Vaio P Linux update: Fedora 10

So, an update on the Vaio P and Linux.

Basically, it works, with one big caveat. I had some fun getting it to install Fedora 10 - the live CD ISO to USB converter script just didn't seem to work right, whatever I generated would boot to a flashing cursor (on any system, not just the Vaio). Finally I found something that worked - using Unetbootin to set up a Fedora 10 network install. (Using it to set up a boot of the live CD image didn't seem to work). Once I found that trick, install proceeded perfectly normally, but in text mode - a shade of things to come.

The system booted to text mode. /var/log/Xorg.0.log showed it trying the intel driver, failing, then trying fbdev and vesa, and falling over on fbdev. So I stuck in a basic /etc/X11/xorg.conf to force it to go straight to vesa rather than try fbdev, and that works. Bottom line: this system uses the new Intel GMA 500 graphics chipset, which is not actually a successor to previous Intel chips at all, it's a completely foreign architecture. It's a PowerVR chip, more or less, and there is not yet any native driver for it. I'm fairly sure this is being worked on and there will be one reasonably soon, but for now, VESA is all you're going to get. Which means it's slow and won't drive the display's (ridiculously high) native resolution. I can live with that, but it's nowhere near optimal. I hope the native driver shows up soon. Note that if I'd run the installation with the 'vesa' kernel parameter, it would probably have worked in graphical mode and set up the VESA driver out of the box too, so if you're installing on a P, probably best do that.

Mandriva will likely do 'the right thing' out of the box - graphical install will work, and it'll use the VESA driver.

Wireless is an Atheros chipset, which appears to more or less work out of the box with the very new 'ath9k' driver. I haven't tested whether the sound actually works yet, but it's Intel HDA and the driver is loaded, so even if it doesn't it'll just be a case of a quirk to be added upstream, so either it works or it will soon.

Haven't tested the Bluetooth yet but it shows up without errors, so I expect it'll work.

Suspend basically works, but the display part doesn't. The system itself suspends and wakes up again, but the screen backlight doesn't wake up. If I tilt the display so I'm looking at it from the bottom at about 120 degrees, I can just about make out the console. I suspect that may well be fixed with the native display driver, when it shows up. The basic kernel support, though, is clearly there, so I expect this to work in future.

The webcam works out of the box with the uvcvideo module. Cheese works just fine. Bit slow with VESA as the display driver, though.

So my overall take is the Linux support for this system isn't quite all there yet, but it likely will be quite soon. Overall, my first impressions with the unit are very positive - the weight is ridiculous, it's just a massive gulf to the weight of a regular netbook. The screen's amazing, the build quality of the unit feels very solid in good-Sony style, the keyboard's great, the 'mouse' is decently implemented. We'll see how it fares over time.


Dark_Schneider971 wrote on 2009-01-30 20:14:
I do hope that you will be able to build a better cooperation between Mandriva and Fedora/RedHat, especially around the community. And maybe they may begin to use also some of the Mandriva tools, like msec. Good luck Adam, i will miss you.
ralph.thomas wrote on 2009-01-30 20:47:
There is a native driver for the GMA500, but it only works on older Xorg (7.3?). It was built by the moblin guys and (apparently) working packages exist for Ubuntu 8.04 (as dell ship this with working poulsbo graphics in the Mini 12). Ubuntu package details are here: There's a long thread (which includes links to the firmware for the pouslbo chip to do 3D) about getting regular Ubuntu running on the Mini 12 here:
adamw wrote on 2009-01-30 21:21:
Yeah, I found that and have been bashing on it all morning. It relies on a kernel module, which doesn't build later than 2.6.24 as it stands. I have bashed it into building. Now I'm trying to make the X driver code build. Fun stuff!
amarcelo wrote on 2009-03-03 10:35:
Thanks for this. I'm a newbie to Linux and would like to buy my wife the Vaio P. But I want it to run Linux. Would you think WUBI (Windows Ubuntu Installer) will do the trick (as in make everything work since it's an Ubuntu install over the Windows drivers)? Would appreciate your expert opinion....
adamw wrote on 2009-03-03 14:07:
No, it wouldn't. wubi is just a convenient method to install Ubuntu, the hardware must still have a working Linux driver. Your best chance at getting the screen working natively, as of now, is to use Ubuntu Netbook Remix. There's some discussion of the best way to proceed in the forum thread I linked in the post.
abeck wrote on 2009-04-11 11:52:
I have my Viao P running Ubuntu v9.04 (beta). Resolution is 1600x768, some special keys don't work but most everything else does. Where I am stumped is trying to get the VGA out to work for dual monitors (either mirrored or extended). Anyone have any luck with it?
vimcat wrote on 2009-04-16 15:59:
I installed WUBI 8.10 last night. I have no idea what display driver it's using but it's maxed at 1024x768. Everything seems to work (Wifi, BT, sound hot keys). I wish I could get the native resolution working, but I'm not comfortable mucking around with the drivers. I have the Japanese version though, so YMMV.
adamw wrote on 2009-04-16 16:10:
You won't get the native driver working with 8.10. Native resolution should be possible, though - you either need to set up the vertrefresh and horizsync for the monitor in xorg.conf, old-skool style, or get the patch for the vesa driver that Fedora has which makes it recognize the monitor properly.