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There plenty of tools working with keyrings: ssh-agent, gpg-agent, gnome-keyring, kwallet, wrappers like keychain, keyctl talking to GNU/Linux kernel. There are various recommendation on how/when to start it tailored for different environments.

This make it rather confusing. I'm using modern GNU/Linux distro with systemd and I start my user session with systemd --user as well. I expect this setup to last decades so I wonder what's the best way to get keyring into picture?

The main use-case is to store passwords from chromium/firefox in one consolidated place.

Shall I start keychain from my user shell autostart script (I use fish for interactive and dash as login shells if that matters)? Right now "gnome-keyring-daemon --daemonize --login" is spawned via PAM. Shall I start "gnome-keyring --start" from user systemd unit? Is there some dbus service which would start some keyring daemon upon first request?

The list of questions go on but you get the idea - what is the right way to get keyring-as-a-service?

  • Note that ssh-agent and keychain are for SSH keys only, gpg-agent can be used for GPG keys and optionally also for SSH keys, gnome-keyring and kwallet aim to be generic password/key/secret management systems for Gnome and KDE desktop environments respectively, and keyctl is for kernel-level key management which can be used for various purposes, including kernel module authentication to conform to Secure boot requirements. In other words, most of these are completely separate systems; among those listed, only gnome-keyring and kwallet are fully general-purpose. – telcoM Feb 2 at 11:11
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On my machine (debian unstable) ssh-agent and gpg-agent have their own systemd user service/socket files. That means that they should be started when the user logs in or be activated when the first time an application is trying to access them.

Regarding gnome-keyring, there is (ATM?) no such systemd file and gnome-keyring is started both by PAM (as you mentioned) and by a .desktop file located in /etc/xdg/autostart/. The services located there should be started by your session manager (gnome-session, ...).

I see on debian a package called obsession that contains a /usr/bin/xdg-autostart I personally never used that tool, but that might help you to manually start the needed components if you are not using a session manager that supports XDG specification

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