I ended up with a snazzy new Dell XPS for my birthday. A dream laptop for me, it even included a fancy 2 gig video card.
It came with Windows 7 (which I don’t have a direct problem with) but my preference when I compute at home is to use linux. I partitioned part of it off and loaded up the new lubuntu. Install went fine but the sucker ran hot, loud, sucked the battery and the gpu seemed to be on but not in use. Something definitely seemed off.
This lead me on a search which explained about the nvidia Optimus GPU and people struggling with this on linux.
What is Optimus?
This is a technology created by Nvidia to switch off the power hungry GPU when not needed. On my laptop it switchs from the beefy 2 gig Nvidia GPU to the onboard Intel GPU. So when not gaming or doing graphic intense work, the system is running on less power (thus longer battery, less fan noise, heat, etc).
Nvidia did not produce any Optimus drivers for linux and has stated that there are no plans to support it on linux. Typically in the past Nvidia has supplied some closed source drivers for their nvidia cards.
The Bumblebee Project! After digging around on the ubuntu forums, I was ready to give up. Many people stated that nvidia would not be writing this driver and there is no current solution. Then murmurs of the Bumblebee project came about. A bit buggy at first, it has really started to gain steam. I’ve been using it error free for a while and really am happy to have my laptop running somewhat smooth.
And it just got easier to install if you are using debian/ubuntu. Bumblebee has now been packaged into a PPA @ Launchpad.
First thing you’ll want to do is add the repository:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:mj-casalogic/bumblebee
Then update and install:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install bumblebee
It’ll take you through the installer which will ask you which profile you want to use. At this point from what I understand these are successful profiles submitted. All of the ones for my laptop have worked just fine.
After the install you can launch a program using the command
Example: optirun java -jar ~/Downloads/minecraft.jar
This will launch minecraft using the nvidia card.
At the time of writing there is also:
Arch, OpenSuSE, Fedora, Mint support.