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Graphics Portables Hardware Linux

Ask Slashdot: Best Laptop With Decent Linux Graphics Support? 260

jcreus writes "After struggling for some years with Nvidia cards (the laptop from which I am writing this has two graphic cards, an Intel one and Nvidia one, and is a holy mess [I still haven't been able to use the Nvidia card]) and, encouraged by Torvalds' middle finger speech, I've decided to ditch Nvidia for something better. I am expecting to buy another laptop and, this time, I'd like to get it right from the start. It would be interesting if it had decent graphics support and, in general, were Linux friendly. While I know Dell has released a Ubuntu laptop, it's way off-budget. My plan is to install Ubuntu, Kubuntu (or even Debian), with dual boot unfortunately required." So: what's the state of the art for out-of-the-box support?
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Ask Slashdot: Best Laptop With Decent Linux Graphics Support?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:55PM (#42222901)

    Unlike system76, ZaReason, and every other f'ing company there trying to fix the mess. ThinkPenguin's been working with Atheros for instance on getting the complete source for a USB wifi chipset. That'll bring us the first truly Linux friendly USB adapter which is fully supported. There are two other older USB chipsets which are also not dependent on non-free software. The older N chipset has issues with some routers (then again it's really pre-N so that is to be expected) and the G chipset is well supported provided you stick to browsing the web and don't venture off to setup your own access point.

    Anyway. Back to ThinkPenguin. The company has a number of laptops at a variety of prices points that anybody can afford. They are starting at $500 and you can throw any distribution on them just about because the company doesn't depend on pieces that are outside the mainline kernel and/or other major projects nor proprietary. And to make you feel better they are HUGE contributors to free software. 25% of there profits go to Trisquel and other projects as well. They are also working on numerous initiatives to better support people around the world. For instance there manufacturing keyboards for a dozen languages/regions and have brought support for lots of other hardware to the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe (as well as elsewhere).

  • easy 3 steps. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:57PM (#42222921)

    1. download kinoppix or other live cd distro. ideally without binary blobs.
    2. go to a store like fry's or bestbuy
    4. reboot machine, disable safe boot, boot from usb, check hardware support.

  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:08AM (#42222963)

    Well, AMD is looking good too, with currently shipping Fusion parts for laptops all being Evergreen or Northern Islands, both supported by the open source xorg Radeon driver, with a few exceptions such as full screen antialiasing, which seems to be getting close but currently requires the Catalyst driver. See here [] for the current xorg driver state. Notice that everything you need for 2D and 3D graphics is there, up to but not including Southern Islands. Just taking a quick look around, it looks like the latest budget AMD laptops are Trinity, which is Northern Islands, which should work fine with the current Xorg driver. But definitely google the specific chipset. Power management... good question. I'm getting solid results with Ivy Bridge, I haven't tried AMD's laptop parts recently.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:17AM (#42223007)

    ThinkPenguin is the only company supporting free software. They're handing over 25% of the profits to support free software development and working with companies up the chain who actually do the manufacturing. They ship only free software supported chipsets so everything works really really well.

  • Re:System76 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:32AM (#42223051)

    Have you looked at System76? They make laptops preloaded with Ubuntu.

    I just ordered one from The Linuxlaptop []. It's basically a Dell Inspiron. I could have gotten it faster and paid a little less directly from Dell, but I'm getting lazy, I want to just turn it on and have it work. I think, from now on I will only order from companies that pre-install Linux. It says something about their commitment.

  • by marcansoft ( 727665 ) <> on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:33AM (#42223061) Homepage

    Which means the Optimus solution isn't actually all that bad. I have the opposite viewpoint: I bought an Optimus laptop assuming the nvidia wouldn't work, simply for the other specs and the Intel video. When it turned out that bumblebee worked fairly painlessly and I was able to use the nvidia to accelerate 3D while the Intel drove my displays, I was pleasantly surprised. The solution is a bit of a hack, but honestly, I don't really have anything bad to say about it. It's the best of both worlds: open Intel drivers which are stable and support modern interfaces like XRandR 1.3 and KMS driving the displays, and the clunky proprietary but fast nvidia driver sandboxed in its own backgrond X server doing 3D acceleration only.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:35AM (#42223065)

    My latest experience:

    1. I built an Ivy Bridge machine with the latest Intel onboard graphics. I installed Mint 13 KDE, and I got crashes like crazy.

    2. I put in an nVidia card, installed the nVidia proprietary driver, and everything has been smooth since.

    I've had this exact kind of thing happen on several previous builds. In every case, the solution that worked for me was to ditch the Intel onboard graphics and get nVidia.

    I know nVidia's proprietary binary blob sucks, but it's the only thing I've found so far that allows me to stay on Linux.

    Maybe other solutions work too, but my recommendation is (1) stay away from Intel graphics, (2) try nVidia first.

  • OpenGL (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:46AM (#42223111)

    If you want OpenGL support, you want nVidia.

  • To my surprise... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:16AM (#42223221)

    my MacBook Pro does an outstanding job of running Linux. You can dual boot it or run Linux in VMware or Virtual Box. No graphics card issues at all. Everything worked right out of the gate - sound, graphics, wireless, everything. If you can, try and find one a few years old. The new ones have those soldered on chips that make it impossible to upgrade. Get an SSD, take out the DVD, put in a second HD and you're off to the races.

  • Re:Not sad at all (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmt0 ( 1295725 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:30AM (#42223479)

    The "Sandy Bridge" and "Ivy Bridge" stuff is nice.

    I have an Ivy Bridge laptop. What's so nice about it? How much time has passed since the hardware release? I still have tearing artifacts around every title bar on KDE, all because of bugs in drivers - both with Ubuntu's default driver and the one from PPA.

    It's all great that their drivers are open and free, but quality-wise they have always been a mess.

    At this point, if you want a great out-of-the-box support, all you can do is wait. Either when Intel will improve their quality, or when nvidia fixes their optimus stuff. Don't know much about the AMD side of things.

  • by TeXMaster ( 593524 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:25AM (#42223641)
    OpenCL is supported by all major vendors, and it can be used both on CPU and on GPU. However, Intel's support for OpenCL on GPU is only available on Windows. Until the GalliumComute framework is ready, we won't be seeing any open source OpenCL support anywhere. (Also, Intel's GPUs support OpenCL only from HD4000 series).
  • Re:Not sad at all (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:27AM (#42223823)

    No problems here on Debian sid. Did you try newer kernel/mesa/xorg driver? The xorg-edgers ppa has updated versions for all of these.

  • Re:To my surprise... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Saturday December 08, 2012 @05:48AM (#42224033)

    You don't want it anyhow - running at native resolution is a good way to strain your eyes.

    Do you have problems reading stuff printed on 1200 DPI printers? Professional offset printing must be a nightmare for you.

  • by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:27AM (#42225223) Homepage
    I came here to pretty much say this. I actually got an Alienware M11XR2 for free (it was purchased by my work for an executive who decided he hated it, and nobody else wanted such a small laptop so it was given to me as a play box). I stuck Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on it, installed Bumblebee after a bit of research and it works fantastically well. I play FlightGear and Diaspora on it frequently, and just got into the Steam for Linux beta. I haven't had any issues with it at all.

    While I agree it's not an optimal solution (groan... oh the pun, the pun!) it works really well. I have just modified the launchers in my start menu to call /usr/bin/optirun when I have a 3D accelerated app installed. Just for the record I run Gnome-Shell instead of Unity because I seriously can't stand it, and editing the menu items is easier.

    Interestingly, that extra step is really not that different to what I do on my Windows laptop which has a newer Optimus chipset (Dell E6430); more often than not I have to go and modify the launchers in the start menu to make sure they use the Optimus chipset to run instead of the Intel. Although I do also use the Nvidia control panel for that.

    Hmm... maybe all that's missing is a control panel item for Bumblebee... I might have to break out my Python/GTK skills and throw one together :)

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken