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My Ubuntu 20.04.1 notebook is a fully up-to-date Ubuntu desktop installation upgraded from previous versions (18.10 -> 19.04 -> 19.10 -> 20.04). Lately, I noticed that a "system user" called gdm was added to the system:

# id gdm
uid=123(gdm) gid=128(gdm) groups=128(gdm)

# grep gdm /etc/passwd /etc/shadow
/etc/passwd:gdm:x:123:128:Gnome Display Manager:/var/lib/gdm3:/bin/false
/etc/shadow:gdm:*:17821:0:99999:7:::

This user has system processes similar to my ordinary desktop user's after I login with my desktop user. However, gdm's processes seem to have started just after boot, before even I login with my normal user:

# ps -fu gdm
UID          PID    PPID  C STIME TTY          TIME CMD
gdm         1223       1  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /lib/systemd/systemd --user
gdm         1224    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 (sd-pam)
gdm         1241    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/pulseaudio --daemonize=no --log-target=journal
gdm         1244    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/tracker-miner-fs
gdm         1246    1218  0 13:28 tty1     00:00:00 /usr/lib/gdm3/gdm-x-session gnome-session --autostart /usr/share/gdm/greeter/autostart
gdm         1249    1246  0 13:28 tty1     00:00:01 /usr/lib/xorg/Xorg vt1 -displayfd 3 -auth /run/user/123/gdm/Xauthority -background none -noreset -keeptty -verbose 3
gdm         1252    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/dbus-daemon --session --address=systemd: --nofork --nopidfile --systemd-activation --syslog-only
gdm         1262    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gvfsd
gdm         1277    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gvfsd-fuse /run/user/123/gvfs -f -o big_writes
gdm         1284    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gvfs-udisks2-volume-monitor
gdm         1291    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gvfs-gphoto2-volume-monitor
gdm         1295    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gvfs-goa-volume-monitor
gdm         1299    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/goa-daemon
gdm         1335    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/goa-identity-service
gdm         1341    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gvfs-mtp-volume-monitor
gdm         1346    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gvfs-afc-volume-monitor
gdm         1764    1246  0 13:28 tty1     00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gnome-session-binary --systemd --autostart /usr/share/gdm/greeter/autostart
gdm         1766    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/at-spi-bus-launcher
gdm         1771    1766  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/dbus-daemon --config-file=/usr/share/defaults/at-spi2/accessibility.conf --nofork --print-address 3
gdm         1779    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gnome-session-ctl --monitor
gdm         1783    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/gnome-keyring-daemon --start --components ssh
gdm         1792    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gnome-session-binary --systemd-service --session=gnome-login
gdm         1799    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:03 /usr/bin/gnome-shell
gdm         1839    1799  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 ibus-daemon --panel disable --xim
gdm         1842    1839  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/ibus-memconf
gdm         1845    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/ibus-x11 --kill-daemon
gdm         1847    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/ibus-portal
gdm         1857    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/at-spi2-registryd --use-gnome-session
gdm         1861    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/xdg-permission-store
gdm         1876    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/gjs /usr/share/gnome-shell/org.gnome.Shell.Notifications
gdm         1896    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-a11y-settings
gdm         1897    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-color
gdm         1898    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-keyboard
gdm         1899    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-media-keys
gdm         1901    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-power
gdm         1903    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-print-notifications
gdm         1906    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-rfkill
gdm         1910    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-smartcard
gdm         1911    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-sound
gdm         1912    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-usb-protection
gdm         1914    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-wacom
gdm         1915    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-wwan
gdm         1917    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-xsettings
gdm         1946    1223  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/gsd-printer
gdm         1967    1839  0 13:28 ?        00:00:00 /usr/libexec/ibus-engine-simple

Why this gdm user seems to have processes like it may have logged in from the desktop during boot? Is this normal? What is the justification for the memory consumption of these processes?

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  • gdm is GNOME's display manager, and handles the greeter (ie. your GUI login) and other things. It's common & expected on any Ubuntu desktop (with GNOME). My system has it installed (my system was a Ubuntu desktop installed before yours & upgraded through each cycle & now on groovy), however as I use sddm I don't have gdm running, just installed. gdm is what starts GNOME....
    – guiverc
    Sep 1 '20 at 11:47
  • @guiverc I do have some rough information about gdm. However, I do not see the reason that so many processes are started for this user during system boot. And the list of these processes looks very like to the one created for a desktop user after login. (See list in my OP.)
    – FedKad
    Sep 1 '20 at 13:55
  • gdm is a tiny subset of GNOME using the same libraries as GNOME itself so the final impact is supposed to be minimal (after you login to GNOME itself as GNOME uses the resources). In the past Ubuntu used lightdm which may have been lighter pre-GNOME login, but that was lost on login.. I'm not a gnome person (my DE is Qt based) so you're better looking up yourself in case I remember some incorrectly.
    – guiverc
    Sep 1 '20 at 22:23
  • I get a process owned by gdm running /usr/bin/gnome-shell. It eventually uses up GBs of resident RAM. I can kill it with no effects. Why is it there (the gdm owned gnome shell)? I think it is supposed to die after login, where can I find logs for this? Sep 13 '20 at 9:34

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