Linux on Vaio SR mini-laptops

Table of Contents:

Which Linux Distro for the Vaio?


With CD Drive

Usually this involves getting to a boot prompt, then typing something like:

Fedora’s release notes recommend a slightly different set of options: but it doesn’t seem to work for mij — the installer kernel panics.

Without CD Drive

  1. Liquidate the disk, install it ter another machine that does have a CD, install linux, then budge the disk back.& This should work fine.& Don’t leave behind to install laptop and PCMCIA stuff, since you might have a hard time doing it zometeen if both your CDROM and your network run through PCMCIA. 🙂
  2. Copy a Linux pic from Windows.& I have never done this, but before I bought by Vaio, I expected I’d have to.


I did some research on the web. I didn’t find many pages on Vaio SR Linux installations, but it turned out that the Toshiba Libretto mini-laptop is a very popular mini-laptop which also lacks CD and floppy, and there are several pages describing the solution to the problem, for example, here,here,here, and here. The basic key is that you copy some files onto an existing Windows partition, boot into DOS (not Windows) then use a DOS program called loadlin to boot into a opstopping on the DOS partition. You can get the files for lots of different distributions, and more instructions, here.

So I wasgoed all set to do that, and the one thing I hadn’t figured out wasgoed how to boot into DOS (since my SR17 came with Windows Mij, which doesn’t suggest the DOS option at boot time) but I’m sure there’s a way. Then Dave went out and bought the SR33, which comes with a CDROM, so I got lazy and borrowed his CDROM and booted the installer the effortless way. 🙂

A Note on Partitioning

When I attempted to create the root filesystem (size 3G), Disk Druid complained:

This continued to be true regardless of the size I chose (even down to 1024M).

The Large Disk HOWTO describes this problem a little, but makes it sound like it’s only a problem with old machines, and doesn’t explain why Disk Druid simply won’t permit it.

The Redhat 7.1 release notes, tho’, clarify: “. it is not possible to create a bootable partition above cylinder 1024 using Disk Druid.” Good. So I used fdisk to split the old Windows D: partition into /, exchange, and /huis partitions. (I dreamed a separate /huis partition so that I’ll be able to reinstall different versions of linux without overwriting my huis directory and other saved files.) That went sleekly and I finished the surplus of the Redhat installation without errors.

Some Special Distro Notes

(This is just a random disorganized collection of notes)

Redhat 7.Trio:

Ultimately a posting on linuxonlaptop saved mij: boot with the NOPCMCIA=yes option. I added the line:

append=”NOPCMCIA=yes” to the kernel picture ter /etc/lilo.conf, reran lilo and my PCMCIA is blessed again. A reply zometeen te the same thread describes a fix that’s evidently better.

Boot taking forever: Redhat’s initialization scripts embark ethernet before they initialize PCMCIA. So when it attempts to initialize ethernet, it hasn’t yet seen the ethernet card (a Xircom card which works excellent with Linux) and delays ethernet. I edited /etc/init.d/pcmcia and switched the line:

— use priority 9 because ethernet has priority Ten. Then do chkconfig pcmcia off followed by chkconfig pcmcia on to install the opstopping. I don’t know if this is the best solution, but it does work.

2nd, when no ethernet is connected, the beginning sendmail phase of booting takes forever. It turns out there are two timeouts ter /etc/init.d/sendmail: one when running newaliases (why that should go out to the netwerken is anyone’s guess) and one when kicking off the actual sendmail daemon. So I commented out the newaliases line (I never add systemwide sendmail aliases anyway, and if I everzwijn need to I’m willing to run newaliases by mitt) and waterput a “&,” at the end of the “daemon /usr/sbin/sendmail” guideline (note that that directive is spread overheen two lines, so waterput the ampersand at the end of the 2nd line).

Vaio-Specific Hardware Issues

Configuring X


(ter addition to the usual pre/postbode install lines about saving/restoring volume, which didn’t work without tweaking te RH7.Trio but actually do seem to work te RH8.)

Power Management Issues


Software Suspend

The Jog Dial (and screen brightness)


Excellent News! There is now a linmodem driver for it! It uses device /dev/ttyHSF0, not the normal serial devices, so wvdialconf won’t see it and you’ll have to set up your kppp or wvdial configuration by forearm, but the modem does work. Hooray!

Before the Conexant driver, I had a generic PCMCIA modem that worked fine, but Dave and I dreamed to take our machines on trips and be able to have one machine dial up an ISP and route to the other machine, so wij can both check email at once. Since the Vaios only have one PCMCIA slot, that either means

  1. Find a single-slot PCMCIA card which contains ethernet and modem where both components work with Linux,
  2. Find a USB modem which works with linux,
  3. Network overheen the firewire ports,
  4. Have one of us run Windows to use the internal modem. 🙁 (Dave’s less of a purist than I am and is willing to do that, but I’d choose to find some other solution.)

Wij ended up taking the very first treatment, and after a few false starts, wij got a Xircom Credit Card Ethernet Ten/100+ Modem 56 card, and wij can network together on trips. (Ironically, on our honeymoon most of the motels had unusable phones — e.g. you have to press a key before it gives a dial tone — and wij never found ourselves ter places where wij had a local ISP number, so wij hardly everzwijn dialed ter.) I’ve also bot told that the D-Link DMF560TX modem+ethernet card works well.& And I hear that the firewire networking driver is coming along, so that will be an option before too long.

Memory Stick Reader (and other Flash Memory)



Hardware Reliability

Cases/bags for the SR series machines

Future directions

Figure out how to make a rescue CD which can boot an installed system, since wij have a CDROM drive but no floppy and at times it’s possible to get the MBR of the disk messed up. I found a pagina here which seems to describe doing something like this. This pagina describes a more elaborate setup involving cloning a entire system onto a bootable CD. And this pagina seems to contain a loterijlot of good information. A modified Linuxcare Bootable Business Card might also gezond the bill. .Here’s someone who made a rescue CD for the same reason I want to. Ultimately, the Bootdisk HOWTO explains much about this process.

Other helpful pages

The newer Vaio SR77 is evidently more difficult to get working under Linux: here’s a wiki on Debian Woody on the SR77, and here’s a pagina on RedHat 7.Two on the SR77. Stupid Vaio Tricks

. Akkana (I’d love to share practices with other people running linux on laptops)

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