This document describes experiences with running Linux on what is claimed to be the first Sony Vaio PCG-Z600NE (PCG-Z600NEK has W2K pre-loaded) to reach the UK, and later with a couple of PCG-Z600TEK's.

This page was started a few hours after I got it, and developed as I learnt more. As soon as it is working sufficiently, it will be taken back by its user, so I will no longer have access to the machine (unless it happens to be on the internet, which is rare). However, other readers have sent in their experience. Please feel free to send any comments etc to me.

This report is listed at TuxMobil - Linux on laptops, notebooks, PDAs and mobile phones under Sony

Overall Description (NE)

I have not found a full printed manual, just brief intros and a CD.
Sony says the PCG-Z600NE has a 500MHz Mobile PIII with with SpeedStep, 256KB of L2 cache, but the stickers and glossies say 650MHz, and Linux thinks it has a 650MHz PIII Coppermine. It comes with base memory of 128M, and can upgraded to 256MB. Its 12GB IBM-DARA-212000 disk (4200RPM, 12mS seek, 512KB buffer (linux sees 418), 85-161Mb/s, UDMA2 66.6MB/s, 9.5mmx70mmx100mm) manages 4MB/s with UDMA off, but running `hdparm -d1 /dev/hda' or adding `append= "ide0=dma"' to lilo.conf, boosts that to 13 MB/s.
It has a 12.1" TFT LCD display, managing 1024x768. The web page says it has a 128 bit accelerator, with 2.5 MB video RAM (and Direct 3D), but the glossies says 128-bit accelerator NeoMagic MagicMedia 256XL+ with 6MB Video RAM. Linux seems to think it has a 6080KB frame buffer, Neomagic Corporation: Unknown device 0016 (rev 10), Subsystem: Sony Corporation: Unknown device 809d, IRQ 9 at 01:00.0, which can be used under XF4.0 using FBDEV.
It has no PS/2 connector.
It has a Memory Stick slot (not tried), 400 Mbps Infrared supports 4 Mbps/115 kbps IrDA (not tried), USB (1 x standard; 1 x mini), DC-in, Microphone, Headphone. The Port Replicator has: serial, parallel, USB, VGA and on the TEK, i.LINK S400.
It has a `Jog Dial' which appear to be usable a bit like the wheel on a wheel mouse (not tried).
The reset switch it tiny, and not marked (on the bottom, just the left of centre near the front).
It has the usual Sony Touch Pad.
It has a FireWire (IEEE 1394) iLINK (not tried).
It has an Intel eepro100b 10/100 interface.
It has a Memory Stick slot (which sometimes appears as a SCSI controller !) (not tried).
It has one typeII slot on a Ricoh RL5c475 rev 80 Cardbus Bridge.
Its built in 56k `Conexant SoftK56 Data,Fax PCI Modem' (vendor 14f1, device 2443) Winmodem does not work under Linux (not tried).
It has a standard Sony USB Floppy Drive, which works with Lunux 2.2.16 and later, so long as `Plug&Play OS' is disabled (otherwise it fails to find an IRQ - see `lspci -v'). With Linux 2.4 and later, it works with `Plug&Play OS' enabled.
It measures 29x275x226 mm, and weighs in at 1.7 kg.
It has a BIOS visible PCMCIA 16x CD drive which appears not have an analogue channel to the audio card.

The standard battery (see gif graphs: discharge and charge) seems to last from around 1:40 (BIOS set to full speed, screen on) to 2:20 (BIOS set to Recommended, screen off) under Linux (three days in `suspend to RAM'), and takes 3 hours to recharge if in use (Sony say 90m to get to 85%, then another hour to full charge). When charging, it rises steadily until it reaches 90% and then slows down. The battery light double blinks while charging up to 85% (at which point it turns off).
It discharges at a steady rate, and starts flashing in unison the `on' and battery lights at around 10%, and after about 4 minutes at 0(NB: it does NOT hibernate to disk or suspend to RAM, so if a computer is left on without mains, it is likely to loose its state when the battery runs out). The battery stays on solid while in use, until it gets `low', when it single blinks.

PCG-Z600TEK differences: faster CPU, ATI graphics, larger disk

The ZEK is similar, but has a 700MHz CPU, has an `ATI|3D Rage P/M Mobility AGP 2x' (use XF 3.3.6 MACH64 or XF 4.0.1 ati), 20GB Travelstar 20GN IBM-DJSA 220 (108.8-202.9Mb/s, 2MB cache, FwRev=JS4OAC0A).

According to the web specs, it does not have a `Built-in microphone' or `Infrared supports 4 Mbps/115 kbps IrDA Standard'.

The battery discharge is not linear. There is an initial period of a few minutes when it remains at 100%, then drops linearly to about 25%, then drops more steeply for a bit, returns to the original rate, and then remains at 0% for several minutes. This is the case for a standard PCGA-BPZ51 1400mAh battery (1:30) and the PCGA-BPZ52 4200mAh (4:30) (see gif graphs: discharge - curl at end of discharge are to make final points more clear).
`suspend to memory' uses 44% of the extended battery per day, i.e. 2.3 days, so just 18 hours on a standard battery !

Use `text' mode to do the initial RH 6.2 load.

There are various tuning and niggles relating to USB, audio, Fn-<N>, etc.

Initial System Load

RedHat 6.2 floppy+network

The NE disk came partitioned as an 8GB C: on hda1 loaded with W98, along with an unused 4GB D: on hda5. The TEKs disk came partitioned as a 12GB C: on hda1 loaded with W98, along with an unused 7GB D: on hda5, both FAT 32

I used PQMagic 4.0 to shrink the former and delete the latter.

Due to the fact that I only had three quarters of an hour to complete the full install before I had to go home for the weekend, I didn't have time to load up the documentation CD and discover that it had an ethernet connection (as so often, I knew nothing about it being purchased until it arrived). As such, I used the PCMCIA boot floppy.

For the TEK, I used the netboot floppy, and had to type `text' at the `boot: ' prompt, as it tried to use X but ended up doing nasty things to the screen. Apart from not being able to write a boot disk, it was completely straightforward.

I then loaded a local 2.2.16 kernel (e.g. for ALSA audio).

I then loaded pcmcia-cs 3.3.17 (3.1.8 doesn't work well with non Cardbus cards).

Gil <> reports that to boot from the CD (e.g. if no boot floppy, LILO, etc) using a Boot line such as:

linux ide2=0x180,0x386 root=/dev/hda11 initrd=

Slackware+Win2k (TEK)

Roman Belavkin has full instructions on how to load slackware using the M$ filespace to hold the packages.


Not everything is working yet, but it's getting there.

Using all the screen in text (and X) mode

Including `vga=791' (for 16 bpp, vga=792 for 24bpp - see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/fb/vesafb.txt) in the global section of lilo.conf causes it to use the whole screen (128x48). Note however, that under XF 4.0.1 on a TEK, switching back to VC1 causes the LCD to show horizontal while lines, as if out of sync, so do not set vga.

X: TEK is simple, NE needs XFree86 R4 fbdev

The TEK uses an ATI|3D Rage P/M Mobility AGP 2x' which works for XF 3.3.6 MACH64 (for LCD only, not external) and XF 4.0.1 ati. However, if booted with `vga=79x', switching back to a VC reveals that the display is misbahaving, as if `out of sync'. `vga=6' is about the best available.

Unfortunately the Release 3.* XFree86 Video Card and X server list does not mention the NE card and XFree86 3.* DOES NOT WORK.
Using XFree86 Release 4.0 with the Driver fbdev, it works at 1024x768 using this XF86Config file (see a sample log file) which is set for `vga=791' and a UK keyboard, so check the fine tuning.

Audio - YMF-744B

It has a YMF-744B which works with the ALSA drivers, e.g. ymfpci.

WinModem - Conextant HSF 14F1:2443 104D:8083

It has a conexant HSF WinModem `Basic2 / SmartDAA (D840)'.

It is currently available for uni-processor MMX systems only. Ensure that the kernel-source RPM is installed, install the hsflinmodem RPM, and run `hsfconfig'. This builds the modules if necessary, installs them, updates /etc/modulec.conf and creates /dev/ttySHSF0 (c 240 64). The connects to our modem pool at 38400, without making any sounds (e.g. can't hear it dialling, being answered, etc).

Hibernation (NE only - TEK will not hibernate)

The TEK has a Phoenix v4.0 r6.0, without hibernation facilities.

The NE has a Phoenix NoteBIOS v4.0 which include hibernate to disk code, invoked by pressing Fn-F12. This displays the `hibernate to disk' BIOS screen, and then the green `on' (left most) light should go out (rather than flashing red as it does in suspend mode) after about 20 seconds.

It can save to a file called save2dsk.bin on C: (may need to be FAT16, or have the boot flag set), or it can save to the end of the disk to a `IBM Thinkpad hibernation' (type 0xa0) partition. In each case, the area has to be initialised using the Phdisk.exe programme. This can be copied to a bootable DOS floppy.

Before running PHDISK, ensure that there is sufficient space FREE at the end of the disk. It needs to be able to create its partition as a primary, so hda4 is kept free for this purpose. It needs `a bit more that the RAM size' (e.g. an extra 13976 sectors) A 128MB machine requires 137664Kbytes of `good disk space', 1K of reserved sectors, and 305K for bad block growth, making 137970KB. ENSURE THERE IS NO USEFUL DATA at the end of the disk, and then free up the space. cfdisk is probably the easiest tool to use to make a free area of disk at the end of a pre-existing extended partition, as it resizes all the necessary partitions.

On a 128MB machine, it uses 275940 starting at sector 23302755. This has the side effect of making partition 4 extend beyond the `last cylinder' of the disk, with the result that cfdisk will not run.

Ensure there is no old file by using `PHDISK /DELETE /FILE /NOREBOOT'. Create the new one using `PHDISK /CREATE /PARTITION' (If it warns about destroying things, say no, and go back and make the free space larger). This creates a type a0 (IBM Thinkpad hibernation) partition.

It appears that the built-in ethernet does not recover from hibernation.

Remaining Niggles

TEK: X servers goings into an ALARM busy loop

On being left by the user for about half an hour (or after `apm -s'), XF 4.0.1 goes into a loop `sigreturn()', `-- SIGALRM (Alarm clock) --' if running Linux 2.4. As busy, does not listen to keyboard, so can't select another VC. Linux 2.2.16 seems to work OK ...

TEK: PCMCIA cards don't wake up after suspension

It appears that at least our wirless cards do not `wake up' after `apm -s'. As such, use a sledge hammer, and set `PCMCIARESTART="yes"' in /etc/sysconfig/apmd.

TEK: network interface don't wake up after suspension

There is currently no option in /etc/sysconfig/apmd to request that the network card be restarted after resumption, so it is necessary to manually restart it.

TEK: USB at boot time related problems - ALSA startup hangs if PnP, rebooted, USB, etc

A wide range of problems appear to occur on reboot, apparanetly associated with the USB floppy drive being inserted at boot time.

TEK: USB floppy increases the `load'

It has been reported that having the USB floppy plugged in (need not be in use) `increases the load', i.e. raises the Load Average to 1. Note that the machine is not actually busy, just that the load average is spuriously high. As such, it does no harm, but may be misleading.

The `Fn-<N>' keys do not work

The `Fn-<N>' buttons appear not to work, so it is stuck with full brightness, full speed, and it cannot be suspened from the keyboard. However, it is reported that if M$ is run, any changes in the settings persist indefinately.
To use the VGA port the IO adaptor has to be plugged in and a monitor (or null monitor) should be connected at boot time.

No Hibernation, and short suspend times

It uses Phoenix BIOS 4.0 Release 6.0, which may explain the following. Suspend to RAM works (which really soaks up the power - lasts about 16 hours), but hibernate to disk does not. It appears to be a `WinBIOS' ...

Piete Brooks 2005-05-02