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I recently installed Ubuntu 10.10 on a computer that was previously running 10.04 (that worked fine).

Now, each time I boot up, it starts up in a command line login prompt. I can login and it stays at the command line (as expected). I can then manually start gdm with sudo start gdm and it works fine. I can also enable compiz (using proprietary nvidia drivers) so I'm reasonably confident that it's not a driver problem (at least not in the sense that the drivers just flat out aren't working).

Interestingly, if I leave it at the command prompt without logging in, after about 5 or 10 minutes, gnome starts up on its own. I'm not sure what is causing this.

This is what dmesg | tail gives me after a manual start of gdm:

[   15.664166] NVRM: loading NVIDIA UNIX x86_64 Kernel Module  270.18  Tue Jan 18 21:46:26 PST 2011
[   15.991304] type=1400 audit(1297543976.953:11): apparmor="STATUS" operation="profile_load" name="/usr/share/gdm/guest-session/Xsession" pid=990 comm="apparmor_parser"
[   16.606986] eth0: link up, 100Mbps, full-duplex, lpa 0xCDE1
[   18.798506] EXT4-fs (sda1): re-mounted. Opts: errors=remount-ro,commit=0
[   26.740010] eth0: no IPv6 routers present
[   90.444593] EXT4-fs (sda1): re-mounted. Opts: errors=remount-ro,commit=0
[  189.252208] audit_printk_skb: 21 callbacks suppressed
[  189.252213] type=1400 audit(1297544150.218:19): apparmor="STATUS" operation="profile_replace" name="/usr/lib/cups/backend/cups-pdf" pid=1876 comm="apparmor_parser"
[  189.252584] type=1400 audit(1297544150.218:20): apparmor="STATUS" operation="profile_replace" name="/usr/sbin/cupsd" pid=1876 comm="apparmor_parser"
[  351.159585] lo: Disabled Privacy Extensions
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Have you tried Ctrl + Alt + F7 or Ctrl + Alt + F8? – Lekensteyn Feb 12 '11 at 21:19
Hmm sounds like an init daemon (upstart) bug. Try command initctl status gdm before gdm starts. – LGB Feb 12 '11 at 21:25
initctl status gdm outputs something like "gdm stop/waiting" – gregghz Feb 12 '11 at 21:47
ctrl+alt+f7/8 just brings up a black screen. – gregghz Feb 12 '11 at 21:48

How about purging gdm and reinstalling it so it rewrites the init scripts?

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Probably what I'm going to suggest look foolish but may resolve it.

Check the default init level if it's set to 3 and try as xorg.conf file as 'AJB' suggested.


Boot the system from LIVE CD and manually run fsck as fsck -y /dev/sda1 and reboot the system. Taking backup before running fsck is also recommended.

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Its a problem with NVDIA graphics card. To get the GUI , delete the /etx/X11/xorg.conf (move it to xorg.conf.backup) and startx

This should get you out of the command mode.

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I did this, and the first time i ran startx, the display was really screwed up and it didn't use the nvidia driver. so i dropped back to the shell and ran nvidia-xconfig and did startx again which brought me back to my normal x session. however, a restart showed that the problem still persists. it just boots to the command line login prompt. – gregghz Feb 19 '11 at 23:47
Try login using the failsafe mode. It will work using the default graphics.Usually the display should be fine. Once you do that, copy the /etc/X11/xorg.conf.failsafe to /etc/X11/xorg.conf – AIB Feb 23 '11 at 15:19
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Fixed when I upgraded to 11.04

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