Sabtu, 25 September 2010

nVidia - There is No Optimus Support for Linux

It is about the time of year when I start looking at new laptops. I am looking for something small, but powerful. I have been an nVidia faithful since I made the switch to Linux almost four years ago, as such I used to not even look at a system if it didn't have an nVidia graphics chip in it. While browsing I noticed that many of the laptops I was looking at had a new feature stamped on them called:

nVidia Optimus

What is nVidia optimus? It is a genius new method of obtaining a great battery life on a laptop with a power house graphics card. Essentially all laptops that are "optimus enabled" have two graphics chips in them - one nVidia and one Intel based. If you are familiar with hardware then you will know that Intel chips, while having worse 3D performance than nVidia, offer much lower power consumption. Optimus allows the system to switch seamlessly between the Intel chip and the nVidia chip when you go from normal desktop usage to intense 3D -

Well it does on Windows anyways.

I've been working with Linux long enough to know that just because it works on Windows does not mean it is going to work on my operating system of choice as well. Unfortunitly this is currently the case with the nVidia optimus technology. To quote an nVidia representative from their user forums:

"We have no plans to support Optimus on Linux at this time."

Guess what? That statement was seven months ago now (February of 2010) and nVidia has been quite on the situation since then. This is really a shame, nVidia has had a dominant hand in the Linux market because of their superior drivers for sometime now. I am going to be hard-pressed to continue to support a company that refuses to support their hardware on my platform of choice. Intel graphics chips might soon be the only choice for mobile Linux users if nVidia does not add optimus support to their Linux drivers soon, as more and more laptops are utilizing this new technology.

Now as with most things the commercial giants fail to pickup in the world of Linux, there is an FOSS project dedicated to dissecting the hybrid graphics systems and get them working with the FOS Nouveau project. The only problem is that if you want a quality level of 3D performance these projects are still a ways off from providing this.

I must say I am slightly torn, do I snatch up a single GPU nVidia system now - before I can no longer find them, do I wait and see if nVidia releases optimus technology for Linux, or should I just boycott the nVidia cooperation all together since they see Linux as a second class operating system?

~Jeff Hoogland

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