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Linux on the Sony VAIO Z505LS

This page describes my experiences with installing Linux on a Sony Vaio Z505LS. The steps should also apply to the Z505LSK, since the only difference to the LS seems to be that the LSK comes with Windows 2000. But since I don't have the LSK model, I can not confirm that. Note that this document currently only describes the basic setup. I want to explore some more features (e.g., IrDA) in the future (when I find the time.)

Please send comments, feedback, etc. to

Contents

Disclaimer

The usual disclaimer applies:
I take no responsibility for anything that you may do as a result of reading this page. The contents of this page are provided 'as is' with no warranty. With that out of the way...

The hardware

The specs of the Z505LS
CPUIntel Pentium III 750MHz
RAM128MB
Hard Disk20GB
Display12" TFT
Display ChipsetATI Rage Mobility-M1 AGP 8MB
Audio ChipsetYamaha DS-XG PCI (chipset YMF744)
EthernetIntel EtherExpress Pro 100
Modem ChipsetConexant (Rockwell) WinModem
USB 
FireWire (IEEE 1394) 
FloppyUSB
Memory Stick 
JogDial 

The distribution

I am using Slackware 7.1. I have used Slackware for several years now, and I think I am quite familiar with it, so I figured the setup should not cause many problems.
Slackware comes with XFree86 3.6.1, but I wanted to use XFree 4.0. More on that later.

Repartitioning the disk

The laptop comes with Windows ME preinstalled. I decided to go for a dual-boot system, so I had to free up some space to create the partitions for Linux.
There were two partitions on the disk, the main FAT32 partition being 7GB and 13GB for an extended FAT32 partition. Deleting the extended FAT32 partition was a no-brainer. I then ran a disk defragmenter on the main partition and used FIPS to shrink it down to 4GB.

Disable PnP BIOS setting

The "Plug and Play OS" setting in the BIOS should be disabled. If this is not done, there are going to be problems with the sound setup (see below.)
To enter the BIOS, the F2 key needs to be pressed while the Sony logo is shown on the display.

Installation without a CD-ROM drive

I didn't have a CD-ROM drive, and the USB floppy doesn't work in Linux 2.2.xx, so I had to find a way to bypass the 2-disk boot strategy used by Slackware. Enter ZipSlack. This is a Slackware distribution that can be installed on a FAT partition (or a Zip disk, hence the name), and run via loadlin.
I installed ZipSlack on the FAT32 partition, booted from a WinME floppy disk, and ran it via loadlin.
Now I could use the standard Slackware installation, with the source media accessed over an NFS connection from my desktop Linux machine.
Slackware 7.1 comes with the 2.2.17 kernel, I recompiled the kernel to use Power Management (APM). This seems to work fine. However, I had one glitch: after coming back from sleep mode, the network didn't seem to work properly.
I installed LILO in the MBR, adding an entry to boot WinME as well. I had to add 'append="mem=128M"' to /etc/lilo.conf to get Linux to recognize the 128MB in the machine.

Installing and using X

As I mentioned before, I wanted to use XFree86 4.0, so I didn't bother to install the version 3.6.1 that is part of the Slackware distribution. Instead, I downloaded the XFree86 4.0.2 tarballs from the xfree86.org website, and installed it according to their instructions.
Unfortunately, I found that the KDE that comes with the Slackware distribution didn't want to run. I tracked this down: The KDE on the Slackware distribution is linked to some Mesa libraries that are installed as part of Slackware's X installation. I installed the files in question (in x1/mesa.tgz) by hand, and now KDE works just fine.

Since I had several requests for my XF86Config file, I decided to put it online here.

Modem

The modem is a WinModem, so it does not work under Linux. There are efforts to provide support of these modems under Linux at http://www.linmodems.org/, but I haven't followed these efforts much.

USB

The stock 2.2.xx kernels do not provide USB support. The 2.4 kernels are supporting USB, but I am not brave enough yet to switch to 2.4. There is a back-port of the USB support to 2.2, and I intend to try it once I find the time.

Sound

The ALSA driver supports the Yamaha DS-XG/YMF744 chipset. I compiled and installed the ALSA driver 0.5.10 without problems.
Here is a link to my /etc/modules.conf file. For details of the settings, see the INSTALL file in the alsa-driver distribution.
I ran into a problem playing MP3 files. A search on the ALSA mailing list helped finding the reason: I hadn't disabled the Plug and Play setting in the BIOS. Once I did that, the sound worked fine.
After a suspend, the sound does not seem to work anymore.

Miscellaneous Experiences

I got a couple of questions regarding suspend to disk. I have not been able to get suspend to disk working. Suspend to memory works fine, by using APM or using the on/off slider at the right side.
Some preliminary 2.4.1 experiences: I installed kernel 2.4.1 to try it out. I could access the USB floppy fine, but I had to disable APM to be able to boot. I also had lockups when switching from X back into console mode. Until I figure that out, I will stay with the 2.2.x kernels.

Credits

Very helpful in getting this effort underway was the Linux on Laptops website, especially since it includes links to other sites that describe installing and running Linux on Z505 laptops.
Thanks to the ALSA project for their sound driver.

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