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xdm - X Display Manager with support for XDMCP, host chooser
xdm [ -config configuration_file ] [ -nodaemon ] [ -debug debug_level ]
[ -error error_log_file ] [ -resources resource_file ] [ -server
server_entry ] [ -session session_program ]
Xdm manages a collection of X displays, which may be on the local host
or remote servers. The design of xdm was guided by the needs of X ter-
minals as well as The Open Group standard XDMCP, the X Display Manager
Control Protocol. Xdm provides services similar to those provided by
init, getty and login on character terminals: prompting for login name
and password, authenticating the user, and running a ``session.''
A ``session'' is defined by the lifetime of a particular process; in
the traditional character-based terminal world, it is the user's login
shell. In the xdm context, it is an arbitrary session manager. This
is because in a windowing environment, a user's login shell process
does not necessarily have any terminal-like interface with which to
connect. When a real session manager is not available, a window man-
ager or terminal emulator is typically used as the ``session manager,''
meaning that termination of this process terminates the user's session.
When the session is terminated, xdm resets the X server and (option-
ally) restarts the whole process.
When xdm receives an Indirect query via XDMCP, it can run a chooser
process to perform an XDMCP BroadcastQuery (or an XDMCP Query to speci-
fied hosts) on behalf of the display and offer a menu of possible hosts
that offer XDMCP display management. This feature is useful with X
terminals that do not offer a host menu themselves.
Xdm can be configured to ignore BroadcastQuery messages from selected
hosts. This is useful when you don't want the host to appear in menus
produced by chooser or X terminals themselves.
Because xdm provides the first interface that users will see, it is
designed to be simple to use and easy to customize to the needs of a
particular site. Xdm has many options, most of which have reasonable
defaults. Browse through the various sections of this manual, picking
and choosing the things you want to change. Pay particular attention
to the Session Program section, which will describe how to set up the
style of session desired.
xdm is highly configurable, and most of its behavior can be controlled
by resource files and shell scripts. The names of these files them-
selves are resources read from the file xdm-config or the file named by
the -config option.
xdm offers display management two different ways. It can manage X
servers running on the local machine and specified in Xservers, and it
can manage remote X servers (typically X terminals) using XDMCP (the
XDM Control Protocol) as specified in the Xaccess file.
The resources of the X clients run by xdm outside the user's session,
including xdm's own login window, can be affected by setting resources
in the Xresources file.
For X terminals that do not offer a menu of hosts to get display man-
agement from, xdm can collect willing hosts and run the chooser program
to offer the user a menu. For X displays attached to a host, this step
is typically not used, as the local host does the display management.
After resetting the X server, xdm runs the Xsetup script to assist in
setting up the screen the user sees along with the xlogin widget.
The xlogin widget, which xdm presents, offers the familiar login and
After the user logs in, xdm runs the Xstartup script as root.
Then xdm runs the Xsession script as the user. This system session
file may do some additional startup and typically runs the .xsession
script in the user's home directory. When the Xsession script exits,
the session is over.
At the end of the session, the Xreset script is run to clean up, the X
server is reset, and the cycle starts over.
The file /var/log/xdm.log will contain error messages from xdm and
anything output to stderr by Xsetup, Xstartup, Xsession or Xreset.
When you have trouble getting xdm working, check this file to see if
xdm has any clues to the trouble.
All of these options, except -config itself, specify values that can
also be specified in the configuration file as resources.
Names the configuration file, which specifies resources to con-
trol the behavior of xdm. /etc/X11/xdm/xdm-config is the
default. See the section Configuration File.
Specifies ``false'' as the value for the DisplayManager.daemon-
Mode resource. This suppresses the normal daemon behavior,
which is for xdm to close all file descriptors, disassociate
itself from the controlling terminal, and put itself in the
background when it first starts up.
Specifies the numeric value for the DisplayManager.debugLevel
resource. A non-zero value causes xdm to print lots of debug-
ging statements to the terminal; it also disables the Display-
Manager.daemonMode resource, forcing xdm to run synchronously.
To interpret these debugging messages, a copy of the source code
for xdm is almost a necessity. No attempt has been made to
rationalize or standardize the output.
Specifies the value for the DisplayManager.errorLogFile
resource. This file contains errors from xdm as well as any-
thing written to stderr by the various scripts and programs run
during the progress of the session.
Specifies the value for the DisplayManager*resources resource.
This file is loaded using xrdb(1) to specify configuration
parameters for the authentication widget.
Specifies the value for the DisplayManager.servers resource.
See the section Local Server Specification for a description of
Specifies the value for the DisplayManager.requestPort resource.
This sets the port-number which xdm will monitor for XDMCP
requests. If set to 0, xdm will not listen for XDMCP or Chooser
requests. As XDMCP uses the registered well-known UDP port 177,
this resource should not be changed to a value other than 0,
except for debugging.
Specifies the value for the DisplayManager*session resource.
This indicates the program to run as the session after the user
has logged in.
Allows an arbitrary resource to be specified, as in most X Tool-
At many stages the actions of xdm can be controlled through the use of
its configuration file, which is in the X resource format. Some
resources modify the behavior of xdm on all displays, while others mod-
ify its behavior on a single display. Where actions relate to a spe-
cific display, the display name is inserted into the resource name
between ``DisplayManager'' and the final resource name segment.
For local displays, the resource name and class are as read from the
For remote displays, the resource name is what the network address of
the display resolves to. See the removeDomain resource. The name must
match exactly; xdm is not aware of all the network aliases that might
reach a given display. If the name resolve fails, the address is used.
The resource class is as sent by the display in the XDMCP Manage
Because the resource manager uses colons to separate the name of the
resource from its value and dots to separate resource name parts, xdm
substitutes underscores for both dots and colons when generating the
resource name. For example, DisplayManager.expo_x_org_0.startup is the
name of the resource which defines the startup shell file for the
This resource either specifies a file name full of server
entries, one per line (if the value starts with a slash), or a
single server entry. See the section Local Server Specification
for the details.
This indicates the UDP port number which xdm uses to listen for
incoming XDMCP requests. Unless you need to debug the system,
leave this with its default value of 177.
Error output is normally directed at the system console. To re-
direct it, set this resource to a file name. A method to send
these messages to syslog should be developed for systems which
support it; however, the wide variety of interfaces precludes
any system-independent implementation. This file also contains
any output directed to stderr by the Xsetup, Xstartup, Xsession
and Xreset files, so it will contain descriptions of problems in
those scripts as well.
If the integer value of this resource is greater than zero,
reams of debugging information will be printed. It also dis-
ables daemon mode, which would redirect the information into the
bit-bucket, and allows non-root users to run xdm, which would
normally not be useful.
Normally, xdm attempts to make itself into a daemon process
unassociated with any terminal. This is accomplished by forking
and leaving the parent process to exit, then closing file
descriptors and releasing the controlling terminal. In some
environments this is not desired (in particular, when debug-
ging). Setting this resource to ``false'' will disable this
The filename specified will be created to contain an ASCII rep-
resentation of the process-id of the main xdm process. Xdm also
uses file locking on this file to attempt to eliminate multiple
daemons running on the same machine, which would cause quite a
bit of havoc.
This is the resource which controls whether xdm uses file lock-
ing to keep multiple display managers from running amok. On
System V, this uses the lockf library call, while on BSD it uses
This names a directory under which xdm stores authorization
files while initializing the session. The default value is
/var/db/xdm. Can be overridden for specific displays by Dis-
This boolean controls whether xdm rescans the configuration,
servers, access control and authentication keys files after a
session terminates and the files have changed. By default it is
``true.'' You can force xdm to reread these files by sending a
SIGHUP to the main process.
When computing the display name for XDMCP clients, the name
resolver will typically create a fully qualified host name for
the terminal. As this is sometimes confusing, xdm will remove
the domain name portion of the host name if it is the same as
the domain name of the local host when this variable is set. By
default the value is ``true.''
XDM-AUTHENTICATION-1 style XDMCP authentication requires that a
private key be shared between xdm and the terminal. This
resource specifies the file containing those values. Each entry
in the file consists of a display name and the shared key.
To prevent unauthorized XDMCP service and to allow forwarding of
XDMCP IndirectQuery requests, this file contains a database of
hostnames which are either allowed direct access to this
machine, or have a list of hosts to which queries should be for-
warded to. The format of this file is described in the section
XDMCP Access Control.
A list of additional environment variables, separated by white
space, to pass on to the Xsetup, Xstartup, Xsession, and Xreset
A file to read 8 bytes from to generate the seed of authoriza-
tion keys. The default is /dev/urandom . If this file cannot
be read, or if a read blocks for more than 5 seconds, xdm falls
back to using a checksum of DisplayManager.randomFile to gener-
ate the seed.
On systems that support a dynamically-loadable greeter library,
the name of the library. The default is
Number of seconds to wait for display to respond after user has
selected a host from the chooser. If the display sends an XDMCP
IndirectQuery within this time, the request is forwarded to the
chosen host. Otherwise, it is assumed to be from a new session
and the chooser is offered again. Default is 15.
Use the numeric IP address of the incoming connection on multi-
homed hosts instead of the host name. This is to avoid trying to
connect on the wrong interface which might be down at this time.
This specifies a program which is run (as) root when an an XDMCP
BroadcastQuery is received and this host is configured to offer
XDMCP display management. The output of this program may be dis-
played on a chooser window. If no program is specified, the
string Willing to manage is sent.
This resource specifies the name of the file to be loaded by
xrdb as the resource database onto the root window of screen 0
of the display. The Xsetup program, the Login widget, and
chooser will use the resources set in this file. This resource
data base is loaded just before the authentication procedure is
started, so it can control the appearance of the login window.
See the section Authentication Widget, which describes the vari-
ous resources that are appropriate to place in this file. There
is no default value for this resource, but
/etc/X11/xdm/Xresources is the conventional name.
Specifies the program run to offer a host menu for Indirect
queries redirected to the special host name CHOOSER.
/usr/X11R7/libexec/chooser is the default. See the sections
XDMCP Access Control and Chooser.
Specifies the program used to load the resources. By default,
xdm uses /usr/X11R7/bin/xrdb.
This specifies a program which is run (as root) before offering
the Login window. This may be used to change the appearance of
the screen around the Login window or to put up other windows
(e.g., you may want to run xconsole here). By default, no pro-
gram is run. The conventional name for a file used here is
Xsetup. See the section Setup Program.
This specifies a program which is run (as root) after the
authentication process succeeds. By default, no program is run.
The conventional name for a file used here is Xstartup. See the
section Startup Program.
This specifies the session to be executed (not running as root).
By default, /usr/X11R7/bin/xterm is run. The conventional name
is Xsession. See the section Session Program.
This specifies a program which is run (as root) after the ses-
sion terminates. By default, no program is run. The conven-
tional name is Xreset. See the section Reset Program.
These numeric resources control the behavior of xdm when
attempting to open intransigent servers. openDelay is the
length of the pause in seconds between successive attempts,
openRepeat is the number of attempts to make, openTimeout is the
amount of time to wait while actually attempting the open (i.e.,
the maximum time spent in the connect(2) system call) and star-
tAttempts is the number of times this entire process is done
before giving up on the server. After openRepeat attempts have
been made, or if openTimeout seconds elapse in any particular
attempt, xdm terminates and restarts the server, attempting to
connect again. This process is repeated startAttempts times, at
which point the display is declared dead and disabled. Although
this behavior may seem arbitrary, it has been empirically devel-
oped and works quite well on most systems. The bound reservAt-
tempts is the number of times a successful connect is allowed to
be followed by a fatal error. When reached, the display is dis-
abled. The default values are openDelay: 15, openRepeat: 5,
openTimeout: 120, startAttempts: 4 and reservAttempts: 2.
To discover when remote displays disappear, xdm occasionally
pings them, using an X connection and XSync calls. pingInterval
specifies the time (in minutes) between each ping attempt, ping-
Timeout specifies the maximum amount of time (in minutes) to
wait for the terminal to respond to the request. If the termi-
nal does not respond, the session is declared dead and termi-
nated. By default, both are set to 5 minutes. If you fre-
quently use X terminals which can become isolated from the man-
aging host, you may wish to increase this value. The only worry
is that sessions will continue to exist after the terminal has
been accidentally disabled. xdm will not ping local displays.
Although it would seem harmless, it is unpleasant when the work-
station session is terminated as a result of the server hanging
for NFS service and not responding to the ping.
This boolean resource specifies whether the X server should be
terminated when a session terminates (instead of resetting it).
This option can be used when the server tends to grow without
bound over time, in order to limit the amount of time the server
is run. The default value is ``false.''
Xdm sets the PATH environment variable for the session to this
value. It should be a colon separated list of directories; see
sh(1) for a full description. The default value is
Xdm sets the PATH environment variable for the startup and reset
scripts to the value of this resource. The default for this
resource is ``/sbin:/usr/sbin:/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/X11R7/bin''.
Note the absence of ``.'' from this entry. This is a good prac-
tice to follow for root; it avoids many common Trojan Horse sys-
tem penetration schemes.
Xdm sets the SHELL environment variable for the startup and
reset scripts to the value of this resource. It is /bin/sh by
If the default session fails to execute, xdm will fall back to
this program. This program is executed with no arguments, but
executes using the same environment variables as the session
would have had (see the section Session Program). By default,
/usr/X11R7/bin/xterm is used.
To improve security, xdm grabs the server and keyboard while
reading the login name and password. The grabServer resource
specifies if the server should be held for the duration of the
name/password reading. When ``false,'' the server is ungrabbed
after the keyboard grab succeeds, otherwise the server is
grabbed until just before the session begins. The default is
``false.'' The grabTimeout resource specifies the maximum time
xdm will wait for the grab to succeed. The grab may fail if
some other client has the server grabbed, or possibly if the
network latencies are very high. This resource has a default
value of 3 seconds; you should be cautious when raising it, as a
user can be spoofed by a look-alike window on the display. If
the grab fails, xdm kills and restarts the server (if possible)
and the session.
authorize is a boolean resource which controls whether xdm gen-
erates and uses authorization for the local server connections.
If authorization is used, authName is a list of authorization
mechanisms to use, separated by white space. XDMCP connections
dynamically specify which authorization mechanisms are sup-
ported, so authName is ignored in this case. When authorize is
set for a display and authorization is not available, the user
is informed by having a different message displayed in the login
widget. By default, authorize is ``true,'' authName is ``MIT-
MAGIC-COOKIE-1,'' or, if XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 is available,
This file is used to communicate the authorization data from xdm
to the server, using the -auth server command line option. It
should be kept in a directory which is not world-writable as it
could easily be removed, disabling the authorization mechanism
in the server. If not specified, a name is generated from Dis-
playManager.authDir and the name of the display.
If set to ``false,'' disables the use of the unsecureGreeting in
the login window. See the section Authentication Widget. The
default is ``true.''
The number of the signal xdm sends to reset the server. See the
section Controlling the Server. The default is 1 (SIGHUP).
The number of the signal xdm sends to terminate the server. See
the section Controlling the Server. The default is 15
The original implementation of authorization in the sample
server reread the authorization file at server reset time,
instead of when checking the initial connection. As xdm gener-
ates the authorization information just before connecting to the
display, an old server would not get up-to-date authorization
information. This resource causes xdm to send SIGHUP to the
server after setting up the file, causing an additional server
reset to occur, during which time the new authorization informa-
tion will be read. The default is ``false,'' which will work
for all MIT servers.
When xdm is unable to write to the usual user authorization file
($HOME/.Xauthority), it creates a unique file name in this
directory and points the environment variable XAUTHORITY at the
created file. It uses /tmp by default.
First, the xdm configuration file should be set up. Make a directory
(usually /etc/X11/xdm) to contain all of the relevant files.
Here is a reasonable configuration file, which could be named xdm-con-
Note that this file mostly contains references to other files. Note
also that some of the resources are specified with ``*'' separating the
components. These resources can be made unique for each different dis-
play, by replacing the ``*'' with the display-name, but normally this
is not very useful. See the Resources section for a complete discus-
XDMCP ACCESS CONTROL
The database file specified by the DisplayManager.accessFile provides
information which xdm uses to control access from displays requesting
XDMCP service. This file contains three types of entries: entries
which control the response to Direct and Broadcast queries, entries
which control the response to Indirect queries, and macro definitions.
The format of the Direct entries is simple, either a host name or a
pattern, which is distinguished from a host name by the inclusion of
one or more meta characters (`*' matches any sequence of 0 or more
characters, and `?' matches any single character) which are compared
against the host name of the display device. If the entry is a host
name, all comparisons are done using network addresses, so any name
which converts to the correct network address may be used. For pat-
terns, only canonical host names are used in the comparison, so ensure
that you do not attempt to match aliases. Preceding either a host name
or a pattern with a `!' character causes hosts which match that entry
to be excluded.
To only respond to Direct queries for a host or pattern, it can be fol-
lowed by the optional ``NOBROADCAST'' keyword. This can be used to
prevent an xdm server from appearing on menus based on Broadcast
An Indirect entry also contains a host name or pattern, but follows it
with a list of host names or macros to which indirect queries should be
A macro definition contains a macro name and a list of host names and
other macros that the macro expands to. To distinguish macros from
hostnames, macro names start with a `%' character. Macros may be
Indirect entries may also specify to have xdm run chooser to offer a
menu of hosts to connect to. See the section Chooser.
When checking access for a particular display host, each entry is
scanned in turn and the first matching entry determines the response.
Direct and Broadcast entries are ignored when scanning for an Indirect
entry and vice-versa.
Blank lines are ignored, `#' is treated as a comment delimiter causing
the rest of that line to be ignored, and `\newline' causes the newline
to be ignored, allowing indirect host lists to span multiple lines.
Here is an example Xaccess file:
# Xaccess - XDMCP access control file
# Direct/Broadcast query entries
!xtra.lcs.mit.edu # disallow direct/broadcast service for xtra
bambi.ogi.edu # allow access from this particular display
*.lcs.mit.edu # allow access from any display in LCS
*.deshaw.com NOBROADCAST # allow only direct access
*.gw.com # allow direct and broadcast
# Indirect query entries
%HOSTS expo.lcs.mit.edu xenon.lcs.mit.edu \
extract.lcs.mit.edu xenon.lcs.mit.edu #force extract to contact xenon
!xtra.lcs.mit.edu dummy #disallow indirect access
*.lcs.mit.edu %HOSTS #all others get to choose
If compiled with IPv6 support, multicast address groups may also be
included in the list of addresses indirect queries are set to. Multi-
cast addresses may be followed by an optional / character and hop
count. If no hop count is specified, the multicast hop count defaults
to 1, keeping the packet on the local network. For IPv4 multicasting,
the hop count is used as the TTL.
rincewind.sample.net ff02::1 #IPv6 Multicast to ff02::1
#with a hop count of 1
ponder.sample.net CHOOSER 188.8.131.52/16 #Offer a menu of hosts
#who respond to IPv4 Multicast
#to 184.108.40.206 with a
#TTL of 16
For X terminals that do not offer a host menu for use with Broadcast or
Indirect queries, the chooser program can do this for them. In the
Xaccess file, specify ``CHOOSER'' as the first entry in the Indirect
host list. Chooser will send a Query request to each of the remaining
host names in the list and offer a menu of all the hosts that respond.
The list may consist of the word ``BROADCAST,'' in which case chooser
will send a Broadcast instead, again offering a menu of all hosts that
respond. Note that on some operating systems, UDP packets cannot be
broadcast, so this feature will not work.
Example Xaccess file using chooser:
extract.lcs.mit.edu CHOOSER %HOSTS #offer a menu of these hosts
xtra.lcs.mit.edu CHOOSER BROADCAST #offer a menu of all hosts
The program to use for chooser is specified by the DisplayManager.DIS-
PLAY.chooser resource. For more flexibility at this step, the chooser
could be a shell script. Chooser is the session manager here; it is
run instead of a child xdm to manage the display.
Resources for this program can be put into the file named by Display-
When the user selects a host, chooser prints the host chosen, which is
read by the parent xdm, and exits. xdm closes its connection to the X
server, and the server resets and sends another Indirect XDMCP request.
xdm remembers the user's choice (for DisplayManager.choiceTimeout sec-
onds) and forwards the request to the chosen host, which starts a ses-
sion on that display.
The following configuration directive is also defined for the Xaccess
LISTEN interface [list of multicast group addresses]
interface may be a hostname or IP address representing a network
interface on this machine, or the wildcard * to represent all
available network interfaces.
If one or more LISTEN lines are specified, xdm only listens for XDMCP
connections on the specified interfaces. If multicast group addresses
are listed on a listen line, xdm joins the multicast groups on the
If no LISTEN lines are given, the original behavior of listening on all
interfaces is preserved for backwards compatibility. Additionally, if
no LISTEN is specified, xdm joins the default XDMCP IPv6 multicast
group, when compiled with IPv6 support.
To disable listening for XDMCP connections altogther, a line of LISTEN
with no addresses may be specified, or the previously supported method
of setting DisplayManager.requestPort to 0 may be used.
LISTEN * ff02::1 # Listen on all interfaces and to the
# ff02::1 IPv6 multicast group.
LISTEN 10.11.12.13 # Listen only on this interface, as long
# as no other listen directives appear in
IPv6 MULTICAST ADDRESS SPECIFICATION
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority has has assigned
ff0X:0:0:0:0:0:0:12b as the permanently assigned range of multicast
addresses for XDMCP. The X in the prefix may be replaced by any valid
scope identifier, such as 1 for Interface-Local, 2 for Link-Local, 5
for Site-Local, and so on. (See IETF RFC 4291 or its replacement for
further details and scope definitions.) xdm defaults to listening on
the Link-Local scope address ff02:0:0:0:0:0:0:12b to most closely match
the old IPv4 subnet broadcast behavior.
LOCAL SERVER SPECIFICATION
The resource DisplayManager.servers gives a server specification or, if
the values starts with a slash (/), the name of a file containing
server specifications, one per line.
Each specification indicates a display which should constantly be man-
aged and which is not using XDMCP. This method is used typically for
local servers only. If the resource or the file named by the resource
is empty, xdm will offer XDMCP service only.
Each specification consists of at least three parts: a display name, a
display class, a display type, and (for local servers) a command line
to start the server. A typical entry for local display number 0 would
:0 Digital-QV local /usr/X11R7/bin/X :0
The display types are:
l l. local local display: xdm must run the server foreign remote
display: xdm opens an X connection to a running server
The display name must be something that can be passed in the -display
option to an X program. This string is used to generate the display-
specific resource names, so be careful to match the names (e.g., use
``:0 Sun-CG3 local /usr/X11R7/bin/X :0'' instead of ``localhost:0 Sun-
CG3 local /usr/X11R7/bin/X :0'' if your other resources are specified
as ``DisplayManager._0.session''). The display class portion is also
used in the display-specific resources, as the class of the resource.
This is useful if you have a large collection of similar displays (such
as a corral of X terminals) and would like to set resources for groups
of them. When using XDMCP, the display is required to specify the dis-
play class, so the manual for your particular X terminal should docu-
ment the display class string for your device. If it doesn't, you can
run xdm in debug mode and look at the resource strings which it gener-
ates for that device, which will include the class string.
When xdm starts a session, it sets up authorization data for the
server. For local servers, xdm passes ``-auth filename'' on the
server's command line to point it at its authorization data. For XDMCP
servers, xdm passes the authorization data to the server via the Accept
The Xresources file is loaded onto the display as a resource database
using xrdb. As the authentication widget reads this database before
starting up, it usually contains parameters for that widget:
<Key>F1: set-session-argument(failsafe) finish-field()\n\
<Key>Return: set-session-argument() finish-field()
Please note the translations entry; it specifies a few new translations
for the widget which allow users to escape from the default session
(and avoid troubles that may occur in it). Note that if #override is
not specified, the default translations are removed and replaced by the
new value, not a very useful result as some of the default translations
are quite useful (such as ``<Key>: insert-char ()'' which responds to
This file may also contain resources for the setup program and chooser.
The Xsetup file is run after the server is reset, but before the Login
window is offered. The file is typically a shell script. It is run as
root, so should be careful about security. This is the place to change
the root background or bring up other windows that should appear on the
screen along with the Login widget.
In addition to any specified by DisplayManager.exportList, the follow-
ing environment variables are passed:
l l. DISPLAY the associated display name PATH the value of Display-
Manager.DISPLAY.systemPath SHELL the value of DisplayManager.DIS-
PLAY.systemShell XAUTHORITY may be set to an authority file
Note that since xdm grabs the keyboard, any other windows will not be
able to receive keyboard input. They will be able to interact with the
mouse, however; beware of potential security holes here. If Display-
Manager.DISPLAY.grabServer is set, Xsetup will not be able to connect
to the display at all. Resources for this program can be put into the
file named by DisplayManager.DISPLAY.resources.
Here is a sample Xsetup script:
# Xsetup_0 - setup script for one workstation
xcmsdb < /etc/X11/xdm/monitors/alex.0
xconsole -geometry 480x130-0-0 -notify -verbose -exitOnFail &
The authentication widget prompts the user for the username, password,
and/or other required authentication data from the keyboard. Nearly
every imaginable parameter can be controlled with a resource.
Resources for this widget should be put into the file named by Display-
Manager.DISPLAY.resources. All of these have reasonable default val-
ues, so it is not necessary to specify any of them.
The resource file is loaded with xrdb(1) so it may use the substitu-
tions defined by that program such as CLIENTHOST for the client host-
name in the login message, or C pre-processor #ifdef statements to pro-
duce different displays depending on color depth or other variables.
Xdm can be compiled with support for the Xft(3) library for font ren-
dering. If this support is present, font faces are specified using
the resources with names ending in ``face'' in the fontconfig face for-
mat described in the Font Names section of fonts.conf(5). If not, then
fonts are specified using the resources with names ending in ``font''
in the traditional X Logical Font Description format described in the
Font Names section of X(7).
xlogin.Login.width, xlogin.Login.height, xlogin.Login.x, xlogin.Login.y
The geometry of the Login widget is normally computed automati-
cally. If you wish to position it elsewhere, specify each of
The color used to display the input typed by the user.
The face used to display the input typed by the user when built
with Xft support. The default is ``Serif-18''.
The font used to display the input typed by the user when not
built with Xft support.
A string which identifies this window. The default is ``X Win-
When X authorization is requested in the configuration file for
this display and none is in use, this greeting replaces the
standard greeting. The default is ``This is an unsecure ses-
The face used to display the greeting when built with Xft sup-
port. The default is ``Serif-24:italic''.
The font used to display the greeting when not built with Xft
The color used to display the greeting.
The string displayed to prompt for a user name. Xrdb strips
trailing white space from resource values, so to add spaces at
the end of the prompt (usually a nice thing), add spaces escaped
with backslashes. The default is ``Login: ''
The string displayed to prompt for a password, when not using an
authentication system such as PAM that provides its own prompts.
The default is ``Password: ''
The face used to display prompts when built with Xft support.
The default is ``Serif-18:bold''.
The font used to display prompts when not built with Xft sup-
The color used to display prompts.
A message which is displayed when the users password has
expired. The default is ``Password Change Required''
A message which is displayed when the authentication fails, when
not using an authentication system such as PAM that provides its
own prompts. The default is ``Login incorrect''
The face used to display the failure message when built with Xft
support. The default is ``Serif-18:bold''.
The font used to display the failure message when not built with
The color used to display the failure message.
The number of seconds that the failure message is displayed.
The default is 10.
Name of an XPM format pixmap to display in the greeter window,
if built with XPM support. The default is no pixmap.
Number of pixels of space between the logo pixmap and other ele-
ments of the greeter window, if the pixmap is displayed. The
default is 5.
If set to ``true'', when built with XPM support, attempt to use
the X Non-Rectangular Window Shape Extension to set the window
shape. The default is ``true''.
Raised appearance bezels may be drawn around the greeter frame
and text input boxes by setting these resources. hiColor is the
highlight color, used on the top and left sides of the frame,
and the bottom and right sides of text input areas. shdColor
is the shadow color, used on the bottom and right sides of the
frame, and the top and left sides of text input areas. The
default for both is the foreground color, providing a flat
frameWidth is the width in pixels of the area around the greeter
frame drawn in hiColor and shdColor.
innerFramesWidth is the width in pixels of the area around text
input areas drawn in hiColor and shdColor.
sepWidth is the width in pixels of the bezeled line between the
greeting and input areas drawn in hiColor and shdColor.
If set to ``false'', don't allow root (and any other user with
uid = 0) to log in directly. The default is ``true''. This
setting is only checked by some of the authentication backends
at this time.
If set to ``true'', allow an otherwise failing password match to
succeed if the account does not require a password at all. The
default is ``false'', so only users that have passwords assigned
can log in.
If set to ``true'', a placeholder character (echoPasswdChar)
will be shown for fields normally set to not echo, such as pass-
word input. The default is ``false''.
Character to display if echoPasswd is true. The default is
``*''. If set to an empty value, the cursor will advance for
each character input, but no text will be drawn.
This specifies the translations used for the login widget.
Refer to the X Toolkit documentation for a complete discussion
on translations. The default translation table is:
l l. Ctrl<Key>H: delete-previous-character()
Ctrl<Key>D: delete-character() Ctrl<Key>B: move-backward-
character() Ctrl<Key>F: move-forward-character()
Ctrl<Key>A: move-to-begining() Ctrl<Key>E: move-to-end()
Ctrl<Key>K: erase-to-end-of-line() Ctrl<Key>U: erase-
line() Ctrl<Key>X: erase-line() Ctrl<Key>C: restart-ses-
sion() Ctrl<Key>\\: abort-session()
<Key>Delete: delete-previous-character() <Key>Return: fin-
ish-field() <Key>: insert-char()
The actions which are supported by the widget are:
Erases the character before the cursor.
Erases the character after the cursor.
Moves the cursor backward.
Moves the cursor forward.
(Apologies about the spelling error.) Moves the cursor to the
beginning of the editable text.
Moves the cursor to the end of the editable text.
Erases all text after the cursor.
Erases the entire text.
If the cursor is in the name field, proceeds to the password
field; if the cursor is in the password field, checks the cur-
rent name/password pair. If the name/password pair is valid,
xdm starts the session. Otherwise the failure message is dis-
played and the user is prompted again.
Terminates and restarts the server.
Terminates the server, disabling it. This action is not acces-
sible in the default configuration. There are various reasons
to stop xdm on a system console, such as when shutting the sys-
tem down, when using xdmshell, to start another type of server,
or to generally access the console. Sending xdm a SIGHUP will
restart the display. See the section Controlling XDM.
Resets the X server and starts a new session. This can be used
when the resources have been changed and you want to test them
or when the screen has been overwritten with system messages.
Inserts the character typed.
Specifies a single word argument which is passed to the session
at startup. See the section Session Program.
Disables access control in the server. This can be used when
the .Xauthority file cannot be created by xdm. Be very careful
using this; it might be better to disconnect the machine from
the network before doing this.
On some systems (OpenBSD) the user's shell must be listed in
/etc/shells to allow login through xdm. The normal password and account
expiration dates are enforced too.
The Xstartup program is run as root when the user logs in. It is typi-
cally a shell script. Since it is run as root, Xstartup should be very
careful about security. This is the place to put commands which add
entries to utmp or wtmp files, (the sessreg program may be useful
here), mount users' home directories from file servers, or abort the
session if logins are not allowed.
In addition to any specified by DisplayManager.exportList, the follow-
ing environment variables are passed:
l l. DISPLAY the associated display name HOME the initial working
directory of the user LOGNAME the user name USER the user name
PATH the value of DisplayManager.DISPLAY.systemPath SHELL the value
of DisplayManager.DISPLAY.systemShell XAUTHORITY may be set to an
authority file WINDOWPATH may be set to the "window path" leading
to the X server
No arguments are passed to the script. Xdm waits until this script
exits before starting the user session. If the exit value of this
script is non-zero, xdm discontinues the session and starts another
The sample Xstartup file shown here prevents login while the file
/etc/nologin exists. Thus this is not a complete example, but simply a
demonstration of the available functionality.
Here is a sample Xstartup script:
# This program is run as root after the user is verified
if [ -f /etc/nologin ]; then
xmessage -file /etc/nologin -timeout 30 -center
sessreg -a -l $DISPLAY -x /etc/X11/xdm/Xservers $LOGNAME
The Xsession program is the command which is run as the user's session.
It is run with the permissions of the authorized user.
In addition to any specified by DisplayManager.exportList, the follow-
ing environment variables are passed:
l l. DISPLAY the associated display name HOME the initial working
directory of the user LOGNAME the user name USER the user name
PATH the value of DisplayManager.DISPLAY.userPath SHELL the user's
default shell (from getpwnam) XAUTHORITY may be set to a non-stan-
dard authority file KRB5CCNAME may be set to a Kerberos credentials
cache name WINDOWPATH may be set to the "window path" leading to
the X server
At most installations, Xsession should look in $HOME for a file .xses-
sion, which contains commands that each user would like to use as a
session. Xsession should also implement a system default session if no
user-specified session exists.
An argument may be passed to this program from the authentication wid-
get using the `set-session-argument' action. This can be used to
select different styles of session. One good use of this feature is to
allow the user to escape from the ordinary session when it fails. This
allows users to repair their own .xsession if it fails, without requir-
ing administrative intervention. The example following demonstrates
This example recognizes the special ``failsafe'' mode, specified in the
translations in the Xresources file, to provide an escape from the
ordinary session. It also requires that the .xsession file be exe-
cutable so we don't have to guess what shell it wants to use.
# This is the program that is run as the client
# for the display manager.
case $# in
case $1 in
exec xterm -geometry 80x24-0-0
if [ -f "$startup" ]; then
if [ -f "$resources" ]; then
xrdb -load "$resources"
xman -geometry +10-10 &
exec xterm -geometry 80x24+10+10 -ls
The user's .xsession file might look something like this example.
Don't forget that the file must have execute permission.
# no -f in the previous line so .cshrc gets run to set $PATH
xrdb -merge "$HOME/.Xresources"
emacs -geometry +0+50 &
xbiff -geometry -430+5 &
xterm -geometry -0+50 -ls
Symmetrical with Xstartup, the Xreset script is run after the user ses-
sion has terminated. Run as root, it should contain commands that undo
the effects of commands in Xstartup, updating entries in utmp or wtmp
files, or unmounting directories from file servers. The environment
variables that were passed to Xstartup are also passed to Xreset.
A sample Xreset script:
# This program is run as root after the session ends
sessreg -d -l $DISPLAY -x /etc/X11/xdm/Xservers $LOGNAME
CONTROLLING THE SERVER
Xdm controls local servers using POSIX signals. SIGHUP is expected to
reset the server, closing all client connections and performing other
cleanup duties. SIGTERM is expected to terminate the server. If these
signals do not perform the expected actions, the resources DisplayMan-
ager.DISPLAY.resetSignal and DisplayManager.DISPLAY.termSignal can
specify alternate signals.
To control remote terminals not using XDMCP, xdm searches the window
hierarchy on the display and uses the protocol request KillClient in an
attempt to clean up the terminal for the next session. This may not
actually kill all of the clients, as only those which have created win-
dows will be noticed. XDMCP provides a more sure mechanism; when xdm
closes its initial connection, the session is over and the terminal is
required to close all other connections.
Xdm responds to two signals: SIGHUP and SIGTERM. When sent a SIGHUP,
xdm rereads the configuration file, the access control file, and the
servers file. For the servers file, it notices if entries have been
added or removed. If a new entry has been added, xdm starts a session
on the associated display. Entries which have been removed are dis-
abled immediately, meaning that any session in progress will be termi-
nated without notice and no new session will be started.
When sent a SIGTERM, xdm terminates all sessions in progress and exits.
This can be used when shutting down the system.
Xdm attempts to mark its various sub-processes for ps(1) by editing the
command line argument list in place. Because xdm can't allocate addi-
tional space for this task, it is useful to start xdm with a reasonably
long command line (using the full path name should be enough). Each
process which is servicing a display is marked -display.
ADDITIONAL LOCAL DISPLAYS
To add an additional local display, add a line for it to the Xservers
file. (See the section Local Server Specification.)
Examine the display-specific resources in xdm-config (e.g., DisplayMan-
ager._0.authorize) and consider which of them should be copied for the
new display. The default xdm-config has all the appropriate lines for
displays :0 and :1.
You can use xdm to run a single session at a time, using the 4.3 init
options or other suitable daemon by specifying the server on the com-
xdm -server ":0 SUN-3/60CG4 local /usr/X11R7/bin/X :0"
Or, you might have a file server and a collection of X terminals. The
configuration for this is identical to the sample above, except the
Xservers file would look like
extol:0 VISUAL-19 foreign
exalt:0 NCD-19 foreign
explode:0 NCR-TOWERVIEW3000 foreign
This directs xdm to manage sessions on all three of these terminals.
See the section Controlling Xdm for a description of using signals to
enable and disable these terminals in a manner reminiscent of init(8).
One thing that xdm isn't very good at doing is coexisting with other
window systems. To use multiple window systems on the same hardware,
you'll probably be more interested in xinit.
the default configuration file
$HOME/.Xauthority user authorization file where xdm stores keys for
clients to read
the default chooser
/usr/X11R7/bin/xrdb the default resource database loader
/usr/X11R7/bin/X the default server
the default session program and failsafe client
the default place for authorization files
/tmp/K5C<display> Kerberos credentials cache
X(7), xinit(1), xauth(1), xrdb(1), Xsecurity(7), sessreg(1),
Xserver(1), xdmshell(8), fonts.conf(5).
X Display Manager Control Protocol
IETF RFC 4291: IP Version 6 Addressing Architecture.
Keith Packard, MIT X Consortium
X Version 11 XDM(8)