A Day Later, Hybrid Graphics On Linux Does More
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel on 2 February 2010 at 09:14 AM EST. 11 Comments
Just yesterday morning we reported on hybrid graphics coming to Linux in a crude form, which allowed dual-GPU notebook systems to switch between the onboard GPUs via a kernel patch but what made it crude was that it wasn't seamless switching within the running X.Org Server (it won't be this way for some time) and it didn't actually turn off the other GPU when the other one was in use. In the past 24 hours, however, David Airlie has published three new versions of this Linux kernel patch.

The second version of Airlie's "switcheroo" code as it's called brought support for powering up and powering down the GPUs. For Intel GPUs this means putting it in a D3 suspended state while for Mobility Radeon GPUs it actually cuts the power to the graphics processor so that it is completely off. The third version of switcheroo then brought reworked probing methods so that no DMI list is used but now looks for an ATPX method. The fourth (and final, for now) version of this patch delivers on compatibility with more systems. Turning on and off the unused GPU is as easy as writing "ON" or "OFF" to /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch.

The fourth version of David Airlie's switcheroo patch can be found in his FreeDesktop.org folder. Additionally, he has provided new comments on this work via his blog. Right now this code supports ATI/ATI and Intel/ATI GPU combos, but David mentions on his blog that the Nouveau driver should already be detecting the DSM method that it likely uses for the NVIDIA GPU switching, so it really shouldn't be too difficult to wire it up.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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