Portable systems in general, but even many desktop computers come equipped with support for apm, the ``advanced power management'' scheme. This section describes how to activate apm support in your Linux kernel. People who are experienced with Linux may find this section rather boring and want to skip to the next.
I won't describe it in detail here, check the
Linux APM drivers page at
information. All that you need to know is that with the
help of apm, the cpu can tell the bios when there's nothing
really exciting going on so that the bios can take care of
some power saving by itself - e. g. reducing the cpu clock, turning
off the harddisk, turning off the display's backlight etc.
Apm is also responsible for the ``system suspend''
(or ``sleep'') mode and for the ``suspend to disk''
(or ``hiberntation'') mode. And yet
another cool, though not very important feature is
that with the help of apm,
shutdown -h will not just
halt your system, but also turn it off.
(By the way, most Linux systems put a
shutdown -r in
/etc/inittab and map it to pressing
control-alt-delete. I prefer having
there, so when pressing the famous key combination, my laptop
simply turns itself off.)
Not all manufacturers implement a correct apm bios, so some laptops have trouble with the Linux apm drivers (if your machine has trouble with apm, it will most likely either lock up at Linux' boot up or after returning from suspend). If you are not sure, check the Linux laptop page for your specific model.
It's easy - just recompile the Linux kernel. Check the Kernel-HOWTO if you don't know how to do that.
When the configuration script reaches the ``character devices'' section, the default setting for full apm bios support in kernel version 2.0.30 or higher is:
Advanced Power Management BIOS support: Yes Ignore USER SUSPEND: No Enable PM at boot time: Yes Make CPU Idle calls when idle: Yes Enable console blanking using APM: Yes Power off on shutdown: Yes
Please read the configuration script's help texts. They explain in detail what each option does, so I won't repeat them here.
If your system does not fully support the apm bios standard, some of those options might crash your system. Test all apm features with the new kernel to make sure that everything works as it should.
about console blanking: David Bateman tells me that
you should not enable it because it can cause problems with the
current version of XFree 3.2: ``The symptoms are that the screen
will be blank when X starts, and it can be fixed usually by just
hitting a key. It's a small but annoying problem. The next relase
of XFree, will have pretty good DPMS support for a lot of laptop
chipset, which should include code to turn off the LCD. Check out
the manpage for
xset in XFree 3.2A.'' David also notes that
the lifetime of your display's backlight is determined by the number
of times it's switched on and off: ``So its a compromise, lifetime
of the battery versus lifetime of the backlight.'')
(Update: With XFree 3.3, this problem still remained on my laptop. I am told that this will be fixed in a future kernel version.)
After recompiling the kernel, don't forget to recompile the linux pcmcia drivers as well.
The precompiled pcmcia drivers that come with most linux distribution have apm support disabled, so that the bios can't instruct your card adapters to turn off.
Also, you must recompile the drivers if you upgrade to a new kernel version and your old kernel was compiled with module version information turned on (this option is found in the ``loadable module support'' section of the kernel configuration).
Read the PCMCIA-HOWTO for detailed
instructions on how to compile the drivers or go to the
Linux PCMCIA drivers homepage at
Now that you have APM support installed, go and get the
from the Linux APM drivers page. You don't really need it, but
it is a very useful collection of programs. The
apmd daemon logs your
battery's behaviour and it will send out a warning if you are on
low power. The
apm command will suspend your system with a
shell command and
xapm shows the current state of your battery.
(BTW, if you have problems with pcmcia cards after returning from
can check out an alternative
apmd package at
http://www.cut.de/bkr/linux/apmd/apmd.html. It unloads the
pcmcia driver module before going to suspend and reloads the module
Grant Taylor has been playing a little with the
package and came up with helpful tips.
He found that his laptop's harddisk forgets its
standby period when returning from suspend: ``I modified
reset this setting on each resume. This may be system-specific;
but it's an important thing to do...''
(Note: On my own laptop, the bios takes care of the harddisk standby period and resets the value on resuming. So I could not test if this little problem is system-specific. If it happens to you as well, send me a message.)
Grant also had a nice trick for screen blanking with
the XFree86 package and
the help of the
apmd package, you'll find it there.
If your computer's bios does not offer any power saving
settings (even the old ones without apm should at least allow
to set harddisk and display standby), you can
hdparm -S to define your harddisk's standby period. This
will already help a lot, since harddisk activity
consumes a lot of power. Your system should have
installed, so read
man hdparm for the command syntax.