The Caboteria / Tech Web / VaioTips (25 Feb 2002, TobyCabot)
I have a Sony VAIO PCG-N505VE notebook computer. It's very small and chic, and reasonably powerful (enough for most office tasks) but the battery life stinks (Update - after about a year the battery became totally useless, less than 5 minutes uptime). Linux isn't supported by Sony but there are a few people using Linux on the machine successfully.

The best thing about it is the size and weight. It's the first notebook that I really genuinely don't mind taking with me everywhere. Previously I had a Dell Latitude which was very nice but once you added the CDROM drive, floppy drive, second battery, etc, not to mention the special padded case it just about tore your shoulder off. I can just toss the Vaio and its power supply into my regular briefcase and I don't really notice the weight.

The keyboard is small but you get used to the special function keys.

Installing Linux was a challenge since it uses a USB floppy drive which Linux doesn't have drivers for. To be honest I don't really remember the sequence of events which got the installation right.

When I got it the sound chip wasn't supported by Linux because Yamaha wouldn't release any specs without non-disclosure. I ended up buying the OSS proprietary drivers which worked fine. Since then, though, Yamaha has relented so first ALSA and now the 2.2.18 kernel can play (and record) sound just fine.

The only real problem that I had was with the PCMCIA drivers. Everything worked fine for about six months then my network card just stopped working. The symptom was:

> I scanned my messages log and found that the bridge mapping used to be
> 0x68000000 when things were working. So I tried setting the cb_mem_base
> to 0x68000000 but then get "Bad bridge mapping at 0x680000dc!".

A nice guy named David Hinds at http://pcmcia-cs.sourceforge.org/ who maintains the pcmcia code helped me find a workaround. It actually does look like my machine has a small HW problem, the problem is that it doesn't assert itself in Windows. The workaround is to find the code in pcmcia-cs-3.1.xx/modules/i82365.c where s->cb_phys is set and hard-wire the value.

Here's the diff:

--- i82365.orig.c       Fri Jan  5 14:06:53 2001
+++ i82365.c    Fri Jan  5 14:07:37 2001
@@ -1611,6 +1611,7 @@
        /* Set up CardBus register mapping */
        pci_writel(s, CB_LEGACY_MODE_BASE, 0);
        pci_readl(s, PCI_BASE_ADDRESS_0, &s->cb_phys);
+       s->cb_phys = 0x68000000;                /* tobyc FIXME */
        if (s->cb_phys == 0) {
            printk("\n" KERN_NOTICE "  Bridge register mapping failed:"
                   " check cb_mem_base setting\n");

Nasty, but it works. And it's a great demonstration of the superiority of the Free Software model. If you're interested in my conversation with David you can go to http://pcmcia-cs.sourceforge.net/cgi-bin/HyperNews/get/pcmcia/install.html and search for "toby".

*Useful Links

http://home.att.net/~epbrown01/n505ram.html is a web site that shows how to upgrade the RAM in the VAIO. I mean to do it one of these days - 64MB doesn't cut it anymore.

http://www.914fan.net/vaio/ and http://www.physics.ucsb.edu/~dwhysong/n505ve.html and http://www.hackfoo.org/~ray/papers/howto1.html are pages with useful vaio/linux info.

-- TobyCabot - 06 Sep 2001

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