Using Nvidia Optimus on Linux with Bumblebee

If you have an Optimus enabled laptop with Linux on it there are some good news around.

First, some background. Nvidia released laptops with Optimus based switchable graphics over a year ago but Linux support was missing. This means you must choose in the BIOS between battery guzzling dedicated graphics card or limited on-CPU graphics. On other OS users can choose to run specific application on the dedicated card and keeping it powered down when idle.

For some time now there’s been some unofficial work to get the feature working on Linux (see previous post on the topic). One of this efforts evolved to be the Bumblebee project.

Last week the project released version 0.3. The version features automatic stable and persistent power state. Simply put this means that even if your laptop goes to sleep mode and wakes up, the Nvidia card will stay powered down unless you decide to run an application on it. Aside from automatic power-state setting, the project also allows the user to run OpenGL applications on the Nvidia card with a command ‘optirun’.

Installation process has been greatly simplified, follow the link to instructions for your distribution on the release announcement page.

On the official side Nvidia started looking for ways to provide official support but it seems that this won’t happen in the immediate future.

Meanwhile I highly recommend installing the unofficial support so you can enjoy your switchable graphics card under Linux (for example check out Starcraft II under Wine).

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