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In Ubuntu the path variable is stored in /etc/environment. This is mine (I've made no changes to it, this is the system default):

$ cat /etc/environment 
PATH="/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/games"

but when I examine my PATH variable:

$ echo $PATH
/home/dan/bin:/home/dan/bin:/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin/X11

You'll notice /usr/games is missing (it was there up until a few days ago). My /etc/profile makes no mention of PATH. My ~/.profile is the default and only has:

if [ -d "$HOME/bin" ] ; then
    PATH="$HOME/bin:$PATH"
fi

This only happens in gnome, not in tty1-6. This is missing from both gnome terminal and when I try to call applications from the applications dropdown. Anyone know what could be causing this?

Thanks.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If your shell is bash, it pays no attention to /etc/environment at least as far as the manpage and an strace bash says. Indeed, I can find no program listed that does mention /etc/environment.

I've run into similar situations under Ubuntu where there are 4 or more levels of indirection pointing to the datum that you really want. Often times I find it easier to fix the proximate, rather than the ultimate source of the datum.

In this case, modifying your personal path in ~/.profile is in fact the proper way to do it since at least V7 Unix.

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1  
Yes, I'm familiar with that solution, but that is a user level solution for a system level problem. I would actually like to address the problem. There are plenty of places I could just override the PATH variable, like /etc/profile as well, but that has nothing to do with PATH on Ubuntu, so I would prefer to address it where the problem lies. – Jarvin May 18 '10 at 16:58
    
Today I have the same problem as the OP: I rebooted and suddenly the correct PATH is no longer available in bash. It was yesterday. Something is actually broken... – Izkata Mar 30 '14 at 14:49

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