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Thread: Dell XPS 17 702X Help - Nvidia Optimus

  1. #1

    Default Dell XPS 17 702X Help - Nvidia Optimus

    I bought this laptop a couple weeks ago and was all excited to get it. I knew it had the Nvidia card in it and that that would probably require the use of proprietary drivers in Linux (I use Xubuntu 11.10) Well I never imagined I would have the issues I have had getting the graphics card working and certainly knew nothing of the issues with Optimus.

    Well to make a short story long I have tried the Linux proprietary drivers, I tried the driver directly from Nvidia and so on. And I either ended up with a system that would not completely boot or hitting a brick wall. I even went as far as to tear the laptop apart to see if I could just completely unplug the Nvidia card, but of course its integrated into the main board. I really dont care if the Nvidia part works or not, though I have to say I would prefer it did because Ive always bought laptops with just basic specs, my focus being more in the area of battery life and RAM, etc. This is the first time I have bought a laptop with something remotely considered 'higher end' specs so it would be nice to get the experience of the graphics capabilities.

    At any rate, my main beef is with the stupid fan. It runs CONSTANTLY. Though my CPU temps stay mostly in the low 120* range. I assume the fan is running constantly because of the graphics card and having no specific driver for it. Thats my Assumption anyway. It has a 9-cell battery and it doesnt look like Im going to get more than a couple to three hours of run time on it which I guess many would be happy with but I have a Dell Inspiron 1750 with a T4300 CPU in it and I get over 7 hours of run time in it with a 9-cell battery. I know its not an apples to apples comparison but the constant running of the fan on the XPS certainly is not helping. I leave the XPS at home as a result and carry the 1750 with me because of its longevity.

    Ive read about Ironhide/Bumblebee driver, the Nouveu driver and so on. My hope is that if one of those properly installed and working would at the very least shut the dang fan up, stop it from running constantly.

    What I am not clear on is the proper install process for getting either Ironhide or any other driver installed. Can anyone help out with that? The last thing I did was just wipe out all the drivers and Im running purely from the Intel graphics as far as I know. Ive used linux for a while now so I dont mind the command line I just would like to find some kind of instructions on what the proper sequence is for getting the Nvidia graphics working or if someone has any thoughts on why the fan is constantly running I would appreciate help there if you dont believe its due to the graphics card.

    Thanks in advance for any assistance and my apologies for such a long first post. I figured more details would help.

  2. #2

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    Hey Storm,

    I found this post in Google when I was searching for a related issue. I hope you will read this because I registered on this forum just so I could reply to your post. I may have some solutions for you, so read on.

    Quote Originally Posted by StormStrikes View Post
    Well to make a short story long I have tried the Linux proprietary drivers, I tried the driver directly from Nvidia and so on. And I either ended up with a system that would not completely boot or hitting a brick wall.
    First of all, DO NOT install the nVidia driver manually, either when prompted to by Ubuntu (which usually happens a few minutes after booting into Ubuntu for the first time right after installing it), or by selecting the command from the menu. My experience with this is that the system won't boot into the desktop environment anymore. When you installed Bumblebee or Ironhide (see below for details) that will do this for you, properly.

    The status quo with nVidia Optimus (or Optimess as a commenter on a blog called it) on Linux is that nVidia does not support it. At least two nVidia employees have said so in public forums. I can look up the exact posts if you'd like me to. For now let's look at solutions though.

    OK so you've already heard about Bumblebee and Ironhide which bring Optimus support to Linux. Well maybe it helps sharing my experience with them, before I get into a solution for your fan issue.

    So, both these projects allow you to utilize the nVidia graphics chip on Linux, using the terminal command optirun. So let's say you wanted to run a game that supports OpenGL (SuperTuxKart for example), in the terminal you could run it accelerated by entering optirun supertuxkart followed by the Enter key of course. Similarly a Windows program would run under wine like so optirun wine SketchUp.exe. I've tested this thoroughly and it works great.

    First I tried Ironhide, which works pretty good. From what I understand however, its code base isn't very secure, with untrusted sources et al. Don't pin me down to it, it's just something I've heard and cannot corroborate. Second I've tried Bumblebee (the restarted project that is), which gave me much better performance and more compatibility with other programs. For example Google SketchUp didn't run at all with Ironhide, but it did with Bumblebee.

    I even went as far as to tear the laptop apart to see if I could just completely unplug the Nvidia card, but of course its integrated into the main board. I really dont care if the Nvidia part works or not, though I have to say I would prefer it did because Ive always bought laptops with just basic specs, my focus being more in the area of battery life and RAM, etc. This is the first time I have bought a laptop with something remotely considered 'higher end' specs so it would be nice to get the experience of the graphics capabilities.
    Well hopefully now you can using the methods described above. However, you can not (as far as I know) - in the current state of either project - turn the card off. Even though it won't run it's OpenGL, OpenCL or CUDA acceleration, the card will still consume power. I'm never on the road myself, so it isn't much of a problem for me. Still, it would be nice to know that instead of the normal 90 Watts I normally use with this laptop, it would actually consume less and save energy that way.

    At any rate, my main beef is with the stupid fan. It runs CONSTANTLY. Though my CPU temps stay mostly in the low 120* range. I assume the fan is running constantly because of the graphics card and having no specific driver for it. Thats my Assumption anyway.
    I feel your pain. You're running 11.10 right? And your graphics chip from the specs I can find online is a GT550M. I've had the exact same issue with my GT555M on Ubuntu 11.10, so that being such a close match to your card I'd say it's safe to assume we're suffering from the same issue. From what I've read on the Internet it is because of a bug in the Linux kernel. There are even some articles on this site (Phoronix) about it. I know it has also been fixed in a new kernel version, but I haven't tested it. When I switched to Ubuntu a few weeks ago I looked at the last few released from 10.04 LTS onwards and in the end I chose 11.04 because it was 1) the latest version that still supported Gnome 2.x (I don't like Unity at all, hence) and 2) because my fan wouldn't run constantly. One of my prerequisites for a laptop is that it's quiet, so I didn't go with the latest and greatest Oneric Ocelot (11.10). My advice therefore is, if you can, downgrade to Xubuntu 11.04. Backup all your settings and documents and then do a fresh install on a reformatted disk or partition. I'm pretty certain your fan issue will dissolve right away.

    What I am not clear on is the proper install process for getting either Ironhide or any other driver installed. Can anyone help out with that?
    At this time I recommend to use Bumblebee over Ironhide, but compatibility and performance may vary on other hardware and I only want to speak from my own experience.

    The installation process is explained on this page: https://launchpad.net/~hybrid-graphics-linux and it is not all that difficult. Especially if you are going through the PPA route, it is simply entering some commands in a terminal and then you're good to go. However, I will attempt to simplify these steps for you and list below only the actual steps, leaving the added info out. Although I do recommend reading the page I reference above as well. This assumes you have an nVidia Optimus videocard and have not installed Bumblebee nor Ironhide before.

    Bumblebee installation steps

    1. Open a terminal
      • Ubuntu 11.04 and earlier: From the Gnome main menu click Applications > Accessories > Terminal.
      • Ubuntu 11.10: In the Unity Dash type Terminal and then select it from the search results.
    2. Copy and paste the following command in the terminal (confirm this and subsequent terminal commands with the Enter key on your keyboard):
      sudo add-apt-repository ppa:bumblebee/stable
    3. Then do the same with this command:
      sudo apt-get update
    4. And lastly this command:
      sudo apt-get install bumblebee
      You will see a bunch of text messages go by and you may be asked to confirm if you want to download and install the package. If you want to proceed, press Y on your keyboard followed by the Enter key.

    That's it. With Ironhide you have to go through a configuration process, but Bumblebee doesn't require that.

    So, using the commands I have already explained above with optirun you can start any program you'd like to run accelerated. Remember that it's not only OpenGL that is supported, but also other kinds of acceleration, I imagine video acceleration is among those as well, but I can't say for certain. The optirun command is the same by the way for both Bumblebee and Ironhide.

    I really hope this helps you, or anyone else with this problem for that matter. Otherwise I've wasted an hour of my time typing this.

    Peace.

  3. #3

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    Coen Naninck,

    You did not waste your time typing, however the notice that you replied to the thread came just as I was getting ready for work so I wont be able to try anything out until then but you put forth such an effort and detailed information that I wanted to reply and let you know I am aware of your post. I will also confirm that I am using Xubuntu 11.10 (Dont get me started on Unity, it wont be pretty) and that the graphics card is a GT550M.

    It is good to know, at least that the constantly running fan is an unrelated issue to the graphics card. So there may be hope yet for this laptop, I will see. I will get a copy of Xubuntu 11.04 downloaded and see how that pans out.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply and do so with so much information and detail. I cannot begin to thank you enough. Even if nothing works, you still took the time to reply and put forth a great effort in helping and for that I am very grateful.

  4. #4

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    You're welcome Storm. It's good to help. For the past days a member of the Bumblebee team has answered all my questions as well, with unrelenting enthusiasm I must add. So it's good to finally give back.

    When I get my new site up and running I will create a page just for Optimus on Linux. I've already learned a lot and I want to share it with others so they can get Optimus running on their Linux install as well.

    Today I've managed to even get FSAA (Full Screen Anti-Aliasing) to run in Google SketchUp using Bumblebee. To me that is a big deal, because the only thing that has held me back from switching from Windows to Linux has been that application. Now that's in the past.

    If Xubuntu 11.04 won't get your fan silent, please try Ubuntu 11.04 and see if that resolves it. If it does, then just install the Xubuntu Desktop environment in Ubuntu, so you will effectively have a Xubuntu 11.04 installation. I know that is not ideal, but the alternative is a constantly running fan.

    Please report back on your experience. I'd love to know if any of these suggestions will fix things for you.

  5. #5

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    You are the kind of person I like to know. I dont like hording information. It does me no good to keep it to myself but the impact that can be had by sharing is unmeasurable.

    Im at work finally but unfortunately I am behind a proxy here and I have yet to be able to get anything to download from the repositories behind the proxy. I can surf the web and all that but it blocks me being able to download software form any repository. So that issue along with the constantly running fan I only take my Dell 1750 with me and its working perfectly.

    You've got me kind of wired to get the Nvidia graphics working but once I am able to work on it I will post back the results. Since the fan seems to be a separate issue I will just start with a clean install of 11.04 and go from there. Once the fan is off I will work on the graphics card. Once I get home tonight I have to get right to bed as I have a terribly early day tomorrow for some other work I do after that I will have the rest of the weekend to work on this project and I will report back all that happens.

    Oh, I thought I would mention also that I saw the posts on phoronix about the kernel power issue and I implemented their solution into my GRUB file but it did not help the fan issue on the XPS laptop.

  6. #6

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    Alright, keep me posted.

    Also, I forgot a crucial step in the installation process of Bumblebee, which is to add yourself to a user group in your Ubuntu installation. I want to amend my post accordingly but I don't see an Edit button. So for now here is the step that needs to be added after the last step:

    Enter this into the terminal:

    sudo usermod -a -G bumblebee $USER

  7. #7

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    Thank you for the update. Im going to print this out anyway, so I will have all your wonderful instructions to follow without having the need of being connected to the internet.

  8. #8

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    Okay, got a quick question. I downloaded Xubuntu 11.04 and burned it to a CD and booted up using that. If it were a kernel bug issue keeping the fan running, would not booting to the CD result in it not running as it does under 11.10? Or do I have to do a full install to see the benefit?

  9. #9

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    would not booting to the CD result in it not running as it does under 11.10? Or do I have to do a full install to see the benefit?
    Can you please rephrase this for me? I don't understand what you're saying with this.

    Also, if Xubuntu 11.04 does not fix the fan issue, try Ubuntu 11.04, as I mentioned earlier.

    Keep me posted!

  10. #10

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