdm start
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Last modified: Sun, 07 Sep 2008 08:34:00 +0000 Hits: 42,027