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Crontab with autologin??? that's not making much sense. I think people really should be in the habit of typing in the password. This really amounts to treating your computer like a grocery store that has automatic sliding doors installed at the front entrance, AND cash registers that don't have locks.
Ahhh.. Going off-topic is a common problem anywhere. I was calling out obsigna for divulging real-life job-related info. I just think that with a bit of thought, it's possible to share a setup without providing real-life details, especially job-related ones. Like when we share screenshots on these forums, I always make sure to blank out my real name if it shows up anywhere on the screenshot.
I vaguely recall that autologin reads /etc/passwd, so I would conclude that no, it's not possible to avoid using the passphrase. But you can control at what point the passphrase is supplied - either from the keyboard or from /etc/passwd.Can it allow a system administrator to configure the system to automatically start a desktop environment session with my ID without my passphrase?
BTW, this setup most likely does not implement best practices for working with scientific data. If you customers don't mind, have the tools upload the data to a database, that will take care of sharing the data.user, and each may fiddle with his/her own files and without changing the login not with that of others.
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Also the OpenBSD fork of XDM (xenodm) doesn't run as root.
Many people just choose to, which is a bit weird or a project doesn't have enough resources to clean up / maintain one display system (let alone two!).