Linux on the Sony Vaio VGN-BZ11

Introduction

This document describes how Linux runs on the Sony Vaio VGN-BZ11 notebook. The author personally has the BZ11XN. The other variations (BZ11MN and BZ11VN) seem to have the same hardware but with lower and higher specs (in terms of processor, RAM and hard disk size). This document probably applies to those models too.

This laptop uses Intel graphics and networking hardware that is well supported by open Linux drivers (largely maintained by Intel themselves). This was a significant motivation for purchasing this model.

System Specs

The following specs apply to the VGN-BZ11XN.

Item Spec
Processor Intel Core2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz
RAM 3GB
Video Mobile IntelĀ® Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
Hard disk 200GB 5400RPM SATA - TOSHIBA MK2546GSX_200
Chipset ICH9M
CD-ROM Optiarc DVD RW
Ethernet Intel 82567LM Gigabit
Wireless Intel Wifi Link 5100 AGN
PCMCIA Type II PCMCIA slot: Ricoh RL5c476 II
Card readers Ricoh R5C822 SD/SDIO/MMC/MS/MSPro
Camera Built-in webcam
Other I/O 3x USB, 1x Firewire, 1x iLink, fingerprint reader
Modem Built-in

Linux Installation

Fedora

I had always used Fedora Linux on my personal machines and so initially tried Fedora Core 9 with the BZ11. To my surprise, the installer had trouble recognising both the SATA adapter and the ethernet interface as well as having troubles with the video card (weird rendering aritfacts).

After a few hours of fiddling I gave up and tried Ubuntu.

Ubuntu

The Ubuntu Hardy Heron installer detected the hard disk and ethernet controller and didn't have the video problems of the Fedora installer. Installation went smoothly without special tweaks.

Networking

Ethernet

The Intel 82567LM network inteface is supported by the e1000e_ich9m driver (included in the linux-ubuntu-modules package). The controller was detected automatically and required no special configuration.

Wireless

The Intel Wifi Link 5100 AGN wireless adapter is quite new and is only properly supported in very recent kernels. Instructions for getting it working vary according to the distribution and kernel you're running. The driver you need is the iwlagn driver.

Ubuntu - Intrepid Ibex

The kernel that ships with Intrepid (2.6.27-9 at time of writing) does not have the iwlagn driver. It is easily obtained by installing the linux-backports-modules-intrepid package. This contains the driver backported from a later version of the kernel. It includes the firmware too.

Ubuntu - Hardy Heron

The iwlagn driver can be installed from source. The compat-wireless project provides module source code that works with older kernels such as the one that ships with Hardy.

The process to get wireless working is:

  • Download the latest tarball from compat-wireless tarball for "old" kernels (<= 2.6.26)

  • Extract it

  • Edit config.mk and add the following to the end

    CONFIG_IWL5000=y
    CONFIG_IWLWIFI_LEDS=y
    CONFIG_IWLWIFI_RFKILL=y
    
  • Run make

  • Install the updated drivers: sudo make install. This won't overwrite any existing modules that Ubuntu has installed. The drivers are installed under /lib/modules/<kernel_ver>/updates.

  • Download the firmware.

  • Extract and copy the .fw file to /lib/firmware/<kernel_version>

  • The module can be loaded using sudo modprobe iwlagn. It should be loaded automatically on boot however. Check dmesg output for output from the driver.

Graphics

The Intel 4500MHD chipset is supported by an open driver. Hardy Heron detected the hardware automatically and required no configuration help. Even Compiz effects worked immediately. Enable these by right clicking the desktop background and going to the Desktop Effects tab.

Projectors

The notebook has a VGA connector for projectors/external monitors. It seems to work ok with projectors. Set the screen resolution to 1024x768 (or whatever the display requires) and plug it in. One caveat is that at 1024x768 the laptop's own display gets somewhat truncated on the right hand side (but not on the external/projector image).

Suspend & Resume

Suspend-to-disk is rock solid. The system always comes back from suspend-to-disk.

Suspend to RAM seems a little flaky. The system always seems to suspend correctly but sometimes hangs on resume or resumes to a black screen. This happens about 50% of the time. I haven't invested too much time in try to fix this.

Sound sometimes didn't work after resume. Changing the MODULES line in /etc/defaults/acpi-support to include snd_hda_intel solves this issue.

With the kernel that ships with Hardy Heron, the wireless driver sometimes believes that the RF kill switch is enabled after resume. I haven't found a way around this. Even unloading and reloading the iwlagn driver doesn't resolve the issue. This problem has been fixed with the kernel that ships with Intrepid.

Function Keys

The notebook has a number of special function keys. The volume keys work out of the box; Gnome's volume settings can be adjusted without configuration changes. The other keys (LCD brightness, external display toggle, suspend) don't work. They don't generate events visible to xev. I haven't research this issue too much.

Camera

The built-in webcam is connect internally via USB. It is a Ricoh device (05ca:183f). The camera works with Skype, Xawtw, Cheese & Skype under Intrepid using the uvcvideo driver. On Hardy the uvcvideo driver would detect the camera but the system would panic on access to the camera.

Card Readers

The BZ11 has two built-in card reader slots. One is a Secure Digital (SD/MMC) slot, the other is a Sony MemoryStick slot. I haven't tried the MS slot but the SD slot works without problems (tested with a 2GB card). No special configuration was necessary.

Fingerprint Reader

The notebook has a fingerprint reader but I haven't attempted to use it yet with Linux.

Modem

I haven't attempt to use the modem so can't report on its compatibility with Linux.

Contact

I'm happy to answer questions about the Vaio and this document. I can be reached at <menno_AT_freshfoo_DOT_com>.

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Page last modified Sun Jan 11 17:58:03 2009.