Ubuntu 12.04 LTS v. the Acer Aspire 57xx Optimus Technology

The first two candidates for upgrading to Ubuntu 12.04 were my Acer Aspire Laptops, both previously running a quite heavily customised version of 10.04.4, with numerous PPAs (ubuntu-audio-dev and ubuntu-x-swat being the main ones relating to hardware).

People often ask me at trade shows & conferences, “Why do you use 10.04.x, why not 11.10, or [insert-release-here-of-something-else]” — and usually got the response “because I need them to work”, which, is not a criticism of the quality of more recent releases, more a “that’s what LTS’s are for.” kind of response.

So, 12.04 being the +1 for LTS’s, I decided to upgrade — i’d been itching to try out GNOME 3.4 on more modern hardware — and the improvements to Unity (Ubuntu’s own Desktop Environment) sounded quite promising and upbeat.

Which wasn’t as difficult as it previous had been, i’m happy to point out — except, both my 5750G and 5742G have nVidia “Optimus” technology powering their graphics cards, which meant I was presented with the following screen following my install:

It's a blank screen, really.

Yes, it's a black screen -- in real life, it has a flashing cursor :)

So, an ALT-F’x’ — a login, a sudo and a couple of add-apt-repository commands later and:

The Standard Desktop after the Bumblebee code had been added to Precise

Um, that looks a lot better -- to change the resolution, optirun & nvidia-settings work a treat.

and, to make sure the nVidia GPU actually does something:

#  optirun nvidia-settings -c :8
Terminal Window running optirun on :8 Console

Using the nvidia-settings via Optirun allows you to alter Power Management and Display Size settings

So, the magic to make this work, is:

# add-apt-repository ppa:bumblebee/stable
# apt-get -f install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia

Now, if you’re using the standard Ubuntu packages, you should be able to restart your machine and you’ll be back up and running — however, my 5750g and Precise’s nVidia packages didn’t play nicely — so i’d upgraded to the nvidia-current-updates package and rebooted, then everything ran according to plan.

For some reason, maybe because there was some 200 updates to do on the 5742, the post-installation of the package didn’t add my user to the bumblebee group, so I had to then do:

# usermod -a -G bumblebee *paul*

( where paul obviously is whatever your username is :) )

… then logged-out/logged-in, then the optirun based commands worked perfectly.