Fedora Linux Core 4 on Sony Vaio PCG-Z1RMP

I recently updated FC 1 to FC4. The update was surprisingly seemless and the good news is that:

By the way, you might be interested in checking my collection of The Missing Textutils.

Fedora Linux Core 1 on Sony Vaio PCG-Z1RMP


I'm by no means a linux (unix) administrator. I'd call myself an "experienced user". Do not treat the following hints as the answers, because they are not based on deep knowledge of the linux internals.

The descriptions here are quite brief, for more information just search the Google for the names or conceptions mentioned.

Also, I'm no hardware geek. I spend time solely on things I need. So far I needed, tested and put into operation:

Partitioning and Linux (Fedora+KDE) installation See below
Dimming the LCD backlight Use spicctrl
Enabling ACPI (battery status, and others) Use extra option for the kernel
Mounting USB storage (floppy, disks, USB memory sticks) See below
Disabling autoopening Konqueror on CD insert, disabling attempts on CD autoplay Remove the file Autorun.desktop from the directory ~/.kde/Autostart/
Audio CD playback Use XMMS with extra options
VCD (video CD) reading and copying Use mplayer to play the CD directly and the cdfs driver to mount also the data track of the CD.
Sharing a VFAT partition between Windows and Linux See below for mounting in read-write mode for a specific user
Wireless with Centrino ndiswrapper works. See notes below.
BlueTooth Installed BlueZ. Appears to work properly, not tested against any device. See below for a synopsis of commands.
wmsm.app-0.2.1 My updated version of wmsm shows detailed info (CPU: system/user/nice, MEM: used/buffers/cached). Download wmsm.app-0.2.1.tgz.
wmpower-0.3.1 My updated version of wmpower shows correctly the ACPI time remaining to full charge when charging, it doesn't blink the battery icon when charging and most notably, it can automatically launch a command when the remaining battery time sinks to a specified level. Download wmpower-0.3.1.tgz
Dual monitor (dual head) See the configuration for dual head below.
cslatex Fedora contains teTeX, but cslatex is not enabled by default. Enable cslatex
Modem A winmodem with Conexant chipset (CXT23, sometimes incorectly shown in decimal base as CXT35). Installed linuxant driver

There are some nifty features of my Sony Vaio that were also the reason for choosing this piece of hardware. However, I still didn't have the opportunity and impulse to use them under Linux:

Partitioning, installation

To change the default partitioning without damaging the preinstalled Windows XP, I did the following steps:
  1. In Windows, I found a preinstalled system tool, something like Disk Defragmantation. I used this tool to check that the data of the preinstalled Windows XP is stored only on the first partition and only at its beginning (in first 10 GB).
  2. Using Knoppix CD and the tools preinstalled on it (something like ntfsresize) I changed the internal specification of the size of the first partition from the default 30 GB to 10 GB.
  3. Using fdisk from the Knoppix CD, I altered also the size of the partition in the disk partition table.
    Note below: I learned that the disk partition table is in fact kept for historical and compatibility reasons. Every system first reads this table, however, every file system on every partition then usually has another internal specification of its size. In order to resize a partition, you must:
    1. Ensure that there are no data at the end of the partition.
    2. Change the partition internal size information. (For NTFS partition this was the ntfsresize.)
    3. Change the size specification of the partition in the disk partition table. (This can be done using the fdisk or other tools.)
  4. I booted the Fedora installation CD. Using the Disk Druid (one of the early steps of the installation process), I set up the partitions to reflect my requirements (I ensured that the first NTFS partition will not be formatted, I formatted the rest):
     Zařízení Boot    Začátek     Konec  Bloky    Id  Systém
     /dev/hda1   *         1      1218   9783553+   7  HPFS/NTFS
     /dev/hda2          1219      1231    104422+  83  Linux
     /dev/hda3          1232      3781  20482875    c  Win95 FAT32 (LBA)
     /dev/hda4          3782      7296  28234237+   f  Win95 Ext'd (LBA)
     /dev/hda5          3782      7166  27189981   83  Linux
     /dev/hda6          7167      7296   1044193+  82  Linux swap
  5. I installed all the packages I needed.

GRUB installation gimmick

I made a mistake when specifying, where the GRUB boot loader should reside. The correct answer is: install GRUB to the Master Boot Record (MBR). I've chosen the other option, but then GRUB is (naturally) not loaded at the machine startup. To fix this fault, I had to reinstall the whole Linux from scratch because the Fedora installer refused to alter anything in the setup of the boot loader if it didn't update any kernel packages. And of course it was not possible to update anything in the freshly installed kernel packages.

Dimming the LCD backlight

To dim the backlight you need to:
  1. Turn on the sonypi (Sony Programmable I/O Control Device) driver.
    The driver is probably already installed. Use locate sonypi to find its documentation (I found it in the file /usr/src/linux-2.4.22-1.2115.nptl/Documentation/sonypi.txt. To enable the driver, I did this:
    in /boot/grub/grub.conf add the kernel option:
    sonypi=-1,1,1 (or similar, read the sonypi docs.)
    in /etc/modules.conf add the lines:
    alias char-major-10-250 sonypi
    options sonypi verbose=2
    options sonypi verbose=2
    create the linux device for sonypi:
    use mknod -m +w /dev/sonypi c 10 63
  2. Install spicctrl, a program that talks to the driver.
  3. Use the spicctrl to set the backlight intensity.

Enabling ACPI

The Fedora installation includes ACPI, there is no need to install it. However you need to enable ACPI by adding the option acpi=on to the kernel configuration line in the file /boot/grub/grub.conf.

Mounting USB storage (floppy, disks, USB memory sticks)

Insert a USB disk or USB memory stick.

To list the available USB devices use lsusb as the root.

The USB storage devices in general are under Linux emualted as SCSI devices. Therefore, your USB storage device should be visible in the list of SCSI disk, too:
cat /proc/scsi/scsi

The appropriate SCSI devices are the usually numbered in the same order under the names /dev/sda, /dev/sdb...

To mount the storage:

  1. Create the directory, where you'd like to mount the disk to. Usually, this is something like /mnt/usbstick.
  2. Use the command mount with appropriate file system type, the (emulated) SCSI device and the mount point (the directory):
    Namontovat scsi disky (cislovany /dev/sda ... /dev/sdb ...)
    mount -t hfs /dev/sdb /mnt/usbdisk/
    # mount a classical Mac OS Hierarchical File System.
    mount -t auto /dev/sdd /mnt/floppy
    # mount a USB floppy disk
    mount -t vfat /dev/sdc1 /mnt/usbstick/
    # mount a USB stick.
    Please note, that for disks, I used directly the device name, such as /dev/sdb. For the USB memory stick, I had to use "the first partition on a device", i.e. /dev/sdb1. I have no explanation for this.

Playing audio CD

There is probably a wire between the CD reader and the sound chipset missing in the Sony Vaio laptops. Therefore, the traditional analog playback of audio CDs fails (you don't hear anything). I use XMMS to play the CDs, because it's able to extract the sound data digitally. One just needs to turn on the "digital sound extration" in the options of the Audio CD input plugin (libcdaudio.so). Another option is to rip the CD and play the wavs (or a compressed version of these) then.

Sharing a partition between Linux and Windows

The partition to share must be of the type VFAT, because there is still no read-write support for NTFS in Linux. To ensure automatic mounting of the shared partition in read-write mode for a specific user after the Linux bootup, put/update this line in your /etc/fstab:
/dev/hda3   /win    vfat   auto,user,rw,uid=500  0 0
Use the option uid=XXX to specify the user for which is the partition to be mounted. (To learn the user ID of the user, use the command id.)

BlueTooth Synopsis

Do not forget to turn on the hardware switch! (This attaches the BlueTooth as a USB device.)
# Check that the power is on
spicctrl -L

# Turn the bluetooth device off (detaches the USB device, too)
spicctrl -l0

# Turn the bluetooth device on
spicctrl -l1

## Possibly load the modules: sco l2cap rfcomm, if needed
#modprobe sco l2cap rfcomm

# Check that there is the device hci0 (with blank entries)

# Turn the linux device for BlueTooth on
hciconfig hci0 up

# Check, that the device is inited

# Get and set my device name
hciconfig hci0 name [NEWNAME]

# Scan for other devices
hcitool scan

Wireless with Centrino

Fedora Core 1 and
ndiswrapper 1.4 work "out of the box", with a tiny hint: I had to create a symlink to the kernel sources. My kernel sources were installed out of the box, as /usr/src/linux-2.4.22-1.2115.nptl, however, the Makefile from ndiswrapper expect them to be under /usr/src/linux. Just create a symlink fixing this to make ndiswrapper compile.

Command synopsis

Do not forget to turn on the hardware switch! (And possibly switch BlueTooth off, because rumours says the waves interact.)
# if the hardware switch was off as ndiswrapper started, you might need to
# unload and reload it again
rmmod ndiswrapper

# load ndiswrapper module, if needed
modprobe ndiswrapper

# check the wavelan device

# bring up the wlan0 device using ifconfig
ifconfig wlan0 up # you should specify the ip address here etc.!

Dual Head X Configuration

Occasionally, I need to use an external monitor.

Display Cloning

What seemed to work partially, was the display cloning. Having attached an external monitor to my laptop, another copy of the screen appeared. However, since some time and without any change in configuration, the external screen started using only resolution of 640x480 and followed the mouse pointer to scroll. I failed to figure out what was going on, the behaviour was too random (sometimes yes, sometimes no). But the suspicion was clearly around the HorizSync and VertRefresh settings in my /etc/X11/XF86Config.

So if display cloning stops working, add a separate configuration for the dual head.

Dual Head Configuration

This is the relevant part of my /etc/X11/XF86Config configuration file for X in order to support two monitors and a virtual desktop that spans over them. (Old Mac users are familiar with this, remember the Monitors control panel and the adjustment of location of the monitors.)
## notice that the layout makes use of two screens, ie. the section
## ServerLayout mentions two Screen sections and the respective alignment
## of the screens
## Xinerama is the name of this X extensions, do not forget to turn it on.
Section "ServerLayout"
	Identifier     "dualhead"
	Screen      0  "ScreenLCD"
	Screen      1  "ScreenCRT" LeftOf "ScreenLCD"
	InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
	InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
	InputDevice    "DevInputMice" "AlwaysCore"
	Option "Xinerama" "on"

## Here are the two monitors configuration
## Yours will differ.
Section "Monitor"
	Identifier   "MonitorLCD"
	VendorName   "Samsung LTN150P1-L02"
	ModelName    "LCD Panel 1400x1050"
	HorizSync    31.5 - 90.0
	VertRefresh  59.0 - 75.0
	Option	    "dpms"
Section "Monitor"
	Identifier   "MonitorCRT"
	VendorName   "Monitor Vendor"
	ModelName    "Plain Monitor"
	HorizSync    30 - 95
	VertRefresh  50.0 - 160
	Option	    "dpms"

## In order to use your videocard twice (it must be capable of this, the laptop
## videocards usually are "dual head"), you have to define the section Device
## twice. Both Devices use the same driver and the same BusID.
## Use "lspci" as the root to figure out the BusID of your videocard.
## Important: you have to mention Screen 0 and 1 in the respective Device
## sections. But as I observed, the LCD will always remain the main screen.
Section "Device"
	Identifier  "VideocardLCD"
	Driver      "radeon"
	VendorName  "Videocard vendor"
	BoardName   "ATI Radeon Mobility M6"
	BusID       "PCI:01:00:0"
	Screen 0
Section "Device"
	Identifier  "VideocardCRT"
	Driver      "radeon"
	VendorName  "Videocard vendor"
	BoardName   "ATI Radeon Mobility M6"
	BusID       "PCI:01:00:0"
	Screen 1

## Section Screen binds the Monitor and the Device (ie. the driver).
## Again, two sections are needed to make the two bindings.
## Notice that the resolutions of the screens may differ.
Section "Screen"
	Identifier "ScreenLCD"
	Device     "VideocardLCD"
	Monitor    "MonitorLCD"
	DefaultDepth     16
	SubSection "Display"
		Depth     16
		Modes    "1400x1050" "1280x960" "1152x864" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"
Section "Screen"
	Identifier "ScreenCRT"
	Device     "VideocardCRT"
	Monitor    "MonitorCRT"
	DefaultDepth     16
	SubSection "Display"
		Depth     16
		Modes    "1280x960" "1152x864" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

How to Test the Configuration, Multiple X Servers Running

It is quite painful to restart your X server every time you need to test a slight change in the configuration. In fact, there is no need to restart the server, because you can simply launch another one with the new config! If you are editing directly your main /etc/X11/XF86Config, simply save it and run startx -- :1. Your original desktop will vanish and a fresh X server will pop up. Use CTRL+ALT+F7 or +F8 to switch between the two desktops. Having checked your configuration in the fresh server, close it using CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE. If you prefer to keep you original config untouched and play around with a copy, put the copy in the same directory and name it let's say foo (i.e. /etc/X11/foo). To start the fresh server with this configuration, run startx -- :1 -xf86config foo.

Dual Configuration of X

I work sometimes at home and sometimes in my office. I have no second display at home. As I figured out, my video card is automatically detects the presence or absence of the external screen and opens it for X or not. However, the display must be correctly present or absent at the bootup. A comfortable way of storing the dual configuration if you wish to add fresh X servers (see above) configured differently, is to use just one XF86Config file but multiple ServerLayout sections:
Section "ServerLayout"
	Identifier     "singlehead"
	Screen      0  "ScreenLCD"
	InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
	InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
	InputDevice    "DevInputMice" "AlwaysCore"

Section "ServerLayout"
	Identifier     "dualhead"
	Screen      0  "ScreenLCD"
	Screen      1  "ScreenCRT" LeftOf "ScreenLCD"
	InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
	InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
	InputDevice    "DevInputMice" "AlwaysCore"
	Option "Xinerama" "on"

# ...
The first layout is used as the default, the second can be used on demand, ie. starting (another) X server by the command startx -- :1 -layout dualhead.

Enabling cslatex

LaTeX is always a huge mess to install. I would never use it if I had to install it myself. (But without LaTeX, I would not be able to work at all.)

LaTeX is contained in Fedora Core 1, but you have to enable cslatex if you need it. (There is no single good page explaining all the conflicts. You have to delve into you particular situation and give up after four hours reading and playing around. Beware to damage your preinstalled configuration if it works at least partially!)

As the root, run texconfig and in the menu choose to edit FORMATS (vi will launch, practice it in advance in case you do not know the editor). Search the configuration file to find the four lines ready for Czech and uncomment them:

# - Czech / Slovak:
csplain      tex             -       csplain.ini
cslatex      tex             -       cslatex.ini
pdfcsplain   pdftex          -       csplain.ini
pdfcslatex   pdftex          -       cslatex.ini

Save and quit. texconfig will regenerate something, hopefully the relevant binary cslatex will be finally created in /usr/bin. (You might later run fmtutil --all, if you do not believe texconfig has managed the remake.)

Note on Babel

If you've used babelized LaTeX to generate any of your files before, you need to remove the auxiliary files (.aux and others) before using cslatex. Otherwise the unbelievable babel will be used anyway. Babel is like Microsoft.


Contrary to lspci information, the modem has a Conexant chipset.

lspci -v:
00:1f.6 Modem: Intel Corp. 82801DB AC'97 Modem Controller (rev 03) (prog-if 00 [Generic])
        Subsystem: Sony Corporation: Unknown device 8140
        Flags: bus master, medium devsel, latency 0, IRQ 9
        I/O ports at 2400 [size=256]
        I/O ports at 2000 [size=128]
        Capabilities: [50] Power Management version 2

lspci -n:
00:1f.6 Class 0703: 8086:24c6 (rev 03)

The truth about the chipset was discovered by PCTEL Driver for Linux Version 0.9.7-9-rht-3. After installing the pctel driver, loading the modules and fixing incorrect IRQ with setserial /dev/ttyS15 irq 9 and attempting to communicate with the modem, dmesg reported:

PCTel initialization. Country code is 0.
Found unsupported codec CXT35

Installing HSF (softmodem) driver from Linuxant works correctly and I'm able to talk to my modem. I have not gone any further, such as trying to dial.

[Ondrej Bojar - OBOproduct] [Mail Me] [Finger Me] 2006-03-27 This report is listed at TuxMobil - Linux on laptops, notebooks, PDAs, mobile phones.