Looking for some [Linux] inspiration please

The Problem: 5 Laptops [4 personal, 1 work, mostly Windows], and tired, tired, tired of MS and Windows. Tired. And wanting to diversify above beyond Win10 / Server 2016 + VMware virtualisation and EUC.

The Solution: Enter my Dell Precision M6700 [i7-3740QM 4C / 8T > 3.7GHz, 32Gb, 128Gb mSata [OS], 1TB SSD [VMs] + 500Gb SSD [Data], Intel HD 4000 + Nvidia K5000M 4Gb. The best laptop I currently own with my shiny new 4k external monitor connected.

I have a homelab server running various VMs for mucking around with but this is generally home production stuff, but I needed something a bit more portable for running VMs, hopefully consolidating machines, and being able to test bits and bats for work such as staging changes and upgrades. So, I picked up the M6700 and looked at running Ubuntu 18.04 as the base OS from the mSata, running my VMs off of SSD, virtualising my laptops, and being able to do a little gaming. Nothing too heavy, a bit of GTA V online plus a little Counterstrike Source or CS GO [maybe].

The P2V and getting things to run under KVM > Virtual Machine Manager has so far being interesting and ‘fairly’ straight forward until I started going down the road of GPU Passthrough and that’s where I’ve got into a bit of a mess.

I was hoping to run the Host OS off of the Intel GPU and then output the desktop of a Ubuntu or Win10 VM to the Nvidia, out of the HDMI port on the laptop and into my external monitor. I’ve looked at various tutorials to do this, but all roads end in no signal being displayed on the monitor as soon as I passthrough the Nvidia. After a bit more digging, I’m guessing that I’ve ended up down the rabbit hole of Muxed and Muxless GPU’s, Nvidia Optimus and that’s why I’m getting nothing via Passthrough. Something about the Nvidia rendering a game for example but then passing it to the Intel so that it can be displayed on the laptop LCD or an external monitor - even though the Nvidia is supposed to be the boss of both the HDMI and Displayport outputs on the laptop.

So, I’ve looked around to see what other options are available and feeling inspired [albeit] slightly lost by the other options available in terms of Bumblebee / Prime and Looking Glass. I’m not sure if I’m going down the right rabbit hole, or if I’m about to hit another dead end.

My ideal scenario would be, I switch on my laptop which loads the Host OS Ubuntu. I can then launch my work Win10 guest VM which would span across both the laptop screen and the external monitor. Then for personal use be able to run a guest VM on each screen [1 Win10 and 1 Ubuntu]. And also be able to game on a Win10 or Ubuntu VM [or / Pop OS looks quite interesting] on my external at monitor @ 1080p seen as my aging Nvidia won’t be able to output games @ 2160p at a decent FPS which is fair enough.

I’m sure there will be others out there who have gone down a similar route so I’m looking for a bit of inspiration please as to where you ended up and how you got there. And I’m a Linux / Ubuntu n00b so be gentle!

Answers on a postcard please…

Passthrough is not possible on a laptop like that. I used to run a passthrough on my desktop and at the end of last year I actually removed the second GPU from my computer and stopped using the VM altogether. Your mileage may vary, but WINE as a runtime for windows games has come a long way. Depending on what you play you may have good luck using it. If not, maybe a second computer is in order.

I manage to get all of my gaming done with proton just fine, but my games are not your games.

Btw stay away from bumblebee. And of course, good luck :slight_smile:

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Hello OrangeCloud,
I have a Dell Precision M6800 laptop with similar specs as your M6700 except that I have a lot more storage in mine. I have an alternative suggestions for you if you do not want to ditch Windows 10. If you do not need access to your GPU for your various VM’s you could try using Open Box or VMware running on top of Linux or Windows as the host OS. If you still need to use Windows but also like using Linux I have an alternative method for dual booting. I have been using Linux off and on since 1999 and a few years ago I discovered by accident something interesting about Linux. I had removed the HD from my Mom’s ancient laptop that had died, but had forgotten that I had also installed Ubuntu onto the HD years before. I put this HD into a USB caddy so that I could transfer some of the files She wanted to a pen drive. The caddy was plugged into my desktop PC that was configured to boot from the USB ports before the internal HD, and I turned on the PC. I was shocked to see that it booted right into Ubuntu. When I saw this behavior later that day I did an experiment, I unplugged the Windows drive in my PC and then plugged in an external USB 3 HD into the PC along with a live Linux DVD that I think had Linux Mint. I then turned on the PC and Linux booted up from the pen drive. I then vb installed Linux to the external HD that was also plugged in. During the install since the USB HD was the only drive and I did not need to do any fancy partitioning I told the installer to use the entire drive and since it was the only HD it put the GRUB boot loader on the root of this drive. Once this Linux install was completed I turned the PC off and the plugged the Windows drive back in I only unplugged it just to be on the safe side. If I do not plug in the USB 3 Linux HD the PC just boots into Windows normally, however when the Linux drive is plugged in before starting the PC since the BIOS was configured to first boot from the USB ports it boots right into Linux. The advantage of installing Linux onto its own HD is that you never run into any issues that sometimes occur with a normal dual boot configuration. A lot of the time in the past when Windows did an update I would discover that Grub was either corrupted or over written by Windows. By using the method I described for installing Linux you never encounter these issues and if you normally use Windows then you do not have any slow downs during boot up due to GRUB loading first displaying its menu before your default OS loads. Also with a normal dual boot configuration you still need to reboot the system and then select Linux from the Grub menu, if however you have put it on an external drive you can plug in the USB cable while the PC restarts.

What I do now with my Dell Precision Laptop I hardly ever use the DVD optical drive so I removed it. I had a hard drive adapter caddy that replaces the Optical drive. However I did not put a normal HD in it, I had an NVME M.2 4TB drive and purchase a USB 3 enclosure for it. I modified the optical drive bay HD adapter with my Dremel and milled out a slot in the plate that is like the drawer end cap for an optical drive. I have the M.2 drive affixed inside of the HD adapter using a strip of velcro that has the adhesive like tape on it. The slot I milled was to plug in the USB cable to the drive and to one of the USB 3 ports that are on the same side as the optical drive. I then inserted the modified adapter into the optical drive bay of the laptop that makes using Linux on my Dell Precision laptop much easier.

I am getting ready to build a new AMD Threadripper workstation this month and once I decide on the MB I will configure it with a KVM with hardware pass through like you want to do. I do not know your budget but if you want to build a new system you could build a 2nd generation Threadripper, I just checked on NewEgg and the AMD 2nd Gen Ryzen Threadripper 2950X that is a 16 core 32 thread processor similar to the new Ryzen 3950X is now priced at $699.99 which makes it $50 to $100 cheaper than the 3950X. The advantage to using this over the 3950X is Threadripper gives you tons of PCIE lanes and depending on the mother board selected (check the forum for the best one) does the virtualization with hardware pass through really great.