Linux

Linux Achilles' heel: Suspend/Hibernate


I've been working with Linux for ten years now. I have seen issues come and I have seen them go. But there's one issue that has always surprised me because it just seems to never go away: Suspend/Hibernate. I am always so surprised about this because it just seems like a fundamental issue on laptops - and let's face it, laptops are standard issue for many people - you close the lid, the laptop suspends.

But without suspend or hibernate working, if you are untethered from power cables (you know, like a laptop should be capable of), your Linux laptop will not suspend when you close that lid and your battery will just continue to drain. And on those rare pieces of hardware that suspend/hibernate "just works" you might find, when you bring that laptop out of hibernate, that your wireless doesn't work without a hard reboot.

Fundamental systems here.

Now before I continue I will say that I understand the difficulties: variations between pieces of hardware, closed drivers, etc. But the Linux crowed is a crafty lot that have managed to get around a lot of issues. Take for instance the use of ndiswrapper for many wireless cards. Nicely done trick that shows there's little that can stop a Linux developer with a need. But it seems to me that hibernate and suspend IS a need that should be given a high priority.

And it seems it is starting to gain some traction. There's a new site called the Ubuntu Brainstorm that allows users to add ideas for Ubuntu and vote up or down ideas that are already posted (as well as comment on ideas). If you take a look at the site you will see that the suspend/hibernate issue is the very top of the list (right above "Provide a simple graphical interface to manage _any_ type of network connection" - interesting that issue being right behind suspend/hibernate seeing as how they can easily be seen as going hand in hand.)

I have experienced Linux on a few laptops in my days. I have seen suspend/hibernate work intermittently on Apple iBooks and I have seen it not work at all on many others. I have had a laptop come to me directly from the maker, installed with Linux, and see suspend/hibernate not work at all. To me this goes beyond a "feature request" and quickly reaches a "critical bug". Think about it: if Linux is to ever be seriously adopted into the corporate world it is going to have to take laptops very seriously. Without laptops big business would get nothing done. And without suspend/hibernate working properly Linux will be lucky if it sees only a tinkerers interest in the corporate world.

Now I am a zealot for Linux. I profess its wonder every where I go. But there are some issues that some times have me choking back my praise. When a possible new users says "What do you mean it won't let my lap top go to sleep?" I don't have it in me to say "It's a struggle between the hardware vendors and blah blah blah." Do you think the average user cares? No. All they care about is that their laptop battery isn't drained when they're not using it and it's not plugged in (that and their wireless comes back to life when they open the lid of their laptop.)

I think one of the reasons this bothers me so much is that not only is it fundamental issue it's a critical issue that is only now gaining traction (at least in the Ubuntu scene.) It also bothers me because I have attempted to install apmd (advanced power management daemon) only to find that power management wasn't in the kernel. A kernel on a laptop that didn't have power management rolled in. What gives? Fundamental people!

Have you ever experienced this issue? And better yet, have you ever managed to get suspend/hibernate to work on a laptop? If so, share your knowledge with us. Maybe from this discussion the Linux kernel developers might come up with a bright idea and get it rolled into the latest, greatest kernel.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

33 comments
Absolutely
Absolutely

The message failed to upload, so I opened another tab in the same browser to be sure that I would not be posting a duplicate. Still, when I submitted the comment, it appeared twice. This is the last straw: you guys obviously do not have the skill to be taken seriously as a source of technical knowledge. Kiss my ass.

calou
calou

I've been working with Thinkpad laptops for years. (X22, X31, X32, X40, X60) Some with windows on them, some with Linux, latelly with SLED. Great laptops, great support. Though ... regarding suspend/hibernate : Some where buggy with windows until you had one magic combination of old and new drivers. Some where buggy with SLED until you had the correct Wifi driver. Most of them finally worked flawlassly afetr a rude month of tweak, whatever the OS. (expect X40 +windows when slept and then undocked from its base) my point is : This Is Not A Linux Matter. Now, Troll, go home, and please don't come again until you have decet arguments.

phillfri
phillfri

There's also a nasty little side issue with hibernate/suspend on Linux: it can contribute to killing hard drives at a young age. See https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/acpi-support/+bug/59695 for more info. Read through the postings.

jlwallen
jlwallen

strangely enough it seems the two OSs that have the fewest problems (at least reported here) are: SuSE and Mandriva. Anyone have another distro that has been successful?

rapt0r
rapt0r

Hibernate works fine on my laptop using OpenSuse 10.3. Never had a problem with it. My daughter's laptop (with Vista) can't say the same. It has refused to come back from hibernate on several occasions. Can't comment on suspend as I don't use it.

tracy anne
tracy anne

on all 3 of my laptops. I'm using Mandriva Linux Powerpack. The laptops are Asus, Optima and Toshiba.

heres_johnny
heres_johnny

I use Ubuntu exclusively on my laptop and love it, but the suspend/hibernate option would make my life a lot easier. I'm not minimizing the importance of the other items on the list, however. After that, wireless upon waking would be my second pick, followed by easy WPA (actually, I think Ubuntu 7.10 largely fixed that problem). WEP is not that secure except as a 'You could hack my router, but why bother when so many others are unsecured?' PITA block. I'm sure that the developers will get to it, though; those guys are awesome.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Both completely arse. Found a few things that were meant to cure it but didn't. Toshiba apparently want to keep this stuff a secret. (How hard can lid shut, lid open be, ffs) I tried one fix and damn near killed the thing, turned my processor into a heating element. Made me a tad wary of this might work I can tell you.

Jaqui
Jaqui

On a Gateway laptop running Mandriva 2008. [ just last week ] Suprised me, since it has been such a problem child. edit: add distro version

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I chose support in reading it to mean support from hardware manufacturers. With driver interface specs, issues like suspend, wireless and other such things would quickly disapear leaving only the issues not related to closed product (and minded) hardware vendors. For specific issues, I'm in full agreement that power management and NIC support are critical; wifi support has not been an issue but I learned very quickly about closing the even with a Thinkpad.

dawgit
dawgit

Since the suspend/hibernate that "Just works" is a problem on many OS's as well as Languages (Think Java) I just got used to it, and therefore don't count on it. What supprises me is the response to your poll, that that many people see it as a problem. hummmmm. I can think of many more concepts that need to be addressed before suspend/hibernate would become of that importance. -d

zefficace
zefficace

For the suspend/hibernate thing, fooling around with linux and a laptop will lead you to know that MS gives a faulty asml compiler for the DSDT and so on... fixing a DSDT table, what fun... NOT! The problem is that most industries and consumers consider their computers as a complicated appliance, only slightly more complicated than the coffee maker with a greater propencity to fail. They certainly don't want to "get it to work" when it comes off the shelf. Until linux regularly works "off the shelf" with ALL aspects of "usual" computing, it wont get proper audience level.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i will. always have and always will.

neilb
neilb

We may have had the odd run-in but I really enjoyed reading whatever you wrote. I'll be sad to see you go but your point is taken! Good luck in finding somewhere else. Neil :D

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Reading what you have to say is one of the reasons I keep coming back. I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean anything to you but at least you know it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

and does advanced power manmagement work ? My A60 with Mandrake 10 is arse, and last I looked neither the distro, nor the manufacturer had anything for it. Any info would be welcome. Tony

RipVan
RipVan

I support Windows XP in a government environment. Hibernate has never been reliable. The very few times it seems to work okay for the OS, we still have quirky problems with the many home grown applications we use. I support them, I don't code them, so please don't tell me that the problem is my cr*ppy app. However, even funnier than that is the fact that most of our users don't know what hibernate is anyway. They would initiate a shutdown and slap the lid closed. They didn't know that the laptop quit the shutdown and went into hibernation. I would get so many calls for "bad batteries" (somehow they manage to discharge every night!) that I had to chuckle. So I ended up turning off hibernate on most of the laptops anyway...

hkommedal
hkommedal

It does hibernation without a hitch and the wireless network is in the same state as when it went into hibernation. If I used wired connection last it comes back to wired and if I used wireless it is back on wireless. So I can leave my browser, usually Opera, but often Firefox, open when I set it to hibernate, and it the browser is up and running when I restart. One hick-Up: I have to press the ON switch to get it going, but it comes back from true hibernation. I use Suse10.2 on this laptop, but I do not know if that has anything to do with it. I am just pleased that it works.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Gateway system as well, running Ubuntu, the "out of the box" config has suspend / hibernate working. maybe it's something Gateway is doing that is helping, but the software is working on their hardware.

lastchip
lastchip

Many people here in the UK use multifunction printers for example. Just try getting all the components working on those buggers!

Absolutely
Absolutely

If suspend/hibernate doesn't work, you figure that out the first time and do full shutdown until you learn how to fix the problem with a modification to driver, or just a startup script to check a few states. Whatever, not rocket science or proprietary, secret fixes. "I just got used to it, and therefore don't count on it." nail, head, struck

royhayward
royhayward

After the batter fails, you just have a really inconvenient desktop. I do agree and recall when suspend/hibernate was an issue with W2k, but that is something that was resolved years ago for me. XP has always just worked all all systems that I have encountered. Why am I only talking about Windows OS in comparison, well that is the world I live and work in. Some people have Macs at home, but the only thing from Apple I have see in our office in 10 years are Ipods. This goes back to the age old Linux issue that Linux servers rocked windows servers. But the workstations or laptops saw the reverse with Windows dominating. Power Management is a big issue for laptops as they need to squeeze every iota of time out of a single charge on their battery. The suspend/hibernate issue is the most obvious expression of this. Users expect to be able to suspend a portable system, and have it come back up in perfect working order later with no lose of battery life in the intervening suspension. But after saying this, I am gave for your counter argument. You say, "can think of many more concepts that need to be addressed before suspend/hibernate would become of that importance." Well, lets list a few and tell me why the are more important. I am open minded, and you may convince more than just me.

brian.mills
brian.mills

It doesn't surprise me at all that suspend/hibernate has the most votes in the poll. Those of us with notebooks rely on suspend/hibernate to keep us untethered from the mess of wires on our desks. I have a gaming notebook that has a tendency to run a little warmer that I'd like. If I'm running Windows, I can simply shut the lid and it goes to sleep and the system cools off when I'm not using it. Under Linux, if I want to not have it acting like a space heater all the time, I have to shut it off. Also, under Linux I can't just shut the lid and toss it in my laptop bag when I need to take it somewhere, because the battery will likely be dead when I get there if it's very far away. I have to shut it down and then wait for it to reboot when I pull it out wherever I'm going. So yes, hibernate/suspend is a big issue that needs to be tackled in order for Linux to be taken seriously as an operating system. If I can't be reasonably sure that it'll work when I'm ready to shop for my next notebook, chances are I'll dump Linux and buy a Mac, just because I'll know that everything will work. Always on and chugging away full steam is fine for my server, but not for my notebook.

Absolutely
Absolutely

I'm still taking my page views to a site with Better Management, but thanks. It's mutual.

zclayton2
zclayton2

As one of the government type users, I appreciate this. It took me awhile to figure out that closeing the lid did not shut the system down. Something I have not been able to educate the rest of my family about with their laptops. My daughter has killed her battery this way.

jlwallen
jlwallen

given the subject and your name? :-)

TomZnaper
TomZnaper

I have a thinkpad R61 that came with Vista Ultimate installed. I was having some issues with Vista, no surpise there, so I installed Ubuntu 8.1, I believe. It installed without incident and ran OK. However, it would not suspend or hibernate. I tried several fixes, but none of them worked. Since I rarely reboot and like to pick up where I left off, no suspend was a deal breaker. I had to dump Ubuntu and go back to Vista. IMHO, if suspend/hibernate does not work out of the box for most common laptops, linux is a non-starter for that market segment.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I still have to test the latest osX however the previous version did not like the lid closed unless the user account was logged out. It was fine as long as it was at the login prompt.

dawgit
dawgit

I said I didn't realize it was still such an issue, or the Most Important issue. Things like that I find a way to fix, not complain about. And yes I've seen a lot of problems with WinXP and Hibernate as well. (especially after SP2). -d

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

feel free to send a peermail message to me with your new alias and I'll check it out too. I was hoping Apotheon was going to get something put together but he may have too many irons in the fire to do it. Just thinking about it, you can feel free to send me peermail/email messages anytime.

RipVan
RipVan

Actually, I read a lot here before I took a nick. When I finally wanted to register, it just so happened that there was a thread concerning IT employment, having mostly to do with working as a contractor vs steady employment. Many people felt that taking contracting jobs might not have been steady, but they increased their skill set and regularly got to see a lot of different challenges. A few folks who wanted to bash made the comment that(well, okay SOMETHING LIKE) "you can go for a career with the government and die." So, in the choice of a nick, I acknowledge that mindset. In fact, every time I do try to get out of here, I find that the government's insulation against reality isn't always a negative. (In other words, we haven't been hit by downsizing, outsourcing or the trend toward lower and lower wages. On the flip side, you won't ever get rich working here. Tradeoffs.)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm poking at Mandriva 2009.1 (Ubuntu, another example that popularity does not equal quality). If I end up replacing my 2008.1 on the R61, I'll try and remember to report back on how suspend works. With 2008.1, I can manually select "suspend to ram" but I don't make use of sleep and hibernate too much so it wasn't a deal breaker. In initial testing, 2009.1 the few specialty buttons I tested like volume and mute (including onscreen displays) so it's already managing the hardware better than the previous generation. I'm just not yet sure if I want to move my work machines *nix partition to 2009.1 yet.