Readers of my blog may be aware that I’ve been searching for a Linux distro for my laptop for some time. I’ve tried Linux Mint 12 (“Lisa”), openSUSE 12.1, Fedora 16, and others. All of them had their quirks:
- Linux Mint 12 – ran too damn hot. Even disabling the ATI card wouldn’t keep it from burning down.
- Fedora 16 – couldn’t get all everything working with Xfce and hate Gnome 3 too much to use it. I could have tried a KDE spin, but figured I’d move on. I’m more of an apt-get kind of guy anyway.
- openSUSE 12 – like Linus said, has some design flaws. Plus, I can’t find anything in the SUSE file structure.
So, you might ask, what did I end up with? Ubuntu. That’s right. The “beginner’s” distro. Why? Because it works. I might hop to Kubuntu or Xubuntu, but right now, I’m just running Ubuntu 11.10 amd64.
Post-install, it still runs hot/battery life is crap and you can’t adjust the backlight. Easy fixes.
To reduce heat/increase battery life, I’ve decided to disable the AMD graphics card. As my use for the Linux side is mostly coding, browser-based things, and network configuration, the 3D features of the AMD card are not needed. The Intel graphics built into the i7 are more than adequate for watching 1080p content.
The first thing we’ll do is blacklist the radeon module. To do this, create (via sudo) /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-radeon.conf. Inside this file, insert:
Next, (again via sudo) edit /etc/rc.local and add the following line before “exit 0”:
echo OFF > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch
After a reboot, the AMD card will be disabled and powered off.
In order to enable the backlight adjustment (also important for battery life), we’ll have to edit the GRUB boot parameters. They are located in /etc/default/grub, so (via sudo) edit that file as follows:
Once you’ve saved your changes, run sudo update-grub and restart. Voila! Your laptop is now actually usable on your lap (not too hot) when you’re not plugged in (has more than 2 hours of battery life).
EDIT: Fixed typo. Thanks, EU.