Sony VAIO VGN-N21S/W : well supported!

I received my new laptop, a Sony Vaio N21S. I chose this one because it had an Intel video card, which means free drivers…

After installing Ubuntu 7.04, I’m glad to say that most of the things work:

  • CPU scaling,
  • video (DRI and XV),
  • sound (although the controls are weird, pluging headphones doesn’t cut the sound to the speaker),
  • SD card reader
  • Wifi (Atheros chipset)
  • Wired network

What doesn’t work out of the box:

  • Playing multimedia content (mp3s, DVDs). Not only the default media player is the total failure named Totem-gstreamer, but also, due to software patents (which are illegal in my country, last time I checked), I had to apt-get lots of stuff from the multiverse repository, and even run a script to get libdvdcss installed. Now, Totem still doesn’t play DVDs, because it « can’t find a mountpoint for /dev/scd0 » (!? since when does one need to mount video DVDs?), but I can’t care less, as I use MPlayer, Ogle and Rhythmbox for the mp3s.
  • Sound keys (mute, down, up): I had to modify my .Xmodmap to add them.
  • S3 sleep (aka Suspend to Ram): I had to modify the kernel boot options (add acpi_sleep=s3bios), modify the settings in /etc/default/acpi-support, and hack around /etc/acpi/**/* with a chainsaw. I can send a tar.gz to anyone who wants it, but I’m not publishing anything as they are ugly hacks. Unfortunately, after 4 hours of going to sleep/rebooting/ad nauseum, I’m not in the mood to clean the stuff and submit it. I know, that’s bad.

What still doesn’t work:

  • Brightness keys, CRT/LCD key: They seem to be handled by ACPI as they don’t generate any event. Sadly, looking at the sony_acpi and sony_laptop kernel modules’ source reveals that they use GHKE to get these keys’ events, and in my disassembled DSDT, I can’t find any mention of GHKE. Probably Sony changed the method. I think I’ll try to hack on that from time to time…

Even if the Windows Vista Home Premium that came preinstalled only survived 5 minutes (the time for me to read and laugh at the perverse EULA and click « Hell, no! »), it’s a good thing that Vista exists. It has two advantages:

  • It forces vendors to ship laptops, even low-cost ones, with at least 1GB of memory. So I can enjoy 1GB of memory, of which 850MB are free just after boot. Thanks to XFCE and Claws Mail ;)
  • It forces vendors to make correct DSDT tables, as Microsoft decided « enough with stupid crashes due to stupid ACPI implementations ». It’s the first time I’ve seen iasl end up with « Compilation complete. 0 Errors, 1 Warnings, 0 Remarks, 33 Optimizations ». Previously the error count was around 50 with my ASUS…

I’ll let you guess what Sony replied to me when I asked for the refund of Vista and Microsoft Works. Some things change slowly…