Hibernate is necessary, proprietary driver is not so necessary

I used to leave the computer working constantly, mainly to contribute to project Folding@Home (Fórum PCs team). Some days ago, however, Augusto Campos reported a 30% reduction in the electricity bill simply by not leaving the computer turned on 24/7 anymore. I tried putting my computer to hibernate, but my video card’s proprietary driver was impairing X restoration. I replaced it with the free driver, and since then I’m much happier for many reasons.

One of my favorite X.org features is autoconfiguration. Since version 7.2, X.org can automatically detect hardware and create its own configuration file. When I used the proprietary driver, however, I had to edit xorg.conf myself, because X’s standard behavior was to load nv, the free driver for NVIDIA.

The free driver also gave me superior refresh rates. With the proprietary driver I couldn’t get more than 60 Hz with 1024×768 or 56 Hz with 1152×768, but with nv I had up to, respectively, 85 Hz and 75 Hz. After switching to the free driver I don’t think I’ll be able to tolerate the proprietary driver’s low refresh rates anymore.

As a nice bonus, now I’m finally able to set the framebuffer resolution. The proprietary driver has no support for framebuffer, so I couldn’t set the number of lines and columns in the command line interface. Linux kernel has a driver for that, but it can’t be loaded at the same time as NVIDIA’s proprietary driver. X.org’s nv can be loaded with Linux’s nvidiafb, and now I have both a nice GUI and a nice terminal.

Ironically, after adopting the free driver I discovered the problem with hibernation wasn’t exactly the proprietary driver’s fault. Linux kernel’s agpgart driver doesn’t support power management for NVIDIA cards, and the workaround would be disabling that driver and setting X to load NVIDIA’s proprietary replacement. I didn’t try it yet.

Despite any issues, I still prefer the free driver. Albeit incomplete, it does the basic job much better than the proprietary driver. All I have to do now is to effectively start putting my computer to hibernate!

Postscript: Pompey said To navigate is necessary; to live is not so necessary, but the quote is more widely known as part of Fernando Pessoa‘s poem Navegar é Preciso (at least for Portuguese speakers!).

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