Debian Linux on a Pink Luxury Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E
This report is listed at TuxMobil - Linux on laptops, notebooks, PDAs and mobile phones
Pink is the new cool. Sony, however, with their BMG screw-up, is not. I cannot believe that i am letting "cool" override principles, but for the sake of "Hot Pink" my god, my god, thou must forgive me just this once. The Pink Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E is a well cool machine. SATA drives and DVD-RAM; IPW3945 Wireless, Ricoh Webcam, Texas Instruments 5-in-1 Cardreader: the even better thing is - it all works! The processor is a 64-bit Pentium T2330, 1.6Ghz. And yes: the amd64 version of Debian works like a charm, which was a real surprise to me! So, just remember when picking a Debian CD, to use the amd64 version. Debian / Testing. Again One fly in the ointment: you must, you must use Debian/Testing for startup because of the SATA hard drives and SATA DVD-RAM. I installed from the netboot mini.iso as of 21st Nov 2007 and it worked like a charm. This left me with a small requirement to do "tasksel install kde-desktop" followed by the usual "apt-get --purge remove libgnome*" and "apt-get --purge remove .*gnome*" and then apt-get autoclean as i cannot STAND gnome and will not expose innocent users to it. The only glitch I encountered is that, as with large number of laptops, the X server doesn't do console mode after having gone into x-windows and so I recommend that you do NOT do a desktop install (uncheck the option from the task selection - leave laptop and standard system though) then "apt-get install ssh", then ssh in from another machine and THEN do "tasksel install kde-desktop". This will allow you to find out what the hell is going on with the configuration of xserver-xorg, which screwed up, then left me with a dpkg question that I could neither see nor answer. By pressing random buttons (Enter a few times, I think) I might have been able to successfully answer whatever dpkg question it was that I couldn't see, and then Ctrl-Alt-Delete to reset the machine and it was ok. So - do make your life easier by ssh'ing in to the box so you can find out what's going on, on a shell prompt that doesn't get taken away from you! If it makes your life any easier, and you want to try e.g. creating an xorg.conf file before-hand or something, here's what ended up being created: xorg.conf. cpufreqd Also I have a preference for cpufreqd to run the ondemand module, not the performance module, even and especially on AC. I don't care if it takes a while to kick in: the silence of the fan and the reduced temperature far outweighs the benefit of having the CPU run at "convenient" speeds. cpufreqd and cpufrequtils seem to have improved quite a lot over the past year: autodetection of the cpu module actually works, and so I didn't have to add cpufreq_ondemand or p4_clockmod or any rubbish like that to /etc/modules, which I've always had to do for previous systems. If you're interested, this is the /etc/cpufreqd.conf used. random useability configuration... I made my usual edits to make the system useable. /etc/default/rcS I changed fsckfix="no" to "yes"; I added export KDE_IS_PRELINKED="1" and KDE_EXEC_SLAVES="1" to /etc/profile, and I ran "prelink -q -v -a --random --conserve-memory". These are important changes for two reasons: one, KDE runs a lot faster when you switch off the stupidity that was added for coping with when Pentium II 500mhz systems were All The Rage. two: having fsck fix a filesystem that you're only going to do by running fsck -a and then holding your finger down on the "y" key - I mean, the only sensible thing is to let it be done automatically. Also, I have to admit: I am a fan of debian-multimedia.org for libdvdcss2 and w32codecs (which don't exist for amd64. damn.) And, also, of adding nonfree and contrib to /etc/apt/sources.list (included here for convenience). Then you can add flash and mozplugger "apt-get install libflash-mozplugin flashplugin-nonfree mozplugger" and, on Debian/Testing on amd64, the wrapper install script is run automatically! Ubuntu it's a pain - you have to run it by hand. You will find mozplugger to be very useful: pdfs for example will appear in a firefox window rather than having to be downloaded and run by a separate program. webcam The webcam at the moment, a Ricoh, needs the module from here: r5u870 discussion. You will need to register and log in. Remember to "apt-get install build-essential gcc-4.1 linux-headers-2.6.22-2-amd64" or whatever kernel is current of debian/testing; remember also to do "make; make install; cp *.fw /lib/firmware" because the daft make install doesn't copy the required firmware (r5u870_1938.fw) although it copies everything other bit of damn firmware supplied. sound Sound was a pain - the snd-hda-intel module, everywhere it's used, is listed as "experimental". A little searching, especially for "Sony Vaio snd-hda-intel", showed weirdness about module options such as position_fix=2 and advising to experiment by incrementing this option until things work. Trying to get it to work whilst running KDE most certainly made things very unhappy - it was only after a reboot did, to my great surprise and delight, sound actually work. The nice thing is that it was sound that I was struggling with (all the other exotic hardware worked fine). Here is the /etc/modprobe.d/sound file I ended up with. card reader The Texas Instruments card reader just works fine - insert an SD card and hotplug reacts accordingly: KDE responded by asking to show the contents of the SD card somewhere in media:/ Modules to load are tifm_7xx1 and tifm_sd. wireless The ipw3945 requires that you add contrib non-free to /etc/apt/sources.list and "apt-get install firmware-ipw3945 ipw3945d ipw3945-modules-2.6-amd64". I did just have a blip in the ipw3945 after a couple of hours, which disconnected the wireless: I don't know why... Also, I have found that wlassistant is incredibly useful: it works, it detects networks, it allows you to configure them, including WEP and passwords - just run it, and get on with it. remember to install with "apt-get install wlassistant", and remember to run it with "sudo wlassistant" rather than run it as an ordinary user. for convenience. which reminds me... kdesu... kdesu One of the most useful desktop-based configuration tips I've ever found, for ordinary users, is to set up kdesu. This avoids the need to give users a root password, especially when you set up sudo for them with no password. Just... bear in mind that doing that makes for a thoroughly-compromisable system! (So, whatever you do, don't roll that out en-masse across hundreds of systems if you're an OEM reading this!) I do it for a few dozen users, for their convenience, because I don't want them ringing up asking for the root password. If you do sudo in the standard way (i.e. not adding NOPASSWD) then they only need to know their own password. Search on google for "kdesu sudo" gives these: mkdir -p ~/.kde/share/config cat < ~/.kde/share/config/kdesurc >> EOF [super-user-command] super-user-command=sudo EOF finishing up - conclusion After all those dodgy modules, which aren't entirely supported by hotplug detection yet, these are the additions to /etc/modules which are required: r5u870 ipw3945 tifm_7xx1 tifm_sd But - damn, this Linux stuff is getting good :) Overall - this is the first machine with really cool hardware that all just... works. The days of proprietary hardware with stuff that you have to wait for a couple of years for it to be supported are coming to an end. The cpuinfo can be found here. The meminfo can be found here. The lspci info can be found here. The lspci -v info can be found here. The dpkg -l list of packages: here. p.s. - welcome, sony style support! a final word, to all the sony style support team who read the case where i swore deliberately and excessively at the total lack of interest from the web form that made it extremely difficult to tell you that i use linux, exclusively. many thanks for telling me that you have absolutely no interest in helping with the difficulties i experienced getting sound to work. perhaps the fact that this report is top of the search results for "sony vaio cr21e", fourth (*1) for "sony vaio debian" and ninth (*2) for "sony vaio linux" will help knock some sense into sony, with a view to preinstallation of linux as a viable option on the excellent hardware that they produce. with a view, of course, to helping customers keep free of viruses, spyware, and, of course, helping sony's bottom line by eliminating unnecessary support calls and the cost of paying for a proprietary operating system up-front. (*1) Update Jan 6th 2007: first. (*2) Update Jan 6th 2007: fifth. and 15th for "sony vaio". good grief, what's going on???