Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Problems With NVIDIA Optimus Graphics

I recently made the switch from Windows 7 to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on my Samsung NP-QX411 laptop.

After installing, everything was going great (not to mention the 8 second boot time with my OCZ Agility 3 SSD), However I noticed a few problems in regards to my graphics. For one, my function keys to control the brightness of my screen would not work -also my battery life wouldn’t last longer than 2 hours on a fresh charge. The function keys were not a big deal to me because the brightness could still be adjusted though the GUI. However, the battery life was a big problem. After a few days of searching around for a fix I was nearly at the point of re-installing to Windows just so I could get more use out of a battery charge.

My laptop comes with NVIDIA’s Optimus technology –which basically chooses between using your integrated graphics or your dedicated graphic chip (NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M in my case) depending on what you are doing. I figured this was more than likely the cause of my problems so I began doing some research.

After reading many forums, it turns out NVIDIA Optimus technology is not fully supported yet in Linux, and was causing my dedicated graphics chip to run at full power at all times – causing the short battery life. I searched more and more and finally came across this post.

There is a program out there called Bumblebee, which will disable your dedicated NVIDIA graphics chip and only use the integrated one unless otherwise specified. Here’s how to install:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:bumblebee/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia
sudo usermod -a -G bumblebee $USER
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And that’s all! Give it a reboot and you’re good to go. My battery life went from under 2 hours to about 5 – 6 with normal use.

Since I mostly use my laptop for web browsing and other non-graphics demanding programs this works great for me. If you ever did want to use your dedicated graphics chip on a program, all you need to do is add “optirun” in front of the file name and it will switch over:

optirun firefox
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I also installed a program called xbacklight to control my screen brightness from the command line. This program works great and I recommend you install it:

sudo apt-get install xbacklight
xbacklight -set 60
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I hope this post helps you out. Let me know if you run in to any problems!