sony vaio sz1xp

Or how to put a penguin inside a silvercomet


UPDATE: 20090531

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For older versions of Ubuntu:

Gutsy --- Feisty --- Edgy --- Dapper --- Hardy --- Intrepid

There is a review in CNET:

http://reviews.cnet.com/Sony_VAIO_SZ/4505-3121_7-31690652.html

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Sony Vaio SZ1XP under Ubuntu Linux (Jaunty)

Original BIOS:

BIOS Version: R0063N0 -- EC BIOS Version: RK063N0 -- Video BIOS Version: N0ICG_12

Updated BIOS:

R0083NO updated using PHBSYS-01041222-UN.exe

You can check your BIOS in Linux using:

lshal | grep system.firmware.version

   system.firmware.version = 'R0083N0'  (string) 

UPDATE (20060915): Results of running http://www.linuxfirmwarekit.org/

* results.xml

* resources.xml
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The Ricoh webcam is working. Thanks to E.M.S. for patching it against the latest kernel:

r5u870_patched.tar.bz2

You need to give permissions to the video device every time you want to use it:

sudo chmod a+rw /dev/video0

Some versions of Gnome Cheese may fail. If gstreamer is working, you should be able to see yourself with this:

gst-launch-0.10 v4l2src ! ffmpegcolorspace ! ximagesink .

See camera_notes for more details.

Must of the stuff is working right now, except the fingerprint detector and the Sony smartcard (the one in the left side). There are minor nuissances, like the sleep to ram on nvidia mode, but everything works quite well.

The kernel and other userspace packages are continuously being updated, and some changes are worth to look forward.

Disk partitions
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7.5GB ntfs (I guess this is where sony puts its recovery stuff)

vaio c: 46.5GB [B] 18GB

vaio d: 39.6GB x

3.1GB swap

ext3 / part #3 scsi1(0,0,0) sda (66GB which is 40 of d: and 26 of c: resize)

Kernel
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Jaunty comes with a 2.6.28 kernel.

It is sometimes interesting to download and compile the latest official kernels to see if there is anything worthwhile having:

kernel_notes

http://www.howtoforge.com/kernel_compilation_ubuntu

.

Video
#####

This laptop has 2 video cards: SPEED corresponds to an NVIDIA GeForce 7600 (nv4x/c5x/c7x) and STAMINA to an Intel 945GM.

The intel card has a GMA 950 graphics core:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_GMA#Table_of_GMA_graphics_cores_and_chipsets

SPEED is for 3D-graphics-intensive performance, STAMINA to do most of the day to day work and saving battery life (about 10-15% more energy efficient, see "power management").


This laptop has a button to choose between "Stamina" and "Speed", with the later somehow activating the NVIDIA card, and the former leaving the Intel chipset as the graphics card. I don't know the details of the hardware activation/deactivation, but it may be possible to hot-swap it without rebooting.

-----

Intel

#### 

The intel card is now relatively well supported by the open source "intel" driver, and Xrandr is working. 

Intrepid doesn't need a config file anymore, and will work well by default. If you want to have dual-screen configuration, use:

System -> Preferences -> Screen Resolution

And choose the right combination for you (e..g. external monitor left-of the laptop).

Then logout and login again.

At any time, using xrandr, you can:

xrandr --output VGA --auto --left-of LVDS

to extend your desktop with the external screen (called VGA)

xrandr --output VGA --off

to switch back to only the laptop screen, when you unplug it.

xrandr --output VGA --auto --same-as LVDS

this will clone your desktop to the external screen. For example, if you are using OpenOffice Impress (pre 3.0) and you want to have the same screen in your laptop than others see in the projector.

If you unplug the laptop from the mains and get a backlight control window stuck in the center of the screen, you can work around this issue with this command:

xrandr --output LVDS --set BACKLIGHT_CONTROL legacy

and when going back to plug it again with:

xrandr --output LVDS --set BACKLIGHT_CONTROL native

Some more info about xrandr: xrandr 

Any 3D acceleration works only with the non-dual configuration. The dual configuration needs to extend the virtual size of the screen, and GMA645 can only do non-DRI on those virtual screens.

NVIDIA

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Twinview works very well with the provided Ubuntu nvidia package: no flickering on the external screen

Restart with the second screen plugged in, then having installed the "new" nvidia drivers via the "Add/Remove..." menu, simply type:

sudo nvidia-xconfig

Then "Log out", log in again, then to tweak your configuration with the external screen type:

Every time you want to configure the external screen, just plug it then use:

sudo nvidia-settings

then click on "X server display configuration" -> Detect Displays -> choose the screen you want to configure -> Configure... -> Twinview for the external screen -> Apply

To go back to only the main laptops screen, "X server display configuration" -> Detect Displays -> Remove -> Apply

With this option, the Compiz effects work well.

Desktop Effects
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There is a menu in "System - Preferences - Appearance - Visual Effects" to turn choose the "None", "Normal" or "Extra".

 

Ethernet
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The previous problems with the ethernet seem to be gone.

Previously, there was this autoneg thing to try and make it behave properly:

ethtool -s eth0 autoneg off

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Fan control
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In theory, the fan can be controlled through the sony_laptop interface. E.g. do a:

sudo -s -H

Then To kick the fan to max:

while [ 1 ] ; do echo "255" > /sys/devices/platform/sony-laptop/fanspeed; sleep 0.1; done

Then to completely stop the fan (BIOS may decide to reboot the system if it gets too hot):

while [ 1 ] ; do echo "0" > /sys/devices/platform/sony-laptop/fanspeed; sleep 0.1; done

 

Wireless
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NetworkManager is now back on track by default in Jaunty. Hardy had problems with it, and Wicd was the alternative.

Sound (microphone and webcam)
##### 

To configure skype on Jaunty, specially the microphone, on this Sony Vaio SZ (HDA intel), follow the screenshots:


 

Touchpad
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Right side for scrolling. Right upper corner as middle button. If you use an external mouse, then you need to update a couple of things from Gutsy in the xorg.conf to make both work together well (see xorg.conf above).

This is an ALPS Touchpad that has two finger scrolling capabilities. The vertical scrolling is much better than the horizontal scrolling though, which is not very precise:

Option "VertTwoFingerScroll" "1"
Option "HorizTwoFingerScroll" "1"
Option "EmulateTwoFingerMinZ" "120"#  Option          "AlwaysCore"


ACPI
#### 

For nVIDIA card:

It does not work and I guess it probably won't work in the near future, as the binary drivers make things very difficult for kernel developers to debug. The only hope is that more NVIDIA developers get hired to work on Linux drivers, or that they release open source drivers.

If you want better NVIDIA linux support, create an account to the pseudoofficial nvidia linux forum and write down your complains:

http://www.nvnews.net/vbulletin/forumdisplay.php?f=14

To investigate:

Add list of modules to manually unload/reload in /etc/default/acpi-support

Use the laptop as a music player alarm clock (as in Edgy -- not updated yet)
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Apparently (http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/index.php/ACPI_Wakeup) a couple of lines need to be added to hwclock.sh:

root@magneto:/home/avilella# diff /etc/init.d/hwclock.sh /etc/init.d/hwclock.sh.orig
97d96
< ACPITIME=`cat /proc/acpi/alarm`
110d108
< echo "$ACPITIME" > /proc/acpi/alarm

With that, then one can set the wakeup time with:

echo "2007-01-24 23:59:00" >/proc/acpi/alarm

or

date --date "+10 min" +"%F %T" >/proc/acpi/alarm

Then turn the computer off completely whenever you want, then it will automagically turn on at the desired time.

Bluetooth
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To turn off (blue LED will turn off):

echo "0" > /sys/devices/platform/sony-laptop/bluetoothpower


To manage your bluetooth headsets: 

http://www.stgraber.org/2007/05/18/bluetooth-headset-manager/ 

OBEX file transfers work quite well.

Don't forget to turn them on with the "OFF WIRELESS ON"
switch. Hot-changing the state of the switch works seamlessly.

sudo apt-get install gnome-bluetooth

Then:

You should see advertised bluetooth devices with:

gnome-bluetooth-manager

When wanting to send a file over to another bluetooth device:

Right click on file-> Send to -> OBEX -> Choose device -> Send

To activate the server so that other people can send you files, "system->preferences->sessions->Startup_programs->"

and add "gnome-obex-server".

Then your laptop will be visible to other bluetooth devices as "ubuntu-0" or your machine name instead of "ubuntu".

If you use KDE, you can use a bluetooth-serial chat utility called kbtserialchat.

To investigate, bluetooth-alsa and a bluetooth headset thingy:

http://bluetooth-alsa.sourceforge.net/


Fn keys --- Sonypi --- hotkey-setup --- kernel
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It is working almost perfectly. You can change the brightness of the screen and turn up/down and mute the sound.

The only hickup being "S1" and "S2" keys (top center of the keyboard) mapping to the same keycode.

Fingerprint sensor
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Bus 003 Device 003: ID 0483:2016 SGS Thomson Microelectronics Fingerprint Reader

There is a new product from http://www.upek.com/solutions/pc_and_networking/sdks/linux/

It works, but it's lacking a PAM module. A developer is needed here. Anyone?

Card Reader (in the right side, card adaptor that comes with the package)
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Works without any problems. And it is fast. Remember to "Eject" the card in GNOME when you are done before pulling it off.

Sony Card Reader (in the left side of the laptop)
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Haven't tried yet.

Hard Drive and Hard Drive Protection
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Proprietary Sony HD Protection System (G-sensor shock protection). Apparently it has a software component like the IBM Thinkpad systems, but the BIOS is doing part of the job:

http://media.sonystyle-europe.com/sz1/szdeven_04.html

Koide: For example, it's not something that you can achieve with just a utility. Firmware, BIOS (strictly speaking not the BIOS, but you can think of it that way), and so on are crucial to this technology. In other words, you can't simply throw in some off-the-shelf utility and achieve the same sort of hard disk protection that we now have on the VAIO SZ. After all, battery life was one of our concerns, and if you leave everything up to a utility, you're going to be using CPU cycles. In order to reduce power consumption you should rely as little as possible on the CPU. By moving tasks to the BIOS, etc., and putting as little load on the CPU as possible, you can make a big difference in overall power savings. So this was how we approached it. It wasn't enough to simply ensure that the hard disk was protected. We took overall performance, power consumption and all these other factors into account as we worked out the optimum way to implement this feature on the VAIO.


From this is not very clear if one is able to do anything about this on Linux. Anyone?

STUBBORN SPACEBAR TINKERING (this is quite handy and simple to fix)

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Pointed by D.D.P.: behold the power of youtube!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8s0qTjNFKQ&search=vaio

CONCLUSIONS

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I hope you found this document useful. I want to thank Ariel Vardi for all his info/feedback:

http://www.arielo.net/vaiosz.html

By now, I shall conclude that:

(1) Linux rocks (but you already knew that).

(2) Ubuntu rocks. Ubuntu laptop team rocks.

(3) The hardware in the Sony Vaio SZ1XP rocks, but Sony is not the biggest friend of Linux in terms for laptop support. IBM used to be the best, but now Lenovo is giving mixed signals about this. Things like not having the webcam working, and Sony not bothering about the Linux drivers, are nasty.

WHAT IS NEXT:

Now, to make this laptop, or any other computer, dance like a ballerina with Ubuntu Linux, you should:

(1) Open a (free) Ubuntu launchpad account and report your bugs and feature requests, not only about the laptop but also any application you are using:

http://launchpad.net

(2) Send the hardware data details of your machine where you are using Ubuntu. Run:

hwdb-gui

and just follow the menu and add the comments at the end about things that don't work (webcam, fingerprint sensor, etc).

The second time you run hwdb-gui you will notice that your submission id is shown: this means that the same people that can solve your hardware problems _know_ that you are using the hardware :)

Don't hesistate on contacting me if you have any question or solution for the remaining issues: avilella at the email account that starts with g and end with mail dot com

If you also have this laptop running Linux, set up your own webpage explaining yours experiences, problems and solutions with Linux installation. It will help other people, but also, it will help back yourself to have it working properly when other people share their info with you.



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