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I was experimenting with my Debian system (it says wheezy/sid when I log in with tty), and broke it somehow.

When I start, there is a black screen with a watch cursor. It stays like that, but if I hit the usual, say, Ctrl-Alt-F6, I get tty. Here, among the processes listed below, I found that

pkill -9 twm

will immediately bring me away from tty to the GUI view (formerly the black screen), where there is the familiar login screen. It is not possible to do a normal login, but using twm works. (Probably I messed up Gnome. aptitude says cannot do anything: abort because too many errors.)

As for me, twm is not at all unpleasant, so my question is, do you have any idea how to get away with that initial pkill?

UID        PID  PPID  C STIME TTY          TIME CMD
root         1     0  0 18:16 ?        00:00:01 init [2]         
root         2     0  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kthreadd]
root         3     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [ksoftirqd/0]
root         4     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kworker/0:0]
root         5     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kworker/u:0]
root         6     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [migration/0]
root         7     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [watchdog/0]
root         8     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [cpuset]
root         9     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [khelper]
root        10     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kdevtmpfs]
root        11     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [netns]
root        12     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [sync_supers]
root        13     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [bdi-default]
root        14     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kintegrityd]
root        15     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kblockd]
root        16     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kworker/0:1]
root        17     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [khungtaskd]
root        18     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kswapd0]
root        19     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [ksmd]
root        20     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [khugepaged]
root        21     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [fsnotify_mark]
root        22     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [crypto]
root       114     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [khubd]
root       129     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [ata_sff]
root       131     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [scsi_eh_0]
root       132     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [scsi_eh_1]
root       133     2  1 18:16 ?        00:00:04 [kworker/u:1]
root       134     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kworker/u:2]
root       144     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kworker/0:2]
root       147     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kworker/0:3]
root       174     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kjournald]
root       259     1  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 udevd --daemon
root       409     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [kpsmoused]
root       442     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [hd-audio0]
root      1106     2  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 [flush-8:0]
root      1118     1  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 dhclient -1 -v -pf /run/dhclient.eth0.pid -lf /var/lib/dhcp/dhclient.eth0.leases eth0
daemon    1342     1  0 18:16 ?        00:00:00 /sbin/portmap
root      1421     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/rsyslogd -c5
101       1455     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/dbus-daemon --system
root      1479     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/acpid
root      1512     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/gdm3
root      1535  1512  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/lib/gdm3/gdm-simple-slave --display-id /org/gnome/DisplayManager/Display1
root      1537  1535  0 18:17 tty7     00:00:00 /usr/bin/Xorg :0 -br -verbose -novtswitch -auth /var/run/gdm3/auth-for-Debian-gdm-TSeI8C/database -nolisten tcp vt7
root      1541     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/acpi_fakekeyd
root      1614     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
daemon    1642     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/atd
avahi     1670     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 avahi-daemon: running [VLAN-3434.local]
avahi     1671  1670  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 avahi-daemon: chroot helper
www-data  1691  1614  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
www-data  1692  1614  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
www-data  1693  1614  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
www-data  1694  1614  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
www-data  1695  1614  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
root      1728     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/bluetoothd
root      1778  1535  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/lib/gdm3/gdm-session-worker
root      1788     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/lib/accountsservice/accounts-daemon
root      1789     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/console-kit-daemon --no-daemon
root      1877     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/cron
root      1911     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/lib/policykit-1/polkitd --no-debug
root      1922   259  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 udevd --daemon
root      1923   259  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 udevd --daemon
root      1927     2  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 [kauditd]
root      1934     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/cupsd -C /etc/cups/cupsd.conf
incal     1937  1778  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 twm
colord    1942     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/colord/colord
colord    1970     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/colord/colord-sane
root      2002     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/kerneloops
incal     2045  1937  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/ssh-agent /usr/bin/dbus-launch --exit-with-session twm
incal     2048     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/dbus-launch --exit-with-session twm
incal     2109     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/dbus-daemon --fork --print-pid 5 --print-address 7 --session
root      2129     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /bin/sh /usr/bin/mysqld_safe
mysql     2443  2129  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/mysqld --basedir=/usr --datadir=/var/lib/mysql --plugin-dir=/usr/lib/mysql/plugin --user=mysql --pid-file=/run/mysqld/mysqld.pid --socket=/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock --port=3306
root      2444  2129  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 logger -t mysqld -p daemon.error
102       2812     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/exim4 -bd -q30m
root      2938     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/sshd
root      3016     1  0 18:17 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/minissdpd -i 0.0.0.0
root      3032     1  0 18:17 tty1     00:00:00 /sbin/getty 38400 tty1
root      3033     1  0 18:17 tty2     00:00:00 /sbin/getty 38400 tty2
root      3034     1  0 18:17 tty3     00:00:00 /sbin/getty 38400 tty3
root      3035     1  0 18:17 tty4     00:00:00 /sbin/getty 38400 tty4
root      3036     1  0 18:17 tty5     00:00:00 /bin/login --      
root      3037     1  0 18:17 tty6     00:00:00 /sbin/getty 38400 tty6
incal     3066  3036  0 18:19 tty5     00:00:00 -bash
incal     3133  3066  0 18:20 tty5     00:00:00 ps -Af
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You should consider selecting all of the output text and pressing control+k, this will use pre-formatting, so it retains whitespaces, linebreaks, etc. Makes output or code easier to read! –  Tim May 18 '12 at 20:59
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2 Answers

As it happens, I'm a habitual twm user. My thought is that your .twmrc file, or maybe .xinitrc file, is messed up. I'd do this from a terminal:

cd ~
mv .twmrc orig.twmrc
mv .xinitrc orig.xinitrc

And then try to start X11. If you're not using twm, and X11 is falling back on twm as some kind of failsafe, I'd rename all the X11-startup-files that whatever it is you want to use are using. Something is in an infinite loop.

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1  
Oh, I don't have either file! The X11 startup files you say, where do you usually find those? –  Emanuel Berg May 18 '12 at 21:18
    
I've used twm for so long, I'm basically a dinosaur. I don't know what Gnome, KDE, LXFCE, whatever uses as startup files. It does look like twm is the failsafe for your X11 setup, though. –  Bruce Ediger May 18 '12 at 22:01
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  1. Go to /etc/rc2.d/
  2. Replace the S in S19gmd3 with K (rename file)
  3. Reboot
  4. Login
  5. Type xinit
  6. Type twm
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