Sandy Bridge GPU and Linux support

By: Linus Torvalds (, January 4, 2011 11:53 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
David Kanter ( on 1/3/11 wrote:
>Can anyone with perhaps more direct experience with Linux graphics comment on the
>issues here? It seems like this is relatively benign, given that products aren't
>on sale yet. Even if the release lags by a few days, it shouldn't be a huge issue...

The problem is that it's not looking like "a few days".
Because all the distros are using stable versions from
several months ago (or more), it really doesn't help that
the support "exists" in newer source trees.

So I have a SB system, and it works, but it was annoying
to actually get working. This is the "hard core" way of
doing it:

- install a distro using "safe video" (slow, VESA) from
a DVD with full development environment

- compile a new kernel just to get support for networking
(which the distro kernel likely doesn't support either,
because it's been in the mainline kernel for only six

Because networking doesn't work, use a USB stick to get
the kernel source tree over.

- compile support for intel graphics while you're at it,
but disable it at runtime by using "nomodeset", because
otherwise your VESA-based safe graphics setup won't be
working when you reboot.

- install the kernel, reboot. You now have networking,
which makes the following steps much easier..

- upgrade the distro to the latest version.

- curse, because it still doesn't actually have the X
support for sandybridge graphics

- compile your own version of "libdrm" and the intel
graphics driver (which involves things like setting
PKG_CONFIG_PATH by hand to let the thing know that
you have your private drivers in magic places)

- tell X to use the new driver module, and now you can
boot with the kernel mode setting enabled.

That's to get just basic graphics working. But it won't
actually get you any real 3D accelerated graphics, because
all the system libraries are still the old ones that don't
know how to do 3D on sandybridge (the above just does the
core X graphics driver itself).

In short: if you're happy building a lot of stuff yourself,
you can certainly do it. It's not hard, it's just annoying.
And you do have to know how to avoid the problems that crop
up before you've installed the new versions (which I guess
does count as "hard").

And if you actually want to do any real work instead of
messing around with these bits, wait for the distros to
support it.

Today, I think you can do the Ubuntu 11.04 alpha ("Natty
Narwhal"), and you'll have working graphics and networking.
Probably more reasonable than the above games that I went
through. Get the "daily build", since you're pretty bleeding
edge anyway, so you might as well be as recent as possible.

But the actual release schedule for those distros are not
"a few days". They're more like "April 2011". Before that,
you'll have to find things like daily builds or do your

(Of course, I do hope that most distros end up backporting
the drivers to their stable repository before that. So it
may be a bit better than the above fairly soon, as people
start buying the new hardware)

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        Sandy Bridge GPU and Linux supportDavid Kanter2011/01/04 03:33 AM
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    What were you expecting from the Michael Moore of the IT net press? (NT)Nikolas2011/01/05 02:33 AM
      Blame nVidia?Mark Roulo2011/01/05 09:31 AM
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