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We have a cluster of Ubuntu 16 LTS machines that authenticate off of LDAP and have their home directories in a separate filer. Users can log into the terminal (Ctrl-Alt-F1) and can also log into the GUI (in this case, since it's Ubuntu 16, Unity.) However, no menu or dash appears. The contents of their ~/Desktop folder appear, but they can only right-click to get the menu, and the click-and-drag field. This problem does not happen for the guest user account -- they get the menu bar and dash.

Running DISPLAY=:0 ccsm & does not make the compiz configuration manager appear.

Running dconf reset -f /org/compiz gives the error message, "Cannot autolaunch D-Bus without X11 $Display".

Running startx results in a Unity session but with the same issue, where there is no menu bar or dash.

Since this ONLY happens to regular users, it was suggested to me that I look in /etc/pam.d for solutions, and while I added session optional pam_systemd.so /etc/pam/common-session, this did not resolve the issue. However, PAM is a sprawling non-Euclidean horror and I may have missed something further in it, though I don't know what.

The test machine has been wiped and Ubuntu reinstalled several times. These are Dell OptiPlex 7050 with integrated Intel graphics, single-booting to Ubuntu (no other OS on them.)

Thank you very much for your time, and for any other help you can provide!

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The issue was, at least in part, due to some change to nfsclient. With help from a colleague, we determined that PAM was not at fault but rather the remote directories. I added 'nolock' to the /etc/fstab entry for the location of the home directories, and it now works.

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