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On my system (Debian Lenny AMD64), gnome-panel seems to act up now and again. I've not found a way to force it to happen, but it seems to be related to launching processes. Basically, I launch some process, and I see 1 core max itself out, and the taskbar freezes. I pkill gnome-panel, the taskbar reappears, and everything is ok. If I don't notice it, eventually my entire computer freezes and I have to hard boot.

How would I go about getting some kind of information on why this is happening that could help me or developers? Is there a debug build or something I could run?

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You could try taking a look at the ~/.xsession-errors file. If you're lucky you might find some failed assertion or error in there.

You could also install the gnome-panel-dbg package and attach gdb to the running panel to get a backtrace in case of crash (more information here).

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