29 Feb 2008

Bug in gdm under SuSE 10.3 (and perhaps in other Linux distributions)

Anyone who is running Linux with GNOME in VMWare might have come across a rather serious problem with gdm lately after doing an upgrade of the system with the latest patches. I am running OpenSuSE 10.3 and installed the latest patches just a few days ago. The patch installation went fine but next morning when I tried to reboot my Linux image, gdm failed to start up. Gdm initially started up but then crashed just before or shortly after showing the login prompt. When gdm was started the first time it ran a few seconds longer before crashing. You won't even have enough time to login. On subsequent restarts, GDM crashed almost instantly for every restart attempt. It attempted 6 restarts, then raised the following error to the console, slept for 2 minutes and started over again:

"The display server has been shut down about 6 times in the last 90 seconds, it is likely that something bad is going on. Waiting for 2 minutes before trying again on display:0"

The log in /var/logs/Xorg.0.log should had the following lines at the end:
0: /usr/bin/X(xf86SigHandler+0x81) [0x80e6d81]
1: [0xffffe420]
2: /usr/bin/X [0x817b185]
3: /usr/bin/X(CompositePicture+0x150) [0x8161be0]
4: /usr/bin/X [0x8167a1f]
5: /usr/bin/X [0x8164d75]
6: /usr/bin/X [0x815809e]
7: /usr/bin/X(Dispatch+0x1af) [0x808f68f]
8: /usr/bin/X(main+0x47e) [0x807717e]
9: /lib/libc.so.6(__libc_start_main+0xe0) [0xb7d1ffe0]
10: /usr/bin/X(FontFileCompleteXLFD+0x1e5) [0x8076501]

Fatal server error:
Caught signal 11. Server aborting

After various tries I was still unable to resolve the problem but found a way to bring up the X Windows system. I had to login as root from console and run gdm -stop. The next time gdm was restarted (after the 2 min had elapsed) it did come up fine.

So I went on the web to see if someone else had encountered the same problem as well. When I checked SuSE's bug database, I realized I was not the first one to encounter this issue. A bug was already raised https://bugzilla.novell.com/show_bug.cgi?id=350318.

Apparently the culprit is a patch to the Control-Center2 (https://bugzilla.novell.com/show_bug.cgi?id=337434) that seens to break gdm.

This is quite a severe problem and only seems to affect Linux running inside VMWare. I am not yet sure if other distributions are effected as well, most likely they are.

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