Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z & Feisty/Gutsy/Hardy/Intrepid
Updated for Gutsy, Hardy, and Intrepid
I was pleased to find that Feisty supports all the hardware on this laptop without any hassles. There are issues with suspend and hibernate. Suspend/Resume will mostly work but sometimes isn't reliable. These can usually be traced back to a known bug with the uvcvideo driver. The solution is to have it unloaded before suspend. The way to so that is to add the module name to the MODULES="" setting in /etc/default/acpi-support, e.g
If using Compiz/Desktop Effects the Compiz option 'sync to vblank' should be disabled otherwise the Gnome desktop won't be displayed on resume. A bug in Feisty's 2.6.20 kernel will cause the HDA audio to loop and crackle after resume. This is caused by an overwrite of the HDA PCI register TCSEL when the 2nd core of the CPU is started. I have published a patch to fix this against the bug snd-hda-intel: distorted sound after resume, until the module is reloaded. I've found that more than one resume causes the screensaver to loose keyboard input, and any attempt to restart gdm leads to an Nvidia driver failure that requires a restart to fix. Gutsy, Hardy and Intrepid seem fine.
MODULES="iwl3945 uvcvideo r5u870"
The alternative Fn-blue function keys are not currently supported by the sonypi module. It appears they are managed by the newer Sony Notebook Control ACPI device via the Embedded Controller (EC) hardware. This is being actively worked on - see the Calling All Vaio Owners thread for how you can help the new sony-laptop kernel driver support all the custom hardware options on Vaios: Programmable S1 S2 keys, Fn keys, radio power for WiFi and Bluetooth, power for LAN, Audio, Camera and CD, Screen brightness, contrast, and switching to external displays.
Vaio Gnome panel applet. I am writing an easy-to-use control applet that will allow users to easily configure all functions of the Sony Notebook Control, Sony PI, and EC. It is a multi-tabbed applet with controls grouped logically. It will ensure your preferences are saved and applied at startup.
The external ExpressCard/34 5-in-1 Flash card reader adapter works with SD cards. I've not had chance to test it with MMC, xD, or MemoryStick Pro. With SD cards there is sometimes a problem with older cards that are physically just slightly thicker than usual. This prevents the contacts from touching the pins in the adapter unless you put it under physical pressure which is not a workable solution, so ensure you're using thin cards.
The internal Texas Instruments 5-in-1 Flash card chip-set that is connected to the internal MemoryStick 2 slot is also recognised. However, the kernel modules to support MemoryStick or xD cards on the TI chip-set are in the early stages and not available unless you build them yourself. As on Intrepid the tifm and memstick modules will be available as they are in the mainline kernel. I'm working on an Ubuntu DKMS package to backport them to Hardy LTS.
The Nvidia proprietary drivers work fine driving both the DFT, as well as external VGA and S-Video displays. TwinView with the desktop spanning both displays works fine. With the NVIDIA X Server Settings utility (Applications -> System Tools) choose X Server Display configuration and then press Detect Displays. When the display appears in the Layout window choose it and then press Configure... and choose TwinView. After unplugging a display press Detect Displays again to return to a single screen.
I've tested the VGN-FE41Z with 32-bit and 64-bit Feisty/Gutsy/Hardy/Intrepid Desktop and found no problems due to Ubuntu.
Originally I kept the existing disk partitions (sda1=Sony Vista Recovery, sda2=Vista Home Premium) and added swap (2GB) partition in sda3, sda4 is an extended partition for sda5=/boot (256MB), sda6=/ (32-bit 9GB), sda7=/ (64-bit 9GB), sda8=/home. Now, I've removed Sony Vista Recovery, moved and shrunk Vista Home Premium, and put all but /boot in an encrypted LVM volume that requires a USB key to unlock (no password is assigned).
Note: The easy way to shrink the Vista partition is to use Vista itself. Unlike XP, Vista can shrink its own partitions! Go to Control Panel, System Administration, Disk Management, select the Vista partition, right-click, and choose Shrink. I made it 27GB.The only devices not supported immediately are the Intel High Definition Audio HSF V92 SoftModem and the built-in Motion Eye video camera. The camera has a Ricoh chip-set and Alex Hixon now maintains the r5u870 driver (originally by Sam Revitch). Project details can be found at R5U870 driver and Ubuntu packages for Gutsy/Hardy/Intrepid are [url="https://launchpad.net/~intuitivenipple/+archive"]available from my PPA[url].
Until you install the drivers you'd not notice the modem in Hardware Information at all. Linuxant have created proprietary drivers for the Intel HDA HSF V92 software modem. The driver is available as a $19.99 fully capable driver or a free 14,400 baud speed-limited version. The installation process was smooth (I used the automatic Internet installation method). The big drawback is it conflicts badly with the Intel HDA sound driver and generates a lot of spurious messages to the log files which show it is not entirely production-quality. I'd avoid it unless it is essential.
I have created a Gnome panel applet to control the Nvidia display brightness because it isn't supported by the default tools. You can get SmartDimmer here. Again, packages for Feisty/Gutsy/Hardy/Intrepid are [url="https://launchpad.net/~intuitivenipple/+archive"]available from my PPA[url].
The FE41Z has the Intel Core 2 Duo T7200, a CPU that supports VMX (Virtualisation). Unfortunately Sony do not provide a BIOS option to enable VMX and the BIOS locks the MSR register 0x3A, preventing other software from doing so. I'm hoping Sony will eventually provide the option but I'm also working on a BIOS hack so that VMX is available - it was a prime reason why I chose this model!
I finally managed to manually re-program the NV-RAM settings using a DOS utility called symcmos, once I'd identified which tokens to alter. Unfortunately these token locations change in different BIOS versions so there is no universal way to enable VMX across models and BIOSes. Details of my research.
During my snc module investigations I discovered an ACPI battery bug in the Differentiated System Description Table (DSDT) in the BIOSes of every Sony Vaio model we've seen so far. You can read about it here and find a fix for it in the thread ACPI: battery-technology reported as non-rechargeable.