Linux (Mandrake 10.0) on my Sony Vaio PCG-V505CP

 I wanted a replacement for my aging DNUK branded Clevo 2700C. It had to run Linux without to much trouble (its what I am used to and I have a Linux x86 linux licence for Matlab). I wanted it light weight, metal case and long battery life. I take my laptop with me much of the time and like to work on trains. (Only the newer long distance trains in the UK have a mains power outlet). I was encouaged by the success of others installing Linux on v505 models, for example. Matt , on  a V505BX, Melissa Woo on a V505BXP, and Emporer Linux sell one with Linux preinstalled.

Here are some very breif and not very technically detailed notes in the hope that they might help others choosing a laptop and distribution. Sorry I dont have time for anything more detailed.

I tried Mandrake 9.2 and Fedora 10 as I had the disks. Both worked ok up to a point, but I needed to download the proprietory ATI Radeon driver, and they didnt auto detect the ACPI. I thoughty it might be best to try a 2.6 kernel as I had heard it had better 'Centrino' support. Mandrake 10.0 community looked like a safe bet. Also KDE 3.2 looks very cool.

I do n't have a lot of time to fiddle and wanted something which largely worked 'out of the box'. The only reason I didnt buy one pre-installed is that Emporer adviced me I would be stuck with a US keyboard and warantee if I bought from them.

I had a Mandrake 10.0 installation DVD from Linux Format. Windows XP was preinstalled and Sony were nice enough to leave 20G of the 40G disk as a seperate empty partition, so I could install Linux without repartitioning, and still have a working XP which is useful for testing that the harware is working.

Mandrake 10 was pretty impressive, it autodetected the ACPI (you have to select this in the drakconf or 'Mandrake Control Centre' Boot menu).  Here are some details of the various system components (as seen from Drakconf)

Screen: a 12 inch TFT. Generic Flat panel 1024x768x24bits per pixel works fine.

Graphics card: ATI  Radeon Mobility 9200 (M9+) 5C61 (AGP), Radeon driver chosen automatically by Mandrake installation.

"Mouse": or rather touch pad "Universal any PS2 and USB mice", (shame it only has two buttons). See below for my choice of external mouse.

Hard disk Hitachi DK23FA-40

Sound card Intel ICH4 845G/GL Chipset AC'97 Audio Controller
(module snd-intel8x0). Not sure why Windows XP thinks its a Yamaha Ac-XG?

works fine

PCMCIA: Richo R5C520. Works fine. I use it for a generic Modem card (net-lynx) supplied by DNUK for my Clevo.

Internal modem: not tested.

Ethernet card Intel 82801BD PRO/100 VE (MOB) Ethernet Controller (module eepro100)

Wireless 808.1 : PRO/Wireless LAN 2100 3B Mini PCI Adapter
Needed to install ndiswrapper and then grab w70n51.sys and w70n51.inf from the Windows XP hard disk/Sony installation CD or random place on the web found by google. Follow the instructions in /usr/share/doc/ndiswrapper-0.2/README. Very simple and 'just works' !
Coulnt get the ndiswrapper rpm or the Mandrake config tools to work, but doing it by hand works fine.
Use iwconfig to sniff out wireless hot-spots and ifup wlan0 to bring up the wireless interface.

'Firewire' IEEE 1394: module ohci1394. Not tried it, but note the Sony version of 'Firewire' does not supply power to your advice, designed for cameras and stuff with their own power supply.
USB: module usb-uhci. There are two USB ports one on either side. I have tried the following devices and they just worked:  Dazzle compact flash reader, MemoRive II 128MByte USB memory stick, Handspring Visor (a Palm Pilot compatable) USB synchronization cradle, Logitech Quickcam Express webcam,

I havent tried that Sony memory stick thingy, it appears to be some kind of USB device.
update 10/2006 Bought a memory stick, mounts fine. Appears under "devices" as a pen drive icon.
Logitech wireless desktop -- keyboard and mouse work fine on usb. Install hotkeys and run hotkeys -t itouch, to get most of the extra buttons doing something interesting (you need to configure them of course -- your preference for what should happen when the button marked 'shopping' pressed is individual). The built in touchpad is disabled when you press the connect button on sender then mouse, but both keyboards work.

ACPI: (battery power management etc) The battery monitor worked fine. At first it would not power down automatically, you need to add the kernel option "nolapic" to the append= options in /etc/lilo.conf to make this work. So mine reads
append="devfs=mount splash=silent nolapic"
Apparently this disables the Local APIC (Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller) thanks to Eric Gourgoulhon for this. The button and lid down actions can do whatever you like, I just disabled the lid down function by renaming the file /etc/acpi/events/lid until I can get it to do something useful! The backlight does go off when you put the lid down anyway under hardare control anyway.
Hibernate to disk trashes your swap partition! This is a known Mandrake 10.0 bug, so I'm waiting until its fixed before I try again. You can fix the swap partition in drakconf if you don't want to use mkswap .

External VGA connection Works on the projectors I tried at UMIST with no fiddling, found some others with problems even when I change resolution. Always carry a USB memory stick at conferences just in case!
CDRW/DVD Just works. Burnt a CD and watched a DVD (Life of Brian, UK edition) using Kaffeine. Also the audio was acceptable, (although I am not sure why one of the KDE error message sounds sounds like a mixture between a fart and radio interferance, at first I suspected the sound card config but maybe its KDE's sense of humour).

Function buttons: Home, Pg Dn, End and Pg Up are Fn+ arrow buttons, also ScrLk, Pause and Break are Fn buttone. In Windows Fn F3 is mute, Fn F4 is volume contol, Fn F5 changes backlighting intensity, Fn F7 cyles around LCD, CRT and Both displays, and Fn F12 is suspend to disk. 

Not yet tried sonykeyd, but have used spicctrl to turn backlight up and down.
Here are my very simple scripts to do it

"dimmer" is

/usr/sbin/spicctrl -b  $((`/usr/sbin/spicctrl  -B`-16))

and "brighter" is
/usr/sbin/spicctrl -b  $((`/usr/sbin/spicctrl  -B`+16))
okay so I'm not the hottest bash script programmer, but this does work!

The KDE sony vaio control does recognise the keys, but does not yet do anything with them. It would be fairly easy for someone to add the code, but I'm not really woried as I can now do it all from the command prompt, and if I felt like it could configurfe other keys to do these jobs.
Overall view: I am really happy with the hardware. Enough of it worked out of the box or with one download that I can get on with my work. I love Mandrake 10 and KDE 3.2, and I expect I will buy a supported version of Mandrake 10, and maybe the ACPI problems will get fixed by the autoinstall before I have time to twiddle with it myself. If it wasn't for need for x86 I was seriously considering getting an Apple laptop running OS X, but what I have is practical and stylish and has a UI with which I am familiar.

Opinions and predjudices expressed in this article are the author's, or maybe even someone else's. Use at you on risk, no warrantee impled. May contain traces of nuts.

Update Dec 2005

I have just installed Mandriva 2006. So far so good, but I dont have it working with projectors again. The native wireless support is good (no more ndiswrappers). Hibernate to disk now works. Update 12/12/2005 Following the fix to Bug #19861 I can now drive a projector (or at least the one Hitachi I tried). It seems I don't need to reboot with the projector plugged in except the first time. See "A tale of a Sony Vaio and Projector for more details about this on my blog. Also about getting a working bluetooth adapter

This report is listed at TuxMobil - Linux on laptops, PDAs, mobile phones.

Copyright (c) 2004 Bill Lionheart