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Coming Soon to Linux: Nvidia Optimus Graphics Support

A new version of Nvidia's proprietary graphics driver will let Linux users benefit from its switching technology.

Nvidia may have joined the Linux Foundation earlier this year, but its Optimus switching technology, commonly used as a power-saving mechanism in many laptops, has remained a sticking point for many Linux users.

So intense has been the frustration over Nvidia's lack of Linux support in this area, in fact, that earlier this year Linux creator Linus Torvalds himself uttered a now-famous expletive directed at the company because of it (see video below).

Recently, however, an email from Nvidia software engineer Aaron Plattner revealed that Nvidia is working on adding that widely sought support at last.

'I've Got a Proof of Concept'

I've been experimenting with support for Dave Airlie's new RandR 1.4 provider object interface, so that Optimus-based laptops can use our driver to drive the discrete GPU and display on the integrated GPU, Plattner wrote in his email seeking advice from open source developers.

The good news is that I've got a proof of concept working, Plattner added.

A new version of Nvidia's proprietary graphics driver for Linux, in other words, will add Optimus support, making it possible for Linux users to enjoy its battery-saving ability to switch the GPU's power on and off as needed.

Ongoing Improvements

There's no doubt that driver support for Linux gets better with every passing day. Each new Linux kernel update typically brings improvements, and every once in a while we get a huge leap in compatibility, such as when Broadcom had its change of heart regarding the free and open source operating system back in 2010.

Though Nvidia's driver remains proprietary, the addition of this new Linux support is also a pretty big deal.

Is the move a direct result of Torvalds' rant? We can only guess. Either way, it sure makes me glad Linus is as outspoken as he is. This is a change that will benefit countless Linux users around the globe.

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