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Configuring GDM 2.2

By Mark Nielsen

  1. Introduction
  2. Downloading and installing GDM.
  3. Configuring GDM
  4. Conclusion
  5. References


GDM or GNOME Display Manager, is a nice GUI login screen which makes it nice and pretty to login to X-windows. It it much nicer for non-linux people to have a GUI interface to login to rather than a console.

One thing that bothered me with some of the older versions of GDM was the fact that I couldn't place the login window anywhere I wanted on the screen. With the latest version, it as very easy. Also, I couldn't figure out how to make logos of people in the login window, and now I figured that out. The latest version of GDM is really nice and I have figured out how to configure it the way I wanted it to be configured, so I finally decided to write this article.

Downloading and installing GDM.

I could have downloaded an RPM from somewhere, but instead I decided to compile it manually. I was testing it on a RH 6.2 system. As soon as I can get the 7.1 version of RH (as the 7.0 wasn't worth the trouble), I will test it on it as well, and Debian of course.

The danger of not using RPMs to install GDM, is the fact that I am installing a newer version of GDM on top of a GDM version which was installed by RPMs. This could cause problems if I decided to use an RPM in the future. I found an RPM version at in case you don't want to install it manually.

Initial Steps

  1. Downloaded GDM from
  2. tar -zxvf gdm-2.2.0.tar.gz
  3. cd gdm-2.2.0
  4. ./configure --prefix=/usr
  5. make
  6. make install
After fooling around a bit, I found out that /etc/X11/gdm wasn't being used for the configuration files, so I linked /etc/X11/gdm to the place that gdm was looking. I probably could have recompiled gdm to fix this problem, but I am being lazy. Also, one directory was missing, so I created it.

Three additional Steps

  1. mv /usr/etc/gdm /usr/etc/gdm_new
  2. ln -s /etc/X11/gdm /usr/etc/gdm
  3. mkdir /usr/share/faces/
Again, I emphasize the fact that you should probably use the rpm and not bother installing it manually.

Configuring GDM

The goals I had were,
  1. Be able to place the login screen anywhere I wanted.
  2. Be able to play a game before someone has to login.
  3. Be able to put images in the background just for fun.
  4. Be able to put a clock on the background.
  5. Be able to put pictures or logos of people on the browser part of GDM.
I had to change some of the settings in the file gdm.conf. My changes were
Also, here was my Init/Default script,

/usr/X11R6/bin/xsetroot -solid "#363047"

xsri -geometry +5+5 /etc/X11/xdm/Logo2.png
xsri -geometry +400+5 /home/mark/public_html/wedding/wed2.jpg
xsri -geometry +700+500 /home/mark/public_html/wedding/walk.jpg
xsri -geometry +200+500 /home/mark/public_html/wedding/kiss.jpg

xsri -geometry +5+175 /home/mark/public_html/kiss.gif

xsri -geometry +5+500 /usr/local/apache_gnujobs/htdocs/images/zing.png

xeyes -geometry +825+5 &

xclock -digital -geometry +825+125 -update 1 &
xtriangles -geometry +800+300 &
In order to get logos or pictures of people on the GDM screen, I had to make the name of the image exactly the name of username and put it in /usr/share/faces/. To test this, I took my logo for ZING and copied it to "/usr/share/faces/root" like
cp /usr/local/apache_gnujobs/htdocs/images/zing.png /usr/share/faces/root
Notice that there is no extension.


Everything worked perfectly once I followed these steps. Using the rpm might have been easier, but oh well. I will try that out next time. I highly recommend to back up any gdm configuration files before installing any new RPMs (though the RPMs should back them up for you). I don't really see any other features that I would need. Some miscellaneous features, like maybe a ticker tape, downloading the weather, or other games besides triangles would be cool. I imagine it is possible, but it isn't necessary for me. It also might be a security risk to let people play games before they have to login, in case they figure out some way to break out to a shell, so I wouldn't advise putting games into GDM on public computers.

I would have liked to compare KDM with GDM, but I wasn't able to easily find a recent web page for KDM. I am also waiting until I install the latest version of KDE before I mess around with KDM anyways.


  1. Gnome Display Manager
  2. 6-24-1999 Setting up XDM.
  3. If this article changes, it will be available here

Mark works as an independent consultant donating time to causes like, writing articles, writing free software, and working as a volunteer at

Mark Nielsen

Mark works at ZING ( and Previously, Mark founded The Computer Underground. Mark works on non-profit and volunteer projects which promote free literature and software. To make a living, he recruits people for GNU related jobs and also provides solutions for web/database problems using Linux, FreeBSD, Apache, Zope, Perl, Python, and PostgreSQL.

Copyright © 2001, Mark Nielsen.
Copying license
Published in Issue 66 of Linux Gazette, May 2001

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