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Is it possible to log in as another user within an already-running session in Ubuntu 11.10 (as it was with Xephyr or Xnest under GDM)?

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It is quite simple. Click on your username on the top Panel and there you can choose the other user to login between the available users, without logging out the first user. It will also show you the other "connected" users.

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Simple! I hadn't even noticed that. –  detly Jan 4 '12 at 6:17
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I am a beginner myself so I hope my answer might help you. I beleive it is possible. But if you try to login in a VNC session the applications wont work in case they are running. For instance, if firefox is running on the specific machine, you won be able to start it on your terminal. Well at least thatś what happened to me.

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I'm talking about logging into the same machine as a different user, not a different machine. –  detly Jan 3 '12 at 10:17
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The easiest way to do this is to use the Ctrl-Alt-F1 through F6 virtual terminals. This will give you a new login prompt and shell access to the system, so you can log in as a different user, or the same user. Crtl-Alt_F7 will switch back to the current graphical desktop.

Once there you can start another X session with startx -- :1

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