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I have a Thinkpad T520 with switchable (Optimus) graphics. The integrated card is Intel, which works great, but won't drive a DVI monitor. The computer also have an NVidia GF119 (Quadro NVS 4200M) which I can set the computer to use full-time in the BIOS.

The problem is, the driver in nvidia-current is awful. It doesn't support xrandr or compositing extensions; I have to configure my monitors using its awful GUI app, then restart X server and hope for the best. Without the proprietary driver, Linux and X seem to be defaulting to a VGA display.

Is there an alternative way to use my Nvidia GPU without using its awful drivers?

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You can use the open source nouveau drivers. Alternatively (a better solution in my opinion), you can use bumblebee and run in the "nvidia optimus" BIOS mode. This will run the main X server on your intel card and allow you to run specific graphic-intensive apps on the nvidia card with a command called optirun. With or without bumblebee installed, there is a program called screenclone that will allow you to use the DisplayPort/DVI output from the intel card by copying data from the intel card to the nvidia card.

More information on the graphics setup can be found here: http://zachstechnotes.blogspot.com/2012/01/tri-head-display-on-linux-thinkpad-w520.html (the W520 is similar to the T520 except for the VGA output)

Instructions for screenclone can be found here: http://zachstechnotes.blogspot.com/2012/04/post-title.html

  • Never did get the bumblebee / optirun method working, but I got the x server working, so that's good. Thanks for your help. – Ken Kinder May 21 '12 at 2:56
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The nouveau drives list your card as supported on their wiki under the code-name NVC0 http://nouveau.freedesktop.org/wiki/CodeNames

YMMV. Let us know if the nouveu drives work for you.

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Latest driver is 302.07

Added X driver support for RandR 1.2 and RandR 1.3. See "Support for the X Resize and Rotate Extension" in the README for details.

  • That's good. Weird that it took so long. Still, their drivers are just too buggy. Considering returning laptop and asking Lenovo for one without nvidia. :( – Ken Kinder May 21 '12 at 3:13

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