I'm running Debian Jessie on a laptop as a server, and interact with it exclusively through SSH. Since I never need to interact with it, I just leave it sit at a TTY to save resources, and turn the screen off with vbetool. This was working just fine, until I installed firmware-linux-nonfree to fix the following boot error.

[   10.048681] [drm:radeon_pci_probe] *ERROR* radeon kernel modesetting for R600 or later requires firmware-linux-nonfree.

After installing the non-free firmware, vbetool now has absolutely no effect on turning my screen on or off. Since there's no X running on it, and I would prefer it to stay that way, I can't turn the screen off through some more conventional means such as xset.

Why exactly did installing the non-free firmware break vbetool from working, and is there any way that I can get it working again? Alternatively, if there isn't a way to get vbetool to work again, is there a different way that I can disable the screen without using X?

Edit: I should qualify, that I'm not looking to just blank the screen, but actually kill the backlight as well so the whole screen is off. The laptop is pretty old already, and I'm looking to save what little time I have left on the screen.


is there a different way that I can disable the screen without using X?

Try setterm --blank force, this works on my Intel machine with KMS enabled; see setterm(1) for more.

  • I should have qualified, that I'm looking to kill the backlight as well. This does blank the screen, but it doesn't kill the backlight. Worst case scenario this will work for me, but I get the feeling that the backlight is going to take quite a beating being on 24/7. – Joshua Strot Jan 21 '17 at 20:10

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