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On 12.04 LTS, I typed "apt-get install xdm" - then a window asked if I wanted lightdm or xdm, and I selected xdm. Then I rebooted but the display only showed, for a very long time, the word "ubuntu" and orange dots moving over a purple background. There was no login prompt. I was not able to use key sequences such as Ctrl-Alt-F1 to Ctrl-Alt-F7 (or Alt-F1 to Alt-F7) to obtain a text terminal. All of these key sequences were ignored. I rebooted multiple times and this behavior always occurs. What is the easiest way to obtain login access to the system?

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Press "esc" while the Ubuntu splash screen is showing to see what fails. – Nathaniel Pisarski Jul 17 '12 at 20:12
The last two lines are "Starting X display manager xdm [OK]" and "Stopping System V runlevel compatibility [OK]." All of the "[]" are "[OK]." The only part that looks like possibly an error message is "Starting CUPS printing spooler/server [OK]" followed by "could not write bytes: Broken pipe." After showing this output in response to the "esc" key, the system seems hung (or at least I don't know what other keyboard input I should use). – Judy Jul 17 '12 at 20:34

Reboot the computer and keep the SHIFT key pressed in order to access the boot options. Select "recovery mode". This should allow you to login in your system again.

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The underlying problem might be a bug in /etc/init/plymouth-stop.conf in which the line that begins with gdm|kdm ought to begin with xdm|gdm|kdm instead. I do not have permission to self-answer, but may try to self-answer after waiting the required number of hours. – Judy Jul 17 '12 at 22:40
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Trying to change a 12.04 LTS system from LightDM to xdm by installing the xdm package and then running dpkg-reconfigure lightdm to select xdm apparently does not work.

The failure mode is that a normal boot hangs forever on the "orange dots - purple background" screen, and it is necessary to use recovery mode to access the system. One or both of these other two steps will apparently fix the problem:

  • delete the /etc/init/lightdm.conf file and/or
  • edit the /etc/init/plymouth-stop.conf file, locate the line beginning with gdm|kdm and change this line to begin with xdm|gdm|kdm instead.

I most likely will not research this further and most likely will not submit a bug report myself. I do not know whether either of the steps mentioned above is considered a supported or recommended configuration change. Also, I do not know whether use of xdm is considered a supported activity on 12.04 LTS.

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Good point Judy... I had the same issue and I solved reinstalling gdm – tmow Oct 16 '12 at 21:40

Same problem happened to me.

Go to tty1 with Control + Alt + F1. Then I ran


from there.The login screen appeared this time.Also I will try to apply the fix listed above

edit the /etc/init/plymouth-stop.conf file, locate the line beginning with gdm|kdm and change this line to begin with xdm|gdm|kdm instead.

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