Guys, we have a problem. The name of that problem is NVidia and their Optimus technology. The idea of that tech is quite neat - take a laptop, put two video cards in it, use the powerful card when you need 3D power, use the weak card when you need to conserve battery. The problem is that any laptop with this technology is currently an expensive paperweight on Linux (or rather it was so until a couple weeks ago, see below). And NVidia has no plans for fixing that.
Let me explain the technicalities.
In all modern laptops (such as the new and sexy Dell XPS 15z and many, many others) NVidia Optimus is implemented as follows - there is an NVidia card and an Intel card, all display outputs are connected to the Intel card, when the user wants more 3D power, the NVidia card is powered on and it renders an image into a framebuffer in the video memory of the Intel card which is the responsible for actually outputing that framebuffer to a display.
Currently in Linux if you are using NVidia drivers the Intel card is left uninitialised, your session starts up fine on the NVidia card, it outputs the resulting picture onto the video memory of the Intel card, but ... the Intel card is not configured in any way and so it does not do anything further with this picture and the display stays black.
The alternative is to use Intel video card driver and then the NVidia card stays there in your laptop as dead weight. It does not even power down (out of the box) so you have all the power consumption and none of the functionality. There is some support from NVidia to using that card for CUDA computing purposes in such situation, but nothing else.
After years of neglect and statements from NVidia that Optimus support in Linux is impossible and thus not even planned, one individual stepped up and made it work. Yes, the solution is hacky, yes it is a hassle to set up and make it work, but this is the first glimmer of hope for actually working Optimus on Linux. Over the last couple years the share of laptops with Optimus has greatly increased - almost all laptops that have NVidia video cards have Optimus now. This Bumblebee project is currently our only real hope on making Linux work on these laptops.
This project needs our support in a multitude of ways:
1) help test the actual project on different hardware;
2) look at the code and help improve on it, both the core code and system integration, simplify it so that everyone can install and use this;
3) figure out how we can integrate that support into distributions, so that it becomes possible to have working Linux out-of-the-box on Optimus hardware;
4) pressure NVidia more to provide official Optimus support on Linux (at least in always-on-NVidia mode, without breaking Bumblebee along the way).
Martin has already showed the superiority of open source by implementing something that NVidia considered to be too hard to do, let's show the power of our community to push such solutions to production quality.Share on Twitter Share on Facebook