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Linux frequently asked questions

On this page:

GNOME locks up when I try to log in or when I start X!

If you home directory is /afs/ and you use the GNOME desktop environment, when you log in and start X, sometimes GNOME will hang, and never start up a window manager or hand over control to you. This can happen when certain files get corrupted in your AFS home directory. This corruption isn't your fault, it can happen during regularly scheduled maintenance to AFS, or when your AFS tokens expire while you are running GNOME. The corrupted files are:
The only way to fix the files themselves is for an AFS admin to run a tool to repair your volume. However, you can move the files out of the way so you can log on again and get back to work. Since the directory entries are damaged, you have to move the directories that contain the 'ior' file out of the way. I suggest running:
$ mv ~/.gconf/%gconf-xml-backend.lock  ~/.gconf/%gconf-xml-backend.lock.old
$ mv ~/.gconfd/lock ~/.gconfd/lock.old
Now you should be able to log in. Notify the helpdesk that there is a problem, and once they've fixed it, you can safely delete the aforementioned .old directories. Don't worry about losing any data, that directory doesn't hold any important data, just a temporary socket file created and used by GNOME each time you start a new login session.

What is the currently supported version of linux?

More information about our supported versions of Linux can be found on the Unix/Linux support page. Information about the status of support for Linux and other operating systems supported by SCS Computing can be found on our Support Lifecycle page. If you would like to upgrade your computer to a newer supported OS, please read these guidelines.

How do I use my CD-writer?

See the Linux CD writing how-to.

How do I start the network manually after booting?

To manually start the network, you can run the following command as root:
   /sbin/service network start

I can't run <some binary program>.

There are several reasons why a binary will not run.
  • First, check whether you are executing it correctly, check man pages, etc.
  • If you are sure your are running it correctly, it's just not finding the file, make sure that the file you think you are running is not actually a symlink to some other file, which doesn't exists or is in AFS.
  • If the file is in AFS, make sure your network connection is working and see our instructions on troubleshooting AFS problems for additional troubleshooting information.
  • If none of these solutions work, you should email

My machine crashed and now it's asking for a password because it needs to fsck a filesystem.

If you don't know the root password of your machine, this can be a problem. After this is resolved, make sure that you, or the administrator of your machine, set the root password to something that you know.

I want to run [newer/another distribution of] Linux. Can I have facilities support?

Unfortunately, we cannot support every possible distribution of linux, since they all change constantly. We can't let people beta test anything on a stable system, unless they want to lose facilities support. If you have questions, feel free to email

How can I install/use my own perl packages?

There is already a very good answer in the FZQs.

Local depot collections for laptops or offsite machines

Put this file in your /usr/local/depot/depot.pref.local. It contains a list of the necessary/most useful misc collections needed to run off-line.

Other Linux questions

If you have any other questions that don't appear on this FAQ, please send mail to You can also take a look at the HOWTOs at the Linux Documentation Project.