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Re: How to choose safe configuration at boot time?

> I am unable to use my Debian Linux system after the major update I did
> on Tuesday.
> WHAT HAPPENED: I used dselect in an xterm window under XFree to update the
> system after an idle period of 1 week. I update from stable, unstable,
> contrib, and nonfree. I allowed one of the installers to shut down xdm,
> which led to a reboot. I finished the installation by starting dselect again
> from an Xless console. The next reboot led to a login prompt on a non-X
> console screen, flashing and ignoring all input, except for CTL-ALT-DEL
> which led to another reboot ending in the same state.
> WHAT I THINK IS WRONG: I think that my configuration of xdm is broken. The
> last two outputs from the boot process, before the login prompt and the
> flashing, are an indication that xdm is starting, and an indication that the
> nas, which started earlier, has failed. The nas problem has been with me for
> weeks, presumably has to do with a misconfigured SoundBlaster, and has never
> before affected my ability to run X silently. Besides the install script
> that shut down xdm for some change, I accidentally allowed another install
> script to change the default X server (I had intended to experiment with
> several X servers before deciding whether to change the default). One way or
> another, I suspect that xdm is looping infinitely on a failed attempt to
> start up X. I experienced similar behavior in an earlier incarnation, when X
> failed due to lack of the right mouse driver, but in that case I saw some
> failed attempts at driving the video in color, and now I see only on/off
> flashing.
> WHAT I THINK I NEED: I think that I need to boot the system in single-user
> mode, or otherwise avoid starting up xdm, so that I can seek out the bad
> configuration files and fix them. I have *only* Debian Linux on the system,
> and I start it with LILO. I have been able to run several versions of the
> kernel from LILO, including a very primitive one which I keep on a diskette
> for emergencies. They all lead to the same behavior. Probably, there is an
> appropriate option to give LILO, and it's probably mentioned in the online
> documentation which I am now unable to read :^{ (I hope that this emoticon
> portrays embarassment). In the past, I have used CTL-ALT-F1 to bring up a
> single-user state, but I have been getting no useful response to this
> signal, although it resets the phase of the flashing, so something is
> evidently reading and ignoring it.
> I'll be grateful for all suggestions. Useful ones will help me, and useless
> ones will at least distract me from despair for a while :^)
> Mike O'Donnell
> odonnell@cs.uchicago.edu
> http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/~odonnell
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