Sony Vaio Z21X9E/B (CEP) and Fedora 15 (x86_64)

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Well, I’m one of the recent owners of a Sony Vaio VPC Z21X9E - who the heck is giving these brand model names at Sony?? - so, as everyone does when they get a new computer, I went to install my operating system - Linux. And, despite having said that it would probably not be Fedora again, well….. it was. And, yes, I was still using a 2-year-old distribution…

Installation

It worths mentioning that this laptop does not have a CD-ROM drive, so you either plug in an external one, use an USB pen or just kickstart it.

You might want to pass the following options on installation if you’re getting a blank screen:

i915.modesetting=0

If you want to preserve the Windows installation you will probably have to resize the “big” partition manually: I couldn’t get anaconda, nor Ubuntu installer, nor SuSE’s, so in the end, I gave up and went using the resizentfs tools.

Also, if you plan to wipe off the Windows partitions completely, you might want to try to tune the disk first by aligning the SSD. I didn’t: I was hungry for having it installed, and I already spent much time trying to install Linux without blowing Windows (it may become handy to debug some USB… :-)

Hardware

Networking

Ethernet (Wired)

Although the Ethernet NIC was correctly detected, the base kernel driver r8169 had some stability problems. My first yum update brought kernel 2.6.41.1 with the problem fixed. But it worths mentioning that first I had installed the Realtek’s official driver (donwload link) and it performed pretty well.

If you’re dealing with recent kernels, you may have noticed about Consistent Network Device Naming. Well, in short, I don’t like it :) So I told udev to get my ‘eth0′ back - can you imagine? It was called p3p1! :)


cat > /etc/udev/rules.d/80-compatibility-net.rules << EOF
# PCI device 0×10ec:0×8168 (r8169)
SUBSYSTEM==”net”, ACTION==”add”, DRIVERS==”?*”, ATTR{address}==”54:42:49:97:75:22″, ATTR{dev_id}==”0×0″, ATTR{type}==”1″, KERNEL==”eth*”, NAME=”eth0″
EOF

This is a two line file (first line is a comment), but Wordpress breaks it.

Wireless

Although the wireless card (Intel Corporation Centrino Advanced-N 6230) was detected, the driver iwlagn needs firmware (you’ll notice that on ‘dmesg’):

yum install iwl6000g2b-firmware.noarch

Broadband internal modem (Gobi 3000)

I’m still wandering around on a good approach to this one. Many many info scattered around the web, with different results, with different models. For now, let me just reference to the Gobi drivers project page. I’ll get back on this as soon as I have something similar to an understandable approach.

Touchpad / Clickpad

You will quickly notice that the touchpad (actually, a Clickpad, I learned) will misbehave, leading to cursor jumps when you try to click, ignoring drag&drop, etc. It seems the synaptics x.org driver is pending some clickpad awareness changes - for a long time now, I must say - and that’s why you will find the problem solved in (and by) many (other) distributions. Not in Fedora, though, at least in this case. In Bugzilla #590835, comment35, thanks to Alexander Gryanko, you will find a source RPM for a workaround. After recompiling and installing over your current xorg-x11-drv-synaptics driver, the clickpad won’t perform as well as in Windows, yet, but it will fix the annoying pointer-jump and will allow you to drag&drop and select text, which was impossible.

I’ve also read about using “i8042.nomux=1″ as kernel arguments, or Sony Jogdial overlapping the default touchpad (noticeable on the logs) but didn’t go that way. I’d like to hear from your experience about this, though.

Also, installing gpointing-device-settings might become handy later on…

yum install gpointing-device-settings

Keyboard Fn keys

They all seem to perform well, except for brightness control. I’ve seen many people complaining about this. Loading the sony_laptop module seems to do the trick.

modprobe sony_laptop

Display

While you had to run the installation without modesetting, after the forementioned update (to kernel 2.6.41.1), the system now runs with modesetting, thus giving you the graphical boot.

Other hardware

  • Webcam - out of the box;
  • Audio - out of the box;

Software

Frequently used applications

I found a lot of good suggestions here, although I always go installing the software along the way, as I need it. So this section is mainly targetting some special care needed for specific apps.

Java

I like to (I actually have to) use both a legacy most stable version (1.6x) and a most updated stable version (1.7.x) due to professional reasons, so I like to have alternatives properly setup so I can switch between them easily. This is something that the Java RPM distribution should be doing automatically (for some years now), but they still don’t:

alternatives –install /usr/bin/javaws javaws /usr/java/default/bin/javaws 10
alternatives –install /usr/bin/java java /usr/java/default/bin/java 10
alternatives –config java
rm /usr/java/default
ln -s /usr/java/jdk1.6.0_29 /usr/java/default

Tweaking the environment

Fallback mode (ignore gnome-shell)

I hated gnome-shell. I understand the distribution maintainers want to push new stuff into the audience, but I still feel most of the changes happened on Gnome 3 are pretty unfair for a desktop user. My computers are not a tablet, I can’t point with the finger, so this gnome-shell thing (Unity in Ubuntu, and alike) is just garbage for me. I don’t like them because they make me loose more time to find my things - which I had somehow inconsciently automated. So, obviously, I’m running in the “fallback mode“, which you can set using the gnome-control-center, on a unobvious “System Info” icon.

Delete key behaviour

After that, I spent some time trying to get back to the old behaviour, like using the DELETE key for what it used to do: delete stuff. Through the following command, you’ll be able to mouseover menu options and set the accelerator (shortcut) by pressing DELETE twice on the option “Move to Trash”. Learn more here.

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface can-change-accels true

Desktop area management and icons

I believe this has been forgotten about the fallback mode: we used to have icons and be able to create folders and other nautilus operations, so I want that…. again. You can use dconf-editor to edit the configuration visually or using gsettings, again:

yum install dconf-editor
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons true

Adding menu entries

Maybe it’s just a fallback miss, but it won’t originally let you modify the Applications menu. For that, you’ll have to install alacarte and run it from console (or ALT+F2):

yum install alacarte

The entries created with alacarte (0.13.2-3) will miss the category no matter if you specify it on item creation. To place the icons where they’re due, you’ll have to edit the shortcuts, which are placed at ~/.local/share/applications. Just add an entry Categories=Development (example) and wait a couple of seconds so the panel freshens up. If you’re wondering about which categories to place, grep through /usr/share/applications/*.desktop for examples.

Tuning

I was reading some of the powertop suggestions and doing some reading in the meanting, so these seemed to be worth considering:

Disable NMI Watchdog (ref):

echo 0 > /proc/sys/kernel/nmi_watchdog

Set wwan0 down if you’re not going to use it

ifconfig wwan0 down &

Disable Wake-up On LAN:

ethtool -s eth0 wol d &

Enable laptop mode, I don’t know if it’s still relevant nowadays (ref):

echo 5 > /proc/sys/vm/laptop_mode

Some interesting stuff I read on LessWatts:
Scheduler tunables for multi-socket systems (ref

echo 1 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/sched_mc_power_savings
echo 1 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/sched_smt_power_savings

Set vm writeback to 10 secs (lose 10 secs on crash):

echo 1500 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_writeback_centisecs

Disable bluetooth entirey

hciconfig hci0 down

Disable wireless - if you’r not going to use it… maybe this could be integrated with the physical switch of the Vaio…

ifconfig wlan0 down
modprobe -r iwlagn

Enable Audio HD powersave

echo 10 > /sys/module/snd_hda_intel/parameters/power_save &

I will hardly make any kind of power consumption comparison between Windows and Linux - I won’t be in Windows that long :-) - but, anyway, it makes sense to not leak power on unused components.

That’s all for now.


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